Hutchison-san mugs next to the Geisha who played hostess at dinner, where there were some interesting delicacies offered up.
When we first hopped the Shinkansen to Fukuoka I was thinking how I had hoped to get an invitation to do something that sounded an awful lot like that city’s name the night before. Oh well. You don’t always get what you want. The train ride was incredible really. Although the scenery outside was a bit blurry it was cool to see the different towns and villages along the way. When we finally arrived at Fukuoka we still had a bus ride to Kumamoto to look forward to. I have never spent so much time sitting down in my entire life. It was worth it though in the end.
At Kumamoto we dined in an establishment that fed us more peculiar food than I ever thought I would eat in my life, let alone a single day. The raw horse was the kicker but there was other stuff I could only nibble on before tossing it onto the person’s plate next to me. Sorry Steve-O. That kid ate Seabiscuit’s entire flank, so if you think I am a sick man please defer the hate to Cycle News’ super-scribe, not me.
Continuing our trend of seeking out the best of the towns we we’re in, the group roamed the streets of Kumamoto until late at night. We were finally getting familiar with how things worked at the local pubs, so we found an inviting little one beside a club they wouldn’t let us in at. Hey, we had to try right? At the quaint bar the deal was 20-bucks for an hour of all you can drink. I was thinking to myself ‘buddy, you are in for a surprise this time.’ There were a few cute toots in there with us and before long they were chumming it up with us, much to the dismay of the scrubs who had been tossing weak game their way before we showed up. Apparently were big in Kumamoto too.
Gnawing on dead horse didn’t appeal to Ken. At least it wasn’t the still-beating heart of the world’s last unicorn.
Somewhere between when we thought we were doing well and when the ladies ditched us, a fight erupted in the street outside. Some wasted guy was picking one with a much bigger and more-sober fella so you can imagine how it turned out. Around that time a sweaty dude came in and started eye-balling us a bit while pacing by the door. Just about the time it was getting uncomfortable he asked if we spoke English. It turned out he was a technician from Ohio who lived in Japan now. We told him we thought he was going to start something but it was obvious he was just worried we would think he was a freak. We did, but he wasn’t. He gave us pointers and told us why we couldn’t get into the exclusive clubs.
Apparently American tourists used to get the wrong idea at these establishments. Either they would proposition the hostesses, who by the way are not prostitutes, or they would be surprised to find out that they were being charged $100 per hour to drink plus another $100 per hour to have the hot chick act like she thinks you’re the man. We can see how this could be misleading and were thankful the bouncers wouldn’t let us in!
We finally bailed at the crack of dawn and were off to Autopolis in the morning after a solid 12-minute nap. The Japanese Superbike races were great with much more pageantry and color than our races. Instead of every bike being black or blue the team colors were vibrant and brighter. The umbrella girls were looking extra sexy for some reason and the facility was just amazing. Not to mention the backdrop scenery of the mountains with its lush green forest. It was all good.
Akira Yanagawa gave it his best effort but fell one position short of delivering a victory for Kawasaki in the All Japan Road Race event at Autopolis.
While we’re waiting for the start of the superbike race a young lady came up with an entourage of hotties and a gentleman with a Team Honda shirt on. The girl turned out to be the Geisha from the night before and her father was a former big-wig at the rival manufacturer. Apparently she recognized the three of us and wanted to get a picture with us when she wasn’t in her fancy dancing digs. She was very, very nice and spoke pretty good English, so we talked for a while about the races and who she was rooting for as her scantily clad auntie looked on. It was hard to stay focused on the young gal while the cosmetically enhanced cougar was eyeballing me, but I managed to do it for the most part. Once the races were close to starting the group headed to their suite and I was dragged back to the wall by the boys for a better view of the action taking place on the grid below us.
The race went pretty quick with Yanagawa leading until he was passed by some damn Yamaha rider in the closing stages. He couldn’t overtake him but probably would have if the race was a few more laps. Akira gave us a helluva show nonetheless and he is still my favorite Japanese rider, so kudos to him. He’s leading the championship anyway and it’s not who wins the battle, but who wins the war that counts.
Back at the hotel we had another crazy feast for night two. Shark fin soup was one appetizer I couldn’t eat. It tastes alright but one particularly well-informed scribe pointed out that the sharks are not treated very well when the fins are removed and it kinda ruined the moment for me. The 100-year-old goose egg was tasty too. Yummy. The rest of the sushi and stuff was good, so in the end I was full and ready to crash because tomorrow we ride.
Shark fin soup is another delicacy served up during our travels, but we couldn’t eat it. We felt sad for the sharks.
I mentioned that I passed on the first session and ended up not riding at all until after lunch because of the way the rotation worked, so I was freaking my lid. Well it was worth the wait because it was better than any track I have ever been on. The layout was sick, the surface was smooth and full of grip, plus the Malaysian-spec bikes could be ridden at full throttle and it didn’t seem scary at all. It all turned out good in the end – even though Duke’s damn camera didn’t work for my lap of Autopolis video and I rode as hard as I could behind the test rider on my ragged edge. Do you think he did it on purpose?
The end came way too quickly and we made our way to the airport and flew back to Tokyo that night, without a shower. Poor passengers on the plane – I am sure a few of our crew were smelly individuals and that can’t do anything to improve our smelly American stigma. Do we still have that? Either way this would be our only chance to visit the famed Roppongi district. This is the main Tokyo hot-spot, but unfortunately it was Wednesday night so there wasn’t a lot going on. What did happen though is worth a paragraph or two.
Our friend Shu was assigned the dubious task of making sure we returned in one piece so Kevin Duke, Sonsky, Shu and myself headed out for a three-hour tour of the best of mid-week Tokyo club-banging action. Right out of the cab it wasn’t looking good. The driver dropped us at the top of the strip and we went to the bar with the loudest sound system. No one was there. Nada. So we headed down the strip, which is a lot like going to Tijuana as it turns out. Swarms of Jamaican dudes try to get you to visit their clubs. After checking out a few it became clear what was going on, so we decided to be more selective about our patronage. Ultimately we found a legit bar where the barmaid spoke great English and didn’t want to see us naked any time soon. There was a group of huge Japanese dudes getting tanked in the corner of the room while UFC was playing on the TV and the music was rocking hard.
One great thing about world travel is the fact that wherever you go there are beautiful women… and the American dude who thinks he’s got a chance.
Before too long the place was filling up and Duke, Shu and I were definitely the shortest of the crowd. The group turned out to be young Sumos in training and their dojo only allows them out on Wednesday to keep them out of trouble. When we went to walk past they stopped Sonsky and started sizing him up. I was envisioning a serious ass kicking taking place and imagining Shu having to tell the story to our hosts. “Um, yeah. So this group of Sumos was dancing in a group and hugging each other all night long. Once it started getting crazy they attacked our Americans and beat them to death then served them as red-meat sushi to the Jamaican hookers next door while I grabbed a cab back to the hotel. Sorry.”
Fortunately the big dudes were cool. They forced Dave to compare biceps with the biggest Sumo and when they were done the scariest looking dude pulled up his shirt to check his abs, I presume. The whole time I was waiting for one of the sides to be offended but fortunately for us it didn’t happen. They got a kick out of the stunt-meister’s tats and tried to recruit him to no avail. Definitely not something you experience every day in the states.
We made our way to another club where it was packed full of tourists (we could tell because not too many of them were Japanese). I danced a bit with a couple of toots but nothing really looked to have much potential and I could tell the others were getting bored of waiting around. The most entertaining thing in this bar was what appeared to be an Eastern-bloc twin brother-sister duo who-were hammered drunk. They were dancing together for a while, then paired up with others then went back to each other and by eavesdropping I deduced they were at least related. I cannot describe how well they worked together but it was something reminiscent of the bro/sister moment in that movie Eurotrip – sans Absinthe.
The Kawasaki cheering section was packed during the All Japan Road Race Championship event. You can add us to said section after being treated to such a sweet travel adventure.
We waded past the determined Jamaicans one final time and grabbed a cab while they were clamoring at the windows to get us to fulfill our previous promises to return to their club, which we had offered up in an attempt to get them off our cases when we first showed up. These dudes have minds like a steel trap I tell ya. There we were wiped out and cabbing it back to the hotel while laughing about Dave getting groped by the friendly Sumo wrestlers and the madness of this crazy district. It would have been great to see this place on the weekend but that’s the way it goes. It was still memorable and it gave us one more thing to laugh about on the way home.
Home, ah yes, it’s a beautiful thing. After flying back from Tokyo to Los Angeles I hopped on a plane to Oregon, did my laundry and answered a weeks worth of e-mail before sneaking a short nap in. You see, I had exactly 18 hours at home before turning around and flying back to England for the Isle of Man and my internal clock was a little out of whack. This trip may not have been good for my home life or my posture, but I racked up some miles along the way and I saw and did things I would never had done anywhere else in the world, so I am not going to complain about it now. Yeah, that’s right baby – that’s how we roll in Roppongi.
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