Jishin! Jishin!



I learned the word for earthquake in Japanese yesterday in dramatic fashion. My cell phone and others around me suddenly started buzzing around 2:00 PM with the word jishin and some other instructions I did not understand. It was the advanced warning system here in Japan and it gave us a few seconds to take cover to protect ourselves from an earthquake. I don’t know how they do it, but it provided me a surreal moment, waiting for the anticipated shaking and possible destruction. I froze a bit, but not out of fear but out of excitement and anticipation of the experience. I didn’t go fully under the desk because I wanted to see what would happen. The shaking started slowly and then I could feel the entire building swaying slowly back and forth. A strange sensation!

The epicenter was 11 kilometers deep and around 300 kilometers away from us. Minoh is approximately where the arrow is and the epicenter is the red “x” in the Tottori prefecture. It is one of our favorite vacation spots with mountains and sand dunes. The intensity measured 6 shindo (degree of shaking)on the Japanese earthquake measuring scale which is slightly different from the Richter scale. I would say it was between a 3 and 4 in Minoh, our suburb of Osaka.

Everyone handled the emergency well and were calm and took shelter under a desk or table at school. After the shaking stopped, we checked the NHK news and upon finding out it was far away, we resumed classes as normal.

I won’t forget the experience nor the word, jishin. 


Ollie & Ocean’s Soccer Teams


We had a great day yesterday at the annual Falcon Cup soccer tourney on Rokko Island. My friend Trevor and I coached the teams this year. We took 34 elementary students making up 6 teams. With tears, shouts of joy, wins, losses through 25 games (14 wins) the student-athletes enjoyed the day.

oliver goal

Oliver’s team had some tough luck in the knockout rounds, losing in penalty kicks after dominating play in the first game and in the second game, they lost 2-1 on a penalty kick. They were placed in the bottom-8 tourney (22 teams total) and played through and won that group in an exciting penalty kick final. (video below). Oliver had a lot of goals including the two in the videos in this post.


Ocean played her first competitive soccer games. She scored 6 goals in her games, including the lone goal in the third/fourth place game which the team lost 2-1.  Ocean is excited to play soccer and joined the after school club at the school. I am very happy that she likes sports!

oliver penalty kick


Happy Health and Sports Day!


One of my favorite holidays in Japan is the national “health and sports” day. It commemorates the opening day of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics . Two years later is was made a national holiday and is celebrated on the second Monday in October. The purpose of the day is to promote an active, healthy lifestyle. What a great idea! Every country should have a day like this. Most businesses are closed and the weather in mid-October is usually really nice which is conducive to doing something active outdoors.


Schools in Japan hold a sort of sports carnival on this day or a weekend close to it. As you can see in the photos in this post, Ocean and Oliver enjoyed our school’s sports day. They played water polo in the morning and field / athletic events in the afternoon. Owen participated in the middle school events, including winning the obstacle course. The day was marked by dance performances, picnics and music.

Owen rounds third in a recent baseball game

Thanks to Steve Lewis for the photos of my children being active!

An interesting side note, the 1964 Tokyo Olympics were held in October to avoid the rainy season and humid summers that are typical of the islands of Japan. The 2020 Olympics do not do this, starting July 24 and running until August 9.


WJAA Champions!

Owen rounds third (photo S. Lewis)

Owen’s middle school baseball team finished the season again undefeated with a 4-1 victory of Sons of the Light International Christian School yesterday in the finals of the Western Japan Athletic Association tournament. In the finals, Owen played centerfield and scored one of the four runs. His friend Euan, pitched a 2-hitter complete game, and had a perfect game going into the last inning. The Senri & Osaka International School Sabers have now taken four consecutive middle school boys baseball titles and the past two years went undefeated. They haven’t lost a game since 2014.


Earlier in the day, Owen pitched a complete game in the semifinals against Canadian Academy, allowing only one run. He had a great season and really enjoyed baseball. He also follows MLB and NPB so I think I’ve done my part to create a lifelong baseball fan. Basketball starts next week so expect some more blog posts.


Beautiful Ocean

Ocean with Lilian – showing off her new bag

Ocean turned 9 years old last week and her main gift was a sewing machine. Thanks to OIS art teacher Jennifer Henbest, who introduced the students to sewing, (thanks Jen!) Ocean developed an interest in sewing. She has always been very creative and loves making projects with her hands. Ocean always has something going, whether is be using cardboard, paint, tape, etc. She has been begging us for a sewing machine so it was wonderful to see the look on her face when I brought it in the house. (video here) Lilian Tsubaki pictured with Ocean above, showed her how to use the machine and she made her first bag.

Ocean invited some friends over for a sleepover last weekend. They had a good time going to the park, watching movies, opening gifts, eating pizza, etc. She is such a good little girl and it is such a privilege to watch a little girl grow up. It is obvious, but girls are so much different than boys and I enjoyed watching her opening the gifts, commenting on the wrapping and cards, etc.


Owen’s team wins again!

Owen’s middle school baseball season is coming to an end with the Western Japan Athletic Association (WJAA) next week. In their last game of the regular season yesterday, they defeated Canadian Academy of Kobe, 13-0. They finished the regular season undefeated for the second straight year. Hopefully they will finish undefeated but one never knows with baseball. They do have the best team in the league, being solid in every position, unlike the other WJAA teams.

Owen was the starting pitcher yesterday and pitched 6 innings with 9 strikeouts and allowing no hits. The competition is not very good, but he did pitch well, cutting down his walks, varying up the speed of his pitches and allowing the fielders to make plays. Everyone in Japan has decent baseball skills, especially the seventh graders of our sister school, Senri I.S. The student-athletes are totally into baseball, from being “locked-in” on the bench giving vocal support, to knowing where to throw the force out, to popping the hips and turning on balls while hitting and scoring runs. Youth baseball in Japan is played with rubber-covered balls for safety and combined with the artificial turf surface, balls bounce quite a bit. A “chopper” grounder sometimes turns into a base hit.

The opposing pitcher was having control problems. As you can see in the video above, Owen didn’t want to walk and so swung at a ball over his head. Fortunately it was a line drive up the middle that drove in two runs.

His friend Euan pitched the seventh and allowed 1 hit, missing the combined no-hitter. It was a ball hit off the end of the bat that rolled back to the pitcher and I think the umpire was being kind to the opposition, who were getting badly beat. Anyway, the team played extremely well and most importantly, enjoyed a morning of baseball. I will certainly miss the middle baseball games next year. You can go to our family YouTube channel (link) to see more highlights from the game.

Owen Stars in Victory

Owen’s school team, the Senri & Osaka International Schools Sabers defeated the Canadian Academy Falcons 10-3 yesterday. In the video above, Owen hits a ground rule double over the head of the left fielder. He played first base and pitched the final three innings in relief. An interesting side note, the Canadian Academy pitcher is the son of former MLB player, So Taguchi, who is also a graduate of Kwansei Gakuin University. Besides winning a World Series with the Saint Louis Cardinals, he was a teammate of Ichiro Suzuki on the Orix Buffaloes and he is a from Nishinomiya.

In the Western Japan Athletic Association, the balls have a rubber cover for safety, but combined with the artificial turf, one sees many high bounces. Owen’s team is still undefeated heading into the last two weeks of the season. There is a really good group of grade 7 players on the Sabers MS team this year. The Japanese players are so fundamentally sound. It is like Serbian basketball, it seems like everyone naturally knows how to play the game because baseball is so popular in Japan. They really made some good plays in the field and it separates us from the other teams in the WJAA.

Owen plays first base and pitcher