Thursday, November 27, 2008


I went to Sumo over the weekend with some classmates. It was the last day of the Kyushu Bassho and we had to get there EARLY to get tickets. These are some of them in line in the cold at 7AM:

Sumo tournaments last for 15 days and are held 6 times per year (they follow a circuit around Japan). It can be a bit boring if you get there early because it takes about 10 hours from the gates opening to the final bout between the top wrestlers. One positive of getting there early when the low-ranked sumo are fighting though is that nobody is around and you can get really close to the ring even if (like me) you bought cheap seats in the nose bleed section:

It can be a bit tricky asking sumo to take a picture with you. You have to pick the right moment. Asking a guy who is about to go into the ring and is totally focused on that is going to get you a gruff refusal or just plain ignored. But after they have wrestled and are wandering around in their kimono they are a bit more receptive, like this guy:

My new camera is pretty good at taking action shots (and I got the zoom too):

This is Hakuho, who currently holds the rank of Yokozuna, which is the highest in the sport (a maximum of two people can hold that rank at any given time). He is surrounded by bannerman carrying what are basically ads for the sponsors of his bout:

These bannermen are an interesting part of Sumo. You don't see them at all in about 95% of the bouts because there just isn't enough interest in them for companies to sponsor them. But in bouts involving top ranked guys or popular guys you will see them. Basically the number of bannermen a sumo can attract is a good indicator of how popular he is. In this bout Hakuho had a large number of them, which in itself was enough to elicit cheers of approval from the crowd. There is also a monetary incentive for the sumo, as each of the companies has to contribute money to the prize that will be given to the sumo who wins that particular bout. The more bannerman, the bigger the pot. This also gives an opportunity for lower ranked sumo who just so happen to be fighting a top ranked guy the chance to hit the jackpot, as they'll be able to collect all the money if they win.

The day ended with quite a bit of excitement. Hakuho and Ama, who is an up and coming wrestler, ended the tournament tied each with a record of 13-2. So they had to have a tie-breaker, which go the crowd really excited. This is a picture of Hakuho and Ama going through the customary warm ups/psyche-outs as they prepared to face each other:

In the end Hakuho defeated Ama in a very closely fought contest, which was a bit of an anti-climax as Ama was the underdog most people seemed to be rooting for. Nonetheless it was a nice way to finish off the tournament.

Monday, November 24, 2008


We joined some classmates and went to Daikozenji, a temple in the mountains about 30 minutes by train from Fukuoka that is known for its autumn foliage on the weekend.
We had a pretty nice walk through some trails in the mountain above the temple, which offered some nice views:

The leaves were mostly yellow-orange, so we probably came a few days too early, but it was a a good time nonetheless:

The temple had a few thatched roof buildings:

I just like this photo:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My birthday, KitaKyushu and other stuff

It was my birthday over the weekend. Ena got me a very nice cake:

We also went to Kitakyushu last week, which has a reconstructed castle that is built right next to a huge mega-development. It makes for an interesting panorama:

I also got myself a Famicon, which is the very first Nintendo game system. We were in a second hand store and I saw it on the shelf, complete in its original box, for only 1250 yen (about $12 Canadian) so I thought "Ah what the hell, even if it doesn't work I won't be out much money".

It took me a few hours to get it to work, there were some broken bits and it was really dirty, but nothing too serious. It was kind of a fun project. There are a couple of huge stores near the campus that sell mostly used toys. They both have thousands of Famicon games that mostly sell for about 100 to 300 yen ($1 to $3 Canadian). I've taken to dropping in on the way home from school once a week or so to rummage through the piles looking for good ones.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Nagasaki continued

This is me having yakitori (grilled chicken) in Nagasaki after we spent the first day of our trip there touring the temples and other sites (see previous post):

(I told my Japanese language class that I had yakitori in Nagasaki and the teacher was shocked that I didn't have Chinese food, which is what everyone else who goes to Nagasaki does.)

The second day we went to Glover Park, which is a nice hillside park with a lot of Meiji-era western style houses that were built mostly by English traders who lived there. There is quite a nice view of the city from there.

At the park we stopped at the oldest western-style restaurant in Japan. American President U.S. Grant ate there on his visit to Japan in the 1870s. We had cake and high tea while sitting at this table, which had a panoramic view of the city (cost: about 7$ each. The Empress Hotel is such a rip off in comparison). A nice tourist from the UK who was sitting across from us took this picture:

We also went to a Confucian Shrine, which was neat. We encountered a bunch of ninjas there so Ena, in a moment of slapstick-hilarity, pretended to be one of the statues of the sages and we were able to get out OK:

Another interesting thing we found was the site of Japan's first Bowling game, marked only by this little stone post wedged between a drinks machine and a street vendor selling jewellery.

We did a lot more stuff, but this blogger only lets me put 5 pictures up per post so I'll end it here.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Nagasaki Day 1

Ena and I spent the weekend in Nagasaki, which was fantastic. Because we did so much I thought I'd make two posts about it.

Nagasaki is probably most well known as the target of the second atomic bomb blast. However, we did not visit any A-bomb related sites. Basically there were two reasons for this. The first was that we've both been to Hiroshima and visited the A-bomb museum there and know that it is an incredibly depressing way to spend a day. Much though we feel for Nagasaki's A-bomb victims we decided we wanted to do some more upbeat things.

The other reason is that the Americans actually missed hitting the downtown core of the city and accidentally dropped the bomb on a suburb about 3 kilometres from today's downtown. Because the museum and the peace park are at ground zero and we were getting around town on foot this would have meant a lot of walking through some drab urban sprawl to get there.

On the first day of our trip we got to see quite a few temples. Thanks to Nagasaki's mountainous location these (along with a lot of people) were lucky enough to escape the bomb blast because the mountains shielded them. Nagasaki's temples are very similar to Chinese temples of the late Ming dynasty, mainly because they were mostly built by Chinese traders resident in the city in the early 17th century. Sofukuji is one of these temples:

This is Ena looking at a big wooden fish they have:

This is a view of the city from a graveyard behind some of the Zen temples:

This is Kofukuji, which is another nice temple:

These little guys are just too cute: