Monday, September 30, 2013

         So after about eleven days I am finally making a Blog post. And let me say this is not out of diswant, but simply put: I've been swamped. The world here is full of wonders. Its difficult to put into words, my reactions. I suppose I feel pretty fresh. =) In wonder of this wild place I'm a young fruit again, taking in sunlight to grow sweetness once more as I did when I was a child. It was a trip getting here. Since my flight was delayed I had to trek on my own from the airport to the Kenshukan (the international student dorm, where am living). To be quite honest though I was pretty excited about this obligation. I failed at Japanese at the airport pretty hard, but most understood my meaning and helped me along my way. It was night time here when I arrived, so my bus trip to Shinjuku station was surrounded by night, however I couldn't sleep despite how tired I was. I wanted to know things. Most likely being unpolitely observant of by fellow busmates, I took to the window and saturated my eyes with what I could from the starkly contrasted vehicle lights. Shinjuku was also quite a good time. Arriving with my two packs on each of my body's faces, I stared in wonder at the heart of Tokyo. Beside myself I couldn't really believe where I was. In Japan. And actually alive and awake. Ha. I'm sure I was audibly talking to myself quite a bit, and being quite rude, standing still in the middle of the busiest train station in the world, especially considering how Americanly obese I was with my two packs. I had directions so I wasn't really worried, however I still had no idea where I was going, as these directions spanned barely a half page of script. I found myself a ticket, and found myself a train to inhabit for my long or short, or completely incorrect track of transit. I needed the stop right after 登戸駅(noborito), which as I'm told is pretty anti-Hispanic cuisine. Mukogaoka-yuen was the name of my prospective station, which is unbelievably difficult to hold in your brain after who knows how many hours of excited, sleepless travel--and lord only knew what time it was in real life. But I found it. Picked an orientation that seems to make sense, and set off. From a small screen shot map I found the place and the RA's (Erina, Tomoko, Hiro, and Masa) were all very glad to see me. Masa had even gone to the airport. --The kindness is unreal. Oriented briefly of the building, surprised with my understanding abilities considering the circumstances. I was shown my room. And I slept. Finally and unbelievably in Japan. It was a queer feeling as I settled in--looking out the window watching the lights of the trains go by, like fireflies, but quieter: beautifully silent.
              I felt strangely nostalgic.
                                                I couldn't believe it was no longer yesterday

And yet,                                         
                                                          I also couldn't believe it was not yet tomorrow. 

As the lights of the voyaging train and its travelers faded around a bend, I was amazed that the only thing I could believe was that I was right here ...right now.

I slept. As did my dream, for my waking life had just become one.

The Beginning to a whole other world. The man offered me a lime with my tonic.

This is ....well I actually can't remember her name. But I never really could could pronounce it anyway. This rad Taiwanese woman was on  vacation, traveling with a friend from visiting the states, on her way to South Korea for more vacation. I should mention she didn't speak a lick of English, so I guess I'm only 90% sure of this information. But we had a lovely "Conversation" about her husband and her dog, and her travels. And I made sure she got her refreshment after she shyly shook her head in embarrassed confusion when the flight attendants came by.

This is Sendy Senshu, the adorable Griffin, which is the mascot of Senshu University.

The largest Breasts I've seen in Japan so far.

The largest Breasts I've seen in Japan so far.

So today was a special day. I got a rare but amazing opportunity to go see a coveted spectacle while here in Japan. Though I had few expectations before going, I cannot deny that my preference in terms of entertainment has definitely been swayed. I have seen some things in my Life but few things can compare to this Magnitude. The pressure, the magnitude and the crowd's atmosphere was just unbelievable. With a gang of Giajin and Natives in tow, after a 20 minute train ride for the low price of 410 we arrived at the one of the University's annual Sumo tournaments. The first thing you noticed was the noise. Even before getting to the tournament grounds you could hear a roar of grunting and agitated yelling. And this is something quite out of place in Japan. The Japanese tend to speak with a very tepid atmosphere, especially when in public spaces (which quite often makes them difficult to hear)—and even more especially when in or around temples and sacred spaces like the WWII memorial shrine with some of the largest Torii (shinto arches) in Japan in it, which the sumo grounds just happened to be inside of. Sumo was obviously the exception to the Japanese well mannered, timid, and ridiculously circuitous way of doing things—or perhaps this was just the place they all went to get out their aggression.
I was amazed.
The scene was a wide spread array of photographers, judges, onlookers many of which were probably parents and friends, and the sumo athletes themselves, who probably made up at least half the people at the event. All were around a square structure in the middle of a little field the edges of which had built up to serve as integrated bleachers though with only about four levels or so. The structure in the middle was a covering made up from four pillars sitting at the corners of the square that encompassed the raised sumo mound. There was little concrete in the whole vicinity except the terraces that made up the bleachers. Grass grew up to the square structure and inside the square was what could be best described as dirt that would be found in a horse arena. Not the granite-like stuff but fine dirt that would be fluffy when loose but like clay when packed. You could tell that just the making of the circular mount, on the plateau of which the events took place, required a great deal of time. On the flat mount was a circle of fine straw that acted as a boundary for the wrestlers in the sport of sumo.

Though I knew little before I came I figured out a great deal of how it all works. It starts by the cleaning of the mount which is done by some stable-boy type people (which is actually an appropriate way of saying it because the sumo training grounds and club are referred to as stables) would sweep to make the ring perfect and also make the slightest bit of topsoil loose so as to easily see any disruption in the form of a foot or body, of which there were a lot. Then the wrestlers would come up some integrated steps from opposite sides at the same time, with the ref already in the circle of straw perpendicular to their entry. Many would often throw a large dash of salt into the ring as an offering for good luck. Upon stepping into the circle the wrestlers bowed to each other and then did a little pump up, flinging their arms pushing out their hips, the things you would expect. The whole time completely ignoring their opponent. Meanwhile the crowd (mostly the teammates on each side) are going completely bananas Yelling and screaming louder and louder. The energy in the are is thick enough to swim in. The ref assumes a wide leg squatting position with both arms straight in from of him, holding quite frankly the most intense face I have ever experienced and he waits there—the tension building all the time. By some sixth sumo sense I know nothing of the wrestlers somehow simultaneously and yet slowly assume their of positions facing each other respectively behind their own white line painted in the dirt. At this point the staring begins. Now this took me a while to figure out but the actual start of the fight—actually we will call it a battle because the fight is in each of the warriors I will call them, and this could only be known if you were really there; I highly recommend getting to a sumo event. Anyway, how it works is when both warriors put down both fists on the ground it begins. However there isn’t any rule who has to do it first of when it has to be done. This was my first hint at how psychological sumo as a sport really is. Maybe you are feeling aggressive that day, and in your confidence after stretching you put both fists on the floor, this whole time as I said staring at their opponent. I don’t know if you can imagine a 300 point man, with more muscle and flexibility than you can really even imagine, blatantly displaying his power in an act bravado that says, 'you can start the battle whenever you want I'm ready,' but to me there in person it was incredibly intimidating. However this went both ways. Often one wrestler would take his time placing one hand on the ground, while the his opponent is ready, and quickly striking his other hand to the floor to surprise his opponent—or even playing as if to place his remaining hand on the ground, perhaps making his opponent false start, which has no penalty save the crush of a long build up confidence in all ones moves being correct. And as if the tension created from the yelling of fans, and teammates couldn’t get any worse, as the match gets close to beginning everyone goes silent. Maybe there is only one of the athletes hands off the ground and he is suspending it not even an inch above the ground, both Wrestlers staring patient, forced constrain, less they explode to early, or even too late.
Usually in a quick strike the last hand is slammed to the floor only to come up in a fury of pushes, slaps, grabs, and blocks. Every time was quite unique and yet it was always too fast to even understand, I could see that the use of pummeling was of extreme importance, but the technical aspects and extreme speed of such mass was too astounding to even process in time. Every round I can truthfully say I was surprised—not only by the athletes and the boisterous intensity once again resumed from the fans at the start of the fight, but also by the winner. I honestly never knew who was going to win. You might have guessed the bigger guy always as I was so weak-mindedly tempted into thinking consistently however, it was rarely who I expected and it was never done how I expected. The loser was always the one who fell, hit first, or moved outside the ring of straw which only seemed about 8ft in diameter (whatever meters are). Finished the players would once again bow to each other upon exiting the straw, and the winner would then squat down again and bow to the ref, who still quite frankly looked the most intense out of everyone there.
And that was it. Each wrestler got once shot, and whether he slipped in the dirt of the other man beat bit silly and flung him off the mount, his shot was done. They ran through about fifty of these matches only pausing to switch the ref. It was an astounding spectacle, so much so that you really didn’t even think of the how awkward and weird the whole thing seemed (specifically large men walking around in weird undies). More-so it took a little to even notice the smell, which would normally be one of the first things you notice if it had not been for the overwhelming visual stimuli. It was a sort of fishy, Miso bathhouse, not really bad, but weirder than you would really ever want to smell. This later made sense when I learned it was considered extremely bad luck to wash your undies and so no one ever did. Ha
great time, though the friend we had all gone to see didn't even get to compete because Senshu in a sense skunked the other university. It was a great time, And Ill not forget it.
But I've been too verbose Gomen.
Ill conclude in saying:
Check out some sumo if you ever get the chance.

I was also a fool and didn’t charge my camera battery so I took only one picture, which sadly I haven’t posted yet. Soon to come.
Right outside of where I am living. At nights the lights of the train are quite stunning.
 The same spot as the picture below but looking away from Where I live.

I absolutely Love the Trains. This is right outside the kenshukan, on the path to the nearest Conbini (convenience store
which you are quite literally never more than a ten minutes walk from). It could be their size. The way their mass tricks your
 eyes into believing that this mammoth Chinese snake of steal, engineering, and flesh is as innocent as your childhood
toys—moving only as fast as you could push them. Or it might be the lights at night, as it flies by un-capturable without
some sort of luminescent distortion. Though its probably everything a combination of everything I think I like the breeze it
 creates the best. Because it is this wind that tells the true speed of the train. The sound is—yes—something to note however
the noise isn't even all that loud. It's more ...full. It doesn’t so much interrupt your conversation as is does suspend it, making
 sure whatever your discussing is truly important enough to be spending precious life on. It seems to remind you to slow
down, saying there is time for transport later, stay here, just slow down. And if perhaps you need a little extra reminding you
 might hear and see a sharp crack of electricity as it sucks life from those lines it always stays firmly connected with. This
wind feels more like water. Maybe its the humidity in the air but its a dreamy thickness you are enveloped in—forced to
seem still, silent, and rather isolated in comparison to the the train and its attendees. And this is all well enough but the true
beauty lies in the astonishing irony of the situation: how overwhelmed you are by the noise and motion of the train in the
dark, when you know perfectly well that all the passengers inside are existing as static in a well lit, silent, chamber, with all
the opportunity to converse socialize among themselves, and yet they choose to remain silent as individual.

Towards the station.

The Small streams that run through
 the whole city. Tempting to play in.

A Topographical city and train route map, the colors of which I just loved.

This is whats known as the kiroi-sen, meaning the yellow line. You will see these bisecting most sidewalks and in every train
 station running parallel to where the train comes. The line serves not only as a separator, creating sort of lanes on the
sidewalks and keeping people at a safe distance from the train as it comes, but it's raised and reliefed surface makes it
noticeable to the blind so they can stay safe and keep their way.

This is Amelia, a rad girl also from Oregon, who
 loves Japan and is a welcomed relatable
 personality in a bizarre land.

On our way to a Gakusai, a school festival,
tagging behind the group ...taking pics.

Practically all the coffee in Japan is canned
 and vended by machines. Its kinda lame
 because its been a long time since I had a
good cup of coffee. However this coffee is
cool not only because Boss is the name of the
company but also Tommy Lee Jones in the
spokesperson, a mascot of sorts in
lots of commercials.

A community garden I spotted from a train station. A lovely old man taking a stroll.

Shan and Amelia

Nothing quite like a young man reading some manga before hopping a train.
 Its astounding how often you see this. And not just young folk. An astounding
amount of older gentlemen often are entertained by manga.
The type that could be professionals or even CEO's by the way they dress.

From the train, a soccer field, and castle in the background.

Love the trains.

This is my roommate Will, an awesome lad.

On our way to the Tokyo game show.

So many people doing all the same thing. Japan.