DO YOU PRAY GORUFU (GOLF)
Do you pray gorufu? This question from Nojima-san took me a little by surprise. GOLF or "GORUFU" as it is pronounced in Japanese, is extremely popular in Japan and some may even consider it a religion of sorts, despite this, I pretty was certain that Nojima-san was not referring to GOLF as some sort of religious experience. "Yes" I answered. Not often and not very well, I quickly added. "Okay, ret's pray gorufu!", Nojima-san exclaimed.
Now before we go any further, I must explain the Japanese pronunciation of foreign words. They are generally pronounced phonetically and as the Japanese language does not have "Ls" and "Vs" or sounds such the "A" in CAT, as an example. Let’s becomes ret’s. The Japanese language is full of so-called "loan words" (borrowed from other languages) and many do not resemble their country or language of origin. Pan is bread, gorufu is golf, Matt becomes mutt and QANTAS is, well, maybe don't say this out aloud in polite company. As I mentioned previously, tuning one's ear into the Japanese pronunciation of loan words took a little bit of time. So Let’s go
Anyway, back to "ret's pray gorufu". It was night-time. How was this going to work? Easy! The Japanese are golf mad and most Japanese golfers will never set foot on a golf course. No problem. They just go to the driving range instead. It still counts as golf! After a short drive, Nojima-san and I pulled up at a nearby golf driving range. It was huge. A triple decker one in the middle of suburbia. With well over 100 people hitting from the three decks, there were balls flying everywhere. It was a spectacle.
In yet another "big in Japan" moment for me, Nojima-san was greeted warmly by his golfing buddies and proceeded to tell them all about me. I couldn't understand a word of what was being said however I did know that he was talking about me because he was indicating that I was very tall with his outstretched arms and also squeezing my biceps. "Robbie-san, bery big" he said with all the mates gathered around nodding in agreement. The discussions continued. "Blah. blah, blah, (in Japanese) Greg Norman, blah, blah, blah” It appeared that I was being compared to Greg Norman. This can't be good, I thought to myself.
After Nojima-san had a few hits, he handed the club to me. It seemed as though the entire place fell silent and all eyes in the place were on me. It was 1000 times more nerve-racking than teeing off in front of a clubhouse when you know that there are only a few people watching. I took the club, addressed the ball, told myself not to stuff it up, raised the club and swung through. Perfect, I thought to myself. Not so. The sweet sound of a club head striking a golf ball was not mine. It was the bloke near me. I had in fact hit the top of my ball and it fell off the tee, dribbled towards the edge of the second tier that we were on and rolled over the edge. Ooooh! they all exclaimed. The collective air sucking from Nojima-san and his friends that followed seemed to make the protective netting around the driving range close in on me. I wished it was me rolling over the edge. It was a nightmare or so I thought. Thankfully it would seem that the Greg Norman comparison was not taken seriously by Nojima’s friends and they all encouraged me to hit again. This time it was much better. I nice solid drive down the middle. What a relief. At least I never have to do this again I thought. How wrong I was. This was to be part of my nightly routine for the next two weeks whilst I was staying with Nojima-san. Welcome to Japan Robbie-san.