Piercings and Tattoos: America and Japan, and Thoughts

Body modification.
I could have given you one of those gross pictures of an ugly guy with so many holes in his face that you'd mistake him for a whiffle ball. Instead, I went with this one because - let's face it - this is probably the most attractive way to pierce your body a couple dozen times. Not that I necessarily condone it.
Everyone has reasons. Most women in America get their ears pierced by the time they're in high school. They can dangle shiny things to express how cute or beautiful they feel they are.

Then guys started doing it - first one ear, then two. I remember the whole "which ear means you're gay?" argument going on in school.

Then, people went elsewhere on the body. Tongues and navels were the first to be socially acceptable, but that was quickly followed by any other piece of skin the person holding the needle could get his or her hands on - eyebrows, lips, cheeks, private parts. The "corset" piercing above has no practical use of course. It's just for looks. And of course, once you have the hole, you make it bigger, especially at the earlobes.

I'm not sure what piercings signify anymore, if anything. Is it just a pain thing? Is my generation and the generations younger than me suffering from a lack of suffering? "Make us feel real pain, because we don't know what it's like." I am referring to the middle class, of course - there are plenty of people suffering in America and the rest of the world.

And they don't have tons of piercings.
And then there's tattoos. Like piercings, 20 years ago they were small and tasteful. Maybe a woman got a butterfly on her back, and guys might get barbed wire or something devoted to their mom (remember that Simpsons episode?):
But those could be covered by a normal shirt. People with visible tattoos were criminals and troublemakers - Harley riding, middle-aged, dirty single men in leather jackets who spent time in jail for armed robbery.

But like piercings, the taboo has become popular. The ink crept down the arm to form sleeves, across the shoulders and back and stomach and down the legs and up the neck on to the face. And again, not too long ago, the people with that much ink were rare until fairly recently. But having, and showing off, tattoos is cool now. See Megan Fox's back (she has more along her lower waist too, plus even more elsewhere I'm sure):
Rihanna has something like 20 tattoos including what I think is her birthdate (I'm not bothering to check) and that cool star thing going down her neck:
And here's the thing about tattoos. Piercings can be taken out and they'll eventually heal. But tattoos are expensive and painful to remove. A 2012 Harris Interactive poll found 21% of adult Americans with tattoos regretted getting one. While college (high school?) is fun and exciting and a time to try stupid stuff, there are plenty of dumb things that can be recorded on Facebook, Twitter, and all those other social networking sites to ruin a career.

And in your young-20s, when you're a bro holding a beer and wearing a backwards baseball cap, looking like a reject from an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog (see earlier photo), it seems awesome. And while yes, you can hold a full-time professional job with a covered-up tattoo - just remember that you'll have to wear a neck-tie and long sleeves in the hot days of summer to keep it hidden - eventually, you will want to do something where it affects you.

Do you want to come to Japan? It's pretty hot and humid in the summer. You'll want that short sleeve shirt. Oh, but a lot of places don't allow people with tattoos in their stores. That's especially true for family places (amusement parks, water parks) and relaxation places (no spas for you). Tattoos are associated with organized crime here. Even if you're a cute little white girl from Kansas, a rule's a rule, and Japanese people are really good about making and following rules and procedures.
Okay, you're never coming to Japan. So how about that job? Your sleeve comes up a little short when you shake hands, showing off a little bit of that tattoo. If you happen to meet a Japanese client, he might not say anything, but he'll probably take his business elsewhere. And even if it's an American, a tattoo has negative connotations in the US. While part of the younger generation may understand the trend, a mature, trustworthy professional would never have a tattoo.
If that tattoo is something trendy today, will it be cool in 10 years? What happened with all those girls getting Chinese characters tattooed on their arms? And what's going to come from all this silly nonsense writing? (I swear the words in tattoos on Americans come straight from Engrish t-shirts here in Japan - or vice versa).
Yes. That sounds exactly like Megan Fox's (and plenty of other people's) tattoos. And that stuff is all over Japan. Eventually, you'll get tired of it. And unlike an old shirt or a tacky couch, it's stuck on you forever.

You want kids? Or a wife? How do you explain that girl's name or picture on your body? (Flip the genders, ladies.) How do you teach your children the errors of your ways? I suppose you could say "Look how stupid Mommy was. Don't be stupid like Mommy."

Finally, I know it's tough. You're 20. That tattoo of an Angry Birds bird flying at North Korea sounds awesome. But before you put your name across your back in gangster-style font, remember this: you get old. And you look like this guy:
Sure, he's a vegan. And he probably got that tattoo recently. But you, too, will go bald, wear glasses, and be slightly overweight. And then you'll look really stupid. Like him.

Which brings me to America vs. Japan. There are a few Japanese "bros" here though they take on a slightly different style. There are guys that have mohawks or dress in goth clothes or look like Japanese Hollister models and most of them over the age of 20 can kick your ass at drinking. But pay attention. You don't see tattoos. You don't see extra piercings. Women here wear pantyhose, and some younger women wear styles that simulate a tattoo somewhere on the leg. But they aren't real. I can count the Japanese women I know with piercings other than the earlobes on one finger. It just isn't cool here.

And I'm glad for that. I recognize that most tattoo work is an art. And some tattooists are true artists. But I don't see the meaning for it. As for piercings, I still don't see it as anything other than a way to feel pain.

You can argue that you are trying to express yourself. But if you can't express that part of yourself through words, emotions, and actions, then it's just not important enough of an idea to express.
Can you not carry a picture of your child in your wallet? "Oh you have kids?" "Yes, this is my son, 10 years ago..." Or your girlfriend? Or wife?
You're funny? Tell a joke.
You're a geek? Get a t-shirt.

I found this comment while researching this post from someone who calls himself williamo:
[The author's] post reminds me of how I used to think when I was younger. I wasn't about following a crowd, but tattoos are something that I saw as a way of expression and I wanted to get one or two. Then I realized, the only reason why I was doing it is because I saw somebody else that did it.
Now let me say that a tattoo or piercing doesn't bother me. Just ask my ex. And I fully understand and agree that in today's American society (and for quite some time), tattoos and piercings do not signify criminal behavior and in fact have become mainstream in America.

But is this just a fashionable trend? Will it run its course and fade away, with the remnants left behind? (How) will societal views of tattoos and piercings in business situations change over the decades? Can a man with tattoo sleeves ever successfully run for president? What about a nose ring?  One fourth of the adult population in America is tattooed. How will the vast majority of American adults react to it?

Not all tattoos and "extra" piercings are visible, and if small enough and placed "properly" enough, are easy enough to hide except to share with those you really care about. Most people who have tattoos most likely have one or two small ones and can keep them hidden. And reading some of the opinions people have posted online, tattoos are widely acceptable if they are small, meaningful, and well-placed - visible or not.

In Japan, things are somewhat opposite. While younger people have been getting more tattoos than before, local governments and businesses have been getting tighter on "crime" - which includes distinguishing criminals as having tattoos. An interesting study states that about 75% of onsen (public baths) in Hokkaido let tattooed people use their facilities, though about 25% of them have visual (posters) or verbal bans on tattoos in effect. I couldn't find any actual data on what percentage of the population has tattoos. Tattoos were illegal in Japan until the end of World War II when American influences in Japan's government liberalized the laws, so now that a couple generations have passed some of the social stigma has passed, though certainly not all.

I think one thing to remember here is that body modification - especially that which is visible - has far-reaching effects that you can't possibly foresee. While it's your body to do with as you feel, when push comes to shove you must interact with society, and society's acceptance of your style can change as your place in society changes. In America, you can go to high school in shorts and a t-shirt. In Japan, you have to wear a uniform. As a businessman both in the States and Japan, you probably need to wear a suit and have a "conservative" hairstyle. I remember several of my "first" jobs (not too long ago, either) stating that I couldn't grow a beard. Would you go to a fine restaurant and order food from someone with a giant septum piercing? (If you have a septum piercing, I'm sure the answer is yes. What would the rest of society think?) And it's this view - the rest of society - that makes the difference.

In Japan, society frowns upon the existence of tattoos and extreme appearances. People are very polite and on the street they probably won't say anything to you. They also are intelligent and understand that other societies have other views. But there are plenty of stories out there of people with tiny, fashionable tattoos that someone gets a glimpse of, and the tattooed person gets kicked out of a water park or public bath. And I've discussed celebrities with students and they frequently mention with disgust about their tattoos.

I'm not sure why this turned out to be such an anti-tattoo post. I don't have any tattoos or piercings, obviously, but I hope it's clear that I don't have an issue with other people having them. I think I want to help people be aware of difficulties they face having tattoos in Japan, and hopefully a little realization that the same thing is still true in America as well. And now that I wrote all this, I completely forgot the inspiration for the post. Seriously. I checked my web history, and what I did before this had no relation to tattoos or piercings. Wow.

I'm interested in your thoughts, so please add a comment!

A quick one at 1

It's 1AM (on the dot, when I started writing this post, coincidentally). I was about to make a Facebook post, but I decided instead this is good for everyone's ears, I suppose.

The daily cycle in Japan is kind of strange, at least compared to Americans. There is a morning rush hour before 9 AM as all the businessmen cram in the train in their black business suits carrying black business briefcases. And somewhere around that time the students pack in there too, headed off to school or colleges.

But then the rest of the day kind of runs off-kilter. There are plenty of older and unemployed/underemployed folks in Tokyo, and they tend to keep the trains running around half-capacity or better for the rest of the morning as they head off to shop. And they, along with the stay-at-home moms, keep a general state of activity through the early afternoon, when, in an instant, you become surrounded by school children.

Depending on the day, the high schoolers could be out as early as noon (usually later). Elementary and middle school kids get out around 3-4pm, and there are little spurts of activity as each group of kids from each elementary school reach the station, all on the way to cram schools, language schools, or some other form of structured activity.

The college students seem to have a pretty standard day as well. The local university students pass by my house on the way to and from the station, and they come in massive groups like clockwork. It's a swarm of young adults that you couldn't understand until you saw it.

Things then die down until about 5 pm in Tokyo (which means about 6 in my area). That's when the droves of business men and office ladies start filing into the train for the evening rush hour. But this is Japan, and not everybody goes home at 5.

Sure, the trains are pretty crowded from 5-7. But I've never seen packers for the evening rush - only for the morning. That's because there are plenty of folks who stay out late and get drunk. So from 7-9 or so, things can be somewhat easy. Sure, the trains are still kind of crowded, but not jam-packed. After 9pm, they can start getting busy yet again, this time with lots of drunk men. Tonight, on the platform waiting for my train, a man slowly stumbled along burping audibly as he made his way past me. I'm thankful he didn't puke on or next to me as I'm sure he felt like doing. 

When I got home tonight, about 10, I was amazed at how quiet it actually was. Usually, college and high school kids hang out in front of the station, chatting about whatever's coming up. Tonight, it was dead silent. I wondered where all those social kids were.

Last train brings home the rest of the drunks and by now things are usually quiet as men scurry home or try to catch taxis. But I think the earlier silence was just because the college kids and businessmen were spending a little longer getting drunk. A large group gathered just down the street and was quite loud for a long time and I've heard a good bit more street conversation from others than usual. 

Granted I could shut the window and shut out most of the noise. But I'm just wondering if these folks missed their last train. And why they've decided to stay out so late. 

Anyway it's late, after all. So good night!

Three Days in Kansai: finishing up my Kyoto and Osaka Trip

I left off with the best food I think I've ever had - kushikatsu. I say that knowing that there are many "best foods I've ever had" but that was part of the group.

So Saturday morning I was prepared to travel around Kyoto, seeing temples and shrines and parks and gardens. You know, Kyoto stuff. And that's just what I did. I started at Kameyama-koen, a park at the end of a gorge with a nice river. On a return trip I hope to take the sightseeing train up the gorge and a boat back down. Its a nice park to just go for a short uphill hike, and has nice views, but probably isn't worth the trip for most people. This time I took a bunch of pictures (sorry you'll have to see the best ones later - for now you get that bamboo-like path) and moved on to the temples.

Kinkakuji, covered in gold, was next, though again I have no photos with my iPhone. Unfortunately the temple was either too far or too close to get a good shot with it, though I should eventually have good shots from the camera. It was quite amazing to see a building covered in gold though!

I visited another temple, Shimogamo-jinja, also in the northern part of Kyoto, next. Famous, but it wasn't really spectacular to look at.

And so I moved on to Shosei-en, gardens near Kyoto Station. They were quite beautiful and I highly recommend going somewhat out of the way to get there. I could have spent all afternoon, but I had one more destination: To-ji Temple, famous for its five-story pagoda. Again, a very beautiful sight and real, original pagodas of this size are quite rare.

By this time, however, I was both exhausted and running a massive headache. Tylenol, drinking water, and eating food all didn't help, so I went back to the hostel as fast as possible and ended up falling asleep quite quickly.

Sunday was much better. I had about 12 hours of sleep in the end, and no real plans for the day after shuffling the calendar around. I did have one important stop to make: my first Japanese baseball card show. Admission was free and there were only about 20 dealers set up (possibly more) but I enjoyed the experience. I stayed for almost the entire show, going from table to table.

The rest of the afternoon - after a 3pm lunch - was spent browsing Den Den Town, Osaka's electronics and all-around geek district. I mentioned it last week, but I had more time to explore on this trip and saw plenty more of what's available. That is to say, nothing superior to Akihabara. Sometimes prices were better and some stores had some fairly unique items but the same can be said the other way around. I think it might have a higher percentage of porn shops though - there were tons of DVD stores along the main drag and they stand out even more after 8pm, when almost everything else closes.

Finally, Monday was my last day in Kyoto. I had planned a walk from Kiyomizu-dera, a famous temple at the south end of Higashiyama, all the way through the lower half of this large district. Kiyomizu was nice but crowded. What else do you expect on a major national holiday? Due to this I stayed in the free portion of the grounds, took some pictures and moved on. I did take a pilgrimage there as well, but I'll tell you about that some other time.

From there I strolled the back streets of the district (Sannen-zakat, Ninen-zaka, and Ishibei-koji to be specific) leading to Gion. There are plenty of shops, restaurants and tea houses here with traditional-style (though modern-age) buildings. Great for picture taking and window shopping at times but not much to do. Which was okay. I soon found myself at Maruyama-koen, a park that's positioned well for taking a rest on my journey. I watched kids and old men feed pigeons and fish, and watched some college kids enjoy a very large duck cleaning itself right next to them. It wasn't scared as they surrounded it. They probably could have pet it if they wanted to.

From there I walked through Yasaka-jinja (a temple full of many shrines where I saw the remnants of a wedding party including the newlyweds taking photos) to Gion. This is the famous area of Kyoto where you can really experience Kyoto. Or so the guidebooks say. Really, there are more of those traditional-style buildings with their expensive tea houses and restaurants. I'm sure some of them are quite elite and have maiko and geisha women to serve and entertain inside. But along Shijo-dori there are just your usual "local" souvenir shops and restaurants for the everyday tourist. And lots of women wearing kimonos. You can rent them in the area for the day. And you can even dress up like a maiko girl with the makeup if you'd like.

I saw no maiko girls in Kyoto that day. I saw a couple girls dressed as maikos for their own enjoyment, and that was great. I shoulda got their picture. But really this area was quite a disappointment. (Not seeing maiko girls was expected - the overall lack of ambience in the main Gion area is what was disappointing.)

I did try yatsuhashi, a traditional Kyoto snack/gift and brought some back home. It's pretty good - I prefer the baked to the unbaked type.

Anyway, I returned up the hill to the park and nearby Chion-in. This is a giant temple with a giant gate in front. It's on some steep inclines so to explore most of it you'll do a lot of stair climbing. This might have kept crowds away and it was nice to finally have some peace at a temple in Kyoto - but even here I wasn't really alone until I found myself in the cemetery at the top of the complex.

I finished my walk, passing by Shoren-in and it's giant camphor trees to get to the bus stop. I later caught a packed bullet train home - so packed that with an unreserved seat I had to stand for most of the trip - about 90 minutes.

So that finished my Golden Week sightseeing adventure! While I missed several places due to construction/repairs, it just leaves me a reason to come back in a few years for another visit!

I hope to start catching up on picture posts and full write ups sooner or later - I am still about a year behind as I haven't written even about Taiwan yet. Oi! So until then... Here are pictures from Saturday (sorry, I seem to have forgotten to take iPhone photos on Monday).

Kobe. Not the basketball one.

What comes to mind when you hear the word Kobe (in reference to Japan)? Depending on your knowledge of the city, the only two things that you will probably think of are beef and the 1995 earthquake.

And really, that's all Kobe has going for it. Expensive, pampered cow meat. And destruction from natural forces.

But I made a day trip out of the place today, and had quite a good time. The easiest and cheapest way to get to and around Kobe seems to be the Hanshin train line, which runs closest to the waterfront where all the tourist attractions are.

It has been a trend lately for me to start late, and again I found myself about an hour or two behind "schedule" for the day. However I had plenty of time built into today's schedule and I was able to easily see and do all I had planned - and more!

I had originally set up my itinerary to finish in the same way I ended it - with alcohol. But a quick rearrangement meant I would make it my second stop instead of the first. I started with the Kobe Fashion Museum, located on an island full of fashion and design and art centers and schools and shops. It seems to be the island's theme, among the ports of Kobe. Giggle if you want, but I enjoy fashion, especially on attractive women, so it was cool to see some really nice clothing. They had a selection of historical pieces too which I really enjoy seeing at conventions (boy do I miss DragonCon right now). Plus the building looks like a UFO. I wasn't there long before I took the quick monorail (Simpsons joke here) and long hike to a brewery museum.

Housed in authentic, smells-like-its-still-made-here old building, the Hakutsuru Brewery Museum uses its two floors of space to show the complete process of turning rice into drinkable alcohol. Of course, at the end of the (free) museum you can try sake. They had fresh (unpasteurized) sake, an award-winning blend, two types of plum wine an a lemon-tasting liqueur. I forgot how much I like plum wine! But I brought home a souvenir bottle of the real deal, actual sake. I'll share that after work one night with my coworkers.

With a small buzz and a warmth in my heart (from the alcohol of course) I headed to the Kobe City Museum, only to find it closed apparently. I didn't see anything about this but it wasn't a big loss actually. So I continued on to the earthquake memorial and museum.

In an earthquake-proof building, you are shown video recreations of the earthquake's destruction and hear the story of one woman's experience after the quake. Then you your the rest of the museum, filled more with information about the rescue, cleanup, and rebuilding process and prevention than destruction. You can watch more videos, see pictures of the actual destruction you saw on the introduction video, and read information and testimonials through interactive displays. The whole museum is arranged well and despite imperfect English it was easy to understand.

I will mention, as others have in reviews, that the guides tend to be overly attentive (the museum was fairly empty). Sometimes you want to just read and observe silently. However I think my "personal guide" did a decent job of just stepping in, showing me that a display had interactivity or telling me about how the area is laid out, and then stepping back to wait for questions. He was always there but not really imposing.

My second observation of the museum deals with the introductory film. When you first enter the museum itself on the top floor, you are shown a seven-minute film basically showing the quake strike at several locations around the city - train lines, hospitals, houses, businesses, etc. at times I kind of chuckled to myself - the event was serious, but the destruction and suspense shown seemed to be so dramatic! A bus about to drive off the collapsed bridge! A train on a collapsing viaduct! Whole stories of buildings crumbling on top of each other! Concrete and glass raining from the heavens! I had seen some photos but it really felt like a Universal Studios attraction. Remember that one in LA? Or the movie Earthquake?

Well here's a shock: it was all real. The reenactment is verified later in the museum by photos. There is a picture of a bus dangling off a bridge. Trains on collapsed railways. Houses and buildings crushed on each other. Rubble in the streets. It really put the whole event in perspective - I several times found myself muttering "oh shit that was real" when seeing a photo. It's a good museum, and inspiring as well.

Anyway, my last stop was the Kawasaki Good Times museum and Maritime Museum, which shares the same building in Kobe Port next to Kobe Tower. Does every city have a tower? It turns out that there were some festival activities in the area so I enjoyed some great street food before hitting the two museums. They share an entry fee. If you have kids or LOVE motorcycles or ships, go here. Otherwise you're probably wasting your time. I got a kick out of the model cruise ships with great detail including one with a waterside.

From Kobe I made my way back to Osaka and Den Den Town, Kansai's version of Akihabara. I was looking for something specific but didn't find it at the right price. And while some have mentioned how nice the lack of crowds is, there is a lack of stores as well. It is not empty by any means but it is much smaller than Akihabara. I did find a few neat toys that I hadn't seen in Akiba at the right price - or at all? - and it was fun walking through the area.

So I mentioned having alcohol twice today. I ended the day back in the area of Tsutenkaku, which is yet another tower you can go in to see the sights. Located a stone's throw from my hotel room, this is the best place to find kushikatsu - food fried in a light batter which you then dip in a soy sauce. I ended up having four chickens, two beef, potato, cheese, chorizo sausage, and banana. All were great and I could eat this every night if it wouldn't kill me or my wallet (about 120 yen/stick). Plus two beers. Not cheap but delicious and well worth the cost. And cheaper than eating Kobe beef.

Until next time...

When Plans Go Wrong (Again)

I've mentioned already that I've made some concessions on this trip - locations are being skipped, plans are being reshuffled, etc. Today was no different and the rest of the trip will get a major makeover too.

I set off for Himeji about two hours late, arriving just before 11. Stopping at the tourist center to check the bus schedule for the amusement park, I came to find that the famous Himeji Castle was covered in scaffolding, and will be for another two years. That certainly made decisions easier for the lost time, but Himeji Castle is one of the most famous in Japan. It'll have to wait, though.

So I killed about 40 minutes before the bus to Himeji Central Park departed. Running about once every two hours, in either direction, I didn't have much of a choice. I ran through scenarios in my head on the way there - if I stayed for two hours I could ride everything I wanted once and move on. If I found something so great that I wanted to go again, I'd have to spend four hours there.

It turns out that I could do the entire amusement park easily in those two hours. I rode all the coasters and a few of the other rides that I really wanted to go on, and I didn't rush through since there were absolutely no lines in the park. Like Hirakata Park, it suffered from a lack of great re-ridable attractions and signature rides. Fun for a family, but nothing great for couples or adults.

I should mention that the park has a safari that you can drive and walk through. Or take a bus through if you want. It costs extra (or the free ride pass costs extra depending on how you approach things) so I chose the option without the safari. And despite the name "Central Park" it isn't central in any way. The 25-minute bus ride takes you way out of town. But it's a cute, if generally generic, amusement park.

So I made it back to Himeji Station before 4pm, stopping for lunch there as well. It turns out that coming right back was the right choice because I got to Kyocera (Osaka) Dome right before the gates opened for the game. Not that there was a sellout. Hardly! The park was pretty empty except for the cheering sections, and I think the visiting Marines fans outnumbered the hometown Buffaloes fans. The game, like yesterday's, saw the visiting team take a strong lead early (though the Bs weren't shut out). I sat in the outfield bleachers up top, with a pretty good view of everything except deep right-center. I really enjoyed the massive double-hot dog in a French bread baguette. It was delicious and worth the ¥600 for ballpark food.

In the seventh inning, a balk was called against the Marines that resulted in a runner scoring from third. The Marines must have protested the call because it was reviewed by the umpires and took quite a while. They didn't reverse the call though, and I wonder what the penalty is for appealing a call unsuccessfully. If there is one.

Tomorrow, my restructured plans have me back in Kyoto. The Imperial Palace is closed due to the holidays (oops) and another temple has scaffolding on it (at least I did my research this time before the trip) so I'm going to attempt to combine two days into one and have more free time on Sunday to chill around Osaka. Meanwhile, this baseball game is almost over and if the Marines don't win they will have blown a four-run lead in the ninth.

So until Kyoto calls tomorrow...

Kind of Kyoto

One thing I don't do much of on vacations is take it easy. This trip I've been trying to do a bit more of it, so I've left a little later in the day and have been rearranging my schedule, scratching off some of the locations on my itinerary.

Yesterday, the plan was to go to three temples in Kyoto and explore Kyoto Station before heading to Horakata Park, an amusement park between Osaka and Kyoto. Then, the evening would be spent seeing the Hanshin Tigers. I started a bit late and went to the amusement park first, which was probably a good call. I only stayed a couple hours, arriving just after opening and getting on all the rides pretty quickly. A nice park but with very little crowds I never had to wait.

I then headed into Kyoto. The train station was still worth checking out, and I made the trek across the skyway for the view. I could see Kyoto Tower pretty well, which was another location I decided to scrap. From the station I took a walk to one of the temples, Nishi-Hongan-ji, nice but not very unique - except the gold trim on some of the buildings. I skipped the one remaining temple worth visiting due to time (hopefully I'll catch up with it later this week) because Koshien Stadium is a pretty long way from Kyoto.

The stadium is about an hour from Osaka depending on where you start and which train you take. It can be done much faster at the same cost if you search for express trains. It isn't hard to find, just follow the hordes of Tigers fans and its right behind the elevated freeway. It's a shame that freeway is there because it blocks the view of the stadium entirely.

Koshien is old. It had some major work done a few years ago so much of the stuff is new, but you can't get from the outfield seats to the infield. And the aisles and seats are narrow an cramped out in what is almost bleacher seats. Food selection is okay at best, with standard Japanese offerings (Pizza-la was my choice - the Dominoes Pizza of Japan and I say that in a negative sense).

This was a really cold night, but the Tigers were playing my current-favorite team (the Carp) with their ace (Kenta Maeda, possibly the best pitcher in the NPB now). Maeda went seven innings striking out seven and the Tigers got only five hits in the entire game (no walks). The Carp scored four in one inning thanks to three walks by the Tigers pitcher and some good small ball and clutch hitting by the Carp. A home run by the catcher in the ninth gave them run number five.

With the recent renovations, the stadium doesn't seem as bad as others said. However, not being able to walk around the stadium and the cramped seating are big negatives in my book.

Oh, and I found the Ruth plaque before the game, outside the first base side in some area sponsored by Mizuno that might eventually become something like Monument Grove - there was another plaque out there as well.

Today's details will come later. Until then... Pictures. And yes, that is a rainbow over Koshien Stadium! There were short rain showers all afternoon in Kyoto and at the stadium.