Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday - 22nd to 25th May 2013
- Social times in Kyoto.
When you're on the team bus, making the necessary roadside stops, there are not many indulgences but ice-cream licking outstripped souvenir shopping, and coffee consumption was a distant third. The arrival in Kyoto changes the ball-game, for Kyoto is steeped in Japanese history being the capital city and the seat of imperial power for over a thousand years. Here there are seventeen world heritage sites, and if you visit six temples or shrines every day, you'll need to be here for more than a year. But for a posse of hockey supporters following their men around the country, there is time-out from sitting in the stands and a chance to pursue their sightseeing ambitions of this tour to Japan. Spare a thought for these girls - just how good are they? It is amazing that they are always there for their man, personal manager, team supporter sitting in the stands in their blue shirts come rain or shine, in searing heat and humidity, sometimes with no shade, or with puddles on their seats in a tropical downpour, cheering and waving when the goal is scored. There's Jen and Wiesia from the West and Dorothy from Tamworth, a gaggle of girls from sunny Queensland with Bunny and Joke, Alice and Carol, Ingrid and Jan. There's Elizabeth from Tassie on her first national hockey tour and Helen from Melbourne, the rock of support to our hockey guru, as well as
South Aussie's Anne-Marie, now in absentia. And finally we have the easy-come, easy-go duo from the West, Carol and Alison - have the feeling that they could surreptitiously disappear to the local shops and have a coffee given half a chance, probably wouldn't mind finding themselves on a golf-course or squash court respectively, and wouldn't be too fussed if they missed a moment of the hockey action. Maybe it's the pommie background or just being married to a man called Simon. As for washing their man's sweaty hockey gear after a game and hanging it out to dry at the side of the field, that's definitely not on their agenda - Jan, you're an angel !!! But at Hiroshima, the locals announce that they will give away a prize for the top performance by a team supporter. On the day, there are many worthy contenders in the grandstand with the award going to Ingrid who is never known to be backward in coming forward!
Our guides, Masa and Hero takes us on a walking tour in the late afternoon, down narrow alleyways brushing past the occasional geisha or maiko. By the time the camera clicks they scuttle on and disappear through a doorway. We stumble upon a Shinto shrine, some undergo the purifying ritual with water, as Ingrid shows us how to summon the deity by pulling on the rope that rings the gong. Next day it's off to Nara again on the train but not for hockey - apparently this is where you come to see seventy thousand Japanese school children all neatly attired in the school uniforms, and guaranteed to increase the usual scrum of tourists who are actually trying to catch a glimpse of the impressive Buddhist temple and gardens with deer ambling through the park. Back in the city we take in the samurai Nijo castle with it's squeaky floorboards on which you would need hovercraft footwear to avoid detection, the scenic Golden Pavilion and, lastly, a centre with a pot-pourri of japanese handicrafts. Last day, Friday, clear sunny skies and a small group follow the tour guides onto the train out of Kyoto to a peaceful, rural setting for a walk in the bamboo forest - uncrowded, peaceful, few tourists, and no schoolchildren!
We gather in the evening for our team dinner in Japanese style, with sizzling pots in front of us on the tables for cooking our beef individually, Shaba shabu style. Key individuals are singled out for worthy praise, with awards going to Manager Ric Roberts, Umpire Ian Grant, Captain Len Blyth, Vice-Captain Doug Truman, physio Nigel Friend, and Hockey consultant Mike Craig, not forgetting Coach Bob Claxton who was unable to complete the tour for family reasons. Finally there is much praise for our local guide Masa, to whom we bid or last farewell the following morning at Kansai International airport built on the man-made island in the sea.