Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sumo! (Saturday 1/26/08)

This past Saturday myself and two other people from the dorms I live in got up at 4 a.m. to make it to the second-to-last day of the Grand Sumo Tournament in January in Tokyo. (There will be another in May, but I'll be gone by then) It's the easiest way to see a bunch of sumo wrestling for an inexpensive price, if you're willing to get up early and only have good seats for the less important guys.

When we got off the train at Ryogoku station we immediately knew it was a sumo district. This is the area of Tokyo where all the sumo training and wrestling goes on. Incedentially it's also the location of the Tokyo Edo museum, which is about the Edo period of Japan.

Even McDonald's is in the sumo spirit. We stayed warm here after we got our tickets. We were there before it opened at 6:30 a.m.

When they started selling tickets, at about 7:30 a.m. the line was so long it wrapped around the block.

As we stood in line we were given these vouchers, which represented our place in line, we wouldn't' be able to buy a ticket without this voucher. I was 32nd in line!

Look! We played sumo!

The sumo stadium had a great mural on the outside of it.

This was a surprise to me. There's a row of shops that give gift bags to the expensive seats. Isn't it pretty?
A sumo shrine outside of the stadium.

That's the actual sumo ring, but before anyone had gotten to it.

Before sumo started we were basically allowed to do as we pleased. I was so close to the ring, it was pretty cool. 

Even though we had no seat assignments with our tickets we were allowed to sit wherever until that person came and said that was their seat. We sat in the 8th row back, we didn't want to get hurt by any falling sumo wrestlers, that sometimes happens I hear.

Before each match the ring attendant calls to the east and west with a special song. The attendant changes frequently, but this one had the best voice.

Another ring attendant calling out before the match. The guy in the colorful outfit is the referee, he also changes often.

Another referee!

A sumo wrestler psyching himself up for his upcoming match. He needs it because that was the unlucky side of the ring! Nearly everyone that won came from the other side.

Sumo is highly ritualistic. Before it can begin the wrestlers face out and stretch, face one another at those lines and stretch, squat, get up, squat, and then may begin. It can be prolonged longer, but the lower rank guys don't really do that.


Sumo smash!


These two both fell at the same time, so there needed to be a conference to see who won.

Here they are, deciding. You can lose sumo by stepping out of the ring, or falling. At least that's what I gathered. Once there was a tie too. I didn't know why.

And they're falling!

Going to sumo was defiantly worth it, but it is kind of repetitive and I don't think it'll become a favorite sport of mine.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

1.23.08 Wednesday -Snow in Tokyo

Yesterday it snowed in Tokyo. I'm told that snow in Tokyo is a rare occurrence, and that it almost never happens. I've heard that when the snow sticks, it practically shuts down the city because the trains stop running, and practically everyone uses the trains to get around. I didn't get a snow day because it didn't stick.

Actually, if I was still in Ohio I wouldn't really call it snow, I'd call it sleet or textured rain or something like that because it was very very wet. Pretty miserable to walk all the way to class in. I was supposed to go to the international foods market to get some cheese, but I decided against going because of the snow/rain. Even though it wasn't beautiful white powder I took some pictures anyway.

This is the small park across the street from the dorms. You pretty much see all of it from this picture.

The trees outside our dorm.

This is the view from the emergency fire exit, you can see some snow on the roofs of buildings and the cars.

The little specks in this picture are the snowflakes/raindrops. 

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sunday 1.20.08 -Imperial Gardens

I was really excited about going to the Imperial Gardens, but they didn't turn out to be particularly interesting. It was a nice green spot with trees, open spaces, uncrowded walkways and a unique vista compared to the rest of the city. It wasn't what I was expecting, but it wasn't a waste of time either. But I wouldn't recommend it unless you can get a tour of the grounds.

We got off at Tokyo station, and when we crossed the road to get to the gardens I could see Tokyo Tower, which is modeled after the Eiffel Tower in Paris, down the street. It was actually fairly far away.

This was an interesting building, completely closed down because it's a business building and it was Sunday, but it looks like an old building with a brand new addition just plopped on top. Not common architecture, but interesting nonetheless.

The bridge from the street to the outer garden of the Imperial Palace.

A closeup of that bridge.

A different vantage point of that bridge, up close again.

A post from the bridge overlooking the outer Imperial moat.

Inside the first layer of gardens there are beautiful fountains. There was a great deal of sunshine, so I got a rainbow with me in the picture!

I liked this bridge. To me it was a fusion of new and old Japan.

A gate into the inner Imperial Complex. I wasn't allowed any closer. This was another time my 12x optical zoom came in handy.

The moat was swimming grounds to several ducks and swans.

Pretty bird!
The grass is dead for the winter, so all the trees look like they're in the middle of a desert, at least to me.
Again, I couldn't get any closer, but i like this photograph because it makes no illusion to the fact that you can't get close.
A building of the Imperial complex with trees viewed at 12x optical zoom.

A bridge leading into the complex, I like seeing the water and greenery inside central Tokyo where I haven't seen a bit of grass, and only a few misshapen trees on rooftops.

Surrounding the outer gardens of the Imperial Complex there is a wide sidewalk where many runners were running and jogging. We walked by this group of Tokyo city school youth as they were being given awards for their participation and excellence in a track meet that took place earlier Sunday.

On the way from the gardens to the train station I spotted this lonely Shinto shrine entrance on a rooftop a few blocks away.

Apparently groping is a big issue during rush hour, so some rail lines instituted "Women Only" cars during certain hours to cut down on groping. They only run during weekdays on some lines -none of them ones I take regularly.

I am continuously amazed by the advertisements here in Tokyo. This is one of the only ones I've seen that is a part of the same campaign that is used in the United States. Charlize Theron must be a hit in Asia and the United States.

All in all the gardens weren't the best thing I've seen so far, and the trip was mostly walking and chatting with some of my new friends. I might head back there during springtime when there is more greenery and the trees are in bloom. When someone says "gardens" I imagine flowers, plants, and all kinds of goodies, not just a sparse arrangement of trees, gravel, dead grass, a moat, and stone walls.

Saturday 1.19.08 -Second visit to Shibuya

Saturday the 19th I went back to Shibuya to visit Tower Records, which still exists in Japan, but has gone out all over the United States. I wouldn't have known Tower Records was an American thing, except other study abroad students from the Philadelphia campus of Temple University told me that there used to be a big Tower Records in Philadelphia. While at Tower Records I purchased some souveniers and was tempted to buy a Tokyo city guidebook at the international bookstore, but decided not to because there is a large English language library at school, with guidebooks.

It was a beautiful day to be out and about. At least it wasn't raining this Saturday when I went to Shibuya. That blue, that's the sky reflected in the mirror windows of that building off one of the main streets in Shibuya.

I realized that I hadn't taken any crowd shots yet. This is a photo of the intersection outside of Shibuya station, which is one of the busiest train stations in the world. The guides said something like 4 million people go through Shibuya station daily.

What amuses me about these two photos is that there are hundreds of people just standing at the edge of the sidewalk waiting for the walk light to turn green so they can cross. The road was moderately busy, but not particularly, in the United States there would be so much jay walking right about now. 

When I was in the guided tour last week the Japanese guide was incredibly scared for our lives when we went ahead and crossed the street without a green walk light. Trust me, there weren't any cars/bikes/motorcycles/mopeds/trucks that would've run into me when I crossed, because I looked both ways.

And the light is green! GO!!!!

Isn't it a cute little truck? Awww....

There are many more motorcycles on the streets of Tokyo than there are cars, but even more bicycles than there are motorcycles. Most of the motorcycles I've seen are this style versus the cruiser style I ride in the states. Probably because they're easier to maneuver. 

Another thing I have noticed about Tokyo: There is so much space between cars! These cars are stopped at a light. I couldn't get a good shot to show that they're not moving, but there is frequently a car length or more between cars at all times, and they don't really switch lanes -ever.

Haha, cute little motorized bike outside of a shop. It must be nice to not have to lock up your bike. It's because the bike registration process with the police is extensive, and riding an unregistered bike is a serious crime, like as bad as grand theft auto in the United States.