Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Japan Tour 2018 - Blog #7

Thursday, March 29, 2018

This is our final day at Shigakkan University.  To say this has been an incredible experience would be a huge understatement.  Practice is a couple hours later this morning, so I’m taking some time to walk, reflect and process our trip.

I regularly encourage our athletes to make space in their schedule for thoughtful reflection time.  Most of my [female] athletes have become accustomed to “journaling.”  I often give them topics to help direct their minds to being productive during this time.  Really, in the end, journaling is basically spending time with yourself getting to know who you are.  Just like a relationship with another person, you have to spend time asking them questions and listening to answers if you want to know them, right?  The same is true with getting to know yourself.  Asking questions like: Who am I?  Why am I here?  What is my purpose?  How have I grown through this experience?  These are all great starting points for our girls.  Finding the answers to these types of questions can be very difficult and is a lifelong journey.  These reflection times or “quiet times” are also an important place for us to connect with God on a personal level.  As Christ followers, the best journal time includes scripture (God’s written word) as we also communicate with Him.

I guess, in a sense, blogging is an extension of the journaling/reflecting process for me.  I try to share thoughts and insights that I’m working through.  Once in a while it can give good examples to our athletes on how to think beyond the surface level and dig deep for answers to those difficult questions while keeping the big picture in perspective.

Japan Tour 2018 - Blog #6

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Today has been another enriching day for our athletes as they’ve been able to experience more traditional Japanese customs.  We had a nice (and difficult) morning workout followed by breakfast in the dorm.  The mother of one of the recent world champions from Shigakkan was helping the house mother prepare food.  As I’ve said previously, it’s humbling to be served by these great champions.  Seriously, who are we that we should be served by anyone let alone individuals with such incredible stature.  We’re just a group of high school girls from the US.

After practice Coach Shouta took us to a Japanese spa for a sauna and steam room.  The men and women were separated, so I can’t speak to much of the girls’ experience.  We took some relaxing time in the sauna, steam and hot tubs.  One of the hot tubs was accompanied with little pulsating shocks of “electricity.”  Following the spa, Shouta treated us to sushi.  It wasn’t of the same quality as the sushi that Sakae provided for Morgan and I a few days ago, but none of us could tell the difference.  Regardless of the quality, it was a lot better than the sushi available at Family Fresh in River Falls.  We placed our order on an iPad and the orders arrived on little remote control trains above the conveyor belt that paraded pre-made sushi.  I was willing to try whatever was on the menu.  The girls, on the other hand, quickly found the mochi, ice cream and cake and ate more sweets than raw fish.

I’ve had my fair share of American-made sushi.  Some very expensive nigiri and rolls at fancy sushi restaurants and some cheap grocery store options, so there wasn’t much that surprised me on the menu.  Everything is dressed up more in the States.  I was a little taken back by the beef and bacon options, though.  Those were nice surprises.  A few days ago, I even tried horse.  Otherwise, it was the predictable tuna, salmon, octopus, squid, red snapper, etc.  All very fresh and very tasty according to my pallet.  Not a fan of natto rolls.

Next up for us is another mat practice.  Shouta said it will be a little over two hours of wrestling.  Our girls are doing the best they can to keep up with these superstars.  Obviously, they haven’t been privy to tangling with the gold medalists in the room, however, they’re moving along right next to them and the rest of the room provides plenty of quality partners.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Japan Tour 2018 - Blog #5

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

"Hanami" is a tradition in Japan of welcoming spring.  We had our own hanami celebration last night.  Ryoko and Kiwa did some secret leg work and brought in several helpers from Shigakkan’s elementary school to put on a special evening for our girls. 

It started with a group of kindergarten students performing a few songs for us before practice.  They made origami necklaces for each of us and we took a large group picture.  The children were excited to practice their English on real Americans.  After practice, the girls hustled back to the dorm where there was a crew of women waiting to assist in their preparation.  They got their hair done and put on kimonos.  It took them almost two hours to get ready.

We ate sushi, took some pictures and then went outside for the cherry blossom viewing.  We sat on benches and drank matcha (green tea).  It was a lot of fun and our girls really felt special.  I’m happy that they were able to participate.

Cherry blossoms are a big deal in Japan right now.  They literally seem to be everywhere.  People organize trips and vacations around the blooming of the “sakura.”  They’re stunning, but short lived.  We didn’t plan our trip based on the cherry blossom season, which usually occurs the first week in April, however, we are extremely lucky to be here during this season.