A few days have passed and most of our group have seen the better side of the jet lag here in Tokyo. The streets and subways are less foreign, the travel has worn off a bit and no one has been lost or forgotten anywhere (yet). Wednesday, the third full day in Tokyo, was the first open day for students to explore freely, and everyone did exactly that. We covered everything from going to a pro baseball game to hiking around Mount Fuji, and plenty of shopping in between.
In search of sumo wrestlers
Jon Zmikly, program assistant and senior lecturer in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, began an expedition to find sumo wrestlers in Ryogoku, the historic capital of sumo wrestling. Three students and I followed him on the journey. With help from a kind local woman at the train station, we were able to find our way to some sumo stables, which are where the wrestlers live and train. Unfortunately, two of the three stables were not taking any visitors and the third gave us no response to the doorbell. No sumo.
After wandering through Ryogoku a bit longer, we decided to backtrack to the stadium that holds competitions. Although there were some very nice cardboard cutouts and pictures of older champions, there were still no live sumo wrestlers.
Morale among the team was at an all-time low and we were about to give up. Ryogoku was nearly named a bust. Just then, I looked up and saw an extra wide kimono turn around the corner and realized the sumo deities had smiled upon us. We started seeing wrestlers around every corner and more than we could track down. The man I took a picture with was a gentle giant and more than willing to say hello and play along with our silly poses.
After the famous city had finally lead us to authentic sumo wrestlers, it was time to eat like one. We found a shop that sold chankonabe, a traditional sumo dish full of fish, noodles and vegetables. The host led us from the door through various corners, corridors and elevators to the fourth floor where we were offered a special meal that the five of us split together. We didn’t see a sumo fight, but I would say meeting them face to face was just as impressive. Ryogoku did not let us down!
Trip to Mount Fuji
A group of six of us decided to embark to Japan’s most famous mountain, Mount Fuji. They took a train to a bus stop where they then hopped on for a beautiful ride through the countryside headed inland. The bus let out at Mount Fuji Station, a lookout point near the base of the mountain. The area was dotted with villages and rural shrines and temples that showed a much different scene than the streets of Tokyo.
Shortly after the group arrived, the sky opened and let down buckets of rain. “The weather didn’t make it bad at all,” Michael Southall said. “It made it sort of a challenge. I would absolutely do it again.” Our Bobcats had to find shelter from the rain at some points yet enjoyed being outdoors and having the experience.
Melony Martinez told me over breakfast, “We didn’t even get to see the top of the mountain, but I don’t even care; it was worth it.” There are tons of great pictures from the outing, and everyone expressed that even though Mount Fuji was hard to find, it was an incredible experience.
Catching a baseball game
The Seibu Lions took on the Tokyo Giants in the Seibu Dome! Baseball has always been a fan favorite in Japan, and the experience in the ballpark was familiar, yet very new. My favorite new part of baseball is that players have their own chants from the crowd when they are at bat. Flags were being waved in unison and you can hear the band blare as the fans call out “To-Mooooooo-yA!” as Tomoya Mori swung for Seibu against Tokyo’s finest.
The teams were oddly cooperative and noticeably respectful to each other despite being rivals, and each team’s cheerleaders even did a routine together on the field. I think I speak for the whole group when I say it was something to behold. In the sixth inning, fans started to pull out balloons and blow them up to wave along with their chants. With no warning, they all went flying up into the air. I will admit, I didn’t see this one coming.
The fanbase was coordinated, dedicated and accepted our cheers and high-fives in supporting the hometown Lions. In the end, the Giants pulled away from our boys in the eighth inning with four more runs and won 9-4. Even though Seibu lost, I think it is safe to say that all the Bobcats are now fans of the Lions.
Two of our students went off on their own during the free day as well. Meredith Martinez went to an interactive art exhibit and explored more of Tokyo’s fashion scene. Jakob Rodriguez spent the day golfing, and even played a pick-up game of basketball in the park. They both had unique views of life in Tokyo and were excited to share details.
Tokyo has been very kind to all of us here, and there has never been a dull moment. I feel welcomed here, and even though we are in a new setting, we are getting a good grip on one of the biggest cities in the world. Everything is breathtaking and adapting to such a dynamic and energetic environment is nothing less than inspiring.
Being able to stay in places that are challenging allows us to stretch ourselves into growing and learning about different walks of life. We meet new characters every day we spend here, and new sights come faster than we can process. The opportunity to interact with locals is invaluable. Today there was a consensus reached by two of my friends and I: We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world right now.
(Featured image at the top of the post is by Michael Southall. Most other images were taken by author unless otherwise indicated.)