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New Japan Pro Wrestling announces G-1 Climax Dates & Locations

Last night during the Ryogoku event Sakura Genesis, New Japan Pro Wrestling announced the dates and locations of the 2017 G1 Climax tournament.

These dates are announced separately from the two shows in Long Beach, seeming to confirm that the G-1 Special shows will not officially be a part of the G-1 Climax tournament.

If you are planning your trip to Japan, there are six shows in Tokyo over the nearly month long tournament, giving you multiple options to visit the country while also fulfilling your goals of watching puroresu in Japan.

7/17 Sapporo
7/20 – 7/21 – 7/22 Korakuen Hall
7/23 Machida
7/25 Fukushima
7/26 Sendai
7/27 Nigata
7/29 Aichi
7/30 Gifu
8/1 Kagoshima
8/2 Fukuoka
8/4 Ehime
8/5 Osaka
8/6 Shizuoka
8/8 Yokohama
8/11 – 8/12 – 8/13 Sumo Hall

For additional information on traveling to Japan to this summer for the G-1 Climax,  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.

Obtain A Passport & Travel The Globe

You’ve made a list of the top ten destinations in the world you want to travel to. You have even put aside a dedicated amount from every paycheck and reduced your viceful spending in order to budget for the trip but you won’t be going anywhere internationally without a passport!

Getting a passport is pretty straight forward, although it can be a time consuming process so make sure you have the paperwork ready and give yourself ample time!  If you’re planning on going to the G-1 Climax in Japan this summer, you need to prioritize getting your passport paperwork filed by May 1st!

The United States Department of State offers expedited services but they are costly and are best reserved for true emergencies.  Don’t waste your valuable money due to poor planning!  A U.S. Passport will cost anywhere from $110 for renewals to just under $200 if you’re a first time applicant wanting a U.S. Passport Book & Card.  A card is not required but if you ever plan on crossing the Mexican border (to see Lucha Libre at the Auditoro de Tijuana) by car or foot, it greatly decreases the amount of time spent waiting in the processing line.

Fill out the paperwork!

Whether you’re applying for a new passport or renewing an existing one, you’ll need to have the paperwork prepared before you go to the passport office!

Copies of the appropriate forms can be found at https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/forms.html

Gather your proof of identity and citizenship!

Your paperwork needs to be accompanied by documentation proving you are a U.S. citizen and that you are you!  This could be a pain in the butt if you’ve ever lost any of your important birth documents (birth certificate, social security card) or never applied for a driver’s license. If anything you need is missing, you will need to reapply for those documents!  The great news is that once you have your U.S. Passport you will have a document that establishes both your U.S. citizenship and your identity, which will make starting a new job much easier than in the past!

Say Cheese!

All Passports require a passport photo!  Most passport offices will have the ability to take a photo there.  In the event the passport facility you choose doesn’t take photos, check your local pharmacies or office supply stores.

You will then need to find if there is an accepted passport facility (such as a local post office or notary) or a Regional Passport Office in your area.  You can search by postal code at https://iafdb.travel.state.gov/

If you live in a rural area, don’t worry, you can also submit your passport by mail (with an additional form, of course.)

 

Smile, You’re Traveling!!!

 

For additional information on traveling to Japan to this summer for the G-1 Climax,  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.

 

G-1 Climax: Long Beach or Tokyo?

New Japan Pro Wrestling officially announced the on sale date for their two day Long Beach, CA “G-1 Special” shows.  Tickets will go on sale on April 1st at 8am PDT – an unfortunate date and time for most of the United States’ biggest wrestling travelers, who will be pre-occupied with WrestleMania weekend festivities.

What options do WrestleMania travelers have for purchasing G1 Special tickets?  It would be easy, albeit inconvenient, to whip out your smartphone and purchase tickets at any of the number of events you’ll be attending but have you considered skipping Long Beach and heading to Tokyo instead?

Long Beach, CA or Tokyo, Japan?

Tickets to Tokyo during the G-1 right now are available for under $900 out of multiple U.S. Airports, whereas any cross country trips to Long Beach are running $350+ at present moment.  Combine airfare to the wonderful city of Long Beach, where Los Angeles county hotels rank amongst the priciest for entry and mid-level accommodations in the country and it makes it a no-brainer to maximize your vacation dollar. There are affordable options to visit Tokyo in July & August!

If you are considering traveling for the G1 shows in Long Beach, I highly recommend you spend the next few days researching your travel options.  What will it cost you to make it to Long Beach and how does that compare to Tokyo?  What cultural experiences are you looking forward to and which city offers them, Tokyo or Long Beach?  You might be surprised how affordable it is to get to Japan in the summer months and you’ll finally be able to cross “watching puroresu in Tokyo” off your bucket list.

As of present moment, no lineup has been announced for these shows nor has clarification been provided on the format.  Will the G-1 Special feature exhibition matches using G1 contestants, be presented as part of the G1 Climax tournament, or is this a cleverly disguised Ring of Honor / New Japan Pro Wrestling show under the New Japan banner?

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I’m confident that New Japan is bringing their A-game heading into a new market. Rumors are plentiful about reestablishing a training dojo in the Los Angeles area.  I know for sure I will be in Long Beach as close to the action as I possibly can for both events.

Where Can I find the cheapest flights to Tokyo?

If you’ve never used Google Flights, meet your new favorite travel partner.  Google Flights compares all of the major airlines with advanced search options that allow you to see costs with flexible parameters (instantly comparing different travel dates and departure cities) as well as the option to sign up for notifications when prices drop below the rates you’re seeing when searching!

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I’ve Found a Cheap Flight to Tokyo — Now What?

Now your adventure begins!  Don’t delay in booking hotel accommodations!  Good deals are to be had and will only increase as you wait to book!

If you’re new to this or are on a strict budget, let me help you!  For additional information on traveling to Japan to this summer for the G-1 Climax,  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.

 

 

Touring Japan with Adam of Disrotted

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Adam Jennings.  Adam is the singer of Disrotted, a doom metal /sludge band based out of Chicago, IL.  Disrotted have been playing together for three years and have numerous releases that can be streamed or purchased on their Bandcamp.   The band has been compared to Corrupted and Grief mixed with death metal along the lines of Morbid Angel.

Disrotted has toured Japan twice, which has also allowed Adam the opportunity to fulfill some other bucket list items, namely his puroresu and joshi fandom, which we will go over in great detail.

Disrotted have a new split LP being released in a few weeks with Toronto’s IRN, a split with Cloud Rat, and an upcoming U.S tour beginning in April.  Check Disrotted’s Facebook to see if they’ll be in your area.

Having visited Japan numerous times, Adam has seen the country through multiple perspectives, as a musician, tourist, and wrestling fanatic.  His insights represent an excellent means to maximize the potential of your journey to Japan without getting tunnel vision and solely focusing on the grappling arts. 

When did you become a fan of professional wrestling and how long after were you exposed to Japanese wrestling?

I will always remember the day I was hooked. I had to be about 6 years old, and I saw Papa Shango make black ooze drip from The Ultimate Warrior’s head. I watched the TV in shock and awe and was hooked. From there, I started watching WWF and WCW on a weekly basis. Everything took a turn though when I discovered an ad for RF Video when I was about 13. My paychecks from my first job at a small grocery store were spent on wrestling VHS tapes. I was then discovering wrestlers like Hayabusa, Mr. Pogo and Atsushi Onita and I was obsessed with All Japan Pro Wrestling’s Mitsuharu Misawa and Kenta Kobashi.

The videos would always take thirty days to reach me from the time of order and it was like Christmas every time. I still have stacks of VHS tapes from those days that I treasure.

The first Japanese wrestler, though, that I fell in love with was Bull Nakano. I recorded all her matches in WWF with Alundra Blayze and would rewatch them on a regular basis. She was and still is one of the most unique wrestlers I have ever seen.  Everything about her was so intimidating and so much different than what was being presented by mainstream wrestling at the time. The spiked hair, blue vein makeup, badass attitude, facial expressions and, of course, the stiff kicks.  It was all mesmerizing! She will always be the real “monster” of the WWF.  Her work in WWF had me hooked. I started collecting the tapes from Japan and watching her other work in AJW. I knew I was a fan of hers and joshi for life. She is holding an event at the end of March so I look forward to seeing her in person again. As far as favorite matches, I will always love the feud with Alundra Blayze. In Japan, I absolutely love the cage match against Aja Kong from 1990 and the promo where she attacks Fukawa on the train is gold.

How does the Wrestle Kingdom fan experience compare to major WWE shows?

The only WrestleMania I’ve attended was 13 at The Rosemont Horizon in Chicago.  Both WrestleKingdom and Wrestlemania 13 were very different, separated by a generation, but will both always hold a special place in my heart. The excitement in the crowd for the Kazuchika Okada / Kenny Omega match and the “Stone Cold” Steve Austin / Bret “Hitman” Hart matches were amazing. The final 5 minutes of the Okada / Omega match was the first time I ever teared up during a match. The entire crowd was on a rollercoaster of emotion for over forty minutes. I was 12 years old when I attended Mania and the excitement and awe that I felt during that cold night in Chicago as an adolescent was something I relived all over again entering The Tokyo Dome.

How are the sight lines in The Tokyo Dome? Are there any sections that looked like one may not have wanted to sit? 

I was seated in the nose nose bleeds for this show, so thankfully the eye shaped Jumbotron helped me see what was happening. 

While in Tokyo, you were also able to check out some of the smaller independent promotions.

Yeah, so this latest trip to Japan served two purposes.  I there to watch wrestling but  I was also touring with my doom metal band Disrotted. So in between tour dates, I was able to check out an FMW show and a STARDOM show. I regularly follow both promotions and FMW was some of the earliest Japanese wrestling I had seen in the 90’s so it was a dream to be there.

The FMW show was amazing since I was able to meet Masato Tanako and Riki Fuji before the show, two men I watched wrestle growing up. Atsushi Onita and Mr. Danger were there as well and I was in awe to be in the same room as them. Onita, Tanaka and Fuji were in the main event street fight.  It was surreal. Onita’s post match ritual of bathing the audience in water as he spoke to us, holding back tears, was unforgettable.

STARDOM is putting on some of the best women’s wrestling in the last decade.  I had to be there to see it in person. Hitting the FMW show was for more nostalgic reasons. It was wonderful since I was able to see Io Shirai wrestle in person.  Even though it took two hours waiting uncomfortably in a long line, I was able to meet her and take a photo after the show.

Io Shirai is not only my favorite joshi wrestler, but also my favorite wrestler period. She evokes the mesmerizing feelings I got first watching Akira Hokuto, Bull Nakano and Megumi Kudo. If you are unfamilar with Stardom, I would also recommend the work of Akai Saki, Kris Wolf, Kairi Hojo and Maya Yukihi.  All are at the top of their craft.

Being a fan of Joshi has gotten much easier over the last few years. New matches are occasionally posted on Youtube, although STARDOM recently launched their own channel.  It is super user friendly, even for English speakers, and is under $10 a month. Ice Ribbon matches are uploaded to Youtube on a regular basis. The STARDOM English twitter account is updated all the time.
A few websites I use to keep up to date with what is happening with Joshi (JWP, who is running their last show in a few weeks, Ice Ribbon, etc) are http://www.joshicity.com and http://www.puroresuspirit.net

Tokyo is certainly very unique in comparison to the United States in that it is clearly the defined center of wrestling in Japan.  Because of this concentration, do you feel Japanese independent wrestling is able to provide a greater variety than U.S independent wrestling?

I think Japan has a lot to offer in regards to wrestling. If you want death matches, you can catch FREEDOMS, Big Japan and FMW on a regular basis. If you want women’s wrestling there is STARDOM and Ice Ribbon. DDT PRO offers some of the weirdest and exciting wrestling I have ever seen, and of course there are the classics like NOAH, NJPW and AJPW. Of course, the British and American scenes have their own wide range of variety as well, however I feel the Japanese promotions remain as the constant source of inspiration and innovation.

How did those shows compare to smaller U.S. indies you’ve attended (specifically your experiences with Chikara, Evolve, & Ring of Honor)?  In what ways does fan engagement and interaction differ amongst the three types of fans?

Here is the thing..In Japan, the wrestling experience is a vastly different social environment than in the United States.  I never once felt overwhelmed with anger nor did I ever feel disgusted with the crowd. I’ve attended AAW shows in Chicago where I will hear people in the crowd say things like, “that’s a huge bitch” to Jessica Havok. At a recent Freelance Wrestling show there were two guys behind me hurling racist remarks at Kikutaro. I have had to endure crass immature comments, sexism, and xenophobia at WWE and ECW shows as well.  I never felt threatened or upset at a Japanese show unlike many of my experiences at wrestling events in the United States. I don’t go to wrestling shows to get drunk and shout obscenities, I go because I love it with all my heart.  In Japan, the art and athleticism of the matches are the focal point, not the participatory involvement of the crowd.

Were you able to see any shows outside of Korakuen Hall or Tokyo Dome?  How did those experiences differ from Korakuen Hall?

The STARDOM show was held at Korakuen Hall. Both venues are in Tokyo Dome City, they are as different as night and day. The Tokyo Dome was hands down the most overwhelming monolith of a venue I have ever been to.  On the other hand, Korakuen Hall felt cozy and familiar. Even though I had never been to Korakuen Hall before, having seen all the shows broadcasted from there made me felt like I had been going for many years. It felt like home and was not all overwhelming to be in. The FMW show was held at 1st Ring which is in the complete opposite direction of Tokyo Dome and in an industrial looking area [editors note: Southeast of Tokyo Dome City near Tokyo Disney World]. The capacity in the room is 300, and felt even more intimate than the Korakuen show. 1st Ring is probably the best venue I have ever seen for wrestling, every seat gives you a clear shot of the ring.

Unfortunately, I missed the New Year’s Dash show at Korakuen Hall because Disrotted had a show the same day.

Did you have any unique food experiences or anything that you’d highly recommended eating while in Tokyo?

I had some interesting food on this last trip – fried frog, century egg, fried cartilage, chicken guts with mayo and of course delicious ramen…my only advice is to eat everything and anything. 

I couldn’t agree more with the eat everything sentiment.  Eat everything and walk as much as your body can handle and you’ll have an amazing time in Japan.

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

I was able to meet Minoru Suzuki at his shop in Tokyo which was awesome. He was incredibly nice to me until he saw my All Japan Pro Wrestling phone case, which led to some ball busting. 

I am heading back to Tokyo in 3 weeks so I plan to finally hit up Ribera Steakhouse. I went to Bull Nakano’s bar in 2015 and I plan to visit it again in a few weeks. I heard Keiji Muto has his own steak house as well which I am curious to check out too. The wrestling shops in Tokyo are dangerously enticing and will make you contemplate maxing out your credit cards.

What were your favorite non-wrestling things to do while you were in Tokyo? What other cities have you visited?


Oh yeah, I like to visit places like Nagoya, Osaka and Yokohama when possible. There is a great bar in Yokohama called “El Puente” that is a mecca for great shows if you listen to punk and metal. I like to visit the temples and do touristy things when possible, too. I really like the KPOP stores near Shin-Okubo station in Tokyo. 

Did the language barrier present any obstacles during your trip?  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)


Everything about Tokyo can be very intimidating. I would recommend having your smart phone with Google Maps.  Technology has removed a lot of the stress of navigating cities internationally. Try and learn some words of Japanese before arriving as well. I would love to work for a wrestling themed travel agency to help foreigners have a perfect wrestling themed trip without the stress that a Japanese trip can sometimes bring.

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?

 
Too many to name. Japan is a beautiful place with infinite experiences.  The country is constantly changing. This next trip is for two weeks.  I just hope to take in as much as possible.
 
What recommendations would you make for those with the time and funds to head outside of Tokyo?
I would recommend Thrash Zone Beer Bar in Yokohama for all of the beer lovers. It is run by some amazing metalheads and you will leave very happy. Also, for the experimental music lovers I would recommend going to BEARS in Osaka. Hundreds of legendary bands have come through. You will find their taggings on the walls and ceiling in the backstage area. It is also owned by a member of The Boredoms. I would also recommend the hike to see the Great Buddha of Kamakura, located in Kamakura.

Zack Sabre, Jr. set to debut at New Japan’s 45th Anniversary Show

British standout Zack Sabre, Jr. is set to make his New Japan Pro Wrestling debut on March 6th against Revolution Pro Wrestling Heavyweight Champion Katsuyori Shibata.  Sabre, Jr. received his largest exposure to date this past summer when he appeared as a featured competitor on the World Wrestling Entertainment’s Cruiserweight Classic tournament.  Sabre, Jr., considered an insider favorite to win the tournament, lost in the semi-finals to Gran Metalik.  It has been suggested that this decision was made after Sabre decided against signing an exclusive deal with the WWE.  Zack Sabre, Jr. is also prominently featured in Southern California super-indy Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, where he is currently their reigning World Heavyweight Champion.

 

Previously announced for the card is Kazuchika Okada defending the IWGP Heavyweight Championship against Tiger Mask W (Kota Ibushi) in the main event.  Okada is a featured star on the Tiger Mask W anime and the main event looks to continue tying the anime storylines to New Japan programming.  Ibushi, as Tiger Mask W, remains undefeated in New Japan after defeating anime rivals Tiger The Dark (A.C.H.) and Red Death Mask (Juice Robinson).  The match with Okada signifies the first occurrence of reality imitating art imitating reality and is likely heading towards further integration of New Japan wrestlers into the anime storylines.  There is already speculation that Tiger Mask W’s main event slot will likely lead to an eventual program with the leader of the Bullet Club, and former partner, Kenny Omega.

New Japan Pro Wrestling’s 45th Anniversary show will stream live with English & Japanese commentary at http://www.njpwworld.com

Photo credit Mikey Nolan. Visit him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MikeyNolanPhotography/

Puroresu Travel: Catching up with Chris Charlton, author of “Lion’s Pride”

Chris Charlton is the author of “Lion’s Pride: The Turbulent History of New Japan Pro Wrestling” and the co-host of Japanese Audio Wrestling.  He can be found on Twitter @reasonjp where he regularly provides translations of post match interviews as well as media interviews and appearances from Japanese wrestlers and personalities.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Chris Charlton about his love of puroresu, how the Japanese wrestling scene compares with the English and American scenes, what New Japan Pro Wrestling must do in 2017 to successfully grow their business model in the United States.  He was also kind enough to share “locals only” puroresu knowledge for those of you who are heading to Tokyo.

When did you become a fan of Japanese wrestling? Can you provide some background about when you began watching pro wrestling?
I was just slightly too young to catch the tail end of the World of Sport era, instead starting to watch when WCW took up that time slot on ITV in the U.K. I fell away due to a lack of satellite/cable access, but came back to wrestling in the Attitude era.

Around that time, my brother, who had left home, would come to visit on the weekend, more often than not armed with a random VHS. Sometimes it would be Halloween Havoc ’90 style trash, sometimes treasure. Super J Cup 94 was a treasure one day in 2000 and went from there to NOAH of the era, Toryumon and more New Japan.

How has the modern wrestling landscape changed your consumption of wrestling media from the hey-day of tape trading?

It’s all there and accessible, but especially with adult time at a premium, somewhat more throwaway as a result. It used to be that any wrestling was a boon and something to be swallowed up in; now it’s background noise while I do the washing up much of the time.

When I first got into puroresu in 1995, The J-Cup and IWA Kawasaki Dream Death Tapes were in heavy circulation but it was largely through seeking out “Best Of” compilations that I educated myself to other wrestlers.  Do you find the instant access and online archives like RealHero to be overwhelming?

There’s a paralysis of choice, perhaps. It’s a lot of content, curated very poorly. I’ve not seen a streaming service either legal or non, get to grips with properly curating their archives to make them accessible. Precious few people watch archives on wwe network or NJPW World as a result; they’re just expected to be there and a value add. In video game terms, it’s like backwards compatibility on a console.

The recent surge in interest of Japanese wrestling amongst English speakers a result of multiple factors: the English broadcast AXS shows, NJPW World, the NJPW relationship with ROH & former NJPW stars like Shinsuke Nakamura & Aj Styles success with WWE. What recommendations (modern promotions/wrestlers) would you make for them outside of NJPW to broaden their horizon?
NOAH has a brace of young talent and are desperately trying to give them real exposure. If you’re on the angle/entertainment side, DDT are trying hard to be more accessible to foreign audiences, and the goofy reputation belies solid characters (broadly unsung indie vet Daisuke Sasaki among them) and strong in ring work.

You live a half hour from Tokyo. For many people encountering Tokyo for the very first time, the city can be intimidating. It is a bustling metropolis in ways that are difficult to prepare for even if you’ve spent a fair amount of time in larger cities. What type of activities do you do to unwind, within or outside of Tokyo, that you might recommend for visiting fans looking to add something unique to their travel itinerary?

My circumstances are a little different to a lot of fans traveling for wrestling because I have two young sons and that dictates what you do with your free time pretty strictly.
We spend a lot of time at the bay- Sakuragicho/Minatomirai gives you a little sea air and some nice kid friendly attractions and parks. Tokyo’s only an hour away from the Shonan coast as well, the beaches around Enoshima are hardly a tropical paradise (think Japan’s Jersey Shore in summer) but there’s an aquarium and the small Eno island itself that’s full of historical spots.

How does the Wrestle Kingdom fan experience compare to WrestleMania?

I’ve never been to a wrestle mania, but WK certainly has patterned itself after WM the past few years and has done well as a result. The fan fest is a nice family friendly experience, the big show is the big show, and New Years Dash feels more relaxed and usually with a big angle or two.

How would you compare the Japanese indie scene compared to the resurgence currently happening in the U.S. & Europe?
There are far, far too many people competing for the same cash at the moment. If you look at an indie resurgence in the United states, that’s a grand thing because geographically it’s huge. Europe as a whole too, perhaps. Specifically the U.K. and Japan, and you’re looking at trouble, because the logic is to settle in a hotbed without thinking about whether the bubble will support them. There is no need for another U.K. indie in the Midlands, and there is absolutely no need or room for another Japanese indie in Kanto. If you have the initial capital to go outside there, there’s room to survive.

Thing is, a high tide rises all ships, but New Japan is only experiencing a mini boom. The pie is still a bit small for everyone to take a bite.

On Twitter, you provide translations for interviews in the media and television promos. It helps piece together storylines in ways that English speaking fans rarely had access to in the past. Have you been approached by any Japanese wrestling companies to provide this service?

No. Would I? Maybe. From a promotional standpoint, it’s more complex than simple translation- these are artistic products that need to be localized in a similar way to video games with translators and writers working together with talent as well. Giving it a real go is something many promotions don’t have the resources for, and when Stardom or Dragon Gate (even NJPWWorld) do on occasion, they can point at numbers and say the outlay doesn’t justify it.

The answer I think is a dedicated company that promotions outsource to. That’s not for me to set up though, I’m not dealing with the stress.

What do you think New Japan will need to do in order to make the shows in Long Beach a successful growth transition into regularly drawing profitable shows in the Los Angeles area?

They’re in a difficult spot because there’s a fine line between catering to and pandering. They need to have foreign friendly guys on the card, but not at the expense of the Naito’s and Okada’s who make up a lot of appeal for westerners. Again to make a video game analogy, the danger is in trying to appeal to a western demo so strongly that the result is neither fish nor fowl and nobody enjoys it; the games industry did that here ten years ago and has never recovered.

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 when you first came to Japan)

I’m so far removed from tourist days that I couldn’t really tell you. Broadly from a travel perspective, it’s not too difficult to get around signage and the like and I’m sure people will step in and at least try to help if you look lost enough.

Do you have any favorite rituals before or after attending shows? (i.e. restaurants, bars or shops you like to visit as part of the day’s experience?)

City Buffet in Tokyo Dome City isn’t great food wise but has become a January 4 routine. A bit outside, head to Deathmatch in Kawasaki, a yakkiniku joint [editor’s note: Japanese BBQ] with a wrestling theme.

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.

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.

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.