Sendai and Ekiden!

Hello everyone, I hope all is well at USF! I have had an absolutely amazing time over here these past two weeks.
I will start from last weekend. As I briefly mentioned in my last blog, I was selected to go on an all expense paid trip to Sendai Japan to watch the Kansai Gaidai long distance relay team compete in a tournament. Friday morning I had to wake up very early to get to Kansai Gaidai by 8 am. The 5 other foreign students who were selected arrived around 7:50 am and we introduced ourselves. The event organizer was on time at 8 am and he had some Japanese students with him as well. He quickly gathered us into a group and discussed what we would be doing for the day. He gave everyone an envelope that contained 5,000 yen which was our money for lunch, dinner and a meal the following evening. After he finished explaining everything, we received a special Kansai Gaidai T-shirt and a kansai Gaidai sports towel. We all left from Kansai Gaidai as a group and made our way to Kyoto where we would board a shinkansen that would take us to Sendai. When we arrived at Kyoto, we met a group of Kansai Gaidai Cheerleaders who were also coming on this trip. There were probably 25 Japanese students that ended up going with us. Before we left on the Shinkansen, everyone went and bought food because the trip via bullet train was going to take almost 6 hours. On the Shinkansen, I studied Japanese, talked with a few Japanese students and tried to sleep a little.
We arrived in Sendai just after 3 pm. Once we were all checked into our hotel rooms (I was super surprised that everyone received their own room. I was expecting to be sharing a room with another student) we were free to do anything we wanted for the rest of the day. I decided to go with my friend Andrew and explore Sendai for the rest of the day. We did a lot of walking, talking and went inside a lot of interesting looking stores. Around 6:30 pm, we messaged another one of the foreigners who was invited on the trip to see if they wanted to go and eat dinner with us. We were going to a Gyutan (Ox tongue), which is extremely famous in Sendai. We found a good restaurant and the three of us ate the exact some dish. I have to admit, it was extremely delicious. It tasted exactly like a really good steak. We stayed at the restaurant for about an hour and just talking and  having a good time. When we left from there,  Andrew wanted to go and buy some books from the book store and some snacks for his friends back in Osaka. By the time we bought snacks and he bought his books, it was almost 8:30 pm. We decided to go back to the hotel and watched a Japanese baseball game on tv.
The following morning, everyone had to be up, and ready to go to the tournament by 10 am. Thankfully, we had free breakfast at the hotel! The track and field stadium was about 35 minutes away from our hotel and unfortunately, it was extremely windy and cold on the day of the race. When we arrived to the stadium, I was honestly impressed at the number of people who were there. Not to mention, every college that was competing in the race had their cheerleaders, and band members there. I have never been to a relay race in America but have a feeling that there are not cheerleaders cheering at the sideline. From 11 am to 12 am the relay race competitors were warming up by running around the track. I asked the event organizer about the length of the race and he said it was around 40 kilometers. All of the colleges cheerleaders were cheering and the school anthems were being played by the bands and the girls were warming up on the track. Andrew and I were holding a Kansai Gaidai sign by the sidelines and were slowly freezing as the clouds covered the sun and the wind began to howl.
Once it hit 12 pm, all of the racers lined up and when the alarm buzzed, they all took off. They did one lap in the stadium before they continued through the city. I was confused when they all ran out of the stadium. All of the college band’s stopped playing and all of the cheer leaders stopped cheering and began packing up to make their way to the finish line. Kansai Gaidai followed suit and we all began walking to the train station that would take us near the finish line. After eating near the station, we took a 20 minute ride by subway train to the final cheering point. After arriving at the end of the race, all of the colleges began playing there college songs, cheerleaders began cheering, we were all on the side of the road…in the city… there were many people driving by in cars staring at us and waving to us. For a few minutes, I felt kind of strange standing on the sidewalk waving a pink banner that had the Kansai Gaidai emblem plastered on it. We were doing this for a good 30 minutes if not longer before the first relay competitor passed us. Unfortunately, it wasn’t Kansai Gaidai’s team member. After that, the competitors passed one by one every few minutes. Eventually, the Kansai Gaidai team member ran by us and after that we stopped cheering and playing music. The final results for the tournament were so-so. We placed 11th out of the 25 college teams that competed. After the award ceremony, we all went back to the hotel where we picked up our luggage before heading back to Osaka. The ride back in the Shinkansen was actually really bad because I could not fall asleep for some reason. When I got to Kyoto, I was ridiculously tired and wanted to fall asleep on the train but knew that if I did, I would without a doubt, miss my stop. It was almost midnight by the time I arrived home and went to bed. The worst part was that I had to wake up at 6 am the following day =(.
Overall, I had an absolutely fantastic time on this trip. It was great to meet some of the Japanese cheerleaders and to become friends with some of the foreign students I had the opportunity to talk to. I am extremely grateful that I was selected to go on this trip.
To make the week just that much better, on Monday, I found out I got a 93% on my Japanese spoken exam and a 97.5% on my reading and writing exam. I will be busy these next few weeks because I have other projects that I need to start. I will be back soon with more stories from my study abroad experience. Until then, またね!

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