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Japan wrestling team visits Jeffersonville - Courier - Journal

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Japanese wrestling team visits Jeffersonville High School

Japanese wrestling team stops at Jeff

By Justin Sokeland jsokeland@courier-journal.com July 29, 2010





Jeffersonville wrestling coach Danny Struck had his guests in the palm of his hand.

With his iPhone, and an app that provides English-Japanese translations, the language barrier between Struck and the 11 members of the Japanese wrestling team visiting Jeffersonville this week was manageable.

?This,? Struck said while typing in questions for the Japanese coach and showing his counterpart the screen, ?is what we do all day.?

Struck was the unofficial translator and official host for the contingent from Ota, Japan, the largest of the 23 special wards that make up the city of Tokyo. Coach Fusashi Motegi, instructor at the Gunma Prefecture Wrestling Club, and school principal Kaneko Junji are the chaperones for the nine middle-school wrestlers making Jeffersonville the first stop on a three-state tour.

The trip is part of the Indiana State Wrestling Association's cultural-exchange program, and each participant was busy exploring the differences. Motegi, making his second trip to the United States, was focusing on wrestling techniques he could learn during Tuesday's informal exhibition with wrestlers from Jeff and six other Southern Indiana schools.

He had answers to certain questions already prepared on paper, negating the need for translation.

?Our students are taught only the basic motions of tackling (takedowns) and are not used to other motions,? he wrote.

But for the others, especially the young athletes and the families hosting them for three days, the stark clashes of cultures were fascinating. The athletes all politely bowed ? an act not seen of American kids ? when presented gifts by Jeff principal James Sexton.

The Japanese were struck by the size of the country, the size of American homes (compared to an average of about 1,300 square feet in Japan) and the number of pet dogs.

Jeff junior Jordan Schremp spent 15 days in Japan last year as part of the exchange program. He stayed with the family of Ryoh Hugimoto, who was his guest this week, and was introduced to many Japanese traditions.


When you're in Japan, it was hard for me to do some of the things they were doing,? Schremp said. ?They ate rice for almost every meal. After a while, that was kind of bland. And when a family sits down to eat in America, there might be a television on or something else going on. In Japan, they sit in very close quarters with no music, no TV, no nothing. Just silence.?

Some Jeffersonville host families had to make emergency runs for chopsticks (even if the meal was lasagna or scrambled eggs) or calm a nervous teen guest who was fighting homesickness over 6,500 miles away from home.

?You have to remember, they're only 14 years old,? Schremp said.

But there were common bonds. They enjoyed watching ultimate fighting on television (it seems Brock Lesnar is popular in Japan), and they looked at pictures from previous Japanese trips to Jeffersonville in 2007 and '08, finding photos of siblings or friends who had made the journey.

And there are video games. Kids of all ages know how to play, especially those from Ota, the home base of video-game maker Sega.

?There's the universal language of electronic games, like the Wii,? host parent Adam Sakryd said. ?Just hold up a controller, and they knew exactly what it was. They could communicate that way, even if they speak different languages.?

After touring sights in Louisville and Jeffersonville on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Japanese were scheduled to visit Indianapolis on Thursday morning and South Bend (for a quick trip into Michigan) later in the week.

?It's neat for our kids to learn how their kids do things,? said Struck, who visited Japan in 2002. ?It's a thrill. It brings our community closer. I'm a history teacher, and this is a way of learning that I can't use in class.?


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