Japanese Efficiency

Here’s a great time lapse film of the joining of Toyoko and Fukatoshin lines at Shibuya station.  8 years of planning and 1000s of workers so it could be done in one night between the first and last trains (approximately 3.5 hours!).

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=s__ysTCD1wo

Thanks to Jillian Healy for the explanation and sharing.

 

 

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Karaoke

Anyone who knows me well will know that I have a terrible singing voice and never sing in public.

(There is one exception – I passed an audition to sing as part of the opening ceremony of the 1984 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh when I was at school. I think the truth is I’m okay if in a small range and I must have been hitting the notes well when they walked past me at the audition!)

Back to the point! I really thought I would go a whole year in Japan without singing karaoke but I’m pleased to report that I’ve had the experience and it was a great one!

My first karaoke experience was after the running club’s New Year Party and I was joined by Mark. We went to a place in Shibuya with a crowd from the party and had a room for effectively the whole night! (It was cheaper than 2 hours). In Japan there is not much ‘public’ karaoke, rather you hire a room with some friends and can order beer and food so it’s very sociable and not intimidating.

The atmosphere was very friendly and I was happy to try. People were very encouraging and I was pleased to note that not everyone was a fantastic singer!

We sang into the wee small hours and went home happy knowing we’d had a good Japanese experience and a lot if fun!

Sumo Wrestling

A few weeks ago I went to the Sumo wrestling tournament in Ryogoku, Tokyo.

For lots of good information see Japan Guide:
Japan Guide – Sumo Wrestling

I went with one of my colleagues who is a big sumo fan so had a great experience learning about the sport as well as being really entertained! I’d studied it a bit by reading the internet and reading an interesting book on sumo wrestling:

Sumo – a thinking fan’s guide – David Benjamin

Sumo Wrestling, A thinking Fan’s Guide

The book was good and I learnt a lot, particularly about how to get passionate about the sport.  The only problem was it is written by an American sports writer so all of his references were to American sports, mainly baseball.  These references didn’t help me to understand. I’ve read a few books about Japan by Americans and it sometimes seems like there are only 2 cultures in the world from their perspective!

The day was good – we started our sumo experience with a typical sumo lunch (small size) – chanko nabe – a kind of hot pot in a restaurant that is linked to the stable that Mizuho’s sumo wrestler belongs to.  It was delicious.  You cook your own hot pot with a small cooker on the table.  I had a seafood version and you can see the uncooked version.  It came with lots of pickles, sashimi and rice as well as green tea.

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The tournament starts with all the lower ranking wrestlers so we took our time after lunch and got to the stadium around 1530. It was perfect timing as we could find our seats, get established and check out the lay if the land. For example, which side was ‘east’ which ‘west’, where the scores were, how the schedule worked etc with a bit of relaxing time before the big event started.

The main event started with a parade of all the wrestlers except the very top level – the Yokozuna with each one being announced as they entered the ring.

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There are currently only 3 Yokozuna, all Mongolian. While I’m on the subject there are quite a few foreigners that are sumo wrestlers including an Egyptian!

The Yokozuna have there own entrance, one by one accompanied by two other wrestlers from their stable.

The wrestlers are quite amazing – they’re big of course – some if them enormous but they are also very very strong, particularly their legs and lower bodies.

Mizuho and I had fun with a competition in every match. I had amazing beginners luck and just kept winning! Mizuho’s came back strongly at the end and we ended up close with a small victory on my side!

The tournament lasts for 15 days and wrestlers climb by beating those above them in status. They each fight one match per day and matches can be very short so there is a lot of thinking time to build tension before they get into the ring.

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would go again!

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Unfortunately I forgot my camera so the above were all taken with my mobile phone

Autumn (partially) comes to Tokyo

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Japan goes crazy for Autumn colours- it’s a close second to cherry blossom – there are forecasts like you see in the rest of the world for the weather and the train stations are full of pictures of where you can go to see Japan in Autumn glory.

Japan is also famous for its ginko trees. A really nice tree that lines many Tokyo streets and turns golden yellow in Autumn.

In the UK Autumn is really in September and mostly in October so it’s strange for me to be at the end of November and Autumn is still not in its full glory.

This morning on my walk to work I took the picture in this post – it’s of ginko trees. They must be slightly different species as half are yellow and the other half still mostly green.  Its the kind of view that makes you appreciate life! Beautiful!