japanesedream_72: (japan)
[personal profile] japanesedream_72
For anyone reading this who doesn't know me incredibly well, I'm not an obsessive stalker or anything. I'm just a bit of a fangirl who gets kind of excited over stuff. ^_^

For those of you who do know me, what follows will probably come as no surprise. XD

Being a lover of pretty much all things/people Japanese, it was only natural that, several years ago, the news of a nihon-jin winning the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest would eventually reach my ears & draw my attention. Over the next few years, Takeru Kobayashi's consistent winning of the "mustard belt" would make me a very happy Japanophile.

Likewise, his loss of the belt would render me, yes, a little bit sad, but certainly hopeful that he could come back & win it again. Until the fiasco last year, with that whole arrest thing. That just pissed me off.

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For those who don't know about that: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/04/joey-chestnut-wins-hot-dog-contest_n_635124.html

It had long been a hope of mine to be able to watch Kobi, as he's known, in action, in the venue that made him famous in America. But that was not to be. I was planning, this year, to go with some friends to Coney Island (site of the famous - or infamous, depending on your POV - contest), anyway, just to see how it all goes down (no pun intended). Wasn't really expecting Kobi to show up or anything. However, thanks to Twitter, I found something even better.

By the way, I hope no one minds pictures or names being posted. If so, please tell me, & I will remove/edit accordingly.

I'd found & had been following Kobi's Twitter for a little while, & there was an announcement posted there that said Kobi would be staging his own contest, against a satellite broadcast of Nathan's, at a rooftop lounge in the City! I immediately messaged my friend, Allison, with whom I'd planned the trek to Coney Island, & said we ought to do this instead. She'd been to the lounge before, as had our mutual friends, Glen & Randy, so our little outing was now a nice little group.

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, but I worried a bit because it said they were letting in the first 400 people, & any of you who've been to a J-rock concert know that folks camp out for DAYS for those - & they already paid for tickets! Planned to get there early, just in case there was a line. Excitement woke me before my alarm, & before I knew it, I was flying out of the house to meet Allison at the bus station. Randy & Glen took the train in, & we met up at the club, 230 Fifth, where the guys had gotten us a spot in line.

Fortunately, it wasn't too long, & there was even a cameraman there filming. Looked like this was gonna get some coverage.

Little did I know!

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After standing around for a little while, then receiving a red armband, we were allowed inside. The place seemed very posh, & down the hall we went, to the elevator. The lounge itself was really nice, with sleek, modern decor, & I followed the gang up the stairs to the roof, past the lovely purple doors of the lavatories, to an open space decorated pseudo-tropical style, which looked out over the skyscrapers & rooftops of Manhattan.

Pardon me while I switch to tourist-mode. XD

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It would be a while before the event got started, so we stood around listening to 80s music being played on the sound-system & watching media setting up. Saw the big screen that would broadcast the Nathan's contest via satellite, the table & counter where Kobi would be stationed, & little signs reserving spots for particular media outlets, such as TMZ & Fuji Network News. We were able to sit on the benches for a while, but were then ushered down to the side area, for more standing around.

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Spotted a small contingent of people wearing some awesome t-shirts with "Kobi unleashed!" painted on them. (This was a reference to Kobi's own "Free Kobi" t-shirt, which he wore last year to Nathan's; I think his translator, Maggie, may have also worn one.)

Being a bit nervous & intimidated around people, I wasn't able to go up to them & ask where they got them, but Glen did! That got me started talking to them. Turned out they were actually friends of Kobi's; one of them, Yuki, said if he'd had an extra one, or even something on underneath the one he was wearing, he'd give it to me! Aww! He said I should come find him after the event, tho', & he'd see what he could do, maybe get Kobi to sign something for me or something.

What I ended up with was infinitely better than that.

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Scoped out a spot, since I thought that's where I'd be stuck, & wanted to get a good view. My experience with J-rock shows has me in the habit of staking out the best place, & doing my darndest to keep it. XD After a little while, Yuki taps me on the shoulder & hands me a t-shirt! They'd come upon an extra, & it was so awesome of them to give it to me! Gushingly, I thanked him (I would later find him & give him a hug for the kind gesture), & Glen held my spot while, at his suggestion, I went behind one of those nifty purple doors & changed out of my Hello Kitty shirt & into the Kobi one. ^_^

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Soon after, we were allowed back up to the area where we'd been originally. Once again, I was scoping out a good spot (squidged in a corner next to one of the camera set-ups), hoping I wouldn't have to maneuver between too many heads (darn those Tall People!) to get a good photo or spot of video. Glen brought me a glass of water; it was getting pretty toasty up there.

As with most of the standing-around time, it was a great opportunity for people-watching. And soon, a bit of a celebrity-spotting - RuPaul's Drag Race contestant Mimi Imfurst was slated to introduce a short film about Kobi's competitive eating career, & I watched as she came out & prepared. It wasn't long before Mimi was launching into her opening monologue. The jokes were pretty funny.

http://youtu.be/e9oFBRajxhY

Then, they played the film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWH5jD1SsRk&feature=youtu.be

It was during this time I began conversing with another friend of Kobi's, Roxanne. Very nice gal! Really interesting & fun. She'd been to Japan, too, & shares my fondness for the country & its people.

And speaking of people, after the film, we finally got our first glimpse of Kobi! Assailed by a wave of cheers (yep, mine included XD), he came out & began setting up. I got several photos & a couple video clips of that.

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http://youtu.be/KLUoo4e1MOA

http://youtu.be/Ye-U4xuRVb8 (in this, you can hear one of the spectators I'd been talking to a little bit ask where I got my Kobi shirt)

http://youtu.be/M8i7dIONxu4

http://youtu.be/YL4xWuY96qg

http://youtu.be/DiTFWOnkMOE

As Kobi finished his setup & began preparing himself, Mimi made a few additional remarks, then the satellite feed linked us in to the Coney Island goings-on. He would be eating against the broadcast. It wouldn't count for their competition, but it'd prove he could kick their butts. ^_^

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They were supposedly going to air the women's competition at that point (this year, they separated the sexes), but we didn't see it. Found out later that Sonya "the Black Widow" Thomas won, tho'. Watch Sonya in this commercial with Kobi!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juTpKsb4zic&feature=view_all&list=PL3B9328C0EC6594A6&index=9

There was an interesting piece that aired prior to the start of the Coney Island (or, as a friend of mine said they should've re-named it, in light of Kobayashi-san's accomplishments there, KOBI Island XD) contest, regarding the science of competitive eating. Having seen the Mtv "True Life" special, "I'm a competitive eater", I knew the sport involved rigorous training, & Kobi, who was one of the athletes featured, has a very methodical, strategic way of analysing his performances & adjusting his training accordingly. While I knew, from that show, that some of the training is geared toward increasing the stomach's ability to stretch (which is, in itself, a danger), I wasn't entirely aware of some of the other physicalities involved, in terms of having to breathe a certain way, or training the jaw to bite down with additional force. They also went into some of the ways the eaters force food further down, by movement (noticeably absent was the inclusion of what used to be called, if memory serves, the "Kobayashi shake", tho' I believe Kobi did get a very brief mention). Then, the contestants were announced. This was the first year they've had competitors from China.

We booed when Joey Chestnut, who took the belt from Kobi, was called up. Prob'ly poor sportsmanship & not entirely respectful, but...I can't really think of how to finish that.

Kobi stood, at the ready, & we counted down the last few seconds. Then...

http://youtu.be/vz9u9jBNVIo

(Please forgive the fact that you can hear me howling like a madwoman in every single clip. I'm not normally that obnoxious.)

http://youtu.be/EKfzA2kGu1M

OMG! My camera kept clapping out! Just while I was shooting the video. I think I need a new battery soon. I had to keep taking it out, putting it back in, & start shooting again.

http://youtu.be/swq-GzrhzTg

http://youtu.be/tG4g6g8lBHs

http://youtu.be/0Mo5Y6a5BgQ

We cheered, "Ko-bi, Ko-bi", & "Ko-ba-ya-shi", often interjecting, "Ganbatte!" (a sort of 'hang in there, you can do it' expression) &, at one point, "Break the record!" as he pushed himself to what looked like painful extremes.

Despite my camera troubles, I got the key moment - Kobi downed 69 hot dogs in those 10 minutes, 7 more than Chestnut (who won the Nathan's contest), & 1 more than the standing world record!!!

Needless to say, everybody went nuts.

http://youtu.be/Q97DJoZQwVU

There are some great photos in this article:

http://www.dnainfo.com/20110704/murray-hill-gramercy/takeru-kobayashi-downs-69-hot-dogs-at-unofficial-july-4-contest

(Click the link, then scroll down & click "See More Photos" for the complete gallery.)

Kobi made a bit of a speech afterward, which I also caught, & which Maggie translated.

http://youtu.be/UiZKYQbgGJY

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They weighed him before & after. He started at 140. In those 10 minutes, he gained 18 POUNDS!!! I kept wondering if he was okay, but he was doing interviews & such, so if he wasn't, then he was being a hell of a trooper. Especially given what happened next...

The media was scoping people out, & I ended up doing a couple interviews, myself. *blush* Then, I went & sat by Glen, who was talking to a couple of Kobi's friends, Steven & James. We're chatting a bit, & I made mention of a couple things they hadn't seen (like that Mtv special), & topic leads to topic, & they said once the interviews were done, if Maggie was free, they'd introduce me!

Some dude (not from a news outlet, far as I could tell) snapped a photo of me. No idea why. I assumed it was the shirt.

Got up to look a little bit at the goings-on up front. Roxanne was standing up there as Kobi was doing more interviews, & motioned me over. Got a couple of shots as he spoke to the Japanese media. This is the best one:

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Then, we watched him & Maggie talk to the English-speaking media. I told Roxanne I hoped he wouldn't mind, us taking 'creeper photos' like that. XD

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Dragonfly landed on the bench in front of me as I snapped photos of Kobi & Maggie. How could I not get a shot of such a pretty one?

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Couple of minutes later, the guys did, indeed, keep their word - I was meeting Maggie!!

What a nice, sweet gal. I must say, their whole camp was very amiable & gracious. Me, on the other hand...I might've come off like a bit of a doof. But I get that way when I'm excited about stuff. ^_^

Someone - was it Glen? - nudged me & said, "Say something in Japanese to her!" And for a split second, every word of nihongo that I have ever learned went completely out of my mind!!! Fortunately, my polite greetings returned after a moment. So I said what pretty much translates to, "How do you do? It's nice to meet you." She returned the greeting. ^_^

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A number of people were getting autographs & photos, & I was again ushered over to watch & snapped pics & so forth. Finally, it was my turn! I hardly knew what to say, tho' I think Maggie may have said something to give him a heads-up. I also think she said she had something to do with me getting the shirt. I guess it was just before I got up to Kobi, I heard her saying something like, "I was on the phone with Kobi, & I was telling them, 'Just give it to her'." XD

So there I am, in front of him, saying, "How do you do?" in Japanese, & might've added, "Omedetou," (congratulations)...unless I just said it later. I'm sure I said it once during the course of events, possibly twice. Forgive me, the whole thing was kind of like a dream. Anywho, I then asked him (also in his native tongue), "Are you okay?" He answered with a quick & pleasant, "Hai" (yes), & I was sure I heard him, as we turned to get our picture taken, add, "Sugoi" (great).

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Got a couple of photos snapped, thanked Kobi, then asked to get a shot with Maggie, & thanked her, too.

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As we'd all been standing around in the heat for several hours, we made our way downstairs to the indoor part of the lounge. I was worried that it was reserved, since I didn't see too many people there - esp. considering how many had been up on the roof with us. My friends assured me it was okay for us to sit for a bit, so we did...

...& soon we saw Kobi & Maggie & their friends come in (some were already there, others came in with them), & they brought him right over to me!! So he kneels down on the floor next to me, & we start having a conversation!!!

Part-English, part-Japanese, since we're both learning.

There were a few words exchanged before his friends left us to talk. I remember saying, in Japanese, that I don't speak much Japanese, & that I want to be a student of the Japanese language. I asked him again - in English, this time - if he were okay, & he said - in English - "l feel great." ^_^

Turns out he lives in the States now. I asked about him living here, & whether it was difficult for him since he didn't know a great deal of English. "Muzukashii desu ka?" (is it difficult?) I asked. He told me, in English, that it's a little difficult. I vaguely recall possibly saying something about having a similar experience in Japan. That could've been the point when he asked me if I'd lived there, 'cuz he did ask me that (in English). I told him (in English, since my Japanese isn't THAT good) I hadn't, but I have visited a few times, & have a good friend there, adding that I want to go to school there to learn to speak the language well, & that it is my dream to live there. "Yume desu," I said. (yume = dream)

He asked (in English) how I learned to speak Japanese. I told him (in English) that I love Japanese movies & music, & I have books on Japanese language. I continued by asking him about learning English, if he has someone teaching him. "Yes," he said, "but I'm a little bit lazy." XD

From the amount of English I've seen/heard him use, he doesn't seem lazy to me!

It was at that point that his friend, James, came by, & after a moment, wanted to get a shot of us together.

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SQUEEEEE!!! I later asked him to e-mail the photo to me, which he graciously did.

He jokingly suggested to Kobi that they go get something to eat. "Anything but hot dogs, ne?" Kobi said. XD

A bunch of Kobi's friends started coming by at that point, so he went to talk to them. As we were all a bit hungry & such, we decided to make a move, too. I thanked & hugged Maggie, who kindly said we could join them if we wanted (they were going upstairs for cocktails, I believe), but as my friends had endured the whole thing for me, & were almost out the door anyway, besides the fact that I would've felt a bit like a third wheel, I thought it best not to milk the situation. I'd had my moment. ^_^ Better to leave them to their friends to relish their victory.

I did, however, give a last good-bye, congratulations, & thank you to Kobi, & hugged him. ^_^

You can see the full set of photos here:
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1814087762475.2084879.1548491398&l=1677b76c68

Afterward, we went for something to eat - pizza (didn't really want to look at hot dogs after that, LOL), then hung out for a little while in Washington Square Park in the Village. There was a drummer playing up a storm someplace in the park, & I got talked to by a polite squatter who thought I was cool & was telling me about the 45 Grave reunion concert, among other things. On our way out of the park, we saw a couple of pianists under the big archway - I got one of them on video (but I'm not gonna post it; you've got enough to watch, & you can hear us talking in the clip) - & a nifty performance artist I dubbed "The Golden Cowboy" - he was painted bronze & every once in a while would break his statue-like stance to erupt into robotic motion, complete with self-made sounds. XD

Along the way, I took pictures of interesting architecture. See the full set of photos here:

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1817511568068.2085066.1548491398&l=c23393124c

On the way back, we saw the coolest car!

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Allison & I left Glen & Randy at the train station, made a quick stop for something to drink, then made our way back to the bus station. I called my mom while we waited, to give her a quick teaser on the day. Boarded the bus, tired & grateful for the chance to sit in comfort & air conditioning for an hour as we rode back. When I got home, I called my mom to give her all the details. Not too long after that, I passed out.

Oh yeah, & I made another commemorative wallpaper. ^_^

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Post-script: There have been disputes among various sources, not least of all the people involved with the Coney Island contest, as to the validity of Kobi's event & the record that he set there. "I won on July 4 but I wasn't fighting against any competitors," Kobi recently posted on his Twitter. "I was fighting against an organization and a hot dog company."
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