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

The Chicken Fiasco and Thoughts from My August

August has proven an interesting month. It’s the only full month I will spend in the United States this year. It’s also been full of business trips, pickleball tournaments, Japanese tourists, hotel management, and yes, house sitting for chickens.

The month began in Omaha, Nebraska where I played in the State Games of America pickleball tournament. I participated in both singles and doubles – being fortunate enough to win a gold medal in each. The city of Omaha and the drive there underwhelmed me, but I had fun. Check out a couple of the videos from the tournament.

After the State Games I returned to Colorado to begin my job as a Japanese translator/tour guide. The groups and people I encounter during these days make the job exciting. I do everything from Junior High camping trips to investors researching $3 million homes. Interesting things always happen as evidenced in my last blog post, I work long days and receive meager pay, but it gives me a lot of freedom and I’m working towards my 10,000 hours necessary to become an expert.

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Between these trips I did a couple of other things. First, my friend and doubles partner at the Tournament of Champions Matt came to check out Colorado and play some pickleball. I also listed my parent’s house on Air B&B last year, thinking we could make use of our 5 empty bedrooms. I have had several inquiries but the timing never worked out until now, when a college student from CC in his last couple weeks of school needed a quiet place to write his senior thesis. Check out our listing if you’re ever interested in a B&B in Colorado Springs.

Finally, part of my August consisted of house sitting for a friend on vacation. Predictably, the house part was easy: the 3 Chihuahuas and 6 chickens proved to be more complicated. When taking this assignment, the chickens didn’t seem like such a big deal. You feed them in the morning and evening, make sure they have enough water and collect their eggs. Or so I was told. Little did I know, an unidentified predator (that I have some choice words for) chose this very window of opportunity to launch his attack on my chickens. In the middle of the night I hear a commotion outside. By the time I look around, it’s quiet and I can’t see anything. Having to leave for a business trip the next day at 5:00 am, I entrust my mom with their care and making sure all 6 remain. I receive the worst new possible, she looks in the yard and finds the mutilated carcass of a chicken. I also find out that I have locked the dogs in the house and taken the key to Indiana. She has to collect the chicken carcass, climb onto the porch with a ladder to get into the house, and attempt to herd the chickens into their pen to avoid the previous night’s disaster. At this last task she failed, stating quote, “I don’t do chickens” at which point another chicken is doomed to coyote food status. Being in Indiana for business, I could do nothing but contemplate my miserable failure at the simple task of keeping 6 chickens alive for 1 week. The next day, however, my mom and brother did return, successfully conjuring up the courage to catch the chickens and place them into the coop. We pressed on with no further losses, and my friend was understandably disappointed but realistic about the situation.

The incident did make me think, however. Things like organic farming conjure up all kinds of positive images in my mind. Living off the land, getting back to nature, reducing environmental impact… all good things. But when it comes down to it, I’m actually terrible at farming and hate manual labor. Same with camping. I have this idealized view that rarely if ever is satisfied. I like campfires but there are usually way more mosquitoes than I remembered and there’s a rock under my sleeping bag. Sometimes there is a gap between who we want to be and what we actually enjoy. There are also things like working out that only make us feel good after we have done them. Maybe part of being happy is doing the things you love and overcoming discomfort to find enjoyment in the things you want to love.

That was my August so far. Next week I take a group of Japanese hikers around the State for a week-long trip. We go to Rocky Mountain National Park, Pikes Peak, Mt. Elbert and Aspen, among some smaller stops along the way.