Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My name is Garto, Harry Garto

Japan was a fantastic experience and thoroughly enjoyed it and can't wait for another opportunity like that. I was asked to go to Japan with the Perth Wheelcats to compete in the Kitakyushu Champions Cup (KCC). KCC is a tournament where the best club teams in the world come together and compete for a World Club Champs title. It is held in the city of Kitakyushu which is an industrial city located in Japan's south. The teams that competed were Galatasaray from Turkey (representing Europe), British Colombia from Canada (representing USA/Canada), Myagi Max from Japan and ofcourse the reigning champs Perth Wheelcats. My official role was team manager, which was something I hadn't really done before. But I learnt so much as a coach as this was going to be the first time that I was going to sit not only on the bench of a wheelchair basketball game but on the bench with the current Paralympic Gold Medal coach Ben E, as well as now national womens coach John T. A lot was to be learnt and I knew it.

After 22 hours in transit from Perth to Kitakyushu we all were absolutely buggered as the sleep for some on the plane was bad or as in my case non-existent. I spent the flight watching Entourage, The Black Knight and playing Super Mario (old school). We checked our gear in and decided to go for a look around the city. Problem number 1, Nick R loses his wheel bag, solution = open your eyes, its in the lobby. So first thing was first, STARBUCKS. After a tall vanilla frappecino that tried to go through me like a fat kid on a water slide, we headed to the mall. A 9 story mall, eat your heart out Westfield Carousel. There was absolutely every single shop you could possible want, but after the shocking airplane food I thought a good feed was in order. Barty, Benny W and i decided to head to the food court where it was packed with food stalls. You know in our food malls where there are like 50 burger take out stalls and 1 asian stall, TOTAL opposite. My mind was pretty closed as I have heard the Japanese don't really care if they kill the animal they are cooking before you get it. So i man'd up and went to a stall and pointed at the most appetizing looking dish. As it was served to me on a boiling hot iron plate, the chef cracked an egg on the plate that cooked in front of me and I was on my way. It ended up being a steak and vegies that i ordered, not terribly japanese i know but i ate it with chopsticks so mission accomplished.

After the shops we headed back to the hotel for a bit of a rest before dinner. At this stage i was staying by myself as the person i was rooming with was coming in a couple of days time, i was a little worried as i never met this guy, but as i have been told before people are usually worried about rooming with me because i am a tall freaky looking white boy covered in tatoos. Anyway i decided to watch some japanese tv, bad idea. 16 channels of tv, 15 of which were all in japanese and one was CNN (a constant news channel) before you knew it i was asleep.

Dinner time saw eating in the hotels restaraunt, the food was set out buffet style and everything was labelled in japanese. Enter "Nang your Japanese Joke". Nang is one of the Wheelcats who is Vietnamese, but constantly throughout the week i either asked him to translate or speak Japanese to people for me, started as a joke but Nang got a little annoyed toward the end of the week. Sorry Nang. Anyway the buffet was full on noodles, chicken and fish dishes, rice, everything. My mind had opened up a little and the food was great, the only thing i would't eat was the raw meat they served (not my dish). After dinner we all investigated a 3ft tall chocolate fondue fountain served with little waffle things. It was great but yet better still was watching Barty with his first ever fondue experience. Not taking the piss but Barty has about as mush finesse as a rabid bulldog on cocaine. After all the chocolate was round the table and his face we left and decided to go and look at the city at night.

Due to the current economic crisis (as Benny W will tell you), for every aussie dollar we exchanged we roughly recieved about 40 cents. As if that wasn't bad enough everything is expensive anyway. Every night during the week after dinner we went out to the local mall to have a look around and stock up on supplies, which for me consisted of pocky and coke. Pocky is a thin bread stick coated in chocolate. Coke in japan either came in tin bottles or 500ml plastic bottles, and due to the lack copyright laws coke actually tasted exactly like pepsi and pepsi tasted like.... pepsi. On the way back to the hotel on the first night something caught my eye. In front on the shop front windows down one of the alleys was a mass of dancers who practice their moves and watch their reflection in the glass. They danced all sorts, hip hop, break dance etc. This gave me a wicked idea but that story will come up a little later on.

Day 2 saw us visiting a japanese primary school. The school was located on the outskirts of the city at the foot of mountain. Ichimaru Primary School was an absolute fantastic experience, and armed with a translator and plenty of excitement we took them head on. Roughly 100 11/12 year old students filled a gym ready for our demonstration. Things got under way with the Cats doing some simple drills which fascinated the kids as they had never seen people actually playing sport in wheelchairs. After that Nang (my japanese friend) hopped out of his chair and started walking around on his hands and started doing pushups. Kids were aroar with Brant G getting up on one wheel and balancing for a couple of minutes, yet nothing is funnier when Brant falls out. After that the Cats played a little 2 on 2, real competitive as always with plenty of baskets being missed but after a while the guys turned it on and the kids were cheering loud. Soon the kids joined in and played against the Cats which was great to watch, all the kids really love their sport and they all really seemed to get into it.

Soon after this it was the kids turn to entertain us. We sat back as the kids got out these little wooden toys. The wooden toy had a ball attached to it with a piece of string, and there were a few different places on the wooden toy you could land the ball. It is quite hard to explain so make sure you watch the videos of facebook under the Wheelcats page. All the kids lined up and first performed a mexican wave with everyone taking it in turns doing a trick, then the music came on and they were all doning the same trick to the tune of "If your happy and you know it", absolutley outstanding and we were all very impressed. We were all given one of the toys so if you want to see it let me know. Also congratulations to Adam and Brant who practiced and got pretty good.

Well it was time to go and the kids went into a frenzy with autograghs and shoot out competitions. We were signing the kids arms, heads, shoes, shirts everything. The kids couldn't understand some of our names that we signed, like when John T wrote John Ass. Coach, all the kids thought his name was John Ass, and they couldn't come to terms with the fact that my first name was Lee, which they pronouced Ree. So John helped me out and wrote Jet before my name and I became known as Jet Ree. Fantastic.

Anyway, that is part 1 of my japanese story. Alot more to come so watch this space.
I'm off now to flush a wall with Rego.

In hoops,


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