This was the second time this year that I had been to a new country and seen a new way of living with a new culture. First of all Greece which I must admit I was not overly impressed with (one of my friends is part Greek and she said it must just have been the places I went to ), and now I was off to Japan a completely different continent. I was really looking forward to it and had heard good things. It lived up to my expectations and I am already looking forward to the next time I come out here.
One of the hard things when you go away is that you cannot speak the language and communication is limited. In Europe I can understand a little (when I say a little I mean a little) but you can usually get away with it as most people speak English. In Japan it is a whole different story and if you ever go which I suggest you do just remember to either take a course in speaking Japanese or get one of those little books that translates important information. The hardest thing was when we went to restaurants, you either had to point to the menu or just hope when they nod at “chicken” that they understand. In Europe you can understand a little as some words are similar but in Japan they use their own writing which simply looks like meaningless symbols to me. Their culture is so different and you notice it straight away. Out of respect they all bow to each other, most of the time it seems for no reason. You do start to notice that you start to nod back a lot, it just sort of hooks on. One thing I liked was that they are a very clean country. Unlike other cities you do not see rubbish all over the place. A healthy aspect of their life is that they all seem to ride a bike everywhere, bike meaning old school bicycles not your modern good looking bikes. Whereas we would all walk around, they ride around. They are given priority on the pavements and you have to watch yourself or you will get taken out by an old lady going to the shops.
Everything in Japan is well run and on schedule. The trains leave on the dot and for a train to be 10 minutes late is unheard of. We only just made our train one time! The tournaments were no exception and were organised very well. It makes your life so much more easy. There were lots of practise courts so training was not a problem and everyone was very helpful. They always started on time and gave people with later matches not before times so they did not have to worry too much if someone pulled out or if matches went especially quick. Everyone was very helpful with your problems as well, a good effort seeing as most of them did not speak much English.
Both the tournaments out in Japan were on artificial grass which is a surface that not that many tournaments are on so I am not used to them so much. The surface suits my game and I was confident going out there that I could do well but I was also nervous when I started my first match as these girls train on the stuff whereas although you see this surface at most of your local clubs around England, we never practise on them. At Queens Club where I train they do have a few so I did get to practise on it for a few days before I left. However the amount of sand that was on the courts out there was a shock to my system so having grass court shoes were a saviour as they give you extra grip. Some people (like the Japanese, who are a lot closer to the ground than me) like sliding around but I would much rather be able to stand up than feel like Bambi on ice whilst trying to win a match. Both weeks I played well and fought through matches that a few years ago I would have let go. The first week I just missed out on beating the number 4 seed. I played a great match and was 4-3 up in the third but she gave me nothing and although I carried on playing well I just missed out on the key points. The second week I lost to a young Japanese girl who is so talented. Watch out for her as she is definitely going to be up there soon. She started the match perfectly and I was soon 0-4 down but I found ways to hurt her and we ended up having a good match. I can win both these matches. At the moment they can go either way but soon with more confidence and more practise I will be closing out these matches and moving on to the next level.
I preferred the club the first week but only because I have a few lazy genes in me. The 2nd week it was quite a big complex and you had to walk all over the place to get to the courts. It would not have been too bad if we were in the club house but we were based under the main stadium which is at the bottom of the hilly complex. For the 2nd week however, the official hotel was amazing with a mall attached to it so i was very happy. I didn't realise how much of a shopaholic I am until I found myself floating around the shops most days.
I feel my confidence is good at the moment and am looking forward to the next lot of tournaments. That is where tennis is so up and down. Which comes first confidence or playing well, its a bit of a chicken and egg question (although I have just read in the paper that scientists say the egg came first so maybe playing well does). This has been my best trip so far this year. We again got a lot of good work done and I was playing well and managed to pick up 12 and a half points which will push my ranking up.
I look forward to going back to Japan and would recommend it to anyone. Unfortunately although I got to sit in Tokyo airport for nearly 3 hours I did not get to see the main city. A good reason to come back I think.
Origato. That is thank you in Japanese, I am fluent already.