He returns home with a newfound appreciation of America and the sport of wrestling

by: JOHN DENNY - Dressed in a kimono, Logan Good displays his most cherished souvenirs from his trip to Japan with the Oregon Cultural Exchange wrestling team - wrestling shoes worn by one of the best wrestlers in Japan, and a towel commemorating a meet between his Oregon team and a team from Miyazaki Agricultural High School.Gladstone 17-year-old Logan Good gained a newfound love for wrestling this summer, when he toured the southern Japanese island of Kyushu as part of an Oregon Cultural Exchange wrestling team.

“I learned you’ve really got to dedicate yourself,” Good said. “Those kids [who wrestle in Japan] are wrestling the year around. And they don’t get to the college level and then quit. They keep wrestling as long as they can. They just love the sport.

“They all wanted to be there and they all wanted to be great. Their coaches were former national champions, who came back to give back to the sport they love....

“The kids worked hard at it, like Akira. This kid took wrestling seriously — He had his own wrestling mat inside a barn; a squat rack, bench press, pull-up bar and rope climb (at his home).... He had 11 pair of wrestling shoes....”

Good stayed with the family of a wrestler named Akira during part of his trip. Akira, who is 17, was the No. 3 wrestler in all of Japan at 60-kilograms (138 pounds), Good says.

Good’s most cherished souvenirs from the trip are a pair of orange and black super light-weight wrestling shoes that belonged to Akira, and a towel commemorating the Oregon Cultural Exchange team’s dual meet with Miyazaki Agricultural High School.

“Akira traded the shoes for two shirts and a pair of shorts,” Good says.

The souvenir towel says: “Oregon vs. Miyazaki, 52nd annual friendship wrestling game between America and Japan.”

“We won the dual [with Miyazaki], but their kids were really strong.... I lost my match....”

The Oregon team wrestled two other Japanese high school teams and lost both matches. Good went 2-3 in his freestyle matches. He also wrestled four Greco Roman matches with college wrestlers during a wrestling practice with the Nippon Bunri University Braves and went 4-0.

“I’m a lot better in Greco than I am in freestyle or folkstyle,” Good said. “I was third in the state in Greco.”

A highlight of the visit to NBU was a performance by the Braves’ cheerleaders.

“They’re world champions,” Good said. “They did some amazing things.”

Asked what his favorite part of the trip was, Good said, “When I wrestled Akira. I ended up losing, but by just one point.”

School was in session in Japan during the Oregon team’s visit and the wrestlers spent some time at schools, answering questions from students enrolled in English classes.

“The students asked questions in their best English,” Good says. “Their English was similar to the Spanish spoken by American high school students taking Spanish....

“The girls loved Americans and anything American. They asked if we had girlfriends. They asked if we like pop stars, like Justin Bieber, One Direction and Michael Jackson. It was funny, because no guys our age like them, but we told them we did so they would like us.

“They asked if we liked Japanese cartoon characters — Naruto, Dragon Ball Z, One Piece, Pokemon. What video games we liked.”

Although Good says he knows few Japanese words, other than the words for hello, goodbye and thank you, with the help of charades, he had little trouble communicating.

“Their phones were a lot more high tech than our iPhones,” he said. They use translators on their phones which translated spoken English into written Japanese, so they could tell what we were saying.”

Still, Good says there was one word that apparently has no direct translation to Japanese.

“When we asked them what they do for fun, we’d get the weirdest look,” Good says. “We never got an answer. They had no idea what the word ‘fun’ means.”

Good says that during his stay he went bowling, he joined his Japanese hosts in singing American pop songs at a karaoke club, and he spent some time playing video games at a video arcade.

“They had some of the neatest [video] games,” Good says. “Some of the games are 3-D and they are interactive. They blow air to simulate wind and they spray you with water.”

Although he put on weight during the trip, mealtime was sometimes difficult for Good, because meals rarely included beef and frequently consisted of rice, noodles and sushi.

“I couldn’t stand sushi to begin with,” Good says. “But when in Rome, you’ve got to do it, because we didn’t want to be impolite or disrespectful. I’d eat sushi, and then chug water to wash it down.”

Good says that the octopus was okay.

“It sort of tastes like chicken, only chewy.”

Good said that at one meal he ate birds’ hearts, shishkabobe-style, with four or five hearts on a skewer.

“The birds’ hearts weren’t bad,” he said. “Kind of like beef, only real chewy.”

Eating was made more difficult, Good says, because “We had to use chopsticks. They wouldn’t let us use a fork. I would drop everything. It was really hard.”

Good said he’d hang out with Elmira coach Shannon Scott whenever he could, because Scott is allergic to fish.

On his last day with his host family, they put on a barbecue.

“It was one of only two times on the trip that I had beef,” Good says. “I ate eight steaks.”

For beverage, Good says, they offered Pepsi, Coke and Japanese sodas.

“They had a watermelon-tasting Japanese soda that was a hit with us,” Good said. “They also had a soda called Dragon Ball Z. It tastes like bubblegum.”

When they visited schools, Good says the first thing they did was sit down with the principal and drink green tea.

“I don’t like green tea,” Good says. “I would gulp it down and then say I was full when they asked me if I wanted another.”

Good says one of things that it was most difficult to get used to was Japanese toilets.

“They’re just a hole in the ground,” he said. “You don’t sit. You squat.”

Mt. Aso, Japan’s most active volcano, is on the island of Kyushu. Good visited hot springs near a MBU research facility and he went to two bath houses, built around hot springs.

“The hot springs near the research facility had super, super hot water, that came out in different colors — one pool was light blue, another one was blood red.... There were magma pools, where the magma had melted rock....”

Good says he didn’t care much for the bath houses.

“You were always naked [in the bath houses],” he said. “It made me very uncomfortable.”

Good says he didn’t get to watch any sumo wrestling, but he did get to take in a kendo match, a martial arts sport where competitors wearing protective armor battle with sticks.

Good says that he and his teammates were treated like celebrities, and saw themselves on the evening news on a regular basis as they toured Kyushu.

All in all, Good says he enjoyed the trip and is now more appreciative of living in the U.S.

“It was a great experience, seeing another country,” Good said. “It opened my eyes. There’s a big difference between America and other countries. Japan was ridiculous. Everything you did was tradition-based, and you didn’t question anything....”

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