Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dream 11

For my B-Day gift, Kim (best fiance ever!) took me to see japanese MMA (mixed martial arts) at its best, Dream. Dream is like the UFC of Japan, but the level of competition is not nearly as intense or skillful as the UFC. Anyone that lives in Japan should catch a Dream fight. It is quite the spectacle. We first walked into the arena while the first fight had already begun and the whole arena was literally silent. Maybe a few shouts here and there, but other than that I thought I heard crickets chirping. I was thinking to myself "wow! this is a totally different fan base than the US, where the crowd is just as entertaining as the fighters in the ring." This seemed like it was going to be a long, quiet night of MMA. The second fight started and the crowd was a little more lively, but nothing to write home to mom about. The third fight was over in a matter of minutes when the Brazilian took out a US guy (Warren) with an arm bar. The ref prematurely stops the bout without Warren even taping. Warren is pissed and is yelling and pushing the ref. The Brazilian quickly leaves the ring. I look at the crowd and they are just frozen. Then, something happened ... across the way a fight erupts in the stands! A group of people are pushing and shoving, dropping bombs until security starts to break it up. Then I see two girls just start throwing each other around, and finally it started feel like an MMA match! From then on the crowd was a little bit more intense and the cheering filled the arena.

The rest of the fights (with the exception of the last one and the first two) were very lame. They have this Superhulk tournament going on right now where they put up this David vs Golaith matchup. The first of these was this giant Hong Man Choi of Korea standing at 7 ft 2 in. vs Minowa from Japan who is probably standing at 5 ft 9 in. It was quite the spectacle, but wasn't exactly the most exciting fight. The giant was just asking for a leg lock and Minowa was happy to oblige him in the second round. I loved Minowa's showmanship. He really looked like he enjoyed himself out there and really got the crowd behind him.

The best part about Dream is their elaborate, often ridiculous, intros. The Japanese guys are serious showmen. They really get the crowd involved and it becomes quite comical. The rest of the fights were Japanese guys against some first time US fighter that was unbelievably pathetic. Overall I wasn't too impressed with the fights, with the exception of Fernandes vs Takaya featherweight fight. Hiroyuki Takaya is a brawler. I was an instance fan when he came out to heavy metal blaring throughout the Yokohama Arena with a no nonsense attitude. This guy was ready brawl the moment he stepped out onto center stage. His takedown defense was solid and knew how to keep the fight standing. He had two matches that night and each match he came in guns blazing. I hope to see him the WEC one day as he definitely was one of the most exciting Japanese fighters I've seen. He ended up losing the decision, but personally I had him winning. Judges do not award enough points to guys who can get back up to their feet after getting taken down. Takaya did this several times against a solid brazilian ju jitsu fighter and not only that he did it without a cage against his back. Very impressive.

As I said before the level of competition is not nearly up to par with the UFC, and I can see why Japan is not letting the UFC open up shop. Here's a little backstory on that. UFC bought Pride, which was the chief MMA event in Japan and the world for many years. Pride had financial difficulties, which opened the doors for UFC to purchase. UFC's intention was to keep Pride alive in Japan. However the yakuza, japanese mafia, thought differently and used its influential power in the government to shut Pride and the UFC out of Japan. The yakuza meanwhile started a new MMA event called DREAM. The UFC is still trying to host an event in Japan, however the yakuza continues to lobby to keep them out. I believe UFC's president Dana White has even received death threats regarding the issue. Overall I had a most excellent time. It was quite possibly the best b-day gift an MMA fan could receive. I wish I had pictures and videos to share, but unfortunately my camera died. I guess you readers will have to go to Japan and experience it for yourselves.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I bring the weirdness!

This quite possibly could be the shortest blog ever. Just watch the videos, view the pics, and enjoy. All videos and photos are from Yoyogi Park and Harajuku. Quite a colorful crowd around there.

Odd Couple

Not entirely sure what this white girl is all about

Kim & Maryka with Mortal Combat ninja assassin

Kim with weird guy


video
Behold the famous Tokyo Rockabilly Club. These guys are absolutely ridiculous. A real gem here in Tokyo. The best part is, there isn't just one greaser group, there are several. All these groups compete for your love and attention. I wonder if they have tryouts.

video
The competition

video
This guy is by far my favorite. He performs solo style and lays it all on the line with his hot dance moves. Got to love the fact that he's soaked in sweet, but still puts on a hell of show. Now thats dedication.

I just found out this morning I bought frickin yogurt again! Can you guess which one is milk?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Australia

G'day mates!!! Kim and I spent ten days "down under" and not one Aussie gave me that famous greeting. I was seriously disappointed. But is was okay because with what they lacked in confirming my stereotypes they made up for with "brecky" (i.e. breakfast) served all day. At first this may not appear to make up for the paucity of "crikey's" and the occasional grappling of crocodiles outside my hotel room that I come to expect from this foreign land, but when you've been living in a place whose idea of a hearty breakfast consists of soba noodles with a side of pickled vegetables, pancakes for dinner sounds wonderfully appealing. Nearly every restaurant in Gold Coast and Sydney had the breakfast option all day.

Our trip started off with 5 nights in Surfer's Paradise on the famous Gold Coast. The beaches were absolutely beautiful and the water was perfect crystal blue. Surfer's Paradise is kind of like VA Beach, except it is very clean, white sand beaches, and not ghetto in the least bit. It was nice change of pace from the mayhem that is Tokyo. Kim and I are very laid back travelers so you can't really expect much from us as far as seeing the sites. We rented a car for three days and really only made it to a few places of interest.

Our first venture was Tambourine Mt., which is just outside of Surfer's Paradise. I definitely recommend going here for a full day of hiking and sampling the various wineries around the mountain. We managed to do a few hikes throughout the rainforest and also ventured over to the Skywalk. I highly recommend skipping the Skywalk particularly if you are budget conscious! It costs around AU$10 to $15 for a short walk above the rainforest canopy and a few trails below. Completely not worth it. Although it was informative, we wasted crucial winery time by taking this detour. By the time we got out we only managed to go to one winery called Witches Falls. Their wine is fantastic. A lot of the wineries that I've been to usually specialize in a few varieties of grapes and then have maybe two flagship styles that are their selling points. Witches Falls does essentially every type very well. I was thoroughly impressed. Unfortunately their wine is only sold in Australia.

The following day we headed up north to the Australia Zoo. The zoo was the home of the late Steve Irwin "The Crocodile Hunter." By far the coolest zoo I have every been to. It is truly an amazing experience. Irwin literally turned this once reptile farm into a world class zoo packed with all of Australia's familiar and not so familiar animals in their natural habitat. Recently they've added an Asian section for certain endangered animals such as the Sumatran Tiger and Elephants. The highlights are the Kangaroo and Koala parks and of course the crocodile show. The kangaroo and koala parks allow visitors to walk through the parks where kangaroos roam freely. You literally can walk up to the kangaroo and feed, pet, or just plain sit and relax with these incredible animals. The koala park is also a good time as well. The crocodiles, believe it or not, did not manage to steal the show. It was the bird show that they put on that probably was the best part. All the birds are native to Australia and are highly trained.

We attempted to drive up to Noosa National Park after the zoo, but only made it as far as Mooloolaba. Mooloolaba was actually a pleasant surprise. It is located close to the beginning of the sunshine coast and has an excellent coastline along with pretty fancy apartments along the water. Not a bad alternative for a vacation spot if you want to escape the crowds of the Gold Coast. After visiting Mooloolaba we headed to downtown Brisbane for dinner and that was that.

I don't really have any comments on Brisbane other than I finally found a decent beer in Australia, which is surprisingly very hard to come by. Apparently Aussies, like the Japanese, love their lagers. Many of their most popular brews hauntingly resembled the taste of old college favorites: Toohey's New = Natural Light - "Keep it Natural Carolinas," XXXX beer (called four x) = Olympia "its the water," Carlton = Old Milwaukee "America's best tasting beer," Victoria Bitter = Milwaukee's Best Light "Classic taste at its best." They have many varieties of these beers that seemingly all taste the same, just like our Budweiser variety. They also will call something an IPA or a Pale Ale and it somehow still resembles a lager. There is good beer to be had in Australia it is just difficult to find. Now the real kicker. Imagine buying a six pack of those old college favorites for about $15! How crazy is that? I was always wondering why Aussies never complained about beer prices in Japan. Talk about a rip off. Funny thing is, wine and liquor costs about the same dollar for dollar as in the States.

After the Gold Coast we flew down to Sydney. After being in Tokyo for so long, Sydney was a breath of fresh air. It was a lot smaller than I expected. I figured it was going to be about the size of San Francisco, but appeared to be just a bit bigger than Seattle. What I loved about Sydney was the fact that they maintained a lot of their old architecture. Everywhere you go around Sydney you will see old buildings that are renovated and used for practical purposes. For example they took an old victorian government building and turned it into a mall. Bars themselves are often housed in the bottom of old "hotels." A lot of the time a bar will be called for example 'the Winston Hotel' only it is not an actual hotel at all but just a bar. It's very strange and the only reason I can think of is due to liquor licensing laws. I know in some states in the US a bar will have to inherit the liquor license. If anyone knows the answer please let me know I can't find anything on google.

The city itself is walkable and there are plenty of stunning views of the waterfront. I recommend taking the Ferry to Manly for some surreal views of the Harbor. Another aspect of Sydney that was quite refreshing was the cuisine. A person can literally find any type of food within Sydney. From Lebanese to Nepalese, a variety of international cuisine is not hard to come by in Sydney. Overall I loved Australia. This is probably because it resembled a lot like the US and had all of our little conveniences we've come to love and expect. Aussies are great fun loving people and their accents are fantastic.

Burleigh Heads, Gold Coast

Sitting on the beach drinking ginger beer. We literally drank a ginger beer a day. It's fantastic! Ask an Aussie if he has tried root beer and he will have no idea what you are talking about. Ginger beer rules alone in Australia.

Kim chillin on the beaches of Surfer's Paradise

Surfer's Paradise, Gold Coast



Probably the only thing we really got out of the Skywalk was information on the strangler fig. This is probably one of the most interesting trees I have seen. First off they grow huge and are located along the east coast of Australia. They can be recognized by their root-like trunks and their enormous branches that resemble oak trees. What is so fascinating about this fig is that its seeds are passed by birds. The bird eats the seed then poops it out onto another tree. Meanwhile the fig starts to feed off the host tree and eventually crawls down to its base where it attacks the host tree's roots. The fig enventually swallows/strangles the host tree and this is the end result; one massive strangler fig tree.

Strangler Fig making its way down a host tree

Enormous strangler fig in the botanical gardens

Kim with a gray kangaroo at the kangaroo park in the Australia Zoo

Kim with a Koala at the Australia Zoo

Red Kangaroos at the Australia Zoo. Notice the baby in the pouch.

Apparently saltwater crocodiles could reach this size, CRIKEY! So says the Australia Zoo

Give me a four x mate!

Notice the brand names have changed. Rice bubbles seems unusually familiar to Rice Krispies. Instead of Raisin Bran they call it Sultana Bran.

Burger King

I'm not leaving Australia!!!!

Cockatoo at the Botanical Gardens in Sydney. There are literally flocks of these parrots all over the garden not to mention giant fruit bats.

Astronomy Tower located on "The Cliffs"

Harry Potter numbering at "The Cliffs"

Botanical Gardens

Kimi!

Opera House taken from Ferry on the way back from Manly

Sydney from Manly Ferry

Manly Beach

Here we are in Cabramatta with Kim's cousin's BF, Linh. Linh literally drove overnight from Adelaide to Sydney (about 18hrs) without sleeping to show us around for one day! Good man. He showed us around Cabramatta, which is a huge Vietnamese community in Australia. We ate some solid Viet. food and then took nap down at Bondi Beach. The answer to your question is yes I am pregnant and the baby is due in 9 months.

Bondi Beach

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Koenji Awa Odori

For my birthday Kim and I headed over to our buddy Mark's place to see the Koenji Awa Odori Festival. There are several of these Awa Odori festivals that occur throughout Japan, but I do believe this one is the 2nd largest. So what is Awa Odori Festival you may ask. To put it plain and simple it is a 400 year old dance festival. The dancing style is known as the "Fool's Dance," and I must say that is a very accurate description. Its like one big dance competition consisting of maybe 50 teams both male and female, young or old. Each team or gang wears a different outfit with elaborate colors flaunting what appeared to be gang signs, and a general attitude to "serve" the other gang. Tensions run high as each group tries to "bring it" out on the streets of Koenji. To put things into perspective so that you can visualize the experience its like the movie "Step Up 2: The Streets," except no one can dance, and I'm pretty sure the men were drunk because they wore their bandanas backwards (see pics). If you want to read more about it go here.

The dance itself is not too complicated. Kim seriously mastered it in a matter of minutes. Her impression is flawless. Overall it was a great B-Day. I ate my first Gyro on Japanese soil, and I ate a potato chip that looked like a tater tot.

Too much of the sauce for these blokes. They are wearing their bandanas backwards :P
Kim & Becky

I swear I was holding these two beers for someone else







Who knew Captain Jack Sparrow was going to be there, and what's with the guy on the left?
A typical night of hanging out in someone's apartment. This room not only serves as a dinning room, but a bedroom, living room, office, racquet ball court, and floor boards lift up to reveal a swimming pool!

video

video

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A visitor has arrived from overseas

Ian came in town around mid August. Other than running around Tokyo we hit up a few historic spots. In Nikko we decided to skip the temples and head up to Lake Chuzenji to see Japan's most spectacular waterfall. Although the waterfall (97m high) was pretty impressive you could only view from the overlook platform. In true Japanese fashion the platform is located next to a parking lot and there are no trails to speak of for some solid hiking. Although you could take an elevator down to the lower platform for 540 yen. Heaven forbid you had to actually stretch the legs and walk down there. The lake itself is very pretty, but there really isn't much to do except ride in a paddle boat, and go to gift shops.

Ian, Kim and I also went to see a little Japanese baseball featuring the Yomiuri Giants vs Hanshin Tigers. Unfortunately the game was practically sold out so we had to make due with the standing room only. Overall it was a great game. The tigers pulled from behind after being down 6 runs. However it was not quite good enough as the Giants pulled away with the win (9 - 7). The main difference I found in Japanese vs US baseball as a spectator sport is that the Japanese have all these organized chants or songs that they sing throughout the entire game, and you can bring beer into the stadium so long as you pour it into a cup. The beer girls also wear some stunning digs (see below).


video This video is priceless. Ian and I were walking around Akihabara one night and we stumbled upon this random concert. Basically it is just one female pop singer, and a bunch of Japanese guys (no women) in the crowd. The best part about it is there synchronized dance moves. It's like an NSync concert except the crowd is full of dudes. Err .... not that I know what an NSync concert is like ....

Lake Chuzenji





Japan's most spectacular waterfall

Armed and ready for some baseball

Food vendors

Giants vs Tigers



Beer girl

Ahh the weirdos of Harajuku

Goth kids, not just an American past time

I think I'm turning Japanese, I really think so

Humidity

Gateway to Yoyogi Park

KIMI!!!!


Gateway to Meiji Shrine

KIMI!!

KIMI!!!!

Yoyogi park with Shinjuku looming in the background