Apr 23, 2020

This morning came early especially for those at the Onsen who may have seen the sunrise. The bus of walking dead escorted by Taki and Larry arrived at the Prince Hotel to gather the reluctant-to-leave Entourage. A quick and final stop at the Kushiro Ice Arena to gather the very wet and extremely smelly hockey gear – the dressing room was on the colder-to-freezing side so the gear never dried. A quick clean of the dressing room and we were off to the Kushiro Airport. To our surprise, the JCIH Volunteers and home stay families arrived at the airport (at least a 25min drive from town) to see us off. With many waves, more pictures, sad goodbyes and banners that read “See you again", the Asahi Blades bid their last Arigatou gozaimasu with a respectful bow and headed through security for the first leg of the long flight home today.

Our arrival in Tokyo marked the official ending of the team’s tour as one group. Luggage and gear were collected, hugs and goodbyes were shared and last minute directions were gathered from our Japanese tour guides Shiho, David, Aki and Nak. Taki and Tony are on their way across the Pacific tonight with your precious cargo.

As for the rest of us: Clan-Merlo-Verhoeven-Gilker jumped on the bullet train to catch up with their luggage in Kyoto; Hawkins is meeting relatives (for the first time) in Tokyo and Kyoto; Keito and Takahashi are in Tokyo causing trouble with Keito’s family; Aki is visiting his parents in Tokyo after he pointed the Okino’s in the right direction to their hotel – Thank you!; the Kollmuss-Hayashi’s are touching down for a day before hitting the beaches of Mexico; Nak is keeping busy until the birth of his new project in late November. Congratulations Megumi and Nak!

Like the awajimusubi knot of the JCIH logo, the boys have made memories and friendships that have grown them together, a bond that will last their lifetime.

The amazing photographer Taka who has been documenting our team’s adventure, has agreed to share his beautiful pictures with us. Details to be sorted out on our return.

Frits, you are on your own for updates to mom, Tracey is signing off.

Gokigen yo (Good-bye/good luck)