Archive for the Off Hours Category

Smoking or Non-Smoking?

For those of you who have never been to Japan, Japan is a beautiful place that’s rich with culture.  The food is good and the people are respectful and nice.  However, having grown up in the Bay Area, I’ve been having a difficult time adjusting to all the cigarette smoking that people do in public.  Most restaurants have smoking and non-smoking sections but all the smoke inevitably wifts into the non-smoking sections.  In restaurants that do not separate smokers from non-smokers, people are left to deal with second-hand smoking.  It’s definitely much worse than eating in a vegas casino because restaurants are smaller and there are no places for the smoke to escape.

Apparently more than 30 million people smoke in Japan, making it one of the world’s largest tabacco markets (I usually get my sources from wikipedia unless I’m doing a research paper).  It’s interesting for me to compare the daily lives of the Japanese to those where I grew up in the Bay.  There are no “Truth” commercials and billboard ads that tell people to stop smoking like we see in the US.  On the other hand, I’ve been seeing a lot of ads to help make Japan more eco-friendly, like recycling and using fuel efficient machines and vehicles…this is a good thing.  However, I find all of this interesting because people here are making a lot of effort to protect the environment but not themselves.

I wonder if people will continue to smoke as much as they do or if it’ll ever slow down.  Definitely hoping that it’ll slow down.  Japan will become much more “beautiful” if it does, and it’ll help the health of many people!

Pictures from Tokyo

As I’m writing this, I’m thinking of all the people that are shopping right now for Black Friday sales.  Bummer that I’m not there considering there were a lot of stuff that I wanted to buy!  Can’t complain though because I’m having a good time in Japan.  I’ve been busy but I’m making sure that I’m soaking in all the new experiences.

Just wanted to share some of the pictures I took while I was out in Tokyo last week:

The competition hall for the All Japan Championships

Yoyogi National Gymnasium is in Tokyo and was built for the Summer Olympics in 1964.  Notice the shape of the roof…it’s very Japanese.  The architecture of the arena was beautiful.

Inside of the arena

Yes, it’s very green but I personally think that Senoh (name of Japanese equipment maker) makes the best equipment in terms of level of comfort and quality.

Xmas lights in Tokyo

Christmas starts early in Japan because there’s no Thanksgivings.  I don’t think they really eat turkey either…

Tsukiji Marketplace

Tsukiji is the biggest seafood market in the world and it’s right in Central Tokyo.  All the action happens early in the morning as people from restaraunts go there to buy fresh fish for the day.  However, it’s a big tourist spot and there were still a lot of people when I got there around noon.  The fish I had there was incredible!

Plastic Sushi

They’re not edible because they’re plastic.  In Japan, a lot of restaraunts display the different dishes they serve so that people looking to eat can see what the food is like.  I visited an area in Tokyo that is almost entirely populated by restaraunt supply shops, Kappabashi-dori.

Carving of a Gymnast on Gorin-Bashi (Olympic Bridge)

The small bridge is right outside of Harajuku station and right by Yoyogi National Gymnasium.  I’m assuming the bridge was built when the Olympics took place in 1964.  Shows how much gymnastics has been a big part of sports in Japan, in the past and even today.

Happy Thanksgivings!

Being in Japan, I totally forgot about Thanksgivings!  After all, I came here in the middle of October but the Japanese went from Halloween decorations straight to Christmas lights.

It’s a bummer that I’m missing Thanksgivings but I’ve been able to experience a lot of great things out here.

There are many things that I am thankful for this year but one of the most important is the support I’ve been getting throughout my “come-back” process.  Thank you all for the words of support and for continuing to check in.  Happy Thanksgivings!

All Japan Championships (Day Two & Three)

All Japan concluded the other day and I’ve gotta say that the competition was very exciting.

The second day, which was the team championships ended up being a close battle between Konami and Japan Sports Science University (Nittaidai).  Konami is a team full of veterans that has former Olympic and World Championship members.  However, Nittaidai is young and fearless team, and one of their  members is Kohei Uchimura, the reigning world champion.  The win could’ve gone to either team but the last guy on Konami (Koji Uematsu) hit a huge high bar set to clinch the title.  His high bar set was definitely one of the most difficult sets I’ve ever seen but the guy nailed it clean (he was fourth in the event finals with a fall).  The university that I’m training at, Juntendo University, ended up in fourth.  It was a good meet overall, and fourth place among all the good teams was not a bad finish at all.

As for event finals, there were several highlights.  First of all, the college gymnasts almost swept the entire meet.  They won 5 out of the 6 events (minus high bar, which Hisashi Mizutori won).  In particular I was impressed with the difficult vaults that the Japanese gymnasts were doing.  There were several double-twisting kasamatsu’s (Lopez), and front handspring 5/2 twists (Yeo II).  As always I thought that Kohei had a nice floor routine.  He definitely changed it up a bit since world championships by adding a couple of new passes.  One of them was a back 3/2 to a front 1/3 with a full twist.  He also hit a strong parallel bars and high bar set.  The Japanese seemed to be raising their start values on pommel horse as well.

In general I was really impressed by the depth of the Japanese program.  It was a great learning experience for me to be able to watch the competition and definitely something useful during my recovery period.  All in all I had a great time at the meet and seeing a bunch of my friends!  I had a great time traveling around Tokyo as well.

Now that I’m back from the meet, it’s time for me to get back to business.  I’m slowly working my way towards doing some real gymnastics.  I can’t wait to train full speed!

All Japan Championships (Day One)

Just a quick report from day one of All Japan (Event Preliminaries). 

I have to make this quick though because I am on my friend’s computer (I didn’t bring my own laptop so pictures will follow later also).

  • On floor there was a high-schooler that qualified first into finals.  He did a beautiful layout full-out to front one and three. He ended with a stuck double layout. 
  • Pommel horse seemed to be a tough event for everyone but it was clear that everyone was trying to raise the bar.  Guys were challenging difficult routines in order to raise their start scores.  The highlight was seeing several of the Juntendo (the university I’m training at) make it into finals.
  • I didn’t get to watch too much of rings but from the looks of it they seemed to be scoring pretty hard.  A good routine wouldn’t score so high.  It seemed like they were really strict on the time held on strength elements and positions.  It was almost like guys who would do easier routines with perfect form scored higher than guys that did difficult routines.
  • There were a bunch of strong vaults.  The highlight was definitely seeing my “teammate” Go Tagashira hit both of his 17.0 vaults.  He did a Lopez (Kasamatsu with two twists) and a Yeo II (handspring front layout with 2.5 twists).  He qualified first into finals. 
  • Parallel bars and high bar is by far the strongest for the Japanese.  People were raising the bar and increasing their start values.  Lots of peach-full turns being performed on the p-bars.  There were several routines on high bar that I thought were amazing.  Hisashi (Mizutori) performed a routine with a layed-out kolman, and normal kolman, and all of the above.  Kohei (Uchimura) added some difficulty to his routine also by adding a tak-full to a yamawaki. 

Pretty amazing stuff!  I’m excited about event finals on Sunday but before that is team finals tomorrow.  That should definitely be a fierce battle.

Aside from gymnastics, I’ve been able to sightsee a little.  It was cold in Tokyo but at least it wasn’t raining.  Hopefully this clear weather continues!

Men's Rhythmic Gymnastics

Yes, it exists in Japan.

I’ve known about it for a while (my dad’s alma mater had a strong program for a long time) but this is the first time I’ve come across this video.

It’s the group from Aomori University but I’m not sure what competition this is from.

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It’s an amazing display of artistry and athleticism!

Training Update

I’ve just hit the four month mark since my surgery.  That said, I’ve started doing some new things like jumping on top of things and jumping down.  I’ve started jogging as well, which will help with the strengthening of my leg tremendously.  However, what’s more important is that I’ve been cleared to start doing some very (I mean very) basic stuff on some of the events.  I just have to be careful when doing things in order to minimize the risk of falling. because falling will be bad news.

Today was a pretty exciting day because I just did my first giants on high bar since surgery.  Of course it’s one of the most basic skill in gymnastics, but I have to admit that it felt a little strange.  My hands are also super soft from not swinging for four months so I have to be careful not to overdo it. Doing so will lead to torn up hands, which I don’t want!  All of my joints feel a bit stiff also.  It’s not that I haven’t been training (I’ve been doing conditioning everyday) but it just goes to show that gymnastics-related movements uses a bunch of different muscles.

Nevertheless, I can tell that things are progressing!


I’ve been in Japan for almost a month and I’ve been noticing a lot of interesting things here and there.

One interesting thing is that they start decorating for Christmas really early.  A lot of the illuminations around town started right after Halloween.  It’s crazy that Christmas decorations are up for two months before the actual day.  It’s also interesting to see how big Christmas is here given that the majority of the people here do not celebrate Christmas religiously.  Christmas is also mainly celebrated between couples rather than family members so there’s another big difference between here and the States.


Christmas in Japan

I’ve also noticed that I haven’t had one bad meal since I’ve been here.  Everything is delicious.  It doesn’t matter if I’m eating Japanese, Chinese, or western food.  I assume that a lot of this has to do with the fact that there is so much competition between restaurants.  There are restaurants everywhere here.  Therefore they need to make sure that what they serve is quality stuff if they want to stay in business.  I can also tell that they have a lot of pride for what they serve not only because of the taste but also because of the presentation of the food they serve.  It doesn’t matter if I’m at a fancy place or a family restaurant.  I’m noticing more and more that they really devote to the perfection of whatever they pursue (not just in restaurants but elsewhere else as well).  The best part of all this is that service is excellent.  They’re always attentive and they always treat their customers with respect.  Treating their customers this way is standard and they don’t take tips.  In fact, the other day I forgot and I left some extra money on the table.  When I left the restaurant, the waitress ran out to give me back the money I left.


Dishes from a Japanese restaurant

I’m also enjoying the public baths here.  I know it may sound a little strange to a lot of people but it’s normal here and part of the Japanese culture.  I grew up with this so none of this is strange for me either.  Of course the baths are separated by gender but these places have a number of large baths from cold plunges, to ones that bubble, to ones outside.  It’s very relaxing and it is a good way to get rid of aches and pains after training.  In fact I went last night with my friends on the team.  Apparently they always go several days before a competition, and as I’ve said before, All Japan Championships is this weekend!


All Japan Championships (Preview)

All Japan Championships is next weekend!  I’m excited to see the best gymnasts in Japan battle it out.  However, there will be no all-around competition this time around but only individual events and team.  Nevertheless it’ll be awesome to watch as there are many good individual event specialists in Japan, as well as strong teams.

Speaking of the team competition, it’ll be a 6-3-3 format where 3 of the best guys from each team will compete and all 3 scores will count.  It’ll definitely be nerve wracking as there is no room for error but exciting to see who comes out on top.  Another interesting aspect of this competition is that, a couple of the best high school teams will also participate.  In Japan, a lot of kids leave their home for other prefectures in order to train at high schools with strong gym programs. If only it was like this in the US (I know it used to be like this…).

The competition will obviously include the best college programs including Juntendo University (the university where I’m currently training at) and company sponsored teams.  There are several company sponsored teams throughout Japan and they are comprised of gymnasts who have graduated from college (and  also who have built a reputation for themselves) and want to train full-time.  Konami (the video game company for those who think it sounds familiar) has some great gymnasts as well as Tokushukai (a medical/pharmaceutical company) that has guys that competed in the Olympics like Takuya Nakase and Hisashi Mizutori.  These company sponsored teams shows how much support elite gymnasts have in Japan, and it makes me wish that the US had a similar system.

Anyway, I’ve already got the tickets and looking forward to the competition.  I’m excited to see my friends as well as go tour the city of Tokyo while I’m out there!

Athletic Trainers in Japan

Last night I had a great time seeing an old friend of mine.  She was actually an athletic trainer for the women’s gym team for one year during my sophomore year.  She came all the way out (2 hours) to the university to visit me during training.

Speaking of athletic trainers, I’ve learned that most universities in Japan do not have personal athletic trainers for each athletic team.  On the other hand, most or all NCAA teams in the US has a trainer that assists during practices and travel with the team for competitions.  I think it’s great that we have such a strong support system in the US but at the same time, I think that it works against us because we get spoiled and start to rely on it too much.  Because the Japanese don’t have athletic trainers (they exist but you have to go to a clinic) on hand at all times, they need to think more about what they’re doing in terms of training, body condition, etc.  I’ve realized that they’re more in tune with their own bodies as they don’t have trainers monitor everything.  In other words, this type of situation makes them train smarter, making them much more responsible as athletes/people.  I also felt similarly when I learned that they clean their own training environment twice a week…they take care of what is their own.

It’s a different culture but I’m definitely learning a lot of good things!