Friday, December 7, 2012

What an earthquake feels like...

Our couch seems to be quite sensitive to earthquakes. When we are sitting on it, we can often feel the shaking before we hear it or feel it when standing up. There are even times when my own heartbeat seems to make the couch shimmy a little, making me look up and listen for the telltale jingling of kitchen utensils hanging on the rack. A truck passing by will do the same.

Last night, while I was on the couch, catching up on some Japanese study, I started to feel the telltale shaking. Joan was canning marmalade in the kitchen about 12 feet away.

"Earthquake," I said loudly, getting to my feet. Joan stopped and turned toward me, both of us waiting, listening. Would it stop? Was it getting stronger?

It got stronger.

Joan cried out, "Richard!" "It's ok," I replied, trying to keep my voice calm.

The shaking got even stronger, with things starting to rattle on the shelves. Joan turned off the gas to the stove. I grabbed the cell phone, and we dashed down the hall to the bedroom. We paused next to the desk, waiting to see if it would calm down like it usually does. It didn't.

There was a stronger jolt, and both of us ducked under the desk, crowding the small space. We crouched there, swaying back and forth as the building did the same.

Joan kept imploring the earthquake, "Please, stop. Please, stop. Please, stop." I put my arm around Joan's shoulders and held her close. "It'll be ok. It'll be ok. It'll be ok," I answered.

Eventually, it did stop. There was a long pause, the whole city holding its breath. Then we could hear doors opening and people talking, checking in with each other.

We quickly got on the Internet, reading the twitter stream as reports poured in. Our usual Japanese language earthquake website was jammed up with traffic. It was a big one in the north. Poor bastards up there can't get a break.

Tsunami warning.  We both started to cry.

However, it wasn't as bad as it could have been.  The tsunami was quite small. Initial reports were only five people were injured. Eventually, everyone and everything settled down and got back to normal.

We  love living in Japan, but these damn earthquakes really suck

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Information on Tokyo sumo tournament and tickets (Updated 2017)

Updated as of 2017!

We are huge sumo fans and have gone many times. As sumo is becoming more and more popular, especially with foreigners who can know order tickets online, the tournaments in Tokyo often sell out very quickly.  Don't worry, though!  There are 350 discount tickets available everyday on a first come, first serve basis. The cost is 2,200 yen. I believe the next cheapest tickets are 3,600 yen. These tickets are for the seats at the very top of the stadium. The view is really not that bad, and if you go on a non-busy day (not Day1, 8 or 15 [last]), you can usually move lower down. We have learned a lot about buying discount tickets and the schedule of the tournament.

We'd like to share that information so other people can have an enjoyable and stress-free experience. See the notes at the end for useful advice.

This information is only based on our experiences with the Tokyo tournament - we don't know if it is the same for the other locations in Japan.

Buying Discount tickets

The discount tickets go on sale at 7:45 AM.  However, people start to line up much earlier! Recently, I went to the stadium on a Wednesday morning for the January 2017 tournament and arrived at 7:15. I was 185th in line at that point. One weekends or really important match days, there may be even more people.  The later you are, the greater the chance you won't get a ticket.

To buy the 'day of' tickets, you will need to arrive early. Once you have the tickets, what do you do with the rest of the day?  Here is our recommended plan:

1. Buy the tickets
2. Have late Japanese breakfast at Japanese fast food place - we recommend this place (menu with photos).
3. Go get a coffee and relax.
4. Go to the Edo Tokyo Museum next to sumo stadium.  It is one of the best in Tokyo and highly recommended! You can arragne a free guide in your language, but you must do it in advance. At a minimum, visit the museum gift shop.  It has many wonderful and beautiful gifts - some of the best in Japan.
5. Go have chanko nabe (traditional sumo food) for lunch - we recommend the 1050 yen lunch special at this restaurant.  Chanko is a very famous sumo wrestler dish - a big, hot, soupy bowl of meat and veggies - delicious!  We've have had it twice and enjoyed it both times.
6. Either walk around or go back to museum for awhile.
7. Go to convenience store to stock on on food and drink - you can take your own into the stadium. You can leave the stadium one time after you enter and then return if you need to restock supplies or run an errand.  If you wait to buy food and drink at the stadium during the breaks, there will be very long lines.
8. Go to sumo tournament around 2:45 pm if you want to see the opening ceremony for the senior division.  The last matches with the yokozuna (top position) end around 5:50 pm.  Watch and enjoy. 9. Afterwards, go to Popeye's nearby, a bar with one of the largest selection of draft beers in all of Japan.  It is expensive (about 1000 yen a beer), but you can try some Japanese craft beers you will find no where else.

Rental radio

You can rent a radio set from the stadium for 100 yen with a 2000 yen deposit.  With it, you can listen to an English language commentary which really helps you understand what you are seeing.  We recommend it highly.

Sumo schedule

The juniors ceremonial entrance is at 2:20 PM or so, where they wear their ceremonial kesho-mawashi (aprons). Their matches begin soon after.

The senior division has their ceremonial entrance around 3:45 PM.  They begin sometime after 4 PM.  Unless you are a die hard fan and want to watch four hours of sumo, we might recommend going for just the senior division around 3:45 PM.

More details can be found at

Sumo on Youtube - this Youtube channel has all the matches available for the day.

If you have any questions, please post a comment!