24 hours in Tokyo wows young Kiwi golfers

The busy schedule of teams travelling to Japan for sport usually means they are in and out of the country having barely experienced Japan beyond the sports field. But with a little help from a Foundation sports grant four young New Zealand golfers got to extend their time in the country to visit Tokyo and take in some Japanese culture.
Four members of the New Zealand junior golf team watch tepanyaki chef cut dough

The golfers watching a teppanyaki chef at work

The players – Kazuma Kobori and Vivian Lu (first team) and Jayden Ford and Fiona Xu (the second team) – were in Japan for the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation Junior Teams Championship, held at the Hakone Country Golf Club near Mount Fuji and a short 35-minute bullet-train ride south of Tokyo.

Following the tournament, where the pairing of Kazumu and Vivian came third, the team travelled to Shinjuku, Tokyo, to soak up the sights and sounds of the city.

On the Friday night, the team ate at small traditional ramen restaurant before setting out for an after-dinner adventure to the famous Shibuya Crossing.

The following morning they caught the train to the 634m-high Tokyo Skytree Tower and took in the expansive views of Tokyo from the Tembo Deck and Tembo Galleria.

"I was shocked at the amount of people that were at the Shibuya Crossing and the glass floor at the Skytree was really unusual; it was weird standing on glass and seeing what was below me so far down," Kazumu says.

Following their Skytree experience, the group headed for lunch at a neighbourhood Teppanyaki restaurant, which included an impromptu cooking demo by one of the chefs.  

The four young golfers standing in front of a traditional Japanese building

Fiona Xu, Jayden Ford,Vivian Lu and Kazuma Kobori 

Jayden, who was visiting Japan for the first time, says he loved meeting locals and after not knowing what to expect of the food quickly developed a taste for it, especially sashimi.

“The culture was different, the main thing that I found pretty cool was eating at the restaurant on the Saturday. That teppanyaki restaurant is something that I personally hadn’t experienced before,” he says. 

“It’s clear the Japanese culture is very special. They are very respectful and do things different to New Zealand.”

Kazumu, who was born in Japan but had not been back since he was a young child, says the visit was one of the best experiences of his life.

“The Japanese people, the food, and the culture made this trip one of the best experiences I’ve ever had"

One of the golfers looking at a map of Tokyo from the Tokyo Sky Tree viewing platform

A view from the Tokyo Sky Tree gave the golfers an idea of the scale of the city

Jayden knew a few words of Japanese before he went, such as Konnichiwa and Arigato, and says the experience has inspired him to learn a little more of the language.

It was a sentiment shared by Fiona.

“I learned a few Japanese words in Japan, and I tried learning some words before I went over too,” she says.

“My brother taught me a little bit of the Japanese language and culture because he’s been to Japan quite a few times.

“I think experiences like going to japan are important because you get to learn what different cultures, languages and traditions are like,” she says.

The team was able to spend an extra day in Japan with help from an Asia New Zealand Foundation Community Sports Grant