Thursday, January 28, 2016

About Toda

Toda no hanashi

Rowing Ruminations Part 14

(Does anyone I don't know read this? By "don't know," I mean that I didn't go to JHS or HS with you, or know you from FB or Twitter or old mailing lists or bulletin boards. I don't think anyone from university (crew or otherwise) or work reads this...I write under the premise that no one from there knows about this blog, but I don't think I've written anything TOO incriminating about myself or others...anyways, I'd love to hear from you, whether I know you or not!)

The big race (for us) that year was held in Toda. Toda was where the 1940 Olympics were supposed to be held, but, well, we all know what happened in 1940. It was used in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, though. It’s an artificial body of water, the concrete shores engineered to dampen wakes. It can be 3000 meters or so when it wants to be, but much of the time it’s more like 1200 with half of it used for motorboat racing, which is an interesting sport itself. It hardly ever freezes in Toda, so you can row there pretty much year-round. The main enemy in winter is the darkness, and that is combated by flashlights strapped to the bow and stern, and the streetlights on either side of the course.

Nearly all of the big name schools and clubs in Tokyo have boathouses with bays that open to the rowing course, complete with training areas and housing facilities. The rowers in those top schools actually lived in those boathouses during most of the year, as in, slept there, ate there, bathed there, and left (with various degrees of regularity) to attend classes from there. Some of those collegiate rowers would have no housing in the Tokyo area other than the boathouse.

At the very end was the Main Toda Boathouse, where the public junior high, high school, and community clubs were based, and there were housing facilities for those lesser creatures not fortunate enough to have their own boathouse (like us). Lodging in the Toda Boathouse was Spartan but clean, with metal frame bunk beds and shower rooms. There was no meal service, but you could make tea and instant noodles or microwave stuff in the common kitchen. There were also some restaurants within walking distance. The rooms were for about eight people each. There were enough guys in our school for them to have two or three rooms to themselves, but I usually ended up in a room with people from other schools and clubs.

I remember when the room was me and a four from another school. They were humanities majors from a different national university, and took their rowing quite seriously. Unlike the lake where we practiced, Toda had pavement on both sides. Coaches stalked rowers on bicycles and shouted instructions and criticism (and then some) through megaphones, and they’d always get an earful from theirs. In Toda, you did not have the option of disappearing behind a little inlet with tall trees. The stroke frequently came back to the room in tears because an outing went badly. At mealtimes, the rowers would leave, and coxswain would stay behind. She was cutting weight, trying to hit the 45 kilo mark. My mom’s friend Y, women’s coach of Big Name Rowing Club, would have approved.

Toda was (and is) the Mecca of Japanese Rowing. Big name clubs rowed alongside lesser clubs in limited leagues (like yours truly). The big name school rowers looked gigantic (but were still small by international standards) and had an attitude of arrogance. Perhaps that is a necessary evil in elite level sports, but it’s kind of annoying to have them glance at your blades and smirk “some shit xxx school.” (Yes, they actually said that out loud.)

So we shit xxx schools had our annual shit xxx school league race. Our boat made the final, but didn’t medal. After the race, everyone jumped into the water regardless of seat or final results. I was hiding behind a tree to stay away from the craziness when a rower from another school I did not know approached me, and said “I’d really like to jump in with you” and took my hand and pulled me toward the water. One of his friends said “here, let me take your glasses” and I surrendered them and we jumped into the cloudy green water together holding hands. Oh, how romantic, except not really. (I got my glasses back later, btw. That was the last time this ever happened, because I got contacts the next spring.)

And then our captain jumped in and started swimming sprint pace (he was in swim team in high school) across the course while the women’s eight of Team Japan was rowing a piece. The resulting stopping and yelling became a team legend.


Annie Crow said...

That sounds really fun, both the jumping in and bunking at Toda. Reminds me of traveling for speech/drama competitions in high school. (In Germany, not for Downers South. Did we ever travel for that?)

pumpkinmommy said...

If the jumping in sounds fun, I guess I didn't describe the water in sufficient detail. It was lush with...vegetation...that was floating in the water. The bunking was fun, especially when I got to meet people from other schools. Plus, I still lived at home, so overnight trips were quite a change of pace. I think you traveled for speech, but they were probably mostly day trips on that yellow district school bus. (I didn't because I had Japanese school on Saturdays.)