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17 September 2008 @ 22:20
the league started for our team two weekends ago, and so far, so good.

we smacked down JAL at home 43-6 and Hino Trucks 90-7 away in Takasaki (yay Gunma!)... however it is all a little bit misleading. The Top East league is scheduled so that the string teams play each other at the end... so if we're not winning big now, we've got problems!

However, one of our promotion rivals, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, did us a favour by losing away to mid-table Kamaishi... but we still have to keep winning... two down, eight to go!
17 September 2008 @ 21:31
I am here! alive and kicking! just not blogging much :(

sooooo much has happened since I last posted in February... just a few highlights :)

- we had a fantasic wedding world tour, it really was a trip of a lifetime, to Kentucky and Matamata. After so much effort by so many, especially our mums, it all went very well
- which we followed up with a friends party in Tokyo, which went well too. Many thanks to the NZ Travel Cafe in Roppongi
- work is insanely busy. FWIW I am now the CEO of our little company, which in reality means working 9-10 instead of 9-6, but it feels good :)
- we finally got our website up, www.koogarugby.com - almost totally bilingual, mouse over the Japanese buttons for English etc :)
- I had a business trip to Hong Kong and China... quite an eye-opener. And my first time crossing a land border... but the passport check was when we got off the train, same as when you get off a plane... boring really.
- we have had some insane weather this summer. mid-30s heat, driving rain on and off for days, crazy swinging weather. we're all still here and OK though
- C has been promoted to manager at work. Onwards and upwards for both of us :)
- I have still not written all my thankyou cards for the wedding... oops!
- in the midst of all this, we are still getting out and about and enjoying living close to a major metropolis, had some fun walking tours of Tokyo, gigs, great meals... more time off would be nice but otherwise no complaints :)

blog you all soon!
25 February 2008 @ 22:13
 Sand is useful stuff. Kids love to play in it. It's fun to make castles out of in summer, and then blob out on. And it's great for gritting winter roads in the snow country.

However, it is not so useful when tonnes and tonnes of it blow over the sea from China, and then tonnes more get picked up off the rice fields of the western Kanto and then get planted all over the rest of the Kanto.

This on the day I worked hard to get five loads of washing onto our little balcony, went to the dentist, and came back to see my white business shirts turn red-brown.

25 February 2008 @ 22:09
well, we came, we saw, we bombed out. It's been a couple of weeks since the event and I've only just got around to posting... but it still hurts.

We lost 3-10 to World, and that is our season over. Another season in the second division awaits. Bugger.

There are games you lose when the other guys are better, and they hurt. Then there are games you lose even though your team is better, but doesn't take its chances. This game was one of those. Put it this way: World had maybe three chances to score in the whole game, and converted two, including a try by the World first-five, who runs even worse than Grant Fox. On the other hand, we were camped on their line for 25 minutes in the second half, and couldn't get over the line. Frustration, then desperation. 

The field was both beautiful and terrible, being covered by three inches of snow, but that beauty was little consolation for the result.

I'll see you on the training field in early May then...
09 February 2008 @ 20:14
It's Saturday evening, and I'm sitting in my hotel room in downtown Tokyo as the team prepares for the game against World tomorrow.

It is snowing here now, and apparently it has been snowing heavily in Saitama for hours. This is the fifth day of snow this winter, and decent dumps of two to three inches all. It turns everything a beautiful white colour and then melts the next day so nothing gets too badly disrupted, although many of the highways around here are closed by snow. This is crazy - it didn't snow even once in Saitama last winter! From a famine to a feast indeed.

Anyway, it might be rugby in the snow for us tomorrow... we wait and see!
04 February 2008 @ 19:50

Well, two down and two to go. We are still on the long road to Top League promotion, by beating Chugoku Electric 80-5 in Hiroshima on Saturday.


The game was scrappy, not helped by the steady and increasingly heavy rain. We started well and never really let CE in with a chance of winning the game, using patient buildup to put on three quick tries. The first especially was well-worked, we got the ball for the opening kickoff and CE didn’t touch it again until after we crossed their try line four minutes later. However we slackened off after about 25 minutes and let in a soft try as the game ambled to halftime.


After half time we put on a few more tries but then let our discipline crumble, not helped by some ludicrous refereeing. As we attacked the CE line, rucking it up until we were about five metres out, the ref penalised and sin-binned our veteran lock for rough play… the guy concerned is the least likely player to get sinbinned for rough play, and it wasn’t for a punch, rather for throwing an opposition player out of the way. This is BTW par for the course when he’s hanging around the wrong wide of the ruck. In any case, the ref’s heavy-handedness didn’t help matters, as there was another dust-up a few minutes later, and the rest of the game turned into a wet, cold mess.


The good news was that the game was in Hiroshima, one of the more pleasant places to go for an away trip… once you get there. The problem is that while Hiroshima Airport is only an hour and 15 minutes from Tokyo by plane, the airport is an hour from town. It makes Narita Airport look handily located (anyone who has the misfortune of flying into or out of Narita will know exactly what that means!) and adds an unnecessary time lag to travel. Anyone who has suffered being on a plane with me knows how much I hate airports… the trip back especially was very annoying, as  our plane was delayed by 15 minutes due to snow, which meant more time aimlessly waiting around an airport (my idea of transport hell). Though having said that, the snowstorm itself was great, very pretty. I took a couple of pics with my phone, none of which  were very good, but this pics of a car outside the terminal building gives you an idea.


So, Hiroshima. The team management picked the right hotel for this trip, the Tokyu Inn Hiroshima, which apart from having a great food spread is right near the city’s main tourist attraction, the Peace Park and A-Bomb dome. Not much shuts up loudmouth rugby players, but a walk around the dome, lit up at night and eerily stark against a steel-grey sky, does. Very imposing and moving. Oh, and the hotel us also right by the main shopping street in town, the covered arcade, which has scored of great Hiroshima yaki restaurants. The foreign players and staff had yet to experience the Hiroshima style, so we hit the four-storey Hiroshima yaki restaurant tower, hard. About half an hour after we confidently walked in, we were stuffed to the gunwhales, and walked home much slower than we walked there. The seafood maniacs ripped into the local oysters, the meat lovers the beef and pork versions, and me the negi (spring onion) special. Although my darling hates negi, I was safe to eat lots of it last night J With luck the pics I took will show up… and would you believe there was a pic of one of our players on the wall of the restaurant, from the last time we played in Hiroshima several years ago? Amazing coincidence.

So, tummies full and with the right result on board, we come home… big game next week against World, the first of the two hard games left to get promoted. Will let you know how it goes…

27 January 2008 @ 22:23
 I'm out of hospital! Full details to follow, but for the moment, I'm back home safe :)

I had the op on Tuesday, which removed a hair granuloma from my backside. All went well, and the hospital staff were great. The granuloma had grown big, 5cm long by 3cm round, an ingrown hair from heck if ever there was one. I had to stay in bed Tuesday night and Wednesday, but after that was walking around OK. I'm now pretty much back to normal, although I have to avoid sitting as much as possible (plane trip to Hiroshima coming up this Friday... hmmm....) and no running.

But otherwise fine, and just soooooooooo happy to be home wth my darling :)

More news to follow...

07 January 2008 @ 20:07
well, we are off on the tough road to Top League promotion. We have to win four straight games... one down, three to go.

We beat NTT on Sunday 16-9 in a thriller. The match see-sawed back and forwards, with both teams attacking with reckless abandon. We ruled the set plays, spoiling NTT's ball at the lineout... but then spoiling our attack with silly mistakes and penalties when NTT got the ball. It looked like we had done enough at 11-3 just into the second half... but then NTT pegged it back to 11-9 through two penalties, and then bombed penalty and drop goal chances to take the lead with a few minutes to go.

My heart rate was at the red line heading into second-half injury time, but then a great try in the corner, a prop-centre combination decisively shredding NTT's defence, made the last few minutes of injury time less nervous... but still plenty so. A tough win, but we'll take it.

We now have to win three more to get back into the Top League, next two games on 2nd and 10th Feb. I'll keep you all posted :)
31 December 2007 @ 22:21
 It's a pretty quiet New Year round our way this year. Usually we'd go to the local temple at midnight or somesuch to ring in the New Year, but work at 9AM tomorrow puts paid to that for me :(

I have however been fortunate to have some great New Year times in Japan...

last year, C and I joined the locals at the temple just down the hill from the station, It was a crisp but mild night, and the amazake (sweet milky warm goodness) kept us warm as we waited for our turn to ring the bell. It was a warm atmosphere too among the hardy souls gathered, a couple of hundred maybe. Nice local colour.

I've also spent the New Year with several Japanese families (big shout out to the Fujimakis, Minakuchis, Sakatas and Otas)... in my limited experience there are three constants in Japanese New Years. Family, food and TV. As in, all the family gathers, eats an enormous amount of food (major kudos to the mothers who have to cook it!) and everyone watches TV together.

Normally, this would not be anything special, but the programme is always the annual NHK Kohaku Uta Gassen song fest, which is special. It mixes the plain and the kitsch, the straight-laced and the madcap, something for everyone and plenty to wonder at (endless costume changes, amazing outfits and stage shows...) This year's episode featured everything from annoyingly catchy kids' tune Oshirikajiri mushi (the bum-biting bug) to enka (old school and new school, with 30-year old youngie Hitoshi the standout) and reams of J-pop. While there is plenty to criticise about NHK, they do do a good-old fashioned brain drain entertainment show well :)

So this year, with work tomorrow and not much else to do, C and I chowed down and blobbed out in front of the box. Sounds like a good New Year at home to me :)
22 December 2007 @ 21:30
This may sound like a bit of a maniac thing to say, but I am SOOOOOOOOOO happy that I have finally finished my jigsaw puzzle!

Not just any puzzle mind, but a 2000-piece monster puzzle, of Himeji Castle (near Osaka).  I love Himeji, but have got a bit sick of looking at it over the last year... it really has taken me that long :(

Here are a few pics of the final moments of the epic journey :)

The shadow of the falling piece

See, it goes here. See that?

Happiness is a puzzle finished - at last!

Now Candace's knitting chest, which I got from my sempai, can be revealed in its full glory and not covered by the puzzle :) 

(and many thanks to C for her handy camerawork :) )