December 4, 2012

King of the Iron Fist

There is no denying the statement which I am about to make, for today I secured the proof. I, Nicholas Kraft, have become Japanese.

Now you're probably thinking "But you barely speak the language, hover around 6'2" and are as blond as they come." But I ask you this: could someone who wasn't Japanese strut into an arcade, sit down at a Tekken machine, and then mop the floor with a seasoned fighter? Highly doubtful.

Yes, today I completed the most important goal on my list, number 13: Beat someone in Tekken. For those of you not Nihonjin enough to know, Tekken is a one-on-one arcade fighting game that was popular for the Playstation and consumed a great amount of time during the crucial developmental years of my youth. It's the reason I am so violent and aggressive. Since the age of 9 I've been perfecting my Taekwondo skills with Hwoarang as well as honing the Chinese Martial Arts of Ling Xiaoyo in preparation of the King of the Iron Fist tournament.

With these two character's moves dedicated to memory, I returned to an arcade, ready to prove myself. I needed to redeem my good name in light of past failures a few weeks earlier and felt that was my moment of glory. And also I needed to kill 20 minutes while waiting for Catherine, but mainly the first thing about redeeming myself.

I took a seat at the machine and peaked my head around to let the young man on the other side know that he was about to get his ass handed to him. Unfortunately I don't know how to say any of that in Japanese, so instead I just asked "please?" But I could tell he knew what I meant. I plopped in my 100 yen, selected Hworang and Xiaoyu and prepared to battle. The winner was the first to 3 K.O.s, but this particular version was Tekken Tag, so each round took a bit longer as you could switch between characters, thus increasing your life meter. Or at least, they should have taken longer, but I grossly underestimated how good my opponent was. The first fight was embarrassing: he had a perfect fight as I was unable to land a single blow. He punched and kicked my characters, juggling them in the air, and I didn't even have a chance to get up and attempt a hit. This was a discouraging start.

But what separated the two of us more than skill level was our reasons for playing. He was simply enjoying his evening, but I was in it for the goal. I had suffered a near-crippling blow at a Tekken machine a few weeks earlier and had injured my pride. To me, this match was about a lot more than winning, it was about proving to myself that I could make it in Japan. It was about checking another goal off my list. It was about making my 9-year old self proud. 

I sat up straight and convinced myself that he was fast out of the gate, but that I could take him. If I knew anything about boxing I would make an analogy, but the best I can do is say that I was Rocky and he was that terrifyingly large Russian dude; while the odds were against me, I had heart.

The second fight began and I landed the first blow and then quickly followed with another. I tagged Hwoarang out and brought in my precious Chinese beauty, Xiayou. She had gained some special boost waiting in the ropes and came out with a bang. I suddenly realized I was about to have a perfect game, but this momentary distraction allowed him to land a blow. A few more moments of back and forth and I finally had him. I won!

But this was just the start as it's the first to three wins, but once I saw that he was human-that he bled-winning the other two was no problem. To say I mopped the floor with him would be cliché, but you know what, I did! He didn't stand a chance once I hit a roll. After the second win I heard his fists against the console. He was losing his cool and I was hitting my stride. The third win came even easier than the first two and I heard another bang, followed by shuffling footsteps. I peaked around the corner again to find he was gone.

I took a few victory laps in the game, easily beating the computer and being rewarded with some point system that they've concocted in Japanese arcades to keep players at games for hours. Luckily Catherine texted me that she was out front, so I thanked my fighters and went down to find her. 
We made our way to a fantastic café and enjoyed some food, drinks, and conversation. Time flew by, but we were there for exactly the length of 3 Norah Jones albums. I know this because they only played one Norah Jones album, which they left on repeat, so after the third "Come Away with Me" we paid our bill and left to find Kaorina.

The three of us strolled until we found another café/diner, and because I had worked up quite the appetite in the ring, I ordered a second dinner. Again, the three of us shared food, drinks and good conversation. I had an amazing month traveling through Kyushu and enjoyed meeting new people and embracing being alone, but it was incredibly nice to be back in Tokyo with friends. Crazy that two months ago I didn't know a soul here and now I'm coming back to friends. And what fantastic friends! We shed a few tears from laughing so hard at dinner pt. II, though I can't recall at what exactly.

When our rice omelets were gone, Kaorina suggested we take our evening to a pretty girl photobooth and Catherine and I sprang so quickly at the idea that it may have appeared that we had been thinking the same thing. We hadn't, but when someone comes up with a brilliant idea such as that, you don't hesitate.

The "e" doesn't make this any less fortunate of a name
Making the selection between "milky" and "honey" skin.
The studio
The all important editing process
Unfortunately we couldn't figure out how to email ourselves the photos, so until we find a scanner they will remain only in print. But here's a preview:

The evening concluded on Aziz's couch, which sounds pretty hot, but in fact was rather cold. He lived right around the corner so the three of us made our way there to hang with some people. There was talk of karaoke as well as more pretty girl photo booths, but the freezing weather mixed with the long weekend resulted in minimal movement, though maximum entertainment. There was some guitar playing, a very impressive beatbox show, and a bilingual story about fisting. As best as it was explained to me, Japanese for fisting is "insert up to here (points at wrist)" but then with a modifier at the end of the word which means "forcefully." That's everyone's Japanese lesson for the day.

Not wanting to leave the riveting conversation, I opted to miss the last train and crash on the couch. It was not the greatest night's sleep of my life, nor was it the worst, but it may have been the coldest. Even now as I type this from my bedroom at Kelly's I can see my breath. The temperature plummeted in Tokyo while I was enjoying the warm weather in Okinawa, but with this drop in celsius (which I have now learned, goal 40) has come an increase in Holiday merriment, decoration, and joy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

HEY. The puri-kura things was MY idea.