Puroresu Travel: Wrestle Kingdom with Jason U.

In August 2016 I released Puroresu Travel: Vacation in Japan to Watch Pro Wrestling with the goal of finally making available information that has long been treated as tribal knowledge within the small circle of international wrestling fans. The book has been wildly popular since its release in August of 2016, including endorsements from The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer and other leading wrestling journalists!

I have helped dozens of fans with trip planning, ticket procurement, and previously hard to find puroresu landmarks.  As a means of thanking everyone for their support and in an effort to provide the wildly popular travel book with supplemental information from third parties, I will be publishing conversations with people who have recently made their dreams a reality.


When did you become a fan of Japanese wrestling? Can you provide some background about when you began watching pro wrestling?

I only started watching Japanese wrestling in the last year and a half when my friend started getting into it. I’ve been an on and off wrestling fan since I was a kid. I’ve never been that serious about it until recently honestly. Had a group of friends start getting into the indie promotions and got into it myself.

While in Tokyo you were also able to check out some of the smaller independent promotions.  What events did you attend?

I made it to a DDT ‘New Year Otama Ball Special’ and NOAH ‘New Navigation’ show. We were trying to get in as many shows as possible while there. I missed the NJPW New Year’s Dash because I was snowboarding but my friends made that show as well.

How did those shows compare to smaller U.S. indies you’ve attended (Ring of Honor, Evolve)?

It’s a lot quieter and the crowd is full of well dressed people. Like suits and heels. My friend was explaining that it’s like going to the movies for the Japanese crowd. So they’re not trying to interfere with the show too much and just want to sit back and enjoy it. I mean, they’re were some people calling out wrestlers names, “ooh’ing” and “ahh’ing” for spots but overall it was pretty silent. Other than that the presentation and venue was better than most U.S. Indies.

How does the Wrestle Kingdom fan experience compare to WrestleMania? Are there any stark similarities or differences that surprised you?

Again, the overall vibe is much more calm with Wrestle Kingdom. Some name chanting, cheering for spots but no other chants and pretty quiet other than that. Also, the dapper crowd. The overall production value wasn’t as good as WrestleMania but it didn’t take away from the show. The concession food was bomb and they had vendors walking around selling mixed drinks.

You’ve also attended lucha libre shows in Auditorio Municipal de Tijuana. In what ways does fan engagement and interaction differ amongst the three types of fans?

It’s definitely as loud, if not louder than U.S. shows. If they’re not cheering for the wrestlers, they’re doing some sort of soccer chant converted to a wrestling chant. There’s some dedicated older fans down at all the shows and a lot of kids. I guess that’s similar to the WWE. These days, there’s starting to be a lot more people from the U.S. coming down so you’re starting to hear more well known or current chants from stateside as well. Usually all the kids (and sometimes myself) mob the ring after the show is over.

What other wrestling attractions did you see outside of wrestling shows and was there a specific motivation behind them?

Didn’t make it to Ribera [Steakhouse], tried to make it to Toru Yano’s bar a few times. Twice it was closed, once it was a private party. Walked past the NJPW store but didn’t head in.

Did the language barrier present any obstacles during your trip? 

No, not at all. Everyone either spoke English or spoke enough to help me out.

What advice would you give non-Japanese speaking tourists prior to their trip (dining, public transportation, currency, etc., etc. – anything that stuck out to you as being remarkably simple, insanely confusing, or just generally unique-disturbing-absurd)?

Definitely either get a sim card or pocket Wi-Fi and you’ll be fine Googl’ing everything. To be fair though, I was there we a few people who had traveled to Tokyo at least a few times before. But even when stuck by myself, I was able to easily find my way to whatever I needed to do.

Before I even left Tokyo, I already knew I wanted to go back. What weren’t you able to do during your time that you wished you had or that you plan on doing if you return?

Hell yeah, I never wanted to leave. I never got the Wagyu or Kobe beef. Or tempura. I’d like to check out the museums,  the Edo museum in particular. I didn’t get to visit any museums.  I didn’t get a chance to check out any record shops or live music, Ribera, more wrestling shows, sumo wrestling, baseball, Yoyogi Park on Sunday and that’s just the stuff I can think off of the top of my head.

 

For additional information on traveling to Japan to watch puroresu, including maps of the TOKYO DOME / KORAKUEN HALL area, locations of wrestler owned and wrestling themed bars and restaurants, where to buy t-shirts and souvenirs, phrases to help you navigate JAPAN, read the first chapter of my book PURORESU TRAVEL or purchase the book on AMAZON or NOOK.

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