Visiting historical sites provided the team with insights into Japanese culture outside of rowing (Photo courtesy of Rowing NZ)
We arrived in Osaka on 26 July for a camp based out of Seta Rowing Club on Lake Biwa, northeast of Kyoto. The local clubs treated us like royalty and were keen to show off their beautiful region.
Thanks to a grant from the Asia New Zealand Foundation, on our afternoon off we got to experience some of the local culture by going on a tour to the Fushimi Inari Shrine before heading to the Ryogen-in Buddhist temple for a mediation session.
The Fushimi Inari Shrine was beautiful. It is situated at the base of Mount Inari and is the head shrine of the god of rice. When we arrived at the Shrine, the first thing we did was take part in a purification ritual. We then explored the area before heading to the stunning torii gates behind the shine.
We learnt that the torii gates were donated by individuals and companies, the names of the donators inscribed on each gate. The larger the gate, the bigger the donation. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to walk to the top of the mountain and take in the view, but we wandered through the torri gates, finding some relief from the heat of the day in their shade.
On a sweltering day, the team found some relief in the shade of the torii gates
After visiting the shrine, we headed for the Ryogen-in temple for a meditation session in a beautiful new meditation room - with air conditioning, which was such a bonus as we were struggling in the heat!
A local monk spoke about his life and how it is the ambition of Buddhist monks to find their inner Buddha. He talked us through the practice of meditation and told us that monks can mediate for up to 14 hours per day!
The monk demonstrated how he used the “awaking stick”, which is used when you are struggling to stay awake and need assistance to stay focused. After learning all about the correct way to mediate, we practiced for twenty minutes. It was a beautiful environment and very relaxing.
Before we left the temple, the monk offered us some traditional green tea and Japanese sweets. They were very different to what we are used to at home, but I am glad we had the opportunity to try them.
After a few more days at Lake Biwa, we caught a bullet train to Tokyo where our races took place. By the end of a week of racing, we had three crews competing in the A Finals, with our Women’s Quadruple Scull taking out gold!
On our final night in Tokyo we went out to try our hands (voices) at Karaoke. The place we went to had many different rooms, big and small with lots of different themes. It was very busy and obviously a very popular past time for local people; it was a great way to end our time in Tokyo as a team.
It was fantastic to have the opportunity to experience some culture during our down time in Japan. The culture is steeped in tradition and the people are very respectful, particularly of their elders. We learnt a lot about the history and culture of Japan and really enjoyed the experience.