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Super Ichiban Travel Blog Part XIX: Epilogue [II]
Nov 6th, 2009 by Dan

No Game Overview today, we’re gonna finish this up since I didn’t get to it today (World Series business)

And so it came to pass that I went to Japan, saw some baseball, and came back home with a greater appreciation and understanding of Japan. If you remember the first entry in this series, I outlined a set of questions that I wanted to try and address while I was out there. Here’s what I found along the way:

1. What do they do during the 7th inning stretch out here?

I’ve addressed this myself in a previous article, but there are slightly different customs in the 7th for a Japanese baseball team. As recently as last year, there was a tradition of firing off a stream of balloons that make a streaming noise. It’s a really striking and cool sight, at least in video, but I didn’t get to see it in person.

Sadly, the tradition seems to have ended this year thanks to H1N1. When you’ve got a whole stadium full of person-filled balloons flying around, launching spittle everywhere, I guess you can forgive them for changing their mind about this tradition this year. I can only hope that it will return when the flu concerns start to disappear, but it’s also possible this great tradition is gone forever.

2. What kinds of crazy foods do they serve at the concession stands?

Yet another question that I’ve done my best to highlight as many times as I could in each entry. Each stadium had food ranging from typical American food, like hamburgers and hot dogs, to more typical Japanese food like takoyaki, miscellaneous bento, and curry. I’d say it was the highlight of the trip really, especially that seafood pizza I got in Fukuoka at the Hawks game.

3. Just how rowdy do the fans get during games?

Given the more typically restrained culture in Japan and the insistence on not bothering others (combined with the supposed American boisterous, wild behavior), I thought that Japanese games would be more restrained, controlled, and structured. I was half right on that.

The Japanese are plenty loud in baseball games, but in a very structured way, like I thought. Each team’s fans cheer for their own hitters with specific cheers for each batter, but, beyond that, they keep quiet and definitely don’t really boo the other team at all.

There’s only one rare exception: drunk fans. Since beer flows throughout almost the entire game, some fans drink without restraint and end up screaming randomly, but it’s rare. Very unlike a passionate fanbase.

4. How different is it to fly internationally on a Japanese carrier compared to a domestic carrier?

There was another article almost completely about this, but the differences are subtle and distinctly Japanese. I hoped that we might have more space on the plane, but the space was tighter, due to a smaller average size for Japanese people. Other than that, the expectations I had were all spot on. The food was way better, the service was more polite and more attentive, and, overall, I had a much better time of the flight than I’ve had on domestic carriers.

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.

I was a day off from catching this release and it didn’t seem all that wild out in the area, but within all the stores, the game was sold out and impossible to find anywhere other than a Pokémon Center.

6. How rock and roll do the Japanese get? If I can, I’m going to try and make it into a show somewhere.

Didn’t make it to any shows. I’ve got no opinion on this.

7. Is the fashion at Harajuku as crazy as everyone says it is?

Another shame, I was in Harajuku on a school day and during work/school hours too. I hear Sunday’s the big Harajuku day, but I didn’t see much.

8. Sumo. Great sport or greatest sport?

I’m torn on this one. Sumo is a great thing to see and experience, but I’m a little bummed at how long it takes for a match to happen. Just as soon as we’re ready to finally start, it’s done. It’s great to see and all, but I think that it might be better to just watch the highlights reel the way they do it at times on ESPN 2.

9. Is Akihabara still the mecca of electronics that it once was?

I don’t know why I end up inflating expectations on this sort of thing, but I always figured Akihabara for some kind of wild, Neo Tokyo, super-exaggerated, sprawling, mega-techno city. Instead Akihabara spans, at most, 6 blocks by 3 or 4 blocks filled with curry, music stores, movie stores, anime shops, video games, and straight-up electronics shops.

Was it ever bigger? I have no idea, but it doesn’t quite feel like the one-stop shop that it should be and it feels a lot less epic than people made it seem.

10. How much cool stuff can I find in a used game store?

Lots of cool stuff. From arcades with vintage games to the most obscure Famicom or any other random Japanese system you’ve never even heard of. The best thing I ever got were those great Mario noise keychains. Good stuff.

I wish I bought me a Dragon Quest slime too.

11. Is Coco Curry House Ichinbanya still amazing?

YES! So good. Oh man was it great. I need to go back out there or buy some curry mix and get it shipped in.

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?

Two nights, but, to be fair, we did travel from Hiroshima back to Tokyo to avoid the karaoke police. It was definitely fun.

13. Do I have the nerve to go to a public bath?

Turns out I don’t, but I also didn’t really go looking for them. It’s also possible that I wouldn’t have been admitted since there can be some anti-foreigner sentiment in those types of establishments.

14. Is the Japanese train system as punctual and efficient as advertised?

While it has its share of idiosyncrasies, the train system runs punctual to a ‘T’. Not only do they show up precisely when they say they will, but they almost never miss their arrival time. The only time a train was even remotely late was the shinkansen to Fukuoka. Even then it was only 10 minutes and I’d bet that the Amtrak never keeps it that punctual.

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

Turns out nothing too bizarre for the States. Soda and the occasional alcohol or cigarette machine. Even those suckers are harder to buy from nowadays thanks to a crackdown on youth consumption of both.

Capsule machines are kind of a different story, I guess, but they’re mostly anime, video game, or sports team merchandise. Nothing like the famous women’s underwear stories.

16. Are Japanese arcades really dying?

Well, I saw a few, but it’s not so easy to tell what’s going on with arcades when you’re looking at them in Akihabara. I do know that I didn’t see all the fighting game cabinets that I thought I would, but they seemed to be doing ok when I saw them. I didn’t get enough exposure to the arcades to have an informed opinion.

Super Ichiban Travel Blog Part VII: i believe lions [II]
Oct 1st, 2009 by Dan

i believe lions was printed on the interior of the Lions jersey I bought.

"i believe lions" was printed on the interior of the Lions jersey I bought.

After an intense and draining day, it was finally time to get back to Tokyo for the last leg of the main tour and to catch some more baseball action!

It’s hard not to love Hiroshima and the Chūgoku region in general. Nowhere else in Japan did I see such devotion to a baseball team as I did in Chūgoku. Convenience stores in both the smallest regional stations and the largest Shinkansen stations sell Hiroshima Carp tea, Hiroshima Carp trinkets, and even Hiroshima Carp onigiri.

I bought Hiroshima Carp-themed food as often as possible. Gotta support my favorite team!

I bought Hiroshima Carp-themed food as often as possible. Gotta support my favorite team!

The city had to pull itself out of extreme tragedy and I don’t think you can fault a place whose mayor personally sends a letter of protest in response to every single nuclear test that its known about since the city was reestablished. Tokyo has excitement, Kyoto has history, but Hiroshima seems to have a lot of heart and I dig that.

Unfortunately, Hiroshima is far from Tokyo, so most of our day was eaten up by a bullet train back.

When asked why he slept all the way back, Dave responded There was no action.

When asked why he slept through the whole train ride, Dave responded, "There was no action."

Have I mentioned that all shinkansen have snack carts that sell bentos, snacks, and drinks throughout the trip or that they’re punctual to a fault? Other than that, there’s not much to say. We got back to Tokyo, put our stuff down, had a bite to eat, and then began our journey to the Seibu Dome to see the Saitama Seibu Lions play.

I don’t know if I’ve talked about this before, but the most fundamental difference between Japanese baseball teams and American teams has got to be the corporate ownership. Sure, there are teams in America who have corporate shareholders or who are fully owned by a company, but I think that the culture is geared more toward a single owner, like George Steinbrenner, for example, rather than huge companies.

If you hadn’t guessed, it’s the opposite in Japan. The naming convention for most teams goes City/Area Name of Origin, Company Name, Team Name. So, in the case of the Lions, you have the city they’re in, Saitama, the company that runs them, Seibu, and the team name, Lions. It’s kind of complicated and it’s interesting that in most cases (the Carp excluded), the city gets left out and gets marginal billing. If you’ve heard of the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, chances are you didn’t even know they were in Hokkaido, just that they were owned by Nippon-Ham (which consequently meant they had a funny name).

Why do I mention this? Well, as I’ve mentioned before, it was really seeming like none of the teams had any identity in their hometown. Sure, there was Tokyo Dome City for the Giants, but the area not immediately surrounding the stadium had almost no reference to the fact that the Giants played there.

All that changed when I noticed a lone sign in the train station on the way to the Seibu Dome.

Its not anywhere near as dirty as it sounds.

It's not anywhere near as dirty as it sounds.

Finally! A poster representing the team we were going to see! Cryptic, bizarre, and slightly sexual message notwithstanding (explanation to follow), here was evidence that someone in Saitama loved the Lions.

The illusion came crashing down when I remembered one key fact: I was about to board a train on the Seibu line. While they’re certainly not the only team to own a private rail line that stopped at its stadium, Seibu was cheating, at least in terms of what I was looking for. Of course the company that owns the baseball team is going to advertise its team on the train that will eventually lead to its stadium. So, again, unlike Hiroshima, this was not a region that clearly adored its team, with decent reason, I suppose. Tokyo is a complicated city to love a team in, considering that there are four teams within a reasonable distance to root for (and most root for the Giants).

Now to address the poster. The playoff series in Japan is called the Climax Series. It makes sense when you think of the definition of climax, but it’s one of those things that you’d never see in the states without eliciting laughter (like when they tried to bring Calpis (read it aloud) to the states). The Climax Series is also unique in that, unlike the way it’s done in the states, it has only three teams competing in each league. The first place team gets a bye while the second and third slog it out in a best of 3. The next stage is a best of seven, but the first place team starts off with one win to reward their excellent play in the regular season. After that they play the Japan Series, which is the Japanese version of the World Series (also best of seven, but with no advantages).

On the Seibu line, we met some fellow baseball fans en route to the park. One of the fans was so devoted to the Lions that she had her toenails painted blue to show her support. The other girl was a closet Fighters fan who loved Yu Darvish, but explained that he just came off the DL, so he wouldn’t be pitching in that night’s game.

Save it for the athletic center!

Save it for the athletic center!

Much like Skymark Stadium, the Seibu Dome stop was immediately adjacent to the Seibu Dome (how about that?), but the area was better decorated to reference the team with shops, stands, and blue Christmas lights.

The Seibu Dome...or is it?

The Seibu Dome...or is it?

Dave and I wandered the area, taking in the sights, and I picked up a nice Lions jersey. While the quality was great, it turns out that the team is sponsored by Nike, meaning the jersey was a bit pricier than I had hoped. Another strange aspect of the jersey (beyond the “i believe lions” printed on the inside of the button flap) was that the armpits had “holes.” Maybe they were intended to allow better air circulation, but they’re just confusing and uncomfortable and it means you must wear an undershirt with the jersey, unless you want hair poking out of your underarms.

The Lions recognize good talent when they see it. Dave and I were immediately drafted onto the roster when we arrived.

The Lions recognize good talent when they see it. Dave and I were immediately drafted onto the roster when we arrived.

If you were paying attention to the captions, you’ll notice that I implied that the Seibu Dome was not actually a dome, and that’s with good reason. Instead of the hermetically-sealed, ears-pop-when-you-enter style dome that I experienced in Tokyo, this “dome” was simply a covering that went over the field. It was more like an umbrella than a dome. The stadium was open-air, more or less, aside from the non-retractable roof. This creates an interesting effect, according to a fellow tourgoer who lives on Yakota AFB and has adopted the Lions as his team, where the climate control performs terribly. On cold days, it’s unbearably cold while the real scorchers just feel even hotter underneath the canopy.

If you look closely, you can see the outside!

If you look closely, you can see the outside!

The Seibu Dome is a bizarre stadium construction, without a doubt. It feels more like a college ballpark or something you’d watch a dolphin show at Sea World in than a real baseball stadium, but that makes more sense when some context about the team is made clearer. Up until the Lions got 50 M$ (I believe (lions) that’s the figure) for posting Daisuke Matsuzaka to the Boston Red Sox, the teams financial situation had been relatively dire. It’s only natural that the ballpark be so strange when it was open air at first (no doubt cost considerations went into that) and that it not be converted to a real dome when the canopy was deemed necessary. That’s really part of the charm of baseball, when you think about it. The game is played with a standard set of rules in considerably non-standard locations.

Posing for a shot with Dave.

Posing for a shot with Dave.

Frequent readers know I really don’t like dome baseball, but the Dome brings the best of both worlds, to the degree that one can have such a thing, by doing neither very well. I’d still prefer the pure, unhindered air on my face, but it definitely wasn’t as bad as the Tokyo Dome, so I can’t complain too much.

Hanging with the Colonel.

Hanging with the Colonel.

The start of the game heralded in something I’d yet to see in three Japanese baseball games, the Japanese national anthem. Jet lag may have prevented me from noticing at the first ballgame, but I quickly caught on to the fact that there didn’t seem to be a requirement to play the anthem before the game in these parts. I learned that the Japanese have a short national anthem too and that they seem to have different people come out and sing at each game, just like the ballparks in the states.

They may not play their national anthem, but they do have cheerleaders and beer girls.

They may not play their national anthem, but they do have cheerleaders and beer girls.

Much like Skymark Stadium, the Seibu Dome seemed to be pretty empty, which was strange considering that, unlike the Buffaloes, the Lions were in serious contention for the Climax Series. I’ll chalk the low attendance up to it being a Tuesday and leave it at that for now. Another interesting note is that their mascot resembles a grown up Kimba.

This is a cookie, but if you colored it all white, it would look more like the mascot who looks like Kimba.

This is a cookie, but if you colored it all white, it would look more like the mascot who looks like Kimba.

The reduced numbers didn’t prevent the Lions from displaying the same team pride and some of the raucous behavior I witnessed at the Carp game. Perhaps it’s due to alcohol, but there seemed to be an increasing number of fans who were more into it than others. Fans who yelled out things at players that weren’t synced up with cheers. It’s quite easy to drink too much at an American ballgame, but when you consider that the drinks keep flowing in Japan, even beyond the 7th inning (or two hours), you see that it’s easy to get that much wilder after your latest beer in the 9th.

A shot of me enjoying a fine drink at the Seibu Dome.

A shot of me enjoying a fine drink at the Seibu Dome.

Also worth noting, the drink selection is not limited to beer. Most ballparks also have some serious hard alcohol being vended alongside the beer. At our first game in the Tokyo Dome, Mayumi and a guest bought some umeshu, plum wine, there’s plenty of soju, another rice alcohol from Korea, and I even got my hands on a delicious whiskey sour-type drink at the Lions game that packed quite a punch.

We made fast friends with this couple. She gave us a banner as a gift.

We made fast friends with this couple. She gave us a banner as a gift.

I don’t really have any new observations about the game itself, but it was notable in that it was the first home team victory we had on the tour so far. Thanks to that victory, we also got to see something that they definitely don’t do in the states, the on-field interview. The players of the game are usually rounded up and interviewed on the big screen for the fans that remain. Following the interview and a quick photo shoot, the players throw balls into the stands for the fans and head into the locker room.

Impromtu field press conference.

Impromtu field press conference.

Pose for the cameras!

Pose for the cameras!

Another unique feature of the Seibu Dome is that they allow the fans to run the bases and toss the ball around the field after the game.

Fans celebrating on the field.

Fans celebrating on the field.

After we got our fill, we headed back to the hotel. It was the penultimate full day in Japan and David and I were ready to get our fill of Tokyo before he had to go home.

The area just outside the stadium at night.

The area just outside the stadium at night.

Super Ichiban Travel Blog Part VI: Baseball Off-Day [II]
Sep 13th, 2009 by Dan

Domo-kun just before sneaking across the Kintai-kyo without paying admission or being a part of the samurai caste.

Domo-kun just before sneaking across the Kintai-kyo without paying admission or being a part of the samurai caste.

Our first baseball off-day and we spent it traveling throughout the area. From Hiroshima we headed out to Iwakuni, Miyajima, and then back to Hiroshima to see the Peace Memorial.

The morning started off with the usual optional day tour to see the sights in the area. Dave and I were eager to head to Iwakuni and see the famous samurai bridge Kintai-kyo. Historical accounts state that the bridge was only usable by the samurai caste back in the day and the whole thing was constructed completely without nails.

Dave did not sneak across the bridge, but hes part of the samurai caste, so he crossed for free.

Dave did not sneak across the bridge, but he's part of the samurai caste, so he crossed for free.

Like most monuments or historical buildings in Japan, the original bridge was destroyed by a typhoon, but was faithfully recreated in precisely the same way (although I think they used nails in certain key places to prevent future typhoon damage).

Don, a fellow tourgoer, crossing the bridge.

Don, a fellow tourgoer, crossing the bridge.

Across the bridge, up on the hillside, sits the also-famous Iwakuni Castle, so we paid our combined admission fee to cross the bridge, take the gondola up the hill, and see the castle.

There it is in the distance. Squint if you have to.

There it is in the distance. Squint if you have to.

The bridge itself was pretty cool and it allowed for some great views of the Nishiki River below us. Across the bridge is a town sort of devoted to tourism and the maintenance of the grounds. There are a bunch of shops, some cool photo opportunities, and a shrine near the gondola to pray and make offerings at.

Best photo of the day.

Best photo of the day.

Of course, you can’t get up a giant slope (easily) without a gondola, so we queued up and learned that the tiny cars we’d be taking to the summit were supposed to fit 30 people. That would be 30 Japanese people, mind you, so beyond the usual size increase that you can expect from Americans, our tour did include some of the larger, stereotypical type. It made for a crammed space that would be hell for the claustrophobic and was also uncomfortably hot thanks to the sun shining through the windows. Insult was added to injury as one of the Japanese operators made a gesture by puffing out his cheeks and holding his arms out to the effect that we were fat Americans and laughed at us. As a non-fat American, I wasn’t too bugged by this, but it was a remarkably rude action considering that the Japanese make an effort to be polite 99% of the time.

It was crowded and hot.

It was crowded and hot...

One remarkable view later, we were at the top of the mountain/hill thing looking out over the beauty of the Iwakuni landscape. A short walk up the tourist path took us to Iwakuni Castle.

...but worth it in the end.

...but worth it in the end.

I think the thing I love most about going to culturally distinct (read: non-Western) parts of the world is seeing the way that they developed along parallel, but wildly different paths. One of the most obvious examples of this is the way that the East and West designed castles. We’ve all seen plenty of Western castles. They’ve got ramparts and they’re surrounded by walls, etc. Eastern castles all have verticality and tend to look a bit like pagodas. For all their differences, one thing they both (can) have in common would be the inclusion of moats.

However, Iwakuni Castle does not have a moat. Elevation protects this place.

However, Iwakuni Castle does not have a moat. Elevation protects this place.

Iwakuni Castle was nothing too special, its floors were filled with museum pieces that you might expect, samurai armour, old pictures of the areas, a model of the bridge, swords, firearms, and decorative pieces, while its top floor housed an observatory deck. We headed back down the gondola and caught a train to Hatsukaichi to see the famous Miyajima (shrine island).

I spelled it all British-style in my post.

I spelled it all British-style in my post.

Why is the island so famous? It’s got an ever popular and often photographed Shinto-style torii (gate). Chances are, you’ve seen a picture of this at some point in your life. To get to the island, we boarded a ferry and Susan told Dave and I about the robust deer population. While it’s not as intense as the deer population on Nara, Miyajima is full of seriously domesticated/adjusted deer who don’t even react to human proximity. No lie, I accidentally stepped on one while taking a picture and the little guy didn’t even react to me nudging it with my feet.

Grazing (posing?) with the torii in the background.

Grazing (posing?) with the torii in the background.

My favorite moment on the island had to be when we came upon a group of Japanese guys taking a picture holding up Bullwinkle-style antlers to his head while next to a buck. When we asked them to take a photo, he instead opted to throw up a different set of horns, which was also pretty awesome, so I forgive him.

That dude is totally metal.

That dude is totally metal.

We got some fantastic shots near the gate and started to head back to the ferry when we were lured into an oyster shop by an enterprising saleswoman. At great risk for missing the ferry and being separated from the tour group, we waited for her to cook the oysters and then made a mad dash, oysters in hand, to the ferry to the mainland.

So good...

So good...

The oysters were fantastic. So fantastic, they deserved their own paragraph.

No, seriously, they were awesome.

No, seriously, they were awesome.

With that, our morning was over and we had seen two great sights. There was still plenty of day to go, so we hopped aboard a train headed back to Hiroshima. Our destination would be just outside the A-Bomb Dome.

Its amazing that its still standing to this day.

It's amazing that it's still standing to this day.

There is something powerful and deeply affecting about standing 150 meters away from where the first atomic bomb attack occurred. Plain and simple, I stood in complete awe as I took in the Genbaku Dome (AKA A-Bomb Dome, AKA Hiroshima Peace Memorial), saw its bare walls barely standing, its dome a stripped husk of steel, and then looked around at the Hiroshima that surrounded it, fully rebuilt, fully alive, and fully defiant of the atrocity that took place in that very spot 64 years ago. I say atrocity, not because I find the reasons behind the atomic bomb to be faulty, but because I find war atrocious. 70,000-80,000 people died as a result of that bomb. The Aloi Bridge, intended target, stood behind me, but the actual hypocenter was 240 meters from that, above the former Shima Surgical Clinic. I’m not going to get too much deeper into this, but if there’s one thing I took from standing outside that dome, it’s that atomic bombs should never be used again.

If you look closely, theres a bird living up there.

If you look closely, there's a bird living up there.

From the dome, Dave and I wandered around Hiroshima, noticing statues that bore evidence of the blast and were used to determine the hypocenter. Eventually we came across the Children’s Peace Monument, dedicated to the memory of Sadako Sasaki, a hibakusha (literally “explosion-affected people”) who did not develop leukemia until ten years after the bomb. Desperate to live, she began folding paper cranes with the idea that by folding 1000 paper cranes, she would be granted a wish, according to a Japanese saying. While she did fold over 1000 paper cranes, she still died at age 12 from radiation she was exposed to ten years prior.

The Hiroshima Childrens Peace Monument

The Hiroshima Children's Peace Monument

The monument itself is nice and it’s surrounded by transparent rooms containing thousands of paper cranes sent in by children around the world.

If you look closely, you can see the Peace Flame

If you look closely, you can see the Peace Flame

From the monument, we wandered toward the Memorial Peace Park and the museum, stopping to take note of the Memorial Cenotaph, which contains the names of all hibakusha who have died and the Peace Flame, which is not an eternal flame, per se. Its fires will be extinguished only when there are no longer any nuclear bombs on the planet and we are “free from the threat of nuclear annihilation.”

The cenotaph was designed so that you can see the Peace Flame and the Peace Memorial through its arch.

The cenotaph was designed so that you can see the Peace Flame and the Peace Memorial through its arch.

Anyone who remembers the huge controversy a few years ago between Japan and China over Japanese textbooks omitting atrocities they committed in World War II knows that Japan, unlike Germany where it is illegal to deny the holocaust or display Nazi iconography, has sometimes tended to forget about their role in WWII. With that in mind, I entered the museum and found that, contrary to expectations, the museum was almost completely even-handed in its treatment of the subject. The message was clear: nuclear weapons are evil and should be eliminated, but there was almost no Japanese bias. In fact, the only Japanese “spin” was that World War II was called the Pacific War, the name it’s given within the country. I came out of the museum deeply affected by the accounts of the victims, some small children, who were incinerated, had the flesh burned off their bodies, or just suffered complications further in life as a result of a blast that couldn’t have lasted longer than half a minute. Stories of victims flinging their still burning bodies into the river for relief took shape within my mind and, despite my already pacifist leanings, I think I left there with a changed point of view about how completely unnecessary wars of aggression are and just how dire the consequences can be.

A shot from inside the museum

A shot from inside the museum

Our long day was finally over, so we went back to the hotel to relax and rest up for dinner that night. On the menu, yakiniku. Unfortunately, I left my camera at home by accident, so I don’t have any pictures of the fun.

For those unfamiliar with the term, yakiniku is a Korean style barbeque where grills are set in the table in front of the customers and raw meat is brought out (typically in an all-you-can-eat in a certain amount of time style) for the patrons to cook and eat. It’s fantastic and I have yet to find a good, authentic (to the degree that the Japanized version of a Korean style of cooking can be) Korean BBQ place in the States.

Thanks, in small part, to the insistence of Dave, Susan, and myself, we also convinced Bob and Mayumi that we absolutely had to go to a karaoke box that night to truly get a feel for Japan. Demand to sing was so high that we had to rent out two rooms for our party and we sang well into the night to the likes of Queen, Neil Diamond, Garbage, Gackt, Madonna, and The Beatles. It works something like this:

1. You enter the room with an agreed-upon rate per hour (or per person per hour in some cases).
2. Drinks are ordered via a telephone in the room.
3. There is a television in the room and a small computer in which participants can enter the numeric codes (found in the songbooks) of the song they’d like to sing
4. Song starts.
5. People sing.
6. Repeat steps 3-5 until you are hoarse, tired, or both.

It was a total blast and I’m glad that I’ve spent so much time destroying people’s eardrums in Rock Band that I was barely nervous at all about singing. Our room was full of energy and nearly everyone sang until midnight.

It was time to go back to the room and sleep, tomorrow we would return to baseball (and Tokyo!).

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