Summer Curling in Japan
In the summer, our team is normally doing classic Saskatchewan activities - golfing, going to the lake, cheering on the Riders, etc., mixed in with some off-ice training. But this year was a little different, as we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to travel to Japan for the ‘Hokkaido Bank Curling Classic’. We had heard from many people that Japan was a must see place, so this made our decision much easier. We are also big sushi and ramen fans, so we figured we’d have no trouble adjusting to the food there!
Personally, this was going to be my first trip overseas for curling. My main question going in was “what Netflix series should I start to pass the time on the 10 hour flight?” Seriously, my main concern was how I was going to deal with the 15 hour time difference. We planned the trip to arrive four days before the competition to help with the big time change. To start with, we spent a day and a half exploring Tokyo. The highlight was cruising the streets on a go-kart tour - it was a perfect way to see the city in the limited time we had.
The bonspiel was held in Sapporo, which is in the northern part of Japan. We had to take one more flight to get there - let’s just say leg room was a little tight on this one. Once we arrived, we took some time to stretch our legs before heading to the hotel. Jet lag was hitting us pretty hard at this point, so we made sure to plan some evening activities to stay awake. Going to a pro baseball game and eating fresh sushi and ramen kept us going.
The organizers and volunteers at the rink were extremely friendly and did everything they could to make us feel comfortable. The arena was a very impressive facility and the ice was great, even with the hot and humid weather outside. There were many passionate fans that showed up to cheer on their favourite teams - they were even lined up outside before many draws.
We only had one quick practice before the competition started to shake the rust off. After a tough start in the round robin, we bounced back with a couple wins, which was enough to get into the playoffs. We had a disappointing loss in the semi-final, but came right back with a win in the bronze medal game. Overall, I believe our team adjusted to this international experience quite well - it was a bonus being able to spend it in such a nice country!