Arrived at Narita airport around 12.30pm and made our way through passport control where we had our finger prints and photo taken and then on through to customs. As we left the terminal building our bus transfer man who was holding a sign up met us. The journey to Tsukuba University was nice and we arrived at the dormitory buildings. The caretaker met us there and handed us bed sheets and pillowcases and gave us a copy of the house rules for guests to follow. The boys have their own room and the coaches another.
The dormitory is very basic but very clean and shoes have to be left at the front of the building and swapped for some lovely green plastic slippers. After we had made our beds we decided to grab a bite to eat from a supermarket type shop opposite. I decided on a lovely snack which was to my surprise a nice sugary doughnut type thing on a stick with a hotdog sausage in the middle all served with mustard and tomato sauce, a really weird combination but surprisingly nice.
On arriving back to the dorm we met 2 Japanese men who were holding judo suits. We asked if they were on their way to training to which they managed to explain that the session was due to start at 4.45pm. It was now around 4.00pm so we had to quickly round up the players to make them aware that training was about to start. I think it was good ideas that we did this, as it would tire them out for the evening and help them sleep better on the night so they adjust better to the time difference.
We arrived at the Tsukuba University Dojo that was a 5-minute walk from the dorm and followed the stream of judoka flowing into the building, again shoes off at the door and off upstairs to the changing rooms.
When we had all changed we proceeded through to the mat area. We were greeted there by one of the assistant coaches who led us to a white board and said ”please see our menu for tonight” he then began to run through the session content for the evening which consisted of a warm up, then Uchi Komi, then Nage Komi then 10 x 6 minute randori followed by 30 minutes Ne waza randori. This whole process was dictated by a digital clock at the side of the mat with a buzzer that sounded for each of the changes.
It was amazing to see the calibre of Judo players on the same mat, Akimoto, Hiraoka, Kanamaru, Nishiyama to name just a few of the men and all watched at the side of that mat by Mr Okada.
The warm up was quite straightforward, stretching, lunges Ukemi etc and so was the Uchi Komi, however when the Nage Komi started it was only for what seemed to be the top 3 players first, Hiraoka, Nishiyama and a female player. They were out in the middle and a group of players rushed out to them and the top player would select who they wanted to throw for a couple of minutes, then the players would again rush out and a new Uke selected to be thrown. It seemed though these top performing players had the privilege and the other players rushed to be volunteers to be thrown around, different but eye opening how the pecking order is dictated by success. The Nage Komi was very crisp, with perfect technique and lots of movement and attention to completing the throw and none of the players rolled over their Uke after throwing, they always stayed up on their feet. The boys got stuck in to the randori and worked very hard even though most of the time was spent picking themselves up off the floor to start again. There was only a quick 30 second rest in between each randori practice which gave you time to find a new partner or maybe tape up a finger, however there was a longer break half way through for a drink of water.
The players made it through to the end injury free and from the feedback they felt that the main difference was the amount of movement the Japanese players incorporated into their judo and the ability to chose the right moment to throw with good clean techniques. They also felt they were unable to dictate with their gripping as the Japanese players were very skilled at controlling the flow of the randori and making you do what they want i.e. imposing their judo on to you.
The players went back to the dorm where they spent time recovering in the big hot bath. Myself Bill and Fitz went across the road to grab some food. Next to the shop was a place called “Mommas House”, it was run by a little old lady on her own and she had to ask a member of the public to translate what we wanted to eat as she spoke no English, it was either fish or fried chicken, we decided on the chicken. When the meal arrived we had a bowl of fishy/cabbage soup, a nice bowl of pasta, a bowl of rice a nice piece of fried chicken with a sauce which was delicious, a piece of battered fish which I think was herring but again delicious and a potato type fritter, and a bowl of fresh fruit and a large bottle of beer each which came to around 1500 Yen each (around £12.00) which was very reasonable considering the food was cooked very fresh with no sort of processed food involved just good fresh produce.
We left “Mommas House” at around 9.45pm, as we could no longer keep our eyes open as I think the travelling was now creeping up on us. Tomorrow we are all having a good lie in to catch up on sleep and then we are going on a walk about to get our bearings and then it will be off to the late afternoon session again later on for more randori. Mr Okada mentioned he would make arrangements for us to visit the local high school dojo later in the week so we can also train there.