Octogenarian marathoner retires

Picture 1Hats off to Keizo Yamada, the 81 year old “Iron Man” of Japan, who is retiring this year after running three marathons this year, not to mention having represented Japan in the 1952 Olympics and winning the Boston Marathon in 1953. According to Reuters, he’s a pioneer in Japanese marathon running &mdash not many people actually ran for fun or health before he did.

I started running this year too. I’m signed up for a half marathon in mid-October. I’ve been writing about my running progress on Boing Boing Gadgets, if you’re interested.

via Reuters

Nike is turning Miyashita Park into an athletic wonderland

Nike-park-tokyo-controversy-1Big news from my brother in Tokyo! Nike Japan is spending a gazillion yen to transform Miyashita Park in Shibuya into a giant playground with a skate park and a rock climbing wall.

Right now, Miyashita Park is best known for booze, drugs, illicit sex, and homeless people. If all goes as planned and this facility is completed next May, it will become one of the healthiest places in Shibuya. Interesting! A decade ago I would have been pissed that the hub of many of my childhood sins is being disintegrated, but now that I’m older and super into rock climbing and gearing up to run the Nike half marathon, I’m actually pretty excited. Many locals and homeless advocacy organizations are protesting the decision, however. I suppose Nike would have been better off tearing down a bunch of izakaya instead &mdash that way they wouldn’t have to displace inhabitants or deprive the city of one of its few peaceful parks &mdash but Miyashita was probably easier to negotiate.

Link (Japanese)

Dan Osman, one of the craziest rock climbers ever to have lived

History_4Dan Osman was a Japanese-American extreme athlete perhaps best known for the video (below), in which he speed-climbs a 400+ foot tall rock wall without a safety rope in four minutes. (I spent this past weekend in Lover’s Leap, the area in South Lake Tahoe that he did this in, and climbed the same rock.) Osman later became hooked on free-jumping, which is kinda like bungee jumping but for much greater heights in much more dangerous conditions on a normal rope that doesn’t slow you down at all. He even set a Guinness Record for it. Then, in 1998, he died doing when a rope failed him when free-jumping a cliff in Yosemite. A QA guy from Black Diamond, who made the rope, did an evaluation and concluded that it was a freak accident caused by the rope rubbing against itself &mdash something resulting from human error, a slight miscalculation in the angle at which he jumped.

There’s a great story about the life and death of Dan Osman in Outside Magazine.

Explore a secret icicle cave in Hokkaido

There’s a secret icicle cave called the 100-tatami cave in Date, Hokkaido, and a local non-profit offers tours there until it melts. Maybe it melted already? Anyhow, you have to hike for close to an hour in boots or snow shoes to get there. Looks fun!

via the Mainichi

Shingo Katayama kicking ass in golf tourney

_41539616_shingo_ap416Shingo Katayama and I are not related, but how awesome that someone with the same last name as me is kicking ass at the Masters in Augusta right now? He shot a five-under 67 in the first round today, and is tied for first with American Chad Campbell.

At least, I don’t think we’re related. He’s from Ibaragi, and my family’s from Kyushu. But my dad is a really good golfer, and so obviously is he…hmm, maybe he’s a long lost cousin. I will investigate this and let you know.

Woman falls in hole at golf course and dies

Picture 1Saddest golf story ever. A 38-year old housewife named Takae Gassho was playing golf with her family in Hokkaido when she suddenly fell into a deep hole in the ground and died. The hole was hidden by grass, so there was no way she could have seen it. There was water at the bottom—what police believe to be part of a subterranean melt water path—and by the time rescuers got her our half an hour later, she was dead. She was playing at the Le Petaw golf course in Abira.

Japan beats S. Korea in world baseball classic

Mlb_a_ichiro1_576Just watched the World Baseball Classic finals on TV. Japan won for the second time in a row, yay! They beat the US in the semis last night, and tonight they had a 10-inning game vs South Korea. If you missed it and didn’t TiVo, you can check out the play-by-play on ESPN.

Japanese baseball is so strategic and team-oriented. For more on that, read my post on the Giants vs Tigers. Image by AP

Toilet makes you want to do a super ski jump


What could possibly feel better than dropping a giant turd while preparing to do a virtual ski jump? Not much, I’d imagine. Japanese coffee company Georgia painted public toilets at several ski resorts to mimic a ski jumper’s perspective, wrapping the walls in illustrations of mountains and drawing skis where the feet go, and a giant slope on the front wall. Apparently, the toilet paper holder says:

“Seriously kick-ass intensely sweet for the real coffee super zinging unstoppable Max! Taste-explosion!”

I wish my toilet looked like that. I’d sit on it all day.

via Boing Boing

Colonel Sanders found in Osaka River, will break 24-year old baseball curse

Nn20090312a4aIn 1985, a group of excited Hanshin Tigers baseball fans stole a Colonel Sanders statue from a Kentucky Fried Chicken and threw it in Osaka’s Dotonbori River. Sanders was wearing star hitter Randy Bass’ uniform at the time, and the fans did it to celebrate the Tigers’ championship. Bad move. The Tigers haven’t won a title since, causing frustrated fans to call this the Curse of the Colonel Sanders.

The awesome news is that, earlier this week, Colonel Sanders miraculously appeared near the riverbank. He was missing his arms and legs, but investigators found those nearby, too, and put him back together again. Randy Bass, who has since returned to the US and is now a Democratic senator from Oklahoma, says:

“Now that they’ve found the Colonel, the curse is over and it’s time to put your money on the Tigers.”

(Thanks, Hans!)

Bowling alley has 116 lanes on one floor

Ever wish you could stroll into a bowling alley and not ever worry about waiting for a lane? This bowling alley in Aichi Prefecture is probably your best bet—it has 116 lanes, all on one floor, because the guy who runs it believes that bowling should be a unifying sport that everyone can do together. How lovely! If I had a space this big, though, I think I’d make it into a small dog run—that is, a giant dog run for small dogs, so Ruby and Malcolm can run around like crazy.

via Japan Probe

16-year old wins Japanese chess championship

20081124p2a00m0na007000p_size5 This is Kana Satomi. She’s a 16-year old high school student who just won the national title for best female shogi player in the world. She beat out 39-year old defending champ Ichiyo Shimizu in the Okayama tournament on Sunday. The youngest girl ever to win this title was Naoko Hayashiba, who was 14 when she kicked everyone’s butt in 1982.

Previously, I blogged about Beni Takeyama, an expert shogi player who is only eight years old! She is probably still making her way up the ranks of Japanese chess. Or maybe she’s way too young to compete.


High school girl inspired by the Red Sox makes draft

An Osaka teenager just took the first step towards becoming the first female baseball player to play in an all-male league. Eri Yoshida is a pitcher known for her knuckleball. Apparently, she was inspired by a Boston Red Sox player, Tim Wakefield. At tryouts, she pitched to eight male players and didn’t give up a single hit. If she passes the draft, she’ll be starting on the Kobe 9 Cruise team next year.

I really hope she makes it! And if she doesn’t, hopefully it’s because she just wasn’t good enough, and not because she was a girl.


Giants vs Tigers, the oldest baseball rivalry in Japan


Last night, I went to the Giants vs. Tigers baseball game at Tokyo Dome. Somehow, we scored front row seats in a section where you’re given a helmet and a glove, you know, in case the ball flies straight at you (it didn’t). Tokyo’s Yomiuri Giants and Osaka’s Hanshin Tigers are the two oldest
teams in Japanese baseball, and it’s a rivalry as intense as the
Yankees vs. the Red Sox. It was an extremely important game for the Giants—it brought them one game ahead of the Tigers in the Central League, late in the season after a 13-game deficit. The Giants scored 8 points in the bottom of the 5th inning to gain the lead, and then kept it to win 9-5.


Tokyo Dome is a 1.2 million square foot facility that was built for the Giants in 1988. It was pouring out last night, but as you can see, the 55,000 spectators and all the players are perfectly dry and comfortable. I actually went to the opening game at Tokyo Dome with my dad and my little brother. Dad took us out of school to go on a weekday, saying this was a special event in history that was worth ditching math class for. I thought he was such a cool guy for doing that. (But neither my dad or my brother remember going, haha.)

Continue reading for video and pics of the Hanshin Tigers cheering squad and the awesome bento I ate while watching them.

Continue reading

Why Doesn’t Japan Cheer Out Loud at the Olympics?

20080809_08Gymnastics is one of my favorite events to watch at the Olympics. As expected, China won the gold. Japan took the silver medal, and the US ended up with bronze. No major surprises there. But as I watched the medals being announced on TV with a bunch of friends in Hawaii, one of them said: Wow. The Japanese really don’t know how to be happy, huh?

While the American and Chinese athletes hugged their coaches and teammates and shouted words of excitement, the Japanese men gave each other a pat on the back and then stood there tacitly as the scores were read out loud.

But it’s not that they weren’t excited. I think what we were seeing here is a classic example of how the Japanese experience emotion. Behind the stoic front, these men were crying tears of joy and pride. The same can probably be said for a chunk of the audience, both in stands and in front of TVs at home. Some might say, Yatta! and others might just sit there in silence, teary-eyed. Both of these are totally normal ways of expressing happiness in Japan. Yelling a prolonged "woohoo!" or screaming as loud as you can just aren’t a dominant part of the culture.

The Gallympics: Girls in Bikinis Competing for the Gold in Twister


Flashy men’s fashion mag "Men’s Egg" has a feature in a recent issue called the 2008 Gallympics. In Japan "gal" is a term used to describe those bleached-blond, fakely-tanned girls who walk around Shibuya in super-high wedge sandals and short shorts. In the Gallympics, these women compete against each other in sports like Twister, speed-eating bananas, and limbo.


Naomi Yotsumoto is the Asian Anna Kournikova


Naomi Yotsumoto is the most-talked about ping pong player in Japan right now, and it’s not just because of her paddle-swatting skillz. The petite 29-year old Tokyo native is revolutionizing the sport by dressing provocatively and presenting herself as more than just an athlete. After creating plenty of buzz in local and international press because of her hot pink and rainbow-striped outfits (there is no dress code in professional ping pong), she now has her own TV show and a published autobiography. And as you can see in this video (from the national mixed doubles competition this year, where she placed second), she’s really pretty good at what she does. And even when she doesn’t win, the commentators never fail to spend a bunch of time fawning over her outfits and noticing how the crowd perks up when she walks in. Naomi Yotsumoto = the Asian Anna Kournikova = awesome at doubles, not so hot at singles, better known for her looks than for her athleticism.

Naomi Yotsumoto’s main page
via Design Corner (Thanks, Baker!)

Should Softball be an Olympic Sport?

20080821p2a00m0na021000p_size5Everyone thought the US women’s softball team was gonna kick Japan’s ass in the Olympic finals this week. Didn’t happen. To everyone’s surprise, Japan won 3-1.

The US women’s softball team was like Misty May and Kerri Walsh in beach volleyball, but better—completely undefeated since 2000, with four Olympic gold medals under their cleats. Most of their victories were total sweeps, and the world was convinced that there was no fair match for them anywhere. This belief was so strong that the International Olympic Committee voted to have women’s softball removed from the Olympics in 2012. The verdict’s out: there will be no women’s softball in London.

Does this week’s upset change this? The Americans hope so. Star pitcher Jennie Finch is determined to get the gold back in 2016, so she—along with the rest of her team, the Japanese team, and every other softball enthusiast in the world—is lobbying hard to reinstate the sport.


Haley Ishimatsu is a Good Diver

137261_m03They finally showed the Olympic women’s diving competition tonight on NBC. I’d been waiting to see Haley Ishimatsu, the 15-year old Japanese-American girl, since a few weeks ago when they did a quick segment about her on NPR. Apparently, she can do a back 3 1/2 somersault pike, which is this crazy dive that only a handful of other people in the world can do. Anyhow, she placed tenth in the qualifiers but didn’t win. The commentators pointed out that her splash is too big when she hits the water. Interesting…

Someone said that it’s easier on younger athletes to compete in the Olympics because they’re just competing on excitement and adrenaline, whereas the older ones have a lot more at stake, and think about things more. I wouldn’t know, because even though I dabble in all kinds of sports, I am nowhere even close to making it into real competition. 🙁

Kitajima Wins World Record in 100M Breaststroke

3Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima beat the world record in the 100m breaststroke earlier today in Beijing with a time of 58.1 seconds. Yay! Pictured next to him is a devastated Brendan Hansen—he held the world record until seconds ago.

Kitajima was already a national hero—at Athens four years ago, when he won two golds, for the 100m and 200m breaststrokes. I think it’s safe to say that Kosuke Kitajima has the fastest breaststroke in the world ever. It’s the second gold so far for Japan, with Masato Uchishiba winning the gold in 66k Judo yesterday.

I love watching the Olympics, and cheering for the Japanese team is super fun because I feel like I understand the heart and struggle they put behind all their efforts. I was just talking to Alyssa about this the other day while watching the US play Japan in women’s volleyball, but even though we both grew up between the two cultures, we subconsciously root for Japan when they go head-to-head because that’s where we were raised, and where our roots are the strongest.

75-Year Old Skier Climbs Mt. Everest


On Monday, 75-year old Yuichiro Miura became the second oldest person in the world to climb Mt. Everest. A professional skier and recent survivor of two heart operations, Miura reached the summit at 7:33am, just hours after a 76-year old Nepalese climber arrived there to claim the oldest person title. Miura has had a lifetime of heart problems—he has had an atrial fibrillation since he was a kid. But with serious training (he had a gym set up at home with oxygen levels simulating the summit), he accomplished his feat without any problems.

Miura climbed Everest with his doctor, his 38-year old son Gota, and a photograph of his deceased father, Keizo, who was skiing in France until the age of 99 (he died at 101). Rumor is that the son, who had been harping his dad about the dangers of doing this at such an old age, was the one who had difficulties breathing on his way up.