Day 9 – Final Game Day

This morning we were given a much appreciated sleep in by the coaches. We took the elevator down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast where we had a traditional Japanese breakfast that consisted of rice and sashimi. After breakfast we had some more time to rest up before our big game against the Japanese national champions Higashi Fukuoka High School. At about 11:30 we embarked to lunch were we had a traditional Japanese box lunch. At the end of the lunch the coaches told us to start getting mentally and physically ready for the game for the hour we were back at our hotel. At 2 o’clock we went for a light run through at Fukuoka’s most iconic park Ohiri Park. In this run through we went through the plays we were going to hopefully execute in the game.

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After lunch, we were back on the bus to head to Higashi Fukuoka High School. When we got there, we had to change and start warming up. After 15 minutes of warming up, it was time for the kick off. The boys played 2, 30 minutes’ halves and they all did well to come back with another great win. The score was 36 to 17, tries by Poidevin, Kearns, Turner x2, Lawson x2 and 3 conversions  out of 6.

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After the game, we all headed back to the hotel. The boys were given time to freshen up and get dressed before dinner. We all met at the lobby of the hotel and we all walked as a group to a nearby local restaurant for dinner. Rice and salad was already provided on the table but we had to cook our own food which was pork and beef, they allowed us to have seconds which was an advantage for the boys because of the hard work they have put in for the game. After dinner, we had two boys represent the whole tour group in thanking the two tour guides for the big effort they have put in for us, then the teachers made some announcements and also presented different prizes to different boys who have contributed to make this tour a memorable one.
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By Louis Gray & Mai Tolu

 

Day 8 – Fukuoka

Today after breakfast we packed up all our gear and caught the bullet train from Hiroshima to Fukuoka, about an hour and a half away. The highlight from the bullet train was when we split in two groups and had a race for who was going to get ready first inside the train. We only had one minute to get one and get seated before the train took off. Gilly had to do some warm ups, couple squats, high knees and all that. The group leaders were Gilly and Bangers and it was intense. The ride was calm; some of the boys got to finish their sleeps and some played mafia.

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On Monday, we went from lunch to another temple, on the way, we stopped past a large tree. Our tour guide explained the legend of the tree, explaining that it was said to have flown over on a birds back from Osaka to Fukuoka. The tree was said to be 1000 years old and was known as a couple tree. This meant that it started at the base and parted into two separate trees at the top, and were therefore seen as husband and wife by the surrounding community. We continued past the shrine, cleansed ourselves using the sacred water, and continued over the lake crossing three different bridges.

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When we got back to the hotel, we had a bit of time to relax and explore the city. Not many people found any shopping destinations worthy of spending money, only an arcade in the train station where most of the boys spent their time, and a lot of their money, gambling for toys in the arcade rooms. We walked down the road 50 meters to our restaurant and travelled up to level 5, where we took our shoes off and sat at the tables. Entrées of fish and chicken were brought out, and shortly after came a beautiful salad and a plate full of ingredients. A pan full of water was brought out and placed on the portable stove in front of us and we began to cook the thin strips of beef, the lettuce, mushrooms and tofu. As we cooked and consumed the meal, they brought out a bowl of hot chips, deep fried sausages and deep fried chicken. Following this was desert, ice cream flavoured with either coconut, vanilla, caramel. Delicious (:

By Isi Halaufia & James Haldane

Day 7 – Onomichi to Hiroshima

Today we played our third game of the tour against Onomichi High School. It was a unique experience for everyone as we played on a sand pitch with no grass. There are plenty of players with scrapes and grazes from the sand but we are not getting much sympathy from the coaches who think we have all just become spoilt by how good the Johnson Oval is.

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After the game the Onomichi players took us all out in small groups for lunch at some of the local restaurants and gave us a tour of their town. This was something new for the tour and it was great to get to know the Japanese students a bit better

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After returning from Onomichi we went to the Hiroshima Peace memorial, Atom Bomb Dome and walked throughout the museum. It was an extremely interesting and eye opening experience that I myself will always remember. The museum involved many exhibitions and models that showed the devastation to both the city and the people of Hiroshima. Seeing a small scale model of the destroyed city showed just how powerful the atomic bomb (little boy) was and how it turned a city into nothing but rubble. Burnt clothing and parts of human remains were among some of the artefacts in the museum, most of which were from children who had been killed during or in the days after the blast. To me the most harrowing  of the artefacts there was a stair case with the shadow of a man who had been instantly incinerated by the blast leaving nothing but the shadow of where he sat. After walking throughout the museum we made a short walk through the park where there were a number of monuments which included the Children’s Peace Memorial, Memorial Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims and the Atomic Bomb Dome. These monuments were amazing to see and definitely a life experience. On a whole, walking through out the museum and memorial park was something that most of the boys will never forget.

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By Opeti Helu & Cameron Horne

Day 6 – Miyajima Island

Today we caught a bullet train from Osaka to Hiroshima. Once we were up on the station we only had 1min to get on the train because of the efficient Japanese train schedule. After a couple of rehearsals and motivational speeches from Gilly to mentally prepare ourselves, we had 1min to get 30 men with luggage onboard. After a couple of deep breaths and stretches we rushed on the train like Ica when he sees  food. After the rush and thrill we all finally made it onto the train. The train ride went for approximately 1 hour and 30 mins. After we arrived to Hiroshima we had a delightful lunch which included a more western style of chicken schnitty/pork and rice with some tasty sauce. Once lunch was over we had time to go for a little roam around and shops. 20160416_154714_resized

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After shopping we went on the bus to the ferry wharf. We caught the ferry to see the Itskushima Shrine. On the ferry trip there we were able to see the large floating gate which at high tide gives the illusion that it is floating. The large red gate weighs approximately 60tonne. On the island there was a large plaque indicating that the Itskushima shrine is one of Japan’s top 3 scenic destinations. The shrine itself was also elevated over the water but at low tide it is just sand. After exiting the shrine there were hundreds of great market stalls along the island many of them specializing in oversized rice paddles.

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There is also a display of the largest rice paddle which is about 6 metres long and 3 metres wide. After getting the ferry back we checked into our new hotel for the next two nights. For dinner we had a Japanese specialty dish again, Okonomiaki. We had the same dish in Osaka however in Hiroshima they make the dish with noodles rather than rice. Many people argue over which region makes it better and this showed within the tour group with all the boys disputing over which was better.
Today we also collectively selected a tour song, “Highlight Tribe – Free Tibet (Vini Vinci Remix)” please skip to 3 minutes.

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Day 5 – Kyoto

After breakfast we started our bus trip to Nijo-Jo Castle which is one of the last remaining structures from the Tokugawa era. The castle was home to all 15 Shoguns over the ages who were the commanding chiefs of Japanese forces, often seen as having more power than the emperor
As we entered the castle we were greeted with a huge wooden and golden gate with overly detailed carvings. Once inside the Shoguns home we took off our shoes and started our walk throughout his house. The most prominent feature of the house were the Nightingale Floorboards which “sing” when anyone steps on them, we found out that the point of these were to alert the Shogun and his guards if an intruder was near.
We continued to explore the Gardens and grounds of the castle as more buildings and cherry blossoms appeared. The attention to detail throughout the castle and it’s gardens was unparalleled.
Our group left the castle and decided to go to a samurai shop down the road with an assortment of traditional Japanese weapons ,some boys in the group purchased large swords and ninja stars $$$$ thus taking a gamble on the strength of Australian customs.

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After the castle we went to Kinkaku (The Golden Pavilion), which was originally named Rokuon-ji Temple. We spent 45 minutes walking around the temple admiring the beautiful gardens and surroundings. The temple was built in the 14th century and the main attraction of the temple is that the top two levels were covered in gold leaf. It is registered as a world cultural heritage site. Some of the boys tried some local food inside the site as well. It was one of the best temples we have seen  and I’m pretty sure the boys will never forget it.

As our challenge for the day we all had to write a Hiku, a short Japanese poem about an aspect of the tour. Chris Icanovski won with this dedication to his room mate Sam Maley as voted by the all the players.

Beware of the hair
He is exceptionally slow
And can’t catch or pass

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After visiting the golden temple, the opportunity came for us to spend our money shopping in an array of shops located in the Kyoto precinct. The shops ranged from clothing stores, souvenir shops, shoe stores and food stores. The vintage clothing stores were popular among the boys with big name brands and cheap prices. It was a struggle finding our way back through the maze of arcades but definitely worth it as we arrived back at the bus with our hands full with shopping bags. After a relaxed day we returned to the hotel with a tasty and nourishing traditional Chinese dinner waiting for us.

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Day 4 – Age of the Samurai

Today on the 14th of April, we headed out after breakfast to the Himeji Castle. Arriving at the castle, we headed across a historic wooden bridge over the inner moat. The courtyard was lined with beautiful blooming cherry blossoms and other traditional trees. The temple was built in 1609 with a complete wooden structure, but minor rebuilds with maintained wooden structures. There are two main centre pillars within the castle which one is an original 400 year old pillar. Walking up towards the top of the building, the stairways and entrance ways continued to get smaller and smaller which suited the Asian individual more than the Australian boys. This was a form of defence aimed to limit attackers. In some levels of the castle, there still remained original 400 year old flooring boards and lined with turrets which were in 3 different shapes of a circle, triangle and squares but also the walls were lined with racks where when in operation, swords, arrows and bows would lie. Reaching the top of the castle, we could see out to the amazing surrounding mountain ranges and the infrastructure in the immediate vicinity where people were hardly visible from the sheer height. Most of the boys agreed to say that this castle has been one of the most impressive and overall enjoyed the experience of the history of Japan.

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For lunch we went to a restaurant and had rice, noddles, lots of fried fish and water to drink. Then we travelled to the Kinki University to play a game of rugby and also for a welcome conference and class activities. The Kinki School students had set up tables with Japanese food and games for us to try. For example, writing in Japanese, using chop sticks in races and rock, scissors and paper and hitting each other over the head. Then we went and played the game of two 20 minute halves. From the kick off the boys held good structure and quickly built momentum through the hard work of the forwards and the speed of the backs to get up the field and produce points. This continued throughout the rest of the half as the team worked hard and well together. In the 2nd half after some poor communication in the first few mins, the team got through it and stuck back to the structure and again succeeded through hard work and team work. After the game the team had a 20 cardio session and travelled back to the hotel for dinner.

74-0

Tries = Pedro, serhon, Isi, Malley, Nate, Duvall, Ica, Horne, White, Turner x2, Opeti

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Day 3 – Bullet train to Osaka

Today we are finally leaving Tokyo and heading to Osaka by bullet train. A few late wake-ups meant some rushed breakfasts at around 7:40 (started at 7 and we had to be ready to leave at 7:50) meant a bit of chaos and 5 marginally late boys to get onto the bus.  A first time offence lets you off with a warning and laundry duty in our case, but a second time means standing up on the bus and using the karaoke microphone to sing a song of our choice to the entire squad. Luckily for them, James was going to sing, but very unluckily for them, I was going to sing. I opted to go first as I knew going after James would just make me look worse. Having very little to no musical ability thanks to the musically-impaired genes of my father, I chose a classic and easy to sing song, the Australian national anthem. Once I stated, I very quickly made it apparent that I had decided to commence puberty right there and then and ripped out all the voice cracks, missed notes, and jumps in tone I could manage, much to the delight of the entire bus. After I had finished my 2 minutes of embarrassment, James was up and gave Adele a run for her money with a performance that brought tears to the eyes of the coaches. Luckily I recorded the entire piece and I’m sure James will love to see it again on Facebook once his birthday comes around. Once arriving at the amazingly large Tokyo Station, we were given 10 minutes to look around. Half the team walked down towards the other end of the station, surely 350/400 meters down the track, and the other half (myself included) made the wise choice to hit up a Starbucks which in Japan are in extremely regular supply. Having gotten our caffeine boost for the day, we went to board our bullet train to Osaka. We soon came to see the low skinny and sleek train that was to take us on the 2.5 hour trip, and many posed out the front for photos and videos. We boarded the train and having taken up a good third of the entire cabin, got relaxed and sat down for the ride. The uneventful, quiet, and smooth ride was amazing to experience, especially to see outside where thousands of buildings were whizzing past. After the 2.5 hours we arrived in Osaka ready to start our journey here.

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For lunch we went to Osaka BotejunNishiten to make our own traditional Japanese pancakes. They consisted of shrimp, pork, egg and cabbage with traditional sauce and mayonnaise, we enjoyed this Japanese delicacy. This was followed by an odd jelly-like dessert, with peanut flavor powder sprinkled over the top.

20160413_123828_resized_1After lunch, we were allowed 15 minutes to roam the inner sanctum of Osaka’s hub of a city. Once our time was up and we were back on the bus we were delighted with Chris Bruce’s rendition of “do you really want to hurt me”. After that we visited the Osaka castle with a panoramic view of the city which displayed the epic city scape. We then visited a local mall to mingle with locals and buy a few essential items. After this exhausting day we checked in to our new hotel and relished in a buffet dinner.

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Day 2 – Game Day

In the morning we went to one of the eldest temples in Tokyo, the Asakusa Kannon Temple. The entry gate is a giant red archway donated by the founder of Panasonic, as when he became ill he came to the temples and prayed on a daily basis and made a full recovery. The temples damaged in WW2 were rebuilt and needed a further restoration in 1975. One of the temples, the Gojyu-no-to Temple houses the ashes of Buddha.

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After the temple, we then went on to the fixture against Meguro-Gakuin Senior high school. Most boys had a new experience as the game was played on artificial turf. The game composed of a two 30min half against the first team and a 20 minute half against the second team. As the boys ran on for the beginning of the match, the two teams greeted each other with a bow on the 10-meter lines, unlike the usual handshake. The Meguro-Gakuin pack immediately showed their capability and strength, especially in their set piece and breakdown. To such an extent as a dominant rolling mall pushed over the line to score the second try in the match. However, Newington’s two tries scored by Petro and Sam allowed for newington to lead at half time, with a scoreline of 12-5. The second half then became a grind as the two teams remained scoreless for majority of the half. Although the Megura-Gakuin boys were held up on multiple occasions, the Newington team allowed no tries in the second half. The lead was extended in the final seconds as Petro got his second meat pie, ending the game at 17-5.

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The aftermath function was a real spectacular. Along with the usual speeches the school also put on an amazing Karate display. Followed by a routine from the dance group, which Opeti decided to join in and thankfully didn’t fall over and crush any of the girls.

by Tom Sermon, Christian Poidevin & Tyrone Taukamo

Day 1 – Welcome to the land of the rising sun

We finally arrived in  Tokyo, Japan to begin what looking to be an awesome rugby tour with a great bunch of guys. It took an age to get through customs but then we off to explore this amazing city.

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Our first stop was the famous Tsukiji fish market district where we were able to  try  some traditional Japanese cuisine and products. Most of the boys went for sushi but a few of the more adventurous got a little more exotic. After some free time to enjoy the streets and explore the rich fish markets we loaded ourselves back onto the bus and headed towards the Imperial Palace and the Imperial Gardens. The imperial Palace and gardens currently lie on the grounds of the Edo Castle, and is still home to the Emperor of Japan.

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After the Castle, we headed off to the shrine where we were able to look at some of the sanctuaries we had all witnessed in movies where monks and Buddhists train themselves. This was a great experience as the shrines were extremely similar to how they were portrayed in he movies. The shrines were traditionally Japanese and were made all of timber.
Following this we went shopping for about 1 hour looking at Japanese clothes shops. The shops consisted of cheap Japanese shops similar to those in Sydney.
After this, we met at 2:15 and travelled to the tower. We waited about 15 minutes and travelled up 44 floors which was worth the wait. The views of Tokyo were amazing as we saw the sunwolves stadium and other sky scraper buildings! After this we finally touched down in the hotel which was a relief as we could shower and relax.

Dinner was a traditional Chanko meal which was a great experience for everyone. We all sat on Katani mats on the floor  and got a great glimpse of the local culture.

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By James Turner, Stephen Zinonos and Fin Thompson