Making new friends on the other side of the world

Editors note: This is the first in a series of diary entries from Ashland High football player Mason Constantino as he enjoys the sights and sounds of Japan leading up to Pacific Rim Bowl XI.

I woke up this morning at 6:45, much earlier than desired, however necessary in order to cram in everything we planned to do today. After a delicious breakfast in our eleventh-floor apartment, my roommate and I set out for our first football practice overseas. After a short ride on the monorail we were at Expo Park, a gigantic sporting complex in the middle of the massive city of Osaka.

We arrived at the football stadium after passing a baseball field, which was to be the site of a high school playoff game, and an abandoned amusement park. Our half-hour commute to the stadium turned out to be short in comparison to the hour and a half long journeys many of my teammates had made. Despite the humidity and the constant roars from the baseball field we managed to have a surprisingly productive practice considering the circumstances.

After showers and some McDonald's burgers provided to us by the Japanese coaches we piled into two charter buses and embarked on an hour-long ride to the city of Kyoto. Time restraints forced us to skip visits to Nijoh Castle and Kinkaku Temple, which while disappointing, allowed us to be able to spend more time at the Samurai Studio Park. The park, a television set for samurai shows as well as a tourist attraction, was a very fun experience and provided a great opportunity for us to purchase souvenirs. Many kids bought samurai swords; however, I elected to save some money and instead bought a ninja star and spent the rest on snacks and a surprisingly scary haunted house. I'm sure the workers at the haunted house had a good laugh watching big American high school football players scream like 5-year-old girls.

Probably the most fun part of the day came after we returned from Kyoto. The plan was to watch the Japanese team's practice and return home with our host brothers afterward, but when the Japanese coaches lost the keys to the locker room, it turned into our first opportunity to hang out with the entire team. What started out as throwing passes, quickly turned into races between our team's fastest players and sumo wrestling matches. It was a great bonding experience and it was awesome to form friendships with the players who are soon to be our opponents.

It is incredible to see the amount of communication that can be done between people despite a significant language barrier. We were able to talk about football, school, and our lives back home. I can't wait to spend more time with the Japanese team and see all the beautiful sights that Japan has to offer.

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