Kazuhiko Akiyama ©Carol Akiyama (Power of Sasuke)
This is sorta a long story, but back in .. er.. I think late September when I heard back from Pitts that Akiyama had a tragedy (Transcript) (story relayed by Makoto Nagano during the Chibipa Conference (Video))
Q – Will Akiyama-san compete again?
T – He was not able to attend the 22nd event due to the tragedy in the family. He is training rigorously for the next event.
That got me thinking.. Dang.. I wonder what happened? Did someone die? I assume that's the total nosey rican in me.. /sigh.. but still.. that got me thinking.. dang.. he must be down.. I hope he gets invited again.. I hope people still like him.. if they think he retired I'd be totally crushed. Contrary to popular thought.. My favorite is Kazuhiko Akiyama out of the All-Stars.. I mean.. don't get me wrong.. I think Nagano is GORGEOUS.. but the story I love most is Kazuhiko Akiyama's story.
I was even asked "why?" since I gush so much about Nagano. Truth is.. Nagano is the most visible of the All-Stars. He has his own website. He responds to fans. And, I saw him all the time in Sasuke Maniac (just check the blog.. I have months of it..). I did get glimpses of other All-Stars in Sasuke Maniac.. including Akiyama. I was soooooooo happy to see him in Maguro Festival (part one - part two)! He was so happy and smiling and posing for pictures and signing autographs. It was fun to see!
A lot of the reasons I like Akiyama is because of his fearless perseverance. It all started from reading Power of Sasuke. When I first read it it was on it's own website. There were technical issues and it had to be taken down. I was amazed at his story. He has degenerative retinoschisis. But whenever I see him in Sasuke.. I don't feel sorry for him.. I feel in awe!! I mean.. it takes serious cojones to totally go on this course and yell back "BITE ME".. I mean dang.. he beat the friggin' thing in Sasuke 4.. but that's not the one I saw first..
I saw Sasuke 11 first. I literally cried in Sasuke 11 (even in the ridiculously edited G4 version.. I REALLY cried with the Sasuke 11 version that JET TV showed and someone miraculously got it in YouTube before it was taken down). I mean.. it's an obstacle course.. right? But for me I saw real people from all walks of life try to better themselves and rise above all things to better themselves in the process. Take a chance on things and go the distance. Take a chance and face the challenge. Not seeing the first 10 tournaments I had no idea who these people were.. but I saw this one small guy with a totally chiseled body and a steely determination I've never seen. I knew he had impaired eyesight.. but that didn't seem to stop him. He didn't look like the type that wanted to hear "awww I feel sorry".. he looked like a guy that said "Sasuke.. I'm going to make you my bitch.. bring it..".. LOL (yeah.. like a Japanese guy is going to say that.. wait.. no one's mentioned Takeda yet... no wait.. he taunts Nagano.. moving on..) ehem.. still.. he had the look that meant.. I'm here to win.. not compete.. I'm going to take you down..
Each time he didn't make it he never came up with an excuse. He said he wasn't prepared and went back to the crowd and cheered everyone else. He can teach Yamada a few things on sportsmanship... Wow I'm digressing badly aren't I? Anyway.. fast forward to 2008 and It's right after Sasuke 21 (which we missed him) and after Nagano returned back to Japan. I'm talking to a friend of mine online and asking "what sort of tragedy would prevent someone from going to a tournament?" She became worried thinking it was an immediate family member and decided to contact him to ensure that he was okay. (It was not his wife or children.) First off.. I asked if we are allowed to send messages through Monster 9 to him.. and she wasn't sure if it was appropriate because of the protocol that has to be observed if someone has died.
A couple things were noted in my learning of Japanese traditions. Funerals in general. There is a very long mourning period with many ceremonial things attached. All of this is spread out over time and is noted that many of the family is to attend. During this time we found out it was his wife's father that passed away so it was a big deal. He gave notice in late August that his father in law passed away in August 20th and was unable to attend Sasuke 21 to deal with family a family tragedy.
Again.. this dumb rican being totally gaijin did not understand the implications that would have with my idea to try to cheer him up.. considering the timing of a project .. it could coincide with the holidays.. namely .. the tradition in Japan of celebrating New Years. In this country we do Christmas Cards.. in Japan there is a WHOLE thing with New Year's cards. Again.. I'm being thick.. I forgot to read this line - It is customary not to send these postcards when one has had a death in the family during the year. In this case, a simple postcard is sent instead to inform friends and relatives that they should not send joyful New Year's cards, in order to show respect for the deceased. Oooooooooooooh crap.. I didn't know that... So luckily I asked questions before I sent anything to Monster 9.. phew.. so .. she asked politely if it would be okay if fans from the United States send gifts of encouragement to the Akiyama family since we did not want to show disrespect by not following protocol and of course pissing off any ancestors .. ya know? What followed was totally unexpected. We got an exuberant email back from him saying this:
(Translation) Are you sure it's Mr. Crabs (see the crab mark) that people want to send to? I'm so happy (singing mark) Please give them my address (thumbs up) and (banzai with arms up). Thank you so much (cat is bowing on screen.) Then his signature which is the muscle, the crab and autumn leaf (aki means autumn) and the mountain (yama).
Honest to goodness I had the serious cute attack of all time.. I mean.. outside of laughing at the amount of emotes on one email.. I mean.. it filled the screen! It was nice that he was exuberant about the whole thing! Talk about a sigh of relief. I then went on and checked with a few close people to see if we can come up with something. I do take responsibility.. the list was very short. We had his personal address.. and I was very worried that if it hit the Internet.. it could get ugly. We've seen many strange people come in and out of the Internet and I was terrified that one slip would cause this whole project to fail. Nagano was different. He had a work address he openly shared with the world.. this one.. was different.. Akiyama had a P.O. box he got his personal mail from. Some had many reasons not participate so it turned out we had a small group overall sending gifts and greetings that any fan would send...
Either way because of the project being small we were able to email each other every day and compare what to get each other. The ideas were wonderful! We were afraid though of getting him clothes.. after the Nagano disaster (his shirts not fitting... I sent him one..) we figured if we bought a T-shirt.. we had a good idea it wouldn't fit.. They are about the same size.. so we figured getting him a hat, things for his kids to play with (he has 2 beautiful boys) and a gift for his wife would be something that he may remember if no more gifts ever got to him.
We took our time to try to find unique gifts and quite frankly I thought they were awesome :) I ended up giving him a music CD with various music .. everything from JPop to instrumental to Spanish music. Sent him the victory theme to Sasuke and even Rocky music (since he loved the movies. We finally sent it and waited. Honestly wasn't sure if we would get a message so we patiently waited to hear if he would respond at least to our contact. Lo and behold a message flashed in our individual emails! It was very short and sweet... and BONUS.. we all got the same picture :D
Message: THANKYOU VERYMUCH
Awwwwwwwww he wrote it in English! I was so happy :) I mean I got a picture of Nagano with the shirts and a message (again shock there as well since he posted it on his website!) AND I got one from Akiyama! I was so happy I couldn't contain myself. Then I got scared and thought.. Would it be gloating since It was ME that decided to not allow more people in this project? The little group had the same feeling so we all just kept quiet about it and enjoyed sending each other emails about what was sent. The mission was completed. Operation Cheer up Akiyama was a resounding success. I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings by leaving them out then gloating all over the Internet so I didn't post anything until now. Why now? Well.. the project had an unexpected response out of him a month or so later.
I get information that during this whole time.. Christmas time.. New Years.. Birthday.. he became every introspective. He did what we call New Year's resolutions and decided he wanted to make a goal for himself. The word that is used in Japan is "seicho" which means growth, development beyond just physical. He even named it like you would a title. It will be his personal motto for the upcoming year. Think of it on T-shirt or something. The motto was "Rise Up". He chose to concentrate on developing himself externally and internally to compete again in this year's Sasuke 22 tournament. He wanted to "Rise up" to the challenge of Sasuke 22. So.. here we are. I'm blogging about this to let you know he's planning on coming to Sasuke 22 and kicking some butt!!!!!
Is that totally awesome or what? Yes he is writing this in English!
I CAN'T WAIT FOR SASUKE 22!!!!!!!!!!!!! ♪
Happy 36th Birthday Akiyama-san!
I CAN'T WAIT FOR SASUKE 22!!!!!!!!!!!!! ♪
Happy 36th Birthday Akiyama-san!