Thursday, July 8, 2010

Title – Why Go to Tokyo? – Part II

I’m sure you are all in a state of despair, just as I am, with regard to the scandal brewing in the sumo world. Quite a number of the wrestlers have admitted to gambling on baseball games, card games and golf. Gambling is illegal in Japan except for horse racing so the wrestlers involved are being investigated.

Detailed information is available throughout the web so I won’t report on what is going on but wanted to acknowledge that the sumo world is facing some difficulties right now.

The sumo world is why I eventually decided to go to Japan on my first trip. I already had a strong interest in Japan and the sport of sumo back in 2004, when an article on sumo appeared in the travel section of my local newspaper. Of course I read the article which provided me with some new information regarding the sumo schedule and, the article concluded with a sentence like this: So, if you were looking for one more reason to make a trip to Japan maybe that reason is sumo.

Well, it was. I phoned my kids and asked them if they wanted to go to Japan and the trip was on for May of 2005.

Within a month I’d found a flight and hotel package on the JAL website that fit our plans and budget so now I just had to find out about getting tickets to sumo. The JAL agent I worked with has since become a good friend. The JAL booking facility has changed since then so visit my author page on my publisher’s website,, for more information.

The agent booked us into the Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku so I phoned the hotel and talked with the manager in the Guest Relations group. He became my first friend in Japan and we have spent many days together on subsequent trips. He asked me to fax him a list of what I was looking for, which included tickets to a taiko drum concert and the sumo tickets. I included my email address and we’ve been in touch ever since. My friend acquired both sets of tickets and it really made life easier for us to have that all taken care of.
My interest in sumo rubbed off on my two friends. My friend from the Keio Plaza now joins me when I go to the matches in Tokyo and my travel agent friend who has lived in the US for many years has rekindled her interest in sumo because I was always commenting to her about the matches.

A little sumo info. There are six Grand Championship tournaments each year. They take place every 2 months in the odd numbered months. Three of the tournaments are in Tokyo and they alternate to the other three cities. January’s tournament is in Tokyo, March’s is in Osaka, May’s in Tokyo, July’s in Nagoya, back to Tokyo in September and the final tournament of the year is in Fukuoka.

During my second trip to Japan in July of 2006, my girlfriend and I went to the tournament in Nagoya and it was at that time that I set a goal of going to each of the tournaments. I completed my goal in November of 2009 when my girlfriend and I went to Fukuoka for 4 days and took in the sumo action on 2 of them.

The first of those days we purchased general admission tickets and sat in the higher area of the stadium. It worked out great because we arrived at about 1:00 PM when the much lower ranked wrestlers are in action and the seats are pretty empty. We chose a section where we were lucky enough to meet a group of US university students who were participating in a program called, A Semester at Sea. They were traveling around the world for 4 months in a cruise ship and had to study and complete assignments related to the places where they made port.

They had just come from China and arrived in Yokohama the day before. When they arrive at their port they are turned loose to do what they want but of course it is related to their studies. This group had done some research on Japanese culture and ended up at the sumo matches in Fukuoka, a 5 hour train ride from Yokohama. They were unfamiliar with how their sumo ticket worked and had arrived at the stadium at 6:00 AM to make sure they got tickets. They didn’t know that their ticket allowed them to leave the stadium once and then return so they spent the entire day in the near empty stadium not know what level of wrestler they were watching.

When they found out that we had been going to sumo for a long time they started to grill us about the sport. We told them a lot about it and I hope they found it educational.

The group was all young men and I asked them if there were any girls on the ship and they all smiled and nodded. It turns out the majority of the students were female; they just weren’t interested in sumo.

This sort of chance encounter is another reason why it is so great to go to Japan. The Japanese people are more than willing to help visitors and go out of their way to provide information to those of us who look lost at times. Even still, foreigners will often ask other foreigners for help first. Being able to provide information about Japan to people who look like they need help gives me a stronger sense of attachment to the country and I too go out of my way to provide help when I am there.

Here is an update on my accommodations. Last night, (10:30 PM Arizona time, 2:30 PM the next day in Tokyo) I Skyped my friend in Tokyo to give him the go-ahead on the small 175 SF room that I will live in. Skype is such an interesting way to communicate. You see that your contact is online so you initiate a call. If they are at their PC they can answer. I have a camera in my PC so I add video so my friend can see me. He doesn’t have a camera so I can only hear him.

While we are talking we are also looking at the apartment websites and since we are not using his phone line, he can place calls to the rental agencies while he is Skyping with me. You have to keep your wits about you when there are multiple conversations in multiple languages going on.

At any rate, he made an appointment to go and reserve the room. However, this morning I get up and search the apartment sites again and I find a similar deal for a different and larger apartment that is closer to his house that the other one so he’s going to talk to them today. When we talked this morning it was 1:05 AM in Tokyo. My friend is in the restaurant business and is getting home about that time. I should know for sure which apartment I will be in, in a few days. The logistics of making the reservation and payments are still to be worked out. It sure helps to have a friend who will do these things for you.

I haven’t completely answered the question of why I go to Tokyo but I could go on about it for a long time. It started out to be specific points of interest but it has turned out to be the people I have met and who have become good friends. Sharing and learning about their country from them and with them is a great way to spend time.

I haven’t even mentioned the food yet.

Please visit my publisher’s website for more information.

No comments:

Post a Comment