Sunday, 8 June 2014

A grounding and uplifting week.

This week's entry unfortunately starts with a horribly sad incident that whilst not directly connected to me, it will stay with me for the rest of my life.

(The rest of the week was just as good as the others though, so it's not all grim.)

As Japan is getting hotter as we move into summer, more and more people are taking to the pools and the rivers to refresh themselves. I personally can't wait to get swimming! There is a big river running right through the middle of my town that is just perfect.

But of with swimming in rivers comes a bit of danger. There is always the risk of injury. And last weekend there was just that. A boy from my school here in Japan was swimming in a river, just you regular summer activity. But something went wrong and he injured himself in the afternoon at this river.

I have no idea what the injury was or how it happened but at about 9:00 that night he died in hospital. He was 17 or 18 years old and in his last year of high school. I had never met him before but I recognised his face in the newspaper.

We had a big ceremony at school in the hall and it spooked me real good. Normally when you enter the hall you can hear the buzzing chatter of everyone whispering to their mates, talking about who knows what. But this time when I entered the hall there was not a sound. It was so eerie.

Whilst I never met this boy, he has taught me a pretty good lesson. I was thinking about it on the way to school. Just last Friday he would've gone home and made plans for the weekend, like I had. He would've been excited to see his friends and have a good time just like I was. He would have been worrying about some homework he didn't get done and would've been a bit anxious to go to school on Monday. Like I was.

It shook me pretty rough. I'm not going to lie, I felt quite invincible here in Japan. I'm living my dream, everyday is amazing. My friends and family here all love me. I have so much fun at karate, I'm decently strong. I truly felt as though nothing could bring me down.

But when I thought about how this boy is pretty much exactly the same as me, with the same dreams and ambitions I realised that I too could die tomorrow, just like everyone else.

I was confronted with a thought. I thought that I couldn't drown in a river. Not only was in a swimming squad quite a while ago but I used to swim in rivers often. There is no way I could have an accident like that. But I later heard that he too was in a swimming squad and was quite a good swimmer as well. I also realised that living in a town with a huge river running through the middle of it would mean that he probably swam in it quite often.

A truly unfortunate accident that ended his life far too early. The reality hit me far harder than any punch could when I saw his friends crying after the ceremony. It brought me back into the real world.

That day was pretty odd. Obviously with such a grim start, the rest of the day was going to be a bit quiet. We went back to our classes and life carried on. I didn't have kendo that day and I went home to relax. The weather was great but I was still a little bit spaced out from the morning's news.

Tuesday was a good day. Of course the weather was ridiculous and I had karate. It was pretty regular in terms of school.
Of course I had a great lunch too!
Whilst this weather is at times uncomfortably hot, it's not too bad. It makes kendo and karate pretty tough.

But karate that night was great, just as always. It seems I can never not have fun at karate!

I got home for a big feed and then got onto the blog until some ungodly hour in the morning. I was pleased to get it written though. I don't like being late with it.

Wednesday was pretty regular. I got to do kendo and boy was it hot. When I took off my mask it looked as though I had just gotten out of a shower. It's a good feeling though, to have done a good workout. That good feeling is negated when sweat gets in your eye though.

Thursday was another interesting day. We had a desk change at school. So we all had to draw numbers out of a hat to decide where we would sit. I went from the very back of the class (freedom to nap every now and then) to the very front of the class, in front of the teacher's table. So no more naps for me. 

It's better though, I will be more motivated to study so I guess I'm grateful. I'm also sitting beside a good friend of mine so it wont be so bad!
Only in Japan.
My mate was making mini cranes and then this.
I went to kendo and once again got drenched in sweat. It was a really good training session. At the end of every night we always do one final (its more like three) really hard excersise. So everyone is screaming their loudest and hitting their hardest and the atmosphere is amazing. The floor shakes as everyone stomps by and you can't help but scream and cheer everyone on.

Whenever there is one or two people left finishing the excersise while everyone else has already completed theirs, they don't just stand there and relax. They cheer the slower ones on and it's awesome.

I found on Thursday as I was just about to start my last set, everyone had already finished. So whilst I was giving it my all everyone was screaming and what not. It made me try harder and push the limits that much further. It was so cool.

I sat down after class, absolutely buggered. I had nothing else to give. All of my energy was drained and dripping off of my face. I looked up at the clock and realised that in half an hour, I had to go to karate. It's gonna be tough.

And it was. But it was still super fun. Sensei put me on the spot and made me give an small inspirational speech to the kids. I talked about how I studied and worked to get where I was in both karate and Japan. They thought it was so cool and it made me feel awesome.

Next thing, Sensei was boasting about my fluency in English and decided that tonight we would study whilst we trained.

So when the leader of the excersise called out what we were going to do, I would call it out in English. For example, we did jogging on the spot for one minute. Whilst we were jogging, the kids passed the time by yelling in a Japanese accent:

Running on za spot foa, wan minit!

It was quite cute and funny but they all learned a bunch of new words throughout the night and because they actually remembered them all by the end of the session. I was impressed!

We later got to fighting and I once again busted my hand. But this time it was my thumb. It's quite the pain.

Other than a sore thumb, it was a good night. I think we will be doing these English lessons for quite some time from now on.

When I got home I got a hell of a fright in my room. I found this massive bug crawling about my floor at speeds unknown. I pretty much started levitating as I was in no mind to be in contact with the floor while this monster was in my room.

I had to act fast because this thing was making its way to my futon. It was probably planning to kill me in my sleep. It looked so evil. 

I bunched up about a hundred tissues and got ready to confront the beast. I actually (no joke) started talking to myself (aimed at the thing) and I was spitting all kinds of profanities at this creature. In hind sight, that's pretty weird but this was serious business. 

After hearing my challenge, it zipped out from under my bed and reared its head in challenge. I was not playing the fair game though. While he started the formalities for a proper fight, I punched him right in the kisser. Knocked it out cold. 

I took a photo of the carcass and then threw it outside my window. What a glorious victory. It's body is still sitting on the veranda outside my room, a statement to all other bugs that wish to invade my space.
Shit was gonna eat me in my sleep.
It was a lot bigger in real life, I promise...
After all the excitement, I went to sleep in my safe bed. 

I taped my hand up on Friday morning and had a hard time writing anything all day. It was a pretty regular day though, hot as anything. I had been writing a list all week of the things I needed to buy. Myself and a bunch of other exchange students were all going to Nagoya tomorrow!

My list was mainly mundane stuff like new clothes and textbooks but I was really craving some KFC, so we got that too. 

What a good day it was! The weather was overcast and it even rained a little bit but it was still pretty damn hot!
Getting high in the morning

Had a really big ice cream for breakfast

We managed to destroy it in record time

America's got talent
Got some photos with these pretty ladies in dresses or something

This is the k-fry I'm looking for

So I opted for a burger but others wanted something else from the Colonel

Sadly, I didn't buy the singlet.
The Japanese just don't get it and it's hilarious.
Indian for dinner!
I stupidly ordered the 'hot' level curry. It was hotter than hot. 
It was an awesome day! There were ten of us in total during the day and it was great. A bunch of foreigners making a huge noise in the big city. We got all sorts of looks as we did random things in the street. Piggy back races, eating whist we walk, playing the yellow car game (many a sore arms were had that day) and just being loud. It was so much fun. 

It was a long train ride home but it was good to wind down. When I got home I showed my photos to my host family and then went to bed. 

But there was this one part of the Nagoya trip that put me over the moon. Before I can tell this story, I've got to give a bit of background.

So we know that two years ago I went to Hokkaido, Japan. That's the northern most island of Japan. It's quite far away from where I am now. When I went to Hokkaido I not only had the time of my life but also fell in love with Japan. Not just Japan though, there was something else.

It was this think called Melon Soda. It is a green fizzy drink based on Melon flavour. It's not watermelon, but something else. There were many brands of Melon here but the best came from Fanta. It was divine. I ended up having atleast one of these everyday I was there. It was just so good.
From back in the day
So this drink was so good that when I got back to NZ I immediately went on the hunt. But no matter how hard I looked, I couldn't find it. I went all over the place and all I could find was cheap knock off brands. They weren't the same. I made it my goal to get some as soon as I landed in Japan. 

When I did land in Japan, I went straight to the nearest store, they didn't have it. To the vending machines! None!

I looked all through my town but to no avail. I even went around showing people the above photo asking "excuse me, have you seen this drink?"

But no one had seen it!

I was beginning to think it was a Hokkaido only drink. So I asked my Hokkaido friends and they said they hadn't seen it! No! It couldn't be gone. I had to get more of this stuff there was no way it wasn't around anymore.

You might remember last week that I got a coke bottle from a vending machine with the Prime Minister's name on it. I said that I would take it as good luck, it was quite cool but I didn't think to much of it.
There it is, "Abe" and the good luck coke.
During our little adventure through Nagoya, some of the guys went into a convenience store in search of some ice cream or something. I wasn't too interested. But I went in to have a look any way.

As I went up to the freezer where my mates were I had to walk past the fridges. And shit, I did a double take that almost broke me neck.

There it was. I screamed. I jumped up and down. I turned into some hyper five year old child as I literally danced around the fridge. I got my drink and almost threw it at the clerk and then dropped coins all over the counter. What a mess I was. But I got it.

When I drank it.... it was even better than I remember. I couldn't believe it. I was so damn excited I didn't even notice anything else in the fridge until I looked back over my photos later on the train ride home.

The coke beside the Melon is "Abe"
It was kind of spooky. But so cool. 

Sunday was tough. It was karate and it was early. I got up at 5:40 and had some toast. I went with my mate Fuyuki because he lives right next door. We got to Sensei's and then it was off to training.

Today was just a big fight fest. There were a bunch of people doing black belt gradings but it is run a bit different to what I'm used to.

These guys had to do 20 rounds but everyone got in and did the 20. And shit it was tough. I didn't get too injured. I nicked my sore thumb and got a good hit on top of the knee but otherwise fine. 

I took a fair beating but I also dished it out pretty well I thought. Well I hope I did. I've got some mean bruises and I hope my opponents do too.

Bruises and a tan line.
It was a good session until the very end. I was sitting there and one of the guys in charge says to me.

"foreigner, say something!"

Ah shit. He wants a speech.

So I got up and waffled on about how karate is an international family and then I tried to talk about how today's training was but it didn't go so well. Everyone clapped and was nice about it anyway so I'm not too bothered about stuffing up.

After training we were all limping and it was great. We went out for lunch and then back home.

There was a huge thunder storm and it was amazing. As soon as I got home I went straight to my room to nap but I was more interested in the thunder and lightening that was going on. The lightening would illuminate my dark room soon followed by the thunder that was like a drum in the sky with it's massive sound being echoed through the mountains. It was amazing.

But I soon fell asleep. I was woken up for dinner and it was a good feed as always.
I forgot the name of this sushi but it's good!

Host family and a mean feed

Host Dad and I
So it is still hot here even though it was just raining. Life is good here. I'm a bit tired but that's nothing major. That's all I've got for now. It's been a good week aside from the beginning. I think that will stay with me forever. Not only do I feel as though I have been brought back to the reality of life but I am now more determined to live each day with more enthusiasm. There is no telling when we will go.

Until next time!
I'm on a whole other planet

Paraded it down the street!


  1. Great to read your blogs each week, we know what it is like to learn those characters, took us a long time to learn Chinese, when we lived in China. Sorry to hear about the boy who drowned, that is not nice, especially for his family, this is why you really need to know the Lord in a personal way. You certainly seem to enjoy all that Japanese food, and we are glad that you found that special drink again. Did you stock up on it !! Winter has arrived here, cold wet miserable days, but that is life. So keep on enjoying yourself there, learn as much as you can, see as much as you can and don't knock yourself around to much, you are not invincible. Blessings Grandma & Grandad

  2. Brennan, I have to admit, I have not caught up on all your blogs yet, but have had this one sitting waiting for me for several days now. I am very sorry to hear about the boy who drowned, also. It sure does bring things into perspective doesn't it? I really enjoy your blog and I love how you have expressed yourself in this one, through everything - the river story, the bug, karate, KFC, Fanta, all of it!! I am so happy you are indeed living the dream and proud of you too for all you are accomplishing and wish to accomplish in the future. Life is amazing and you seem to have a good grasp of things. Good for you! (Classic Kiwi understatement? lol). From Donna