Killers, Bulls, Kongs and more - the Japan Report!

This is the place to post reports from signing or on the street meets
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Killers, Bulls, Kongs and more - the Japan Report!

Post by AJLe » January 14th, 2018, 8:10 pm

Right before New Year's, I left for my second tour of Japan - this time a two week journey. After a long, 13+ hour flight, that had a layover in Beijing, China, I finally arrived in Tokyo. My first night in, I tried for Japanese joshi legend, and former WWF Women's Champion Bull Nakano at her bar in Tokyo. Unfortunately, Bull wasn't in, but her bartender (and fellow joshi legend) Toshiyo Yamada was there. I got her on my Wrestling Queendom II program, and she said that Bull was busy preparing for their big year-end party at the bar the following night.

So I say goodnight, and get back to my hotel to get ready for the next day, which is going to be big. That morning I try for one of my all-time favorite Japanese wrestlers, Toshiaki Kawada. Kawada is now retired, but he runs a ramen restaurant in the suburbs of Tokyo. I made it there for the start of his lunch hours, and sure enough, Kawada is behind the counter! I order lunch in the small room, and his wife seats me. After a great lunch, I finish and try to ask his wife (who speaks next to no English) in my limited Japanese, if I can buy a t-shirt and get an autograph and photo with Kawada. His wife is gently leading me out the door, so I'm thinking I'm not accurately asking right, so I resort to motioning "autograph" and "Picture" to no avail.

Thankfully, another guy eating lunch happens to be bilingual, and he comes over to translate. Apparently, Kawada's wife is telling me that he is too busy right now to come out (I couldn't see from inside, but apparently there was a line out the door onto the street of people waiting to come in). Through the translator, I politely ask if there's a better time I can come back later to meet him, and even play the "I came all the way from America" card. She eventually tells me that their lunch hours end at 2:00, and if I come back then, Kawada will meet me. I thank her and the translator (who without him, I never could have negotiated with the wife), and kill some time for an hour or so. When I come back, the rush is over, and Kawada is just cleaning up in the back. I buy a restaurant t-shirt, and Kawada comes out! He signs my pic (an 8x10 repro of the poster of him wrestling Hansen at the Budokan), and gladly takes a photo. He speaks broken English, so he makes a little small talk, and I thank him and totally mark out. This one was HUGE for me, as he's probably second only to Misawa as far as Japanese wrestlers go for me.

So of course later that night I come back for my second attempt at Bull Nakano, and they were having a party promotion where if you paid the cover charge, it was all you can drink all night at the bar – and since I wasn’t driving the entire trip, and the subway station is within a couple of minute walk from the bar, I take FULL advantage of the all you can drink gimmick.

So when I first arrive, Bull isn't there yet, but Yamada is there, and before too long, Japanese star Osamu Nishimura arrives, who US fans might remember for his brief ECW run, where he participated in the infamous NWA World Title tournament that Shane Douglas won and threw down the belt afterwards. Even better was the fact that, unlike everybody else in the bar, Nishimura speaks fluent English, so we spend some time talking Yankee baseball and NJ indy wrestling stories. Other than Bull Nakano and Yamada, I wasn't expecting any other wrestlers to be there, so I didn't have anything for Nishimura to sign, but apparently he's also a local politician, so another fan at the bar had a local magazine that had a Nishimura article in it, and gives it to Nishimura. I obviously think he's just getting it signed for himself, but Nishimura walks over to me, signs it, and says "the gentleman over there wanted to give you this so I could sign it for you." Totally awesome move.

Eventually, Bull Nakano arrives, and she brought another old joshi star, Jaguar Yokota with her. Bull gladly signs my Wrestle Queendom II program, as well as a WWF promo 8x10. I also get a picture with Jaguar Yokota. I then spend the rest of the night drinking and watching the various wrestlers do karaoke. Great way to spend a weekend.

The next day I went to Korakuen Hall, and got my tickets not only for that morning's show, but for four more that will be taking place throughout the week. It's amazing that one venue could run so many shows, and have all of them be successful.

That Sunday, for the first time I participated in a New Year's Eve countdown, at the Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo. Fun bucket list type of thing, but I really never have any desire to do it again anywhere. Too crowded (and I'm sure it's NOTHING compared to Times Square), and too much of a hassle.

A couple of days later, I make my way up to Shinjuku to try to meet WWF legend Killer Khan. My directions take me through a questionable neighborhood (I'm pretty sure I was propositioned by a non-English speaking prostitute a block before Killer Khan’s place), but eventually I get to the small bar/restaurant of Killer Khan. He couldn't have been nicer - he speaks broken English, so he was able to greet me and help me with the menu, and was happy to sign my old 8x10 and pose for a picture. Finally, one wrestling meet is a success on the first attempt!

After a few days of sightseeing and local wrestling shows, it was time for the big one - WrestleKingdom 12. After a minor snafu (likely due to automatic computer translation) about what gate to pick up my ticket at, I finally see one gate that has a long line of non-Asian people waiting, and I put 2 and 2 together and figure out that this is the correct line. It's a total cluster-F getting into the Tokyo Dome, but once I actually get in, it's like being in wrestling heaven. Great atmosphere, great show and a great experience as a wrestling fan.

The next day, I try for the Great Kabuki at his restaurant, but the place is being used for a private party, so I ask the lady if I can come back the next night, and she says that would be fine. So that Saturday, after attending a Pro Wrestling Noah show at Korakuen, I make the short walk over to the Great Kabuki's place again. This time, everybody couldn't have been nicer - the lady at the door remembers my name without me saying it, and Kabuki is not only cooking, but showing old matches on a DVD player, and telling stories. It's a small place, but the night I was there, there was myself from Jersey, another fan from Arkansas, a couple from Thailand, a Chinese man, and a couple of Japanese locals. Kabuki gladly signs my 8x10, poses for pictures (even giving me his old Kabuki mask and daggers to wear for a second pic), and even gives us all one of his own pieces that he autographed. And to top it all off, he cooked what might have been the greatest fried chicken I've ever tasted in my life. Great, great time.

The next night, I attended an Oz Academy show, with the hope of getting joshi legend Aja Kong, who also had a brief WWF run. When I get to the venue, which is a small, 200 seat building, I see that they have graph/merch tables set up, but every woman on the roster EXCEPT Aja Kong seems to be out there. When the show starts, Aja is working the first match, so I figure that she was just preparing for her match, and that she'll likely come out at intermission. Intermission comes, and again - everybody BUT Aja Kong is out there! This begins to concern me, since Aja Kong is by far the biggest name on the show, and she twice hasn't come out to sell stuff. So then the show ends, and the room lets out into the merch/graph area, so I figure I have to give it one last try, and I walk out the door and Aja Kong is at her table! I could have done cartwheels at this point. So I go up to her with my Wrestle Queendom II program, which she enjoys seeing, and then I ask her for a picture, and she poses, like I want to take a picuture OF her. I motion that I'd like to take a picture WITH her, and she says something in Japanese to a staffer. Now I panic that maybe she has something against taking fan photos, but the staffer (who speaks English) just says that to take a photo with Aja, it'll be 1000 yen (about ten bucks), which is no problem at all, especially since she was not charging ANYTHING to sign my own item, so she was basically a $10 combo. So I went from feeling totally defeating, to scoring a huge win within minutes.

I finished the week doing sightseeing things like visiting Mount Fuji, and stopped off at the original Ribera Steakhouse. But when it’s time to fly home, I have a connecting flight in Beijing, ultimately to land in JFK. Problem is, there was a massive rainstorm which caused flooding and fog throughout JFK, and a ton of flights (including mine) got cancelled. So I’m stuck in CHINA for about 30 hours before I could get my rescheduled flight home. I’m a pretty adventurous person, but being stranded in a foreign country, with no knowledge of the language and no local currency, was pretty damn scary. When I finally got on my flight (exactly one day after it was originally scheduled to depart), I could have done a Flair strut into my seat I was so happy.

All in all, it was a great time, not only for general enjoyment, but for meeting a lot of wrestlers I had little chance of ever meeting in the US. Great memories - hopefully it doesn't take me another ten years to come back.

(I'm at my 30 pic limit for the post, so I'll reply with my graph pics in a separate post)
Kawada's restuarant
Kawada behind the counter
Lunch cooked by Kawada
Me and Toshiaki Kawada
Bull Nakano's bar entrance
Me and Toshiyo Yamada
Me and Osamu Nishimura
Me and Jaguar Yokota
Me and Bull Nakano
Nishimura signing karaoke
New Year's countdown in Tokyo
Me in Korakuen Hall
Killer Khan restaurant
Killer Khan restaurant
Me and Killer Khan
Wrestle Kingdom
Wrestle Kingdom
Wrestle Kingdom
Wrestle Kingdom
Wrestle Kingdom
Great Kabuki Bar
Me and Great Kabuki
Great Kabuki and "Suited" me
Aja Kong in the ring
Me and Aja Kong
Mount Fuji
Ribera Steakhouse
Ribera Steakhouse
Ribera Steakhouse
Ribera Steakhouse

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Re: Killers, Bulls, Kongs and more - the Japan Report!

Post by AJLe » January 14th, 2018, 8:14 pm

Graphs & Merch:
Nishimura graph
Toshiaki Kawada graph
Great Kabuki graph
Great Kabuki graph (provided by him)
Bull Nakano graph
Killer Khan graph
Bull Nakano & Aja Kong program graphed
Toshiyo Yamada graph
Kawada t-shirt (non-graphed)

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Re: Killers, Bulls, Kongs and more - the Japan Report!

Post by Jason1980s » January 14th, 2018, 9:30 pm

What an experience!
Just 14 days in to the new year and this has to be a contender for next years year end voting! Some of these character's gimmicks were so intimidating but they are so nice and welcome you with literal open arms to their establishments. So cool!!
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Re: Killers, Bulls, Kongs and more - the Japan Report!

Post by oldschoolwwwf » January 14th, 2018, 9:32 pm

Killer khan and kabuki amazing!

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Re: Killers, Bulls, Kongs and more - the Japan Report!

Post by lanza218 » January 14th, 2018, 9:59 pm

Fn awesome

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Re: Killers, Bulls, Kongs and more - the Japan Report!

Post by hack87 » January 14th, 2018, 10:34 pm

Thanks for sharing this awesome report as well as the photo ops and autograph images. Very cool stuff -- especially Kabuki and Killer Khan!

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Re: Killers, Bulls, Kongs and more - the Japan Report!

Post by Greg2600 » January 14th, 2018, 11:43 pm

I don't know any of these people, but Japan always fascinated me (from the video game side), and there's simply NO ONE on par with AJLe! I really marvel at how many of the retired wrestlers own restaurants over there, ha ha.
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Re: Killers, Bulls, Kongs and more - the Japan Report!

Post by AJLe » January 14th, 2018, 11:55 pm

Non-hobby related, but one more thing I forgot to mention - late Saturday night, after getting back from the Great Kabuki restaurant, I was woken up by an f'n EARTHQUAKE. It was "only" a 4.8, so the locals could barely give a crap, but it scared the hell out of me. I turned on the TV, and checked my laptop, thinking this would be huge news talked about everywhere, but it was barely mentioned anywhere. Apparently from talking to people, getting a 4.8 quake in Tokyo is like people in Alaska getting 8 inches of snow on a given day - not even newsworthy, lol.

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Re: Killers, Bulls, Kongs and more - the Japan Report!

Post by yosemitechris » January 15th, 2018, 2:12 am

wow great report, that looked like a super fun trip! would love to go there someday.

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Re: Killers, Bulls, Kongs and more - the Japan Report!

Post by mrira » January 15th, 2018, 7:35 am

Incredible stuff! The earthquake thing sort of reminds me of when you see southern states get like an inch of snow & it shutdowns the highways & we get a foot & still go to work. Is it a pain in the ass getting into Japanese arena's as it is getting into arena's here?

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Re: Killers, Bulls, Kongs and more - the Japan Report!

Post by Bud White » January 15th, 2018, 8:23 am

Loved reading this. Awesome!

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Re: Killers, Bulls, Kongs and more - the Japan Report!

Post by crowbar » January 15th, 2018, 8:52 am

Nice stuff... loved Shinjuku and the seediness of everything there. The time i visited, there was a missile flown over Japan from North Korea, so tensions were high. I didn't see much in the way of wrestling..

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Re: Killers, Bulls, Kongs and more - the Japan Report!

Post by ICW » January 15th, 2018, 9:38 am

Phenomenal, man. This is a dream of mine.

Kawada! So awesome.
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Re: Killers, Bulls, Kongs and more - the Japan Report!

Post by WOODMO » January 15th, 2018, 10:19 am

This is incredible. I truthfully only know these people by name, but they're legendary names and for a non old school fan of Japan to know them like I do, that is saying something. This report will include many of the wrestling '18 year end favorites.

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Re: Killers, Bulls, Kongs and more - the Japan Report!

Post by AJLe » January 15th, 2018, 1:26 pm

mrira wrote:
January 15th, 2018, 7:35 am
Incredible stuff! Is it a pain in the ass getting into Japanese arena's as it is getting into arena's here?
Depends on the arena. Outside of the Tokyo Dome, most of the venues that are used regularly aren't that big, so it's not a crazy hassle getting in and out. Korakuen Hall only seats about 2000 for wrestling if it's totally packed, and places like Shinjuku Face and Shinkiba First Ring probably seat less than 500.

What is weird is the logistical setup of some of these venues - Korakuen Hall and Shinjuku Face are on one of the upper floors of what would appear to be an office building, so you have to get on an elevator to pass all of the unrelated businesses on the lower floors to get to the actual venue. Imagine if the ECW Arena was an 8 story building, and the actual wrestling venue was on the 7th floor, with business offices, restaurants, etc. beneath it - that's what Korakuen and Shinjuku Face are like.

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