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05/11/2016

Little Tim in Big Tokyo: Movies, Baseball and the Ramen Museum

Stadium overview

Golden week in Japan is synonymous with trips to places like Kyoto and Hokkaido, but my time off was filled with local trips, events and anything else I could find to keep myself outside of the dorm.

The holiday also means big bucks for the movie business with big budget releases like the new Captain America opening a week earlier here than in America. Seizing the chance to make our oversea friends jealous, I mean see a fantastic film, we had our first Japanese movie experience. The snack options were surprisingly normal. I settled on caramel popcorn. At the cost of sticky hands and Japan’s aversion to napkins and toweling, we dug into the popcorn with our shovel like hands while waiting for the lights to dim. Besides Japanese ads the experience was the same. That is until the credits rolled. No one got out of their seat until the credits finished in their entirety. It was unusual to say the least, but I did get to appreciate the little guys such as the man who got paid to caffeinate the staff on the set. Good job caffeinator guy.

Continuing the Aziz Ansari “Treat yo self” Golden Week mentality, the time came for my first baseball game at the Tokyo Dome. The Yomiuri Giants were set to play the Hiroshima Carp and it didn’t take me long to notice the Carp’s cap logo is pretty much the Cincinnati Red’s logo. Odd, but a lot of the other teams share logos too. I decided to find a jersey and become a fake Giants fan for the day. Entering the gift shop I used my improved Japanese to purchase a jersey. I said improved because although I was able to buy it, I mistakenly purchased a t-shirt. Oh well, don’t know who Sakamoto, or any other player on the team, is anyway.

Finding the correct gate to enter the stadium was simple enough. When I found my seat, the towel taped to it led me to believe it was free towel day. It was not free towel day. You’re actually supposed to wave the towel around when something big such as a homerun happens, although that didn’t stop me from using it in the bathroom at the end of the day.

Towel Waving

Fans of America’s favorite pastime will quickly notice differences at a Japanese ballpark. This was the first time I’ve seen cheerleaders in baseball. On a similar note, the older men yelling unenticing phrases like “Beeeeeer” and “get your popcorn here” are replaced with young girls wearing brand logos on their clothes, such as Coke, darting around the aisles. One man in front of me got his picture taken with the Coke girl. I wonder if he tried to get her number too. If so, I hope he succeeded.

Speaking of fans, they are passionate and respectful. A pitch close to a player that would have drawn taunts from American fans merely led to surprised exclamations. Their passion comes through in their cheers and chants that I can only describe as cult like. In the states most cheers are started by screen prompts, but in Japan fans start all the cheers, sometimes with instruments. I think an instrument would be confiscated at Yankee Stadium as a potential weapon.

Adding to the camaraderie are little sticks people hit together in unison to make sound, giant flags a few fans wave and synchronized standing and sitting motions in tune with the chants that I couldn’t understand. At least I understood when the guy next to me shouted hooray whenever a player on the other team grounded out.

Half inning slates stating “Bottom of the X inning” made it feel like Rocky Balboa was starting the next round with Apollo Creed. Getting a hot dog was a safe option, so I opted for some sort of meat rice bowl. It was mediocre, expensive and unsatisfying, or in other words, the true American ballpark food way. The Giants won and I reverted back to a New York Yankees fan. Maybe next time I’ll root for the underdog.

China Town

Another adventure brought us to Yokohama’s China Town where we fought through large crowds to get into line for soup filled steamed buns. You want to quickly bite into them for their great taste, but the risk of the soup burning your mouth or splattering all over your clothes makes eating them dangerous. China Town pro tip: If you’re meeting friends in China Town do not tell them to meet you at the arch. There are at least five of them and tracking down the rest of our group took far longer than it needed to because of that.

Unfortunately there was some disappointment. Enter Yokohama’s ramen museum, except never actually enter it. The ramen museum is merely a few glorified ramen bars with high price tags. There’s a small fee to enter the “museum,” but you may soon wonder if you’re in the right place. No history or exhibits exist. Instead you can enjoy a randomly placed slot car racetrack and a wide selection of “One Piece,” a popular manga, memorabilia because both just scream ramen.

We tried the Italian ramen (pictured below). Partially out of curiosity, mostly because the other lines were too long. Coming from an Italian family, I cannot say why the ramen was Italian but we enjoyed it. The problem is better ramen can easily be found at cheaper and more convenient locations like ramen street in Tokyo Station.

Italian Ramen??

Staying in Tokyo for Golden Week gave me more opportunities to hang out with different groups of people since many of my friends left for home or traveled to other prefectures. While I didn’t discuss all of our adventures, days past and something no one wanted soon happened. Break ended. They say all good things come to an end, but I say they just temporarily stop so something even better can happen.

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