Nov. 23, 2007
Ikebukuro, Japan - Stanford Women's Lacrosse is currently in Japan for a 9-day international tour. Here is Day 7 from their adventure in the rising sun:
Today was our last day at the Sunshine City Prince Hotel, which meant lots of packing was done! I'm sure we are all going to deeply miss the tiny beds, which those of us who are not vertically challenged somehow managed to sleep soundly in for five nights - probably due to the fact that we were so exhausted from all our wonderful sight-seeing and hard played lacrosse matches. And who can forget the Japanese programs on the pocket size televisions?
At breakfast this morning, in the spirit of Thanksgiving yesterday, the team went around and shared what we were most thankful for. While there was a wide range, family, friends, and health seemed reoccurring. Also commonly shared was our privileged feeling of being given this chance to travel to Japan and experience it's unique culture, as well as sharing this experience with such a compassionate and talented group of teammates and coaches.
While there had been plans to travel to a nearby Flee-Market, the coaches were very generous and, after our last yummy Japanese buffet breakfast, we were rather given the day to do whatever we wanted (well, until three when we started to get ready for our third game ☺). Most of us spent the morning trying to pack up all of our belongings, unsure how we were to fit most of our souvenirs and gifts we had bought! Some shopped and walked around local stores in Ikebukuro (around our hotel), while others enjoyed the lavish Alta mall attached directly to our hotel. A few brave souls even ventured back to Harajuku, purchasing their first train tickets and finding the right train without Kenji and Shiho!
If you were to have been in the hotel lobby at the time we were supposed to be back, you would have been overwhelmed with the volume shopping bags. Included in our showcase of goodies were probably enough Koalas to fill a pool (chocolate filled crackers in the shape of koala's!) - which also meant the convenient store at our hotel should probably stock up soon! Also there was an assortment of scarves, other Japanese snacks, jewelry, Japanese fashions, like jumpsuits, and gifts (which I won't go in to because many of you reading this will find out soon!).
After a lot of refolding and repackaging, we loaded up the charter and said goodbye to the Sunshine City Prince Hotel - yes the whole name is a must because there are so many hotels with different combinations of Sunshine, City, and Prince! On our way to Kamazawa 2nd Stadium, we also enjoyed a pre-game snack Japanese-style Donatos pizza.
We got to the stadium after taking a brisk 5-minute walk from the bus with about 100 lbs. on our backs. We had some free time before we could get into the locker room, so we tried selling some of our Peace Frogs lacrosse tour t-shirts. While selling mainly to groups of Japanese boys, a men's game was just letting out, one boy proceeded to ask if we were on sale! Another crowd of boys said they couldn't buy shirts because Japan's economy was down. It took some good translating from a member our team to explain that we had just bought out Ikebukuro and probably Tokyo so the economy was on the rise and they could now afford to buy a shirt from us! Despite the noble effort, they still wouldn't buy a shirt ☹.
Once the locker room was ready for us, we got our game faces on and played Sivilla to a close win, 5-4. Luckily, the stadium shielded some of the wind so it was not as freezing as the Waseda game the night before. The omiyage, souvenir gift, given to us by Sivilla were coasters with beautiful Japanese paintings on them. We didn't have our best game, but playing at such a different pace and style definitely exposes what we need to improve on. Playing in late November, let alone this style of scrappy lacrosse, will give us a lead on this year's competition.
Today was also our first night with our host families! After the game we all rallied outside the stadium and we almost seemed to be being auctioned off as we had our names called out, standing in numerical order! Many of our host families drove cars so it was easy to carry our luggage. Wonder if anyone had to ride the train or even bike? I didn't hear any horror stories so I sure hope not!
Because we were either paired up or stayed singly with a family, there are many stories of different personal experiences with our home-stay. However I'm sure that everyone enjoyed that first dinner, no matter how difficult the communication was. Some of us even enjoyed a traditional Japanese shower, which consists on showering off then sitting in a hot water tub for however long we wish! And while we are on the note of Japanese bathrooms... there are heated toilet seats everywhere, and some of them automatically raise and lower the lid upon entry and exit of the stall!
I'm sure many of us have mixed feelings about our home-stays - but despite the language barrier I think we are all going to get along fabulously with our host families and get to know a little more about Japanese culture and family dynamics. The families are so very accommodating and love just spending time with us!