Gymnastics in Japan
Friday, June 2, 2006 – I started the girls in a gymnastics program today on the recommendation of our neighbor, whose 4th grade daughter attends. The place, called Mihata Gymnastics, is a Japanese-run facility just outside the back gate of Camp Zama, so the location is very convenient for us. To find the place, I was following vague directions and driving down an unknown road for the first time, so there was definite (and extreme) tension as we searched for the large yellow and blue building. I don’t remember feeling this way about other new cities I have lived in, but here, I can’t help but feel fear and apprehension when I drive somewhere new for the first time. It has to be the very narrow roads combined with the people walking and biking in every direction that make it so challenging to drive. That, as well as the fact that there are no street names — oh, and I’m also driving on the right side of the car on the left side of the road. That sort of makes the absurdity of not having street names seem like no big deal, right? But, really, the streets do not have names here, and they are also not laid out in a grid. They just jumble all together and wind every which way so you could end up lost in the blink of an eye. I think an adventurous spirit is a requirement for living here and being willing to leave your house each day!
When we finally stumbled on the building, the first thing we dealt with was parking. The lot at the gymnastics building holds about 8 cars and 20 bikes. Other parents park along the road, walk or bike from home or just drop their kids off. I found an empty spot in a lot nearby, but I had no idea if this was a private parking lot and if I was allowed to park. I figured I’d just play the ignorance card and hope no one noticed my car there for the next hour.
Because of their ages, my two girls are in separate time slots, but fortunately they’re back-to-back, so one goes from 3:30 to 4:30 and the other from 4:30 to 5:30. I paid out a huge amount of Yen to enroll them, all the while telling myself this would serve a trifold purpose — it would be Japanese language experience, much needed exercise and a chance to get out of the house. All of these things should make it worth the monetary investment, but, whoa, what a lot of Yen! All students are required to wear a uniform and have a special notebook to record accomplishments so I paid for those things, times 2, plus a one-time registration fee and then the monthly installment. Finding the right size uniforms was interesting because the sizes are completely different here. We determined Teagan to be in size 110 and Chesney in size 150. I figured that refers to centimeters of height.
It was so helpful that our neighbor had made arrangements in advance for us to come because I wouldn’t have known where to start with that conversation. But once we were there, it was easy to enroll them because one woman at the front desk spoke a small amount of English — enough for us to communicate.
The girls did great during their first class, even with the language barrier. They both seemed to have a good time and the coaches are unbelievably friendly. Even when I think they must be getting frustrated trying to tell one of the girls what to do in Japanese, they never show it in their demeanor so my kids never feel uncomfortable. Honestly, that’s one really nice thing about not knowing the language. My kids wouldn’t know it if another child said something rude or picked on them. They’d just smile in blissful ignorance. Good for the self-esteem! Hey, that’s not a not a bad slogan — Blissful Ignorance, It’s Good for your Self-esteem.
So, I’m glad we took the risk and jumped right into this experience. We’ve been in Japan for one month now, and I’m glad to have a reason to leave the house each week. I’m not sure how things will pan out as I get closer to delivering the baby, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. For now, I’m excited at what opportunities the gymnastics experience will bring our way.