Archive for May, 2005
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)
Computer games shows are the geek equivalent of gay pride parades. For one day of the year, the Star Trek fan can leave his mother’s house, pull on his spandex uniform and be someone.
I’ll confess. I’m something of a nerd. I’m not a trekkie but I am into computers and computer games. Of course, in today’s computer dominated society, being a nerd provides a much higher status than it previously afforded, and it is no longer a sufficient cause for an atomic wedgie.
A regular wedgie will do fine.
However there’s nerds and then there’s NERDS. And then, in Japan, there’s ÜBERNERDS!
Honestly, in a country where the majority of young adults still live with their parents, you really need to do something special to separate yourself for true geekdome.
We’re going past the Star Trek fan who speaks Klingon here. We’ve even progressed beyond the makers of Star Wars fan films. These people make Bill Gates look like the Fonz.
The wonderful thing about the gameshow, is that the manufacturers know their target audience are 45 year old virgins and market their games accordingly. Skimpily dressed young ladies abound within the confines of a neon warehouse. They are the subjects of countless photographs, to be taken, filed and masturbated over at a later date.
Then there’s the cosplayers (costume play). There seems to be a prevailing fascination in Japan with looking like something you’re not. Literally hundreds of people had come as their favourite game and animation characters.
My favourite sight of the whole show came in the cosplay area. A young lady had foregone the difficulty of dressing up as an exact replica of a character and had simply turned up as the generic “girl in an orange bikini”. Needless to say, she was one of the most photographed people on display.
However, I had to laugh when a particularly nerdy looking chap asked her to bend over, lean against the window and spread her legs while he took photos of her arse. Astoundingly she did it! I really wanted to take a picture of him taking a picture of her, but I was scared somebody would take a picture of me and I would run out of syntax.
Of course, somewhere in all this there were a few games on display as well, but I was having far too much fun people watching. Highly recommended, but not for the faint of heart.
The Cynical Traveller
Golden week is a series of public holidays in May, where the salary man can discard his 90 hour work week, and relax in the company of millions of like minded individuals.
Somehow, the population of the country seems to triple during this single week. The trains are packed, popular holiday destinations are triple booked and airline tickets triple in price.
Bearing this in mind, rather than enjoying a trip, I usually stay in my apartment and cower during this period. However, this year a friend invited me to go to the circus with her, and in a temporary leave of my senses, I agreed.
It turns out that “the circus” was in fact a theme park called “Sea Paradise”, a kind of cut rate Sea World.
Now, the Japanese love theme parks. The most popular holiday destination in the country is Tokyo Disneyland; an exact replica of a soulless, plasticine world. So, obviously, a theme park is the last place to go during golden week.
The highlight of sea paradise is a chance for people to see dolphins running wild, in their 15 foot square tank. The prized exhibit was two enormous white dolphins that had the crowds fascinated. Of course, for most Japanese people, this is one of the few chances they’ve had to see an intelligent sea mammal that wasn’t served up on a bed of rice.
Sea paradise is built on a custom made island, just off the coast of Yokohama. The theme park consists of two roller coasters, a free-fall chair ride, numerous kiddy rides, an animal show and an aqua museum.
The museum was the first thing we visited. The idea of building the theme park on an island must be particularly galling for these animals, as they are so close to escape. It is said that goldfish have a three second memory, and yet even they seemed to be bored here.
As the line for most of the rides looked like a soviet bread queue, we decided to catch the animal show instead.
The show lasted around 40 minutes, during which animals were made to imitate popular animation characters, punch footballs and dance on stools. Even flipper didn’t have to suffer the indignities these animals did. Had this been a Douglas Adams novel, they wouldn’t have even thanked us for the fish.
After the show, it was time for a spot of dinner. It was the usual theme park fare; deep fried chips and soggy hotdogs that are probably older than most of the people eating them. Prices were high, but so was most of the food.
Eventually we decided that the time was ripe to attempt lining up for a ride. After all, it was getting later and most of the kids had either gone to bed, or developed into fully fledged adults while waiting. We walked to the rollercoaster to line up. Then we walked the additional 3km to the back of the line.
Two hours later, it became clear to me that this wasn’t a line for a ride, but some kind of hideous oruborous. The man in front of me was reading war and peace; in Russian! The man in front of him was writing out his will in case he didn’t make it out in time.
Several people had set up a small subsistence farm to help them survive the wait.
It took us 2½ hours in line. I would have been extremely annoyed if my time wasn’t so worthless. The ride itself lasted about one minute. Needless to say, I wasn’t rushing to the back of the queue for another go.
So, to sum up, in 7 hours at Sea Paradise, I rode one ride, ate a shitty hot dog and saw an exploitative animal show. During next years golden week, I have decided to forego such frivolities in favour of suffering a bout of dysentery.
The Cynical Traveller