My seventh trip to Tokyo
I arrived at the Narita Airport in Chiba, Japan on June 21, 2016 for my seventh trip to Japan. This was my first return to Japan since 2013 as I had taken the last two years off due to just not having the mind set to go with how expensive flights have gotten and how overwhelming a trip like this can be. This trip also consisted of a lot of things close together that I really wanted to be a part of that the last two years did not have. Because of the length of this trip I made sure the two promotions I cover the most which are Super Battle FMW and FREEDOMS would be the first and last nights of the trip since they were spread out by 9 days. My flight was delayed an hour going to Japan so that resulted in me having to take a Bullet Train and Subway instead of the bus to save time for an exhausting start carrying all my luggage from the subway station up stairs before heading to my hotel. I checked in and got ready to head out to Korakuen Hall for the Super Battle FMW show.
Super Battle FMW at Korakuen Hall & Giving a Present to Ray on June 21, 2016
I arrived at Korakuen Hall on June 21, 2016 for Super Battle FMW. I had ordered a 130 dollar ticket weeks ago which was supposed to be a One Day Special ticket due to how pricey the ticket was. When I received my ticket I noticed that the One Day Special marking had been blacked out and the seat that I received was just the first row of the orange seats at Korakuen Hall and for that price to not even get a floor seat came off as a huge rip off as I have had sat in those seats before for 50 dollars after buying the ticket the night of the show before.
I first found Ray sitting at the merchandise tables as I presented her with a picture frame that I had made for her. She initially seemed confused by it as I believe she thought I was just showing it to her before I gave it to her. She thanked me but still seemed confused by it. I then gave her 100 dollars donation money for her brain cancer treatment. She then became very friendly after that and then asked me to take a picture with her with the picture frame I made for her.
This show stood out as I saw many friends and Facebook friends that I had made over the years while in Japan. I knew about 10 people that were there live including Hayabusa’s band mates Fumi Taguchi and Sana Sakura who I had met at Hayabusa’s concert in 2012. Sana asked for me to take a picture with her and Fumi while they were setting up the barbed wire for the show. Sana then posted the picture on Facebook stating that even though we do not speak the same language we share a special connection with Hayabusa together.
Super Battle FMW 6/21/16 Main Event & Atsushi Onita's mother watching on
The main event of this show was what made it special. Although I was disappointed by the seats I also happen to sit right next to Atsushi Onita’s mother during the show. She was accompanied by a woman who I asked to confirm that she was indeed Onita’s mother as I had previously seen ads for her restaurant in Tokyo three years earlier. Onita’s mother looked in awe and covered her mouth throughout the entire match as she watched her son get thrown in to the barbed wire.
After the match, as is FMW tradition all the fans ran to the ring to slap the mat and I headed up to it as well while Onita did his promo. This was one of the main highlights of the trip being right there next to Onita who is splashing me with water while I was able to take up close pictures and videos. Onita was amazing here and just kept going for over 15 minutes with his chanting and screaming and the crowd was eating it up every moment as the electricity was just incredible in the building that night.
Meeting Atsushi Onita as well as Hideki Hosaka on June 21, 2016
The night was not over as I headed over to the FMW After Party following the show at the Tokyo Dome City Hall. I was one of the first people there as it was held in a very high scale French Tomato restaurant. Ray was the first wrestler to make it to the party and she sat right next to me. Two fans knowing I must be a hardcore fan to be attending this event came up to me and asked for me to get Ray to sign an autograph for me which she did thanking me for coming to Japan. Many fans then began coming over to her to talk and get autographs of her. One fan came over and held her hand and prayed with her while one fan came over and gave her a shoulder massage. More fans kept coming in until the place was incredibly full and difficult to walk in. I noticed that Hideki Hosaka had made his way into the building covered in a bandages due to breaking his jaw the before in a match against Yusaku Obata in ZERO1. I got a picture of Hosaka and he signed an old FMW 1997 program I had with me. One female fan there noticed the program and began looking at it right around the time the place started buzzing at Atsushi Onita had arrived. He began taking pictures with fans and the woman looking at my program then went over to him while he was the middle of signing something for someone else which he had to tell her hold on before she handed him my program to sign for me. She then noticed the camera around my neck and had me give it to her as she had way more confidence around Onita than I ever would and asked for him to pose for a picture with me. Onita grabbed my head to pose for a picture and it was hard too not smile big with the way he grabs you for a picture. I thanked Onita and told him I came all the way from America for the show which Onita responded "I know." Onita ended up leaving just a couple of minutes after that as he did not stay long. The party was almost over by that point anyway and I headed out as due to the interaction with Onita was one of the most memorable nights I had in Japan.
Champions and all their American Wrestling Clothes
Funk Brothers and Stan Hansen & Bruiser Brody along with Tiger Jeet Singh shirts at Champions
The next day June 22nd was going to be a lighter day due to my first night after a long flight being so time consuming. I headed over to Champion and ended up picking up the Hayabusa in All Japan DVD that had been released that day and was Champions only copy. I took pictures of all their wrestling items as it was apparent that WWE and New Japan were their best selling items considering they consisted of most of the store. Champion use to have a large variety of rental tapes of every promotion. They have considerably reduced their rental videos to mostly just New Japan and sold off all other old videos to stores like Toudoukan to sell off to fans. Battle Royal which was always next door to Champion had closed down although the sign still remained there for the building. It did not come as a surprise as my last trip in 2013 they began to include movies and TV merchandise on top of the wrestling items for sale. I never really got too much from Battle Royal but the items they sold always made for good pictures for my trip reviews.
New Japan Store in Suidobashi
I then went over to the New Japan store which again makes for good pictures but due to me never having been too much of a fan of New Japan and how expensive everything is in the store I have never really bought anything other than a magazine or two.
Toudoukan's new location in Suidobashi
I then went over to Toudoukan which had moved back in November 2013 so this was the first time going into their new location for me. I picked up the Hayabusa card that was given away to fans on April 27th at Korakuen for Hayabusa’s Memorial Ceremony as well as well as several magazines. Toudoukan is always the best place to pick up merchandise as I have spent thousands of dollars there over the years but I am not a fan of the new building. I am sure it is bigger, but it actually looks smaller than the original building which covered two stories.
KUSHI-ZARU's Masato Kawamura & I holding his picture of Hayabusa on June 22, 2016
I headed out that night to Kamata, Tokyo for KUSHI-ZARU a Yakitori Restaurant which I attended my last Hayabusa concert at in 2013. Masato Kawamura who runs the restaurant greeted me with a long time, no see. Kawamura who speaks decent English having lived in New Zealand for a while was the man that found Hayabusa’s body and called 911 the early morning of March 4, 2016. Kawamura remembered me from three years ago and placed a framed picture of Hayabusa right at where I was sitting as well as gave me a card that Hayabusa had written that translates to never give up. I spoke with Kawamura a little bit about the night he found Hayabusa although there was much not much detail to add that I did not cover on my Hayabusa Biography about the night he found him. Kawamura stated he knew he was dead right away because of the blood but he just looked like he was asleep with his eyes closed which is the same comment that people that saw his body at the funeral when they showed his body one last time made. He then showed me all his Hayabusa memorabilia in the restaurant including a worn mask as well as the bronze statue made of him. The Yakitori was really good and I spoke with a woman there that spoke really good English due to having lived in Canada for a while who lived in the area who knew Hayabusa because he had come into her mother’s restaurant before but did not know he was a wrestler or knew anything about wrestling including that The Rock was a wrestler before being a movie star. I asked to take a picture with Kawamura before I left but he insisted that we take a picture together with the Hayabusa framed photo.
Hanging out at Ricky Fuji's Gym in Chiba on June 23, 2016
The next day on June 23rd I headed out to return to Ricky Fuji’s Gym in Chiba. I always end up enjoying talking for Ricky as his English is easy to communicate with. Before the trip I created a picture book for Ricky with about 20 pages that included of both him and Hayabusa. I also made a similar book for Mr. Gannosuke with Hayabusa. Ricky thanked me for the present as he enjoyed looking at some of the old photos of him with Hayabusa. He ended up posting about it on his Blog his day that can be found at http://blog.livedoor.jp/sexystorm/archives/52159348.html
I asked Ricky about the Barbed wire main event match he had two days earlier. He had worn a knee pad but still ended up cutting his knee really bad when getting thrown over the barbed wire. He stated it was Onita’s call to move him up into the main event match after Hosaka could not compete due to his broken jaw. He told me that even though barbed wire matches can hurt a lot they are much easier than regular matches as you are not going to get blown up running the ropes. I spoke with about the possible return to the ring of Megumi Kudo. He stated that wrestling is like a drug and all wrestlers think they can give it up but end up missing it and coming back. He used Mr. Gannosuke as an example as Gannosuke was very passionate that he would never come out of retirement as he was not like Onita and now look at him. Ricky stated that is why he would never retire for that reason because he knew he would just come back. We talked some about Hayabusa. He believes he stayed in touch with him longer than anyone (considering that Gannosuke and him did not talk from 95-97) since he worked with him so many times in the early 90’s and would continue to attend concerts with him up until the end. Ricky stated he believes that his alcohol consumption and not being able to move very much resulted in his passing. Ricky mentioned at the Underground promotion that he worked following Hayabusa’s passing that he began singing a Hayabusa song at the end of the show and he does not know what happen but the emotion became too much for him and he screamed out Hayabusa’s name and began balling in the ring. We talked about the early days of Ricky and Hayabusa’s friendship and how Hayabusa use to like taking off his clothes and just begin streaking to relief stress. We talked about how Mr. Gannosuke randomly did it in 1992 in Los Angeles by himself in a hotel elevator and then the elevator ended up getting stuck and Gannosuke just remained nude in the elevator for hours before it finally began working again. We talked about Ricky’s time in the states and how in 1992 when FMW went to Los Angeles he shared a hotel room with Hayabusa in the ghetto and how they heard gun shots outside their room that night. Ricky also mentioned how he got left when the entire roster went to Universal Studios and no one had informed him of it so when he came out of his room he noticed everyone was gone and did not find out where they were until they all came back. We talked about how the FMW wrestlers gathered together in August 1998 to tell Onita that he would have to leave FMW. Ricky stated he did that because he was on Hayabusa's side of being the top guy in the promotion but now here he is working for Onita all the time.
Ricky then talked about his first time coming to the states was in 1984 when he went to Tampa. He had just left the New Japan Dojo as he decided he did not want to be a professional wrestler anymore but he wanted to be a shoot fighter UWF style wrestler. He said he found out that a shoot fight wrestler (he mentioned the name but I did not pick up who it as) lived in Tampa so he went there to go train at 19. He just figured that everyone would know who this trainer was once he arrived in Florida. He found out the hard way that no one knew he was. He ended up trying to get directions to the school from a taxi driver but without any information he was out of luck. That taxi driver though knew another taxi driver that was friends with Pat Tanaka’s dad though who let Ricky stay with him while he was in Tampa. While he stayed at Pat Tanaka’s dad’s place he ended up going to Florida Championship Wrestling shows which I believe he said Tanaka’s dad worked for the office there and that is where he saw Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair, Billy Graham, and Blackjack Mulligan which made him decide he wanted to be a professional wrestler again. We talked about how he enjoys working for Kaientai Dojo because all the wrestlers respect him so much and due to his age and experience and are all regulars at his gym and even his boss TAKA Michinoku talks up to him because of his seniority.
We went through some magazines that I brought that included pictures of his match from September 5, 1995 with Ricky teaming up with Hisakatsu Oya as they lost the FMW Brass Knuckles Tag Team Titles to Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Daisuke Ikeda and there is a picture of Ikeda delivering a kick to Ricky’s face which Ricky screamed out "that’s the kick that screwed up my jaw!" which Ricky then opened his mouth and showed that he cannot properly open his mouth fully as a result of a kick from 21 years ago. He also showed me a scar on his arm and the video on his phone of him taking the Odaibo explosion from earlier in the month. Ricky ended up having to head out soon after so I got a picture of him next to a FMW poster and headed back out to Tokyo. I know people like to criticize his wrestling but Ricky is really a great guy to hang out and talk with. One of the friendliest wrestlers I have ever met while in Japan and have no ego.
Tower Records in Shibuya to pick up Hayabusa CD on June 23, 2016
That night I went out to Shibuya, Tokyo over to Tower Records to purchase the last Hayabusa CD. I stayed on the first level where I found New Japan merchandise being sold there but could not find any Hayabusa CD even though the New Releases were on the first floor and the CD had just came out the previous week. I went to the information desk and had me write down the CD information. She checked the computer and said they were out of stock. I walked out of the store feeling like it was a waste of time but decided to go back and try the other information desk and this time showed another woman a picture of the CD. She looked it up and told me they had it and had someone come from another floor to bring it to me so I was able to purchase it thankfully.
The next day on June 24th was the first of two days of really going out and adventuring. I headed over to Kasukabe, Saitama to the LaLa Garden Mall which I had previously been to in 2011. I went to the Shin-Chan store once again for the first time in 5 years as the store inside had completely changed since I was last there and picked up some merchandise there.
Shoichi Arai's Grave in Saitama on June 24, 2016
Then I headed out to Kawaguchi, Saitama to visit Shoichi Arai’s grave. This was probably the most nervous I have been traveling while in Japan because I would have to find the right bus to take me the right way about 30 minutes outside of the subway station with no Japanese speaking ability. I ended up finding a cop that helped me find the right bus and got confirmation from the bus driver that he was going the correct route. He then knew where I needed to get off and motioned that this was my stop. I walked around a little bit not knowing where really to go from there so I asked someone where the Kawaguchi Memorial Garden was and he pointed that I was right in front of it. There was a building behind it were hundreds and hundreds of graves. Someone leaving looked at me really weird on why was there an American going into a grave yard in Saitama. Finding the grave was the next challenge. I knew what it looked like but had no idea in the grave actually was. I started in the back and began looking through each one with no luck for about thirty minutes. It was also very ominous seeing all the graves to just complete silence except hearing a Raven while I searched. I decided to start from the beginning instead and luckily it only took two minutes before finding his FMW marked grave. I also noticed a picture left by Ken Suzuki (who gave me the directions on how to find it) who is a commentator for Samurai TV and NicoNico from around 1996 with Shoichi Arai, Ken Suzuki, Hayabusa, Combat Toyoda, and Megumi Kudo among others left at his grave which was the only picture left at anyone’s grave. I paid my respects to Shoichi Arai and took some pictures before heading back on the bus. I ended up messing up heading back and getting off the bus early and ended up having to walk about an extra mile to the subway station which meant by the time I was back at my hotel I was done for the day as my original plan of going to Ribera’s that night was postponed for sleeping and resting instead. Coincidentally enough Shoichi Arai’s daughter Rika contacted me for the first time since May 16th (which another coincidence was the 14 year anniversary of her father passing) while I was at the grave site and showed her some of the pictures and she thanked me for paying respect to her father.
Shiraito Falls and Mount Fuji in Shizouka on June 25, 2016
I knew that I would have to do my big adventures early on since there were no wrestling shows I would be attending from June 21st to June 26th and I would not feel the effects of the lack of sleep yet. June 25th consisted of my biggest journey in Japan as I would travel out to Shizuoka to see Shiraito Falls which are beautiful waterfalls next to Mount Fuji. The Summer is the best time to see these falls as the water coming down are from the melted ice caps of Mount Fuji. I had to take several different subway trains and a Bullet Train before reaching the Fujinomiya Station where I then had to get on another bus for 30 minutes before being dropped off which in total took over 4 hours from start to finally getting there. My issue was though that the next bus was coming in 35 minutes and there was not another bus coming for another 90 minutes after that. So I completely rushed through everything. I saw the waterfall and took a couple of pictures and made it back there in 35 minutes but did not know where the bus was actually supposed to pick me up at so I ended up missing the first bus which ended up being a blessing as I really got to just sit and take pictures and really enjoy the Waterfall as a result. This was one of my favorite things I have experienced in Japan. The outside temperature mixed with the cool mist of the water was an amazing feeling. There were little mini waterfalls on the sides that you probably weren’t supposed to go towards but when I saw a couple over that region anyway I hopped over some rocks and let the water pour on my head. I got someone to take a picture of me right the falls in one of my favorite pictures of the trip taken. I also got to take pictures of the Otodome Waterfall which is more of a classic waterfall just a little ways away. You also can see a clear shot of Mount Fuji from there as well. This really ended up being my favorite thing that I have ever done in Japan and I am so glad I got to really enjoy it instead of rush through like I originally was. I was able to finally find the correct bus stop that would bring me back to the Fujinomiya Station and it took another 4 hours to head back but completely worth it.
Apple Miyuki at Stanley Club in Shinjuku on June 25, 2016
Exhausted from all the traveling I still needed to head out to Stanley Cub in Shinjuku, Tokyo that night. Even though in previous years I had gone to Stanley Cup multiple times a trip this time I only went once. There were not really any wrestlers booked that excited me during this trip. Even though a couple of years ago I could have found the place with my eyes closed this place was really the only place I really lost track of where it was due to not going to it for years. I took some wrong turns which resulted in me dealing with the usual Nigerians on the street trying to get you into their club which this time I just ignored them and walked away instead of even bother to interact with them. I finally found Stanley Club and headed up with Apple Miyuki as the guest bar tender that night. Miyuki who lives in Okinawa was in Tokyo for just these two days due to her running an Apple Star show the next day at Shin-Kiba. I ended up purchasing a ticket from her. I interacted with her the best I could and she tried her best as well without knowing much English. She told me that she tried to join the FMW Dojo in 2001 but was not allowed in as they had stopped training women by that point. She then got in contact with TAKA Michinoku and began training in Puerto Rico before getting her start with the Kaientai Dojo promotion in 2002. The two people sitting next to me were both heavy smokers and because of my late start getting there because of my long day that day and the subway closing soon I ended up heading out after about 30 minutes. I asked Naoshi Sano if a DVD of his Ryogoku Sumo Hall show last year was ever made and he told me that it was not. I headed back to the subway and again got a little lost again after going a different way trying to avoid Nigerians. I still dealt with about 10 different ones offering me girls to have sex with me at their club or give me sex massages before I finally found the subway and made the second to last train out of there.
DDT at Korakuen Hall on June 26, 2016
I would go to church on Sunday, June 26th and then head out back to Korakuen Hall for DDT. I have not followed DDT that closely in the last couple of years. I enjoy it but it is not something I have time to really follow that closely as it is a completely different world than what I am cover. I ended up buying standing room only tickets for 30 dollars which if you can deal with standing up the entire show make for great overhead pictures as you do not have the ropes or turnbuckles blocking your view. The show was built around the semi-finals and finals of the King of DDT Tournament with Tetsuya Endo upsetting HARASHIMA and Shuji Ishikawa defeating his former tag partner Shigehiro Irie to eventually defeat Endo and win the King of DDT 2016 Tournament and earn himself a shot at the KO-D Title at Ryogoku Sumo Hall in August.
Mr. Gannosuke & Kintaro Kanemura reunite and TNR Dance
Mr. Gannosuke & Kintaro Kanemura on June 26, 2016 in Shin-Kiba
After the show, I had a little time to rest before having to head out to the Apple Star show the night of June 26th. This was a loaded show. The first thirty minutes was a death metal concert with the stage near the ramp being used for the instruments. That stage could have been used for more seats as they did not expect as many people as there ended up being. 257 fans bought tickets for the show and the first part of the show probably 100 people were standing up because there were not enough seats. They eventually ended up bringing out more chairs to allow most people to sit. This was a loaded show as there was an announced 11 matches. It was like an Japanese Independent Summit show with all the wrestlers from different promotions. I ended up seeing Mr. Gannosuke before the show and presented him with the picture book of him and Hayabusa that I made for him. He originally told me he did not want anything when I told him I had a present for him but once he saw it he shook my hand and thanked me before taking a picture of him. I went back to my seat and saw him and Guts Ishijima looking through the book. Gannosuke afterwards thanked me on Twitter and said he enjoyed the book.
Although it was just the semi-main event of the show it was the main reason I attended the show and that was to see Mr. Gannosuke, Koji Nakagawa, and Onryo take on Kintaro Kanemura, Tetsuhiro Kuroda, and Masao Orihara. My friend Shihomi who is a huge FMW fan brought me to streamers to throw in to the ring when Kanemura and Gannosuke were introduced which would be the first time I would get to do this. Gannosuke and Kanemura would start fighting right as Gannosuke would be introduced as they would begin brawling in the crowd. Kuroda would pair up with Nakagawa and Onryo would pair up with Orihara for most of the match. Kuroda would end up eventually putting away Nakagawa with a Lariat and afterwards Kanemura would get on the mic and ask Gannosuke to dance. Gannosuke would get right up to Kanemura like they were about to have a face to face confrontation when the two would then kiss. All six would then begin doing the TNR Dance and they would all begin shaking hands when Gannosuke would say something to Orihara who would push him and have to be held back as Gannosuke and Orihara are rivals in Guts World. The video can be found at https://youtu.be/LHtuTPd6kps
The show overall was over 4 hours and the main event was KENSO against someone I just read his name the night before writing this up and I still do not remember it as I had never seen the name before so I walked out of Shin-Kiba and hung out outside the building. Watching Jaguar Yokota wipe her car windshields was more interesting anyway. After that main event, there was another promotion if the fans wanted to stay and watch that. I could only see that brother YASSHI was competing in the ring. Wrestlers started emptying out around this time period. I got Kuroda, Nakagawa, and Kanemura to sign my old FMW program. I asked Kanemura for a picture and afterwards he asks me "do you like me?" which I told him I did. Kanemura then saw Jun Kasai leaving which stood out. Kasai hated Kanemura following Kanemura’s sexual harassment scandal in 2008 as he was friends with the woman in Big Japan. Kasai refused to be a part of any show with Kanemura (he did not know about Kanemura randomly showing up at an Apache Army show with him in May 2009 and was pissed afterwards when he was) and this was the first show that they were both on since then as Kasai was walking out when Kanemura called out "Kasai!" and went over to him and shook his hand and pulled him towards him to give him a side hug. Kasai gave him a "yeah, yeah" hug back before walking off. There was no real reason to hang around any longer so I headed back to the hotel for the night.
Tokyo Sky Tree in Sumida on June 27, 2016
The next day of June 27th I went over to Sumida, Tokyo to the Tokyo Sky Tree which is the largest tower in the world. The line was about an hour to get a ticket and then you would go up 350 floors. I paid the extra 10 dollars afterwards and went up to the 450th floor. You could see both the Tokyo Dome as well as Ryogoku Sumo Hall from the high up view as well as tons of buildings, rivers and parks that made up for great pictures of Tokyo.
New Japan at Korakuen Hall on June 27, 2016
I attended the New Japan show at Korakuen Hall on June 27th. I had not been to a New Japan since January 4, 2008 at the Tokyo Dome so it was interesting to see wrestlers live like Kazuchika Okada, BUSHI, and Tetsuya Naito for the first time live. This show aired live on New Japan World and the big sale of it was the announcement for the G1 participants with Tanahashi vs. Okada at Ryogoku Sumo Hall on August 13th getting the biggest pop. One of the low parts of the show was sitting next on the same row as an American fan wearing a Booty O’s shirt that apparently came to Japan to try and get himself over. He would try to do chants and cat call the wrestlers. He was insufferable after a while and knew nothing about how to behave in Japan.
Later that night I went out to a bar in Shinjuku called the 8 Bit Café. It is a small little retro Nintendo Bar where you pay for drinks with old Nintendo game names about every hour and play video games. I really like the idea but the execution of this place could be improved as there was a definite lack of games to actually play there. There was a Super Nintendo to play a couple of games with the only American game being Super Mario All Stars. They had an table that was an arcade game and a huge game boy arcade game that played a Japanese puzzle game. There were a couple of game boys you could play the original Super Mario Bros. and Pac Man on. There were tons of retro items used for design of the place as well which I liked. There was a couple that only lived about an hour away from me that I talked with for a little while but once they headed out there only one guy who was from Holland there so I did not stick around much longer. It is a good place to visit once but from my experience it is not something that I would go back to for regular visits unless they included more games to play.
Having dinner with Ryuji Ito in Yokohama on June 28, 2016
I was asked by my friend Emu who helped me translate the Shoichi Arai FMW autobiography book two years ago to visit her mother’s "M" restaurant in Yokohama on June 28th. She tried to get Ryuji Ito and his wife Lee Nikkan who I spoke with a couple of years ago and was really friendly to attend with me but Lee was stressed from her current job as she has a full time job and is a part time referee after leaving Big Japan full time last December. Ito agreed to visit though. Emu’s mother picked me up right from subway station and walked me to her restaurant. Her restaurant is homage to FMW foreigners and Big Japan. Emu’s mother has been a fan since the 80’s and became friends with The Gladiator, Super Leather, and Horace Boulder. She has also been friends with Ito since he was young, Abdullah Kobayashi, and Daisuke Sekimoto. She gave me a ton of presents right away including some old FMW programs, tons of Weekly Pro magazines, and a Kintaro Kanemura figure. It was a little difficult to interact with an older woman who knew no English when I knew no Japanese but we got by communicating through pictures and pointing before Emu called her mother. I got to speak with Emu on the phone as she thanked me for coming and asked me about my trip. She told me that she spoke with Kanemura who she is friends with and that he plans on becoming a bouncer in Roppongi after retiring. Ito ended up showing up and I ended up having dinner with him. I tried my best with the language barrier as Ito told me his favorite match was against Kankuro Hoshino in June 2011 which I actually saw live 5 years ago. We talked about the Zandig spot from this year where Zandig sent through Joey Janela through a table stacked up by light tubes on fire on top of a truck from a roof. Ito also had a noticeable huge scar across his neck like he had been cut which he stated was not from a death match. I was given a huge dinner of noodles and steak and even though I could not really talk much with anyone did end up having a great time that night. I also asked about him Yoshihito Sasaki's status which he stated that Sasaki was now retired after injuring his knee in 2013. I ended up stuffed from the dinner and took the hour train ride back to Tokyo which due to my lack of sleep at this point was not a good mix as I ended up falling asleep after about 30 minutes on the subway for about an hour as I woke up finally I had missed my stop by 30 minutes and had to get on the subway heading the other way to finally make it back to my hotel as I was just exhausted from everything at this point.
I started the day on June 29th going to the Yushukan which is a Museum dedicated to all the wars Japan has fought in and is located in the Yasukuni Shrine in Chiyoda, Tokyo. No pictures were allowed once you actually enter into the museum on the second floor so I had to sneak in a couple of pictures from this. This was interesting as it covered a lot of the Japan and China wars from decades ago and ended with World War 2 which had a Japan biased to it but it was not as bad as I heard. It did state that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor because America was talking about involving itself in the war. It did not cover anything about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki although I guess this was more of a tribute to the people lost in the war and not the bombings as there are museums in Hiroshima and Nagasaki dedicated to those bombings. The last couple of rooms ended up being pictures of thousands of Japanese military that died in the war. It was an interesting visit.
Big Japan at Korakuen Hall on June 29, 2016 & Jaki Numazawa
Death Match Main Event at Big Japan on June 29, 2016
I went to the Big Japan show that night. The American fan was back and was insufferable again for the first half of the show. He would scream "You fat fuck!" at Ryota Hama and called one of the wrestlers a twat. He at least was farther away from me so I could not hear everything he was screaming at least but the Brahman Brothers did end up asking if he was a terrorist during their match which got everyone laughing. He at least behaved the second half of the show and that was the last I had to deal with him. They announced the Ryogoku Sumo Hall lineup at the show with The Great Sasuke’s name getting a huge pop. The Strong Style Match was good but 30 minutes felt like forever during this match. The Fluorescent Light Tube Thumbtack Glass Board Death Main Event was entertaining as well as Yuko Miyamoto and Abdullah Kobayashi brawled all into the crowd even after the match was over.
Before the show started I saw Ken Suzuki standing in the Korakuen Hall lobby. I went up to him and thanked him for the directions to Arai’s grave and showed him some of the pictures I took including the group picture he left there by the grave. We shook hands and I thanked him again before going to my seat. He sent out a tweet that night regarding it
There was a person from a foreign country that contacted me on Facebook stating "I want to go to see Shoichi Arai’s grave once I go to Japan. At Big Japan’s Korakuen Hall show today he came up to me. He also thanked me many times. "I was able to see Arai’s grave. Thank you." There are people who think Arai is great also beyond the sea. #fmw
Ribera's Steakhouse in Meguro on June 29, 2016
I went to Ribera’s after the show in Meguro that night as it was the first time I was going to that Ribera’s that most people attend since my first trip in 2008. I had gone to the smaller Ribera’s in Gotanda back in 2013 although I enjoyed that one better as it was easier to take pictures of the wrestler pictures on the walls. I also had to take a taxi to make it to this one as its farther away from the station that the smaller one.
My final full day in Japan on June 30th I headed back to Shinjuku and went shopping at Don Quixote which is similar to a Target in America as it pretty much has everything for sale there. I was able to pick up souvenirs for friends there. I also took some pictures of the famous Godzilla that stands above a hotel in Shinjuku. Even though it was early in the morning I still got asked to go to sex massage shops although at least by lesser aggressive Japanese men instead of the Nigerians.
Kamui & Daisuke Masaoka for FREEDOMS on June 30, 2016 in Shin-Kiba
I headed over to FREEDOMS for the last night. This was a standard show. Dragon Libre who has a knee injury was selling alcohol for 4 dollars a bottle the entire show. Kenichiro Arai and Toru Sugiura had the most entertaining sequence as Arai grabbed Sugiura’s wife who is the ring announcer and tried to bring her backstage with him. Sugiura chased after him and it resulted in Arai locking Sugiura backstage. Sugiura would then come back out through the main entrance which Arai was waiting for him and used the ropes to crotch Sugiura as he entered the ring and then rolled him up for three. I asked Kamui at the end of the show if he would be returning any time soon and he stated he would be out for several more months.
I left Shin-Kiba and headed to Shibuya. I visited DJ Namijin’s Head Rock Café for my last night. Hayabusa regularly did shows at the Head Rock and that was one of my most fun nights ever in Japan was my first Hayabusa concert there back in 2012. It took a while to find the place as the place had moved since I was there. I spoke with Namijin for a little while but by that time I was so low on energy and sleep I could only stay for 30 minutes so after we toasted to Hayabusa I headed back.
This trip was probably my favorite trip out of the seven. From getting splashed with water by Onita while pounding the ring and meeting him later the night, finding Arai’s grave, seeing Mount Fuji and Shiraito Falls, and then seeing the Gannosuke and Kanemura interaction in the ring for possibly the last time. I was constantly doing something and I could not have had a better trip than this year. It is always overwhelming and expensive and I don’t really know how else I can top a trip like this again. But if there is a next time whether it is next year or a couple of years from now this trip will now be the standard that I will attempt to reach.
Click here for more pictures from the trip
Click here for the 2013 Japan Diary
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Click here for the 2008 Japan Diary