JAPAN — Day 4

We woke up early and headed off to see the oldest temple in Tokyo. It’s called Senso-ji, and it was founded in 628. (That’s not a typo. There’s not a “1” missing at the front. Six-twenty-eight!) Here it is:

We hung out there for about an hour (and took 14 million photos, which all pretty much looked the same). Then we walked slowly through this strip of stores:

I bought a delicious fried pumpkin treat here . . .

. . . and laughed at the signs here:

No disrespect intended. The “broken” English that I heard and read throughout the trip was way better than my Japanese — but it still amused me.

Another thing I heard was constant talk of “cherry blossoms.” Cherry blossoms this. Cherry blossoms that. I even heard about it before the trip. “OMG, you’re going to Japan?! Take some pictures of the cherry blossoms for me!!” I’m not kidding. But there was a problem: the winter had been extra-cold, so the cherry blossoms weren’t yet in bloom. You’ve seen the famous video of Allan Iverson saying the word “practice” over and over, right? That’s basically me with the cherry blossoms. I truly don’t get it. Did you notice the fake cherry blossoms three photos up, poking out above the stores? This country is obsessed with cherry blossoms. Cherry blossoms?! Seriously?! For some reason (a concentrated beam of sunlight, perhaps), there was ONE fully-bloomed cherry blossom tree. We found it a bit later in the day at Ueno Park. Click the link that I just provided. Do you see the caption under the photo? Here, let me repeat it: “visitors enjoying the cherry blossoms.” I’m aware that the people who obsess over cherry blossoms would probably say, “Baseball?! Seriously?!” but whatever. We’re not talking about baseball. We’re talking about cherry blossoms. And here they are:

Okay, fine, it was beautiful, and I suppose that seeing an entire mountainside of it would be rather nifty, but I still don’t get it. I mean, I *get* it but don’t personally feel the wonder and passion. “Thats cuz you didn’t see the whole mountainside in bloom!!” I need to choose my words carefully or else I’ll start getting hate mail from the Japan Cherry Blossom Association, and yes, that organization really does exist. Can we stop talking about cherry blossoms now?

We found a bustling market near the park . . .

. . . and saw all sorts of “food” for sale:

We also saw a bunch of stores (if that’s the word) that specialized in those “grabber” games. Here’s one of them:

Our next destination was an electronics-centric neighborhood called Akihabara. Check out the funky architecture there:

Here’s some more:

As you can see, it was the video game capital of the world. I was excited to see an entire building devoted to Taito:

(The cherry blossom enthusiasts are saying, “Video games?! Seriously?!” Someone should invent a video game with cherry blossoms, and then everyone’ll be happy.)

Taito, for the 99.9999 percent of you who have no reason to know or care, is the company that developed my favorite video game of all time: Arkanoid. Unfortunately the game was nowhere to be found inside the Taito building, but look what I got to play instead:

As much as I love classic video games, I had no idea that “Vs. Super Mario Bros.” was different from the original, so I was surprised to see subtle differences like this:

The original has a solid ceiling of bricks overhead in that spot. According to Wikipedia, the later levels are completely different. If I’d known that at the time, I would’ve kept playing — and my mom and half-sister would’ve abandoned me there.

Soon after leaving the Taito building, we passed this:

It was a pachinko parlor. I wish we’d gone inside, but because I was going to have to take off for this game at the Tokyo Dome at 1pm, time was limited.

We did briefly poke around inside this place . . .

. . . which was devoted entirely to anime. I took a few photos inside, which apparently violated some serious rule. I say this because an employee stormed over and shouted “Delete!” and stood next to me and eyed my camera as I erased the few pictures one by one. (Awkward!)

Here’s some more funny English for you:

Did I mention that a large percentage of Japanese women dress like schoolgirls? I happen to like that look . . . on certain people . . . with a specific body type. Here’s a good example:

And finally, here’s a good example of contradictory behavior:

Germs bad!
Cancer good!
Only in Japan.


  1. Nick Badders

    I still envy the fact that you went to Japan… oh and I got shut out at PETCO today… its a long story…

  2. Zack Hample

    Damn, you commented FAST. I just posted this entry a few minutes ago, and BAM, here you are. I love it. Meanwhile, I’m sorry to hear that you got blanked. What happened. Was it an absolute zoo because of Opening Day?

  3. Paaoool123

    Zack – your blogs are always very interesting. I always enjoy reading them. Are you going to opening day on Friday?

  4. Zack Hample

    Thanks very much, but whose Opening Day are you talking about? The Mets already opened (I wasn’t there), and the Yankees are on the road. At the earliest, my next game will be on Monday at Citi Field, but I’m not yet sure if I’ll be there. I’ll make a decision the night before (or possibly the day of) based on the weather (and perhaps a few other factors).

  5. Leigh B.

    The Japanese school girl look is a HIT in my book. More women should dress like that here. Also, as a WWII historian, I am seeing your pictures of Tokyo, but I can’t stop thinking about how our B-29’s absolutely LEVELED that city thoughout most of 1945. I guarantee you that many places you stood were just ash 67 years ago. The cherry blossoms survived though. LOL

  6. kslo69

    Nice entry Zack! It would seem that the other gentlemen in the photo of “random hottie” would agree with your assessment! (I’m not going to assume sexism here…lol, :P) Also, WTH, someone blew it! Taito had the WC Arkanoid playa in the house, and no Arkanoid? Probably for the best though, as we might not have heard from you for a week! Now, I know you requested an end to the cherry tree conversation, so please forgive this last bit. Observance of cherry trees is a custom that dates back over a thousand years in Japan, the fleeting nature of their blossoms seen as an analogy to our own short time on the planet. In the movie “Chushingura”, about the “Loyal 47 Ronin” there is a “gorgeous”(?) scene in which a dishonored samurai commits seppuku beneath a cherry tree in full bloom. Talk about your contradictions.

  7. Andy

    Zack see this?


  8. Zack Hample

    LEIGH B-
    I’m glad you approve, and I agree that this fashion trend needs to spread. As for the war and the ash . . . that’s intense. When I was there, it did occur to me but only as a passing thought.

    Squid on the left, octopus on the right. (Yikes!) My next game might be on Monday. Or Tuesday. Maybe both. Or neither. I’m at the mercy of my family and everyone’s willingness to let me out of work a bit early. I’m not related to a single person that cares even a little bit about baseball, so it’s gonna be a struggle.

    Well, thanks for educating me. I haven’t done *any* research on Japan. I wanted to show up there knowing nothing. One person (who reads this blog) has already called me “ignorant” as a result, but what can I say? I had so much fun going in “blind,” so to speak, and trying to figure everything out as it was happening. This is how I approach new baseball stadiums. Everyone’s always offering to send me photos and give me scouting reports, but I’m generally not interested. I like mystery.

    Wow. No, I hadn’t. Thank so much for posting that link.

  9. Paaoool123

    i know that this is unrelated to this post, but i was going through your entries yesterday and noticed that we both were at the brewers vs. yankees game on 6-30-11. i started looking through my pictures from the game and noticed you in the backround of 2 or 3 of them. I got a kick out of that. Too bad it took me this long to realize it!

  10. Skim

    Originally I was going to attend April 9th Mets vs. Nationals with my dad but then he said he couldn’t, but then I was asked by my grandparents if I wanted to go, so I *will* be going Monday. Small problem- I don’t have a nationals hat.

  11. Nicholas Badders

    Yeah I’m just a speed deamon like that. 6 minutes later BAM! But yeah, It was crazy, and there were some issues incuding getting flipped off my a taxi driver. It was crazy. We arrived at the ballpark 3.5 hours before it opened or somthing like that, with 1 and a half hours to stand in line. We found parking right when the gates oppened. The ushers yelled at me for asking for balls, and some lady barehanded a ball when it was a bout 2 inches from my glove… oh, and it was a Dodgers commemerative ball…

  12. Nicholas Badders

    Oh, and my next game is a Class-A game in stockton. I will be sitting in first row seats behind the dougout for $12 each… I am debating whether or not to count those toward my collection….

  13. ditroia78

    I’ve been reading this blog for years and first have to say I’m a big fan but also compelled to say, there’s nothing ‘gross’ about octopus or squid, I agree there is some weird food eaten in Asia [Shark heart etc], but those are pretty mundane. Have you never had Salt and Pepper Squid or Calamari? And Greek style Grilled Octopus is delicious.

    Cheers From Australia, [Where most of their prized Tuna is caught].

  14. Zack Hample

    Cool. Wish we’d known each other then.

    Probably not in Atlanta, but maybe I’ll see them on the road.

    That hat would’ve helped.

    Yeah. Can’t wait to snag a few.

    I think you should have a separate count for minor league baseballs. After all, the players’ stats from the majors and minors aren’t usually lumped together.

    For the lovely people of Japan (and for many folks elsewhere), it’s not gross. But for me it is. My general rule about meat is that if it looks like the animal, then I find it completely unappealing. But if it’s just a random slab of flesh, then I can usually handle it. And no, I’ve never eaten squid or calamari.

  15. ditroia78

    “And no, I’ve never eaten squid or calamari.” Calamari is just deep friend rings, think of them as a Carnivore version of onion rings :).

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