After the 12-hour journey from Minneapolis, I finally showed up to Narita airport in Tokyo. Went through customs surprisingly swiftly and started looking for my ride to the hotel. Nothing better than flying halfway across the world and searching for someone you’ve never seen before. Luckily BMX riders stick out like sore thumbs no matter where you go. After finding Hiroshi Uehara, I was approached by a TV crew that had spent their day hunting out foreigners and asking them why the hell they’re in Japan. I told them about the G-Shock contest, played kendama on camera, and then we walked over to a sushi restaurant to max out on some fresh fish.
The culture shock started at the airport and hit me every day after. Food was a big part of that. Sushi is different in Japan. Well actually, all the food is different. They like to have a lot of different tastes with each meal. For sushi, you don’t get one roll and call it quits. You get a sampler plate with all different colors and forms of fresh fish. The first plate of the trip had salmon, eel, fish eggs, sea urchin, and a few other unique meats I couldn’t make out, but I ate it all.
This was simply the start of the everyday Fear Factor challenge I’d send my stomach through. After drinking some beers in the airport parking lot, (which is somehow legal) we went and picked up Fudger and Colin at a different terminal and we were on our way to the hotel. Some of the boys were hungry so we pulled off at a little roadside convenience store/food court/superultramega bathroom land. You put some yen into a machine, push one of the buttons, and it spits out a ticket. Hand the ticket to the guy and he makes your dish behind the counter. We couldn’t read the machine, but luckily we had our Japanese guide Hiroshi with us. Justin Benthien explained he wasn’t into eating meat, so of course, his bowl had squid tentacles instead of beef. It was recommended to douse our bowl with mayonnaise, but all of us kindly declined.
The food court was dope. Colors were blazing, anime is prevalent, and unique kanji symbols are written everywhere you look. There are over 10,000 different symbols that mean different things. Most people learn how to read and write from anime cartoon books called manga, which were sold in bulk at this convenience store. I got up and went to the bathroom and had no idea what I was in for. This bathroom was straight out of the future. The toilets had heated seats, bidets, and more than four different settings of how you want water to be shot into your ass. There were even mini toilets and urinals for children. It was so buck that I went back and told the others to check it out even if they didn’t have to take a piss. While they were looking at the bathroom, I went into the adjacent Family Mart convenience store to get some water. This turned into a 15-minute stop milling around in awe. The others joined in and we all started perusing around the store looking at some common things Japanese people buy. There were highly graphic porn magazines, sexual anime cartoon books, fermented soybeans, sushi, some goofy spices, and seven-inch long, gray shark penises wrapped in plastic. I don’t think they were actually penises, but it most certainly looked like it. Long, skinny, floppy, spotted, and covered in brown slime. Four of them in each bag just sitting there in the aisle like a bag of gummy worms. Along with all the weird food, this chain store sells button up white shirts and black slacks, the outfit of a typical Japanese employee. People work insanely hard in Tokyo. You can’t be late and your clothes better be clean. If someone doesn’t finish their work until midnight, everyone at the office will stay and help them until they finish. Even if they can’t help the slow worker, the others can’t leave because it might disrupt the person working. And, if you’re not happy with your job, you can’t quit. It’ll mean you’re not loyal and you will struggle to find another.
Hiroshi’s job for the contest involved organizing the whole thing and making sure everyone was happy. We’ll be spending the next two days at the Tokyo Dome hotel, which is located right outside an amusement park smack dab in the middle of Tokyo. We walk into the Tokyo Dome to check into our rooms, give them our passports to check in, and we each get room keys. The lobby of this hotel is massive and beautiful…it seems like we’re in Las Vegas or something. Nice fountain outside, restaurant inside, high ceilings, clean as can be. We’re going up to the 11th floor and Fudger says, “Don’t expect very much space in your room, living space in Tokyo is pretty tight.” Okay okay. As a traveling BMX rider, you’re probably going to stay in some pretty grimey places with cockroaches and ants as roommates. This was not one of those places. We walk into our line up of rooms and bang…two beds with one person in each room. It didn’t make much sense really. I guess one bed for the rider and one bed for his bike? We all met up for some drinks on the 43rd floor bar looking over the city and called it a night. Well, most of us did…
Text by Reed Stark and Photos by Ryan Fudger