Fujiyama Mama!

Woodblock made ca. 1930 exactly the same way a...
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One of the greatest disappointments of last year was that I did not get to climb Mt. Fuji. I didn’t realize that it’s only open to climbers in July and August, and there simply was not a reasonable time to go do it. But this year…I am determined! Not only Fuji, but thanks to the fun Japanese trend of being a “yama girl,” I’m ready to making hiking a fabulous new hobby of mine. So what’s a yama girl?

Yama means “mountain” in Japanese, so it’s a girl who hikes and wears adorable, colorful clothing. Typically, it’s boots with tight and leg warmers, and some type of skirt or shorts, then, either a puffy jacket or vest over a bright shirt. It’s practical, it’s fun, it’s… SUPER EXPENSIVE. I started out by looking for funky hiking stuff online and found almost nothing. Then, I realized most of these items are made for a Japanese market, so I googled sporting goods stores, and went out in Tokyo, also hoping to find derby clothes. What I found was a street with about 50 stores on it, mostly dedicated completely to snowboarding. Then, I stumbled upon an outdoor mecca, and the yama girl stuff was everywhere. Oooooh! I was so excited! I ran up to a puffy coat like a moth to a flame. How much is it? $600? What the #%*???  There was almost nothing at all in the store under $50 at all, to include bandannas, socks, etc. It’s true that the dollar is weak against the yen now, and Japan is an expensive place, but c’mon!

I’ll have figure out a thriftier way! I did find some cheap fair isle leggings and the PX and I got a puffy 80’s Adidas vest on clearance, so I’ve started. Now I just need to get outside!

Further Reading:





Sunday was the opening day of the 2012 Sumo Tournament, and I was eager to go see it live in person, especially since I heard the first day is a good one, and has a few extra ceremonies and things that you don’t get to see on regular days. Having almost no idea what to expect, I snapped up one of those six packs of Ebisu beer, some snacks, and headed for the station to meet a friend, not knowing that my friend would have the same idea and actually brought 2 more of the same six packs. 18 beers for 2 people! Hilarity ensured!

As soon as we stepped off the train, we saw Sumo wrestlers coming up the stairs as we were going down. Their hair stood out to me more than their size, and one had a fresh wound on his forehead. After goofing around at the tourist booths,

My most serious warrior face.

we headed for the stadium. There was almost no security or ushers, and we wandered around until a friendly man offered to help us find our seats (on the complete opposite side).

We were on the balcony level, and though we were pretty wedged in there, I was thankful to at least have a seat. The entire ground floor is just sitting on mats, which I’m sure Iwould have hated. We cracked open beers and began to pull out snacks, realizing we had a whole lot of squid! I don’t know why, but something about Sumo made me want to chow down. I also read that they sell Yakitori (grilled chicken) at the stadium, but by the time we got around to searching for it, it was all sold out. I noticed that nearly everyone around us had brought their own drinks and food with them. We had enough that we were able to share with the young Canadians sitting next to us.


Who would have thought that innumerable pliés performed by corpulent men in diaper-y thongs would be entertaining?  I was worried I would find it incredibly boring for a number of reason. First, from the agenda, it looked like it would go on for over 4 hours. Second, there is a lot of build-up to the match, but then the matches are over in just a couple of seconds. For every 10 seconds of wrestling, they probably spend 5 minutes squatting, slapping their thighs, lifting one leg way up, wiping their faces and armpits, and walking around the ring. And don’t forget throwing salt! I expected this to bore me to tears. After all, I’m American – I like my sports with action!!!

Surprisingly, I enjoyed the ritual, and I found myself raptly watching the whole thing. The event is really obviously steeped in tradition, and I loved watching the announcer come out and chant between bouts. I loved the positioning and severity of the refs. I liked watching how each wrestler had a different style of squatting, a different body type, level of flexibily, and degree of zest with which he threw his salt. Sumo is also exciting since it’s not divided into weight classes. Sometimes a HUGE guy would go out there and battle a short little shrimpy guy, and usually the shrimp won!

Here’s the breakdown of a typical round. The two guys come out, then perform their little act. The guy in the blue robe is VERY serious and walks like a robot.

Then the wrestlers throw in their salt and square off:

After about 5 minutes of the ‘dance,’ they finally wrestle:

After one falls down or gets pushed out of the ring, the other is declared the winner:

Then the next guys come up and do it all again!

I was rooting for the guy closest to me every time, and that was a pretty good strategy. After it was over, I didn’t really have a clue who’d won or lost, but I felt I’d been properly entertained, and we also watched as they immediately turned the lights off and had the place pretty well cleaned out in about 5 mins. Here’s me with the emptying stadium:

It’s probably not something I’ll make a hobby of, but it was a really fun experience, and I’m so glad I went!

It likes all very much!

Well, I made it 6 days into the new year before simultaneously breaking every one of my resolutions, which is 5 more days than usual! It’s especially difficult here because everything in Japan is just so cute!!! I wasn’t feeling so hot tonight when I went to get some dinner from the grocery store, and walked out with lots of goodies. How can you resist their aesthetic charm? Here is the junk food I bought tonight:

Leafy Pie and the red cat bag…I mean, how could I say no? It turned out the red cat bag contained items with the consistency of cheesy poofs and the flavor of caramel corn. Needless to say, I had to reshape the bag for the photo because I demolished them faster than you could say “meow.”

These are not from tonight, but here is some other Japanese awesomeness. A six-pack of beer:

Popcorn in my chubby hand:

And a school bus I often pass in the same intersection on my way to work. I promise I normally do not take photos while driving!