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Thank you for giving me the opportunity to go to Japan. It was a really fun experience for me. Although the plane ride was a little long, I had a blast touring Japan and competing in the judo tournament.

When we first arrived to Japan around noon, my friend (and his family) and I took a bus to the Global Arena. They gave us a little tour around the place and told us that the person who created it was unable to do any sport so he got rich and built a place where kids can play sports. Apparently, we missed our connecting flight in China so we missed a whole day of practice. But it gave us the chance to go to the Great Wall of China and spend a little time with the Netherland team who also were stuck there. It was a little hard adjusting to the time zone and the way of life there. I wasn’t used to getting up early, washing my clothes all the time, getting ready for practice and sleeping on my own time. It really gave me an experience of being on my own. Every few days I had to wash my clothes which was a little difficult to manage. I would also have to fold my bed every morning and get ready before breakfast.

On the second day of our week and a half in Japan, we went to practice. I was a little shy of going to such a big place at first, but after a while I got used to it. It wasn’t so different from my dojo. Their warm ups and exercises were similar and I had my team. It was a bit easy for the first half, but as we went to the second half, everyone was sweating to their core. I remembered being thrown around so much, just like what my team had said. I was used to the other kids at Fowler and Fresno judo club so it was a big challenge to fight a lot of new people. Some were my age and some were not. I had a few chances to fight against other teams but only a few. After every practice, I was sore like everyone else, just lying in bed during our free time. The day before the first tournament the USA team and I went shopping at a mall. Everyone was off buying clothes and checking out items in the shoes and sports section. I told them that I was going to keep my money just in case we get lost and no one else would have any left since they were spending it all. Luckily, we didn’t get lost and went to get some McDonalds. We had a fun time going off on our own and buying whatever we wanted with our yen. I ended up using half of my cash in the arcade section.  

During the tournament, we mostly had fun talking and eating. We already lost our first match by a long shot but it didn’t matter because we all learned something that day. My most memorable moment was when I almost won my match during the tournament. I was the first one up so I had to win to encourage my team. Even though we lost by a long shot, we didn’t cry or whine over it.   

I don’t remember much about the judo practices since most of my memory was filled with the pain of being thrown around, the tournaments and having to remember to wash my clothes. Going to Japan had really made me stronger in judo and maturity level. I was able to have fun buying snacks and meeting the other teams and teaching each other techniques during practices. All in all, I am very thankful for the week and a half experience in Japan. It was a wonderful and exciting trip and a great way for me to make memories. I hope you can still send more kids to Japan and bring home the trophy.

Isaiah Thor