Day 8 – Tuesday, October 18, 2022 - Former Sumo Wrestler; Pachinko Parlor; Bonsai Gardens
This morning was the first that we were able to sleep as we have been waking up at 3:30 – crazy biological clocks! We did get up at 6:00 and I washed a load of clothes. The hotel has free washers (tiny, but free) and very reasonable dryers.
Ken invited us to go for an early morning hike around the neighborhood at 7:00. It was cool and cloudy but not raining. Our quest was an amusement park, with a huge roller coaster. Of course, it was closed this early, but Ken promised we could come back tonight. We also walked to the Tokyo Baseball Dome, home of the Yomiuri Giants.
We had a very nice buffet style breakfast with omelets, breads, fruit, and a whole array of Japanese veggies and meats. At 9:30 we boarded the bus for a short ride to the sumo stable where we met Koto Ohtori, a retired wrestler.
Koto explained the warm up rituals, and the importance of strength and balance in this 2000-year-old sport. He was very generous in answering questions about his sport and the rigors of training and preparation for each match. Covid completely shut down the sport for more than two years as it is a close contact event, with crowded areas.
After thanking Koto, we walked to another restaurant serving a chicken and vegetable hot pot. We had forgotten that with any OAT trip, the meals are frequent and plentiful. We reminded ourselves to ask for one meal to share from now on.
Ken treated us to another walk around the busy streets even stopping at a Pachinko Parlor. Pachinko is a collection of video type pinball machines and slot machines. Ken gave us a demonstration of the art of this sport brought to Japan by the Korean community after the war.
Even though there was a glassed off smoking room, the parlor was noisy and smoky so we did not linger. There are stories of the dark history after the war of Koreans not being able to get jobs so they established these gaming places that became very popular with the Japanese. Now, the owners are being investigated for money laundering and connections with the mob.
Our trip to the Shunkaen Bonsai Garden was delightful. Rafael, our guide was originally from Poland but got interested in Bonsai and is studying here under the Bonsai Master, Kunio Kobayashi. The oldest tree in the garden is 1100 years old and the most expensive is over one million dollars.
Rafael described the art of trimming and pruning these trees. There are hundreds of different varieties of trees in the garden from conifer, pine, maple, and azaleas. Most of the larger ones on display are hundreds of years old, but we also saw some young starter trees that were being groomed.
We gathered at 5:45 for our walk to dinner. Tokyo is an easy walking city. The sidewalks are wide, but also used by bicycles so one has to be watchful. We have found Japan to be very clean, no litter, and very safe. Little children walk alone or in small groups to school and we have seen minimal police presence.
Accommodations: Dormy Inn Korakuen Hotel -- Meals included: B, L, & D
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Sounds like a fun day! Great pictures as always, thanks for sharing your adventures.
You look great with the Sumo wrestler! I had my picture taken between two men that were bigger than your wrestler and I felt and looked VERY small! Their training is really something! I didn't get to see a pachinko parlor, but read a book called Pachinko. Enjoy!
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I would love to see the Bonsai Garden!
Day 13 - Saturday, April 22, 2022 - Depart for U.S.
The hotel prepared a box breakfast for us as we had to be in the lobby way before the breakfast room was open.
Last night we found out that our departure flight back to...