Day 9

The nights are getting shorter and shorter.
Yesterday we finished our report at 1:00 am, but when we started uploading it, there were lots of problems.

Our software only generated the website without the links to the photos. So we had to download a new software and upload the files manually. That`s why we went to bed at 3:30 am.

At 8:55 am we were still in sweet dreams but got a very special `wake up call`. Heavy shaking and loud noise were waking us up.

What is this? But we couldn`t find anyone to blame.

An earthquake (4.5 on the Richter scale) in Yokohama / Tokyo was the reason for the rough wake up call. An hour later our breakfast was interrupted by an aftershock (2.5).

Quite frightening, but Japanese got used to live with it every day. On the photo you can see the way how shelves are secured to prevent anything from falling out.

Recovering from the earthquake experience, an eventfull day was awaiting us.

We had the privilege to take part in an Omatsuri (Japanese style summer festival) as the only foreigners thanks to Mitsuo who arranged everything for us and guided us the whole day.

Very old and prestigious gold decorated shrine is carried through the city districts.

We curiously awaited what was to happen, fully dressed in traditional uniforms.

The `Mikoshi` is carried on the shoulders of a large group of volunteers with people in front who live in the district where the Mikoshi is currently carried through.

On the picture you see Steve in best spirits. He was allowed to carry up front as we moved through Mitsuo`s district.

It is a great honor to participate in this celebration but also a great responsibility.

Our Mikoshi is worth about 1 mio US-$! We were not able to get an exact figure on the weight of the Mikoshi, but estimates of the experienced `carriers` ranged from 2,000 to 4,000 pounds.

After half an hour we were absolutely sure that it was at least 4,000 pounds!

On the average, about 40 people carried at the same time and it was followd by a group of some 20 more people ready to step in for `tired warriors`.

While carrying, the participants cheered each other up by rhythmical shants of `Hurriya!` and `Sorya!`, meaning `Let`s go!`

Every now and then there was a short rest, the Mikoshi was put down on special support beams and Sake and cold tea were served for the carriers.

With temperatures of some 85 degrees F and a humidity of 80 - 90% we had to drink a lot to fight dehydration, fortunately no one got hurt.

After 5 hours (!) the celebration reached its peak. In the city center we were joined by four other Mikoshis and the excitement of the crowd reached Tour de France levels.

It was a great atmosphere which allowed us to mobilize last muscle energy.

What particularly nice were the decorated streets with paper laterns and traditional Japanese music.

Many women in the streets were dressed up in their traditional Kimonos and older men were wearing their Mikoshi uniforms from past times.

This was a great spectacle which pushed us to our physical limits. But all participants made this a special day which will remain in our memories for a long time.

For the rest of the day, however, we decided to watch other people work ...

We were very lucky:
the Sumo-competitions in Tokyo were approaching their great finals.

We bought tickets for some 30,- US-$ per person as we really ddn`t want to miss this opportunity taking part in such a traditional sports event in Japan.

The event started at 3 pm but most of the spectators were not arrived yet. In front of the hall lots of people were gathering along the street, as  the Sumo-idols walked in traditional clothes to take part in fights.

Those guys had to carry heavy weights around their waists, too !!!

The hall was filling up slowly - so far not very important - fights took place.

This made it possible for us to study the principles of the fights in general. We learned that there are 70 different techniques to win, meaning how to push the opponent out of the ring.

Some of the fighters were much more popular than others as we could tell from the reactions of the crowd. Maybe it was because they made spectacular show when they were throwing the salt before the fight?

The expensive rows were filling more and more and even the prime minister Mori with two policemen were there.



The heavier and more experienced Sumo-fighters got a lot more cheering from the crowd which concentrated its attention more on the fights now and not the picknick on the seating mats any more.

Every now and then, one of the really heavy guys was thrown out of the ring into one of the first rows of people watching. We were really afraid for one old lady in the second row that she gets hurt. She came close to it twice!

We left our seats in the last row of the huge hall and went to one of the aisles very close to the ring. We wanted to find out from the first row whether the big favorite and the most popular fighter Musashimaru would be declared winner of the season. (Of course he did win!)

Sorry, the food topic. But this Izakaya in Tokyo`s Kichijoji district was a real experience.  Without an insider info you will never find it. There were no signs or advertising, just some stairs quite far down into the basement. Even then, there are no signs, the door opened into very cosy and packed restaurant rooms.

Lots of young people were there, the waiters calling out the orders loudly, many guests sit directly at the counter - where most of the food is prepared right in front of your eyes.

The food was great, did you ever get to taste thuna-ribs? A veritable delicacy - we all felt the same way. Very tender and a taste almost like meat - you got to try it once!


We donít want to make your mouth watery here, but it really was good. Fortunatley we had Hiroe with us who was able to read the menu. But even without anyone who is able to speak Japanese you can survive easily.

The service personnel in all restaurants do their best to make their guests enjoy their meals.

In this restaurant it helps a lot to sit right at the counter: that way you can see how the food is prepared and order simply by pointing.

(Shirubey, 1-15-14 Kichijoji Minami-cho
Musashinoshi, Tokyo)

Our daily special:

 `The Puzzler`  (Are you a Japan expert?)

New impressions and curiosities as a daily Q & A.

9) What is the object on the photo ?

(Answer: just click on the photo)

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