Practicing with students of Chinese University of Hong Kong
Most people in Japan are likely to imagine “motorboat race” when they hear the term “boat,” however “boat” in Japanese also refers to “rowing race.” Rowing race is the game which involves rowing with the oar for a specific distance and competing the speed. Rowing race has various size categories with the maximum of 9-crew boat. This is an ultimate team-sport, as it requires each crew member to conform closely to each other, in order to create speed. Today, rowing race still may not be a major sport in Japan, as it is world-wide, especially in the Western countries.
Chuo University also has a Rowing Team, practicing daily in Toda-shi, Saitama prefecture aiming to win the National Championship Tournament. Even though rowing is a world-wide popular sport, the team has had virtually no international experiences for 20 years. In order to build cross-cultural experiences, raise the athletes’ motivation, and improve their competitiveness by practicing outside their comfort zone, the Rowing Team traveled to Hong Kong from March 19 to March 24 and practiced with the local rowing team members from The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
The Chuo Rowing Team members were able to take away many lessons learned from the tour.
First, the team members were challenged with a huge mental gap. One member mentioned how “the students from the Chinese University of Hong Kong had a clear vision of the future, and had great ambition and energy. The students were hard-working and honest, and had the motivation to learn even when coming across an unfamiliar term in Japanese. The students were fluent in English, and I felt a huge sense of panic to imagine that we were going to compete against them in the future.”
The members also experienced the difficulty and importance of accepting a new culture. Some members could not get used to the different gears (such as oars), and a few complained of their health as they were not familiar with the local food. Recalling this tour, a student reflected that “it is important to be yourself and be flexible under any kind of circumstances. The different practice conditions and food are only excuses that prevent us from seeing the positive side of a new culture and applying it to our strengths. We were not ready to adapt to the new environment.”
Lastly and most strongly, the members agreed on their weakness in language skills. Many members felt a lot of frustration trying to communicate with the local students, and felt the undeniable need to study English and other foreign languages.
Some members showed motivation to continue the sports not only in Japan but setting the world as their goal.
As globalization progresses further, there will be more opportunities even when living in Japan for new cross-cultural and different value experiences. The Rowing Team tour proved to be a significant experience that influenced many members to become a global citizen after being introduced to a new culture and values.