My Perspective on The Kabuki Warriors

I am a chat moderator for a wrestling podcast called Steve & Larson’s Going in Raw. In the last two years, I’ve been fortunate enough to be a community member and they afford me a platform to provide my input on hot topics, especially those related to women’s wrestling and Japanese wrestling. Over the last month, Kairi Sane, left NXT and debuted on SmackDown Live as the tag team partner of fellow countrywoman, Asuka. Last night, their tag team name was revealed to be The Kabuki Warriors, and there was a fair bit of fan backlash, from myself included.

This morning, I was asked to submit my thoughts on the announcement as well as some cultural/historical perspective for their live broadcast.

My Comments are at 37:51

“Steve and Larson asked me to provide a little perspective as to the issues surrounding the big reveal of Kairi and Asuka as “The Kabuki Warriors.” I’ll be the first to admit, that I was rather upset upon hearing the news, but here is little perspective as to why:

Since Kairi’s call up, I have been frustrated that Asuka and Kairi have been assigned Paige as their manager, hype woman, advocate and mouthpiece. When both women were in NXT, they were given the opportunity to speak for themselves and worked hard to improve their English. Cutting a promo is difficult in one’s first language, and for all the grief people give the Full Sail Crowd, when they spoke, we quietly listened. Since their pairing with Paige, neither Kairi nor Asuka have really been given the opportunity to cut promos in the ring. They have someone speaking for them in English, but not someone who also speaks their language. It sends a message to the fans that Kairi and Asuka are incapable of communicating their goals and desires as a tag team because English is their second language.

The reveal of The Kabuki Warriors could have been better handled, largely in its execution. With all the vast resources available in the WWE, they elected to have a non-Japanese advocate announce the new team name at a pre-taped show abroad without an explanation behind the name selection. It made it seem like Paige was unveiling a new car, and not presenting the next dominant women’s tag team in WWE. It wasn’t Kairi and Asuka announcing to the world that they wanted honor their heritage by using the lesser known meaning of “Kabuki,” which lead to international outrage because outside of Japan its interpretation isn’t conveyed in popular media. Throw “Kabuki” into a search engine, you’re going to get the art form definition, one of which prohibited women from acting in part of for over 200 years. Also, while Asuka wears a mask, that is a tribute to NOH (No) Theater, a masked performance art while Kabuki actors wear extreme makeup. It is just confusing to those not familiar with Japanese culture, and it shouldn’t be upon the fans to explain it to one another. Honor the culture, but make sure you explain why.

Asuka shouldn’t have had to explain the lesser known meaning of “Kabuki-mono” which has a different meaning from “Kabuki” (theater) in a tweet, when they could have done all of this ahead of time with a single video package. The definition Asuka provides is “Edo-period (pronounced: “Eh-dough”) eccentric who attracted public attention with their eye-catching clothes, peculiar hairstyle, and weird behavior.” Without any explanation of this difference of interpretation, it is only natural that people can perceive it is lazy and racist. People had the same mixed response with SHO and YOH in ROH as “The Tempura Boyz” largely because there wasn’t explanation as to why they selected that naming.

With all the amazing work the WWE PC team is putting together compelling video, there isn’t a team who can do the same for the main roster Superstars? If you are going to take away their voices on live television, find an alternate way to present them by letting them use their own words and language. WWE Japan has been releasing backstage promos in Japanese between Kairi and Asuka ever since Kairi’s call up, but even with the vast resources of the WWE, no one is bothering to subtitle this for the western audience. They were genuinely excited to finally feel validated at The Kabuki Warriors because it made them feel like an official tag team, not just two Japanese women thrown together. Why wasn’t this or any of their other Japanese material subtitled in English, so the fans could understand their story? Considering the characters of Asuka (The Empress) and Kairi (The Pirate Princess)— this sudden name assignment without the proper clarification is wildly the issue, especially considering WWE’s track record with international talent.   

Why many jumped to the offensive, is largely in part to how fans at the shows behave, especially toward the international talent. I have been to NXT House Shows while both Asuka and Kairi were in NXT and had to listen to ‘fans’ say absolutely sexist & racist things to them during matches, including geisha jokes and mentions of Pearl Harbor. Calling outraged fans ignorant or “so called” fans because they came to the defense of Asuka and Kairi should not be an issue because racism in the US (and abroad) along with the sexual comments made about them, is the greater concern.  

Don’t make it about damage control or having their manager-advocate-mouthpiece do it for them.If Kairi and Asuka chose the name as an homage to Japanese culture and the kick ass Joshi Tag teams of the 80s-90s, right on… BUT LET THEM TELL THAT STORY TO THE UNIVERSE.

– Karen

The above is a compilation of my thoughts on the subject based on the following:

  1. My original reaction to the name announcement via UK taping spoilers.
  2. My reaction this morning to Paige’s curt response to an outraged fan.

Kairi Sane Joins Asuka on SmackDown Live

Kairi’s debuted on the main roster as part of SmackDown Live, and is now teaming with Asuka! It’s great, but a completely missed opportunity on WWE’s part are these fantastic promos for WWE Japan by the pair in Japanese. Western fans could learn a lot about their blossoming tag team dynamic though these videos and without subtitles, they’re really doing a disservice! These are so great!

Backstage comments after Kairi’s first match with Asuka on SmackDown Live

Kairi: “Wow. Thank you so much!”
Asuka: “Great job!”
Kairi: “Tonight was my debut match on SD Live…”
Kairi: “THANK YOU SO MUCH!! I never thought that I would be able to work with let alone team with someone who is not only another former NXT Women’s… Champion, but also someone I respect as a veteran and my senior, Asuka. I’m over the moon right now! Let’s get those tag titles!”
Asuka: “I feel the same way! While I do have the experience, I feel we can learn a lot and gain power from one another. So, let’s make those championships ours”
Kairi: “YES, PLEASE!!”

Asuka celebrates Kairi’s first singles match win over Peyton Royce

Asuka: “Congrats on your first victory!!”
Kairi: “Asuka, this was my first singles match on SmackDown! With the support of yourself and Paige, I was able to secure a win!”
Asuka: (clapping) “CONGRATULATIONS!!”
Kairi: “This is our first big step on the road to securing the women’s tag team championships!”
Asuka: “You and I, no one will be able to stop us from taking those championships.”
Kairi: “Let’s go get them!”
Asuka: “Plus, we have Paige on our side, cheering us on!”
Kairi: “She’s so strong!”
Asuka: “Without a doubt!”
Kairi: “Everyone, make sure you don’t take your eyes off us!”

Asuka: “Our first time tagging together and we won!”
Kairi: “We totally did it, Asuka! At this pace, I feel like we can’t lose.”
Asuka: “We really work. Our timing a great… we can really do this! We’re going to become champions at this rate…”
Kairi: “Totally!”
Asuka: “Honestly, I feel like we already are!”
Kairi: “I mean… with results like this, we should be able to get an opportunity against the IIconics quickly, right?”
Asuka: “Did you see them?! They’re totally scared! With those reactions, they’re so worried right now.”
Kairi: “Absolutely!”
Asuka: “Hey, IIconics, I hope you paid attention tonight because we’re coming to take those championships from you!”

Asuka & Kairi are officially in the Tag Team Division as “The Kabuki Warriors.”

Kairi: “It’s been officially announced, Asuka!”
Asuka: “It’s about time, right!? We’ve waited so long! Our tag team name has been finally decided, so we’re officially…”
BOTH: “The Kabuki Warriors!!”
Asuka: “It’s so cool!”
Kairi: “Seriously! I really like it!”
Asuka: “It’s a very, very strong team name.”
Kairi: “Tonight, we already demonstrated how strong we are!”
Asuka: “If the IIconics weren’t already scared, I am sure they’re terrified by now.
Kairi: “The Kabuki Warriors are coming for those championships, and we’re taking them with us.”

I was front row for Kairi’s final match in NXT.

From the Vault: The Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami

Today marks the eighth anniversary of the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. Here are some of my personal experiences.

Karen Nerds Out

[The following was originally posted eight years ago, a couple of days after March 11, 2011. This is from my old running blog and from when I worked at a Japanese boarding school in New York. Unfortunately, I no longer have access to the account associated with this blog, but not for a lack of trying. This is a very personal piece, as well as several related pieces.]

How fast things can change in an instant. Friday morning, as I prepared to walk to the office, I received a text from my high school friend sending her condolences and concern about the massive earthquake in Japan. Working nights and having to usher the kids out in the morning, I hadn’t had the chance to flick on the TV let alone yank up the internet to see what she was talking about.

Then I opened Google News.

I paled.

View original post 907 more words

The Holy Land of Wrestling with Hiroshi Tanahashi

[Disclaimer: The following is a fan translation of a video produced by New Japan Pro-Wrestling. Currently, an English subtitled version of the following video is not available on their YouTube channel (video published 03/07/19). It is also available on NJPW World (without English subtitles). I am not an employee of NJPW.]

In a partnership with Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro-Wrestling will host a sold-out dual-branded event called G1 Supercard at Madison Square Garden on April 6th. The company’s top title, the IWGP Heavyweight Championship will be defended at this historic event. The challenger will be decided in the New Japan Cup, which started today! The NJC is a 32-man, single-elimination bracketed tournament, and the winner will face current champion, Jay White in the MSG main event!

Welcome to Bar MSG

Hosted by: Shigeki Kiyono (NJPW Announcer/Interviewer)
Guest: Hiroshi Tanahashi (The Ace; The Once in a Century Talent)
Narrator: Baron Yamazaki

Video Description Notes
★ New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s debut at the Holy Land of Wrestling, Madison Square Garden
★ The Ace, Hiroshi Tanahashi’s intense confession1 about the MSG Show
★ Overthrowing, IWGP Heavyweight Champion Jay White
★ The Secret to Winning the NEW JAPAN CUP 2019?!

Narrator: “Within Roppongi, the town that never sleeps, there is a peculiar bar. It’s the place to talk pro-wrestling, Bar MSG…”

Kiyono: “Oh, welcome to Bar MSG! Aren’t you really busy right now?”

Tanahashi: “I’m not busy at all.”

Kiyono: “Oh really?”

Narrator: “Tonight’s special guest is the once in century talent, Hiroshi Tanahashi.”

Kiyono: “What would you like to drink?”

Tanahashi: “Since I am on a diet, I’ll take an Oolong-hai (Oolong tea mixed with Shochu grain alcohol).”

Kiyono: “There really aren’t any opportunities for us to have a relaxed conversation.”

Tanahashi: “Yeah, I know.”

Kiyono: “Tanahashi-san, do you like drinking (alcohol)?”

Tanahashi: “I do!”

Kiyono: “Which do you like better, your protein drinks or alcohol?”

Tanahashi: “I should just make protein cocktails. Like instead of a
Kahlúa & Cream, substitute a protein powder base for the milk.”

Kiyono: “How about we put that on the menu here (at Bar MSG)? Hiroshi Tanahashi’s Secret Recipe Protein Cocktail.”

Tanahashi: “Call it the Kahlúa Protein! I think we could also make one using melon liqueur, too.”

Kiyono: “There are so many possibilities!”

Ryogoku Tournament of the Spring!

Narrator: “When you think of New Japan Pro-Wrestling in the spring… Ryogoku Hall is renowned for the biggest matches! The Spring of NJPW gives birth to legends with countless fierce fights that jolt the soul! This time, it’ll happen when NJPW also lands in NYC, at the Holy Land of Pro-Wrestling, Madison Square Garden. Tickets are completely sold out! It’s at this bar, one can discuss their thoughts and memories openly!”

About MSG

{video timestamp 2:26}
Kiyono: “You’ve been to NYC plenty of times, but have you ever been to MSG?”

Tanahashi: “The hotel we stay at is right by MSG. You don’t have to walk far to go!”

Kiyono: “There’s a giant train station underneath it, too, right? The exterior of the building is so iconic, too.”

Tanahashi: “The crazy thing is that NYC has so many skyscraper buildings, and yet in that compact city, they managed to put a giant arena in the middle of it all!”

Kiyono: “It you were to compare it to Tokyo, it would be like putting an arena… in GINZA!”

Tanahashi: “Seriously! You walk for a few blocks and you can hit Times Square and there are plenty of places to shop. It’s just unbelievable that they put something so big there!”

Kiyono: “Even the naming of MSG sounds fantastic!”

Tanahashi: “Madison. Square. Garden.”

Kiyono: “For this event, they will also be a special tour group leaving from Japan, and you’re joining them?”

Tanahashi: “I’ll be joining them after they arrive in NYC. I’m looking forward to it. There’s bars, cafes, and so much to do!”

Kiyono: “That sounds like so much fun!”

Memories of MSG

{video timestamp 4:28}
Kiyono: “Are there any particular matches or moments from MSG have left a lasting impression on you?”

Tanahashi: “I discovered pro-wrestling when I was in high school, so I watched some older video clips. I remember hearing that Tatsumi Fujinami won a match at MSG with the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF)2. Of course, MSG also a famous for the first WrestleMania. In the USA, there are so many other larger venues, but for wrestling, including WWE, there is something special about MSG.”

Kiyono: “It is definitely a place steeped in sports history.”

Tanahashi: “I believe that is also where Fujinami debuted The Dragon Suplex, too.”

Kiyono: “I remember my (unnamed) source mentioned that in that match between Fujinami and Estrada. It was the first time he used the Dragon Suxplex. The first time he challenged for the title, and he won on the first attempt! Isn’t that incredible!”

Tanahashi: “It’s unbelievable!”

Kiyono: “Right?! For all of that to happen on such a grand stage…”

Tanahashi: “It’s like me when I debuted The Slingblade as a finishing move. It was in Hokkaido (July 2009 in Sapporo City) in a tag match, if I remember correctly. I didn’t know how the crowd would react. I didn’t know how much damage it would do to my opponent either. But… I just tried it out.”

Kiyono: “Tiger Mask had a similar situation, which resulted in a standing ovation from Vince McMahon3. At first, the crown was cold to Tiger, but likely because most of them didn’t know who he was.”

Tanahashi: “That often makes the best underdog story: the unknown wrestler starting at a disadvantage comes out on top with the win.”

Kiyono: “That match was against the Dynamite Kid (in August 1982).”

Tanahashi (breaking the 4th wall): “You really know a lot!”

Kiyono: “This would make Fujinami the first to be successful as a junior and heavyweight!”

Tanahashi: “Man, that’s really something. When you think about it, MSG really has a long-standing, deep connection with NJPW.”

The Road to MSG

{timestamp 7:47}
Tanahashi: “Like you know, in January, I became the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, and if I successfully defended it in February, I would have main evented Madison Square Garden…”

Kiyono: “Right now, Jay White is the champion (having beaten Tanahashi in February), and now the winner of the New Japan Cup will be the challenger at Madison Square Garden.”

Tanahashi: “I had the chance to main event MSG, but thankfully, I now have another chance. If I win the New Japan Cup, then I can challenge Jay (at MSG).

Kiyono: “….so what you’re saying is that you’re aiming to reclaim the main event of MSG?”

Tanahashi: “Naturally. I mean there is always the future possibilities of another NJPW at MSG, but there is also the possibility that this is the one and only chance for this to happen! This could be my only chance in my entire career for this to happen.”

Kiyono: “That is a big dream to catch!”

Tanahashi: “Main eventing at MSG is the sort of thing I want to brag to my grandkids about, you know?”

Kiyono: “We mentioned this earlier, but Fujinami’s match… wasn’t the main event.”

Tanahashi: “Exactly. This MSG show… is a historical moment.”

Kiyono: “There aren’t too many Japanese whom have had the opportunity to perform at MSG.”

Tanahashi: “There are probably some famous musical performers.”

Kiyono: “Such as X-JAPAN and L’Arc en Ciel…”

Tanahashi: “It’s really hard to think of names right now… Man, now I feel like I have to work even harder on to make this happen!”

Kiyono: “Meaning, you’re going to have to focus on winning, but also make sure that you’re prepared and taking care of yourself, especially your knee.”

Tanahashi: “I think I may need to change up how I do somethings in the ring, including The High-fly Flow. I need to think beyond the fan comments and what my ceiling is as a performer and athlete. Part of my strategy will be like the Sengoku (warring states) Era, I don’t want my opponent to read me to easily. Although, if they fans demand that I do the High-fly Flow… I’ll fly for them. I don’t want my opponent to go into the match expecting that I will do it. I want to keep them guessing. However, if I don’t do the HFF, I really want them to get distracting trying to figure out what I’ll do instead. (looking into the camera) What should I do?”

Kiyono: “So with regard to MSG, your goal may also be exacting revenge on Jay White. We’ll have to see if the HFF will also makes it’s MSG debut…”

Tanahashi: “Going back to Fujinami’s match at MSG… what he did with the Dragon Suplex, that’s become a part of wrestling history. This could be a great chance to honor that moment with some ‘Dragonism.’ Of course, that would take some proper preparation to avoid anything going wrong.”

Kiyono: “So everyone needs to be on the lookout to see if Tanahashi will use the High-fly Flow or bring in something else! Something new? Something old!? Have you thought about using a Dragon Suplex? You like them, don’t you?”

Tanahashi: “That’s a great idea. That saves me a little time thinking of what to do!”

Kiyono: “What better place and time to do it?! I would love to see it!”

Tanahashi: “Could you imagine the impact and reaction of performing the Dragon Suplex inside Madison Square Garden? It’s would be crazy (good).”

Kiyono: “Absolutely! You would definitely make some pro-wrestling fans cry with that.”

Tanahashi: “Honestly, this dual-branded New Japan Pro-Wrestling and Ring of Honor show at MSG is a giant step for wrestling history.”

Kiyono: “I couldn’t have said it better. Thank you to Hiroshi Tanahashi for joining us at Bar MSG”to discuss this momentous occasion.

Tanahashi: “Thank you so much!”

The NJPW x ROH G1 Supercard will be broadcast live on NJPW World on Sunday, April 7th (8:30AM Japan Local Time) and will be available on-demand afterward. Commentary will be available in Japanese and English.

Full Match Card

I will be attending all three of the associated NJPW events during Mania week in NYC! If you see me at the shows, please say hello! Also, which event are you most excited for?

4/4 New Japan Matsuri at Japan Village in Brooklyn, NY
4/5 NJPW x ROH Festival of Honor in NYC
4/6 NJPW x ROH G1 Supercard at MSG

Translator’s Notes

  1. 激白 (gekihaku; intense confession) – (reference note) Google Translate gave it a literal translation of “Violent White,” which if it were talking about Tanahashi’s determination to destroy current champion, Jay White, this could also be applicable.
  2. Fujinami’s match at MSG with the WWWF at MSG was in 1978 against Jose Estrada. Tanahashi was two-years-old at the time.
  3. August 1982 Tiger Mask versus Dynamite Kid; Unsure if they are discussing Vincent Kennedy McMahon, or his father Vince Sr. Likely Sr.

Video is property of New Japan Pro-Wrestling.
Translation (c) 2019 by Karen Peterson.

Liger versus Ishimori at 47th Anniversary Show

[The following is a fan translation of the match promotion video for the Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Match at New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s 47th Anniversary Show on March 6th. I had difficulty verifying some of the Liger history, so I hope it is accurate. I do not work for NJPW.]

Narrator: 『いまこそ世界の獣神 頂点へ』
“Even now, the Beast God of the World is the apex.”

Liger: 『なんで新日本プロレスのリングに上がるのか…てっぺん獲りたいんですよ。 てっぺんって何?ベルトですよね。』

“Why do people step into a New Japan ring? They want to take what’s at the top (“teppen”)? What’s “teppen?” It’s the belt*.”

[*teppen can be translated at “the head (or top) or something,” but also as “a scrap of iron.” I am curious to know if the vague, dual meaning was intentional on Liger’s part. It was written in hiragana not in Chinese characters (kanji), therefore making trickier to translate.]

Challenger 挑戦者
Jyushin Thunder Liger 獣神サンダー・ライガー

2.11 大阪February 11th in Osaka
“A Chance suddenly happened!”

第83代 王者 83rd Champion;石森太二 Taiji ISHIMORI

Narrator: 『王者石森太二が初防衛あを果たした。その直後…!」
“Ishimori successfully defended his championship. Immediately after….”

Announcer:『獣神サンダー・ライガーを呼んだ!』 “(Ishimori) is calling out Jyushin Thunder Liger!!”

Ishimori: “If I am to truly start a Renaissance in New Japan’s Junior Division, there is only one ideal opponent…”

Liger: 『「え?マジですか?」って思いました。石森選手がベルトを掲げた。こっちもスイッチ入りますよね。』
“I thought to myself, ‘Huh? Seriously?’ It was Ishimori’s choice to raise the belt (like that). That’s when my switch flipped on.”


Punk, I’m coming to take that belt from you.

jyushin thunder liger; February 11, 2019, OSAKA

特別シングルマッチ Special Single’s Match
30-minute time-limit (1 fall)
(Jyushin Thunder Liger)
(Kuniaki Kobayashi)

Narrator: 『平成の始まりに現れ、30年のわたりジュニアの道を切り開いてきた。リビングレジェンド。』
He appeared in the first year of the Heisei Era and for 30 years, and blazed a trail for Junior Heavyweights, making himself into a living legend.

05/03/2016 福岡 May 3rd 2016 in Fukuoka
The last time Liger challenged for the Jr. Heavyweight Championship was on May 3, 2016 against then champion, KUSHIDA*

If he were to win (on 3/6), it would be the first time in 18 years and eight months, JTL has held the Junior Heavyweight Championship!

“When I think about my career and my age, I think ‘this could be my last chance to challenge for the title.’ However, I am far from done and I don’t plan on quitting any time soon. What does that mean exactly? I’m coming to take it all.”

“Long before the belt, Liger had a different dream. Something that one day, regardless of his age, he’d hope to achieve…”


ライガー『MSGマディソン・スクレア・ガーデンで藤波辰爾さんが王者になって、それを見て「プロレスやるしかない」「プロレスラーに絶対なりたい」原点 原点中の原点なんで。そういうところで王者としてリングに上がれたら…』

Liger: “I remember when Tatsumi Fujinami became the champion at Madison Square Garden. When I saw it, I thought “all I want to do is wrestle… I will become a pro-wrestler no matter what!” It was the beginning… if not the origin of my beginning. That is why I step into a wrestling ring. I want to be champion.”

新日本始まりの場所 大田区総合体育館
NJPW first started at the Ota Ward Multi-purpose Gymnasium

From the increasing power of New Japan Pro-Wrestling to the Pro-Wrestling world’s hallowed sanctuary of Madison Square Garden…

(The Championship & The Dream)

Refusing to fade away, he’s coming to take the championship and catch his dream!

“I’m a nice, middle-aged man. Try not to fall in love with me.”

Jyushin Thunder Liger (March 2019)

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title Match IWGP
60-minute time limit (One Fall)(60分1本勝負)

Challenger チャレンジャー (挑戦者)
Jushin Thunder Liger
The 58th Jr. Heavyweight Champion
Taiji Ishimori

Above referenced pre-match promo video for KUSHIDA vs. LIGER (2016)

Video content property of New Japan Pro-Wrestling.
Translation (c) 2019 by Karen Peterson.

R3K Challenge LIJ at 47th Anniversary Show

[The following is a fan translation of the match promotion video for the Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Match at New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s 47th Anniversary Show on March 6th. I do not work for NJPW.]

Narrator: “Exactly one year ago (March 6, 2018; Anniversary Show) Roppongi 3K lost the Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.”

YOH: 『僕らもちょっと背伸びをして、歩いてたというか試合をしてた。』
“We overextended ourselves and took the match too lightly.”

SHO: 『結果が全然残せていない』
“In the end, there was nothing left we could do.”

At the time, there was no holding back their tears.

A year passed without another chance.

“Our mindset really changed.”

SHO: 『ここで行動を起こすしかないと思いましたね本当に。』
“Honestly. It was the only thing we could do to make something happen.”

ナレーター 「狙う相手はもちろん、現在ジュニアタッグ{著ってんに訓練する}ロスインゴベルナブレス・デ・ハポン、鷹木信悟&BUSHI」
Narrator: Naturally, they set their sights on the current Tag Team Champions from Los Ingobernables de Japon: Shingo Takagi and BUSHI.

IWGPジュニアタッグ 初挑戦・初奪取
1.4 Wrestle Kingdom
First Challenge & New (58th) Jr. Tag Team Champions

2.3 札幌 February 3rd in Sapporo 初防衛
First Successful Title Defense for LIJ

2.11 大阪 February 11th in Osaka
Announcer: 『そのベルトを掴まえんだRoppongi 3K!
“Roppongi 3K’s grabbed the belts!! They’re booing SHO and YOH!!”

“In order to regain hold of the belts again, we had no other choice.”

“We couldn’t pretend any longer.”

SHINGO: 『まさかオマエら俺たちのベルトに挑戦したいとか言うんじゃねえだろうな?』
“You can’t really be here to say that you two want to challenge for our belts, right?”

“Of course we are!! “

February 11, 2019, OSAKA

ナレーター 『今なら、どんな逆風だって』
Narrator: “What can 3K do to change their trajectory?”

Aren’t you two supposed to be blowing some “great wind”?

YOH:『吹かないんだったら起こせばいいんだよ。 ベルトも1年巻けてねえんだ。 自分らから風を起こしていかないと』

“So long as we can get something started, we don’t have to say it. We’ve gone a year without those championships around our waists. We have to make a big commotion…”

ナレーター 『一年分の想いを乗せて春の嵐を巻き起こせるか』
Narrator: “It is possible for them to turn their year’s worth of experiences and cause a commotion like a spring storm!?!”

IWGP Junior Tag Title Match IWGP ジュニアタッグ選手権試合
Challengers チャレンジャーチーム (挑戦者組)
The 58th Jr. Tag Team Champions
BUSHI & Shingo Takagi

Video content property of New Japan Pro-Wrestling.
Translation (c) 2019 by Karen Peterson.

Disney Festival of the Arts

Personally, the Japan Pavilion at Disney’s EPCOT Center is probably the most important spot in all of Disney. Before moving to Florida was an option, my parents took my sister and me on our first Disney trip. I still remember accidentally stepping back into one of the ponds and getting my green Esprit tennis shoe soaking wet! At the time, I felt an indescribable pull to Japan but being only seven-years-old, I thought it was only the possibility of Santa Claus bringing a gaming system called a Nintendo for Christmas. Who knew that strolling through The World Showcase would eventually lead the greatest adventure in my life.

A Familiar Feeling 懐かしい気持ち

Japan itself may be on the opposite side of the globe, but every time I pass through the Japan Pavilion, even for a brief moment, I just feel at home. Hearing the Matsuriza Taiko Drum show, wandering through the Mitsukoshi Department store, taking a breath to enjoy Kawaii: “The Culture of Cute” installation at the Bijutsukan (Art Museum) all invoke emotions and memories from a very crucial time in my life.

I always wondered what it was about the modeling of the castle that felt so familiar, and I recently discovered it was modeled after Himeji Castle– one of my favorite castles in all of Japan. The red floating gate was also modeled after Japan’s most iconic torii at Miyajima Island, Itsukushima Shrine. I’ve climbed the stairs to the top floor of the original Himeji-jo and I’ve hugged the leg of the actual Itsukushima Torii (low-tide in the winter means you can walk out to it).

I visited both within my first six months of my time in Japan, and it was at a stage of my life where a single decision would change the trajectory of my life. It was on that trip to Hiroshima, where I decided to renew my JET contract beyond the first year. This decision alone drastically improved my quality of living because I chose happiness and not giving up on my dream. So now, whenever I pass through the Japan Pavilion, my pace slows a little bit because I still feel in my bones that Japan and I aren’t finished with one another.

Gratitude 感謝

As we made our way to the World Showcase, I simply planned on getting a draft beer so we could continue on our way. However, when I got to the register, my heart overruled my mouth. Taiyaki has always been one of my favorite Japanese festival treats, and without fail, Disney nailed that authentic flavor. Also, I couldn’t remember the last time I had proper sake from a wooden cup, so I simply gave into the foodie moment. Sitting on the bench with my friends, I took a moment to really give thanks and thought to how fortunate I truly am.

I often worry I drone on about how much I miss Japan, especially each time we pass through the Japan Pavilion on our Disney adventures. Each time we go, I feel that nagging sensation that I have unfinished business with Japan. Whether it’s travel or work or potentially a new life-changing adventure, the roots of my love for Japan, it’s culture, and most importantly, it’s people run exceptionally deep into my heart. I often joke that I left my heart there when I moved home, but some of my friends are convinced that I was likely Japanese in another life. Maybe that is why the pull is so strong, no matter where in the world I go. I constantly feel like the needle of my heart’s compass is pointed toward Japan, and I am so thankful for the people in my life that understand how crucial it is to who I am.

Takumi Table is not one of the mainstay dining options at the Japan Pavilion, but this kiosk to the left of the Torii regularly appears whenever the festivals take over EPCOT.

  • Taiyaki (left): Fish-shaped Japanese Sweet Stuffed Pastry with Red Bean Paste and topped with Whipped Cream and Sesame Custard
  • Masu Sake in a Traditional Personalized Wooden Cup (right)

At the cash register, I had the pleasure of speaking with Saki, who had just arrived from Japan the month previous. She is an international college program student and she was kind enough to talk with me as she drew Baymax on my wooden cup and wrote my name and thank you in hiragana! When I went to pick up my Taiyaki and get my sake cup filled, I met Karen from Hyogo Prefecture. She was surprised to learn that I lived in Tottori, one of Hyogo’s neighbors. Speaking with them in Japanese might be a small feat to some, but every little bit helps when one wants to build confidence!

One of my friends taught me that I could tweet compliments for cast members who went above and beyond the call of duty! Whenever I receive great customer service, or even when I see someone is trying to handle a difficult situation, I do my utmost to let someone know about it. Often on social media, too many are quick to put a company on notice when the service is back, but very few are willing to step up and throw out some well-earned thanks! I wanted to ensure that Saki & Karen’s efforts did not go unnoticed, especially since they’re working hard in their second language.

Visiting the Japan Pavilion is like going to a shrine for me. I always find inner peace and solace in its familiarity, and sometimes I go there seeking enlightenment. Honestly, wish there was a proper shrine I could throw some change into and ask the universe for a little extra push. For now, I’ll just have to settle for some really good eats with my darling friends as I dream about the future.