Section 1- Results
All Japan: The 9/1 show had three title matches, and zero title changes. Sasaki & Nakajima held the All Asia tag straps, Taka made yet another junior title defense, and Kojima fended off Jamal in the Triple Crown match. Notable by his absence was Kawada, who wasn’t on the tour and also won’t be on the next tour.
All Japan/Dragon Gate: Taka retained the ‘junior triple crown’, including All Japan’s junior title, against Dragon Gate champ Mochizuki on 9/6. The two of them plan on doing a non-title rubber match down the line. Also on 9/6, Blood Generation defended the Dragon Gate trios title.
Dragon Gate: Ryo Saito beat CIMA in the main event of the final ‘Premium Match’ Odaiba show of the summer.
New Japan: The theme of the current tour is stable instability. Wait, let me rephrase: group instability. The ‘regular army’ is shaken due to Chono’s recruitment of Tenzan and Team Japan’s recruitment of Yoshie. With Nakamura and Tanahashi currently in Mexico, that leaves very few heavyweights in the main New Japan faction. Side note: Nakamura and Tanahashi are part of a Japanese heel stable in Mexico called the ‘Yellow Wave’. You can’t make this stuff up.
NOAH: Kanemaru & Sugiura had a very routine junior tag title defense against Low Ki & Richard Slinger. By ‘routine’ I mean ‘life-drainingly dull’, which also applies to the Rikio vs Saito match that happened in April. Naoki Sano joined Mike Awesome on NOAH’s injury list.
Section 2- News
All Japan: Taka’s 12th title defense will take place on 9/23, against the winner of a contendership match to be held on Sunday. The next Triple Crown contender appears to be Akebono.
New Japan: Chono vs Fujita might happen after all on 10/8. There is quite a lot of politics being played, with Inoki getting involved. Currently booked for the show are Charlie Haas and Matt Morgan, along with a to-be-announced Tiger Mask vs Black Tiger IWGP vs NWA junior title match. The rest of the September tour is finally getting booked, with Hangman and Harry Smith returning. Minoru Tanaka & Hirooki Goto will defend the junior tag titles on 9/25 against Takemura & Anzawa.
Section 3- Additional Japan tidbits
First up, pictures!
And some non-wrestling observations about my trip in no particular order.
1. Being an American, one becomes accustomed to obesity. I was rather obese myself not long ago. As such a visit overseas brings with it a certain shock value. Everyone, or just about everyone, is skinny! How this is the case when standard white rice is a pure, simple carbohydrate is beyond me. I will say that it does wonders for increasing the visual impact of Japan’s, ah, scenery.
2. The food is wonderful. If you want seafood, there’s seafood. If you don’t want seafood, there is plenty of beef, pork, chicken and tofu. If you want ‘western’ food, you can have that as well. Restaurant portions for food are just fine, though I was often left wanting for bigger cups of water and soda. On that note, the number of vending machines for drinks is simply staggering. Quite different from US vending machines, which tend to be focused on soda and junk food. In Japan there’s usually Coke, two or three kinds of water, coffee in a can, tea, and if you’re lucky a drink claiming to be ‘cider meets condensed milk’, which somehow winds up tasting like mountain dew. Also available are cigarettes and alcohol.
3. How a nation can keep its streets so clean with hardly any public trash cans is beyond me. In NYC, nearly every corner has a large trash can. In downtown Tokyo or Osaka you can walk blocks without seeing one *and* without seeing a piece of litter. Another nice thing is that said trash cans are typically three-part bins with areas for recyclables. After being in Japan a few days I felt guilt at the mere thought of littering.
4. If you plan on going to Tokyo, expect to spend a week. If you want to see Osaka, add three days. Most other destinations only require a day. I spent a week in Tokyo and didn’t even get to Yokohama or Kawasaki. Since airfare is so expensive, add extra days to your trip so that you can do as much as you can without rushing. In regards to hotels, those can be a real cash-burner if you don’t plan ahead. I’d recommend a price range of 5,000-10,000 yen per night if you want a good room in Tokyo or Osaka. Don’t get a rental car; do expect to walk a lot.
5. Getting by in Japan with little to know knowledge of the local language is dramatically easier than it is for most other countries. Important signs, maps and directions in the big cities are just about universally bilingual, and thanks to the convenience of the train systems you’re more likely to get lost due to misreading a subway map rather than due to the language barrier. Dozens of English words and phrases have seeped into the Japanese consciousness, though the ability to carry out a meaningful conversation in English isn’t something to be expected. Thus it’s possible to get around with a mixture of simple Japanese (ie. ‘arigato gozaimasu’), gesturing, reading, experimentation and (if necessary) force of will. That said having someone who speaks Japanese is highly recommended, especially if you want to go to any non-western restaurant.
6. If you know what you like, do it. Despite its geographical smallness, Japan is still a big country. With 127 million people it ranks 10th in the world and 2nd among ‘developed’ nations. As such there’s plenty for everyone and no reason to feel like you have to do something just because it’s on the tour guides. Wikipedia is as good a resource as any guide book for finding things to do. One word of warning: many of the famed ‘gardens’ are just glorified parks. Another word of warning: Tokyo’s Roppongi neighborhood at night is a place to go and have fun, not sightsee. Do that during the day.
7. If there is a more considerate, helpful populace on the face of the earth I’d like to see it. It’s one thing to get a warm reception in the Cayman Islands, where natives have their livelihood tied to tourism and speak English. It’s quite another when a foreigner is welcomed so warmly without being expected to know the language, and when most people work the same 9-5 grind as you and I. So long as you’re respectful (which you should be anyway), the Japanese people can be relied upon to at least try and assist you if you’re lost or having an emergency. It also helps that random street crime is next to zero.
8. Japanese TV rules. I know it can seem as though TV is a waste of time when you’re on a vacation on the other side of the world, but trust me, it’s worth it.
9. The free or nearly free t-shirt is just one of those facets of life you come to expect. Shirts commemorating the mundane are standard. Well, those shirts, the ones that are well-worn and could be found at a Salvation Army store serving those in dire poverty… those shirts can be found in trendy shops in Japan fetching upwards of $40. It’s truly a sight to behold. On a related note, t-shirts of questionable English grammar are one of the reliable sources of comedy in Japan. And there’s just something about seeing a comely young lass in a “I (heart) Lucky” shirt that makes you glad you made the trek.
10. Don’t expect to buy anything of serious value. Clothing sizes are different, electronics can be a nightmare of compatibility and customs forms, DVDs are outrageously expensive, etc. Wrestling t-shirts start at about $28 at the show. If you want to get cheap puro, you’re better off going to the not-so-underground black market of tape/DVD copiers on the internet.
That just about covers what I want to say about my trip to Japan. If you have any questions please toss me an email. Also welcome are any suggestions on things you’d like me to explain, cover, provide background on, and so forth.