SIDEBAR
»
S
I
D
E
B
A
R
«
Super Ichiban Travel Blog Part I: Preface [International Incident]
September 2nd, 2009 by Dan

It won’t be the first time I arrive in the Land of the Rising Sun and it probably won’t be the last, but at least it’s all for fun this time. My last journey into Japan took me to Okinawa, an island paradise where I found myself snorkeling and enjoying the beauty of the landscape whenever I was off the clock, but this time I’ll be diving headfirst into three of the four main islands: Honshū, Kyūshū, and Hokkaidō to get a real glimpse of Japan more separate from the US-heavy Okinawa.

Speaking of US-influence, as I write this I’m chowing down on some “Asian” food from the cafeteria and I think this is the perfect way to start my trip. If there’s one thing that America is known for, it’s embracing and adapting the differences of other cultures into the American identity (your mileage may vary, depending on what part of the USA you live in). It’s a side effect of the vastly different ethnic composition of our population slowly integrating into society, etc., etc., but this isn’t an American sociology lesson, so you get my point.

Now, if there’s one thing that Japan is known for, it’s embracing and adapting the things that America does and doing it better. There’s a reason why so much fear existed in the 80’s with respect to the rising industrial power of Japan. Everything about the country just seems like a more intense, slightly odd version of America to the outside. Employees work longer hours, students study harder, the fashion is crazier, and the obsessive obsess harder than anyone here in the states seems to. Watch any half hour of Japanese media, and you’re bound to hear someone yell Ganbare!” enthusiastically to someone who is working hard. It means something like “keep going,” “hang in there,” or “fight” and it exemplifies to me how much the Japanese value doing one’s best and making the most of what they’ve got. I don’t think the Japanese are trying to out-America America; I think they are instead trying to infuse the Yamato spirit into everything they do, no matter where it comes from so that at the end of the day, when they come home exhausted and feel like they can’t go on anymore, someone will tell them to ganbare.

My trip to Japan is, ostensibly, to watch baseball, the Great American Pastime (TM), but I’m more interested in what turned baseball into yakyū. My father once read that if you were to tell a Japanese child that there were McDonald’s restaurants in America, that child would say something like “Wow, they’ve got those there too?” The point being that it is such an ingrained part of their culture that it doesn’t compute that something so Japanese could actually be foreign. I expect seeing baseball in Japan will evoke a similar reaction in me as I marvel at how the game can be so different and exactly the same while retaining a distinctly Yamato flair. Surely no adult Japanese person would think that the game originated on the island, but will they think that they’ve perhaps mastered the purest, best way to play the game?

Really though, that’s enough of all the serious talk, I’m not writing a paper here and I’m sure I’ve bored half of you to death already. Here are some questions (in no particular order) that I hope to get answers to on this trip out to the far east:

1. What do they do during the 7th inning stretch out here?
2. What kinds of crazy foods do they serve at the concession stands?
3. Just how rowdy do the fans get during games?
4. How different is it to fly internationally on a Japanese carrier compared to a domestic carrier?
5. Do cities outside Tokyo get crazy during game releases? At least one major game franchise (Pokémon) will have an iteration released while I’m out, but I won’t be in Tokyo when it comes out.
6. How rock and roll do the Japanese get? If I can, I’m going to try and make it into a show somewhere.
7. Is the fashion at Harajuku as crazy as everyone says it is?
8. Sumo. Great sport or greatest sport?
9. Is Akihabara still the mecca of electronics that it once was?
10. How much cool stuff can I find in a used game store?
11. Is Coco Curry House Ichinbanya still amazing?
12. How long can Dave and I sing in a karaoke box before we’re kicked out to salvage what’s left of the clientele’s hearing?
13. Do I have the nerve to go to a public bath?
14. Is the Japanese train system as punctual and efficient as advertised?
15. What’s the strangest item I can find in a vending machine?
16. Are Japanese arcades really dying?

I’m sure I’ll think of more along the way, but I think this is a good start for now. To those of you out there working hard while I embark upon my expedition into Japanese culture, I have but one word: GANBARE!

EDIT: Now that this travel feature is complete, I thought I’d add a table of contents to help you navigate around.

Part I – Preface
Part II – Journey to the East
Part III – Play Ball!
Part IV – In Which Our Heroes Depart Tokyo for Kyoto
Part V – Temples, Taxis, and the (Hiroshima) Toyo Carp
Part VI – Baseball Off-Day
Part VII – i believe lions
Part VIII – Tokyo Drift
Part IX – It’s a Small World
Part X – Boredom on the Orient Express
Part XI – “That’s my wife. You no touch.”
Part XII – The Curse of the Colonel
Part XIII – Beware the Ninth Ward
Part XIV – The One Where We Miss Darvish
Part XV – Someone’s Got To Be The Worst
Part XVI – Unstoppable Force, Meet Immovable Object
Part XVII – In Which Our Hero Casually Greets Professional Players
Part XVIII – Homeward Bound
Part XIX – Epilogue
Bonus: Jersey Special


4 Responses  
  • Eric Mesa writes:
    September 2nd, 20099:37at

    Once again you’ve outdone yourself here. First of all, I love everything about the title from the Ichiban to the part in brackets.

    A really good writer uses his internal thesaurus and I certainly don’t mind looking up a term, especially when it’s so easy on the net now. (wikipedia or google “define:word” – no quotes) When reading Neal Stephenson’s work I learned Nippon/Nipponese. Now with your post I have learned Yamato. Very neat and, given its denotation, used in exactly the right way. As you know, sometimes a synonym has something in its connotation or denotation that shows how the writer doesn’t really know what he’s doing. Not the case here.

    Some more tidbits:
    1. What do they do during the 7th inning stretch out here? If it’s unique enough, video it with your new camera. Shoot, even if it’s “take me out to the ballgame” or the same tune with different lyrics, it might be worth recording at least once. Definitely worth recording if each town has their own traditions.

    2. What kinds of crazy foods do they serve at the concession stands? If it’s something nutty like squid on a stick – be sure to photograph it!

    3. Just how rowdy do the fans get during games? An interesting experiment in stereotypes. On the one hand you could say they’d be uber-polite. On the other, perhaps they go as nuts as on game shows.

    4. How different is it to fly internationally on a Japanese carrier compared to a domestic carrier? It’s supposed to be very pampered, but I don’t know if that’s only first class. Also, the stewardesses are reputedly hotter. Comment on either. Also, if there’s anything special – different signage, interesting uniforms – be sure to take photos. Also, check out their evacuation guide thing – different? Is the beginning part part where they explain about the oxygen masks different? Worth videoing?

    5. Do cities outside Tokyo get crazy during game releases? If there’s an absurdly long line, photo! If you have the courage, ask the kids if they’re waiting for pokemon and video their jubilant answer.

    6. How rock and roll do the Japanese get? Def worth hearing about.

    7. Is the fashion at Harajuku as crazy as everyone says it is? Probably. I’d say photos, but at this point it’s pretty obvious, right? But actually, it’s so photographed, this is one place I won’t be disappointing if you come away without a photo. One good thing to know – it’s supposed to be like a cosplay thing – no big deal to ask someone to take their photo.

    8. Sumo. Great sport or greatest sport? I’m so jealous!

    10. How much cool stuff can I find in a used game store? How much will run on your US equipment?

    12. How long can Dave and I sing in a karaoke box before we’re kicked out to salvage what’s left of the clientele’s hearing? Maybe you’ll be “gods” like in Rush Hour. q;o)

    13. Do I have the nerve to go to a public bath? Obviously no photos there, but I’d definitely be interested to know about the real thing after having seen it in Ranma and Love Hina.

    14. Is the Japanese train system as punctual and efficient as advertised? I heard they literally push/pack people like tuna during rush hour

    15. What’s the strangest item I can find in a vending machine? Take photos!!

    I can’t wait! I will live vicariously through your travelogue.

  • I Bring Nothing to the Table » Blog Archive » Super Ichiban Travel Blog Part XIX: Epilogue [II] writes:
    November 6th, 20090:08at

    […] aStore § Related PostsRelated posts:Super Ichiban Travel Blog Part I: Preface [International Incident]Super Ichiban Travel Blog Part X: Boredom on the Orient Express [II]Super Ichiban Travel Blog Part […]

  • I’m Not Mad » Archive » NeoTokyo writes:
    November 30th, 20091:25at

    […] to them.  In the real world, Dan did talk about his time in Japan.  You can read his travel blog starting here.  He seems to have had an amazing time there and I’m totally jealous. └ Tags: […]

  • It’s A Binary World 2.0 » NYC Tet Trip Day 1 writes:
    February 17th, 20100:05at

    […] Tet Trip Day 1 After reading Dan’s great Japan travelogue, Super Ichiban Travel Blog, and another source where someone had his children always keep a journal when they travel, I […]


Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

»  Substance:WordPress   »  Style:Ahren Ahimsa