MonthApril 2008

Red Sox Game 4/9/2008

I have been to 2 Red Sox games so far this season. I went to the opening game of the 2008 season between the A’s and the Red Sox in Tokyo. This post will not cover that game, however.

This post is all about the game on 4/9. Well, sort of. I have been in Tokyo on and off since September 2007, and last night was one of the first times I have hung out with my little brother Chris. Chris and I have been paired through the Big Brothers program since January 2006, and I felt bad that I haven’t been able to see him much since I left to go to Tokyo in September.

The Big Brothers program will occasionally check in on you (sounds very ominous, doesn’t it?) at regular intervals to see how your relationship is going with your “little”. They checked in on me my first week back, and I asked them if they had any ideas for things to do over the next two weeks. Just by chance, they had two tickets to the Red Sox game available and I quickly snatched them up. Chris was ecstatic to find out that we would be going to the game.

It was great to see him for the first time in a couple months, and it was obvious he was excited right off the bat. He wouldn’t walk right next to me on the walk to the T from his house. He was climbing on every building and walkway next to the sidewalk, which usually is a good indicator for how good of a mood he is in. We got to the game about an hour early and got to see some of batting practice before the stadium filled up. By the time the game started, he could barely sit still. He isn’t at the age yet where he can sit through an entire game. He was almost as interested in the vendors walking around the park selling hot dogs, cotton candy, and foam fingers. It was obvious, however, how much he was loving it. As is our ritual at Red Sox games, Chris got vanilla and chocolate soft serve in a helmet cup. After devouring the ice cream and then cleaning out the bowl, he was wearing it underneath his black winter hat. Priceless.

Here’s a video of him dancing to music being played in-between innings.

We had to leave the game early so that Chris could get to bed, so we weren’t able to see the game finish. That was probably for the best as it freaks me out to travel on the T with him when it’s really crowded. In the end, it didn’t matter that the Red Sox lost to the Tigers – I was really glad because Chris had a great time.

If you’ve thought of volunteering as a mentor to a young child – I highly recommend it. You can directly see the results from taking a small chunk out of your week. Four of my coworkers volunteer as Big Brothers – and I know from talking with them that they are saying the same thing I am. Make sure you have the time free and that you can devote at least a year to the relationship. If you think you can do that – go for it, it is a great experience for everybody involved.

I have to mention that the tickets were donated by the Dow Chemical Company. A big thank you to them, so buy some chemicals or something.

Chris making a funny face

Hanami

The definition of the Japanese term Hanami is “flower viewing”. Usually, it is in reference to Cherry Blossoms (Sakura). I had the amazing privilege on a recent business trip to Tokyo to experience the peak of the blossoming flowers. Usually only lasting a week or two, it is a huge and wildly popular Japanese tradition (it’s kind of a big deal, is basically what I’m trying to say).

Flowers in Ueno

I spent all of Saturday, March 29th visiting three sites where the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. I visited Ueno Park, Asakusa, and a park near Kudanshita station on the Hibiya line. Ueno park was an incredible experience because there were tons of friends and families having picnics underneath a very long path of cherry blossoms. The cherry blossoms were incredibly impressive, but the aspect that caught me off guard was the setup each group was using to enjoy the surroundings. Each group brought a tarp, food, a bunch of alcohol. Coming from the US where drinking in public is not allowed and frowned upon, I was amazed to see the Japanese singing a little louder from what I thought was a little alcohol buzz. The other thing that blew me away was the fact that the area was teeming with Japanese people. There were a handful of ex-pats there walking in amazement, but the sheer amount of Japanese people enjoying the experience was impressive. If I were to view the flowers in Hanami again next year, I would considering coming back to Ueno Park with a tarp, a bunch of Asahi super “dry”, and some friends.

The next stop on the Hanami tour was Asakusa, northeast of the Imperial Palace at the end of the Ginza line on the Tokyo Metro. This park wasn’t as busy, but the distinguishing characteristic was the multiple street vendors selling goodies ranging from chocolate covered bananas to fish on a stick. I don’t see the Fish-on-a-stick concept catching fire here in Boston, but the bananas dipped in chocolate seem like a pretty good idea. Here’s also a picture of the locals enjoying their picnic on a tarp. I can’t describe how ubiquitous this is – I would run around Tokyo at night after work and find groups of co-workers and friends sitting on tarps in small gardens around the city being loud and boisterous.

Picnicers enjoying Asakusa Hanami Fish on a stick!

The sakura at kitanomaru park

The last stop on the Hanami tour was Yasukuni shrine and Kitanomaru parknear the Kudanshita station on the Hibiya line. This was definitely the highlight of the day. Even though the park it didn’t have picnickers enjoying the flowers, it was the most picturesque and had that indescribable “wow” factor. The flowers hang over a beautiful path that is next to a moat. You’re able to rent boats and row around the moat, but I didn’t have time at the end of the day. I had dinner reservations at a great sushi restaurant, and had to hustle back to my hotel so I made it to dinner on time. Along the way to the shrine there was a path filled with street vendors that reminded me of a carnival. There were games you could play to win prizes, and there was corn on the cob as well as fish on a stick. I doubt that combination is coming to the county fair anytime soon, though. The park (and the shrine) were perfect ways to cap off such an amazing day. If you’d like to see the rest of my photos, click here to view them.

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