Women's Team USA blog: Japanese ceremonial tea and a chance to buy our own kimono

By U.S. Women's National Team | July 20, 2019, 6:51 a.m. (ET)
July 24 - by Lauren Louive, Women's National Team

Today at the USA women's team training camp in Nakatsugawa, Japan, we had a morning individual drill where we paired with Japanese athletes to work on individual technique in areas tailored specifically to each athlete. We then had a little time for recovery in the sauna, streaching, lift, cardio, rehab etc.

Once we finished our workout we were greeted by Nakatsugawa locals and led to a room filled with women and high-school-aged girls dressed in the traditional kimonos.

They sat us on the floor, made for us then served us some matcha tea in a traditional ceremonial fashion. The women were extremely graceful and elegant as they served.

Once finished with the tea ceremony, a now-local teacher, whom is originally from the United States introduced to us the art of Kyudo, which is defined as the Japanese martial art of archery. Kyudo is not only a sport but also includes the idea of moral and spiritual development.

We then had lunch at our typical lunch spot and host restaurant serving us local dishes. Included were a variety of noodles, salmon, tuna, an assortment of other seafood, wings, fresh fruit, bread and a dish including a mixture of rice, egg and meat.

After lunch, we had some downtime for the rest of the day, so a few of the athletes and myself traveled the one-hour-plus train ride to Nagoya to explore the city and take a tour of the Nagoya castle built in 1615.

We then did a little shopping, as we tried on and bought a few traditional kimonos for ourselves.

We had dinner in Nagoya and headed back to Nakatsugawa for a good night's rest and to prepare ourselves for the final day of camp.

- Lauren Louive

July 23 - by Mallory Velte, Women's National Team

The day began like any other, with lobby breakfast. After filling up on too many bread rolls and a few refills of coffee, the heavier athletes were off to their 9am morning mat session. The lighter athletes headed back to bed to snooze until their 10:30am start time.

A new squad of Japanese wrestlers had arrived!! And with them they brought fresh energy. Luckily they were willing to come to camp, despite being fresh off their wrestle offs for the remaining world team spots the prior weekend.

We warmed up, sparred for 20 minutes, and then honed in on individual areas. I was fortunate enough to spar with Koumba Laroque (French 68kg 2018 world silver medallist) and Masako Furoci (Japan 72kg world team member).

After our lunch, we loaded in the bus to head to Shigakukan University. An hour and a half ride later, we laced up our shoes and prepared for battle. In a small room, filled filled young talent and old stars, we battled out a 2- hour live practice.

We ended practice with Japanese partner carries. Towels, electrolytes, extra shirts, and a good attitude were essential for this gruelling workout.

We hopped back on the bus our ride back to Nakatsugawa - only to be interrupted for a quick truck stop dinner.

P.S. Truck stops in Japan are filled with delicious and high end bathrooms.

Thank you to the Japanese lead Kenji Mabuchi, coach Shoko, Mr Maruyama for their generosity and hospitality.

I anticipate we will all feel like we got hit by a truck tomorrow.

-Mallory Velte

July 22 - by Alexandria Glaude, Women's Team USA

Today is the first off-day of camp and I woke up excited to explore. Japan is one of the many places I’ve dreamed about visiting and sure enough wrestling would make that dream come true.

After the first practice, a few gals and I set sights on a bigger city for a day of adventure. Unfortunately, the rain was pouring pretty heavy but we didn’t let that stop us from a day of fun. An hour and 20 minute train ride transported us from the rural Nakatsugawa to the big city, Nagoya.

The Osu-Kannon Temple was our first stop. This Buddhist temple was built in about 1333. The main part of the temple is a large hall where worshippers come for prayer and small paper notes with wishes. For 500 yen I was able to purchase a little wooden note where I wrote down my family name, tied it to the wall, and eventually a priest will be able to pray for my family.

After the temple, we walked down a long strip of outdoor shops, food tents, and other boutiques. It was truly astonishing to see how lively the streets were, even with the rain.

Eventually, we took a taxi back to the Nagoya train station where the JR Takayama Tower mall is attached. The JR mall is an 8 floor, luxury, towering mall that is famous for its many luxury stores and options to shop. Upon entry, we were all taken aback at how many expensive stores there were on just one floor. We’re talking Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Chanel and other brands I’ve never even heard of.

Floor after floor, we explored the many aisles of expensive taste until eventually we found a department store a little closer to our liking (and tax bracket).

After a great time shopping, we made our way to a ramen house where we had dinner together before making the trek back to Nakatsugawa.

We got a little taste of what Japan has to offer and now I’m hoping to do more exploring in the next off day!


July 20 - Video blog by Tamyra Mensah-Stock, with greetings from Japan

July 19 - Entry by Victoria Anthony, Women's Team USA

Photo: National Women's Coach Terry Steiner in Nagatsagawa, Japan. Coach Steiner surprised the team with a run at the second workout in Japan. Photo courtesy of Terry Steiner Facebook.

Today was our first full day in Nakatsugawa, Japan! We had breakfast provided by the hotel (1 egg, 3 bread buns, 1 banana, yogurt, some potato salad stuff I didn’t eat, + orange juice and coffee or tea) and headed to the practice venue at 9:30.

Our first practice was more about getting the long travel out of our systems, so we did a thorough warm up and then had 45 minutes of individual work. We went back to the hotel, about 15 minutes from the venue.

It was a quick turnaround until the second workout, which was meant to be a lift but to our surprise there wasn’t much lifting equipment (two platforms, the end). So National Team Coach Terry Steiner chose his favorite workout for us - running. We did a mile and a half total of sprint laps around not quite a track, but it got the job done and had beautiful scenery.

The run was good for simulating initiating the sprint sometimes needed at the end of a match to score. From there the team did partner lifts to finish up.

Straight from practice the Japanese Federation took us to the Nakatsugawa City Hall, where there was an Opening Ceremony celebration held to welcome Team USA to Nakatsugawa! We received an extremely warm, hospitable welcome where they played our national anthem, and had the mayor and other members of the community welcome us in.

We’re all very grateful for this opportunity to get comfortable with the Japanese culture prior to the 2020 Games - all in all, an awesome first day here in Japan!

July 18 - Entry by Victoria Francis, Women's Team USA

Photo1: Team USA is welcomed in Nagatsagawa, Japan, which is where the USA Olympic Team will also train next year.
Photo2: Mascot at the airport.
Photo 3: Victoria Francis with dogs.
Photo 4: Welcome sign. Photos by Victoria Francis.

Hello from Nagoya! It's been a long day of travel for us. We have athletes and coaches coming from all over the country, but my group flew from Detroit to Nagoya, Japan on a 13 hour flight. My game plan of sleeping a majority of the flight did not work out, but hopefully that just means I will sleep well tonight Nakatsugawa is 13 hours ahead of where I live, so jet lag is inevitable.

Once we landed in Nagoya, we met with a few others of the delegation, including Billy Wood. Billy Wood is a wrestling coach and referee, but also speaks Japanese and will be our translator during this trip. We are very fortunate to have Billy's help during our stay.

While at the airport we found out due to storms, we wouldn't be able to travel by train to Nakatsgawa as planned. But while waiting for the rest of the delegation, we met the mayor of Nakatsugawa, the director of the airport, and the airport mascot. It has been a very welcoming experience and their mascot had us worn-down travelers chuckling.

It's exciting to have a such a large group during this training trip. Our delegation includes members of our 2019 Senior World Team, Senior National Team, and U23 World Team. It will be a great chance for us to spend time with each other, both on and off the mat, as we gear up for our World Championships and other summer competitions.

-- Victoria Francis