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I went to Japan and here's what I did


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Just back from a couple of weeks in Japan. Article coming in FSM but here's the daily updates I posted at the Love The Graps Facebook group with three things that happened at the shows (ATG) and three that happened elsewhere (BTG).

Starting with day 1, which saw me at Big Japan x Zero-1's Big Jam show at Shin-Kiba.

ATG1: I saw Shinjiro Otani, Masato Tanaka and the son of Shinya Hashimoto in a metal barn.

ATG2: It was a damn good show. Even the opening match black trunk brigade were solid (both technically and in impact) and the main event was great with Otani and fellow Zero-1er Takaiwa playing vicious bullies against a couple of Big Japan lads.

ATG3: One woman had streamers for every wrestler, all colour coordinated to their ring gear.

BTG1: The newsagent/book store next to Korakuen Hall has an entire section in the entrance of wrestling magazines and books. The highlight was the New Japan entrance theme sheet music book.

BTG2: Rather than do the capsule hotel during today as I planned, I powered on through after the flight (currently at 32 hours straight awake) and --- thanks largely to experience and prep -- absolutely nailed picking up tickets from four different outlets each with different systems ranging from "ask the lady at Korakuen Hall" to "navigate the Zero 1 website in Japanese to find a code then use that on a convenience store computer system that's also in Japanese. I did buy a ticket for a Riki Chosu show in June that obviously I can't use, but I made that screw-up weeks ago.

BTG3: The air stewardess gave me one customs form to complete for my whole family as we were sat together. Because it turns out I look like the type of man who has a considerably younger Japanese wife and two pre-school daughters. I'm not sure how to take that


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Tokyo Day 2 feat Makai @ Shin-Kiba

ATG1: So I think technically I wasn't at a wrestling show tonight (it didn't have any match finishes) but I was at... something. Makai is a cross between Kabuki theatre and live manga, but it's a different show each month and has ongoing storylines. There's at least three factions (good/evil/neutral) and they do some singing and dancing and there was something important with a turtle eating a cucumber, but every so often a fight scene breaks out, but unlike theatre where it's done as a dance this is done with wrestling moves, albeit with added swordplay and magic, and with a live rock guitarist and sometimes a singer.

ATG2: 'Real' pro wrestlers Sugi and Taru from Zero-1 were among the cast tonight. And Black Buffalo from Osaka Pro makes all the weapons.

ATG3: Most of the wrestle-fights were only a couple of minutes, but (as I assume is usually the case) it ended up in a massive three-way fight with about 15 people doing brawling and ranas and a six-foot long sword and a couple of deaths.

BTG1: I had lunch at a Michelin star restaurant. Their dinners are around £300. Their lunch is £5.60 because it's sardines or sardines (deep fried, stewed, sashimi or omelette.) I'm not quite sure what the deal is, but my guess is it's either a warm-up or a training thing where you do the same thing every day to learn how to do something perfectly. Either way, it was great, withing the whole "being sardines" boundaries.

BTG2: I went to the Tokyo council building which has a 45th-floor observation deck and saw a picture of a birds-eye view of the city with all the Olympics venues displayed, and boy is that going to be great. I then discovered they had a display downstairs for the 2020 preparations including the actual Olympic flag. Oh, and you can donate your old phone or other gadget and they'll extract metal to use in the medals, all of which will be 100% recycled.

BTG3: I slept a normal night's sleep at sensible hours and was fine today. I didn't get confused or lost. I'm finding these things very offputting and wondering when the crash is going to come.


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Zm4I1Tr76K1q2yuJEfzV9_j1Wvh2eILnWzEP70cLTokyo Day 3: Gatoh Move @ Ichigaya and Zero-1/SEAdLINNNG @ Kawasaki

ATG1: Gatoh Move was as fun as last time. If you haven't seen my reports before, they run an abandoned pharmacy store up an alleyway that's about 20 feet by ten feet. They wrestle on a crash mat, use the front row of fans as the ropes, and use the windowsill as a top rope! This time there seemed to be a lot of Valentine's Day based angles/promos and the guest stars included SAKI from ActWresGirlz and Masahiro Takanashi from DDT. Main event was a really good 6 man given the setting, and somebody did the Showtime kick.

ATG2: After a Big Japan show with no gimmicks, the Zero-1 show turned out to have a double main event of bells and whistles. There was a womens tag with barbed wire bats tied to each corner, a police siren on one turnbuckle and a buzzer on the other. Every so often somebody pressed the buzzer and the siren went off but somebody else hit the buzzer again and it stopped. Until they didn't and it turned out that the bats were actually tied to a power cable and if the siren was on, the charge was active and when you hit somebody with it, it exploded and I nearly crapped myself. The main event was a Voodoo Jail Break match which turned out to be an 8 man of the former Voodoo Murders (now in two factions) where you had to escape before the cage blew up. It was all quite spectacular, if not particularly good.

ATG3: The interval featured the theme from Flash Gorden played five times in a row and there was a tombola.

BTG1: I got the train out to Kawasaki -- it turns out there's quite a few places in 'Greater Tokyo' that are very easy and cheap to get to by train (£2.80 in this case), so you have a lot of options if you're feeling semi-adventurous. The venue was right across the street from Kawasaki Stadium (now shorn of two sides of stands) of FMW big show fame and Megumi Kudo was a special guest announcer.

BTG2: I noticed a sign on lampposts on a couple of streets which Google Translate roughly explained as "Take my advice and don't do anti-social behavior." It caught my eye because the advice was coming from a photo of Kyoko Inoue in full ring gear and face paint.

BTG3: I went on the world's smallest escalator as recognised by Guiness World Record. It rises 83 centimetres. The best bit is that you have to climb five steps to get to it.


Edited by JNLister
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Tokyo Day 4: DDT @ Ryogoku and ActWresgirlz @ Shin-Kiba

ATG 1: Ryugoku Kokigan -- or Sumo Hall as we used to call it before political correctness went mad -- is my new favourite arena (not hall or stadium) for wrestling. It's as close to purpose built as you get, by definition, with great sightlines, comfortable seats like a posh old-time cinema, and plenty of legroom and space to move about without bumping into people.

ATG 2: I'll avoid DDT spoilers, but it was definitely a show with a bit of everything and plenty of nonsense in the first half and "proper matches in the second. OK, one spoiler: I got to see Chigusa Nagoya share a ring with a robot made of plastic storage boxes. The show was five and a half hours including the preshow, but between the variety, everything running briskly, and the comfort, it never lagged.

ATG 3: There was just enough time to get the subway over to Shin-Kiba for an unplanned bonus show (which means 20 for the trip) with Actwresgirlz. It appears to be Yumiko Hotta's promotion concentrating on hiring and training idols (somewhere between singer and model) but it was better than I expected. A couple of so-so basic opening singles, a good "young girl tries to stand up to Hotta and fails" match, and then a very solid tag and a six-man main event, albeit with what was either a flat or mistaken finish. Finished bang on two hours, so made a nice dessert after the day's main course.

BTG 1: Technically speaking this was at the graps, but my chopstick game has now progressed to eating a bento box in the dark while concentrating on watching a match, all the while avoiding eating any egg.

BTG 2: Undermining my Tokyo skills, I got a bit cocky with some prepared Japanese and had a conversation that I'm fairly sure went: "Good evening, I would like to buy one unreserved ticked please." "Sorry, we don't have a record of anyone by that name."

BTG 3: The biggest excitement in Tokyo is the peril and mystery when you open a public toilet cubicle door. Half the time it's a high-tech affair with heated seat, bidet spray with pressure control and even running water soundtrack to hide the aural signs of splashdown. Half the time it's a hole in the floor.


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Tokyo Day 5 (Big Japan @ Shin-Kiba)

ATG1: I was greeted with "Ah, John-san" as I walked up to the ticket desk. Big Japan has this odd atmosphere mix of friendliness, professionalism and violence.

ATG2: Daisuke Sekimoto was in the opener, but it served a purpose. I didn't need to speak Japanese to follow the story: the two heels did nothing but cheat against his unfortunate inexperienced partner, then he got the tag and they paid for it.

ATG3: Similarly, the main event saw Abdullah Kobayashi return. He took a beating, tagged out, recovered, then got his revenge. Simple, logical story that just happened to feature claws made of knives and a lot of light tubes.

BTG1: I was in an electronics store looking at the TVs (4K looks lovely, but 8K looks identical to me) when the channel they had on showed the various Andreza the Giant Panda incidents from the Muscle show. Mainstream celeb!

BTG2: I found Minoru Suzuki's store, which is hidden away in a largely empty mall underneath an office block. Shame it was closed.

BTG3: For those who read Purodyssey, it was fourth time lucky at the D47 restaurant where I had fish from Shimone, beer from Tottori and veg from Tokyo. Can't say it was worth the 14-month wait, but might have been different in the venison ramen hadn't sold out.


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Tokyo Day 6: Giant Baba memorial @ Ryoguku

ATG1: Barring some of the seats in the front two rows (£350/£500), it was a complete sellout with people sitting on the stairs. Just a great atmosphere with everyone having fun and nostalgia, with one highlight being Abdullah The Butcher's retirement ceremony with appearances by Muto, Tiger Mask, Dory Funk Jr, Mil Mascaras, Dos Caras, Seiji Sakaguchi, Jun Akiyama and Stan Hansen. And Inoki opened the show. Considering no matches werereally consequential, it was super loud and I've got this feeling I'm now going to have to go to the G-1 finals one year.

ATG2: No great matches but everyone hit their key spots. Onita had a brawl. Fuchi working spots with Taichi was a thing I never knew I wanted to see. And 76-year-old Mil Mascaras came off the top rope.

ATG3: Even though it was a nostalgia crowd, the old dudes were going crazy for Miyahara. He and Sekimoto working spots with Tanahashi was treated like a big deal, and they even managed to convince the crowd at one point that the finish off the Giant Baba memorial might be the Triple Crown champion submitting to Yoshi Tatsu.

BTG1: Rainy day so I hit the (wrestle) shops. Shosen Grande remains a bit of a hidden gem -- it's a book store with a large basement section of wrestling books and magazines and DVDs, plus I noticed it now sells tickets.

BTG2: I did the New Japan store and Champions next door, though the former is mainly stuff you'd get at the merch table at shows and the latter is mainly expensive DVDs and rental-only VHS. There's also a new store a couple of floors above it that appears to be wrestling themed clothes, though it was shut.

BTG3: Now out in a different part of the city, Toudokan is somehow even better. It's two floors now with more stuff on sale and new stuff in the display cases (which is for sale but so expensive it's really just a museum) including a Great Muta outfit that's the first thing I've seen that's more than a million yen. Notable moments included rifling through the worn ring gear section to discover I was holding onto Danshoke Dino's pants, spotting an issue of PowerSlam that I'd written an article in, failing again to find the "My god, Bobby, what happened to your face?" issue of The Wrestler, and seeing they had almost every edition of Weekly Pro and Gong in history, so trying to think of big news stories to find the issues. I wound up getting the Baba death issue of both, along with Weekly Pro from the first Super J Cup and the Maeda-Choshu kick, plus the programme for Big Egg Wrestling Universe, which wasn't a bad haul for £20.


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A delayed day seven (All Japan @ Shin-Kiba)

ATG1: Talk about a weird transition. They ran a virtually sold-out Sumo Hall and then did far less than the claimed 302 at Shin-Kiba the next day.

ATG2: Fresh off that Sumo Hall main event, Miyahara came across as the single most confident, swagger-filled, star I've ever seen. A man who doesn't let the fact he's in a barn put him off acting like he knows he is the dude.

ATG3: It was a tiny All Japan spot show but once you got in that mindset, it was fun. Good main event with a six-man building up a Miyahara-Suwuma title match, three junior tournament matches of which one was pretty good, and an eight-man built around the fact that people of different sizes and experience levels have different chopping abilities.

BTG1: I ate a crab stick, which is not the horrible thing you get in a supermarket, but rather something that's pretty much a shish kebab with crab meat.

BTG2: I went to the zoo and saw an Aye Aye eating. It's a variant of lemur with a magical middle finger that's about three times the length of its hand and can switch between bendy and rock solid so it can reach deep inside trees. Seeing this is the monkey nerd equivalent of seeing Mil Mascaras do a plancha.

BTG3: I found a weird museum of Tokyo University's unwanted stuff including a 500 billion Deutschmark note and a zero yen note, which some guy created as an art project to make a point about money having no inherent value. He got sent down for counterfeiting.


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Day 8 (BASARA @ Shin-Kiba)

ATG1: Basara is a DDT offshoot group that's pretty much a guy called Ken Ohka being a fan of Onita and asking if he could have his own promotion. It's less exploding stuff and more brawling and then crying afterwards. Better than I expected and even with a lot of talking I couldn't understand, I'm left anticipating three future matches.

ATG2: Ohtani turned up to test an up and comer in a match titled "Is This A Wrestling Texbook?" Totally different to his appearance on the Big Japan show where he was bullying -- this was your tradition "star comes in, dominates the young guy before giving him more and more and making him look great even in defeat." Said youngster will now be the next to face Minoru Fujita who's an outside running through the Basara roster.

ATG3: Cassandra Miyagi of Sendai Girls and King of Trios fame turned up and faced Basara's resident female in the best double-double-countout brawl I've seen.

BTG1: I met Michelle from Twitter and had my first actual conversation in a week. Lovely lady who told me all about what was going on, and she loves her DDT.

BTG2: I had to work in the morning and do laundry, so the only thing I achieved during the day was to go to the park with a packed lunch. Specifically a department store bento box that included roast beef, octopus, ginormous shrimp, pasta, salad, potatoes and more.

BTG3: I now know when to change trains to Shin-Kiba without having to listen out or look up for station announcements.

EDIT: Just discovered one of the guys on the show was Mitsuo Momota's son and thus Rikidozan's grandson.


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Tokyo Day 9 (Big Japan@ Yokohama)

ATG1: So this was quite the show. It was in an arts centre basement with 52 people in the crowd. It was a New School Of Frank Produce show, which I think might be "Let's let the ref book his own shows now and again, have a laugh, keep it cheap, no harm done." It started quite normally with a five minute exhibition match that I think was debuting student vs either veteran or trainer, with the rules being that it went the five minute regardless of how many times it finished. About as good a match as you can have when it consists solely of "kid fails to land German suplex/kid twice fails to survive Boston crab/kid survives a third Boston crab."

ATG2: And then the bants began. There was a six-man with everyone dressed up, with the finish being Daisuke Sekimoto in a skullcap submitting a panda. Then we had a tag match with Daichi Hashimoto's team vs Abdullah Kobayashi's team. Kobayashi & partner lost in zero seconds because he was DQed after a pile of forks fell out of where he'd hidden them in a bogus shoulder support strap. Everyone disappeared, then a new ref came in and did some talking, then everyone returned with Abdullah as Stan Hansen, his partner as (I think) Jumbo Tsuruta, and their opponents appeared to be Killer Khan and "that karate bloke Onita always wrestled in FMW before he could afford weapons." This went 10 seconds to a double-countout. Considerably more bants ensued, ending with the wrestlers doing the hold hands, wavy arms goes down the line" bit, then they got the whole crowd to do it, then the ref did the bit where he jumps, lands, and everyone else jumps up as if he'd caused a bounce. Fifty minutes. Two matches.Two bumps. Amazing.

ATG3: Second half was completely different. There was a tag match with the black trunkers, including at least one of the guys Otani killed on my first night. This was probably under 10 minutes of amazing stuff, a bit like Shibata and Suzuki working their style but at Dragon Gate pace. Then the main event was a Big Japan vs Heat Up tag match which was also very good.

BTG1: As noted, I went to Yokohama. Big lesson of this trip is that there are loads of venues (and indeed places to visit) that are an easy train ride from Tokyo (and not much longer to get to than Skin-Kiba.) Only cost a few quid to get there and no problem getting back.

BTG2: I did museums. One was a 1930s luxury pan-Pacific liner (commandeered as a hospital ship in the war) that was retired in the 60s and is now docked in the bay as a surprisingly interesting museum. The other was the Cup Noodle museum, which is a bit rubbish if you haven't downloaded the audio guide, but still wonderfully bizarre with them treating the creator like a business genius. The highlight was the introductory film which was produced like one of those weird Korean news reports with the odd animation, which is even odder when you've got English dubbing on a one-ear headset. Weirdest part is a replica of his shed where he developed instant ramen, with the shed in the middle of a huge otherwise empty gleaming white room like you're at the Turner Prize.Worth noting that at £3.50 this was the most expensive of the parks/zoos/museums I've been to.

BTG3: Yokohama is a weird place. Where I came in was the working port (with the biggest cruise ship I've ever seen in dock) but just next to that was the original dock which has now been redeveloped to the nth degree. It's shiny and spotless and full of neon and utterly soulless, and looks like the type of place where people have made millions from casinos and run out of ideas for how to spend it, yet -- day trippers from cruise ships aside -- I don't know where the money has come from. I also had the single worst buffet I've ever been to, complete with fraudulent advertising of crab that turned out only to be available for £7 extra. I was so outraged I only said "arigato" when I left and omitted the "gozaimasu". That showed 'em.


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Tokyo Day 10 (Tokyo Joshi Pro and DDT @ Shinjuku Face)

ATG1: Shinjuku Face is bigger than I remembered, though that just be having been to so many small venues. It's good for the shows themselves, but not brilliant overall as it's on the 8th floor with no stairs and the lifts open straight into the ticket desk area, so at the end of the show you've got the entire crowd stood in a tiny lobby getting out 10 at a time, all mixed up with the queues for the autographs and the toilets.

ATG2: TJP is my favourite Japanese promotion so I was always going to enjoy today, but it was a great show even though normally the appeal is the distinctive characters rather than the matches. I saw them on Wrestle Kingdom day last time and enjoyed it, but it was so much more exciting having followed it since then and become familiar with everyone, plus it turned out to be their second biggest show of the year to date. Tag title match was excellent, good main event, Maki Ito is an absolute superstar, half of my favourite TJP act returned (Sakisama), and there was even a big old angle with Hyper Misao removing and destroying her own mask. And I was unexpectedly second row.

ATG3: Not sure if it was the comedown after TJP or just hitting a wall, but I wasn't really feeling most of the DDT show and at 3 hours it felt like WrestleMania length. However, the tag match semi-final (Konosuke Takeshita & Akito Vs Yuki Ueno & Naomi Yoshimura) plodded along for 15 minutes and then exploded into excellence, while the last few minutes of the main event (Tetsuya Endo vs HARASHIMA vs Kazusada Higuchi) were really engaging. And Chiro Hashimoto turned up out of nowhere to German suplex the champion. And I got to see Yukio Sakaguchi work spots with Gota Ihashi and there is no other 'sport' where those two bodies would co-exist.

BTG1: I listened to a podcast with Japan historian and Observer contributor Fumi Saito about the Baba show and learned some tidbits. Inoki did his intro at ringside because he vowed never to step into an All Japan ring. And Miyahara got a big pop because he brought back the three different belts in the Triple Crown for the first time since it was switched to a single belt several years back. (Which explains why they were selling some amazing looking replicas.)

BTG2: I had tempura from a restaurant that's being going since the 1920s and it still in its original wooden building. Lunch was, and I quote, "Two shrimps, assorted seafood, vegetables, Anago (sea eel), deep-fried small shrimps (kakiage), appetizer; and a set of rice, miso-soup and Japanese pickles (osoroi)." Lovely stuff.

BTG3: I had a crawl round Golden Gai, which has 200 bars in tin sheds squeezed into six alleyways, most with just a handful of seats. I didn't get ripped off or get drunk, mainly because I was sensible enough to go in the afternoon before anything opened.


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Tokyo Day 11 (Noah @ Korakuen, Alive @ Basement Mon*Star, Going Up @ Basement Mon*Star)

ATG1: Korakuen Hall is as great a venue as I remembered, but boy are the seats tight and narrow. First half of the NOAH show was fine but not spectacular. Second half an improvement with an 8 man elimination of Hooligans vs Sugiara's team with Hooligans split up vs Sugiara joins Hooligans stips. As with the New Japan elimination bouts, over the top rope counts and they used it for a couple of nice eliminations by an obvious lower position guy. We then had a tag match including upcoming title match opponents Marufuji and Kiyomiya and then a surpising main event of a tag title defence of Yone (afro) and Quiet Storm (ROH original who appears to have eaten Brian XL.) Very loud crowd throughout but hard to tell if that was actually more heated than other shows I've been to this trip or just more people in a better acoustics venue.

ATG2: Basement Mon*Star is certainly a unique venue. It's the basement of a nondescript hotel, but with exposed stonework and in the style of a cave, but with a domed roof. In a basement. It makes no sense. The first show was from Pro Wrestling Alive, which appears to normally promote up Sendai way in the mountains, their mission being to entertain people in places where the town centre has been left empty by out-of-town shopping malls. At least that's what their website said.

But today they turned up in Tokyo and did an Illuminati themed show. The tickets came with an airline boarding pass with your seat on and a Chinese new year-style bank note gift, neither of which seemed to play into anything.

The first match was a six man with three people from the Heat Up group against an evil doctor (complete with Doctor Who theme), a masked Genghis Khan and a generic masked man, all of whom kept doing Illuminati hand signs. We then had a regular tag match which broke down into a double DQ. Then the interval ended with a man in drag who turned out to be a bald elderly man who stripped down to a g-string.

Then "Mystery Mask" wrestled Jesus, accompanied by the Illuminati, with Gregorian monk chanting throughout the quick match which ended with the lights going out and coming back on to reveal the Illuminati had disappeared and both Mystery Mask and the ref were tied to the ropes.

Main event was Syuuou Fujiwara (Occupation of the Indies newcomer of the year 2018) in a suit, apparently the head of the Illuminati, teaming with a man dressed as monochrome Beetlejuice. They took on two Heat Up guys (one of them Guts In what turned into an excellent match won by the heels, after which Fujiwara sang a song.

This show was odd.

ATG3: Going Up is a spin-off from Heat Up that I think is based around letting older guys have a place to work, but this was their last show anyway. It was a lot of the guys from the Alive show in more conventional matches, with a six man main event again pitting the Illuminati against Heat Up guys including Guts Ishijima, who looks like a short Japanese Otto Wanz and apparently is a parody/tribute of a famous Japanese boxing character. This was also a great brawl/heels cheating behind the refs back/big moves at the end affair. The Illuminati guys lost but laid everyone out afterwards and announced they are running a show at Shin-Kiba in April. The babyfaces then cleared the ring and we had 20 minutes of Ishijima thanking everyone on the roster for their time in the promotion, which was probably more fun in you speak Japanese.

Being a triple-shot, BTG is a bit loosely defined today.

BTG1: Is there a (figurative) level below Alive @ Basement Mon*Star? Apparently show. Some guy gave me a hand-written "flyer" on a scrap of paper that had been cut by hand. Not sure of the venue, but the show in April starts at 18:51 for some reason and is main evented by "JK vs Mr Money." The guy handing out the leaflets was very keen to stress that "Meestah Money" is on the show. I have a strong suspicion this man was Mr Money.

BTG2: 16 shows (nearly all from different promotions) in and every show has featured at least one person who appeared on a different promotion's show. It's the Six Degrees Of Shinjiro Ohtani.

BTG3: I got to spend the time between shows exploring late Sunday afternoon/early evening in Oji. Time Out notes "The hilly western side is refined and discreet, hosting parks, shrines and stylish cafés, while the rough-and-ready eastern part gives off a working-class vibe with its lively streets, old-school izakayas and clunky shopping complexes."

It is safe to say I was in the eastern part.


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Tokyo Day 12 (Marvelous @ Shin-Kiba)

ATG1: Not the greatest wrestling, but promotion with a very happy vibe with everyone smiling lots. Chigusa Nagoya's running the show and comes across as if she could be wrestling mum Emi Sakura's wrestling mum. Mio Momono, who's a bundle of charismatic energy, was injured but did a 10 minute chat in the ring with Nagoya that entertained me without understanding a word of it. And the night ended up with birthday cake for 90s AJW's Tomoko Watanabe. Also a lot bigger production than anyone else at Shin-Kiba with a video screen and their own disco lights.

ATG2: Some proper comedy with an opener pitting a panda against Batsushi Fujonita, and you can probably guess who he parodied. It was a barbed wire death match, by which I mean they had silver tinsel on the ropes and when somebidy hit it, everyone in the front row let off a party popper. They also had an "exploding" bat and a glitter cannon as weapons. Second match had somebody's partner (possible Momono) not appear, so they were replaced by someone doing a parody of another wrestler who appeared later on the show.

ATG3: Some fair-to-very good wrestling. There was a so-so three way with "guy who looks like a baby Masato Tanaka", "guy who looks like a baby Naito" and "American indy guy who looks like Lance Archer cosplaying as Brian Kendrick cosplaying as Kenny Omega." Semi-final tag was decent enough and the main event was a great six-woman tag in early 80s AJW style with three teenagers in swimsuits who were pure babyfaces with nothing but speed and heart against three heels in their own shirts who had nastiness, strength and willingness to cheat. One was Dash Chikako who I last saw jumping off a castle in Wolverhampton.

BTG1: Have you ever wished their was one neighbourhood were you can buy an anime figure, an HDMI cable, a 1960s Lego London Bus set, an All Elite Wrestling shirt, a pair of sculpted knickers to make it look like you have a camel toe, a Google Home-powered robot vacuum, a Neo Geo, and an opportunity to have lunch with a young woman dressed as a maid? Well, you're going to love Akihabara.

BTG2: I had lunch in a restauant solely because it had a cardboard cutout of Okada confirming it was King of Tonkatsu. I got said tonkatsu (pork fillet fried in panko breadcrumbs), two giant breaded shrimp, rice, salad, soup, pickles, the gubbins to make your own customized sauce, and a small beer, all for a tenner.

BTG3: The subway line that serves my hotel is shaped like a lower case d and I'm one stop along the stem, so if I come in from the northern side of the city I have to change platform for a different train for the final step. I've realised now that it's no coincidence that everytime I'm able to walk straight off and across the platform on to a waiting train with just enough time before it departs. Stuff just works. Though public bins and hand dryers in toilets might be a good idea.


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Tokyo Day 13 (BASARA @ Shin-Kiba)

ATG1: I still don't know what BASARA's USP is. DDT is the daddy promotion, Tokyo Joshi Pro is women with strong colourful characters, Ganbare is gritty/grimy, DNA was young boys, but BASARA seems to be more defined by backstage politics than the product.

ATG2: It was all you can drink. As in you showed your ticket and ID and got a can, and when the can was empty you exchanged it for another one, and repeat until the show ended. They took out the floor seats and replaced them with tables to stand at. I don't know what the economics were (all tickets were standard reserved seating price), though they made a killing selling crisps.

ATG3: If you are expecting a rundown of the matches, participants and events, please refer to ATG 2.

BTG1: I went for lunch at Tsukiji Fish Market, the Tokyo Billingsgate. Rather than the predictable sushi, I had a bowl of rice topped with all manner of fresh fish and seafood that was seared. As in the chef wielded a pair of blowtorches. To quote my niece, DEEEEEElicious.

BTG2: I crossed the river on the driverless train to the Odaiba island, which was artificially made (depending on the telling) in the early hundreds as a sea defense or in the 20th century as a tourist attraction. I was headed for the museum of emerging technology (home of Asimio), but it was shut, though I did see a cedar tree grown from one of only four seeds successfully germinated on the International Space Station. I instead spent the afternoon in shopping malls (H&M stuff was about 30% cheaper than Bristol) but did see a 60 foot high Gundam (Transformer) and waited for the advertised 5pm show. This was a letdown as it literally just lit-up and moved its antenna, whereas I expected it to at worst dance and at best turn into a Walkman. I also saw a load of old Japanese cars.

BTG3: I spent a solid hour on the waterfront watching sunset over Tokyo Bay. Though proper nerds will know Tokyo Bay should only be used when you have five or six players.


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Day 14 (Ice Ribbon @ Ice Ribbon Dojo)

ATG1: The show was at the Dojo in Kawaguchi, which is a city on the outskirts of Tokyo, just over the border into Saitama. To get to it you have to walk up a back street by the railway tracks filled with love hotels. It's literally just a small shed where they train, but they have an entranceway and a couple of raised rows to out chairs out on. Rather oddly the entranceway is behind where most of the fans sit and is the same side as the hard camera position. They had about 30 people there tonight. Oh, and their toilet has a sink built into the top of the cistern to save space, which is sheer simplistic genius.

ATG2: It was a three match show that was done in 40-45 minutes. In effect it was the first half of a regular small venue show. The ticket was about half what you'd pay for second row at Shin-Kiba, so it wasn't terrible value as such, but a bit over-and-done-with for an evening out. It was kind of like a Gatoh Move show with better wrestling (and a ring) but less charm.

ATG3: It was an absolutely solid show. I don't know how many of them were technically trainees but there were a couple who debuted in the past year (one barely two months ago.) Only one of the eight performers was doing anything less than perfectly smoothly and solidly, so they must be doing something right in training. One neat trick was that a more experienced wrestler was acting as a cornerwoman shouting advice, but even without understanding the language (perhaps because of not understanding it), you could tell she was subtly guiding the pacing of the match.

BTG1: Not much planned for today so I centered it on lunch and followed recommendations for a very hidden away, 20 seat basement restaurant that supposedly has some of the best rice. It was a set meal deal where you get your choice of meat or fish with rice, miso soup, pickles/sauces, tea and even a little jelly square for pudding, all for £13. One of the menu options was "grilled idiot with miso", which I assumed was a mistranslation, so did Google Translate on the Japanese text and got "contraindication with pickles." I opted for black cod instead. Also, they play this hilarious gag where you get a pot of tea and they pretend people pour it onto rice rather than drink it. Most of the Japanese diners knew not to fall for it because obviously rice plus tea makes soup and you can't eat soup with chopsticks. Luckily I got wise to that one last time round. https://trulytokyo.com/ohitsuzen-tanbo-omotesando/

BTG2: I made it over to the Museum of Emerging Science and Technology, which was open this time. Sometimes odd but interesting stuff and I had to rush round the end of it. I particularly liked their model of the internet made with tubes (h/t Al Gore) and balls where you picked a letter or number and then "coded it" by arranging black and white balls (0s and 1s). The balls then went shooting round the tubes in the most efficient manner and were rearranged at your chosen destination and then decoded, just as data packets work. I also took a quick look in the other half of the Toyota showroom which had all their current/in development models plus various test drive/VR/simulator things, all of which must be fascinating to people who drive and like cars. I also timed it right so I got to ride the train across the Rainbow Bridge at sunset, which is better than any fairground ride in Tokyo.

BTG3: Tokyo really makes you appreciate the effects of the 5p carrier bag charge. Here it seems to be mandatory for shop assistants to put any purchase in a carrier bag and I pretty much have a bin full of plastic in my hotel.


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Day 15 (SEAdLINNNG @ Shin-Kiba)

ATG1: Yep, that is the name. I suspect it's a corruption of Seedling, though there does seem a nautical connection. Eytmology aside, it's a womens group that only has two or three roster members so every show is made up through "imports". That in turn means it serves as a bit of a "best of" Japanese womens wrestling, which made a nice end to the trip. Also, unless I'm missing something, Ice Ribbon is the only one of the 20 shows I went to where nobody else appeared on another promotion's show that I saw on the trip.

ATG2: The second match was a "High Speed Tag Match" complete with ref in special shirt with that name. It turned out it meant the ref would count very quickly (like maybe as quick as a normal 1 to 1.5 count.) In theory/kayfabe that should mean you get amateur style wrestling where everyone keeps off their back and it's a bit dull, but in practice they work it so everyone's hitting fast stuff and going for flash pins.

ATG3: Main event (Nanae Takanishi vs Yuna Mizumori) was a no faffing strikefest, albeit with the slightly odd decision by Mizumori to do a dropkick from the apron the Takanishi on the floor, which had no possibility of going well.

BTG1: Horrendous weather so I had a lazy day, emerging only to do the decent stereotype thing and have my first Tokyo sushi. I went to a chain that's rated as the least awful of the affordable places and it had a great setup. They had the Yo Sushi style conveyor with coloured plates but not a single person took anything from it. Instead you could order from an iPad at your seat and then a couple of minutes later it arrived on a second conveyor ON A TRAIN. When you were done, they couldn't automatically calculate your bill (because you might have had some conveyor belt stuff as well), so the server came with a small tablet device, took a photo of your stacked up plates, and the tablet had an app that instantly used colour recognition to add it all up. I had horse mackerel, duck loin, fatty tuna, scallops, snow crab, sea bass and eel (two of everything but eel) plus mango ice cream, all for £13.

BTG2: I have 8 yen left on my Suica (equivalent of Oyster) card and I'll have 390 yen to spend at the airport. I'm not sure whether to be impressed or disappointed with coming so close to perfect spending.

BTG3: After two weeks of general competence, things fell apart a bit today. It wasn't till somebody arrived next to me at the sushi bar and sprinkled from a jar into a cup of hot water that I realised I'd confidently mixed soy sauce with green tea powder rather than wasabi. And when the woman at the wrestling handed over my ticket, I for some reason said "good morning". When the ring announcements were given in English for some reason, I started wondering if my brain had broken. I think it's the right time to come home.


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