Tokyo Notebook

-・- From My Everyday Life to Japanese Culture -・- Why don't you see the real Japan, not the typical foreigners' version.

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10 2012

Figure Skating as Student Sports

higashiyamato skatecenter

Last month, I went to the figure skating championships for university students in the Kanto region in which 90 skaters, from beginners to those in most significant class, who belong to universities’ clubs participated. Though the competition for the beginners started early in the morning, I only watched 25 male & female superordinate including few well-known skaters appeared in the afternoon. I never thought I would follow small competitions, but I tentatively went there because I actually enjoyed Lily Cup held before it.

The atmosphere was just like that of minor college sports: audience was skaters and some their family, and competitors called out and cheered up their club mates. It taught me a renewed recognition of figure skating as student sports.

Many student skaters belong to their school’s skating club in case a university or high school has it. In other words, competent ones, even at the local level, enter those schools through the recommendation system. This kind of competition (including interscholastic athletic competitions and regional preliminary rounds) is one of main scenes of their activities for them even for the superordinate I saw that day.

An exception is that few top Japanese skaters who constantly participate in ISU senior competitions. Besides Miki Ando and Akiko Suzuki, though these skaters are also students, they don’t compete the one like this.

However, majority of the contestant population is made up of person unknown to fame like skaters in the championships. They usually retire from competitions on graduation from university, which is the same as players of other sports.

In Japan, the circumstances surrounding top figure skaters are quite distorted: a small number of top skaters come under the spotlight and are played for just like idol personalities by TV. That causes misunderstanding among people as if they were choreographed TV talents. Even though those top skaters are above the clouds relative to ordinary student skaters, they are an extension of the no-names. I mean, if someone supports them, they basically decide what kind of skate they perform on their own (including a coach, choreographer, costume and so on).

If some disjointed things happen to the big names, for example Mao’s costume (^_^;), I think it’s better than the case in which the grown folk produce a perfect skater as a package because, without exception, an aim of the folk is basically their own business. If one cannot deal with that situation, it ruins one’s skate. Even if one can, it’s risky in the long run as we can see an example of the results in the neighboring country.

Posted by Kinakinw | 20:27 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Figure Skating

20 2012

The 35th Lily Cup

Lily Cup

On the way from an errand in Yokohama yesterday afternoon, I stopped by Shinyokohama Skate Center at which Lily Cup, a local figure skating competition in Kanagawa Prefecture, has been held. Most of the participants are students belonging to local skate clubs (the elementary school, junior high school, high school, and university), and I enjoyed performances of those fresh skaters.

Two well-known skaters appeared yesterday: Akio Sasaki (22) and Fumie Suguri (31). Leave aside Sasaki (a previous post abut him), I never imagined I could watch Suguri’s performance at a competition again.

Most of you have heard of the skater who leaded Japanese women’s single from the late 1990s to early 2000s with Shizuka Arakaw, but I think some of you don’t know the contributor is still in the field. I have met her strength coach once, and I had a friendly feeling for her during those years. For that reason alone, I can't stand looking at her cumulative faulty judgments and futile attempts after the Torino Olympics. If she really wanted to get in the next one in Vancouver, she should have developed her technical skill that were needed for a competition rather than focusing on “expressiveness” or being “an actress on the ice”.

She was one of top skaters indeed. Her basic skating and performance are superior as compared to skaters in the competition, but unfortunately, the veteran who can only execute double jumps is far inferior to top junior skaters of the moment.

I didn’t have enough protection against cold because it was an unscheduled stop, so I was cold all over. Then, after the thought-provoking performance of has-been, I went to a ramen place nearby: Shin Yokohama Raumen Museum, a food-themed amusement park established in 1994. There are a ramen restaurant mall with its Showa-inspired interior design (the image of 1950s Tokyo), a souvenirs shop, and exhibitions of ramen culture and history.

Raumen Museum1

Raumen Museum2 Raumen Museum3
Left: A magic show
Right: I choose pork & chicken-flavored ramen, a local one in Kumamoto Prefecture.

It was my first visit to the place. It's now 18 years ago since it opened. How time flies!

Posted by Kinakinw | 15:21 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Figure Skating

24 2012

Account of World Team Trophy


Team Japan skated off with the gold as competition concluded at the second ISU World Team Trophy (WTT). Along with the first and second day for which I purchased tickets in advance, I attended the third day after all and indulged in the gorgeous competition with top-class skaters who stood on a par with Grand Prix Final and World.


While highlight of the first day was men’s SP, especially Joubert, Abbott, and Daisuke, those of the second day were Davis/White’s FD and Daisuke’s FS. They were just I was looking for! I laughed off my pain and gave them a standing ovation. It’s secrets that I wasn’t supposed to be there on the third day.

I was watching these skaters from my seat while they were writing a letter on their the abdomen for the kiss & cry show.

The competition had been really exciting not only because of excellent performances but also cheering groups of skaters (France, Italy, and the USA) and the enthusiastic Japanese audience. France and Italy teams’ elaborate acts at kiss & cry excited us. Thank you!

Now for some generalities of figure skating event.
Firstly, visitors have a lot of stuff: some carry a winter clothe, rug, and cushion, and the others also bring a flower bouquet and present for a skater one likes. My luggage is usually as big as one for an overnight trip.
Secondly, most visitors are female. Eventually, there is a long, long line for the toilet at intermission. Hundreds of people are waiting. So, I try to cut down my use of the toilet. Even if I feel elated by an event, I restrain myself from drinking. Not only beer, but also I refrain from cold drinks, coffee, and something that have a diuretic effect. I’m sipping hot herbal tea I’ve brought quietly during intermission.

The 2011-2012 season has ended with WTT. I was happy to watch excellent performances, and I’ll spent next 6 months in expectation of the next season.

One final message for Mr. Scott Moire – if you don’t want to participate in WTT, just don’t. I prefer Weaver/ Poje.

Posted by Kinakinw | 21:12 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Figure Skating

05 2012

The Fun Continued

Though World Figure Skating Championships ended, there is an event I've been waiting for: ISU World Team Trophy 2012 (19 - 22 Apr, in Tokyo, Japan) that is a figure skating team competition by selected skaters from the six countries with the best results during the season. This year’s participating countries are (in descending order of finish) Japan, Canada, Russia, USA, Italy, and France. It’s a friendly match rather than a serious one where skaters enjoy each other's company and cheer for own teammates - it’s included among Olympic events in Sochi, though.

I got the tickets for 2 days with the aim of men's singles and ice dancing though the participants were unsure. As for men’s singles, I want to watch Daisuke Takahashi, Brian Joubert, and Jeremy Abbott.

And more than anything, I'm looking forward to, an American ice dance team, Meryl Davis & Charlie White, that was the world champion of ice dancing in 2011 and got silver medal in the last World. The couple is undoubtedly the best in the world and my motive to watch ice dancing!

Figure skating fantastically penetrates to the inner heart of audience when well-cultivated skills through years of strenuous efforts and fine expressivities meet. That’s why I’ve kept watching it no matter how many times I had been disappointed in inexplicable scores.

This couple is one of such skaters who can move people's hearts.

Their masterpiece, Die Fledermaus (The Bat) by Johann Strauss II in World 2012

Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!
Even though I've seen it again and again I still become moved to excitement.

While the member of USA team hasn’t been announced yet. I do yearn for their participation in the event.

Posted by Kinakinw | 22:06 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Figure Skating

01 2012

News from Cote d'Azur


The 2012 World Figure Skating Championships in Nice came to an end except for the gala tonight. Of course, I’m living according to France Time in recent days. :D

Here are the events that have left a strong impression on me.

Thrills and Pleasures 興奮と喜び
・The grandstand finish of the men’s free skating
Yuzuru Hanyub who grabbed the bronze medal did the great, great performance with youth and enthusiasm. Daisuke Takahashi’s breathtaking skate struck a nerve with the audience. The other joy was that the 27-year-old Brian Joubert showed us his clean Matrix and occupied a position of 4th! I hope he’s fully stood ready to respond to the scoring system.

・Our first medal in a senior pairs competition of the World
Narumi Takahashi / Mervin Tran in third place made the history which was worth publishing extra editions. Sitting in front of the computer alone at dawn, I got excited over their wining. I was one of happy ones who watched their FS and reactions in kiss & cry live. Narumi who exploded in joy and hopped around surly impressed figure skating fans in the world just as their performance did.

Heartbreaks 傷心
・The tragedy of the Satos
Did someone voodoo skaters work with Nobuo and Yuka Sato?
Mr. Sato’s pupiles, Takahiko Kozuka and Mao Asada, couldn’t show their abilities.
Daughter Yuka’s pupiles, Jeremy Abbott and Adam Rippon who ended up 8th and 13th, respectively, couldn’t respond to the expectations of American fans wishing three places at the next World that determines a spot in Sochi Olympics.
I can’t think of what to say to Alissa Czisny. She missed almost all jumps throughout SP and FS and ended up 22nd.

・The tragedy of Russian Men
The SP of pairs in which all three Russian males fell was the prelude, but that wasn’t really matter. Russian pairs finally kept three places. In men’s single, however, the team lost one place out of two because Sergei Voronov and Artur Gachinski ended up 17th and 18th. Who could expect that? Again, the next World determines a spot in Sochi Olympics, and it will be held in enemy territory, Canada. Oh, no….

Well, the battles are over.
I’m going to open a bottle of wine and watch the gala with the afterglow of the competitions!

Mao, I give you a boost through hard times and good times.

Posted by Kinakinw | 17:35 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Figure Skating

23 2012

Go Akio!

Kanagawa Skate Rink

The photo shows the Kanagawa Skating Rink located on the outskirts of Yokohama. After taking the figure skating lesson in Tokyo Midtown the other day, I went there all the way to join a daily walk-up class for adult female. I took another trial class again because I'm still not certain I can regularly go to a skating school.

At that time, I saw a male single skater belonging to its club was practicing. That was Akio Sasaki who is going to be 21 years old next month. Most of you may not know his name. Well, though I have a friendly feeling for him now as we spent few hours on the same rink, he didn’t have much of a presence since last Japan Figure Skating Championships when I watched his performance for the first time.


I was impressed with his humorous SP with “Ninja” as theme.

It can be said that Sasaki’s in the third group in the world's most strong male Japanese team. The first one includes Daisuke Takahashi, Takahiko Kozuka, Nobunari Oda and 17-year-old Yuzuru Hanyu who distinguished himself. Tatsuki Machia, Takahito Mura, and Daisuke Murakami form the second one. Two skaters including him follow those powerful competitors. Above-mentioned 9 are certified male single senior skaters for JSF in this season.

Every figure skating watcher may say about his skater, “If his jumps are OK, he can get in higher position”. He delivers his program excellently, has gorgeous steps, and skates well, but he cannot perform triple jumps consistently. He seems to THINKS he’s weak in jump. When more able juniors will start to compete in senior competitions, he would move down on the list….

However, Sasaki has special charms that nobody else has. Using offbeat music, he dances and steps splendidly and conducts unique choreography amusingly - as for these points, he’s absolutely marvelous. Though in the same program, he fails to jump one after another, the audience would be fascinated in his skate that reflects his ideal skating and his cheerful and positive personality.

He has many fans. Some of them made big paper ninja stars and threw them into a rink after his performance.

According to his interview with Absolute Skating (in English), he’s from a family of commoners, not rich one. Figure skating is a money-consuming sport. His mother worked and financed it. He feels he owe her a lot. When he entered a university through the recommendation system, he hesitated in the economic burden on his parents. He’s practiced skating at his home rink nearby since he started it. He loves his hometown, family, coaches and the rink.

Some skating watchers say that Sasaki has to find a good jumping coach or move his bases overseas for raising the level of skating. That’s maybe right for dragging himself on to the higher position, but everybody has his or her own reasons. I think it's all right if he practices and tries to create his own style in his familiar environment at his own pace. To put it the other way around, because of that environment, he can make his program with a difference the fans love and performs it as he want. Anyway, the fact is he’s already risen to the sport's higher rank if not a leading Japanese skater.

I do hope he will be around as long as possible and show us his skate.

Akio Sasaki’s SP at Japan Figure Skating Championships 2011
I bet everyone would fall under the spell of his Ninja program!

Posted by Kinakinw | 21:37 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Figure Skating

10 2012

My Mind is in Colorado

Colorado Springs

I’m going to keep hours on Mountain Time Zone this weekend because the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships are now held in Colorado Springs!

Though I watched major figure skating competitions every year, I may be overzealous in pursing them this year…. Since I created the streaming environment (the new PC and optic LAN), I can watch most of them live. Addition to it, our J-Sports (CS sport channel) also has plenty of live broadcasts.

However, I was definitely right about staying home and watching that.

The men’s short program took place this afternoon, and I was so imprested with performances by Tatsuki Machida and Takahito Mura! The both did their best. Machida who eclipsed his personal best score was placed 4th behind Takahashi. He got the highest GOE for this 3A, wow! Mura performed beautiful a quad-triple combination jumps. He was the only one who did a quad jump clean and was placed 2nd behind Chan.

We have excellent top male single skaters in Japan, so the boys don’t have many opportunities to participate in a major international competition. It’s really important for them to have a strong appeal to the world! I hope they will show their ability to the fullest tomorrow.

Oh well, after this competition, I think my blog would return to something close to normal. :D

Posted by Kinakinw | 21:46 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Figure Skating

04 2012

Kinakinw on Ice 2012


I raise a topic of figure skating again, but this time, a person on the ice isn’t a famous skater. It’s me!

This morning, I joined a figure skating class held at an outdoor ice rink in Tokyo Midtown. I thought about joining a total of 3 or 4 lessons at White Sacas Alphard rink in Akasaka (I wrote about that one in the previous post, City Rink), but I wasn’t sure if I could participate in all, so I chose this an hour-long, one day program for beginners to intermediate skaters.

It’s for a limited time (2012/1/7~2/29) sponsored by Diners Club.

The most participants were kids, but some parents also joined with their children. I'm glad to find adult fellows.

SkateSchool3 SkateSchool4
Left: We went through a warm-up before skating. Right: Our adult group
左:まずは準備運動 右:本日のクラスメート

Instructors were a coach and players of an ice hockey team, Ice Bucks. It’s an Asia League Ice Hockey team based in Nikkō, Tochigi Prefecture, which is the only one professional team in Japan.

SkateSchool5 SkateSchool6
Thank you for the lesson!

I didn’t know about instructors until I got there (I thought figure skating coaches would teach), but it was Ok because the basic skating skills for beginners are similar in both figure and hockey skating. Even so, I noticed the difference: the instructors had an emphasis on staying low and keeping knees bent. They also didn’t mention much about how to use edges. While it’s always desirable to skate on only one edge of the blade in figure skating, it’s not in hockey skating. When they taught how to turn (the opening photo shows that), they showed us powerful turns and said, “Push the ice, like kicking, with the back part of outside leg’s blade”. I couldn’t follow it, so I translated it, by myself, into how I have to use an edge and tried.

I voluntarily practiced for a while after the lesson.


It’s really fan to skate feeling the wind.
Why don’t you go to an ice skate rink near you?


Posted by Kinakinw | 23:10 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Figure Skating

01 2012

Virile and Sensitive Man

Judging from the costume, the photo might be taken in 2007-08 season.

The good-looking guy with a disheartened look on his face is Brian Joubert, one of skaters I watched holding my breath last weekend. He’s popular in Japan, so I think some of you know him.

The French skater is the 2007 World Champion, a three-time European champion, an eight-time French National champion, and the 2006-7 Grand Prix Final champion. At the same time, the 27-year-old man may have passed a peak in the domain of male single in which one’s prime is from late 10s to mid-20s. Since 2009-10season, he has lost his luster partly due to injuries. His melancholy eyes have stuck out in my mind for several years.

However, I think he’s still a top skater who can stand on the podium.

I guess his problem, at least late years, is that he’s no hand at emotional control during performance: he’s easily depressed when he fails, cannot recover and repeats mistakes at worst. He detonates oneself. In his short program at European Championship, after missing first quad jump, he stepped out second triple axel and couldn’t put in a combination jump that’s one of required elements for SP. Then, I saw his depressed look again.

He was in 10th place after the short program, and the podium was already out of reach.

The others I watched on TV with bated breath were a 29-year-old Russian, Evgeni Plushenko and a 26-year-old American, Jeremy Abbott. Though I don’t closely mention them because it’s going to be a long story, I saw their exultant faces unlike Joubert.

Plushenko Abbott
Plushenko (left) and Abbott (right) won the gold at Euro and American national respectively.

This handsome skater who is basically a man of spirit and also fragile easily wins over ladies. Not only that, his masculine and dynamic performance including huge quad jumps is popular among male fans. I believe his depressed look affect both male and female. Last weekend, many people who back up him couldn’t help but sigh deeply in the arena and in front of TV or PC.

He would participate in the World championships in March, but I don’t how many times he appears at major international competitions in the future. Though his melancholy eyes aren’t bad, I hope I can see joyful Joubert as many times as possible.

Posted by Kinakinw | 20:21 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Figure Skating

28 2012

Shriek of Joy

US National

This weekend is the busiest time of year for an adoring fan of figure skating because the U.S. Championships (California, San Jose) and the European Championships (U.K., Sheffield) are going on at the same time.

In Japan, we can watch singles SP and FP of both competitions live on CS station, J Sports, and also, we can watch whole European one live by free streaming TV. Some people who has Ice Network’s season pass (paid streaming) can watch whole U.S. one live.

One can’t find time to sleep if one wants to see all. I gave up watching live ice dance and pairs of the both competitions, but still, it was pretty impossible physically to watch live performances of the rest. Then I abandoned Euro women’s. I watched U.S. men’s SP this afternoon from 12:00 to 15:30, and here are the live broadcasting schedules of Jsports. (It’s about 19:00 now)
20:50-2:00 (next day) Euro men’s FP
2:25-7:00 Euro women’s FP
(from 5:00, US free dance will start on the streaming TV.)
8:55-13:00 U.S. women’s FP
(from 13:30, U.S. pairs’ FP will on the streaming TV.)
See, it’s hard-scheduled, isn’t it?


Since senior competitions of Euro started last Thursday evening before the other, I’ve indulged in the competitions. For the both, it’s fun to enjoy performances of skaters who don’t participate in major international games as well as big names. Specifically, U.S. National is a serious match for all American skaters because it’s the only one qualifying race for the World Championships. Skaters from these preliminaries and seeded top skaters measure swords with each other: it’s one-shot deal.

As for European one, I focus on men’s single including Brian Joubert (a French skater) and Evgeni Plushenko (a Russian skater).

Well, a figure skating Otaku (fan) has a passion for watching not only own country’s skaters but also foreign ones.


Posted by Kinakinw | 19:38 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Figure Skating

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