Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category
My regular readers will, of course, realize that I have strong opinions on the objectification of women. However, I’m always open to new experiences, no matter how painful.
My previous school, Iruma Koyo High School, had one of the best cheerleading teams in Japan and were going to the national competition in Tokyo. In the interest of school spirit, and only school spirit, I agreed to tag along.
However, I am once again hesitant to include photographs of my students, so the visible pictures included are of the professional teams who performed a demonstration at the end.
Now cheerleading isn’t a big thing in Australia. To be perfectly honest (and this is probably going to get me in a bit of hot water here) I’ve always considered cheerleading to be the last refuge of a dull sport. It’s the only way they can mildly entertain the crowd.
However, that’s not to say that I don’t appreciate cheerleading’s more salient points.
While the benefits of being able to wrap your own legs behind your head may not be immediately apparent, a little careful thought can bring up several situations where it might come in handy. Such as scratching an unwanted itch, or escaping from the deathtrap of a supervillian.
The competition was held in a large stadium in Tokyo. My cheerleading club teacher furnished me with a pass and I arrived fresh off the train in Tokyo, ready for some
hot sexy action strong school spirit.
Strangely enough, I was stopped at the door by two security guards who wanted to know which school I was affiliated with. Who did they think I was? Some sort of ordinary pervert?
After assuring the guards that I was in fact, a very specific type of pervert, I was allowed entry and attempted to find my students.
My girls were all decked out in their costumes when I arrived. Basically, it looked like they had gone 10 rounds with a bedazzler and lost… badly.
The makeup had been liberally applied, in some case with a trowel, and they looked excited, energetic and, dare I say it, perky.
My girls were on third, so we sat down to watch the other competitors. Basically, it involved bouncing around the stage to techno music and grinning like a skull after a botox injection.
I’m not a huge fan of techno music, but if it has to be endured, I can heartily recommend it be accompanied by thousands of young women in short skirts. It somehow makes the experience more tolerable.
My team went out, pom poms flashing, and performed admirably as far as I could tell. To be perfectly honest, all the performances looked very similar and I have no idea what criteria they were being judged on.
Then, I was subjected to the worst occurrence of the day. One of the schools came out to Tony Basil’s “Mickey”. Now in my book, that should be grounds enough for immediate disqualification, but they actually got applause when they finished!
Anyway, my students came second on the day and there were numerous faces streaked with tear stained makeup. Luckily, there were plenty of people there to “cheer” them up.
The Cynical Traveller
Yabusame is the Japanese art of horseback archery. Myself and my friend from the Tokyo Times, decided to make a little excursion to the small village of Moroyama to see what all the fuss is about.
Despite Moroyama having a population of roughly 7, hundreds of people turned up to the festival, simply for the exciting prospect of actually seeing a live animal. To give you some kind of idea of the scarcity of animals in Japan, I’m going to completely plagiarise a story from a friend of mine.
This man, let’s call him Mr X, is married to a lovely young Japanese lady (whom I hope never reads this). Mr and Mrs X went back to Mr X’s home country of England.
When they saw some cows in a paddock, Mrs X was rather fascinated. Mr X asked her, “Haven’t you ever seen a cow before?” To which Mrs X replied, to the amusement of all, “Yes, in a zoo.”
Animals really are that scarce around here. So, it’s not surprising that people are willing to travel three hours to look at a horse. At least, one that’s not on a plate in a restaurant.
Moroyama lies on the charming, but rather inconvenient, Hachiko train line. Being a predominantly rural line, Hachiko trains leave once an hour in the mornings, have only two carriages and are apparently pulled by a team of oxen.
Still, we managed to leave on time and catch all our connections, only to arrive in town and be informed that lunch had just started and the yabusame would resume in 3 hours.
However, that gave us time to grab some lunch. We passed the usual stalls selling fried noodles, goldfish, and what my friend insisted were chocolate coated sausages. There were also a couple of stalls selling toy guns.
Let me tell you, we’re not talking about little plastic guns here, with blinking lights and semi realistic rattling sounds. Rather, it’s life sized sniper rifles, capable of shooting plastic balls up to a distance of 130 feet and punching through walls (albeit Japanese paper walls). Generally, they looked more imposing than the weapons carried by the Japanese GSDF into Iraq.
It’s an extremely dangerous and irresponsible toy in the hands of either an adult or a kid. Naturally, I was dying to buy one.
Being so early, we were able to get prime seats, right up the front.
This was my second yabusame festival and it turned out to be rather a disappointment. The previous festival was two years ago. That year, there were only two horses and one of them panicked, threw its rider and galloped off down the main street of the town.
Obviously I was hoping for a rather better show this year. Well, it must have been a bumper year for Moroyama, because this year they were able to afford three horses. There were also three riders; one was very good, one could ride but not shoot, and one who should probably just stick to baseball.
Three riders should have meant that there was enough action to keep us entertained. However, rather than send them down one at a time, they simply all thundered down in a row; the worst rider often cannoning into the back of the first two. Then you had to wait 15 minutes for the next bout.
Not that we got to see much of the event anyway, because for ninety percent of the competition our view was obscured by people leaning over to take photos. So much for those good seats!
The Cynical Traveller
For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of an ekiden, the literal translation is “station race”, indicating that the participants run between train stations. Unfortunately, when asked to participate, I misunderstood the concept to be a “stationary race”, which seemed right up my alley, and hence I volunteered.
Strangely enough, despite the daily exercise of walking to the fridge and back, and repeated viewings of “Chariots of fire”, I found myself awaiting the race with a certain amount of trepidation.
My leg of the race was held in the local park, and I was gratified that the competitors at least represented a wide variety age groups; if not weight categories.
Now, my own build could be described as “Willowy”, if by “Willowy” you mean I weigh as much as a rather large tree. Generally, my competition was somewhat slenderer and more athletic. In fact, I could probably eat the equivalent of their combined body weight in hamburgers in a single sitting. However, as I was lining up next to both eight year old girls and ninety year old men with Zimmer frames, I felt it imperative that I at least attempt to do my country proud.
For the results, let’s turn to the following report from the Japan times:
The Cynical Traveller
One of the difficulties in writing a story about sports day is that I am reluctant to put pictures of my students on the internet. If I do, I’ll end up getting loads of hits for “Japanese schoolgirl sports panties” and that’s really not the sort of traffic I want.
Therefore, in order to protect the identities of my students and retain enough photos to flesh out my story, I have decided to replace all visible students heads with pictures of David Hasselhoff.
So, sports day.
First things first. It is important to note that the Japanese have a slightly different interpretation of what constitutes a sport, than say, you or I.
In Australia, our school sports day revolved around athletics. The 33% percent of students who were into sports participated in a large athletics carnival. Meanwhile the 33% of nerdie kids watched and tried to avoid the attentions of the 33% of chain smoking rebel kids.
Now, the Japanese sports day has a competitive element, no doubt. The first event is even a 100 metre race. However, that is where the similarities end.
Let’s look at one of the events on offer; the bun eating race. The object of this taxing event is to run 25 metres and then eat a bun hanging from a bit of string.
Now, how many of you have ever thought, “I need to get fit. Perhaps chewing a bun will burn some calories!” In terms of physical endurance, skill and strength, running and eating a bun is hardly the height of aerobic exercise.
Indeed, I’ve prepared this simple graph to demonstrate.
Other events include a skipping rally, pushing a wheel with a stick and throwing a mini basketball. Should any of these sports become olympic events, I’m sure Japan would treble its medal tally.
Yet despite this, they still manage to have an excessively pretentious opening and closing ceremony.
Of course, what would a fun family sports day be without public humiliation and pain.
Generally the pain is reserved for the students.
I’m sure you’ve all seen footage of those Japaense gameshows where some poor contestant has his scrotum attached to a 9 volt car battery, while the host parades a series of skimpily clad models in front of him.
Or perhaps an episode where the contestant has to balance a crate of eggs on a unicycle while a midget slaps him with a fish.
Indeed, many people believe that the damning footage of torture recovered from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, was simply the result of the security camera accidentally being crossed with vision from Japanese TV station, NHK.
While the creators of these shows have recently been convicted of second class war crimes, they will be thrilled to know that the torture continues unabated in public schools throughout Japan.
Take the following example. Everyone loves bobbing for apples, right?
That old Halloween staple, where you place a bunch of apples in water and the kids try to grab them with their teeth.
Well, it’s a great concept, with only one serious drawback. There’s very little chance of the kids choking in a debilitating fashion. So, what to do?
How about replace the water with flour and make the apple a tiny piece of candy? Genius!!!!!
So, at Japanese sports day, we are treated to the sight of 50 students covered in flour, choking, wheezing and, occasionally, coughing up blood or bits of lung.
Of course, if the students receive the pain, that leaves the teachers to receive the humiliation. And what better way to experience humiliation than to dress in a ridiculous costume?
Luckily, your humble author managed to avoid most of the unpleasantness by falling asleep in the changing room.
The Cynical Traveller
Being a teacher in Japan sometimes has its advantages. In this case, I was advantaged by the fact that my school’s PE teacher was a professional soccer referee. He gets free tickets to all the games played in Japan. So, he asked me if I would like to watch the world cup qualifier between Japan, and soccer powerhouses India.
Now, I’ll really have to be careful not to drop any spoilers about the result here, because obviously any match involving India is going to be close.
Despite the relative disparity between the teams, I was entertained from the get go, by the fact that the Indian line up contained a man called, without a word of a lie, Climax Lawrence.
The game was being held at Saitama super stadium. This stadium was purpose built for the 2002 World Cup and has never been full since.
Being a world cup qualifier, quite a few people turned up for this match, but I’ve been here for local games where you can see tumbleweeds blowing through the stands.
Despite the fact that this game happened a year and a half ago, I will now provide up to the minute commentary on the game.
Hello, and welcome to this World cup qualifier between Japan and India. The match was unfortunately delayed when the wheels fell of the team’s Air India flight, but we’re all ready to go now.
The Japan players are on the field, warming up. They looked very relaxed. Indeed, Inamoto is having a smoke and chatting up a couple of girls in the crowd. And… yes, yes, YES! He’s scored!
Obviously football is not as big in India as in other countries, but they’re expecting good things from this team.
Ok, here come the Indian team. And… oh dear, they’re wearing cricket pads. The referee is going over to speak to them. The captain looks confused. He’s miming a few cut shots while the referee shakes his head.
They finally seem to grasp the concept and the players return up the race. While we wait, it might be a good time to update you on the history of these teams. They’ve played 45 times for a result of 44 wins to Japan, and one 0-0 draw when the game in Delhi was cancelled after the Japan team boarded the wrong plane and the Indian team were forced to play out 90 minutes with no opposition.
Ok, the Indian team are back out and play’s about to start.
1 – Near miss – Inamoto breaks through play, and passes to Suzuki who shoots just wide. The Indian keeper, Mukherjee, is wearing a look of terrified surprise on his face.
3 – GOAL – Kubo pirouettes around the defence, stops to tie his shoelaces, and hammers the ball into the top right of the net.
1-0 to Japan
8 - Crowd getting restless here as Japan have gone 28 seconds without a shot on goal.
13 – GOAL – Indian player, Ancheri, manages to hammer a shot into the back of the net. The Indian team engages in raucous celebrations, despite the fact that it was his own net.
2 – 0 to Japan
16 – Yellow Card – Indian player Naik receives a strong warning for taunting Nakamura with the “Chinese, Japanese, Dirty Knees, What are these?” rhyme.
23 – GOAL – Nakamura dribbles a shot straight to the keeper who lets it slip through his fingers and into the net.
Dear me! I’ve seen muppets with stronger arms than that!
3 – 0 to Japan
32 – CORNER – The Indian team have earned a corner, however Singh, who seems to be struggling with the concept of a square field, has put the ball 14 rows back into the crowd. Indian captain, Bhutia, is asking for 6 runs.
40 – GOAL – Suzuki is brought down in a slide tackle and is screaming and clutching his leg. The trainer puts a sponge on it and he miraculously recovers from what must have been several compound fractures and a broken vertebrae, to unleash a 80 MPH shot on goal.
45 – 2 minutes extra time – India have moved all 11 men into defence and captain Bhutia is calling for the twelfth man.
47 – HALF TIME – Inamoto’s mum brings out some orange halves for the players.
55 – GOAL – Nakazawa flies high over the field to header Suzuki’s corner past the keeper.
Amazing leap! He must have risen to nearly 6 feet high there!
5-0 to Japan
63 – Red card – Biswas receives the maximum penalty after giving Kubo a nipple cripple behind play.
74 – GOAL and substitution– Inamoto leaves the Indian team squabbling with the referee to post his first and Japan’s sixth.
India really have to concentrate here and the manager brings out Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to restore some tranquillity.
Japan 6 – 0
77 – Near Miss – Indian player, Mandal, manages to hit the post from close range. Unfortunately, the ball was 20 metres away at the time. The trainers come onto the ground to treat him for concussion.
81 – Substitution – India replace fullback Bisht with a cardboard cut-out of Bollywood actor, Saif Ali Khan.
83 – GOAL – Ogasawa takes a shot from long range. I’ll leave you to guess the result.
Japan 7 – 0
90 – 5 Minutes extra time – Captain Bhutia is asking the referee if he can take bad light. The referee takes pity on them and agrees.
Final Score – India 0 – 7 Japan
Thanks for joining us for our coverage and stay cynical,
The Cynical Traveller
There’s something indescribably erotic about two 400kg men mashing into each other. Maybe it’s the breasts or perhaps the thongs, but there must be some reason why Sumo wrestlers get all the good women in Japan.
Having the extraordinary good luck to steal someone’s front row seats, we were close at hand to witness the physical perfection that is Sumo.
Of course, the great thing about watching sumo is that it is not only a “sport”, but an enormous boost to the self esteem as well.
To the untrained eye, it may look like two McDonalds addicts slapping each other in a fight over the last French fry, but Sumo is so much more tactical than that.
There appear to be three main styles of fighting:
The slap – A fantastic opportunity to see huge waves of rippling flesh.
The sidestep – What do you do when 400kg of man is heading your way? Get the hell out of the way (This is heavily frowned upon by traditionalists and suicidal maniacs alike) .
The wedgie – You pick up a 400kg man by the underpants and carry him out of the ring. He spends the next week pulling said pants out of his, not inconsiderable, bottom.
But the fighting is only a small part of the event. Sumo is in many ways, all about ritual. The referee will hold his fan while the two fighters purify themselves and the ring. Then they’ll crouch down ready to fight and… they’ll get up again and do the same thing. They seemingly do this around 540 times before they actually deem each other worthy to wrestle with.
Of course, the slow pace of sumo, 15 minutes of waiting for 10 seconds of action, can often cause the fans of faster sports to lose interest. Fans of American football and baseball should feel right at home however.
On the day we went, Mongolian Yokozuna Asashoryu won his twelfth straight fight to take an unassailable lead in the tournament. Despite being one of the greatest sumo of the age, he is not popular in Japan due to a clinical condition he suffers from, called foreignness.
However, we whooped and cheered when he won. We gaijin have to stick together.
The Cynical Traveller
NEXT WEEK – The Cynical Traveller goes to… Fuji (and climbs it)
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