Karly Finison: Being born in Japan but having never worked there before, did anything surprise you about the city?

Erik Butts: Since I was born in Japan and lived there until I was 10 years old, not much of the culture surprises me anymore. But there was something at the Stadium that surprised me, there was a section at the top of the first level behind the seats where in the states they might have handicapped seating was a section blocked off with where people were standing barefoot on mats. It almost looked like they were picnicking. Everyone had their shoes lined up on the edge of the mats and were standing or sitting barefoot on the mats. In Japan you don’t wear shoes indoors so this is as if they created a little indoor space for themselves inside of the stadium.

EB: The food in Japan is my favorite part of visiting Japan… besides seeing my family and friends of course. I usually buy a couple rice balls (a tuna mayonnaise, grilled salmon, or seaweed) from a convenience store at the airport as soon as I land to start the culinary journey. The convenience stores in Japan alone have so many options from rice balls to different noodle dishes to full on Bento boxes full of variety of Japanese dishes. Ramen is always a great option, they’re open late, cheap and always delicious. And Teishoku are great for lunch time, it’s basically a main dish like fried chicken, tempura, grilled fish, with a bowl or rice, miso soup, and small little side dishes and pickled vegetables, and you usually get a small cup of hot tea with it. It’s a great light well rounded lunch to keep you going through the rest of the day.

KF: Describe the atmosphere of the Tokyo Dome.

EB: I love the atmosphere inside Tokyo Dome. It’s very different from ballparks in the states. During the games the crowd is pretty quiet most of the time, not much heckling going on but when there was a reason for them to get excited like anytime Ichiro was at-bat or someone made a great play the crowd would erupt. That contrast makes those moments feel so much more special.

KF: What was it like to witness such a historic game between the Mariners and A’s?

EB: The two games the Mariners and the A’s played will definitely go down in Baseball history simply because of them being Ichiro’s last two professional games. The fact that Ichiro was able to play them in Japan, in front of his Japanese fans who have been watching him through out his entire career even before he went to the MLB. And with Yusei Kikuchi pitching his first game of his MLB career, it was like a passing of the torch from the hero of Japanese baseball to the next generation who grew up inspired by his life

The final lap around Tokyo Dome that Ichiro made after the game ended was one of the most incredible moments I’ve had the opportunity to capture while working in sports. I was covering Ichiro’s impromptu press conference he gave to the English press to announce his retirement, and as the press conference ended the entire Mariner’s teammates had gathered around and were telling Ichiro, “Ichi! They’re waiting for you. They’re calling for you.” We entered the stadium to a crowd of 40,000 people standing and cheering for Ichiro, thanking him for the amazing career he had shown them through the years. People were crying, I even saw some of the Japanese reporters shedding tears too. It’s especially crazy considering that this was happening around midnight and the trains in Tokyo stop at around 12:30am making it so most of those 40,000 people probably had to miss their last train home and take cabs or spend the night out until the first train on the next day. The energy of the stadium in that moment was incredible and something I will never forget.

KF: What did you travel with? Were there any challenges your faced?

EB: I brought a carry-on size pelican case with a C300 package which included a shoulder rig and a 7 inch external monitor, also had a Sachtler tripod in a tripod bag wrapped and protected with some of my clothes for the week, and I also had a backpack with a set of zoom lenses to cover from 12mm all the way to 400mm. 

EB: Since I was born in Japan and lived there until I was 10 years old, not much of the culture surprises me anymore. But there was something at the Stadium that surprised me, there was a section at the top of the first level behind the seats where in the states they might have handicapped seating was a section blocked off with where people were standing barefoot on mats. It almost looked like they were picnicking. Everyone had their shoes lined up on the edge of the mats and were standing or sitting barefoot on the mats. In Japan you don’t wear shoes indoors so this is as if they created a little indoor space for themselves inside of the stadium.

EB: The food in Japan is my favorite part of visiting Japan… besides seeing my family and friends of course. I usually buy a couple rice balls (a tuna mayonnaise, grilled salmon, or seaweed) from a convenience store at the airport as soon as I land to start the culinary journey. The convenience stores in Japan alone have so many options from riceballs to different noodle dishes to full on Bento boxes full of variety of Japanese dishes. Ramen is always a great option, they’re open late, cheap and always delicious. And Teishoku are great for lunch time, it’s basically a main dish like fried chicken, tempura, grilled fish, with a bowl or rice, miso soup, and small little side dishes and pickled vegetables, and you usually get a small cup of hot tea  with it. It’s a great light well rounded lunch to keep you going through the rest of the day.

KF: What advice would you give to other filmmakers traveling to Japan? 

EB:

  1. Don’t be afraid to try any and all of the food, even Mcdonalds in Japan tastes different and is worth a try.
  2. Apparently using wireless lavaliers or any wireless equipment involves getting a permit to register the channel you will be using. I’m not sure how they enforce it if you’re running around Tokyo with wireless equipment but a permit might be something to consider.
  3. Taxis are very expensive in Japan and Uber does exist but isn’t any cheaper than a regular cab.
  4. You can buy simcards or rent hotspots at the airport.
  5. If you’re planning on using public transportation buy the PASSMO card. It’s like a prepaid card that you load up with money and will let you ride almost all of the public transit systems in Japan – trains, subways, busses, you can even buy things from vending machines, convenience stores or pay for a locker at the train station. It’s a form of electronic money that’ll make transactions much easier than having to figure out which coins and bills are what. 
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