Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Having a whale of a time

Well this week has been massive. That's probably because I'm late writing the blog and I have to fit an extra few days in here but that's nothing new.

But the week was once again filled to the brim with exciting times. I would even go so far as to say that this week has been one of the best so far! It all started with a birthday BBQ and came to an end yesterday with a leg sorer than I've ever had. That's right, I have once again been beaten up. No surprises there.

I'll start exactly where I left off. Last week I published the blog, shut the lap top and went outside to help fan the flames for the bbq. We had an amazing night! It was a bit windy so we soon moved inside for the feed.

The food was amazing, the company was awesome and the spirits were high.
The view from the back of the house
A beaut day but the wind was rough

Host Mum makes this amazing salad.
I'm not exaggerating when I say I can eat this whole plate

The indoors BBQ

The food was phenomenal!

And a birthday cake!
I couldn't believe it!
About halfway through the night, all the lights went out and a glowing cam from the door. They had made me a birthday cake! We laughed late into the night and it was about 3:00 am when I went to bed. Certainly a night to remember.

The next day went as planned; it was spent relaxing. We had made plans for the next days dinner during the previous BBQ.

We were going to eat whale.

And we did. We went to this shady little restaurant with a menu that was written on a shoddy white board that wasn't even hung up on the wall. It felt like I was in a place where drug deals were made. But I was in the company of friends so I wasn't scared. The old waitress was a nice lady so it didn't seem so bad.

We sat down in at our table and of course there were no chairs. We sat on the tatami floor while other people smoked inside and talked loudly over a few too many beers.

We made our order and I got pretty excited and slightly anxious when we ordered "Whale Steak." That was to come later. So in the meantime we got raw shrimps, raw shark heart and a whole myriad of odd foods.
Shark heart was pretty nice
went well with soy sauce and ginger

*sigh of relief* Sushi!
Atleast I know what this raw fish is

What am I eating?
raw shrimps in the distance there

Ramen! Can't go wrong with noodles
Of course the main was going to be this steak. I was expecting a massive whale of a steak. I told all of my friends about NZ's fight against whaling and how this was damn near blasphemy for me. I even showed them photos of the battered Sea Shepard after Japan "attacked" us. There were awkward laughs all around as no one really knew what to say.

But no worries, the meal was almost here.

Well it wasn't massive

Or much to look at
But it was pretty nice! It was a bit chewy and kind of fatty but still good. It had been cooked with garlic so it was pretty hard to put a finger on the true taste of whale. I hear they sell whale sashimi (raw) in some places so I might have to go have another try. For science of course...

The next Monday was good. I had my conversation practice again and this time my theme was NZ history. So I schooled my teacher in Kiwi history for a good 40 minutes. All in Japanese of course. It went really well and I was quite stoked to have been able to communicate in the way I did. 

I had a really good lunch as per usual and it was an awesome day at school.
Sesame Street lunch box.
The coolest.
I had Kendo later on and it went well. I didn't get too bad of a head ache which is always good. I got home and talked about all sorts of things with my host family. I say this a lot but I have really connected with these guys and I can't believe how fast time has slipped by. It's almost unfair. I don't like to think about moving because every time I do I get a bit teary.

Tuesday was my actual birthday. Wow. 18 years old. I felt no different to the day before but that was just fine. On the train ride to school my friends sang me Happy Birthday and made quite a scene. It was so cool. As I got to school,more and more friends said happy birthday to me. It really did make me happy.

School was otherwise regular. And at the end of 6th period maths, I was keen to whack someone at Kendo. But I was horribly surprised. Today was a seven period day. 


Prior to that Tuesday, only Mondays were seven period days but from now on we get two of those days a week. Shiiiit. Schools tough here.

Anyway, Tuesday means karate and a five 'o' clock train home. With school finishing at 4:30, I wouldn't have much time for Kendo. I would be able to get changed, warmed up and put my helmet on before I would have to whip it off and run to my departing train. So I didn't get to do Kendo.

Bugger, but there is still karate! And of course it was great. Unlike Kendo, karate is still good fun even if I get hit hard. (This misconception would change on Sunday.) 

I was walking to the dojo from the train station, which is about a 40-50 minute walk, when I was attacked by a bout of vicious sneezing. Yea it sounds dumb but it was pretty horrible. I would sneeze once or twice and then look as though I was drug addicted vagrant as I staggered about with snot dribbling down my face and then sneeze a couple more times. This went on for the whole walk. Oh it was horrible. 

I guess I was just getting used to my new "18 year old" body or something stupid like that. No worries, I got to the dojo in one soggy piece. Sneezing makes all my muscles tense up which doesn't really do much but after 45 minutes of walking and having these muscle spasms caused me to heat up quite a lot. So I was quite sweaty when I got to training.

Sensei went out and bought sports drinks for everyone and even got creme cakes for us all because of my birthday and we had a good night. Training wasn't super strenuous so I was actually kind of grateful. I had fun without limping home. 

When I did get home, my host sister had made a mean cake! Stoked! And whats more, it was like a wee birthday dinner had been put out for me!
Can't wait to dig into that!

But first I'm getting into this!
What a good night it was! It was an awesome day too. All of my friends said happy birthday to me on facebook and Mum sent me a message that may have induced a few tears. I was keen for a sleep after the long day so I got straight to it.

Wednesday was just a generally nice day. I don't know if I've mentioned it before but I get to help out a lot in my English class and I get to be like an assistant teacher in another practical English class. In the regular one, I'm always reading stuff out with my fluent English and then I get to help the students with their work. In the practical English class I get to help everyone with their speech and when we do tests I have to do the same stuff but in Japanese so it's quite good. Everyone learns and I get a taste for my dream job. I'm pretty damn lucky to be in the country I had fantasised about for so long, learning the language that I love and whilst I live this dream I get to put my try my hand at my future dreams. I don't know how many people get this opportunity but I feel truly blessed.

I took a day off of Kendo because I had made plans with my host sister's husband's family. We decided during my birthday BBQ that we all needed to go out for dinner sometime and Wednesday was the day. I used the dinner as a bit of an excuse to relax from kendo for a day; a plan that would blow up in my face later that night.

Anyway, I was picked up from home at about six and we went out to this restaurant that was something like over 100 years old. It was quite cool. We ordered our meal which was like a mutton stir fry which came out half cooked, still on the pan. Of course this surprised no one but me and my companions got straight to finishing the meals.
DIY stir fry

Might aswell chuck some noodles in it too
It was an awesome meal! About halfway through our feast the restaurant started to get crowded and nonw other than my kendo mates came through the door. Well shit. I waved, smiled and said good evening to them and they all said good evening back except for this one guy who is quite possibly my best Japanese friend punched me in the arm and said in front of my company: "You fully could have come to kendo you slacker!" It was harsh but he was just joking. It was a good laugh.

I got home and talked the night away with my parents again. It's always a good night.

Thursday was day of vigorous training but first there was school. Today was out of the ordinary because there was a lady who was going to come to the school and give a speech. That's all I knew about the plan so I wasn't to fussed. But I was quite blown away by this lady's speech.

Firstly, she was a 24 year old who was born with only one leg that had three toes. Other than that she was just a regular person. Her main message was to smile no matter what's going on and give everything your all even if you are confronted by obstacles. It was awesome. She had so much good energy and soon had the entire school of 700 people laughing and smiling with her. It was quite inspiring.
When we asked for a photo she called us Harry Potter
It left everyone in really high spirits even though the weather was dull.

I had a really proud moment at kendo that night but it was shot down pretty quick. Still proud though. So I had karate that night so I had to take the five 'o' clock train home. This means that I had to leave kendo early. Before I left I had to tell the teacher why I was leaving. I've mentioned before how compassionate and understanding the kendo teacher is. *sarcasm* 

I went over to him and threw myself at his feet with my head down bowing as I said sorry that I was disturbing him. I then sat up in the kneeling position and shouted that I was taking the five 'o'clock train home, I'm sorry again to disturb you, please excuse me for leaving before you, sorry, thank you, sorry. (That's the literal translation of what I literally said.) He gave his grunt of acknowledgement as per usual but when I stood up he took me by surprise and said:
"Haven't you gotten good eh?!"

I was honoured. The great man himself had complimented me, wow, I didn't know what to say. Of course I said thank you but as I was expressing my gratitude he shot me down and said:

"But not so good, a fair way to go yet." 

And that was my Que to leave. I got on the train and went home. I had a rival to fight tonight! I can never be down when there is karate!

So that guy was back, the one who made a mark on my chest last time. But I wasn't gonna let that happen again. We warmed up together and did all the usual training before we had a 5 round fight. It was actually really cool. We had one minute bouts with 20 second rests in between.

And it got pretty intense.

The first round went as all first rounds go. We traded hits kind of tentatively as we knew there was a long time to go yet and it would be suicide to burn yourself out in the first minute. Because that would mean four minutes of merciless, one sided pummeling.

As the rounds progressed I noticed his expression was changing. And I could clearly see he was getting angry. This is never good. Especially when he was on the same level of strength as I, if not stronger. This means that if he gets worked up enough, he's going to absolutely kill me.

I decided to take on a calmer demeanor in the hope that he too would calm down a bit too but it didn't help much. By round three, he had thrown two aggressive punches that were so out of control that they hit me in the throat. I told him to watch it when he did it a third time and decided that I would drop the calm act and just go for it.

So we really did battle it out for the last two rounds, hit for hit and man, I was in pain. He landed some really nice rib shots and upper cuts that had winded me slightly but I think I got him too. He almost kicked my head off near the end too. But thanks to a well time dodge (it was a flinch, I was so scared!) I managed to keep my brains in between my ears. That's always good.

Our war ended and we were smiling again. This guy is cool but I don't know how to read him, it is quite scary in the ring. I wasn't too phased though, this "fear" was nothing in comparison to Sunday's training.

I got home that night with a ripper headache. I don't even know how, I didn't get hit in the head at kendo nor at karate so I couldn't figure out what had me in such pain. I took some drugs and went to bed. I was beat.

I woke up on Friday morning after a cold and restless sleep with my head still pounding. And I was not feeling good whatsoever. I went downstairs and fell into my chair. I slowly swallowed my breakfast and sat at the table looking all spaced out.

My host Mum noticed and talked to me but I couldn't understand. I was so lost. We took my temperature and it turns out that I had a mild fever of 38.1 degrees. My body was hurting in all sorts of places from the previous nights ordeal and we decided that sleep was the best remedy.

But there was a problem. Today we were going to Gifu, a city about two hours from where I stay. It was a Rotary event so all of us foreign kids and the all the Japanese girls who were going to be going overseas were going to be there. We were to leave at three 'o' clock in the afternoon on the train for an overnight stay with the schedule of:

Five something: arrive and settle in to hotel.
Later than five: Cormorant fishing.
Real late: Return to hotel.

5:30 am: leave hotel for mountain hiking.
I-have-no-idea-what-time-is-what 'o' clock: Tour around the town, go to a museum, do stuff.

That was my perception of the weekend. It promised to be fun.

But my body wasn't keen. It was recommended that I stay home for this one and rest.

So of course I was as stubborn as all hell and said that I was good as gold.

All loaded up on drugs and limping pretty badly, I got to the train and off we were.

I am so glad I went. I healed up by the Saturday and was in high spirits again.

Cormorant fishing is an ancient Japanese traditional method of fishing. They get in their long canoe like boats during the dark of night with a great big brazier hanging off the front of the boat. This flame attracts a heap of fish to the surface of the water where these birds catch them.

The birds all have ropes tied around their necks so the can't swallow the fish or fly away and one man holds all these ropes to control the birds. It's pretty damn cool.
We watched the action from a cool wee boat

It was an amazing day
That was the mountain we were going to walk up the next morning
Almost dinner time
Grub's up

It was quite serene for a while

The camera didn't pick it up so well

Pretty sure they are just winging it
After the fishing we all went back to the hotel. We had a good look about and found there was an onsen on the top floor. At the onsen you could actually go outside onto the balcony and have your bath whilst you looked over the city.

There was nobody in it so we took photos.
Can't see anything!

Always have to wash yourself before you get in the baths
And it's normally beside some old man
Incredibly relaxing

Ate too much chocolate pudding
(Wasn't brave enough to get in this pool.)
 We went back to our room and invited the girls over for cards and ice cream. It was a great night and we hung out until about midnight, pretty dumb considering the 4:30 am alarm.

The ice-cream wasn't bad
Too much of it is never too good though

We actually got some school work done too!
That horrible sound started playing at 4:30 am and no one was in the mood. But we managed to roll down to the lobby in preparation for our hike. I was feeling a lot better but I still had a slight headache and sore muscles. I was once again told to take the day off and chill out in the hotel by myself.


"Stay in the hotel'
Not a chance

Oh look! A castle!

We were all thinking it was lunch time but it wasn't even 7:00 am yet.
 Fun story:
So we all stopped at this clearing, about half way up the mountain. We had a quick drink of water and took some photos. Out of all of the students, that's foreigners and Japanese included, only three of us are guys. So there is obviously a lot of showing off.

So of course, with all these girls around, we had to run the rest of the journey. There was no choice.
So we did, we started off our jog which of course became a race. When we realised that we had gone so far that they couldn't see us anymore, the reasons for the race changed. It became a power struggle.

Who's going to stop first? Not me. We all had the same idea. So we raced each other up this mountain and when we finally got to the top we were so wasted that we didn't even care who got there first. We all sat down on a bench, sweaty and panting when an old lady who had just walked up from the other side of the mountain came up to us and had a good yarn. We must have jabbered on for a good 10 minutes before the rest of the foreigners arrived. It was quite nice.
We ran from here, it's a lot tougher than it looks!
Surprisingly, the mountain air had cured my headache but I was still sore, if not, sorer than before. No problem. We made our way down the mount and walked back to the hotel. The sun was out and it was a scorcher.

We got back to the hotel, relaxed in the onsen and had a feed. We still couldn't believe how early it was. We checked out of the hotel and got in a bus to go to this museum.

This museum was based on the previous nights fishing and it was quite awesome.

That fish tank is cool~~ She stole my glasses!
He looks like a gnome

So the museum was actually a lot better than expected. But we soon made our way outside to have a tour around the area where the fisherman live. Not just anyone can be one of these guys, there is something like six at a time. They all train these birds and pretty much dedicate a huge chunk of their lives to the traditional fishing.
Each of these fisherman get all the birds

Plenty of wood for those fires

It's a pretty choice place

Exchange family photos are the best
It was an awesome day but after all the walking and the hear, everyone was keen to get home. I couldn't sleep very well in the car but I certainly slept well when I got home.

Sunday was a day of pain and sweat. I just didn't know it that well yet. I had a karate camp-like training session that day. A whole heap of dojos would all come to this town called "Toyota" and beat the crap out of each other. 

It's something like 2 or 3 hours from where I live, hence the early get up.

I got up at 4:50 am and got ready for the day. I slept in the car on the way to training and then stumbled into the big hall which would later act as a prison to me.

There was no mucking about, we got straight to fighting! There were eight wee rings set up (squares) and we were put into small groups. I joined a group of adults and was quite excited. We wouldn't be using headgear or gloves in our fights so it was going to be quite raw.

I had a few good fights for a start but then came a small hiccup. Because I was 2nd place at the previous tournament, I was rewarded with the opportunity to fight one of the other guys who also placed in their division. 

I was paired up with the 1st place getter of the men's divison.


He was a real man too, like a proper adult. Here I was, a young kid and there he was, in his late twenties with a beard. He was gonna wreck me.

It went well until about the end.

He stuck me real good in the ribs with a punch that had his whole weight behind it.
Face says it all
Oh shit did that punch hurt. The best bit is: He hit me there repeatedly. Over and over again. I wanted to die! There was no oxygen in my lungs and I don't even know how I stayed standing but I wasn't going to waste precious energy on thinking.

Hurts to touch.
But that's not where the day dropped. There was worse to come. I had confidently challenged this one guy to what I thought was the usual one minute round. What I didn't know was that he was the All Japan Champion for 10 years and the round was going to be five minutes. 

Should be right.

I've fought this guy before, although I didn't know his status, I knew he had a mean low kick. 

I was pretty cocky, I don't feel fear of getting hurt infront of a fight. I get nervous, but it's not because I'm about to get beat up. It's been a very long time since I've felt real fear in a fight.

I was about to get a blast from the past in the form of kick like I've never felt.

Our bout started and I started laying into him. He just smiled and took it all. All good! I was puffing with about four minutes and 50 seconds left on the clock. Going well.

And then whack.

I can only compare it to being hit on the thigh with a baseball bat. This kick shunted me sideways with all this force and I knew straight away I was in for it. "Oh dear, what have I done."

After a few more of the kicks, he moved in and started dealing to me. I could see his punches load up and I could even predict his combos but I couldn't block them. They were just so fast. And as you can probably imagine, they hurt like anything.

I must have spent three of the five minutes just dancing around, trying to get out of his way. All in vain of course. At one point he literally hit me so hard that I was flown into a crowd of kids who were sitting on the edges of the mat and watching. It was quite the chaotic mess.

When I saw his kicks loading up I could only pray and hope for the best because if it landed, it hurt more than I care to say and even if I blocked it, it felt as though my shin lost mass. 

I was actually very scared. I couldn't do anything to hurt this guy and I could do nothing to stop his strikes. This was fear I haven't felt in a long time.

But a glimmer of hope! I landed a kick on his head! Elation! I did it! I landed something! I can't belie--

I was interrupted by a kick that caught me across the jaw. Right. I wont do that again.

I bout finished and I was about ready to cark it.

I couldn't walk properly, I had busted my right knee and my left leg felt as though it was locked in a cramp and there was nothing I could do about it. 
left man is the one who killed me over five minutes
right man is the one who gave me that ripper in the ribs
I actually asked for a normal photo and then they literally kneed me in the guts. It was a good laugh but I was still in a lot of pain.

I was literally writhing in pain on the car ride home and I couldn't sleep at all because my leg was as sore as hell.

We did stop off at this nice little restaurant though. Took me about five minutes to hobble in and sit down and I'm not even exaggerating.
I eventually got home and we had another BBQ dinner! But I was pretty buggered.

It's probably my last BBQ with these guys so it was kind of sad. But nonetheless a good night.
With good food and good company, only good times can ensue.
I actually went to bed early because I was so past it. I literally crawled up the stairs and snaked into bed. I've never had a leg so sore. I'm going to have to fight that guy again and get him good.

That's all I've got for now. I know it's Tuesday or Wednesday at time of writing this but I will leave the stuff I've done from Monday on wards until the next blog. It's 2:00 am in the morning here and I'm pretty tired. I am very sad to be having my last night here on Wednesday. From Thursday I will be starting a new chapter of my adventure but that can wait until then.

Apologies for this lateness!
Until next time!
Japanese Titanic

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