Sumo Wrestling and Strep Throat

I retract my statement from last week about there being no grass here. I took the kids to the rooftop of Isetan Department Store as there were some slides and playhouses. The first thing I saw was grass! So they can grow grass on a rooftop which is not natural at all, but not in a regular park? As we got closer, I noticed there were signs indicating to stay off of the grass. And then I saw it… a man cutting the grass… with scissors! Haven’t you ever heard of a mower? Even a trimmer would be quicker than scissors! Either way, this gave me some renewed hope of finding grass in a park. After looking on Google Maps the next day, I found what appeared to be a massive park. This one has got to have grass. When we first got to Yoyogi Park, I only saw trees and some tall grass which was roped off. We’re getting closer!… 15 minutes of walking later, I found an open area of grass! I got both kids off the stroller and just let them run, or should I say frolic, in the grass. I attempted to get Eleanor to roll down the hill. She’s not exactly the most coordinated child so that was quickly dismissed.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Theo must have been a dog in a past life. When he gets mad or frustrated, he plops down on his butt and scoots backwards. At the park, he enjoys putting sticks in his mouth perpendicular to his face. When we’re walking around, he’ll follow my path only if I pat the side of my leg and say, “Come on, Theo!” Otherwise, he’ll just stand and look at me. He enjoys playing fetch with his toys (I’ll throw something, he’ll grab and bring it back to me, and repeat) as well as shaking his head with a mouthful of sock. I can lead him on and around playground equipment by mere pointing and hand signals. You should see the looks some of the parents give me. I promise this isn’t how all American train their kids.

Monday night was spent back in Piss Alley with my foreign friend. We went back to Albatross and discovered it had a second floor! This floor was able to seat four people, but we had to order through a trap door in the floor above the bar. The bartender would then use a pulley system to deliver the drinks up through the trap door. This may be one of my favorite bars! I learned Piss Alley was a black market drinking area during World War 2. It’s the size of a basketball court and the bars can fit 8-12 people. Up until the 1990s, there was no toilet in the area so bar-goers would relieve themselves on the nearby train tracks, hence the name Piss Alley. There has since been a renovation due to a fire and while the buildings still look old and worn down, they did install one public toilet. While the females get one stall with a door, the urinals are lined up against a wall for all the public to view. The more Asian countries I visit, the more I realize men get no privacy when using urinals over here. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen urinals out in the open.

Sumo 14I tried to get a ticket to the May 14 – 28 Sumo tournament here in Tokyo. Apparently it’s been sold out for a few months (it is their national sport after all) so the closest I could get was to watch a practice in a sumo stable. It was awesome and eye-opening! I learned so many things about the sumo sport and lifestyle. You can become a sumo wrestler as early as 15 and most will retire around 35. There are 44 stables throughout the country. The stable I went to housed 25 wrestlers and was one of the biggest in Japan.  Having kids and/or spouses is very uncommon for wrestlers as they live and train at the stables. Sumo wrestlers

Sumo 5

White belts are reserved for high ranking wrestlers

only have Sundays and New Year’s Day off. Tournaments occur every other month so there really is no off-season. Sumo tournaments last for 15 days and wrestlers have only one match per day. A match typically lasts less than a minute. Talk about pressure to perform! Newbie sumo wrestlers will start out only making $600 USD/tournament (tournaments occur every two months). The higher ranking wrestlers will make upwards of $1 million USD/tournament. Division levels are based on number of wins, not weight. If they miss their 10pm curfew, they have to shave their heads and you can’t participate if your hair doesn’t fit into the ponytail/bun. One of the wrestlers didn’t participate in the practice as he had to shave his head 3 months ago and his hair still wasn’t long enough.


Sumo 13

Can you tell which wrestlers are new to the scene?



Bare minimum coverage for these wrestlers

That afternoon, I began to get a sore throat which soon progressed into what felt like strep throat the next two days. I decided to go into the doctor to get checked on Friday. Looks I’ll be using my travel medical insurance after all. The doctor’s office experience was top notch! After filling out only one sheet of information and one signature, I was led back to my room. I opened the door to find the doctor waiting for me! Well this is a pleasant surprise. After looking inside my mouth, he held a device in front of me and said, “No fever”. “You just took my temperature with that thing?” “Yes,” he answered questioningly. “You guys are so advanced!” was my reply. I was then led into a different room to get tested for CRP (still no idea what that is) and strep. Naturally, I walked in and attempted to sit on the bed until I heard a strong, “NO!” I turned around and the lady (nurse, I’m guessing) pointed towards the chair. She preceded to lay the testing materials on the bed. Alright, so apparently beds are for supplies and chairs are for patients. Good to know. After confirming that I had strep throat, I asked the doctor where he recommended I should fill my prescriptions. He looked at my funny and said, “I give you the medicine here.” Five minutes later, I walked out of his office with four sets of pills in plain white paper sacks. This sure looks suspicious. But no pharmacy stop in my future. High five for Japan’s healthcare system/procedure!


Mt Fuji 5th Station 2I spent my last day off on a bus tour to Mt. Fuji! Our lunch stop was held at a ninja village so of course, I practiced my ninja star throwing skills. Well this sure brings me back to some nights in Ryan Fick’s garage in Mankato, right Ann?! Unfortunately, it was a very cloudy day so the only pictures that turned out were ones from the 5th Station. The 5th Station is the highest point that vehicles can drive up to. Even then, I had to be patient with my camera as the view would be clear for about one minute and then clouds/fog would roll through for about five minutes. I will definitely be back one day to hike this beautiful mountain.

Ninja Village

Ninja village!

Ninja Village 6

Practicing my ninja star skills

Mt Fuji 5th Station 5

Mt Fuji from the 5th Station

Mt Fuji 5th Station 8

Literally 15 seconds later…


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