Sunday, May 10, 2009

Adventures in Tokyo

On Friday, we arrived in Tokyo and reached our very nice hotel, the Oakwood Residence Aoyama. It's Mom & Dad's 2nd visit to Tokyo with the last being in 2006. This time, we wanted to show them new places. We started out with a visit to the local ramen shop for a very tasty lunch.

The ramen's nori had the menu written on it.
Later that evening, Russ and I ventured out and found a yakitori place, a cozy 7-seater hole-in-the-wall, with the owner/cook serving us. We learned that he had been to the US when he was a photographer and shot Fred Couples for a magazine. Although he didn't have two of the items on his menu, we had a nice chat with him. Too bad I didn't take a photo of him.

On Saturday morning, we took a few trains to get to Kamakura. Our first stop was the Hachimangu Shrine.
It was a gorgeous day with tourists from all around the world. We stumbled upon a wedding party, celebrating their nuptials with family at the shrine in traditional garb and being pulled by a rickshaw.

The wedding party's gifts at the shrine's altar.
We then ventured to Hase to see the Daibutsu (great Buddha).
For 200yen, we toured the inside of the daibutsu.
Russ and Dad using the pure water to cleanse their hands.
We met Gardner and Natsuko san at Hase and enjoyed lunch together. Gardner, publisher of Outdoor Japan & former PIC Clubmate, just moved his offices to nearby Chigasaki.
After our trip to the Kamakura area, we met up with Shoji & Chikako and went to a rotary sushi restaurant in Omotesando.
Mom loved all the variety of sushi on the belt.
What a HUGE surprise when we saw that Raffy Balingit, Amy (Chachi) Baranda's brother, who used to work at the Galley was the Manager of the restaurant. Raffy saw Dad's PIC shirt and recognized Russ, Shoji, Chikako and me. What a small world!!!!
The Sushi was great!
Russ & Shoji having a great time.
Thanks, Raffy, for a wonderful dinner! It was such a pleasant surprise to see you again!
Sunday - today is Mother's Day! We love you!
Mother's Day was unforgettable! We made a stop at lunch to Akihabara's electric town. Russ and Dad checked out the Ipod section.
There was an interesting festival at Akihabara and we saw this guy.
Did this guy forget to wear his pants today? It seemed that we saw more bare butts today than ever before. Didn't his buddies give him a hint?
The highlight of the day was the Sumo Tournament in Ryogoku. Today was opening day!
Mom & Dad with one of the younger wrestlers.
Inside the Lobby, there's a showcase of trophies.
The doors opened at 8am but we arrived around 9am and the preliminary bouts had already begun with the Jonokuchi-Makushita division.
We learned that the outer ring is formed with 20 straw rice bags, and measures 15 feet in diameter. One bag is set slightly back from the ring at the north, south, east and west sides.
Bouts are determined by a special judging committee set up for that purpose. Day 1 and 2 bouts are decided two days before the tournament begins, with those from Day 3 determined the day before. Each day's schedule includes about 220 bouts! I think we saw at least 150!
Are you kidding me? More butts?
This is the ceremonial entrance for the wrestlers, based on division.
This was the Makuuchi wrestlers ceremonial entrance. Are those butts down there? The aprons (kesho-mawashi) costs about 2 million yen or $20,000. Amazing how expensive these aprons are and they don't even cover the rear.
The Yokozuna Grand Champion's ring entrance. He was accompanied by two attendants and performed his feet stamping and hand clapping moves which drew lots of cheers from the crowd.
Who said butts?
This wrestler, after winning earlier this year, rose to the ranks of Ozeki.
The Makuuchi bouts were more entertaining and lively. Not only were there more spectators in the crowd, the wrestlers were allowed to spend up to 4 minutes to psyche out their opponents by stamping their feet, drinking water and throwing salt to purify the ring. The wrestler on the left was the largest man we had see today and he won his bout.
Does anybody have a bro for this guy? He would be a Quadruple ZZZZZZZ!
The bouts lasted anywhere between one second to about 30 seconds. There are many foreigners involved in professional sumo wrestling. The man on the right is Katsunori Kotooshu, the famous Bulgarian (Kaloyan Stafanov Mahlyanov) who is of the Ozeki rank and unfortunately, he lost his bout today. He is 204 cm and weighs 143 kg.
One of the best times today was meeting up with Shin, Russ pro beach volleyball player from the Marianas Cup. We met his lovely girlfriend, Maki san, who is a elite fencer who tried out for the Olympics last year. Today, she coaches fencing and is training to become an aromatherapist.
Shin has a friend, Arai san, a sumo wrestler. We were invited to visit the Sumobeya, a wrestler's stable where 15 men live together to train. The youngest members are as young as 15.
Inside the stable, they have their own practice ring (dohyo).
Russ and Arai-san, who was so gracious to invite us to his home. Arai san and Shin san are friends through rehab (physical therapy).
We didn't know it, but we arrived just in time for dinner where the Sumo-sans were making dinner for their coach and us, the guests. The Chanko-nabe is the sumo wrestlers' main food, which is a delicious hot pot filled with soup, vegetables, chicken and served with rice and other side dishes. The wrestlers eat the Chanko-nabe daily while the side dishes change. Tonight, we had gyoza (dumplings), yaki soba, cold pasta noodles with fresh cherry tomatoes.
Russ sat on a beer carton as he's unable to sit Indian style. All of the sumo sans served us dinner and watched us eat. They were all very kind. We learned that they practice daily from 7-11 am.
Mom got a special seat, too.
All of us with the Sumo wrestlers.
What an incredible day we had! Not only had we had a fantastic time watching sumo (and placing side bets with 10 yen per bout), we were fortunate to go with Shin san who invited us to see his friend's Sumobeya. This has to be one of Mom's most memorable Mother's day ever!
Tomorrow, we'll be traveling to Venice. Sayonara and Ciao!

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