(proofreaded by Barbara Ann Klein)
Japan, the birthplace of sumo, the country that any fan of this sport wants to visit. In September 2006 I went to watch the Aki Basho live. This is the story of my trip to the land of the rising sun.
Introduction - The journey begins - First contact with sumo - The show starts - The fight of the gods - Tourism across Tokyo - Komatsuryu dojo - Tomozuna beya - Barbara and the typhoon - Senshuraku - Senshuraku party - Daishi - Feel the sumo
The journey begins
The trip was a bit difficult, but less so than I imagined. I decided not to sleep the night of the 5th to be able to take the plane to Tokyo as tired as possible and therefore sleep a few hours so that everything would a bit shorter. So I was at my sister´s place in Madrid watching all the TV channels available until I went to the airport to get my flight to Paris. In less than two hours I was there and after not too long a wait, I was on the plane to Tokyo.
The 12-hour flight between Paris and Tokyo was not, for me, as long as I expected, because the plane provided an individual video screen at each seat so you could choose the film you wanted to see (some even dubbed into Spanish). You could also entertain yourself with the different games available. The only scare came at the end of the flight when the pilot decided to abort the landing at the last moment and climb back up with full power, as he explained later, due to bad weather conditions. Whether that was the reason or not, the second landing was perfect and the only glitch was a small scare without major consequences.
At last, I was in Japan. After very quickly passing immigration controls and customs, and picking up the mobile phone I had rented to communicate during my stay in the Japanese capital, I went to take the train which was going to transport me to Ueno station. Because I had some time, I decided to make a tour around the airport, but the truth is that there was not much to see. However, what got my attention were the shiny floors and the quiet atmosphere, without a single voice higher than the other, something unthinkable in Spain.
The transfer to the hotel was a kind of mystical journey in which I was like a little kid, looking out the window so as not to miss the smallest detail of everything Japan was willing to offer me. I decided to transfer from Narita Airport to Tokyo by train, using the Keisei Skyliner, which led me directly to Ueno station. Once there, I prepared myself to deal with the Japanese characters to try not to miss my stop, but, fortunately, all the station signs in Tokyo are in both Japanese and English, so I had no orientation problems during the 20 days of my trip. After getting a new ticket for the subway, I went to the Hibiya line and after only two stops, I was at Minowa Station, where I left the train. Once outside, I tried to guide myself with a map I had with the address of the hotel. While I was looking at it, I was approached by a Japanese man who asked me, in English, if he could help, after which he told me the correct direction to take. Really a nice guy.
When I arrived at the hotel, I had the first and perhaps the only disappointment of the trip - the room wasn’t as shown on the website. It was extremely small, but this issue really didn’t matter at all. There was only a mattress on the floor and a kind of wardrobe that I used to store some things, a television with a VCR, a lot of movies (most of them porn films), and nothing else. The bathroom and shower were shared and not private, as advertised. And to top it all off, they told me that they could not give me the discount announced on their website because I hadn’t asked for it by email beforehand. It was the first time that I heard that I had to ask in advance for an offer, so I’m really sure that the next time I’ll go to Tokyo this won’t be my hotel.
After resigning myself a bit and realizing that at least everything was clean – I was only using the room for sleeping and I didn’t need anything luxurious - I made a tour around the area to get used to everything little by little, especially having to share the sidewalks with bikes and to walk on the left side, something not really easy to do after 41 years of walking on the right side. During the evening, I talked with Mark and he told me that the following day we would visit Musashigawa beya to watch asageiko. After buying some things for breakfast at a 7-Eleven in the area, I went directly to bed because the jet-lag was beginning to hit me and I had to rest as much as I could with the next part of the trip really starting.