Yesterday was jammed packed and I hit the Japanese Trifeca of jamming 3 nights worth of fun into fanatical Friday night. I was up at 6am, damn jetlag, and ended up leaving my room around 8am, wandered around for breakfast then traipsed all over Shibuya and Harajuku looking for a Godzilla costume. I had ordered a dinosaur onesie, but that didn’t really translate into Godzilla as I had hoped, so Rich ended up wearing that one and I found a skin tight leopard print bodysuit with a hood. Needless to say, we made a striking pair.
Harajuku is wild. Takeshita street is basically jammed with the wildest clothing stories selling all the newest and zany Japanese Youth fashions and everyone comes dressed to the hilt. Gwen Stefani famously memorialized these fashionistas in her Sogn Harajuku Girls. First time I went there the only thing I bought was an enamel lapel pin of two bananas… which, also in Gwen Stefani fashion was B-A-N-A-N-A-S! That joke never gets old. To me.
After that I went back to the room, changed into my running outfit and jogged 3 miles along the Sumida River, which I juts had to look up. I had been referring to it in my own head as there Tokyo River all week, and who even knows if that’s a real thing? Hmmm, it’s weird how you can just make things up and go with them in life. But usually Im a pretty firm proponent of facts and research.
After that it was off to the Tokyo Dome for Wrestlekingdom. The Tokyo Dome is a stadium that anchors an entire complex right in the center of the city known as Tokyo Dome City. It’s where the biggest baseball team in the city plays, The Yomiyuri Giants, basically the Yankees of Japanese baseball. The complex also houses the Japanese baseball hall of fame, seemingly about a million restaurants, and one of the craziest one two punches of amusement park rides I’ve ever seen. First of all, there’s a ferris wheel with no spokes or central hub. Something only the Japanese would dream up. And then there’s a roller coaster that zooms THROUGH the CENTER of the Ferris Wheel. I rode that one last year. To add to my amazement and magic, it’s called THUNDER DOLPHIN!! It was awesome.
But today there was no time for riding roller coasters. I arrived at the Dome at 3:45 and the first match of the night, the “dark mtach” that doesn’t get shown on the TV Broadcast was set to start at 4pm,. And I had to figure out how to pick up tickets, how to leave one for Rich, which wasn’t at all a given considering that not many folks around Tokyo speak English. But definitely more than in NYC speak Japanese, and then I would have to find a store to buy some beer, because THEY LET YOU BRING YOUR OWN INSIDE. And thank goodness they did, because I bought two cans outside for about $2 each (2 cans is the limit) and the ones inside cost $8! Just like home haha… I somehow ended up making it all happen, and got inside just as the first match was getting underway. Phew.
Wrestlekingdom was everything I had hoped it would be. It’s the largest wrestling event in Japan, and dates back almost 30 years, though only under the WrestleKingdom name for the past 13. Over 40,000 people were there this year. For some reason it’s held ever year on January 4th, no matter what day of the week it falls, though this year was a Friday, so that probably added a bit to the energy of it all.
New Japan Pro Wrestling is the promotion that puts it on, and they have been on a. Pretty amazing hot streak over the past few years, and have also made a lot of inroads to the USA, with a weekly TV program on the AXS network, and a decent roster of American and British talent mixing with their homegrown Japanese stars. All this led to there being a sizable Gaijin contingent, and for some reason they had us all set up in our own two sections. That felt a bit weird, ads I had been shop ing to mingle more with Japanese fans, but, well, I was just happy to be in the building. Apparently they give All the best seats to the fan club members, which you can only be if you are a Japanese resident, and then they also make the rest of the best seats only available on their Japanese language online ticket sales website. If you want to purchase in English (or Chinese) you get redirected through a different company, and, well, that’s how we all ended up together. One of the things that struck me as a difference between the matches in Japan vs the US is that the crowds in Japan are so sedate… which they would probably rather refer to as “respectful.” But it’s a huge difference e, and one that only seemed more present at the Tokyo Dome.
Int he past, at the 1,600 capacity Korakuen Hall, it felt. More reverential, so almost more normal for people to be so quiet during the matched, but in a a huge stadium it felt, somehow, hollow. If you go to Wrestlemania or even any big arena matches, Monday Night Raw tapings etc, the crowd reacts to the performers every move not only with boos and cheers, but also with heckles and chants, and songs and, well, anything that entertains them. But at the matches in Japan, all you do is clap politely after a move has been performed particularly well, and then again at the end of the contest. I learned that the hard way Thursday night at Korakuen Hall when tow wrestlers started brawling into the crowd and I shouted a bunch of gibberish at the top of my lungs, something that would have been right in place at a US match, earned me. A lot of head turns and nasty looks. Whoops…. Much more to follow tomorrow…
DISCLAIMER: I just got back to LA from Tokyo, and have lived through two Saturdays. Time travel, for reals. So this post was written over what was probably about 38 hours, but it was all done while I was inside of locale time on January 5th. IKm stopping now, mid-story because Im slightly delerious, and will pick back up tomorrow. Not every day is gonna be a winner, but Ill never skip a day.