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Japan study trip a sumo-sized learning experience

Vanessa Lam

6 September 2016: Students from the University of Canberra are readjusting to life in Australia after trading textbooks for passports during a recent study tour of Japan.

Twelve students studying sport-related degrees jumped at the opportunity to spend part of the winter term immersing themselves in Japan's rich sporting culture.

The trip, which was organised as part of the Cross Cultural Professional Practice unit, gave students the chance to visit some of the most well-known sites and facilities Japan has to offer.

Unit convener Andrew McKune said the study tour was a great way for students to gain a deeper understanding of the sports industry in a cross-cultural setting.

"This situated learning gives students the chance to participate in the social and professional community where personal and professional knowledge, confidence and competence can be enhanced," Dr McKune said.

"The students are challenged to make comparisons between the understanding and practices within their area of their discipline in a different cultural setting."

During the trip students visited sites which will be used in the lead up to the 2020 summer Olympics in Tokyo, including the Japan Institute of Sports Sciences and Medicine, Asian Games venues in Hiroshima and some of Japan's top sporting universities.

The itinerary wasn't all study-related, however, with students attending sumo wrestling matches and watching baseball – two of the most popular sports in Japan. Bachelor of Sport Studies (Honours) student Amy Nolan said there was a good balance between academic and cultural activities.

"During the university visits we had lectures on Japanese sporting cultures including sport management, sport science, sport medicine and Japanese traditional sports," Ms Nolan said.

"The facilities available for the students at some campuses were phenomenal, from full size athletic tracks to large budo training halls."

Bachelor of Human Nutrition student Caitlin Miller said the trip helped her to understand the role that nutrition plays in sumo wrestling.

"It was my first time getting to see the sumo wrestlers train and I was so excited. It's so captivating to see their strength and flexibility," Ms Miller said.

"The nutrition for these guys was peculiar, as the diets are not formulated for the individual. The sumo wrestlers at Kindai University informed me that there was just one set diet for a sumo wrestler, and everyone who partook in sumo wrestling followed it."

The third year student added that it was great getting to see how the development of athletes varied between the universities in Japan.

"Teikyo University was considerably innovative," she said.

"They strongly supported their athletes academically, physically, socially and emotionally with a diverse team of professionals and facilities, while Tenri University was more traditional in their approach to developing their athletes.

"There was an expectation that athletes would dedicate every fibre of their being to their sport."

Ms Nolan, who spent a semester studying in America in 2014, said she couldn't pass up another opportunity to gain experience abroad while she was studying.

"I would definitely suggest to any student who has the opportunity to take an overseas trip as part of their degree to do so," she said.

"You'll not only get to travel, you will make new friends, gain contacts in your field that could help you get experience or a job.

"Whether it be a short term program like this or a semester exchange, you will grow as a person as you are put outside your comfort zone and will gain so many invaluable life skills."