Hopefully I’ve captured your interest with the title of this post. Trust me when I say, I’m telling the truth. This weekend was the annual fall All-Japan ALT Soccer Tourney at the Sania Sports Complex in Sugadaira, Nagano Prefecture. On Saturday morning, bright and early at 6:15am, we hit the road looking for adventure and a victory! About 250km and 4 hours later, we arrived in the quaint little ski town of Sugadaira.
On the road to Nagano! Gas station, a vending machine stop, and instructions of how to use a Western toilet:
The journey took us through many towns and several tunnels, why ever go around a mountain, when you can go through it (I’m fairly certain that’s the motto here, I’ve never seen so many tunnels). The toll-roads/expressways are similar to US Interstates and Highways, except that the rest stops in Japan are amazing! They have 24-hour convenience stores, gas stations, clean bathrooms (see picture), restaurants, etc. The rest stops are much more frequent too. To take toll roads in Japan, there are 2 ways to go about it. First, you can hop on and just take a ticket and pay the amount at your exit. Or, you can get an ETC (Electronic Ticket Card) machine installed in your car (usually only newer cars have them) and you are charged a flat fee to drive on the toll-road. Roundtrip we paid 10,000 yen or roughly $115. If we would’ve had an ETC machine, we would’ve paid 2,000 yen or roughly $25. Big difference! If I was planning on doing a lot of traveling by car, I would definitely get an ETC machine in my car.
Welcome! Hotel and Sports Complex
The tournament was held outside, in temperatures around the mid 60s. There was a consistent breeze that kept it the perfect temperature for players on the field, but on the sidelines, you definitely needed jackets and pants. However, being 1100m above sea level, with mainly blue skies, we had ample time to get a tan/burn. I’m actually nursing a nice burn on my forehead/scalp right now. The first day of the tourney was 4 games, 15-minute halves, 6 people on the field, and a half-size field. We ended up winning our first 2 games and tying the last 2. Our last fame was a fight, we were down 0-2 with about 10 minutes to go in the game and we made a comeback! In the end, I think we were all pleased with how we played, but we were ready to relax! After 4 games, my body was dying to stop moving, so we went back to the hotel and straight down to the onsen/hot spring. Sitting in the hot water felt wonderful after the day, and I would’ve stayed there all night if I could have. There was a dinner and after that, a dance party/club/bar option. I stayed for about 2 hours, but at 11pm, I was exhausted and went back to my room and to sleep. I left 4 remaining teammates at the party and from their stories, it sounded like it was a good night for everyone.
Sunday morning came way too painfully. My body was very sore from the previous games, and as I write this (Tuesday night) my body still aches. We had breakfast, packed up our belongings, and headed to the field a little after 10am (yes, they were very generous with the starting times…hey, we aren’t professional athletes!) We played 2 games (and actually lost them both), but when the ranking came out, we were the 2nd seed. Unfortunately, the 1st seed had to leave early (like they do every year, since they have an 8 hour bus ride to their prefecture). Before the finals, we had a curry lunch (yummy!) and after our thoughtful captains decided we were too tired to play another game, we would decide the game on a sudden death shootout. 5 players from each team would get a free kick at the opposing goalie. I somehow managed to play goalie for this bit, since I had the experience of playing goalie in middle school (yes, I was very qualified). But, I felt semi-confident in the situation because it was so much less stressful than a golf tournament and I had watched Molly play so many times, that it almost felt natural…thanks Molls. In the end, we won 3-2, I got to save 3 shots and score a goal of my own. I would say it was a successful tournament; we got a trophy and everything.
After a 4-hour drive back (AND a stop at Starbucks!), I was exhausted. However, I had previously accepted an invitation to have dinner with the Watanabe’s (the nice couple that have essential adopted me). We drove to the neighboring town of Kani and ate at Bronco Billy’s Steakhouse. I can’t lie, it wasn’t too bad, and it definitely had the feel of a steakhouse, except for the chopsticks…
The view of the ski lift from right outside of the hotel (awesome, I know) and of course, Starbucks!
So here I am, 2 days after returning from Nagano. Still incredibly sore and proudly displaying my war wounds on my knees (and my new tan lines are pretty cool too). I had a great time and I’m already looking forward to defending our title at the summer ALT soccer tournament in June.
Go Gifu Pirates. OOOOSSSSSSSS. (side note: “oooosssss” is a cheer that the students did at Sports Day, and it is quite catchy)
I present, the "oooosssss-ing" Gifu Pirates. Champions of the Fall ALT Soccer Tournament!