Life Updates

Yikes, it’s been 5 months since I posted, a combination of laziness, business and not knowing what to write about I suppose.

Lots of things have been happening since my last post. I spent the Winter in Nozawa Onsen, a sleepy little ski resort town deep in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture. After months of agonizing, I finally received my work permit and was unsure what to do over the Winter.. I contemplated working as a ski instructor, but didn’t get enthused by the idea of carrying 6 pairs of junior high skis down the mountain. Last minute, a friend of mine found me a job in Nozawa, with the real benefit having access to a free season pass. It was a fun season and I made lots of new friends, despite pitiful snow.

As the Winter season ended, I began working more as a snowshoeing guide for Walk Japan’s Snow Country Trek. We delved deep into the mountains exploring Japan’s Snow Country Culture, sinking knee-deep into powder, visiting thousand-year old Shinto Shrines and talking to bear hunters preserving a historic way of life. I loved it and I’m excited for next year.

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And since the end of March it has been non-stop Nakasendo, a sort of historic pilgrimage road through central Japan. It’s a learning experience too but I’m beginning to realize that working so much takes me away from valuable time to develop my own businesses. My guiding and hotel reservation businesses are respectively travelnagano.com and shigakogenguide.com (still very basic) and the other I am doing in tandem with my parents, pickleballtrips.com. My brother and sister-in-law team have done a great job developing the latter.

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Between it all I managed to squeeze in a trip to Vietnam with the company that sponsors my work visa, and a trip to the US for the first annual US Open Pickleball Championships. Vietnam was so great we decided to take a group next March! Details to be found at www.pickleballtrips.com. The US Open provided me some wins and some losses but I was overall pretty happy with the results. At the end of the day, you should just be having fun playing pickleball right?. CBS Sports is playing my final with Wes against Kyle Yates and Dave Weinbach on Friday, May 20th at 7:00 PM Eastern. Check it out if you have some time. I don’t like promoting a match in which I get killed but it is the first time professional pickleball has ever been televised… That’s all for now, thanks for reading

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Moving to Japan

First, let me apologize for not updating my blog in so long. It has been a fun, crazy, roller-coaster ride two months since I last posted. It wasn’t just the craziness, however, that prevented me from blogging. Sometimes the amount of reflection and work that writing takes is intimidating. I felt like I needed to step away for a while, get some new ideas, refresh and reflect on why I write.

Today I embark on a new chapter of my life. I am moving to Japan. Now this might not sound very earth-shattering coming from me… Except that  this time it’s official. I have a work permit. I am buying a car and renting an apartment. Grownup stuff. It’s exciting and nerve-wracking, I am thankful for this opportunity and hopeful I will make the most of them.

Before I tell you about what I will be doing in Japan, let me tell you about the last two months. October was the busiest month of my life. Between my two Walk Japan tours, we pulled off the first ever pickleball tour of Japan. We took 13 people, introduced Japanese people to pickleball and saw more than most Americans ever will. October, 2016 is your next chance.

In November, I returned to the US to play in the 7th annual USAPA national pickleball tournament held in Casa Grande, Arizona. I was happy with my results, getting a silver medal in the men’s open singles, and gold medals in the 19+ singles and the open men’s doubles categories. The other matches aren’t on YouTube yet, but check out the open singles final here.

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After nationals, my  aunt, uncle and cousin went to Belize! We visited our friends who live on Ambergris Caye, dove, sat on the beach, drove the boat to Leonardo di Caprio’s private island, played cards and ate too much food. What’s not to like?

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After this, I actually don’t know what I’m doing when I first get back to Japan. I’ve got to do the grownup stuff in December, plus my brother and his wife are coming to visit. After that, I don’t really know. I could be a ski instructor for the winter. I might work at a ski resort. I might try to become a wedding pastor. In February though, my winter walking tours start as I take people on snowshoeing excursions in Nagano, Japan. I am so excited for where this journey will take me.

This brings me to my final point. I am starting my own travel business in Japan, called TravelNagano. The website is far from complete, but please check it out when you get a chance, www.travelnagano.com and contact me if you or anyone you know is coming to Japan. There is information there on our next pickleball tour, and soon there will be more information on a ski tour in February, 2017.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading.

 

 

 

Walking Through September

I am starting and ending this month with walking. At the beginning it was hiking through Colorado with a Japanese tour group; at the end walking through Japanese forests on a 10-day journey up the Nakasendo Way. Neither trip is new, yet I love each and continue to learn about myself as I journey. Both trips feel like stepping stones, essential experiences required to move on to bigger and better things.

Hiking up Mt. Elbert with my mom and the Japanese group

Hiking up Mt. Elbert with my mom and the Japanese group

I also did some running in the middle of the month, namely in the form of the Tournament of Champions pickleball tournament held in Brigham City, Utah. I was fortunate enough to win a singles and a men’s doubles title (and accompanying cash), although it wasn’t quite the accomplishment that my dad’s triple crown victory was. Thanks to my partners, the tournament organizers, friends, and everyone else who made the tournament stand out. Even last year, I never could have imagined I would be doing what I am doing today.

Looking ahead, October is going to be insane – but good. Finishing my current walking tour on the 3rd, I begin another one on the 7th in Kyoto. I end 10 days later, when I take a bullet train to meet my college roommate and his wife in Ueda, the town where I spent most of my childhood. We will do some hiking in the area, before I return to Tokyo to meet my parents and the participants of the first ever pickleball tour of Japan (with many more to come). I am so excited and thankful for this year’s participants for believing in us and being willing to spend the time and money to plant the sport in a new country. It makes a huge difference. On the second to last day of the tour, I return to Kyoto to begin a final Walk Japan tour, before flying back to Phoenix to play in the USAPA national pickleball tournament in Arizona.

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Rice Fields and Cosmos Flowers in the Kiso Valley

Let me say a final word and contemplate a bit on life where I am at the moment. It’s Autumn in Japan, my favorite season. The leaves in the mountains are just starting to show a hint of color. There is a coolness in the evening air and a dampness to the fallen leaves. Massive Fuji Apples are appearing in the grocery stores and every day as I walk, I secretly nab at least one ripe persimmon from trees weighed down by them. I hope no one minds. I love this seasonality. I’m sure living in the tropics (or Arizona for that matter) has its perks, but there is something about making it through the summer that makes you appreciate the coolness of the Fall so much more.

It makes me think that joy can’t be experienced fully without some pain and that perhaps life isn’t about avoiding the pain. Maybe it’s about taking in these short moments and deciding to find good in everything – because it’s there if you look for it. The last few years have not been without their difficulties. Even though I don’t show many things on the surface, I often had doubts about where I was going, didn’t have a great attitude and was angry that I wasn’t as successful or with it as other people my age. But with some wisdom that comes from making mistakes and the help of people around me, I am discovering that no matter what I’m doing, there is joy to be found and pride to be taken in doing something well. It helps that I am discovering what I love doing and have the resources to pursue it, something that very few people can say. That’s my philosophical thought of the month, some of the things I think about as I walk many hours through the Kiso Valley