Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Japanned, Day Two

My Wife and I went to Japan for ten days. We had a blast. I took notes.


Day Two came a bit late and pretty bright...

I slept pretty good, honestly. Who knew flying halfway around the world and drinking a bunch of booze would be such a good sleep aid? I felt rested, kids, not hungover at all. Not too jetlaggy either. Flying west doesn't seem to be as big a deal, jet-lag wise, at least... I didn't feel slow. But I can tell right away that I have no concept of the day or date anymore. I feel off, unplugged, adrift, but not fuzzy. I feel weirdly removed from the rest of the world.

It's a good feeling.

Warm Chu-hi tastes... stronger... the next day, it's a nice little pick-me-up first thing in the morning. A couple of nips of that, plus a packet of Squid Jerky and some green tea cherry kit-kats? Watashi wa nihonjindesu, mother fucker. It's the breakfast of champions while sitting on our cramped little bed, watching some local morning TV, and waiting for Ela to get ready.

Japanese TV is like every parody of Japanese TV you've ever seen.

Eventually it was time to wander downstairs and meet up with Will and Kelly for the "Viking Breakfast Buffet" at the Hotel's restaurant. Why is it called the "Viking Breakfast Buffet"? Beats me. I'd hazard a guess that the vaguely nautical theme of the restaurant might have had something to do with it, but then "vaguely nautical theme" could be used to describe most of Yokohama, so... who knows. It's Japan, and it's a buffet of mostly foreign-ish (western) breakfast items, so... Viking, I guess. Whatever, the Japanese Curry was delicious...

Anyway, today was a big day, our first full day, and we had a lot planned. It was to be a day of trains and temples and some Japanese baseball, and we needed to get to it.

We started out with a quick shopping center run for some supplies, where we saw a not very successful Communist Rally. I felt kind of bad for them, they were very earnest. If I could've given them a pointer, I would have said this: Brevity, comrade. Brevity. I mean, I don't really know what you were saying exactly, but you kind of went on for a while, y'know?

Our shopping done, we took the train bound for Kamakura. It was here we saw the beginning of what would be a trend for us in Japan: swarmed by large groups of children in the same color hats. Hat color is the way teachers in Japan keep track of their students while on field trips, which apparently every single school in Japan was on, at almost every single place we went... 

Kamakura was a quiet, drowsy little seaside retirement town nestled between a long curve of golden sand and blue water, framed by green hills. We browsed the little shops along the winding streets as we meandered up toward the Hasedera Temple, where we learned that Japanese Buddhists apparently believe the path to Enlightenment is found at the top of lots and lots of stairs.

Lots and lots of stairs.

Thank God for bottled water, sweat towels, and sea breezes at scenic overlooks. I bought a good fortune at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Temple for only 100 yen--which is about a dollar--so I got that going for me. We saw a wall of saki, one big Buddha, lots of little Buddhas, and a single crane, whose rather deliberate pose before the tourists' cameras really made him seem more like an attention whore than anything else, if you ask me.

Thirsty much, Crane?

A day of temple tours will show you one thing above all else...

Japanese Selfie Culture is out of control. Seriously. We've got nothing on them. They are a massive unstoppable machine that crushes our own pathetic selfie obsession beneath its thick treads, then laughs, and takes a selfie standing over our broken ruins. I have never seen so many carefully rehearsed peace signs and arms akimbo and cocked legs and pointed toes and fingers to dimples and slightly turned heads and carefully formed finger-hearts with a good friend. It was amazing, and constant, and coupled with the sheer size of your average Japanese crowd, the parade of selfies at any and all photo opportunities was like the relentless rush of the tides, a great ocean of cutsey smiles and spirit fingers hurrying to pose before these ancient landmarks like pounding waves among the rocks, throwing up a continual spray of single moments captured for digital eternity, the unfathomable immensity of this mass consciousness looming over you, a tidal wave of shared intent, dwarfing you, drowning you, dragging you under...

That big Buddha is pretty awesome though...

Then it was time for some buses and some more trains, as we made our way back to Yokohama, so we could get ready for baseball. Tonight we'd see an epic match, two titans tussling, as the Yokohama Baystars were slated to meet the Chunichi Dragons! WOOOOO!

It was a beautiful night for baseball.

Here's a couple of things I noticed about Japanese baseball.

1. Their fans will travel. There was a huge contingent of Chunichi Dragon fans there, and they were into it. I wouldn't say they took up half the stadium, but they easily had a third.

2. They're also super organized. The Chunichi fans pretty much all sat on the side of the Dragon's dugout, and the Yokohama fans pretty much all sat on the side of the Baystars' dugout. I've never seen that before, but that's what they did, and somehow, they all knew where to go, what to wear, and they brought props, too, like horns and bats and massive banners, and hand puppets...

3. They have a specific cheer for every single player, each one with a different rhythm, cadence, and chorus/verse structure, not to mention several regular all-purpose songs. I don't know who writes them, but the catalog was impressive. And everyone seems to know all the songs too, backwards and forwards. They must practice at home, because they sing them with confidence and gusto for the entire game... with musical accompaniment! I swear some of the Dragon fans brought a couple of sousaphones.

And finally, 4. Their major league baseball teams have corporate sponsors that they wear prominently on their jerseys like Little League Teams do here, but instead of Big Al's Auto Repair Tigers, it was the Yokohama DeNA Baystars.

Go Baystars!

As with all things Japan, the fans were very polite. There's no booing, or one side trying to shout down the other. When one side cheers while their team is up to bat, the other side sits quietly... unless there's big play, of course, but mostly, they just wait quietly for their turn to cheer. The drink girls are omnipresent, very friendly, and all wear small kegs on their backs for your beer or Chu-hi. You can get a hot dog, of course, or some kind of meat on a stick, maybe a bucket of caramel popcorn, or some squid, or a nice little bento box with chicken or fish and some rice. The choice is yours. Or maybe, y'know... you could get all of it while enjoying the game... if you want. Who's gonna say anything? Probably everyone, to be honest, but... fuck it, I don't speak Japanese.

Anyway, all in all, it was an experience almost indistinguishable from American Baseball.


The Yokohama Baystars ended up defeating the Chuichi Dragons 4 to 3 in an excellent game that came down to the wire in the 9th. Lots of fun. Afterwards we strolled along with the crowd, I bought a Baystars cap that I would really need in the coming days, and then we made our way to Will's favorite "American style" bbq place. I only put that in quotes because we weren't able to really verify that for sure, mostly because they were pretty much out of all their food. Sad face. Will was especially disappointed. At least there was some Japanese craft beer, so it was cool. Here I learned that Japanese beer eschews hops, so the few that do make an IPA are interesting, not quite like home, but close. Most Japanese beers seem to be dry Pilsners. They're not fancy or all that noteworthy either, really, but after a couple... who cares. 

We ended the night with a nice stroll back through Yokohama, before returning to the hotel, where Ela and I grabbed some supplies from the 7-11, including this cold pancake, butter and syrup type of snack and more than a few chocolate Pokey. 

Delicious. However, since there's only one place to eat, sleep, and sit in our room, I got some chocolate on our bed. I tried to wipe it up, but that just made it look like smeared poop. Honestly, it's kind of embarrassing either way. I went to sleep contemplating whether or not I should leave a note for the maids explaining the stain...

Day Two done,


the library bird said...

stop everything! some yellow and blue hats snuck into the pink hats!

were Japanese people speaking Japanese to you or were you an anomaly?

Jon said...

There were little hats everywhere. In Hiroshima, I saw two different groups of yellow hats and a look of terror on the teachers' faces.

Ela and I's Japanese is on a level very much like a trained parrot's, but we did know enough in some situations that some Japanese people thought we knew much more, so that was neat, but mostly we knew a tiny bit of Japanese, they knew a good amount of English, and we were both pretty good Charades, so it worked out. Plus, at least in Yokohama, we had Will and Kelly to do most of the talking