Dragon boat racing!

On June 7, 2014 AD, Boz and I became official dragon boat racers for the country of Japan. The sea was angry that day, my friends - like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.

But let's start from the beginning.

Back in March, Boz overheard several colleagues discussing their upcoming dragon boat race in Yokohama and verbalized his desire to watch a race someday. About a month later, he was copied on an email circulating among these colleagues declaring:

"Matt-san and his wife will join the dragon boat race! Add them to the list of participants." 

Boz immediately sent me the email and it was once again confirmed that we are, indeed, living in a Chris Farley Saturday Night Live skit.

Of course, I responded with "Babe, we are 150% down with this. I'm gonna start training." My response turned out to be, while enthusiastic, slightly misguided as the water around our area of Tokyo is  inhospitable and, also, I don't have a boat. (Boz was operating under his standard MO and fully expecting to be a dragon boat prodigy, so training wasn't of his concern.)

In the weeks leading up to the race, we enjoyed a steady stream of the most epic emails to ever grace Asia. Our teammates transmitted all their messages in English so Boz and I could participate. Every email was peppered with classic lines such as:

"I think we must win championship this year!!!"

"I heard that several crews from Tokyo Fire Fighter will come on the day. We may need a big fortune."

A day before the race, we received a final message, warning us about the likelihood of inclement weather.

"The weather forecast says tomorrow will be rain. The event does not cancel unless it is a typhoon, but the body will be cold if wet by rain. Please bring some cloth or something to protect body cold."

We were simultaneously  A) relieved to learn that we would not be forced to paddle through a typhoon and, B) concerned that this did not qualify as a "thing that goes without saying".

Boz immediately started organizing our rain gear while I complained that I would now look horrible at the after-party. I look really weird with wet hair. I understand that not everyone can look like a swimsuit model with wet hair...but I don't even look entirely human. Fortunately, this is like #17 on my list of insecurities, so it's not really an issue that comes up often (just every single time I shower and when I dragon boat race in near-typhoons).

Saturday morning arrived, Boz threw on a rain jacket and I wrapped myself head-to-toe in layers of what turned out to be not-quite-waterproof attire...and we were off to Yokohama. We arrived around 1:30pm, found our crew and got into 'uniform' (which consisted of a hideous, yet hysterical, polo shirt) and were informed that our race didn't start for another 2 hours. On any other day, this would have been no big deal, but on June 7th, Yokohama was experiencing Japan rainy season in all it's glory. It was POURING. It was raining down, up, sideways. Even Noah would have deemed this overkill. But...it wasn't typhooning...so the dragon boat races were still a go.

Boz and I stood around for 2 hours. He ate under an umbrella. I whimpered and claimed to have hypothermia. (So basically status quo for the Veggies.)

At 3:30pm, we queued up for our race and were promptly 'informed' (I put that in quotations because it's impossible for us to be verbally informed of anything as we have yet to learn Japanese. We gather information by observing others.) that no shoes are allowed on a dragon boat. I was wearing bright pink Hunter Wellies...so I had to prop them on the dock before entering the boat. Within 2 seconds of setting up my boots, a Japanese gentleman (truly) had removed his baseball cap and set it on top of my boots so the rain couldn't drip inside. I'm in love with him. Obviously. Boz knows this and gave his blessing because it spared him from listening to me complain about wet feet all evening. (...as though I wouldn't just find other things to complain about. Psht. It's like he doesn't even know me.)

Pre-race group chant!

Headin' down the ramp to board our boat

So we boarded our boat, (Boz and I sitting side-by-side), and began paddling to the starting docks. The pictures will paint a better picture than I can provide in words...but suffice it to say, the sea was ROLLING. That water was hell bent on capsizing our boat and there were waves crashing over top of us (in addition to the downpour coming from above and every side). Thankfully, the water was lukewarm and we were wearing life vests, so survival was only a mild concern. But seriously...both B and I were 99% certain we were goin' swimmin' in Tokyo Bay that afternoon.

Paddling to the start docks

Get 'em, killers!!!

Almost at the turn-around!

Miraculously, we made it to the turn-around point and back still right-side-up, with Gumby arms and a tremendous adrenaline rush. It was wonderful. We were soaked to the bone but so totally filled with gratitude for these oh-so-Japanese experiences. It was overwhelming. I have mentioned to Boz a handful of times during our Asian Adventure that I occasionally have a 'love explosion' for him (yeah, yeah...Boz has made all the same jokes that just popped into the minds of all male readers. Y'all...that's not really funny and it's RUINING THE SENTIMENT. So stop. Enough. Serious eye roll.) Anyway...what I mean by that is sometimes I look at B and think about how incredible it is that we're here experiencing all these once-in-a-lifetime adventures, and about how much I admire his ability to instantly adapt to these surroundings and really bond with his colleagues, and it just overwhelms me and I have a love explosion. (Ok, I just laughed out loud. It does sound ridiculous. I'll think of another term asap.)

Anyway...the dragon boat race was just so Japanese and so gritty and everyone was having a blast...and I was just overwhelmed by a sense of comaraderie and gratitude for this country. I had a love explosion for Japan.

We followed the race with an after-party in Chinatown.

The details from here on out are hazy. The food was out of this world (and we're going back this weekend! Can't wait.) but we chased everything with shots of Chinese whiskey...aka lighter fluid with hints of burnt rubber and phlegm.

Mid-dinner, Boz was asked to give a speech by the event organizer and somehow knocked it outta the park. As he stood up, one empathetic attendee exclaimed "Oh my god!", as he realized exactly how challenging it would be to give a proper celebratory speech to people who speak another language. But he doesn't know my husband. (Another love explosion. I seriously can't help it. But it's not like y'all HAVE to read this blog...so I can't apologize ;)

The Monday after the race, B received this message:

Thank you very very much for attending last Saturday. 
Didn't you catch a cold?   
I'd also like to say my thanks to Abby-san for attendance. 

I hope you and Abby-san enjoyed the race and party at China town. 
It will be happy if the event can add to 1 page for memory of your staying Japan. 
I was fun hearing from you that especially you were enjoying visit around Japan. 

Damn straight it added 1 page for memory of staying in Japan. Understatement of the year.

Peace out from the Veggies...and the best dragon boat team the world has ever seen.

ps.  B and I GREATLY appreciate the willingness of our Japanese friends to email in English. The only things I can say with assurance are "Hello", "Good morning" and "Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto." and that doesn't really make for an engaging email. Most of our experiences would be nowhere near as fulfilling if it were not for these people who go out on a limb and communicate in English. Hats off to every one of them.