A Travellerspoint blog

My birthday!

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Here are some photos from my crazy birthday party. We went to my favorite restaurant in Matsue and had a big ole banquet!

Posted by jbennett 00:00 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

South Korea

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Here are some photos of my recent trip to Seoul, South Korea.

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Your prayers are greatly needed

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The most amazing, charasmatic and warm-hearted man, Robert "Jack" Fagan has left this world to be with his Heavenly Father. His laughter and cleverness was unlike any. If it weren't for this incredible man, I wouldn't be in Japan living out my dreams. He supported me through the most confusing time in my life and changed the lives of everyone who knew him for the better.

He was always doing the most fun and clever things for everyone, lifting up everyone he knew. He was always taking in stray dogs, one of which was Irwin, who he nursed to health and took care of for many years. He was so bright and clever and funny, and often, he had me laughing so hard at times I doubled over and cried. No one could make you laugh or feel as good as Jack Fagan could.

He leaves behind the most amazing, loving mother who needs your prayers. Please pray for BJ Fagan Croonquist that the Lord will bless her and give her strength through such a sorrowful time.

Thank you for your prayers.

Posted by jbennett 00:00 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Karate Test!!

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Well, after one year of training, I was FINALLY alowed to test for my orange belt!! Although it's only the second level, I'm feelin' pretty full of myself!

I was so nervous I wanted to cry, seriously. Actually, several of the kids were crying and I wanted to start bawling with 'em too. I didn't know what to expect. I thought my sensei, who has trained me all this time, would be doing the testing, but no. Some big scarry dude in a suit from Osaka was there to do it and I couldn't understand half of what he said. But it's all good. He let me pass, shaky knees and all.

I also didn't expect the test to last for three and a half hours! We not only did katas, but our sensei conducted a class as usual and the Osaka inspector watched all of that too. We also had to do other things like push-ups sit-ups and stretching. If we passed the exercise, we had to yell our name out to him. The whole process was surreal.

Karate here is just so different from martial arts in the States. Here, you do the same moves over and over and over until you've perfected one, and then you can learn the next thing. Most of our class time is spent doing basic punches and kicks, and honestly, I was starting to get really bored, but, after testing and finally getting to spar quite a bit, I'm seeing the benefits of repeat, repeat, repeat. Yelling is also important. They judge your power based on your voice, which I still don't get completely, but I can say some of the black belt guys sound really really scary! Maybe I could get my black belt in about eight years - which actually is the average.

It was so strange, but one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had. I never thought I'd say I have passed a karate test in Japan!

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Summer Travel: Kurashiki

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Kurashiki is a charming historic town near Okayama, which is about three hours by bus from Matsue. The city was originally used as a rice storage area, so the old buildings have been preserved and changed into cute little shops and hotels. It's kind of like a Japanese Jonesborough in a way.

After walking around the historic downtown area, I stayed at a ryokan, or Japanese style inn. I had been wanting to stay at a ryokan for a very long time, but never had enough courage to go, but I finally did it!

It was amazing. When I first arrived, the staff were waiting on me at the front and immediately took me into a room where waiting for me was over ten yukatas (Japanese robes) to choose from. I picked out one and they showed me around.

One of the most appealing thing about ryokans is their architecture and design. Everything inside is traditional: tatami floors, Japanese flower arrangements, old wooden walls and sliding doors. The staff wear kimonos and serve your meal and wait on you in old traditional fashion. It's definitely a true Japanese experience that few foreigners are lucky enough to get to experience I think.

There was a gorgeous onsen which overlooked an old traditional Japanese garden. I took a bath three times while I visited there because it was so relaxing and I was always the only one there! I just soaked up in the hot stone bath and looked out over the garden. I don't think I'd been more completely relaxed in all my life. Then, I went up to my room and they brought a traditional Japanese dinner right to my room. By traditional I mean seaweed dishes and miso soup, sashimi, tempura, rice and Japanese style vinegared vegetables. All ridiculously healthy.

After finishing dinner, I went to the onsen again and when I returned back to my room, the attendant had laid out my bed for me. I felt so taken-care-of and pampered. Then the next morning, they served a Japanese breakfast. After checking out, they followed me outside and all bowed, then didn't go back inside until I walked out of sight.

I had always been so nervous and afraid to go to one because I felt like I didn't know enough about Japanese manner and language to not make a huge fool of myself, but, I finally mustered up enough guts to go. And, I'm so glad I did! I knew after living here for a year and a half how wonderfully polite and curteous Japanese are, but after experiencing a night's stay at a ryokan, I'm definitely blown away!

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