Archive for the Off Hours Category

Random Pics From Various Places


Entrance to the university

It’s actually a pretty steep incline but I see it as good exercise for my knee.  Sometimes I have to go up and down several times a day because I have a lot of time between class and practice.


Kimchi & Cheese Flavored Cup Noodle

No joke.  I bought it at the supermarket the other day.  I was reluctant to try it but it wasn’t all that bad.  Interesting combo though…


Part of the Gym

It’s where champions are made…literally.  Olympic gold medalists like Hiroyuki Tomita, Takehiro Kashima, and Isao Yoneda came out of this place, as well as other Olympians.  It’s a privilege to be training at this gym with awesome athletes and coaches.


Humongous Buddha!

The Ushiku Daibutsu.  My friends and I saw it from the highway on our way to watch the “Freshmen Championships.”  The statue is huge!  You might not be able to tell from the picture but the little hazy thing by the left hand is an electric tower.  The Buddha is the tallest statue in Japan and the third largest in the world at 394 feet tall (got my facts from wikipedia).  Pretty amazing!


Mercedes-Benz McLaren

I really liked it so I bought it…ok just kidding.  No way I can afford a half-million dollar car but I saw it at a famous audio shop in Chiba Prefecture. Apparently there’s only a handful in Japan.  I’d be way too afraid to drive such an expensive car especially in the narrow streets of Japan!

Go Go Godzilla!

It’s already been several days since the Yankees won the World Series but the news about Matsui’s MVP is still buzzing in Japan.

The fact that he has made such a big name for himself in the US is really awesome.  It makes me proud to be a Japanese (Japanese-American) athlete in the US.  But more importantly, I find the win inspiring because he had some rough and flat years with injuries for a while.  Like Matsui, I’m hoping to recover from my knee injury and get back in action!



"Freshmen Championships"

I was at the “Freshmen Championships” with my gym friends in Ibaraki Prefecture (about 2 hours drive from where I am) just yesterday.  Naturally I rooted for Juntendo University because it’s where I currently train but I did have friends at other participating universities as well.  The competition was interesting, and was a close race until the end.  Juntendo was down by 2 points behind Japan Sports Science University (aka Nittaidai – home of Kohei Uchimura), however Juntendo’s last event was high bar (a good event for the team), while Nittaidai finished on pommel horse (a relatively low scoring event).  These two teams were in a league of their own, just going head-to-head.  Unfortunately, some costly mistakes kept Juntendo from taking the lead.  Nevertheless it was an exciting competition and it was great to see some familiar faces inluding Kohei (Uchimura).  It was also a good chance for me to get away from campus and to just hang out with my friends from school. 

The next competition for these guys is the All Japan Championships.  All Japan should be intense and it’ll be a big reunion for sure.  Can’t wait to see my old friends!

Learning to Drive (in Japan)

The last few days have been pretty busy for me.  Spent some time at the DMV to get a Japanese driver’s license.  The process is rather tedious though because I have to go in and take several tests before I can officially get it. To make things difficult, the roads are narrow and traffic laws are a bit different.  There are more people on the roads and tons traffic lights.  The fact that the driver’s side is on the right makes driving a little more confusing.  I also need to make sure that I turn into the right lane and don’t go head-on into traffic (they drive on the left side of the road).  In fact, a lot of Japanese people I know in the States said they’ve turned into the wrong lane by accident!


Driving in Japan

As far as training, I’ve been continuing with what I’ve been doing.  Rehab has been progressing smoothly also.  I see the PT every Wednesday at a location about 45 minutes from where I live.  The facility is great and the person in charge was a former gymnast so I’m in good hands.

The rehab facility from the outside

The rehab facility from the outside

This weekend will be pretty busy.  I’ll be going to the “freshmen” championships in Ibaraki which is about a 2-hour drive.  I’ll be going with a buddy from the gym, Koki Sakamoto, who was on the Olympic team in 2008.  Seeing the freshmen go head to head should make the competition very interesting to watch!

Played Tourist

Since I had a day off from gym today, my teammates and I decided that it would be fun to visit the city of Tokyo.  Luckily one of my friends had a car so he drove us there (about an hour from the university).  We started the day off by visiting the Meiji Shrine.  The cool thing about these places is that it’s very historical and the architectures are so intricate.  For those of you who have never been, we usually cleanse our hands with purified water before entering.  It’s also custom to throw in a 5-yen coin (equivalent to about 5 cents) into a large box in front of the shrine before we put our hands together to make a wish.   This custom is also thought to bring good luck and to ward off evil spirits.


One of the Torii (gates) to the Shrine


Meiji Shrine

Unfortunately, it seemed as though I didn’t pray hard enough as I was met with an evil spirit at my next stop.  Ok, I’m kidding but this girl we saw in the city definitely looked like she came straight out of a comic book.  Who knows, maybe she got mixed up and forgot that Halloween was the day before…


She might need a haircut soon...

But no, one will see many people in costumes on the streets of Tokyo even on normal days.  Don’t know where this ‘culture’ started but it’ll be interesting to learn about the origin.  A quick research on the internet may help solve the puzzle.

Anyway we used the rest of the day to walk around and look around in a lot of shops.  Too bad for me, everything was super expensive and the exchange rate from dollars to yen is no good.  Either way, it was fun to have had the opportunity to hang out with my friends and to window shop.  Plus, whenever you go to Tokyo it always feels like you step into a different universe.  The place is always crowded with tons of interesting people like the one mentioned above.  Regardless, today was an adventure-filled day and I had a lot of fun playing tourist in the capital of Japan!


Busy street of Harajuku

Supersize Me?

Met with a doc yesterday to get my knee checked out.  Apparently, surgical techniques for ACLs are much more advanced in the US because he was really surprised with my progress at 3-months post-op.  From what I heard, it generally takes about a year for an athlete who had their surgery in Japan to come back from an ACL tear but athletes in the US generally take only 6 months.  When I heard this I felt very lucky that I had my surgery in the US!  Anyway, we talked about some rehab options and decided that I will visit the clinic once a week to do my exercises there while I continue to do what I’ve been doing in the gym on the other days.

After, my appointment I went straight back to the university for my training.  Actually, I had to stop by a Burger King on the way back because I was really hungery (I know it’s bad but it was the only quick food I could find on my way back).  People who have not visited may be surprised to find that there is a drink that is smaller than a standard ‘small’ in the US.  A person who have never visited Japan probably has never seen a drink so small (on the left), but this is in fact a standard ‘small’ in Japan.  On the right is actually a medium!  Yes, portions in Japan are starting to increase but some things continue to be less than that of the US.


L - 'small' size, R - 'medium' size

Anyway, tomorrow is our day off from gym.  I’ll be visiting the big city, Tokyo, with some friends from school.  It should be fun as Tokyo is home to a bunch of interesting things!

Light Day!

Today was a light practice day at the gym so I spent my time stretching and doing basic conditioning.  Same went for the guys training at the university.  Unlike the US, the competitive season for these guys are in the summer/fall, therefore a lot of the members in the gym are getting ready to compete at some big meets.  The freshmen are gearing up to compete at a “freshmen championships.”  This is something that we don’t have in the States but it’s a competition where a team of freshmen will go up against other freshmen teams from other universities.  On the other hand, the older guys are preparing for the Japanese National Championships, which will take place in late November.

The atmosphere in the gym has been pretty intense because of these upcoming meets but it was nice to have a light day today to heal up.

Anyway, I’m off to see a doc here in Japan about my knee.  Things are coming along and I’m anxious to see what he’s going to have me doing in terms of exercises!

Halloween – Japanese Style

Halloween is right around the corner and I’ve realized that even Japanese people celebrate it.  I heard that there will be a bunch of people in costumes, especially in big cities.  However, I heard that kids don’t go trick-or-treating for candy.  What’s the fun in Halloween without candies?  Anyway, thought this was another example of how much Japan is “Americanizing.”  Pretty interesting…

Hallowee decoration at the mall

Halloween decoration at the mall


Went on a Costco run the other day to get some living supplies.  When I stepped inside, I was surprised by how much American products they carried.  It was like I never left the States.  It’s crazy how much Japan is influenced by the US.  I can pretty much get anything American (food, movies, etc) at Japanese stores.  Even food portions are starting to grow.  I can’t tell if this is a good thing or a bad thing but I can definitely see the effects of globalization.  I just hope that the Japanese don’t lose their identity because I think that that is what makes them special.

Costco Run!

Some Observations

The last few days of training were good.  Typhoon “Lupit” is passing by so it’s pretty rainy/windy here but good thing is that we’re always indoors.  In the gym I’m continuing my rehab and conditioning workouts and those are coming along as usual.  I’ve also been able to watch the Japanese guys train so I’ve been able to learn a whole lot that way as well.

One thing that I’ve learned is that they don’t take as many turns as most gymnasts in the US.  However, each turn is done with a purpose.  They put in 100% every time they go up and rarely take any “wasteful” turns.  It’s smart way to train because it takes a whole lot of stress off the body.  These guys also “self-coach.”  Instead of asking the coach after every turn, they take some time to think about what they did and try and fix it.  I think that this is a great method because it allows the athletes to understand their own gymnastics and their own body better.

Another thing I’ve realized is that everyone is really respectful.  It’s part of the culture but it’s really apparent in the gym.  For example, the younger guys says greets all of the older gymnasts when they walk into the gym.  They also have a lot of respect for their training facility.  Today we cleaned the gym after training (we do this twice a week).  No janitors here!

Anyway, I’m glad I came because I’m learning a lot of stuff outside of gymnastics as well.  I can take these things and bring it back to the US.  Soaking everything in for the time being!