Saturday, February 20, 2010
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Oi, Japan, well done!! Winning the Vancouver Olympics Men's 500 Meter Speed Skating Silver Medal and Bronze Medal
Monday, February 15, 2010
Where to begin? I’ve had a full, but very enjoyable Valentine’s Day weekend. Starting Friday night, my family and I went out to dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant called Il Vento. It is run by this Japanese couple who could have pulled one over on a real Italian for how tasty their dishes were! The set menu of five courses, including a scrumptious raspberry dessert (the first time I’ve had real raspberries since last summer! Oh how I miss thee, MN berry season), drinks, and warm bread left us all stuffed. I’ll include some of the photos below, but the snapshot to the right is of my extended family celebrating grandpa’s 70th birthday. To celebrate the milestone, his wife surprised him and bought him that new Mercedes-Benz he’s been eyeing. I also got to meet the Kobayashi’s 19-year-old nephew, Mau, who is back from college on break. A very nice guy, he’s scheduled to study abroad for four months this Fall in British Columbia of all places. Guess he’s getting a pretty good preview via the Olympics.
Which brings me to the Opening Ceremony. I spent Saturday morning curled up on the couch enjoying the show. It was a fun opportunity to experience such an international event through the eyes of a different nation. The Japanese version of the show went much like that back home, adding in the random close-ups of famous Japanese athletes in place of their American rivals.
But what interested me the most was the air of humility, determination, and “child-like-awe” that the Japanese athletes, television, and fans projected. It is a far cry from the domineering, self-confident, “I’ve been here a million times before” mood of the American team. It made me appreciate the many layers of the Olympics, from the overconfident super powers to the humble underdogs. As my mom mentioned over skype this weekend, there are still 79 out of the 205 official Olympic nations that have never won a medal before. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that such nations as Yemen, Honduras, Fiji, or Madagascar don’t have very good odds of snagging one here in Vancouver. I just hope somewhere down the line all countries are able to experience what America has so taken for granted (I’m not saying the athletes, per say, I think they work extremely hard) I’m saying the American people who watch, cheer, smile, and then forget names like today’s bronze medalist, Bryon Wilson, before the games are even over. I will anxiously be cheering along with the rest of Japan as they hope for their 33rd Winter Olympic metal, that’s in comparison to the United State’s 223rd.
Onto Sunday when I spent the day visiting some of the sights of Utsunomiya’s famous Oya temple, Buddhist statue, and mine. The Kobayashi’s aunt, uncle, and cousin took Masahito and I out for the afternoon. The chance to see the oldest remaining Buddhist sculpture in Japan, dating back to the eighth century, was definitely worth the hour-long drive West to the area of Oya. The region is know for it’s pale, slightly green stone that has been used in building all over Japan, and even internationally. Even Frank Lloyd Wright has used Oya rocks in his buildings. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to walk deep underground into the largest underground area I’ve ever visited. The height, width, depth, and maze-like crooks and crannies of the mine blew me away. I hope you’re able to grasp the sheer size by my photos, it really is THAT big, and all of it deep underground.
During the evening we stopped at the onsen (hot spring) and had yet another big Japanese dinner. Last night and today, Monday, have been rainy and cold, but the Olympics have been playing more or less constantly. I had my first real trial of loyalty last night when watching the woman’s downhill ski moguls. The Americans, as many of you probably know, took first and third, but by doing so they bumped off Aiko Uemura, one of Japan’s greatest hopes at a medal, to the worst of all positions: fourth. I was of course glad to see fellow Americans excel at the sport, but it would have been nice (no offense Shannon Bahrke) to see good old Nippon take home a happy bronze.
I also figured I’d share a funny email my cousin, Andrew, and his girlfriend, Elizabeth, sent me yesterday:
The real question is Sam... Who will you be cheering for when it comes down to Japan vs. the USA in the curling championship?
Little do you know. I forgot to tell you guys, but as soon as the Japanese government got wind of a blond, strikingly good looking, Minnesotan in their fair nation they immediately signed me to the national team. It seems my Minnesotan blood has hidden curling powers and I intend to lead the Japanese straight to gold. I have been dividing my time between fishery studies and flying back and forth to Vancouver. It is demanding, but the reward of spending my days with my two greatest passions (Japanese river fish and heavy granite blocks with handles on them) makes it all worth while.
As they call me on the team - "The Curling SAMUrai"