Thursday, 29 January 2015

The month of November

Its been a slightly stressful, very painful and a rather drawn out few weeks in the lead up to the all Japan tournament. Obviously my nerves are shot and I'm tired as.

But that's not getting in the way of a great time! Things are still amazing here and nothing is settling down. I'm so busy that it's unreal. It's good fun though.

In my last update I left off in Takayama, eating small burgers on a Sunday. (There was also a kendo tournament but that didn't go my way so we wont talk about that too much.)

The next day was of course a school day so I didn't get to sleep in. In fact, I don't get many sleep ins at all whatsoever anymore so when they come by, you bet I sleep until lunchtime.

But nope, I was studying at school. We didn't have club that day but instead we had a kendo meeting to analyse and discuss the tournament's results. So we got to go home earlier than usual! It was still about six when I got home though.

When I did get home I found my wee host nieces chilling out in the lounge. So we played cards and it was pretty cute.
I'm not even sure what we're playing, I just smiled and went along.
It was pretty fun though.
I wasn't able to get any homework or anything done because I was busy socialising with other humans which I think is pretty important.

The two girls have figured out that I have a ticklish neck so whenever I think I've found a moment of peace, it is brutally disturbed by tickling from all sides. I can't even protect myself because there is two of them and their hands are so little. 

It's a good laugh until I realise that they wont stop tickling and I have to run away. (Only to have my peace disturbed again! (It's still pretty cute though.))

The next day at school I got some good study done and I acted as camera man in our traditional Japanese language class. (I don't normally participate because it's not really Japanese, it's more like Chinese and even the native students here have a hard time with it.)

But today they were doing mini plays based on some historical event and I was the camera man. I felt quite important.

The next highlight of the day was of course karate. Tonight was odd though, we had to focus on training one kid, he must of had a grading or something coming up soon because we really made him push the limits.

I got to fight with Fuyuki once but it was a disaster. I've been practicing my front kicks in the hope to catch everyone off guard at the tournament but of course Fuyuki is well and truly used to my style so I couldn't fool him.

In fact, it fully backfired on me. I side stepped and loaded up my shot and then let fly. His elbow came down just before my foot made contact with his guts and all five of my poor little toes got shoved back so far.

I actually screamed and hit the deck. I had put a lot of force into the kick but it all went out through my toes. I had a good limp but I was back and ready to get my revenge. Maybe about 10 seconds passed and I had lined up another front kick. 

This time with my other foot because I was paranoid of my toes breaking.


I let flew with the kick.

I dunno what really happened but I missed his guts by a country mile and met his shin that he had put up in preparation for a kick or something.

I screamed again as my toes bent it like Beckham.

Walking was out of the question, let alone fighting. So I took some timeout and iced my feet as they were already swelling.

Well it didn't go at all to planned but karate was still fun in a way. It was fun until my toes did that thing.

I went to the gym after kendo on Wednesday and it buggered me out pretty good. I woke up the next day as sore as anything and I thought I had better call off karate for the day. I barely had the energy to get out of bed and eat breakfast!

However back on Wednesday's kendo, I saw some pretty off scenes. Sensei was back to his grumpy mean self and was fighting the students. He always fights a few and pushes them really hard, when they're done the students always look like they're going to die but of course they've got to keep training.

If somebody mucks up then Sensei gets mad. And scary. I don't exactly know what happened this particular time but I looked over to where Sensei was (He's always fighting one student with one more in line waiting.) And he was yelling at whoever was waiting in line whilst they were wiping the floor. I don't know why he was but Sensei shouted: 

"What is this?! This is disgusting!" 

Might of been blood or something but he was furious. The student (who happened to be the captain and maybe the strongest of us all) was kneeling down apologizing (in full kendo gear) when sensei straight up punched him in the face. Thank god for the mask but it looked like it hurt. He then literally pushed over and yelled at him some more.

Of course the student just apologized and went on his merry way but we all knew he was just as mad as Sensei.

Friday was cool, some girls gave me chocolate and I couldn't figure out why but it turned out to be Halloween so everyone was giving everyone sweets. Japan really likes to take part in American holidays but I'm not sure why.

They don't get a day off for Christmas but they still like to give gifts and eat lots. (I like to eat lots too so I'd take any excuse I can get!)

Friday's kendo was great. So was Thursday's too, actually. Sensei wasn't there! So whilst we trained seriously we also got to jump around and be dicks and have fun. I started off on Friday with a headache and not much will to do it but after jumping around and laughing like clowns instead of screaming with my mates, I felt a lot better. It was a pretty good time.

Kendos not all bad!

And then we had a three day weekend and it was just amazing.

Saturday began with Kyoto, Japan's old capital city and home to some of Japan's most beautiful buildings.

We got up at some ungodly hour in the morning and got on this bus with a bunch of strangers to go and tour through the city.

What a great time it was.

The Byodo-in, a truly beautiful building

This could have been a lot cooler

A big five story pagoda!

There are some truly breath-taking gardens here

It's so serene
There were a bunch of foreigners in Kyoto because it is a massive tourist destination but I didn't really pay much attention to them. But I kept on running into this group of four. I couldn't hear them talking or anything but we occasionally nodded at each other.

I finally decided to talk to them so I asked where they were from.

And this lady says in a slightly joking manner: "I'm from the better version of your country!"

I was a little surprised so I could only reply with: "Oh?"

She pointed to me necklace which has the shape of New Zealand on it and said: "Not only could I hear it in your accent, but you're wearing it on your chest too. I'm from Australia."

We laughed and then had a small talk about what they were doing in Japan and what I was doing. They were a really friendly group of people and I thought it was pretty cool to have been able to have met them.

There was this big temple. Or shrine. I'll have to find out which...

The buildings were so beautiful.

We saw a wedding so of course we got our cameras out and had a nosey.
In this 'no-photo-zone' there were these massive monuments to what I could only assume are the gods. I don't know enough about Japanese religion (or any religion for that matter) to make a statement about what these statues represent. But they were pretty impressive. They were so massive yet so intricate at the same time.

It was a massive day of touring around Kyoto but the city is so intricate that one single day could not possibly do it justice. I will definitely come back here some time for sure.

I slept on the bus on the way back home. I was shattered! We arrived at home and had a small feed. Everyone was keen for a sleep so there ended the day.

I had a big day planned for tomorrow too!

My previous host family, the Kamakura's, (My fourth host family.) and I were going to go to this place called "Little World." I actually went there months ago but that time it was raining and miserable.

This time promised to be a good time.

And it sure was.

Little world is like a big theme park(?) except instead of rides and stuff it has buildings from different cultures from all around the world. For example, there would be an Indian building selling Indian food or a German village selling sausages and the like.

We set off with the goal of eating the worlds food. We had a map and a list of all of the cuisines. But something else became apparent as we stopped off at the very first place.

There were a bunch of international beers. Hmmmmm.

With a slight change of plan, we were on our merry way.
Native Americans!

The weather was starting to look mean...
This was a small German village!

The weather packed it...
Of to the middle east!

I had a really spicy kebab here.
Also, I had a sneezing fit so bad I had to sit down. Got everyone looking at me too haha
Some pretty cool stuff

Back at that German village. Yum!!

I got to have crocodile meat!

One of these was crocodile, one was ostrich (really chewy) and one was something normal-ish.

Indian! (Not Indian beer though.)
 So I was cocky and ordered the hottest curry they had and well. It didn't do me any good at all. It was so hot that the other customers took interest and soon enough, literally everyone in the shop was sharing this curry. It was hilarious!

We were all talking and sharing our meals like we were all old friends. The curry was so hot it took about 10 minutes before someone noticed I was foreign and speaking Japanese. (At least 10 minutes to point it out. A huge difference compared to everyone else who tells me as soon as I say hello.)

I couldn't finish the curry by myself but it tasted nice. Burnt my tongue real good though.
This was Korean. I was so full at the time so I could only have a mouthful.
Host Dad polished it off though.

Host Dad and I
What a great day!
But it didn't stop there! After spending a whole day together, no one wanted to split up so I stayed the night! It was so nice to be back with them. We talked for aaaages! Laughing and talking away, it felt like I was back at home.
Before anything, we hit up Host Grandad's place for a hair cut.

We had sushi for dinner!
I had raw eggs. They were pretty good!
It was an awesome day. I believe without a doubt that my host families are the best part of my exchange.

So I felt a bit bad about breaking my apparently not so rigorous diet so I went to the gym a lot more over the next few weeks.

Right now, everything I was doing was in preparation for this tournament. I know it's not good to over think the event but I couldn't help it. I would imagine myself on the number one spot on the pedestal, I would envision the knockouts and I would get excited as anything.

But I'd also worry about losing in the first round to some massive guy or getting knocked out by the previous champ.

I got some of my kendo buddies to come along too!

One time there was a NZ flag outside!
I spent so much time at the gym. All of the trainers always give me a big smile when they see me and we know each other by name. It's pretty cool.

Karate training was going hard too. Fuyuki and I weren't winning over each other anymore. When we fought, no one would win. It was impossible to get close to Fuyuki because he'd always shut me down or lash out with these vicious straight punches that I never managed to block.

But he couldn't get hits on me without me punishing his legs. It was a lose-lose situation. But regardless, we'd smash each other. We did so much conditioning that I would have bruises on my abdomen (And everywhere else for that matter) but we got so strong.

Whilst my weight never really changed, I burnt a lot of fat and replaced it with muscle. I've never been stronger. It felt really good!

School just blurred by because all I could think about was training and the tournament. I was obsessed with it.

Kendo was still as tough as ever but with my new fitness I was doing better than ever. I was exhausted but so happy.

Every now and then I did find a break though!

In Japan there is a ceremony for children when they turn three, five and seven. Today was said day. My host nieces were dressed to the nines and the weather was't looking so well. I had no idea that the thing was this day so I was at home in my pyjamas just relaxing when the girls walk in with their kimonos.

So I quickly got dressed and asked if I could attend the ceremony!

I'm so glad I did cos these girls are just the cutest.

The kimonos from behind
The girls are writing their 'wishes' or 'goals'

It was kind of strict!
We had to sit through this ceremony as a priest blessed(?) the girls. It was interesting but it dragged on and the girls were getting tired.

But because of the special day,we went out for dinner! I guess my diet will have to be suspended for another day...
Yakiniku, simply the best.

I ordered the spiciest thing on the menu. Woops.

Lil' Beniha is getting stuck into her meal

It was so hot that I had to partially undress.
The girls had just one grain of rice from this dish and they were done

About a week out of the event, I was given the tournament line up. There were four fights to the top spot.(4th fight being the final.)

And someone had done their research and written down all of the competitor's previous results. I checked it over. My name was in there with a "2nd - Gifu tournament."

Other competitors included: "first, All Japan, First, Aichi prefecture, first....." It looked like there was some very strong competition. I was getting quite nervous.

But then for some reason I felt really calm. Like, really tranquil. I wasn't so nervous and not so excited. Like I was neutral or something.

I can remember sitting in an onsen one night and I was the only one there. I was in the outdoors bath and I watched the steam move about in the slight breeze. It was almost dancing on top of the water. So calm. I have no idea why but this memory sticks out to me.

On the last night of kendo before the tournament, I was totally surprised!
Kendo blows me away
 So everyone gathered around and the club captain stood up and gave a speech detailing what I was doing on the weekend. They asked me to say a few words and I gave a really average speech. It was slightly embarrassing because I had prepared nothing. I tried to say that I will fight with the kendo spirit, but it might been lost in translation.
 So they had all written good luck messages on this big card which was so cool. They had also made 100 paper cranes, each one a different colour. I thought that was so cool. In Japan before a big event, people make their friends these cards and the paper cranes as a good luck charm.

But after my speech one of the first years got up and started yelling. I was taken aback. What's he saying? Is he speaking English?? He was doing some dance too. But after a few lines of what ever he was yelling, I recognised a bit of Maori. He was gonna do the Haka!

I stood there and stared him down as he did it and then did my very best at doing it myself. (My Haka isn't so lyrically accurate but it's loud.) As I was doing the traditional dance, I creeped up closer and closer until I was right in his face, screaming my lungs out.

It was amazing. Everyone clapped and we hugged after. Whilst my Haka is so terrible it's a joke, this was a really special moment for me, These guys had gone out of their way to do all of this for me and furthermore, they'd learnt some of my culture too. Just amazing.
Not so scary but it was a good laugh!

Being so close to the event, we went easy on the training. The day before the fights I went to the gym and did some running followed by some swimming. It was finally here.

I got up really early and of we went in the car. It was cold in the morning but the weather looked like it would turn out nice. There wasn't even a breeze, it was all dead still.

I saw a bunch of really strong guys and started running all of those scenarios through my head. I was starting to get nervous.

NAH. None of that! I forced myself to think of winning. I was going kill my opponents. That's it! I'm gonna kill 'em all!
Here we are!
We had to go through a really tedious weigh in. I was pleased with my weight, 76.2 kg. I was also a centimetre taller than I thought I was! I thought I was 174 cm but no! I've grown!
My name is highlighted, this is the line up!
 There were over 2500 competitors! And a lot more spectators
This is the venue! It's massive!
 I've never been in a place like this so this was overwhelming for me. I would be fighting right in the middle.
From the mats. The kids fought on these odd rubber things. I was fighting on proper mats.
Fuyuki's fight was before mine. So I went outside and helped him warm up. He was in a funny mood. I knew he was nervous but he put it off. We ran around and did some warm up fights. He was good to go. 

I told him to knock out his opponent and he said that the chances of doing that are really slim.

He got in there and gave the other guy a head kick so vicious I thought the other guy died. His opponent hit the deck as stiff as a statue, his hands and legs were still up in fighting position, it looked really odd. It was quite scary. 

Fuyuki lost his next fight. The fella he lost to came 2nd in the men's division. It was a close fight but these things happen.

We cheered for some of the kids from our dojo and were surprised to see another knock out. 

Soon enough it was time for me to warm up. By this time, the Kamakura family had turned up to cheer me on. I had a chat with them and then set off for a jog. I stretched and got all warmed up. I told them that I was gonna kill my opponent (just to get rid of my nerves.) I was sweating and ready to go.

Down to the mats I went. I fist-bumped all of the other competitors. The guy who I was fighting first came up to me and said that we would be fighting. I smiled and said good luck.

My name was called out and I walked onto the mat. This is home. I stared at my opponent without any emotion. I don't have to be his friend during the fight. I'll smile later. Right now I was rearing to go.

I assumed fighting stance and then we were off!

I missed my first kick but got a couple good ones on his leg. He stumbled and fell over. We had to reset and go again. This time I layed into him. I got a good push with a front kick so I followed up with a back kick but missed. I was real close to him now and I tried to kick him in the head.

It hit. And he stumbled. We had to reset again. He told the ref that he could keep going. So I threw a small front kick at him that caught him off balance and shoved him back far. Fighting instincts kicked in and I chased him.

I tried to get him with an axe kick that missed by not even a centimetre. I flew at him with a big knee and it got him good. I saw his head lower as he took the knee to the guts and the instincts kicked in again. I threw a roundhouse at his unprotected head. 

It caught him right in the mouth and I saw his eyes roll back as he flew over backwards and hit the ground. He was out. Apparently he wasn't wearing a mouth guard because a bit of his tooth flew out too. Ouch.

I had to wait for ages while the doc's checked him over and pulled him away but as soon as I was dismissed (I won) I went straight to where he was to check on him. He gave me a thumbs up and said he was okay. I noticed that he was missing a bit of his front tooth. Luckily one of the refs had literally picked it up off the mats and given it back to him.
The kick
Here is a link to the video:
I felt bad because I over did it but everyone said not to worry about it. "These things happen, he knew what he was getting into." I still feel a tad guilty though.
Poor guy
 He came up to me a couple of hours later and congratulated me. I apologised again but he said not to worry.
I'm not sure which fight this is but I'm on the right. Well timed photo!
My next fight was about five minutes after the first fight. This time my opponent was stronger than before and I could feel his punches. They hurt but I gritted my teeth and did my best. No knock out this time but I won. We shook hands and had a good talk after the fight.

I had plenty of time seeing as the next fight was an hour and a half away.
This was my 2nd opponent. He was really cool! And he hits hard...
I sat down and watched the fights as they unfolded. I saw numerous knock outs and the atmosphere was awesome. I made a friend from my division, he was on the opposite side of the line up so if we were to fight we would do so in the finals. 

I told him every time I saw him that I was looking forward to fighting him in the finals and we got along really well.

As I was sitting around I noticed a foreign guy watching from above. I went to talk to him and it turns out he lives here and has done so for a number of years. He was Canadian and the coach of an ice hockey team here. He said he couldn't speak any Japanese even though he'd lived here for ages.

He was a real nice guy and it was cool to speak a bit of English.

I realised I hadn't had breakfast and it was now midday. I had a red bull and a rice ball. I wasn't feeling so hungry anyways.

I got back to warming up. Fuyuki had gone home now so I was just jogging by myself. My host families cheered me on and it was real good. I got a sweat up again and I was bouncing, ready to go. The nerves were gone now. I was having a blast.

This time, there were only four of us hanging around the mats. My buddy and I on one side,-I told him we've gotta win these fights so we can have a go in the final- and the two guys on the other side. This was the semi final.

I hi-fived my buddy then did the same to the other guys. I said good luck to them and that I was looking forward to fighting them.

Then my fight started. I watched my opponent before, he had some strong looking high kicks so I had to get in close. 

And I did. But he grabbed me and kept doing so. That's a foul, you're not allowed to push with open hands or grab your opponent in any way. Yet he kept grabbing me. My Dogi top even came undone because of it and the ref didn't call it.

So I got a little mad really put some power into my uppercuts. I ripped into his guts and let him have it. I won because of the punches but I didn't talk to my opponent after the fight. It's cold and I don't normally act like this but he was straight up fighting dirty and I didn't like it at all.

As soon as the fight finished I walked off the mat and got to amping up my mate. I forgot to bow off so I had to walk back and bow. It was a little embarrassed but no worries. I gave my guy the pat/slap down and told him to win.

He fought real hard but the other guy was just like water. He moved so fluid that it was amazing to watch. My mate couldn't get the win but it was close.

He said sorry cos he was really looking forward to fighting me in the end. He said that that other guy was very strong and to look out for his kicks.

I had another hour and a bit but between then and now there was the men's finals. All the lights went out and were replaced by spotlights, lighting up the middle mat.

Then some foreign guy shows up and starts announcing the fights over the speakers with this really deep voice. Emma and myself (Emma was here with the Kamakura family.) were wondering who this guy was. I guess we felt almost territorial, like what's this guy doing where we live?

We went to talk to him after those fights and I couldn't have been more surprised.
This is Chris Glenn
So Mister Glenn here is from Australia and was originally a Rotary Youth Exchange student to Hokkaido, Japan. Crazy!! He spoke fluent Japanese (Far more fluent than I, probably cos he's lived here for 23 or so years.)

He was really down to earth and just an all round awesome guy. It turns out he's like a celebrity too. He's a radio announcer and has the coolest voice.

I had to go though, I had some warming up to do!!

The Kamakura family ran a few laps with me as I warmed up. This time I got a little nervous. It kind of dawned on me that this was the last fight. This was for the top spot in all of Japan. I'm not even Japanese!

I steeled myself and walked in, ready to fight. At this point, the day was almost over and lots of people had gone home but I seemed to know everybody who was still here. They were either old friends or I had met them today. Everyone wished me good luck. 

I walked up to the mat and bowed on. I jumped up and down and smacked myself all over. (It helps bring up the tension and adrenaline I think.) I put on my head gear and stared down my opponent. This was it. I was going to win.

We smashed into each other, punches and kicks going this way and that. I pushed him about but he just melted away. I could never get a good grounding to hit him, he was just never there. But somehow he was putting on pressure at the same time.

You never really notice the individual hits and I certainly didn't this time but my ribs were quickly becoming very sore. His kicks were vicious.

I clipped his standing leg as he threw a high kick and it tripped him up. I screamed in his face as he fell to the ground, I don't know what I was trying to achieve with that.

He got back up and we reset.

I moved in and was hit by this big foot to the guts that not only hurt, but it sent me back a good distance. He got me a good kick on my right side that just took all the air out of me.

My energy was sapped and he was still bouncing around. He was fighting his fight and I was out of sorts. I chased him around which did nothing good for me. I was tiring myself out and he was having a real good time smashing me where I was open.

He threw another kick at my left side but this time I dropped my arm and it caught his kick. For about half a second. I didn't even try to do it, it was just a bad reflex. But the ref saw it and fouled me for it.

(I was a little annoyed 'cos of the fouling going on in the previous fight by the Japanese guy. But as soon as I slip up I get called out. To be honest, I thought there was some racial biasing going on but it can't be helped really. I don't want to think that was the case.)

I was tired, my morale was shot, and it wasn't looking good. 

I could never get any big hits on him. He was just too slippery. And he was still bouncing like he was full of energy. 

The fight finished and all flags went his way.


I didn't really know what to think. I walked off the mat and sat down with my supporters. Shit. Well that's it. It's over!

It was kind of awkward too. I was in it to win it but I didn't. It felt quite bad for a while.

But that guy was far stronger than me and not only that, he was a better fighter. He trumped me in all fields and deserved the win. I did my best and lost to the strongest guy so second place isn't so bad.

Actually, now that I think about it, second in all of Japan isn't so bad at all.
Support team! It's really cool that these guys came all the way to cheer me on.
Fighting family
 These three people are siblings, the girl, Mei, is in my class at school and the two boys are both black belts and very strong. Tomo, the older boy got third in his division and even knocked out one of his opponents!
Here they are again. Really cool people.

Well, here we are! It was a long day
 I said goodbye to everyone at the venue, talked to that fella, Chris Glenn, again, talked to the karate bosses and was really happy even though I couldn't get the win. One of the really high grades said that he was impressed by my language skills and my fighting spirit. So I bowed real deep and said thanks.

He then said he really liked that I had adopted the Japanese culture.

My host family and I went off in search of a feed. And now that the fight was over, it was no holds barred in terms of what I was gonna eat. We went straight for this pizza-buffet and it was just amazing.

There was all the pizza you could eat and host Dad leaned close to me and whispered "you can have as much beer as you'd like, too."

It was a great night.
The first plate of many!

Look at all this cheese!
I was so tired. I slept in the car on the way home and then went to bed. School tomorrow.

But I could only do a half day cos I was so tired and I was starting to show flu symptoms. I came home and slept it off. 

Later in the week my host Dad took me out with his work mates and we had a really good time. Tons of good food, a couple of drinks and some really good people. 
I'm the white guy that's blinking and that's my host Dad beside me

Jelly fish with cucumber and seaweed. Chewy but yum!

Lots and lots of food
School went by just fine. I actually made a mistake and missed the deadline to apply for the Japanese language proficiency test so I was a bit bummed out. I took the test a while ago and I was hoping to sit it at a much higher level but I can't do that.

I kept studying though. It's hard to learn the more difficult grammar because it's not used so often in conversations. It's still good fun though!

There was one final big Rotary trip to go on and it promised to be good. We were going to Gifu prefecture's neighbour prefecture, Mie. 

Mie-ken (ken means prefecture) is in the same Rotary district of 2630 as Gifu-ken.

We were going away for two days and one night. Day one was going to consist of traditional tea ceremonies and pottery making. Don't get me wrong, this sounded interesting and fun but it was kind of out shone by the next day's plan. Which was theme park; roller coasters and rides. Aww yea.

My host bro, Nobu. He's officially an outbound!
 We got to the venue and everyone did small self introductions. We met the Japanese outbounds and they were all pretty cool. (One of them is Nobu!) Georgia and I talked to one of the old bosses and he asked us how we were feeling about going home and we both said that we'd like to stay in Japan longer. It's not long until we go...
Kneeling through tea ceremony!

This pot place was out in the middle of nowhere

But it was a beautiful day and the scenery was pretty amazing too

Working hard
 The man in charge was one of the big Rotary bosses so us seniors had met him before. He's really cool and a good laugh. Things got awkward though once he told me "how to make the cup"

He compared it to "touching a woman." And got a little too detailed. It was a good laugh but it certainly made things awkward for a little while.
I love pot

There was some cute stuff going on
Jake and I didn't pull it off so well

Looking good though

It was a good day. I had to give a small thank you on behalf of the students and it didn't go so bad!

So this odd arrangement of bodies is supposed to spell out

No one knows what's going on here
We made these cool cups and signed our names on them, they will be baked or whatever and then sent to us at an unknown date. Still patiently waiting...

No worries though. Time for lunch!!

It's still pretty hard to get these big selfies

This is hiroshima style okonomiyaki.
Like a big omelette with noodles!
Oh yea, I lost an arm wrestle... :( 
After a feed, we moved on over to the hotel we were staying at. It had a lovely view over the longest roller coaster in the world!!

We were literally right  next to the park. Not even a two minute walk away.

We went to the onsen and I actually enjoyed relaxing in this really cold pool. Oddly cleansing. I hit the sauna after and then back through a shower. I love the onsen so much.

We had some free time before the feast that would be dinner. And what a feast it was!

Yum yum

This fella(Japanese) is being taught how to use chopsticks properly!

Jake from Aussie
Tons of food later, we were all sitting down listening to the boss talk. Victoria played the guitar at one point and I even got up for another shoddy haka. We all got together and sung an old Japanese song that was about returning home. It was all quite moving.

Then the old governor that Georgia and I were talking to earlier got up, slightly tipsy, and started talking. He talked about what Georgia and I said to him. He got all emotional and said how amazed he was that "these people" have such a love for his country.

It made me cry too, cos I'm a big sook. It was a great night though. And it was nowhere near finished.

We were going to see the "illumination" of Nabana No Sato.

Madness in the bus
So we get in the bus and we leave in 120 seconds. two minutes. Japan's public transport operates on the dot. It was at this point that one of the outbounds realised he had left his ticket for the illumination in his room on the sixth floor of the hotel.

It was looking pretty grim.

But he wasn't phased. (It was that guy with the glasses. I actually never learnt his name, I just called him "Cool-glasses")

He ran off the bus and into the hotel. approximately 40 seconds later he was back in the bus with his ticket in his hand and sweat on his brow. It was kind of amazing.

Our Rotary boss promptly fell asleep and we all laughed and sang all the way to the Illumination.

Ready to be amazed. Some cool Peter Rabbit stuff going on here.
So I had no idea what to expect here but I was absolutely blown away. It was basically a big park that was lit up with no less than a kajillion little lights. Breathtaking. My pictures can't do it justice.
Everyone's looking good!

In the "light tunnel"

Victoria, Brennan, Nobu and Cool-Glasses.

A cool but not so flattering angle haha
 It took ages to get this photo^^
This photo was planned out real good but not executed so well. No worries!

Got up close to the lights

A sea of light

This place was fust out of this world

Fun times in the tunnel

It stretched on for aaaaages!

Victoria and I jumped into a lot of stranger's photos for a laugh.
We were pretty well received most of the time haha

This was supposed to represent the Niagra falls and it was pretty amazing. A big waterfall of light

My Bro and I

The men of the group!

Niagra falls on the left, tons of lights to the right.

There were more tunnels!

Even the tree's were lit up

You couldn't find a place that wasn't tended to. The detail was awesome

These photos are courtesy of Logan, she had a better camera than I did

Cool stuff

(The leaves were fake...)

I got a good one of Nobu, though
We walked around just taking in the sights. I was in an odd mood, probably because I couldn't help but think about leaving. I was dreading it. It made me quite sad but then lights around me were just so beautiful. I wanted to cry a little bit, I was overwhelmed. 

But I had some awesome friends around me who made the night even more beautiful. We were there for ages but time just flew by.

Soon enough we were back on the bus, all slightly in awe. We got back to the hotel and played around for a while. Some of us went to the onsen, others napped and some others literally danced about.

It was truly a night not to be forgotten. As per usual, we all laughed until we were dead tired and then laughed some more. (And then hit the hay cos we were roller coastering tomorrow.)

So after not much sleep we all woke up early. And it was gonna be an awesome day. The sun was out and the energy was positive.

I went down to the onsen and ended up talking to a few random guys. It was quite cool. I ran through a shower and then came up for breakfast. I knew that I was going to be on roller coasters today so I ate light.

Ready for an adrenaline filled day!

First stop, the Steel Dragon. Just the world's longest roller coaster. It's pretty amazing

With wobbly legs we made our way over to something more tame

Nobu and Cool-Glasses back there are both deadly scared of heights and things like roller coasters so it was awesome to see them tackle their fears!
Inside this big ferris wheel 

Also from inside that big ferris wheel

There was a bunch of nothing out that way
Not so healthy food for lunch
But no more diet!!!! YAY!

It was funny at the time... Don't ask
It was a long day but it flew by. We went on so many roller coasters. It was crazy.
The day was almost over!
 Almost finished. I had a sore gut from some upside down boat thing.  Yuck. On top of that, the Rotary boss was driving me home. I've written about his driving before. This time I was hoping to keep my lunch down and also not die. We'll see how this trip goes.
One last cool group shot before we all drive off.
This was my last big Rotary trip. There will be one last big meeting in December and maybe a couple of smaller ones along the way. Time was running out... But like the rollercoasters, you don't zip around the track waiting for the excitement to end! (Some people might...) But rather, you zip around with your arms in the air screaming cos it's so much fin.

So I decided enjoy everyday, right up until I left. And then I thought, why stop there?

After a long, windy, fast and slow drive home, I was green and about ready to throw up whatever was in my stomach. I smiled and said thanks to the boss and went inside to recuperate.

I was in a bad way.I didn't have much dinner, I just had a shower and went straight to bed.

There was a prefectural kendo tournament the next day. I wasn't competing today but was just supporting.
Tons of people lined up, ready to smash each other on the head

Our banner is the the blue one on the far side

Only the top schools in the prefecture could enter this

This is our team!
Our team won their first round hands down. It was awesome. They were so close in the next round but couldn't get the win. The team they lost to won overall.

There was also an individual division and my best friend, Tenpei, was fighting there. He smashed his first round but came up against last year's champion in the second round. Once again, a close battle.

I saw some pretty amazing things in the finals though. There were four boys, one was quite tall and was making quite a name for himself. He had a very good tsuki. (Thrust... to the throat.)

He was cleaning up the competition one stab at a time but in this one round he missed the opponent's throat guard and I don't even know how but he literally took the other guys head gear off. The whole stadium was dumbstruck.

How is that even possible? It literally came right off the top of his head. I also saw someone's bamboo sword go through someone else's bamboo sword. What.

It was a long but interesting day. We all slept in the bus on the way home。The tension wasn't so high because everyone was so keen on winning. A feeling I knew pretty well. But these things happen, I know that everyone will get straight back to training.

Later in the week I was allowed to take a day off school for a very important reason.

It was my host niece's school performance/play!
My host niece is the little girl with dark hair

Far too cute!
I didn't really know what was going on most of the time but it was quite entertaining. It was pretty damn cute too.

We went out for lunch next, Italian!
I've never been to Italy but, Japan seems close enough
I pretty much know the stuff at this restaurant now. It's awesome!

Another night, the host nieces were around again. But this time it was for study! Kotoha, the older of the two, was trying to learn English numbers and for school they had to be able to count from 1 to 100. 

Now, for you and I, native English speakers, counting to 100 doesn't even take 100 seconds to do.

But tonight, we spent well over two hours counting. I know that I certainly learnt something. The English counting system is weird and difficult.

We seemed to trip up at 60 and 70, but we did get there eventually! It was pretty rewarding to hear her count all the numbers. I definitely want to be a teacher, it's pretty good fun.
Beniha and I chilling out

Beniha is on Kotoha's back, who is on my host sister, Hinano's back

working away
I've been so busy that I didn't realise that I was moving host families within a week. Crazy.

At school I was working through some tough grammar with my teacher and then helping out with the English class. It's good fun !

My buddy, Tenpei's little brother had a small kendo tournament on the weekend so I went and supported. I met Tenpei's Mum, (I've met her a bunch of times now) and I also met his Dad. (Who was the staunchest man I've ever seen.)
Tenpei's bro, Shinpei, is on the right (I think)

It was a very very close fight.
Shinpei lost and he took it pretty hard. We said he did well, cos he certainly did.

Plot twist: Shinpei has a broken thumb. It was well broken since before the fight and probably wasn't any better now.

I talked to his Dad and said how amazing it was that Shinpei fought, regardless of his injury. And his Dad said: "It's no excuse."

I was a little surprised. That's hard. But, Tenpei is the strongest kendo fighter I've come across and I reckon that Shinpei will turn out that way too. These guys live for training. It's awesome.

My host family and I went out for dinner, cos it was our last night together. We went out for eel!
This is eel liver, apparently.

Beni being Beni


More eel!

The Mukaino family
 After dinner, we went to pay the bill. But there were three foreigners trying to communicate with the staff. So I stepped in and gave a hand ! It was really cool.

After that, host Dad and I split from the group and went off wandering.
We found ourselves in this pub!
 The man running this pub was the funniest guy ever and I pretty much got myself a job here. (So if schooling in New Zealand doesn't go so well, you know where to find me.)

We had a bit more food and some other stuff too. It was an awesome night.
Then we found ourselves at that spicy noodle place!
That guy is wiping his brow, it's so spicy!

I got the hottest on the menu.
And it was pretty damn hot.

But it was amazing. I even ate the egg!
 We walked home and both fell asleep in the lounge. It was an awesome night. I'm really going to miss these times.

The next day I woke up and my hip hurt a little bit. I assumed it was from overdoing it on the leg-press machine at the gym the other day.

I got to cleaning my room and packing my bag. Oh dear.
Look at this mess!
It didn't take so long though. I got it all packed, changed into my formal wear and said my farewells. This time flew by. 

Host Mum and Dad drove me to my next host family, which was literally two minutes down the road. (And around a few corners.)

I've already met my last host Mum a bunch of times so it wasn't an awkward greeting at all.

I held back tears and hugged my old hosts goodbye and with that, I was on the last leg of the journey.

New room! 
 I got changed and then we went out for dinner. We had keichan, a local dish that I absolutely love.
After that we went to the onsen. It was a nice night.

And that was the month of November. It was a long and busy month but it was so much fun. 

But I still can't figure out what I'm feeling. I'm coming to grips with the fact that I'll be going home all too soon. At this point there is only about 40 days left. 

What happened? I swear I just got here. I swear I was just "40 days in." 

I can speak fluent Japanese now, I don't even get the chance to use my English so much. I feel that I live here permanently. 

It's starting to get real cold though, snow is on the way! 

If you've read this far, well done! I had no access to the internet when I arrived at my last home and if you have indeed read this entire post, you'll know that I was both too tired and too busy to write my blog when I was at my 5th family. 

I am truly sorry that it's taken so long to get this written. I'm not sure how long it'll take but I'm going to write one more post (probably as big as this one, cos December and January were massive) about my last 40 or so days in Japan. 

Cheers for reading, (thanks, even if you just looked at the pictures! haha)

Until next time

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