It was such a pleasurable day yesterday coaching Oliver in his first middle school basketball game. Sports are not a true passion of his, but he does have fun playing basketball and goes out for the team because I want to spend time with him. He scored six points in his debut and we had quality time together the whole day. Not much more I could ask for on a gray, rainy day in late October. His team, the middle school “B” squad dominated the Nagoya International School Dolphins and won easily.
I get much satisfaction coaching young people, teaching them the fundamentals of the sport and giving advice on how to improve, both physically and mentally. It is an added bonus to get to spend time with my children at the same time. We are both looking forward to the rest of the season.
I managed to get out before the rains came and went for a nice long bike ride in the Meiji no Mori Minoh quasi-National Park. Scenes of autumn were everywhere on this cool, damp, gray morning. Most of the rice has been harvested. The farmers hang the straw on poles in their fields. I am not sure what they do with it. The straw can be feed for livestock or plowed back in the fields.
I am eating several kaki (persimmons) per day, as this is the season. We eat them like apples although most people do not eat the skins. They are quite common in Japan and you can buy a dozen for $3.00 in the local supermarket.
It rained for the rest of the day today. A typhoon is coming on Monday so steady rain for the next couple days. It has been a rainy autumn so far, not cold, but wet.
I snapped this photograph on my bike ride this afternoon. The rice fields are yellow which means they are ready to harvest. The scarecrows are keeping the crows out of the fields. The government subsidizes rice growers so there are lots of fields scattered throughout our city of Minoh.
Last weekend we went to Umenahana (Plum Blossom Flower) Restaurant. They specialize in tofu and have a very traditional decor as you can see in the hallway above. Inside the rooms are low tables with extra space under the floor. A meal comes in about 10 small courses. A very nice experience, especially for guests. It is located near the Senri Chuo train station.
Ocean had a mini art exhibition on Wednesday. The assignment was to create two art pieces and compose a piece of music with Garage Band that matched the mood of the piece. They are learning about how media can be used to persuade people. The work above is called “The Hope” and the piece of music evoked feelings of awe and hope in me. She is so artistic.
Finally, Owen and I went for a long bike ride last weekend and ended up riding along the Senrigawa River which is right next to the Itami International Airport.
Japan has a great idea with making the second Monday in October, the national holiday of Sports & Health (体育の日). The goal of the day is to promote an active and healthy lifestyle. Through physical exercise, not only is physical health promoted but mental health as well. A good physical workout always helps my mood and happiness.
The holiday started in 1964 with the start of the Tokyo Summer Olympics. Schools in Japan honor the day with 運動会 undokai, a gigantic field day. It is like a mini-Olympics with all sorts of athletic events and even a dance competition.
It was a perfect day with blue skies and temperatures in the low 80s, unseasonably warm for mid-October. Oliver was all over the event playing Harry Potter in the house dance, running the relay race and being part of the mukade (centipede race). Owen loves ultimate frisbee and his grade 9 team beat the seniors. On the elementary level it is much less competitive and Ocean did all the activities in the pool and on the athletic field.
Even Nadia got into the act by joining the faculty tug-of-war team that defeated the grade 12 students. I was the master of ceremonies for the elementary field play in the morning, led the parade and judged the MS performances.
More countries should adopt Sports & Health Day as a national holiday. All of us in the age of smartphones and the internet could be active and need encouragement. A big thank you to Steve L. for the photos!
I am coaching elementary soccer again this year and love working with my daughter Ocean. It is a great way to get to spend time with her and we are making a bond with each other through sports. Yesterday the school teams participated in a futsal (5-a-side soccer) tournament in neighboring Kobe, Japan. The games were moved indoors due to weather but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the day.
Ocean is a pretty good athlete, coordinated with pretty good speed, agility, and strength. She does need to develop “the eye of the tiger” however, and her caring, compassionate personality carries over onto the sports field. Her classmates are similar as they are such a nice, intelligent group of young people, but they do not have a burning passion for a competitive sport. However, they are learning the important things through participating in a team sport. Improving their fundamentals of the game, learning the strategies of the sport, working together and being able to handle winning and losing. These are the important life lessons to experience through team sport and they are all champions in this aspect.
Her team won 1 game and lost three, the last in penalty kicks, but for me and Ocean, the goal of the day was to enjoy each other’s company and the camaraderie of her teammates in a competitive activity. Our season continues all this month and then we wait for baseball in the spring.
I spent two days in Sendai, the largest city in the northern part of Honshu, the main island of Japan. I was attending a school meeting so really didn’t get a chance to explore much of the city. The region is known as Tohoku and is famous for the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. As you can see in the photo above, the city airport, located near the coast, had a 3-meter wall of water sweep through it. The central part of the city is much further inland and at a higher elevation, so people were safe there and the tsunami only reached about 5 kilometers inland from the airport.
After living in Osaka, Sendai, despite being a city of a million people, felt small. It had a nice vibe to it with a compact downtown. We went to dinner at a trendy restaurant in the city center. The hotel was connected to a golf club (Joytel Hotel) and right next to it was this massive statue of a Buddhist goddess. It was the biggest statue I have ever seen, dwarfing the Cristo statues in Bolivia that are similar to the more famous Jesus statue in Rio de janeiro. It depicts the Buddhist goddess Guanyin, who is known for her compassion and mercy. When it was completed in 1991, it was the largest statue in the world, but today it ranks #6.
There is a small international school near the hotel and it had some nice forested hills surrounding it. The hiking and beaches must be really nice, so for an outdoors person, it would be a nice place to live.
I watched videos of the tsunami here in Sendai and in Tohoku and am still awed by the power of the earth. What a tragedy and incredible natural phenomenon. My heart goes out to the people who died or lost loved ones.
There is a lot to see in Japan so I am not sure if I will ever be back here, but it is a very pleasant place.
Last week Ocean we celebrated Ocean’s tenth birthday. She invited some of her friends to a sleepover. The girls slept in a tent in our tatami room, watched movies, played hide and seek in the house, did their nails, etc. All had a lot of fun, even Oliver, who joined in most of the activities.
She is such a sweetheart and it was special to see her so happy. My wife Nadia did a really nice job in making the event special for her daughter. Thank you!
I can’t believe ten years have passed since her birth. Happy birthday, Ocean, we love you!