The Twinkie Times

The life and times of a Chinese American. Born a Jersey boy, lived the expat life, attended boarding school (Lawrenceville), converted to a frat boy (Sigma Pi), got an MBA (Columbia), returned to China, and back to the East Coast now trying to carve out an identity and life as an Asian American dad (gulp) in the midst of a "tertial life crisis" ©

Monday, September 20, 2004

FLASHBACK: The Adventures of H&H Vol. I

As I slowly adjusted to life in Tokyo, the days went by faster and
before I knew it, it was almost the weekend. Luckily, my timing was
good and my whole floor had organized a baseball outing to go see the
Tokyo Giants play the hometown Yakult Swallows. My friend and coworker,
Hoa, originally from New York who recently transferred to the Hong Kong
office, was also in town to visit. He arrived to the office and shortly
thereafter we exited en masse to Jingu Stadium. We arrived at the
bottom of the first inning and the Swallows must have just scored or
something because the second you walk into the stadium, you are blasted
with a wave of singing and chanting with a brass ensemble
accompaniment. Every fan in our section was on their feet singing along
to the bugles and following the 'crowd leaders' who stood below blowing
whistles and directing everyone. In unison, over a thousand fans around
us were dancing and singing and waving these translucent green
umbrellas, and then once the song was over, they all sat down to await
the next batter. One would have thought that this was a championship
game or at least the playoffs but people told me it was always this way
and that song was only for a base hit. We find our block of seats and
sit down with the rest of the Morgan employees 4 rows back from the
right field wall.

While surveying the stadium, I noticed that in every section of seats
there were people plastered in fluorescent green milling about. Looking
around, I found one in our section and smiled. Bernie and Dan had both
told me about the 'beer girls' at Japanese baseball games and I finally
saw them. Unlike the big burly Yankee stadium beer guys, Japanese
baseball stadiums employ girls who have kegs of beer strapped onto their
backs. Not only do you get fresh draft beer but they are much softer on
the eyes than 250 pound men from the Bronx. I flagged down the nearest
'Super Asahi Girl' and ordered up some beers. Now that we had our beer,
we needed some munchies. We headed off towards the concession stands
and I was looking forward to the usual hot dog or spicy Italian
sausage. When we got to the row of stalls, I was surprised to see a
wide variety of food. One stand had corn dogs, french fries, and
chicken fingers while the one next to it had boxes of sushi and octopus
balls. I went to the 'bento' (lunchbox) stand and ordered a fried rice
box while Hoa bought 3 little corn dogs and an order of octopus balls.
The bento was smartly packaged with little compartments for pickled
radishes, seaweed, egg, and other Japanese side-dishes and went very
well with the beer.

We finished up the food and sat back to enjoy the game. Soon a chant
began to rise through the crowds, 'Dobashi, Dobashi!' Next up to bat,
the hometown hero, the Derek Jeter of the Swallows. Not wanting to
disappoint his screaming fans, he rips the first fastball and it comes
sailing towards us. Everyone jumped to their feet in anticipation but
the ball just made it over the outfield wall and landed in the second
row a few seats in front of us. As soon as the ball landed, the bugles
and whistles started up again and this time people unrolled huge flags
to wave around as the fans sang another song and danced with their
umbrellas. Soon thereafter, the game was over and the Swallows had
upset the Tokyo Giants. We headed out to continue the festivities at a
local drinking establishment.

After a couple rounds, Hoa and I decided to retire since he had only
just landed a few hours ago. We returned to my apartment and he
unpacked his things and headed for the shower. While I was surfing
through channels, I almost fell out of my chair as the all-too-familiar
siren and alarm started going off in my apartment again. This time I
was quick enough to shut it off before the female robotic voice started
yelling at me in Japanese. I guess since it was after midnight and I
turned it off quickly, no one called to follow up this time. Then I
yelled at Hoa to not touch any more buttons in the apartment.

So the next day, we awoke with slight hangovers and prepared to go visit
Mt. Fuji. It was the last weekend it was open since the climbing season
is only July through August. After two different trains and a long bus
ride, we arrive at Station 5, 2400 meters up. There are a total of 10
stations to the top (3776 m.) but we did not really have any illusions
of grandeur and were not going for the summit. So we set off up the
mountain, enthusiastic and excited, thinking we would make it to Station
8, then head back and make the last bus home at 6:50 pm. After about 30
minutes, I was winded and ready to turn back, the enthusiasm was gone,
my legs were burning and breath was short. The combination of altitude
and countless beers from the night before did not contribute to a fun
day of hiking. However, with the constant shouts of 'stop being a
sissy!' and 'hurry up you wimp!' from ahead, I finally made it to Station
6.

The majority of the paths so far had been long windy trails but once on
our way to Station 7, there were steep rocky impasses where we had to
actually climb up. We pass another group of foreigners on their way
down and they take one look at us and ask us if we have any other gear
(undertone -> amateurs). They were dressed from head to toe in North
Face outfits with walking sticks and hiking boots. We had baseball
caps, t-shirts, and shorts with backpacks containing water. They warn
us that it's pretty cold up there and we thank them for the advice and
continue on. Of course while we are scaling up the side of Fuji, a
typhoon of some sort sweeps in and it quickly becomes foggy and misty to
the point where I could barely see 2 feet in front of me. Luckily Hoa
was wearing a yellow shirt so I followed his faint silhouette up the
mountain.

Thankfully, we reach Station 7 just as it begins to pour so we duck into
a rest stop and hunker down to dry off. We order up some small bowls of
$16 curry and each buy $20 ponchos for the return trip. After resting
awhile, we don our new ponchos and pants and prepare for the long
journey down. While navigating the treacherously slippery rocks on the
way down, we look to the east and see the rapidly moving clouds moving
away from us. Amazingly, the storm had passed and all of a sudden we
could see some blue skies peaking through the clouds above us. Below, you
could still see thick fog but we took the opportunity to snap some
scenic shots before we descended back into the gloomy depths of Fuji.

By the time we reached Station 6 on the way down, it was already 6:20 pm
and we only had 30 minutes to catch the last bus leaving Mt. Fuji. We
knew that there was no way the bus would be late or wait for us so we
had to run down the rest of the way. Dirty, winded, and tired, we got
on the bus with 3 minutes to spare and we both promptly passed out for
naps. The trip home was a blur but I remember having left my apartment
at 11 am that day and not returning until 11 pm. I have still yet to
see the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Fuji and am hoping that we get a clear
day so that I can catch a glimpse from our office building but it was
still a great experience 'climbing' Fuji and I am determined to wear
my new poncho as often as possible to maximize its value.

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