The time had finally come. After spending many hours training with Aito Iguchi and Yuga Okada, we were finally going to see the boys put their skills to the test with a big hockey tournament up in Nikko, Japan. The day started out in Tokyo and I put my Japanese train navigation skills to the test. I hit the road with all my stuff to join Aito and Yuga up in Nikko to watch them play. It was pretty smooth sailing and I enjoyed my 3 hour journey to Nikko station. Kumiko (Yuga’s Mom) picked me up at the station and we went for Soba noodles before the game. They were outstanding. I am a sucker for all Japanese noodles but these were top notch. After lunch we went to the Nikkō Kirifuri Ice Arena for the first game of the tournament. It was sick to see the game in person. Like everyone else, I’ve been watching the Japanese players mostly on the internet. Here was my chance to watch the competition in person. I was really excited with the level of play. In this video the Warriors dominate their opponent and Aito and Yuga finish with multiple points each. It was really fun filming this video but even more fun to edit it. I was having a blast re living this once in a lifetime experience and I hope you get a true sense of how cool it was to be there. Thanks a lot to Yuga and Aito for being such good hosts and having me up to watch them play. Enjoy Glimpz 16 part 1.
Music by: @be_svendsen
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I woke up just like any other day. Only this wasn’t just any day. It was Sunday morning in late February, and I was waking up in Saitama, Japan. I gathered my Pond Pack hockey bag, chugged a glass of water and headed out to meet Aito Iguchi and his father. We were about to head out on a 2 1/2 hour ride to Nikko, Japan where there was a rink with open hockey. I traveled all the way across the world for this opportunity and needless to say, I was elated.
6 months prior to this meeting in Japan, I sent an instagram message to Aito and asked him if he would like to try our hockey stick grips. He was enthusiastic about it and I was excited to see him using the product. I had already been a fan of his from his videos that he did with Pavel Barber. After receiving the grips, Aito would consistently send me pictures of him using the grips and promoting them online. I was extremely grateful and made it a priority that I would go and see him in person. It worked out really well because with the hockey market growing in Japan, it also gave me the chance to visit stores over there and try and sell Buttendz in the Japanese market. So after setting up some skating opportunities with Aito and his team, the Saitama Warriors, I jumped on a plane and headed off to see hockey in Japan.
I flew into Tokyo and crashed the first night in an Airb&b in the city. The next day, lugging all my gear around, I found the proper train to take me north to Saitama. After arriving in Saitama, I made my self at home in my new Airbb and went out in search of noodles, which I had no trouble finding. I spent the first night exploring the town and taking in the locals. The following day I was invited to guest coach the Saitama Warriors hockey practice. Luckily, the coach of the team named Gord was from Toronto and spoke english so he helped me put together a nice practice for the squad and translate my instruction into Japanese.
Aito and his father picked me up from my place a little early so that we could have food together. I was so excited to see where we would go and eat. It was also interesting because Aito and his dad don’t speak english and I don’t speak Japanese so I thought our interaction would be tough. Right away after we met there was a hockey players bond and respect. We were able to communicate with Google translate and it wasn’t uncomfortable at all. They took me to an amazing Sushi restaurant before practice where we had some of the most amazing fish i’ve ever tasted. We had some funny moments that I am sure got lost in translation. After dinner, we headed to the rink to skate. We had a great practice that night at the local rink in Saitama and afterward I was able to meet all the players individually and take many pictures. As a coach and former player, there is not a better feeling that having young hockey players look up to your for guidance and instruction. To be able to have an impact on the other side of the world is a humbling experience.
Sunday had arrived. The plan was for Aito and his father to pick me up at my place. From there we met up with his teammate Yuga and his mother who would drive us north to a town in the mountains called Nikko, Japan. As we all piled into the car for the drive, it was really fun for me. I was sitting shotgun while Yuga’s mother, Kumiko, drove us all up to the rink to skate. She spoke great english so we were able to chat the whole way there and I learned a lot about Japan and hockey in the region. We stopped along the way for a snack and I was able to try my first lemon milk. It was really good. When we rolled up to the rink, it was exciting. The facility was tucked away in the mountains in what reminded me of a ski town. It was called the Hosoo Dome Rink. When we walked into the rink, you could hear the sounds of hockey from outside the building. Players shouting, pucks hitting the boards. We had to go in there and carve out some ice to mess around in. It was basically just a stick and puck but I found it interested that they didn’t allow equipment. Players were all just wearing gloves, stick and skates. With no real idea of what we were doing on the ice, the three of us got out there and just started having fun playing around. We were dangling around flipping saucer passes to each other, playing keep away. I had to take a few moments to look around realize where I was and what was happening. I really couldn’t believe that I was in Japan playing hockey. I had my GoPro camera on the ice and was shooting as much as I could think of. Trying to envision what content I would later be able to use. It was great to watch Aito and Yuga take the camera and record different angles of each other. It was Aito who put the camera on his stick and dangled around to get some really nice angles. After about 2 hours on the ice, it was time to get back to the city. It all felt like a blur. Hanging out with these guys in Nikko, playing around on the ice and filming was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I felt like a teenage hockey player again. There was so much freedom and joy. I couldn’t wait to get home and watch the footage from our skate. Here is the video that I made from some of the material that we shot. I hope it does justice and shows how much fun we were having that day. I will never forget my time in Japan and I am so grateful that hockey brought me there. Hope you like it!