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Pilgrimage to Sasuke

Hubby and I at our hotel on Odaiba Island ©Arsenette 2015

In May, 2015 I was blessed to have been flown to Japan.  I had the super rare opportunity to see the taping of my favorite show "Sasuke" (in the West it is better known as "Ninja Warrior") but I couldn't afford to go on my own.  Fans of the show were super generous and raised money for me to fly out there so I could report back and eventually write a book about the show.  I was able to "kill 2 birds with 1 stone" - See the show and visit Japan. Japan has always been on my bucket list.  It is culturally the opposite of me (I'm Latina/Hispanic) and for the first time I was able to see it.  I stayed for a week to see the show, meet some of it's competitors, and make new friends.  I repeated this a year later in May, 2016 and the experience was quite different.  Each time I was able to see a little more and I know I barely scratched the surface.
Flying in to Narita International Airport in Chiba Prefecture ©Arsenette 2015

I traveled to Japan with my husband. As we approached Japan my husband (who was in the window seat) leaned over with the phone to get a glimpse of land.  He turned over to me and said "I never thought I'd see the Pacific Ocean from the Japan side".. Neither of us had traveled much in our lives, let alone traveled to Japan.  We were born and raised in the East Coast of the USA and never traveled out west.  Now here we are staring down at a foreign country from 30,000 feet. It was a surreal and amazing experience.  Let me tell you also of the culture shock.  Things that are everyday normal to Tokyoites were so foreign to me. I desperately didn't want to look like a tourist although I stuck out like a sore thumb, but I never felt "watched". I'm normally self conscious so the thought of me being stared at for being weird looking was a trepidation of mine.  I thought I would be by comparison after reading articles and articles about gaijin going to Japan.  I guess it's different in Tokyo because they are so used to tourists.  For the week that I was there I'm sure I could write a lifetime of articles on minute details that I found fascinating.
A sign in the bathroom in Yokohama Station.. what.. no rock and roll in the stalls? LOL ©Arsenette 2015

I had a sole purpose for being in Japan though, and that was to see the taping of the show.  Traveling to the tournament itself was an adventure.  I booked at a swanky hotel in Tokyo Harbor and while absolutely gorgeous, it was far from just about everything.  Mental note.. you can book just about anywhere, including normally expensive places if you book way ahead of time.  (I had 3 month's warning).  The isolation though was compounded by the fact that we didn't know how to get to our next hotel destination.  We ended up traveling "the long way" before we realized there were express trains to our intended destination.  What could have been a 45 minute trip turned into an hour and a half trip with a bus to Yokohama and then a local train to Machida.  Bonus for 2016, we didn't do that again. LOL  But at least I could say I knew what it was like to travel with luggage on a busy rush hour local train standing the whole time.
Hubby and I in front of the Final Stage Tower at Sasuke 31. Later that evening someone would scale that to become the 4th ever person in 20 years to be champion ©Arsenette 2015

The tournament itself was an adventure.  Not just the actual taping and the events that took place (a historic win - only the 4th winner in 20 years and a really good friend of mine to boot), but the lot that is used, is literally surrounded by residential buildings and in the middle of nowhere in an area called Midoriyama (north of Machida where we were staying).  Taking a taxi back and forth from our hotel to the taping for 2 days allowed me to see a lot of the suburbs of Tokyo. I also learned a valuable lesson! It is completely different finding addresses in Japan are compared to the USA!  I know now to pick up business cards of every place I'm staying and make sure that it has a map!  That's the only way our taxi driver knew where the heck to go! ♥
The Gundam Statue at Diver City on Odaiba Island. I was lucky to see it before they tear it down. ©Arsenette 2015

I stayed on Odaiba Island in Tokyo Bay when I first arrived in 2015 and again when I returned from the two taping days until I left Japan.  I learned for 2016 to find a more central location for the activities I had planned, but honestly I'm happy I did. It was such a cool experience that can't be duplicated elsewhere.  Now of course when I think of the Olympic preparations going on for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, it is this place where they will end up stationing the athletes village.  It's a neat place worth visiting at least once. It's not representative of all of Tokyo, but then again, nothing is.

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3 comments

My boyfriend is so determined to go on this show. I will have to show him this post. There is obviously an American version and now an English version, but nothing beats the original Japanese and that's the one he wants to compete in!

It's an interesting article! I've never heard something about "Sasuke" from the real participant; which is quite rare to get first-hand info on it. I heard "Sasuke" seems more popular in US than in Japan, is it true?

It is "new" in the USA and given it's sheer size it is bigger. Sasuke is now 20 years old (in 2017) and given many financial constraints it went down to 1 a year (instead of 2) and even survived a cancellation (about 6 years ago). It has lost a lot of it's luster over time but it is still popular and firmly ingrained in Japanese pop culture. In the USA though "Ninja Warrior" is exploding in popularity and many spin offs worldwide had spawned thanks to the popularity of American Ninja Warrior. I'm still partial to the original. It's unique in feeling and format.

Thanks for the kind words! I was there as a guest and not a competitor. Oh if I was much younger I would have loved to try! ♥