Friday, 24 January 2014

It Begins!

So, after much excitement, many nerves and a few tears (quite a few) it was finally time to leave home and start living my dream. In Christchurch airport, early on Tuesday morning I said my goodbyes and wearing my Rotary New Zealand blazer, departed. The flight was pretty standard, nothing too exciting. The kindness of kiwis was present as I had a few people come up and talk to me about my blazer and what I was doing. I found my way around Auckland airport alright, albeit a little bit rushed. (I stood in the wrong area for a good 10 minutes) But no problems, I got to where I was going. Lots of staff were interested in what I was up to which was cool, it made the whole airport experience way more friendly. Now waiting to board the international plain I was sitting in a room full of Japanese chatter, this was a small taste of what was to come! The flight was long and pretty boring, I slept quite a bit and the food was alright. But whilst the flight wasn't so interesting, I was feeling on top of the world. My goal was literally coming into vision. We landed in Narita where all of a sudden, everything was Japanese, the intercom, the signs, the people!

 I awkwardly checked through customs, not knowing what to say and not knowing what was said to me but after some fragmented conversations I managed to go through a few doors and was once again waiting in a big departure lounge. It wasn't too late in Japan but it was quite dark and very cold. One flight left though, I was almost there. This flight went pretty quick and I was soon picking up my bags in Nagoya. What a beautiful airport! This place was amazing! I was spotted straight away and was bombarded with photos, only had time to confirm that I was the student they were looking for!
To the right of me is my host Mum, Rieko, everyone else is part of the Rotary crew that will be looking after me, I am yet to remember their names!
 We went out for dinner and I found that the language barrier wasn't as big as it was last time I was in Japan, this time I can actually converse with people which is so much fun. It was freezing in Nagoya but Rieko said to me that it was quite a bit colder at where we were going. So we drove to Gero which took a good two hours, we arrived at about 11:30pm. We talked in the car but I soon fell asleep. I was told it was an early get up the next day for school which turned out to be a very early get up.

 At 6:30 in the morning my alarm went off! I was so tired that I had forgotten how I got to my room! So when I woke up I was ht with the reality! Shivering, I pulled myself out of bed and took a few steps toward my alarm. Instead of the soft carpet that I'm used to, I felt the weird texture of tatami mats. Traditional tatami is like a mat made of woven straw. Often nowadays people have polystyrene tatami but this is the real deal!
The short walk to my alarm (the white device on the duchess) becomes a marathon when it's 6:30am and -5 degrees!
I'm also still sort of unpacking hence the messy room!
I looked outside my window to see if it was true,"am I really in Japan?" I thought. A quick look out the window not only confirmed that yes, I was in Japan but also the fact that it was it was freezing!
The view from my window
Only a little bit of snow at the moment
So that morning was a bit of a mission, I was shattered but excited, there was a lot to do and not so much time. Breakfast was miso soup, rice and a few vegetables. This 'weird' style of breakfast was actually the best thing here in the cold. The soup was hot, the rice was warm and soon I was too. 

So at school I made a slightly stuttered speech to the staff, but it went down well. I then had to give the same speech over the school intercom, this time it was a very stuttered speech. But that too went down well, points for trying. That day at school was uneventful because it was just an orientation. Nevertheless it was fun. The saying "It's a small world" became very real because I was being shown around by a fellow Kiwi. So here I am, in Japan and I meet this guy who is a graduate from the University of Canterbury, who studied the same things that I want to study! To top it all off, we have damn near exactly the same interests. We couldn't believe it.

That day I was signed in as a resident of Gero-shi, met the school principle and then went exploring. Gero is a beautiful little town, it really is amazing. I found a big shrine complex which was really breathtaking. It was hard to take photos because it was so cold I could barely hold my camera!
One of the many small buildings in this shrine area.
So cold!
The next day at school was a bit more intense. I went to classes and did regular school stuff. I didn't really understand much from the teachers when they were teaching but I could have small conversations with them and the students. It's difficult but so fun.

So far I've had a try at Judo (the wrestling version of Karate) and Kendo (the sword fighting version of Karate) It's very difficult to pick up a new martial art when you can't understand whats being said to you. However, these practices were awesome.

What I really want to talk about though is karate. I've been to one training session and it was great. There isn't a Kyokushin club in Gero but the style that we found is very, very similar. So I went to the Dojo with my host Mum, no appointment or anything. We get there and there is a big man with a 5th Dan black belt on. This was a class of little kids, some even had black belts! These kids absolutely blew me away, here are a bunch of 6-10 year old children who were doing all these exercises by them selves! The Sensei was talking to my host Mum so these kids organised them selves! They decided to do 100 squats, then 100 press ups. I couldn't believe it.  With my limited Japanese I managed to tell the Sensei that I love fighting and I don't know how but he must of thought I challenged him. Because he says, "We will fight later." He called in a couple of older people for me to fight, one was about 15 years old and the other was 19. I fought the 15 year old first and it wasn't so bad, I had no gloves or shin pads on and he had minimal gear so it was quite a rough fight. I then fought the 19 year old. We are very similar, same grade, same height and same techniques. When we first fought it was very hesitant, we were both testing the limits. Then I fought the Sensei. He's an older guy so I wasn't expecting what I got. I hit him a couple of times and immediately found that he was a brick wall. So I him as hard as I could, it all bounced off. I kicked him as hard as I could, it still bounced off. I thought, bugger this and launched a flying knee at him with everything I had, still bounced off. And then he hit me back. Shit. He just smashed me, he hit like a machine. He even managed to kick out my leg, I'm still limping now 2 days later. But that wasn't the worst of it. Feeling slightly beaten, I said I was fine and could keep fighting. There's no way I can give up, representing my style and country in a Japanese Dojo, so I said "Yes! of course I can fight again!" and the 19 year old just made a mess of me. So I didn't know that he was 2nd in all of Japan until the end of the night. But when I fought him that second time, I could understand why. The whole Dojo sat around the walls and watched as me and this guy fought. It wasn't so bad for a start but he landed a good head kick which stunned me a wee bit. So he took advantage of my hesitation (as any good fighter would do) and hooked me right in the ribs. We were both without protective gear so this hit just knocked all the wind out of me. I tried to hit him back with a counter but he got me on the other side! Oh my god was I in pain! But he wasn't finished, there is till a good 30 seconds to go and he just wrecked me. I could barely find an opening. I did manage to kick him in the head so I feel like I've achieved something. The fight ended and we shook hands, apparently I got him a few good ones too, but shit, I was done. I then taught the class the Brazilian kick (a kind of kick that looks like a forward kick but then flicks around to get the opponent in the head) I limped to the car with a huge smile on my face, this is what I love.

My second day at school was much the same as the one before. And now it is Saturday so I've finally had a sleep in. I'm living the dream here and I really can't explain the elation I'm feeling. 

Cheers for reading! Sorry it's a quite long but there is so much I want to say!
Until next time!


  1. So excited for you Brennan it looks amazing, bit cold for me but you'l love it great about the karate.

  2. Wow Brennan it sounds like you are having such a great time, albeit painful! I will print off your blog posts for boys to read. Miss McCrostie.