Apologies for the lack of updates again, but things have been busy, weird, distressing or, frequently, a combination.
Saturday was arrival day. I didn’t get to my hotel till gone 9pm, so there was nothing to do really but eat and sleep.
Sunday was the first two wrestling shows. I hit Korakuen Hall first thing to get my tickets for all the shows I want to see there. I love that venue. The floor all the wrestling shows take place on was designed specially to be a ringsports arena and they have something on every night, wether it’s pro-wrestling, kickboxing, boxing… anything. Although the tickets are expensive by UK standards (it varies from promotion-to-promotion, event-to-event and depends on where you want to sit, but I’d say the average price is about £30 per ticket), not one of the 2000 seats offers a bad view. For anyone who goes, the South side (the one with most seats on the seating plan) offers the best combination of economy and comfort. For my money, the best seats are the back row of the first raised section: close enough to the action, nobody’s big head right in front of you and an easy escape to toilets, snacks and merchandise.
The other plus, of course, is if it’s a show for TV. Wrestlers these days tend to work for the hard camera, which in Korakuen is, yep, at the top of the South side.
Anyway, tickets purchased, it was off to Shinjuku to find the brilliantly named FACE venue for OZ Academy, a small women’s wrestling promotion. FACE is a small, nightclub-looking establishment on the 7th floor of the Humax Pavilion, ten minutes walk North of Shinjuku station. Much like Korakuen, it is set out perfectly to have a ring plonked in the middle:-
I imagine that most of you probably aren’t wrestling fans, so I shall merely tantalise you with a couple of pictures and say that if you want to read my account of the show and see more pictures, head here.
During the interval, I got to meet Manami Toyota, one of the wrestlers on the show, who is an absolutely legend of Japanese women’s wrestling. She was one of the main event stars in the early-mid nineties when women’s wrestling was, fairly regularly, drawing upwards of 40,000 people tomajor shows in venues like the Tokyo Dome. Beyond that, she’s also really, really friendly.
After it was over, I then had the option of trying to cram a 45 minute journey into half-an-hour to get to a special Pro-Wrestling NOAH show in Ariake, on the other side of town. I opted not to, mostly as I was quite hungry and I already have a ticket to their main show at Korakuen on Saturday. Instead it was lunch at the brilliantly named “Italian Tomato Cafe Jr.” and back to the hotel to recharge my camera battery as I knew full well I’d need it that night.
I’m really glad I picked the OZ show over the three other wrestling options I had that afternoon. All five matches were good, but different from one another, the setting was great and crowd were really up for it. I’m going to see if they have another show in town before I leave, especially as the end was designed to drag you back to the next one.
I got back to Korakuen hall just as New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s ring announcer was preparing to introduce the first match. Fine timing!
Once again, teaser snaps now and the full write-up here.
Going in, there was some consternation among the online wrestling community I’m part of that this show looked quite weak on paper. When it came down to it, though, it turned out to be really enjoyable, with three of the eight matches standing out in particular. Also, in a complete surprise, I got to see Jushin Liger (the fella in the red Power Ranger get-up) wrestle. Liger is one of my all-time favourites and, like Ms. Toyota, a true living legend of professional wrestling. At the beginning of the nineties, he revolutionised the small man’s role in the world of wrestling and has arguably more classic battles under his belt than any other wrestler alive today.
With the sun defying Accuweather’s predictions of rain (oh, Accuweather; when did you stop being so Accu?), Monday was sight-seeing day.
First, it was off to Akihabara, the gadget district and one of my favourite places in Tokyo. If I let my willpower drop, I could easily spent a lot of money in Akiba’s electronics department stores, second-hand games shops and toy emporiums.
In actual fact, I went to pick up a second battery for my camera; the previous day having made it clear that, on day’s with two shows or one show and a lot of sight-seeing, one would not be enough. This took approximately eight seconds (slight exaggeration) as LAOX, a well-equipped camera store very close to Akihabara station and the first place I looked, had them in stock for a decent price. Now what?
Well, I had a semi-purposeful nose around Akihabara (I’m after a copy of Virtual Pro Wrestling 2 for the N64. Can I find one? Can I nuts) and a small but tasty, but ultimately regrettable (oh yes) burger for lunch before deciding, on a whim, that I wanted to see Roppongi Hills. A friend had suggested the place to me from when he visited last year and I hadn’t had the time to squeeze it into my ’09 trip, so I took a wee jaunt on the subway to Roppongi.
Roppongi Hills is a mega residential, office, restaurant, shopping and entertainment complex. The idea behind it being that if you lived, worked, shopped and ate int he same place, it would cut down commuting time and increase your quality of live. The centrepiece is Mori Tower, which is 54 storeys high and peaks some 900 feet above sea level.
I went to the very top.
Let me tell you, the wind up there sure keeps you alert! Also, the views are great, even on a murky day like Monday.
At night, they turn the lights on too:-
When I got back down from the top of the tower, I saw that the complex’s cinema had a showing of The Hurt Locker starting in ten minutes. I figured I should try to keep up with modern cinema a tad and, as the thing has won a few golden baldies, I’d go in.
I wish I’d had the balls to take photos inside the Toho Cinema, but there’s currently something of a piracy clampdown going on in Japan and I didn’t want to be the big dumb gaijin waving his digital camera around. Let’s just say the design of the place fits in perfectly with the rest of the development. It’s also the only cinema I’ve ever been to where, to get to the screen, you have to ascend an escalator behind a large glass waterfall and cross a Star Trek-esque bridge with a glowing floor and walls and elongated shiny black arches. Just getting to your movie is an adventure.
The Hurt Locker is very good, by the way. Thoroughly deserving of its accolades.
After a disappointing Chinese dinner in one of the hotel’s many restaurants, it was time for the “distressing” part of the performance…
Post-combined shower/shave/sunburn peel (it was coming off my legs in sheets the size of banknotes), I noticed that my lower right leg was really quite swollen and very red. It had previously swollen a little in Australia, but I’d that and all previous pains down to the sunburn. This time though, it felt like it was about to burst. I feared the worst…
I did a quick Google for Deep Vein Thrombosis symptoms. Courtesy of BUPA:-
- swelling of the affected leg – check
- pain and tenderness in the affected leg – you may also find it difficult to stand properly with your full weight on the affected leg – check (at least at points last week)
- a change in the colour of your skin, for example, redness – check
- skin that feels warm or hot to the touch – check
In the immortal words of James May: “Oh cock…”
Back to Google for “English speaking doctors in Tokyo”. This turned up http://www.tokyobritishclinic.com/, conveniently located in Ebisu, just three stops away on the Yamanote line. Brilliant! Unfortunately, as it was at this point nearly 3am, making an appointment wasn’t really an option.
So, a night of little sleep was had by all until I was woken at about 7:30am by the third minor earthquake I’ve experienced since landing. I know when an earthquake happens as my tenth floor hotel room bobs around like it’s on a boat, I shit myself and all the natives I see from my window just carry on about their days.
Anyway, even though the swelling had gone down considerably, I still called the Clinic at 9am sharp to get an appointment. They answered the phone in English and we set on 9:45am, thinking that’d give me plenty of time to get there. Best laid plans and all that…
What actually happened was I came out of Ebisu station and wandered around for almost 90 minutes, looking for the damn place. I doubt I’d have found it all if I hadn’t asked a young lady setting up a display outside a clothes shop, who turned out to speak excellent English (“Oh, I studied English in London for a year. I’ve forgotten loads of it though”) and her boss who ran to his car down the road to bring us a Tokyo road atlas. I eventually reached the Clinic at 11am.
I apologised to the staff profusely and said that I wouldn’t push in front of anyone and I’d go to the back of the queue. There was no queue and I was seen really quickly by Dr. Wan, a young Chinese doctor with a fairly pronounced Edinburgh accent. After a prod, an investigate and a short argument (between one another), he and the Clinic’s founder, Dr Symonds, determined that I didn’t have DVT after all and was just suffering the after effects of the burn. Dr. Symonds even said he was surprised it was sunburn as it looked more like injuries he’d seen on people who’d burnt their legs on the exhaust of their motorbike. I took off my shirt to show him the rest of it and I think it was only really then that he was satisfied that I hadn’t actually been set on fire or anything. Even though, I’m apparently fine and could just do nothing to let it heal, they gave me a bottle of calamine lotion to help it along.
I was really glad to find that this service existed (and so close), as my phrasebook doesn’t cover “Excuse me doctor, I think I have DVT. When are we operating and can I take my leg home with me?”. The staff and doctors were really nice and, more importantly than that, competent GPs. Definitely file this place under “tips for visiting gaijin”.
The visit, in the end, cost me about £100, but I figured it was worth it to be sure that I was OK and that nothing has to be chopped off. Reckoning that was enough excitement for one day, I headed back to the hotel to find there was a “coupon” waiting for me at reception.
The hotel has a “Green Cleaning” policy, meaning you can opt to have your room cleaned every other day instead of every day. On each of the off days, housekeeping just nip in to empty your bins and you are given a 500 yen voucher (about £3.50 – £4), redeemable in the hotel’s main restaurant, 24, and the on-site convenience store. Sweet! I can save about about £20 on food and water with this.
I celebrated by checking out the Epson Aqua Stadium, the hotel’s built-in aquarium. Read that again.
An adult ticket was 1800 yen (£13) and, although the place is comparitively small (though, obviously, I wasn’t expecting a rerun of Osaka’s Kaiyukan), they pack plenty in, including penguins…
…the lesser-spotted gormless mongfish…
…a sealion show…
…a dolphin show…
…and this big bastard, who had to be twelve feet, end-to-end:-
Oh, and this on the way in…
Tomorrow, it looks like I’ll be having a wander around Ryogoku, the sumo district. While I’m there, I can pick up my tickets for my Sunday and Monday night wrestling shows at Sumo Hall (Monday is a national holiday, apparently). I’m just waiting for confirmation from my potential companion as to what his price limit is.
Two things I’ve just remembered: Before you head out to the roof of Mori Tower, they ask you to put your stuff in a locker. The girl tending to the lockers clocked my Dragon Gate bag and I head a small voice say: “You like Dragon Gate?”
“Yes,” I replied. “Do you?”
“Who do you like?” I asked. “Genki? CIMA?”
A short think, then “Dragon Kid ichiban [number one]!”
“I’m going to the Sumo Hall show. Are you?”
“No. Working.” And with that she buried her face in her hands.
Later, at dinner, one of the waiters saw my AC/DC T-shirt. ”You get from AC/DC concert?”
“No. I was in Syndey when they were, but didn’t see them.”
“Ah, Sydney! You Australian?”
“No, from England.”
“Ah, England! Liverpool!”
I laughed. “Not quite.”
“Yes. I live near London.”
“Ah, OK,” he said. “Rolling Stones-u.”
Then he gave me the thumbs-up, said “Heavy metal the best” and went back to the kitchen with a big grin on his face…