There are Egyptian Sumo Wrestlers and Non-Fogging Mirrors in Japan.

Before departing NYC, I was excited about a lot of experiences I was about to have in Japan.  While I think Chazen would like me to say that I was most ecstatic about our company visit to Toyota, I have to be honest:  I wanted to see sumo wrestling more than anything.  That sentence doesn’t actually convey my enthusiasm—SUMO WRESTLING!!!!!!!!—is more appropriate.  After all, how many sports are there with gigantic, well-fed men slamming their gelatinous bodies against each other while wearing something that looks nearly identical to a man thong?

I was not disappointed.  The matches are actually quite short, rarely lasting more than a minute each, but they are incredibly exciting.  Our group of approximately 10 CBS students rarely knew who to root for, or for that matter who was fighting, but we quickly determined a system for our cheering:  go with the largest guy.  We were saved from our ignorance of the sumo ways by a friendly expatriate that was sitting behind us at the arena.  He had moved to Japan over 30 years ago from Syracuse, NY to pursue a career in martial arts and ended up staying.  He and his Japanese wife are sumo fanatics, and gave us all sorts of relevant info on the sport.

Surprisingly, the best sumo wrestlers today are actually Mongolian.  There are also a few Bulgarians who fight (apparently they’re not very good), but more interestingly, there is an Egyptian.  All of these fighters take Japanese names and wear the same outfits as their native counterparts, but the Bulgarians and the Egyptian were very noticeable due to their extensive chest and neck hair.  Our expat friend also gave us some good advice—to sneak up and sit in the press box right next to the ring.  We did, and it was awesome.

After a few hours of this, we headed back from Osaka to Kyoto for our welcome Chazen dinner!  It was very fun, and it was a good start to the next day’s festivities where we visited the headquarters of Gekkeikan, a leading Japanese sake distillery.  The head of the international department walked us through the company’s operations and the state of the industry.  Apparently domestic sake consumption has declined drastically over the past decade, while international sales have been growing—but not by nearly enough to offset the overall decline.  That glum news did not prevent us from having a lovely sake tasting.

We then saw a series of historical sites that are central to Japanese culture, and rather than describe in words I have included a few photos below to give you a sense of what we saw.

I wrote this post on the shinkansen (bullet train), as we are traveling from Kyoto to Nagoya in order to go see the Toyota factory and their world-famous just-in-time production system.  Needless to say the group is excited—especially as the visit is followed by a night in a Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), including a karaoke session in traditional Japanese garb.

That’s it for now.  Until next time—Sayonara.

JR

P.S.—While I’ve chosen not to focus my blog posts on the state of Japanese bathroom technology, it is truly impressive.  Nearly all toilets have heated seats and built-in bidets, and some even have a sink on top!  Effectively a whole bathroom in one device; it is a sight to behold.  Further, our hotel bathroom had a portion of the mirror that simply didn’t steam up right in front of the sink.  This was fantastically helpful and my roommate and I are mystified by the technology.

 

shinkansen sumo

Anxious for Japan– from Sumo to Sushi and Everything in Between

Fellow Classmates:

Blogging was not one of the experiences I expected to have at CBS, but alas, there is a first time for everything.  I’ve always liked writing; prior to enrolling at school I served as a speechwriter for former Clinton Administration officials and the CEO of Alcoa.  Now it is time to try it out on the web.

Spring break is rapidly approaching, and the conversation in Uris Hall has inevitably turned to travel destinations.  There are a healthy mix of options, from a staycation in New York to renting a villa on the coast of Nicaragua, but there were a few CBS students who were lucky enough to be chosen for Chazen trips.  I applied for and won a spot on the Japan trip, which, needless to say, is rather exciting.

When I think of Japan, I think about Sumo, Sushi and Shinkansen (bullet train).  While experiencing all of those things are still high on my priority list for this trip, our agenda is much more expansive.  The organizers, four Japanese students who have graciously agreed to shepherd us around their country, have come up with a tremendous itinerary.  Besides visiting a number of awesome companies– including Toyota and Uniqlo– we are going to experience an onsen (spa) and take a cruise around Tokyo Bay.

Besides arranging the trip, including every logistical detail for those of us arriving early, our organizers have also hosted dinners in NYC to facilitate friendships amongst the Chazen Japan participants and give us a taste (pun intended) of what Japan has to offer.  The meal at Sun-Chan restaurant near Columbia stands out in my mind. It was a feast.  Upon arriving, there were plates of delectable sashimi and edamame placed on the table.  While we all initially thought this was the meal, we were in for a decadent surprise.  Endless rounds of Japanese delicacies began to stream out of the kitchen, from chicken meatballs to rice with eel.  Two hours later, the entire group had eaten far too much.  But, we did learn something critical for our trip.  To say cheers in Japanese, you simply clink glasses and shout: KANPAI!

My flight to Osaka leaves in a little over 10 days and I couldn’t be more excited.  I know that the other trip participants feel the same way.

Signing off for now, you’ll hear more from me once I’ve arrived in Japan and seen a Sumo match.

–JR (Jonathan Robins ’15)

P.S.– Group photo pre-trip Chazen Japan Dinner