Category Archives: Sports

Hiroshima へ

Morning of the Journey

Waking up at 5 am is rarely a treat, yet this particular dawn it all felt like a necessary evil that would prove well worth my while in the long run. Or even the immediate run, depending on your perception of time. Not even staying up until 3 watching the 4th season of the Big Bang Theory could have deterred me from jumping up unprompted at the first rays of sunlight to scavenge the fridge for anything of value in order to prepare me for the long train ride ahead. This great nutritional treasure hunt included two packs of natto and the humble remains of the only reasonably priced full fat yoghurt I’ve ever found in the land of the rising sun. Also coffee and butter. Don’t ask.

The streets were relatively quiet at that ungodly hour, but similarly to last week’s Tsukiji visit, both the Seibu Line and Yamanote Line consisted of man’in densha from as early as 6 in the morning, an epiphany that made me cringe, though silently. At Shinagawa after buying the shinkansen ticket, I noticed that the potassium iodide pills from April had completely disintegrated inside my wallet, forming something not completely unlike cocaine both in color and texture. I should know, I have cocaine in my wallet all the time. The remnants of the pills had to be disposed of, rendering me vulnerable once again to the exaggeratedly deadly winds of Fukushima. A few moments later I boarded the train while making sure to avoid the smoking car, a skill I had learned through trial and error a few years earlier. Nothing compares to paying ¥18000 for a 4-hour smoke-in-your-face experience.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Nozomi shinkansen bound for Hakata.

To be perfectly honest, it only took the sentence above to divert my thoughts from the original target city and contemplate continuing all the way to Hakata, Kyushu, in order to sample the eponymous thin noodle tonkotsu broth ramen in its natural habitat. And not only for the ramen, either. It turns out that despite having lived in different parts of Japan for well over a year in total I still haven’t set foot outside of Honshu. Luckily, the responsible side of my brain, which is noticeably small, was able to stay in control. Thus, I soon relented and continued the journey to Hiroshima as planned. Old MUCC songs collected from my ex-roommate as well as the more recent Fairy Tail soundtrack kept me company.

Camaraderie, adventure and steel on steel. Or rather, EMIT on control point.

In non-local news, there is now less than a fortnight left before the traditional Jukola orienteering event and I am currently gathering anxiety in relation to the fact that I’m unable to attend possibly one of the most legendary sports events of (not) my life. Marko has been able to whip the team into shape and get people to commit at a level I could never have dreamed of, so clearly there is much to yearn for. Hopefully the deer in Miyajima will help me overcome this loss. I hereby refer everybody to the valiant adventures of Team HeiaHeia.com, the most versatile tongue-in-cheek yorozuya sports team in the world.

-Antti

Trickshoth

It’s been a while since I wrote something really inspired, but this Tuesday offered plenty of topics. After a nice sleep of 13 hours I was completely revitalized after my weekend mishaps and decided to browse local outdoor basketball courts. What drove me to this was my lack of proper conditioning which could prove fatal to the Epic ASM’11 Basketball Team in as little as two months’ time. A harsh training routine was therefore in order. Thanks to courtsoftheworld.com, two locations were quickly identified: the famous Yoyogi park as well as a more obscure and smaller Jordan court in Mitake.

I had my doubts about the latter, and although it was slightly closer to work, I was fully prepared to go to Yoyogi, were Jordan park to turn into a disappointment. My fears were not completely unwarranted, as a despicable standard practice in Japanese society raised its head. The Jordan court was only open during work hours, i.e 10 to 5, after which the caged streetball court was closed, locked and left to rot. I walked around the court a couple of times cussing loudly in disbelief. I did it all in Finnish so it accidentally opened a portal to hell. Moving on. Basketball courts are already a rarer commodity in Japan than cheese, yet decision-makers feel like preventing people from using public facilities more than 7 hours a day. What the fuck, honestly.

All work and no play makes Jack... pretty damn irritated

I subsequently resumed my scouting trip and headed to Yoyogi park, a supposedly bulletproof option. On the way, I crossed the path of the Girls’ Generation marketing bus that was playing the Japanese version of Gee Gee at full volume in the streets of Harajuku. I cycled beside it and stopped in traffic a couple of times to take pictures, effectively strengthening my established position as possibly the worst nerd ever. In my defense, there were many local otakus around trying to claim that very spot. As far as actual music was concerned, the Japanese version couldn’t hold a candle to the original.

Gee Gee Gee Gee Baby Baby Baby Baby (sit se luuppaa)

After that brilliant coincidence I finally made it to the Yoyogi basketball area where lots of Japanese several years younger and many times more adept at the sport than me were gathered to shoot trickshoths. Lacking a ball of my own, I sneaked in to play with some koukouseis who claimed to be beginners. Their definition was, amazingly, correct, and not just false modesty. It was uncharacteristically cold and windy for late May, and my sleeveless second hand shirt was not enough to keep me from freezing, so after a few 3 on 3s and OvDs I was back on my way. Although I then proceeded to go to the weekly Muteppou dinner and head straight to the gym afterwards, I’ll instead post an anachronistic picture of the Tetsuya shouyu ramen meal from a few weeks prior. It was delicious.

I am gonna miss these so much in two months

The updates have been erratic and shorter than usual for a while but I’m going on a work trip to Hiroshima on Monday so that should open some fresh blogging topics that may, or may not interest anyone.

-Antti

Beefcake! BEEFCAKE!

“I actually don’t treat life any differently than an RPG. I’m always thinking of leveling up myself, which in this case, is actually myself, not my World of Warcraft character.” -Brian Wang, co-founder of Fitocracy.

What can I say? Someone has unknowingly answered my wishes. I alluded to the lack RPG-type real life achievements in the last couple of sentences of the first Sebaattori post, more than half a year ago. If I had had any functional knowledge in coding I would’ve attempted to create such a service myself. It would appear that in addition to not being possible, it is also no longer needed. Fitocracy is a service that has now been in beta since February. It offers its users experience, quests and achievements for logging real life physical exercises and sharing them with others. Tsumari, it’s like a HeiaHeia for gaming nerds and objectively the greatest invention since those cat ears that read your emotions.

At least that’s the image I’ve gotten from surfing around the site. I’ll need to test it in practice later tonight but it’s needless to say that I’m enthralled by the mere concept. Originally I was slightly reluctant to go to the gym today because it’s raining and the place is boring, lacking in fundamental equipment and whatnot, but the possibility of leveling up from doing a couple upper body exercises is far too tempting. Therein also lies the danger.

Yatta, yatta!

According to Owen Good of Kotaku, “[Fitocracy developers] are of course exploring ideas like mobile applications so you can ‘play’ at the gym; the community constantly asks if nutrition will be integrated into the XP system, and they’re considering that too. The manner in which I created my new weights workout was absolutely intended, and Fitocracy wants to grow that out in the quest system. “Character classes” or something approximating that are also a possibility, for those who want to specialize in, say, running, or weight training, weight loss or toning up or whatever.”

If Fitocracy is as effective an incentive as I currently believe, I may well die from exhaustion in the next couple of months while relentlessly trying to multiclass into a Runner/Leaper. I wish I was pumping iron already. That’s a first.

-Antti

Update: Reached level 3. Ding! Grats! Ding! Grats!

Motor Crazycycle

Mille Bornes

One more workweek over. Several milestones were achieved, out of which none at the workplace. I managed to save more money on travel costs than ever before by cycling to work for five days in a row. The end result was 170 pedaled kilometers and ¥3300 less to pay to the private railways. After now having zigzagged between cars for over a thousand kilometers during my first three months here, I’ve thoroughly began to enjoy the peculiarities and advantages of cycling in Tokyo. Five days straight really took a toll on my leg muscles, though, so I most likely will not repeat the feat very soon. But I need to do something to keep myself in shape and that is one of the simpler, cheaper options.

After a long week of sitting in front of a screen for no purpose, I awarded myself with finally deciding to try the services of Domino’s Nakamurabashi. Upon entering the place, it looked eerily vacated, but a quick yelp of “sumimasen” solved the service problem and an incredibly apologetic pizzaiolo dashed to the counter confirming that the place was open. I had already set my eyes on the Italian Traditional pizza after weeks of looking at the flyers they keep stuffing in my postbox (Yes, spammarketing works). It was only traditional in a Japanese sense, though, as the fillings lay on a millefeuille-crust which was further cut in squares, something they specified in the booklet, as thought anyone gave two shits. Maybe someone does. But I don’t have much respect for people who judge take-out pizzas based on how they are cut.

À emporter

Take away (or one of the other options) cost 20% less than the listed price, which was ¥1700 (->¥1360), affordable but not exactly cheap. I also have concerns over the marketing aspect of listing your prices at their peak and lowering them on not-so-special occasions. Online orders get -5%, take home gets -20%. Considering there are no seats or tables in the restaurant which is more reminiscent of, or veritably is just an ordering counter, one would suspect that most people go for the take-out option. Instead, while being pleasantly surprised on the spot, the list price almost acted as a deterrent and made me avoid going to Domino’s altogether. They could revise those flyers.

It's dangerous to go alone, take this.

Once I had received my dinner, I cycled to the small park next to my apartment, sat down and dug in, returning the occasional baseball to the neighborhood kids playing nearby. The Italian Traditional was a very pleasant surprise. Unlike all other pizzas in Japanese restaurants till the end of time, this one managed to both look and taste like a pizza, never mind the millefeuille crust. It was so appetizing, actually, that as I let my vigilance level drop for only a few seconds, a huge crow appeared to claim a stake in my cheesy goodness. That came out wrong. As did the crow. We quickly exchanged a couple of Finnish curses and the crow was on his way again. I did most of the talking.

Gym? What’s a Gym?

The real challenge of the day was still looming ahead. Following a quick pit stop at home, I headed to the Nakamuraminami gym, finally carrying the only proof I had for living in Nerima, my new and shiny Alien card. The lady at the first counter taught me how to use the ticket dispenser, after which I was able to go down the stairs to the training room area. I was instructed to fill in some sheets about general contact information and how susceptible I was to injuries. Then, the gym guide guy (GGG) proceeded to present me each and every machine in the room. To my great disappointment, there was no standard bench press. In fact, there were no barbells altogether, no pull-up bar, and the heaviest dumbbells weighed a measly five kilograms each.

Thus, every exercising opportunity was based on those boring machines where you have to sit down and lock yourself up as to prevent people from pulling off any stunts where they could drop a heavy barbell on themselves AND DIE! That meant that there were going to be no squats, no deadlifts, no lunges, no pull-ups and no bench presses, ergo no possibility of doing anything I would’ve wanted to. What they did have was a free blood pressure measurement with the GGG offering to keep statistics of the results, so that was a positive surprise. They also had two of those Japanese… rodeo… machines that make you look mental when you ride them. They may or may not be of any use. The gym costs ¥200 a pop and for a reason nobody explained to me, shampoo and soap are not allowed to be used in the showers. Obviously. Despite its self-explanatory shortcomings as a gym, it’s either this or paying ¥13,900/month for a private gym in Hiroo, so I guess I’ll just adapt and force myself to enjoy machines that aren’t exactly ideal for people of my height.

-Antti

 

One more workweek is now happily over. Several milestones were achieved, out of which none at work. I managed to save more money than ever before on travel costs by cycling to work every weekday. The end result was 170 pedaled kilometers and 3300 yen more in my pocket instead of the railway system. After having zigzagged between cars for over 1000 kilometers during my first three months I’ve now thoroughly beginning to enjoy all the peculiarities of and advantages of cycling in Tokyo. 5 days straight really took a toll on my leg muscles though so I most likely will not repeat the feat very soon. But I need to do something to keep myself in shape and that is one of the simpler, cheaper options.

After the hard week of sitting in front of a screen I awarded myself by finally going to try the services of Domino’s Nakamurabashi. Upon entering the place, it looked eerily vacated, but a quick “sumimasen” solved the service problem and an incredibly apologetic pizzaiolo ran from the backroom confirming that the place was open. I had already set my eyes on the Italian traditional pizza after weeks of looking at the flyers they keep stuffing in my postbox. (Yes, spammarketing works). It was only traditional in a Japanese sense, though, as the stuffings lay on a millefeuille-crust which was further cut in squares, something they specify in the booklet, as thought anyone gave two shits. Maybe someone does. But I don’t have much respect for someone who judges pizzas based on how they are cut.

A emporter

Take-away (or take-out for all you native English speakers) cost 20% less than the listed price, which was 1360, affordable but not exactly cheap. I also have concerns over the marketing aspect of listing your prices at their max and lowering them on not-so-special occasions. Online orders get -5%, take home gets -20%. Considering there are no seat or tables in the restaurant which is actually just an ordering counter, one would suspect that most people go for the take-out option. Instead, while being pleasantly surprised on the spot, the list price almost acted as a deterrent and made me avoid going to Domino’s altogether. They could revise those flyers.

Once I had received my pizza I cycled to the small park next to my apartment, sat down and dug in, occasionally returning the odd baseball to kids who were playing nearby. The Italian traditional was a very pleasant surprise. Unlike pizzas in Japanese restaurants, this actually was one, millefeuille crust or not. It was so delicious, actually, that after concentrating for 5 secs to throw a baseball back to some kids (far too hard as well, poor fellows had to run to the other side of the park to get it and I was the one who ended up apologizing) a huge crow had appeared to claim a stake in my cheesy goodness. That came out wrong.

What’s a GYM?

Yet the real challenge of the day was still ahead. After a quick pit stop at home, I headed to the gym with my new and shiny Alien card, which proved where I lived and the info of an emergency contact so someone could save my if I die exercising. At the local gym, the lady at the first counter taught me how to use the ticket dispenser, after which I was able to go to the training room area. There, a linguistically challenged but friendly guy made me fill information sheets about general stuff and how susceptible I was to injuries. Then he proceeded to introduce me each and every machine in the room. To my great disappointment, there was no standard benchpress. In fact, there were no barbells altogether, no pull-up bar, and the heaviest dumbbells weighed 5 kilograms. Every exercising opportunity was based on those boring machines where you have to sit as to prevent people from pulling any stunts where they could drop a heavy barbell over themselves AND DIE! That meant that there was no squatting, no deadlifts, no pull-ups, no benches and no lunges, ergo no possibility to do anything I would’ve liked. They had free blood pressure measurement which they keep statistics of though, so that was interesting. And also two of those Japanese rodeo machines that make you look relatively daft when you ride them.

The gym costs 200 yen / pop and for a reason nobody explained to me, shampoo and soap are not allowed to be used in the showers. Despite its obvious shortcomings as a gym, it’s either this or paying 10000/month for a private gym in Hiroo, so I guess I’ll just adapt and learn to enjoy machines that aren’t exactly ideal for people of my height.

Running and You: Road to Helsinki City Run 2011

For once I decided to take upon a non-gaming, non-technology topic. Hell, it would not even fit into the casual nerd talk category if I were not the one typing this. So, what could be the reason I am not going out and about, but striving for something out of the ordinary? In fact, I accomplished my second half marathon almost two weeks ago and so I decided to sharpen my pencil (or maybe stretch my fingers) and share my journey with you. Physical prowess is, after all, only second to gaming skill on my scale from zero to awesome.

History

The Leivo Dynasty has long been engaged in numerous events related to running. It was not until last year that I had the opportunity to be asked to join this great bunch of people for the whole duration of a half marathon. Naturally, I could not (and still cannot) refuse that kind of challenges.

Due to numerous coincidences and some mitigating factors, I ended up running last year as Jaana Olkkola, my (female) alter ego. Being the first time I actually ran for that long, and without proper training, my target was merely to finish the course and see how it goes. Well, I guess I was not too shabby, as my time back then was around 2 hours and 2 minutes. That is roughly a pace of around 6 minutes per kilometer. Somehow, and maybe for a good reason, I had the gut feeling that I could do better and that this had not been the end of my running endeavors.

This fateful Saturday afternoon things were different. I was prepared for what was about come and I knew I could definitely beat my old record and maybe even surprise myself while doing so. I had the right mindset and I had even considered what to eat beforehand to maximize my performance. I even had the right kind of lenses for my sunglasses. My choice of eyewear definitely did not go unnoticed.

Training

Instead of really concentrating on work and studying, I have been endorsed in taking the physical capabilities of my body to the limit each week for the past three months. It started with buying a runner’s card to a local indoor arena when I got back from Japan. Then I ventured forth and began to go the gym a couple of times each week. Soon, my evenings were filled with different types of exercises. Now I find it hard to spare one or two days each week for resting purposes. My housemate has been a great motivator. Together, we have been aiming for maximal stress (i.e. the state of Hapetus, for those familiar with our training methods) when doing lunge jumps, ankle jumps, squat jumps (among other kinds of jumps) and different types of running exercises.

Not all training was for this single half marathon. To tell the truth, I was not even supposed or prepared to participate in the competition a week before. However, thanks to Antti not being here to uphold the Leivo dynasty, he wanted to transfer his participation right to me thus allowing this feat of strength to happen. Instead, I have been training for an orienteering relay called Jukola along with a couple of mountain biking events. Then again, orienteering mainly consists of running so it’s a win-win situation when it comes to participating in this year’s HCR.

The act

After a slowish start to the course (first two kilometers took roughly 5 minutes 50 seconds each) I was a bit uncertain if I could make it under my initial goal of 1 hour and 50 minutes. Sadly, most of the people in my group (with target time between 1:50 and 2:00) should not have been in that group – at all – as they clearly had no incentive or capability to accomplish what they had bargained for. Without giving it too much thought at that point, I aimed to up my pace to around 5 minutes per kilometer. As I had my watch with me this time around, I could easily keep track of time spent covering each kilometer.

I recall arriving at the halfway mark at around 53 or 54 minutes, which was in line with my expectations. However, nearing the latter part of the course, first at maybe 12 kilometers and then at around 16 kilometers (after passing Antti’s brother Aleksi whom I had been following for the majority of the run) I realized that I might actually make it under 1 hour and 45 minutes, which was nothing short of a magic barrier for me. Were I to make it, I would have definitely outdone myself. I remember thinking while running about how Antti had commented earlier on one of my trainings that he had a hard time believing my results. Perhaps that gave me the final boost.

At exactly 1 hour, 44 minutes and 33 seconds after walking over the starting line along with a merry crowd of people, I crossed the finish line at the Olympic stadium. This year’s HCR was over!

My feelings at the end of the course were quite magnificent. It had been a wonderful day. I had not had any kind of trouble during the run. I beat my old record. Moreover, I beat my target time. I could even surpass the magic pace of 5 minutes per kilometer which had been my maximum training pace. As an additional bonus, I even beat the Super Leivo Brothers. All things considered, I am happy to admit that I am damn proud of all of it.

- Joona

PS. Next up in my schedule are the following physical challenges: Lohja MTB next weekend, Jukola in mid-June, Tahko MTB in early July and finally Espoo Rantamaraton (another half marathon, target: under 1,5 hours) at the end of September this year. I can hardly wait!

Not Fasth Enough

This spring has been a good spring for Finland, and me, when it comes to ice hockey. Naturally, I’ve also experienced the frustration of being on the other side of the world when all the good things have happened. Last night, the Finnish ice hockey team won the IIHF World Championship for only the second time ever, after losing finals in six different championship tournaments (Olympics and World Cup included) between 1995, year of the last championship, and 2011. In late April, HIFK, the only group of burly men I’ve ever called myself a fan of, won the Finnish championship after a 12-year drought. You had to be there. I fucking wasn’t. And as an additional bonus that only I give two shits about, we will get at least one Finn as a Stanley Cup champion in June. Sounds like a moderately good hockey year for Finland. But let’s get back to the IIHF World Championship.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dll9THt4Vgs

After a very satisfying win over the Swedes in the final, the country erupted. A score of 6-1 helped right all wrongs that our Western neighbor had inflicted upon us in the rink during the years, and people partied all over Finland until dawn. This shows how much unparalleled joy was drawn from winning, and serves as a premise to the following rant.

Äbäwäbä näin kolmelta aamuyöstä

What really grinds my gears is that some people feel an obligation to criticize the significance of the game, of the tournament, and of the victory. They somehow feel it is important to analyze ice hockey from an international perspective, and point out how this actually means nothing and everybody should calm down and go to sleep.

It’s true that ice hockey is a relatively insignificant sport internationally. Less than a dozen countries realistically compete for the championship, which, to trivialize it even further, is held every single year. In addition to this, the best players in the world have often little interest or possibility to join the tournament. The NHL playoffs are still ongoing, with arguably the best teams and players still competing in North America. Even players whose teams never made the playoff phase are either injured or find it very difficult to find motivation to play in a yearly tournament after playing a season just short of 100 games (pre-season included). Even Teemu Selänne has stated that the reasons given when opting out of national team duty are often just excuses. These are the facts. I don’t argue against facts. I argue against idiots.

Some besserwissers, often Finnish football fans, feel the need to point out how, objectively, we should not give a fuck about the IIHF World Championship. “Why do Finns get so excited about a sport that only a few countries play?” “Stop the hype, the tournament is worthless!” “There are so many sports that we neglect and instead concentrate on stuff that nobody else in the world cares about, like ice hockey, ski jumping and javelin throw!” I remember my basketball coach 15 years ago telling me that there are more registered ballers in Spain than there are hockey players in the world. He made the statement to prove a point about basketball being meaningful, whereas hockey supposedly wasn’t. I disagree.

What's not to like? © Mika Ranta / Helsingin Sanomat

Choo choo, here comes the clue train, last stop is you

Sports are not something that people can forcibly try to enjoy just because they’re internationally popular. Might as well tell a Finn not to enjoy salmiakki (or even better, Salmiakkikossu) because nobody else in the world does either. Countries and cultures have their own traditions, games they’ve played for decades or centuries and that the locals happen to be interested in, no matter how much they are bashed on the head with ridiculous slogans to the contrary.

Should all countries strive to only play and follow the internationally important activities, like football? And how do you measure importance, anyway? By prominence per country times amount of countries? By the amount of money circulating in the major leagues? By the amount of registered players worldwide? I bet cricket and ping pong would score pretty high on the latter. I haven’t really heard anyone complain how Finns don’t concentrate more on cricket.

And let’s suppose all governments made an effort to promote sports directly relative to their worldwide notoriety. Smallish, nationally and culturally relevant but internationally obscure sports (sumo anyone?) would slowly fade, and in the end we would be left with football & pals. How exactly would this achieve anything positive?

In general, I hate the widespread football vs. ice hockey mentality going on in Finland. Unlike some, I fail to see it as a zero-sum game. Why would enjoying ice hockey somehow be detrimental to football? Football is big, but we suck at it. Ice hockey is small, but we’re good at it. Personally, I like both games. Promoting football in Finland is certainly something I’d like to see increase. However, the key to that certainly is not to cry a river over everything ice hockey.

History will be made. © Yle

I know the world is global and international, but ignoring all locality in a field such as sports is beyond ludicrous. Finns are often internally accused of trying to suck up to other, larger countries and constantly wondering how others see us. Isn’t downplaying the importance of ice hockey, to us a nation, just an extension of this sycophancy? “Let’s play what everybody else plays, then people will respect us!” How about we just keep on playing a game that others don’t care about and be proud of it. Never mind the tournament, never mind the players, in 2011 our team won!

People get emotionally involved in sports even though they’re not actually responsible for any of the events that unfold on the field. The first purpose when following sports is to draw enjoyment from something that other people achieve. Rational thinking is thrown out of the window anyway. Why should we, as a nation, feel guilty about getting excited over a world fucking championship? Oh, wrong sport. And wrong championship. And too excited. Who the fuck decides these things? Despite all its shortcomings as a sports event, winning the IIHF World Championship Tournament is not entirely without merit, and even if it were, the only thing that matters is that people care about it. Watching sports, getting excited by sports and celebrating when your team wins is not a novel concept. If you can’t accept that, just pull a hood over your head and flee to the mountains.

-Antti

The author is a dead sea monkey and ice hockey enthusiast