Travels in Tokyo, Part 2

by Laura Fawcett

2007 World Championships News and Starting Orders

Godzilla is nowhere to be found, but I did find this guy wandering around in a yellow cartoon outfit.

I broke a door Tuesday.

O.K., I didn't really break it, but a large piece of it did come off.

So goes my time in Japan. I keep waking up 6:30 a.m. (and those of you who know me will be shocked at that prospect), food is a never-ending search, I have bruised hips (not kidding) from sleeping on my side on the hard bed), and though I tried to study Japanese etiquette, in the heat of the moment I keep forgetting some of the niceties. The good thing is, I think we Westerners are mostly forgiven for our lapses.

Monday, the first day of practice, was a good chance to get in the arena and get the lay of the land. We took the subway to the arena the first time, but it turned out to be not as quick as just the regular old shuttle bus, as long as you hit the shuttle bus at the right departure time.

Finding the media room was our first order of business, and it wasn't easy. The event level, where the locker rooms, medical, skater services, etc., are, isn't really on the bottom floor. While going around the arena on that level, we kept reaching one way bridges to cross. Team leader Lorrie Parker mentioned that in the team meeting later that night. It's not a good idea to be too much in a hurry on that level because if you hit the bridges at the wrong time, you are waiting on your side for a chance to cross.

The media room is spacious, but with the amount of people covering the event it's very cramped. Most of the Western journalists are together, which has made communication easy. It's a flight of stairs up to the press conference room, and a different flight of stairs up to the press stands. And then there's the press stand stairs, a temporary, steep rickety staircase that I expect more than one person will fall on – either going up or down.

And the “good” thing is that a fall means you are in full view of half the crowd and any skaters in the kiss and cry. Wheee!

I've nicknamed the bathroom “the litterbox” for its odd smell. I'd hoped that Lindsay could confirm that but apparently she never has to go. It's disturbing.

Monday night's team meeting was a chance for most of the athletes, coaches and officials to get together once before the competition. The ladies were not in yet, and the pairs were just getting off practice, so they missed most of it.

Lorrie Parker spent much of the meeting going over information she received in the team leaders meeting. That information consisted of “if you do this, you'll get fined, if you don't do that, you'll get fined.” All of the stuff you can get fined for is common sense stuff that our athletes do or don't do anyway (be at the press conference, be ready for medals, etc.), but hearing it all at once sounded like a dire list of last warnings.

The one interesting thing I did learn, that maybe many of you know, is that next year the ISU is cutting down on the time between the announcement of a skater's name to the start of his/her/their music to one minute (now it's two). And that means that when your time is up, your music starts, whether or not you are ready to go.

This is Gonpachi restaurant. You can kind of see how Quentin Tarantino got his inspiration for the "Kill Bill" restaurant massacre scene from this area.

Lindsay and I had a media dinner Monday night at a place called Gonpachi in the Roppongi district. It was an international crowd, with what looked like a lot of business entertaining, but it was a chance to sample a lot of authentic Japanese food. Gonpachi is apparently also the restaurant that inspired Quentin Tarantino's set in “Kill Bill, Vol.1.” You can definitely see a lot of the similarities between the restaurant and the final set.

Monday was also our first experience with Japanese schoolgirls, and it was delightful.

The shuttle bound for the Akasaka Prince Hotel starts at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, then pretty much travels 100 yards for a second pick up at the practice arena. Because the outside of that arena, and the shuttle stop, is not a secure area, it's a great place for star-watching if you're a figure skating fan.

When we stopped there, there were about nine young Japanese girls flitting about the area. Our bus pulled up, and they immediately noticed the young man sitting behind Lindsay at the window – Stefan Lindemann of Germany! They went crazy with little screams and waving. Stefan was a great sport and enjoying every minute, waving back and smiling. One of them finally got the nerve to get his attention for a picture through the glass. He put up the peace sign, and then held it up patiently while all the other girls happily realized he was cooperating.

On the outside of the bus, Canada's Scott Moir signed autographs and posed for pictures before boarding. I have a feeling this scene is playing out dozens of times daily.

But on to the most important feature of the blog – food. In Torino I was always craving a burrito, but I was never really hungry. Here I am famished constantly, yes, even right now. I know that some of it is due to being a picky eater, but I just can't get myself to eat a mini-pseudo-sloppy joe that is pre-packaged in plastic, or day-old cold rice, or bananas.

And that's another thing! What is with the bananas? There is generally no food in the media room except bananas … dozens of them. What am I missing? Why?

There are really no concessions in the arena. There are three little refreshment shops, kind of mini 7-11s, but that's not exactly food, and I am loathe to spend $5 on a bag of chips when I'm not sure what exactly I am going to get.

I'll be going to McDonald's again today, that's for sure.

Oh, that would have been a good ending, but about that door …

I went to a place called Mos Burger, I'm guessing a local burger chain. I was confronted with a confounding door. It was a sliding glass door, I could tell that, but when I moved toward it, it did not automatically open as I had suspected. So I went to pull it open. Apparently they are “touch” doors … you just need to really touch the handle and it opens automatically. Uh yeah, I pulled, and suddenly I was being hit by an eight foot piece of clear tubing. I think … think … the tubing was the buffering on the door to protect it when it closed. Here I am trying to hold an eight foot piece of rubber … and not a single person notices me. No one. No one is looking at me. What do I do? I just broke the door.

I did the only thing I could think of; I put it down and got in line to eat.