Saturday, December 31, 2011

FC Tokyo Supporters' Chants

In an earlier post I described how one goes about buying tickets to football matches in Japan. Once I had gotten over this initial hump and the process became easy, I went to a few more games over the last couple of months.

The club I chose to follow is FC Tokyo, one of the two 2nd division J League clubs from Tokyo itself. There's actually - if you count both 1st and 2nd divisions - a bunch of clubs that play in the Kanto region that Tokyo is part of, including this season's J1 champions Kashiwa Reysol, as well as the more storied clubs Urawa Reds and Kashima Antlers. My reasons for going with FC Tokyo were in part simply due to laziness - they play their home games not far from where I live - and also because theirs was the first game I went to, removing from my fandom contention the other local club Tokyo Verdy. (Of course, the fact that halfway through my first game I found out FC Tokyo were well-placed to win promotion back to J1, that was never really a factor.)

Anyway, here I'll share some of the chants that I've learned and recorded.

You'll Never Walk Alone
I know, kind of lame, but this is what the supporters sing before the start of every game. Didn't feel the urge to hit record on this one but here's a picture. It wouldn't be Japanese if it weren't done karaoke-style, with the lyrics up on the jumbotron.

Tokyo Koso Subete

Tokyo koso subete, orerawo atsukusuru
(Tokyo for sure all of us can feel the heat)       
Jounetsuwo butsukero, yusho tsukamitore
(Let's attack with passion and grab victory)
Vamos Tokyo, vamos Tokyo
Vamos Tokyo, vamos Tokyo

Vamos of course being Spanish for "let's go".

This particular instance was right after the last home game of this season. Tokyo had already won promotion to the top level the week before so here after the game ended they went up to the home supporters to celebrate and pose for photos.

Nemuranai Machi

Tokyo, Tokyo, nemuranai machi
(Tokyo, Tokyo, the city that never sleeps)
Ao to aka no, orera no hokori, whoa!
(In blue and red is our pride)

This chant is sung as the final seconds are running out but only if Tokyo are winning.


Oretachino oh Tokyo
(Our Tokyo)
Sa yuko sekai mezashi
(Come let's go towards the goal)

Melissa is originally a song by the Japanese band Porno Graffitti. It's also the theme song for a manga series called Fullmetal Alchemist. This chant just borrows the tune, I'm not sure if there's some other connection. You can listen to the original song here.

La Edogawa / O Cesar Ohh

Tatakae oreno Tokyo,
(Fight, our Tokyo)
Kyo mo shouri o shinjite
(Today again we believe you'll win)
Hajikeyou, Tobitakyu
(Blow it open at Tobitakyu) 
Makeru wake wa nai sa
(There's no way we'll lose)

Tobitakyu is the name of the train station closest to the Ajinomoto Stadium, one of two stadiums where FC Tokyo plays its home games (and yes, same Ajinomoto as the food flavoring/coloring company). With this chant, as I was recording it a goal was scored by Tokyo's Brazilian striker Roberto Cesar, prompting the crowd to break into "O Cesar Ohh".

Vamos Vamos Tokyo

Vamos vamos Tokyo
Vamos Tokyo, vamos Tokyo

Pretty simple, nothing to it really.

Aishteru Tokyo

Aishteru Tokyo, lalalalalala
(I love you Tokyo, lala...)
Aishteru Tokyo, lalalalalala
Aishteru Tokyo, lala-la-lala-la-la

This is set to the tune of Frankie Valli's Can't Take My Eyes Off You.

Verdy Dakeniha Makerarenai

Verdy dakeniha, makerarenai
(There's no way we'll lose to Verdy)
Oretachino chikara, misete yarouze
(Let's show them our strength)

This chant is specific to derby rivals Tokyo Verdy. I find it a little endearing how it is only mildly antagonistic.

Minna De Utao

Oh oreno Tokyo, hokori o mochi
(We have pride in our Tokyo)
Tachi agatte minna de utao
(Everybody let's sing together)
La la la la la...

Coffee Rumba

Ole ole ole ole ole ole Tokyo
Tachi agare tobi hanero
(Let's stand up and jump up and down)
Kyo wa makerarenai hida
( Today isn't the day we're going to lose)
Tobe sakebe oreno Tokyo
(Let's jump and shout for our Tokyo)

One of my favorite chants. The tune is borrowed from a song called Moliendo Cafe by Venezuelan musician Hugo Blanco. In Japan the tune came to be known as Coffee Rumba, and has been covered by a bunch of different people. There are two versions in particular that I really like. One is by two ladies playing the marimba in Ueno Park, while the other is an acoustic guitar version by the band Ohho.

So there you have it. This list of chants is by no means comprehensive, only those I've been able to work out so far. I hope to go to more games next season and record more stuff. Especially since because of being back in J1 there should be bigger crowds and a better atmosphere overall.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Virtual Girlfriends vs Fantasy Sports

Read this article from the Guardian today. In particular this passage got me thinking:
Virtual girlfriends became a sensation last summer, when Japanese game-maker Konami released its second-generation of its popular Love Plus, called, aptly, Love Plus +, for the Nintendo DS gaming system. Konami skillfully arranged for an otherwise deadbeat beach resort town called Atami to host a Love Plus + holiday weekend. Players were invited to tote their virtual girlfriends, via the gaming console, to the actual resort town to cavort for a weekend in romantic bliss. The promotion was absurdly successful, with local resort operators reporting that it was their best weekend in decades.
"This is very Japanese," is the first thought that came to my mind.

Now, however, contrast with this:
Over 2,500 fans attended the inaugural Fantasy Football SUPERDRAFT that took place August 27th - 30th 2009 in Las Vegas. Some came to host their drafts in true Vegas style at the customized Draft Room complete with cheerleaders, fantasy experts and surprise celebrity appearances. Some opted for a private draft experience in one of the luxury draft suites. ... SUPERDRAFT began as a destination weekend for fantasy football enthusiasts to hold their drafts like they had never done before. What SUPERDRAFT became was not only the largest fantasy football draft experience in history, but also an unprecedented media and entertainment phenomenon.
Is one necessarily weirder than the other? And this is coming from somebody who's spent a fair bit of time playing fantasy sports.

Conceivably, some people who have no qualms cavorting around with virtual companions might think it weird how a multi-million-dollar industry complete with regular news coverage is centered around imaginary sports teams. Isn't it just a question of perspective?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A KFC Christmas in Japan

Today over lunch with a group of friends (Pakistani place in Azabujuban called Siddique Palace, good food especially the bakray ki raan) conversation turned to plans for Christmas day.

"So are you going to KFC tomorrow?"

Er... didn't really have any plans in particular. Why?

"It's the thing to do! Everybody goes to KFC on Christmas! The tradition is to have fried chicken."

Huh. Had no idea. How did this come about?

Here no one seemed to know for sure. One of the Japanese girls at the table said that many years ago a Westerner was in Japan and wanted to eat turkey for Christmas dinner but not finding any opted for fried chicken from KFC instead. Someone else pointed out that with most Japanese not having ovens in their homes, baking a turkey or chicken is out of the question, and so getting chicken from KFC is just more practical.

Which is all fine and good I guess, and when I got home and Googled this it seemed to confirm what I'd just heard about the origins of chicken for Christmas. From CNN:
According to the company, their holiday campaign was first conceived in 1971, at their Aoyama store. A homesick foreigner wandered in, bemoaned Japan’s lack of turkey, and chose fried chicken as the next-best alternative.

Today, the company claims, ”Japan has a custom of chicken for Christmas, and the origin of this custom is KFC.”
But  the question still remains as to why this foreigner wanted turkey for Christmas. Is that a tradition somewhere that I haven't heard of? I know of course about turkey and Thanksgiving but this I can't understand. (Edit: Well, I'm obviously ignorant. As commenters have pointed out this is an established practice.)

Anyway, regardless of origin, the tradition is now firmly in place, and I'm sure we can all agree that this is ingenious marketing by KFC. Convince people that this is how it's done abroad and create a tradition out of thin air. KFC starts taking orders for party packs two months in advance. Japan Times quotes a KFC spokesman as saying that sales over Christmas account for 20% of annual sales, while another piece from the Financial Times says that sales over December 23, 24 & 25 are half normal monthly sales. The CNN article mentioned above also talks about how McDonald's now wants a piece of this market and is expanding the chicken offerings on its menu.

More Googling revealed that the largest density of KFCs in Japan is in Okinawa Prefecture, with 1.38 restaurants per 100,000 people. Okinawa is an island where the US has military bases so American consumers are probably what drive the business there. Also apparently the tradition there is to give fried chicken from KFC as wedding gifts. Sort of similar to Pakistan in that sense, how strong ties exist between weddings and the poultry industry!

On my way home from the lunch I popped into the KFC near my house and sure enough they had extra staff outside taking orders. Inside they were advertising their special Christmas menu:

While the whole dining area inside the store had been converted into a delivery station. If you had pre-ordered you just brought your receipt here where they had stacked up all the boxes and picked up your order.

Now if you'll excuse me I have some chicken nuggets to wolf down.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Buying Tickets to a 'Sakka' Match

I had an interesting experience the first time I went to buy tickets to a football - or 'sakka' (soccer; in Japanese: サッカー) - match in Tokyo. I had been wanting to go ever since finding out that Tokyo had 2 club teams playing in the J League 2nd Division. These being FC Tokyo, who got demoted from J1 last season, and Tokyo Verdy. So one weekend I found out FC Tokyo were playing Yokohama FC at home, and I decided I'd go check it out. Yokohama is just south of Tokyo, about half an hour by train. It's also the 2nd most populous city in Japan. All signs pointed to a healthy derby-like atmosphere.

The game was being played at the Tokyo National Olympic Stadium, which isn't too far from where I live. So the day before the game I walked over moon utha kay, thinking there probably would be a booth or office where I could buy tickets in advance. I looked at the map outside the stadium and started walking towards the information center marked on it.

The national stadium is also a track and field center so there were a bunch of runners doing their drills outside. This stadium held the IAAF World Championships in 1991 for which they still have the leaderboard outside. And one of my favorite athletes' name is right at the top. It was here in 1991 that Carl Lewis ran the 100 meters in 9.86 seconds to set a new world record, which stood for about 3 years. According to Lewis this was the best race he'd ever run.

Leaderboard for Tokyo '91 outside the National Stadium

Anyway after getting a bit sidetracked I finally made my way to the information center. There in my broken Japanese I expressed my desire to buy tickets to the next day's game. But I was very politely told they didn't sell tickets there. One of the ladies behind the desk looked up something on her computer for a couple of minutes and then came to me with a number written on a sticky note with 'Loppi code' written next to it. At first I thought it might be a phone number I needed to call, which would be a real pain to do on my own. But then she said something about Lawson convenience stores, and entering the code she gave me in a Loppi machine. At least that's what I think she said as I only understood about 50% of it.

Lawson stores as I mentioned in an earlier post are everywhere. There are two within a 5-minute walk from my apartment, and luckily there was one right next to the stadium as well, so I didn't have to walk far.

Now, inside each store there is this machine that looks like an ATM called the Loppi.

It's all touch screen, and the big button on the left seemed to say something about entering codes so I pressed that.

I then entered the number the lady had given me. This pulled up another screen with match information. The date and team names matched what I wanted (not in this example, I took these pictures when I went to buy tickets for a different game) so I just hit the button to go to the next screen.

Next the machine asked me what stand I wanted tickets for, giving the various price options. (If tickets have sold out it doesn't let you go beyond this point; if they're still available it asks you how many you want.) Once I made my selection, it asked me to enter my name in Japanese, and then my phone number.

Finally, after confirming all the details, it printed out a receipt. I took this receipt to the store counter where they processed it. My tickets printed right there and then, I paid for them at the counter, and that was that.

It all sounds pretty simple now that I've done it a few times, and it's super convenient. You can buy tickets to just about anything from this machine: sports events, concerts, movies, plays, etc. Each event has its own unique Loppi code, the trick is being able to find the code online, navigating at times Japanese-only websites. But once you have the code then it's just a question of whether tickets are still available or not. Like for example I tried to buy tickets for the recently concluded FIFA Club World Cup but within a few days of going on sale they had all sold out. Or tomorrow FC Tokyo are playing in the quarter finals of the Emperor's Cup (Japan's equivalent of the Copa del Rey or the FA Cup) and that sold out pretty quickly as well.

Just another one of those things where now that you know how its done you wouldn't think to do it any other way. But learning the process itself is the challenge.

Anyway the game itself was fun. Tokyo ran out easy 3-0 winners over Yokohama. Though the derby-like atmosphere I had hoped for wasn't really there. Or well not by Spanish or English derby standards anyway. There's definitely home and away supporter sections, each with their respective chants (more on FC Tokyo chants in a following post), but true to norms of politeness everything was done in a very civil manner. For example, when a Yokohama player was subbed in the 2nd half, he got an ovation from all sections of the stadium, there was no booing or jeering.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Assorted Earthquake/Tsunami Links

I wanted to share a few links related to the March 11 earthquake and resulting tsunami in the Tohoku region of Japan.

The first comes via Al-Jazeera, a short documentary called Tendenko. It's mostly an interview with one family in the town of Kamaishi in Iwate Prefecture. Iwate was one of the areas hardest hit by the tsunami, yet in this one town survival rates were unusually high, especially among schoolkids. The reason? From the Daily Yomiuri:

Since 2005, the Kamaishi city government has invited disaster management education experts to offer advice, and among the lessons' important points was "tendenko"--a word coined from the city's long history of repeatedly being hit by tsunami.
The word means to "go uphill independently at the time of tsunami caring only for your own safety, not thinking of anyone else, even your family."
On the afternoon of March 11, about 80 percent of the 184 students were on their way home from Kamaishi Primary School due to a reduced-hour schedule toward the end of the semester. Tsunami hit many school zones except on the mountainous side of town, but all the students were safe.

Here's the documentary, in Japanese with English subtitles:

The basic idea behind Tendenko might not seem too earth-shattering, especially to anyone who's listened (or pretended to) to flight announcements before take-off, how you should put your own oxygen mask on first before trying to help anyone else, etc. Yet, as Al-Jazeera puts it, "Tendenko prioritises individual action and self-preservation - and yet such thinking is anathema to Japanese culture." Putting the well-being of the community over the individual seems to be culturally ingrained. Which might explain why the concept of Tendenko isn't readily practiced elsewhere.

Next, here's a clip showing size and location of all earthquakes that happened in the world between January 1 and October 15, 2011. The point here is just to put into perspective the force of nature unleashed on Japan on March 11. Watch the seismic death spirals around the 2:00 mark.

Last week scientists in the US said that the tsunami generated by the earthquake was actually created by the merging of at least two wave fronts. The power of this combined wave was such that even with Japan having the most advanced tsunami warning system in the world it was caught by surprise.

On Monday, Google announced that it had made available on Google Maps Street View more than 44,000 km of 360-degree panoramic imagery of the tsunami-affected Tohoku region. From the Official Google Blog:
A virtual tour via Street View profoundly illustrates how much these natural disasters have transformed these communities. If you start inland and venture out toward the coast, you’ll see the idyllic countryside change dramatically, becoming cluttered with mountains of rubble and debris as you get closer to the ocean. In the cities, buildings that once stood proud are now empty spaces.
The images can also be viewed via a special website called “Build the Memory,” where you can easily compare before and after shots of the towns changed by these events.