#DiscoveringWrestling #008 – My Journey to Japan for Wrestle Kingdom 11 (Part 3)

How could I go to Japan and not get a whole bunch of wrestling merch? Well, the answer is: I couldn’t! So, we’re gonna talk about all the cool things I grabbed, and where you can find similar things for yourself! Once you’ve got your feet on the ground in Tokyo, I’m sure you’ll love these places.

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Who says print media is dead? It’s just in another language!

At the merchandise tents outside of the Tokyo Dome purchases and  those inside Korakuen Hall, I procured my NJPW and NOAH Programs and my awesome Wrestle Kingdom 11 banner towel. Programs nowadays in Pro-Wrestling feel like such a thoroughly Japanese thing. Certainly thay have a history outside of just Japan, but I haven’t seen a true program readily available at pretty much any western shows. Sadly for me, but potentially beneficial if you wear a Medium or Large size T-Shirt, they had a tonne of gorgeous T-Shirts for sale at both shows. Sadly, the largest size I’ve seen is an XL, and a Japanese XL is a North American Large, at best. Being a 2XL prohibited me from getting any of the really cool shirts for myself. Obviously it is always good to buy merch directly at live shows, particularly for smaller promotions as it is a big driver of income for a lot of talent and promotions

The awesome Japanese Pro-Wrestling magazines are from Lawson convenience (konbini/combini) stores, but 7-Eleven or any other major konbini should have them as well. And while you’re there, get yourself some of their hardboiled eggs. You’ll never have a better, tastier hardboiled egg experience. I’ve tried to replicate it at home, and it’s proving impossible to get that velvety consistency to the yolk while ensuring the white is fully cooked… but I digress, we’re not going to talk about Yudetamago… yet.

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Aristrist, NJPW Shop, and BackDrop, respectively.

On my trip to pick up tickets for the January 7th NOAH Korakuen Hall show, I had just enough time to hit up one of the Suidobashi area stores. Since I had a specific purchase in mind, I chose to hit up the NJPW store, which is a short walk from Korakuen Hall, along with other famous Wrestling stores like Todokan. The NJPW store filled to the brim with cool shirts and hats, collectible card games and rather hefty title belt keychains. It is, regrettably but expectedly, overpriced in general, however it is also the only place you can find certain things reliably, such as my all-too-adorable Tana-kuma. I’ll tell you, I had a hard damned time picking out which of the Teddy bears I wanted most, as the Okada-kuma and Naito-kuma are equally adorable… and at ¥8000 each, I could only afford one. For the record, there’s also a Nakamura-kuma, but you’ll have to hit up eBay or another reseller at this point.

On this trip I also had the incredible pleasure to make my way to the physical boutique for Masahiro Chono’s Aristrist clothing line. I had been a fan of this venture of Chono’s since late high school when I first discovered it. I grabbed a slick black-on-black nWo hat, one of the few hats i have ever bought that fits my giant cranium properly, which has his cross-branding all over it. Very well made, and comparably priced to other boutique-type stores at approximately ¥5400 after taxes. Again, I was hit with the curse of nothing-fits. The year before a good friend who was attending Wrestle Kingdom did me the amazing solid of getting me a T-Shirt from his store, autographed by the man himself. Sadly, even at a 2XL from Aristrist I’m a bit hefty for s comfy fit. But that’s more due to my recent weight gain than an issue of it being small for a 2XL, as it is well within the parameters of shirts I used to fit into. So if you need an XL or 2XL and are on the smaller size of that range, Aristrist’s amazing designer clothes will fit you. But watch out, the awesome dress shirts and jump suits can often go up towards the ¥80,000 range.

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Check out those signatures!

On, literally, my last day in Tokyo I made the effort to swing by BackDrop in Akihabara. They import a lot of western stuff, like WWE and ROH T-Shirts and action figures, but also have plenty of NJPW merch, mostly t-shirts that wouldn’t fit me, but I did score a signed Young Bucks SuperKick party hat, and another one that fits my damn giant head, at about ¥4000.

As someone with varied interests, such as a love for mecha model kits, anime, and video game goods, Akihabara was easily my favourite part of the city. I loved exploring the arcades, cafes, stores, and restaurants. It felt like I was meant to be there. The fact that BackDrop was easily accessible and located right along a main stretch of the area, made it seem all the more like a place meant for me.  photo

On one night towards the end of my stay I ate at the original Ribera steakhouse, seated at a counter infront of the chef as he cooked steaks and handed them out to the at most 10 people who could fit in the restaurant. The steaks were tasty but nothing super tremendous. But the atmosphere was termendous. I sat under a picture of Bam Bam Bigelow, and surrounded by other photos of an absolute who’s who of Pro-Wrestling and MMA’s long and often intertwined history. I’d say it might be better to try the newer location, for likely more comfortable seating.

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Warsman, Robin Mask, and Candian Man come home to Canada!

One of the best things about my trip was the awesome endurance of the Kinnikuman franchise. It seemed everywhere I went I ran into it. Whether it was S.H.Figuarts at every Tokyo Toys R Us, life-size replicas in Malls, an Aristrist themed figure in their boutique, an entire line of NJPW merch or, the holy grail, the little rubber figure themselves, Yudetamago‘s franchise followed me around on my vacation. , A good distance outside of Tokyo proper lies a hidden, dusty gem in Godzilla-ya.  I almost didn’t find this store, Google Maps tried to tell me it was in some poor blokes office when I relied on GPS, but it was destiny that I go there. I expected something much different. When I finally got to this toy store it was like someone had taken all the dustiness and crampedness of your grandparent’s attic and  shoved a cornucopia of retro Tokusatsu, Anime, and other toys into this mess and decided to place a cash register awkwardly balanced on a table.

Located in what appears to have once been someone’s fancy cabinet, in a drawer at foot level that stuck out just enough to make the already severely limited footspace inhospitable, was a mountain of retro Kinnikuman mini figures. Better known in the west as M.U.S.C.L.E.. In my excitement I shot my hand down and drew up one figure, In my hand lay Canadian Man, looking at him I knew I would have to wash him with soap to clean off the grime, but he had to be mine. What a treasure of a find!  Next time I’m in Japan I want to visit there again, with the aim of getting a complete set of Kinnikuman figures out of that drawer. But on a serious note, it really isn’t clean. My girlfriend has allergies and asthma and she literally could not stay in the store for longer than 2 minutes. Be warned.

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Part of me wanted to negotiate with the store owner to buy this life-sized Kinnikuman satue.

There rests one souvenir that only a handfull of people I know have, and you can’t buy this one anywhere, as it was a wonderful gift from a man I met there.

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Thank You, Fumi! I’m getting this framed!

Have you been to Wrestle Kingdom? Do you have any advice or questions? Please leave a comment here.

Don’t forget to Like my FaceBook page and Follow me on Twitter!

 

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