Posts Tagged With: Tokyo

TBT: Tokyo Sumo

Joining the “Throwback Thursday” bandwagon, I decided it’s finally time for me to make good on my promised Sumo blog post.

This takes us back to our winter vacation in January 2013, when Olivia and I spent several days in Tokyo, Japan.  On our last day there, we got up early at 5 am (isn’t vacation for sleeping in?!) and waited in line in freezing weather (our Texas blood isn’t used to Japan’s winters) for 2 hours, and got tickets to see Sumo wrestling!
If you follow the professional Sumo circuit, you’ll know that these tournaments take place twice a year in seven different areas in Japan, each one lasting two weeks before moving to the next place.  It just so happened that the last day of our trip coincided with the last day of the tournament in Tokyo, and we were lucky enough to get tickets!  (Nosebleed seats only sell the day of the tournament, while the better seats sell our early and have high prices).
It was a day of fun and learning, experiencing the history and culture that has created modern-day Sumo.  The rules seem simple:  the object is to either knock your opponent down or push them out of the ring (only your feet can touch the floor or you are considered “down”).  However, there is much more to this sport.
The Opening
There’s more to the opening than just fat men parading around in cloth diapers (not every wrestler is fat!).  Each wrestler has a fancy half-dress thing that I’ll just call an “apron.”  These aprons have different colors and a “coat-of-arms,” which is different for each man.  Want one of your own?  Be ready to throw down at least $20,000 USD!  The men all enter the ring, circle it, and each throws salt into the ring.  This is to ward off bad spirits who might cause injuries.  (There’s a lot of salt throwing in Sumo.)  Some words are said, things happen, and then the dohyo (think: wrestling ring) is cleared.
Fun Fact: The wrestling ring is made of a certain kind of clay and weighs several tons!
Another Fun Fact: Olivia says I should let other people decide whether my facts are fun or not.
The Fight
In a single day of the tournament, each wrestler will face a total of one opponent in one match.  One might think that this would make the tournament go fairly quickly.  If you think that, you’re wrong.  First the opponents enter the ring and throw some salt.  This is not only to ward off bad spirits but is also a form of intimidation!  (“Eat my salt!”) It can be quite interesting to see the many and varied styles with which one can throw salt into the air and on the ground.  The salt throwing also includes the famous  stomping of the feet.  Then the opponents enter the ring and squat facing each other, staring into each other’s eyes.  The referee signals the start of the match, and the wrestlers…stay still.  You see, each wrestler waits until he is fully ready, mentally and physically one, before going at his opponent.  However, if one starts before the other, the match is restarted.  Apparently, these waiting periods and false starts could combine to make a single match last several hours.  Thankfully, they now have a time limit of three minutes before they must start the match.
Finally, the wrestlers clash together, and the tussle begins.  Some use strategies of pulling their opponents down to the ground or throwing them off balance, while others rely on their girth to push their opponents out of the ring.  Strategically, the wrestler with more girth has a forceful advantage, but what they gain in girth, they lose in stamina and agility!
The Closing Ceremony
Finally, after an afternoon of fun watching the best Sumo wrestlers in Japan, we see the closing ceremony.  Like the rest of the sport, this comes from a line of tradition and involves spinning and twirling a long rope in a specific series of moves.  This rope dance is performed by the tournament champion, and then the wrestlers file out of the stadium.
On our way out, Olivia wanted to see how she would look as a sumo wrestler.  A few hundred Big Mac’s later, here’s the result:
Categories: Bucket List, Fun Stuff, Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

All Aboard!

If you remember, Nick and I traveled to Tokyo a few weeks ago for our winter vacation.  We had a great time while we were there, but right now, I want to tell you about our experience with the trains.  Having been to Taipei several times, we felt like we could confidently navigate the train system in Tokyo just like we do in Taipei, and then we looked at the train map.

A little overwhelming, huh?

A little overwhelming, huh?

At first we were taken aback, but then decided that we were confident enough in our Nick’s navigating skills, that we could conquer it.

After arriving in Tokyo, we headed to the train station to start the journey to our hostel.  With map in hand, we got on the train, only to find out that the particular train we got on did not announce stops in English!  We freaked out for a moment, but then realized that we could look out of the windows and see which stop we were at, so that calmed us down. After riding for some time, we realized that the route the train was taking was different from what was on the map.  None of the stations were the same, and we I once again resorted to freak out mode.  Nick, however, kept his cool and figured out what was going on.  Soon enough he realized where we were and where the train was headed and successfully navigated us to the hostel with no more problems.  To our relief, as soon as we got on the newer trains inside the city, English announcements were made on every train.  After that, it was smooth sailing navigating the train system.

If you’ve never been to Tokyo, or a city with an expansive train system, you wouldn’t know how big the train stations are, but let me just tell you, most of them are the size of a large shopping mall, and a lot of them have a shopping mall inside of them, so you need to know your exits.  Train stations can have anywhere from 2 exits to 5, 6, 7, (a million?).  Thankfully, my master navigator thought of these tricky train traps ahead of time and planned ahead.  He found a very helpful website that gave a layout of each train station and surrounding and area pointed out what exit to take to get to certain attractions.  If you’re interested, you can view that website here.  Needless to say, that saved us tons of time and prevented us from getting lost for days inside a train station. 😉

One more thing, as Americans we are used to personal space, but on the trains in Tokyo, personal space is not a commodity.  There were so many people packed into some of those trains, that no one could move.  It was very overwhelming to me, but the native people didn’t seem to mind if they were practically leaning up against a complete stranger.  Some people would call this culture shock, but I prefer the term cultural experience.  I enjoy getting to learn about how people from different countries around the world interact and live, and riding the trains in Tokyo added to my cultural experience.

Nick said that he read that out of a city of roughly 35 million people, 20 million of them use the train system everyday.  That is a lot of people, and it makes me smile to think that for just a few days, there were 20,000,002 people riding those trains. 🙂


Nick looking like a pro on the train.

Nick looking like a pro on the train.  I was tempted to take a picture of the really crowded train ride, but we didn’t want to be labeled the stupid tourists. 🙂

tokyo station

Tokyo Station- this is one of the most beautiful train stations we saw during our time in Tokyo.

train station

Categories: Family, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

There and back again.


We just got back from Japan this morning!  Thankfully we did not get lost in the busy metropolis that is Tokyo, in fact, we only got on the wrong train once!!!  We realized it as the doors were closing, so we had to get off at the next stop, not too bad for our first solo trip in a foreign country. 🙂

We had a great time and got to see and do so much in the short time that we were there.  Here’s a quick overview of our trip; we’ll have more posts with more details and pictures in the posts to come.  We went to a zoo to see Giant Pandas (a life-long dream of mine), rode the rides at Tokyo DisneySea (multiple times), saw the final day of the Sumo tournament (some of those guys are huge!), went to the busiest crosswalk and Starbucks in the world at Shibuya station (there were so many people), saw Tokyo from above at an observatory (what a great view), walked the streets of Harajuku and Akihabara (electric town), saw snow, and basically had a blast.

Here’s a quick story to hold you over for the next post.

As you know, we’ve been living in Taiwan for almost 6 months now, so we’ve gotten used to saying 謝謝 and 對不起 (thank you and excuse me in Chinese).  When we arrived in Tokyo, Nick kept saying these things to people at the store.  We couldn’t stop laughing each time we realized he did this.  Also, when we got back to Taiwan, I was confused about what language to speak in (by speak, I mean say thank you and excuse me).  Traveling to different countries sure is tiring for the mind.

Another quick thing that interested us.  When we got back to Taiwan, we both thought, “Finally, we are somewhere familiar.”  We are still relatively new to Taiwan, yet we view it as our home and are pretty comfortable here.  I also thought, “Finally I can understand the language again,” which I can’t really, but I can pick out some words here and there.  All these things just made me think how interesting our brains are, and how at home we feel in Taiwan.

Here's a picture to leave you with.

Here’s a picture to leave you with- Tokyo city at night.

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

Japan here we come!

Our school gets a four week winter vacation from January 18 to February 18, and Nick and I decided to spend some of that time in Tokyo, Japan.  We are so pumped!  We bought our plane tickets about a month ago and reserved a room at a hostel, and now we’re just planning our trip.  Normally we’re just fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants people, but for this trip, we are planning everything (for the most part).  We’ve gone to Taipei a couple of times and have very successfully and fairly easily navigated their metro rail system,  but the system in Tokyo is about 10 times as big, and Nick, our dedicated navigator, is feeling overwhelmed just looking at the map.  So, in order to not get lost in one of the busiest cities in the world, we are doing our research and planning carefully (including back up plans and back up plans for our back up plans).

Isn't it HUGE?!

Isn’t it HUGE?!

Some things on our to-see list are:
-Sumo Wrestling- we were lucky enough to plan our trip at the very end of a month-long tournament!  The tournaments only happen about 2-3 times a year.
-The Imperial Palace- while it’s difficult to get tickets into the palace, the east gardens are open to the public!
-Akibara AKA Electric Town- this place is full of every kind of electronic you could ever want.
-Shibuya- this is home to the biggest/busiest crossing in the world, so naturally, it’s a must see.
-Disney Land- need I say more?
-Ueno Zoo- the oldest zoo in Japan, and home to Giant (or maybe just great?) Pandas!!!

Those are the major attractions.  We’ll let you know what our favorite things were once we get back!  Wish us luck, and if you don’t hear from us soon after our trip, send a search party!

Do you have any suggestions for our trip?

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

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