Day 1 & 2: Tokyo...Kabuki and Sumo

I'm back in Tokyo!  I didn't have a lot of time (or things of interest) to write about between my last trip here and this trip.  I just realized it has been well over a month since my last post.  Boy does time fly!  This time our trip to Tokyo is a lot longer than the last and then we are headed to China.  Of course this means there will be lots of travel posts in the next few weeks.

As we headed to Tokyo via the Shinkansen I grabbed a hot coffee from a vending machine and I was ready to go for a 3 week adventure with my husband.
This is what the inside of the bullet train (Shinkansen) looks like.  Very clean and it is always quiet.
One of the first things I found when we got to Tokyo was this amazing Dole fruit vending machine.
All I can say to this is "awesome"!  And yes, we did buy some fruit from here.
For the first part of our trip we are with a group from Colorado State University.  My husband just graduated with his MBA from there and since their summer class trip was to Tokyo and Beijing we thought this was a great time to join in.  They booked us at the Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku.  We haven't stayed in this area before so it was nice to have a new neighborhood to explore.  When we checked in they gave us a room with two beds and then had nothing else for we upgraded.  Our new room absolutely rocked!
It had a great little sitting area.
And the view was amazing!  I could get very used to this.
After we washed up a little we headed out so we wouldn't be late for the theater.  Our evening plan was to check out Kabuki, which is a traditional Japanese theater style.  First up was lunch.
The specialty here was a rice bowl with egg and some sort of topping.  I went with a shrimp cutlet and Ryan just had plain eggs.  It also came with miso soup.
Here is a close up.  You can see the egg is not entirely cooked, which I find is not uncommon in Japan.  I happen to like it that way, but I know some people don't.
I don't know why you can always find the most amazing looking treats in train stations in Japan, but you can.
We each got one mini cupcake.  I went with red velvet.
Next up was the Kabuki performance.  You can't take pictures while they are performing, but you can take pictures outside.  This is the theater.
We were up in the balcony, which I think made it easier to see.  They provide English translation headsets which provides the translation and some back story.  It also gave some helpful information on Kabuki in general.  I am definitely glad we went.  It was really good.  We saw 3 plays.  One was a single act.  The second had 3 acts.  The last had a few scenes and was a little longer than the first.
At one of the breaks between plays we tried out the taiyaki (fish shaped pancake).  This was filled with the traditional red bean paste but also had some mochi (Japanese rice cake) inside.
Here is the theater at night.
The show finished a little on the later side so it wasn't too easy to find a good spot for dinner.  When in doubt, go with a beer hall!
I couldn't resist the soft pretzel.
I also had a crab salad.
Ryan had potatoes with sausages.
Later that night we stumbled upon another fruit vending machine.  Yes, we bought fruit from this one too.  This was apples, apples with honey, and apples with caramel sauce.
Then we headed back to the room and made sure to get some rest before the next day.  At least we had a nice Keurig machine to get us started in the morning.
Of course there was also the lovely breakfast buffet at the hotel.  They had both American and Japanese breakfast foods.

Lots of good fruit.  That was probably my favorite part.  I love kiwi so I took advantage of this.

Lots of different breads.
Grilled fish, which is traditional in Japan for breakfast.
Other Japanese foods, including seaweed at the far right.

I had some yogurt with apricots.
And then I also tried all of this.  That's right, I had the grilled salmon for breakfast.
I also gave the rice porridge a try but it was a tad too salty for me.
This is the Cocoon building, which was very close to our hotel. 
We walked around Shinjuku for a bit and then decided on frozen yogurt for lunch.  We can't get fro yo where we live and we love it.  Menchie's happens to be a chain from the US.  We did our research before our trip and discovered this was the closest location.
Here is our "lunch".
Then we headed across town, stopping off at a random shrine along the way.

Our next stop was at the Sumo stadium.  Sumo tournaments take place 6 times a year and 3 of those times are in Tokyo.  We got lucky this time.  They run for 15 days.  The first 12 days are regular days and then it moves into the finals.  We went on day 10.
We had amazing timing.  As we walked up to the stadium we literally walked into the "red carpet".  The middle (or maybe upper) division sumo wrestlers were just arriving.  I am not sure how we ended up on the other side of the barriers, but we did, and we got very close to these guys.
The outside had some nice Sumo murals.
Inside were some fun cut outs.
Then we headed to find our seats.  As it turned out we had very good seats.  Each person we asked to help us find our seats got excited when they saw our tickets and said that those were very good seats.  I was quickly able to see why.  The referee was facing us and we were on a corner so we could see everything that was going on.
They take some timing getting ready before they actually fight.  They squat and stare at each other and then break away and go dry off their faces or grab salt and toss it into the ring.  I don't entirely understand everything about the sport but it was very cool to watch.

After we watched this first match we headed out to the restaurant inside the stadium.  I had tamgoyaki (the Japanese omelet) and udon soup with a side of sashimi and rice.
Then we headed back into the area to watch the rest of the middle division and then on to the upper division.

They are definitely big guys.  It was very impressive to watch.  The higher the division the more intense the wrestling became.  The matches lasted longer.  They lose by either falling down (or touching the ground) or by stepping out of the ring.  You can see here that he is very close.
Some how he managed to stay in and they continued their fight.
But here is where he lost his footing and then goes out of the ring.

This is the entrance of the upper division Sumo wrestlers.

I am not sure the significance of this but a few guys came out and did a little show.  I think they were demonstrating some kind of skill.

Then this guy came out and did the same thing.
Doing a Sumo squat
Then he wiggles his way across those two lines from a squat to a standing position.
Some more guys getting ready to wrestle.

This is my favorite picture of all.  The guy with his back to the camera can lift his leg impressively high.  They all lifted their legs to do a Sumo squat, but this guy was able to lift his leg a lot higher than the rest.  I was seriously impressed!

We had a great time at Sumo.  I am so glad we had the chance to see this while in Tokyo.  After Sumo we headed to find some dinner.  We ended up with an Italian place that had one of the longest waits for a table that I have experienced in Japan.
I had smoked salmon.
I also had tomatoes and mozzarella.
And I also ordered the garlic bread (to eat with my salmon).
As we got back to the hotel the rest of our group was just arriving from the States (and some from Canada).  Then we headed off to bed because the next day was day 1 of our travels with Ryan's school.  Plus, that was also a day filled with sightseeing in Tokyo.

QUESTIONS:  Have you ever studied abroad or did an international or educational class traveling with a group?  Have you ever watched Sumo wrestling?  Have you ever seen a kabuki performance?

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