Koga Golf Club, a short distance from the Japanese city of Fukuoka, is not well known outside of Japan, but is considered to be of such quality that it held the Japan Open Championship in 2008. As I understand it, my picture of the 9th hole (above) was used for ticketing and promotion of the tournament.
As with all other destinations in Japan I was looked after almost as if I was a member of the family. The man who took me under his wing, Mr Aoki, was the Koga course superintendent. Mr Aoki had a masters degree in turf maintenance and seemed also to have advanced qualifications in hospitality as well. He personally ensured that I was looked after.
One evening Mr Aoki took me to dinner with his wife and two young children. The setting was a quite traditional Japanese building, complete with tissue walls. Mr Aoki’s two children were a little bored by the proceedings and played enthusiastically as we ate dinner. Their gusto was tempered by quite some margin when one of them put their hand through the tissue wall. At first it seemed like quite a disaster until on reflection I thought it probably only meant a metre or so of paper to repair once we had left. The walls may not have been particularly robust, but perhaps they are easy to repair.
On another occasion Mr Aoki invited me along to a small local bar near his home, far from any tourist route, and as personal and intimate a setting as you could find. A gentleman seated a couple of bar stools away from us seemed to be taking more than a passing interest in me. I was the only Caucasian in the bar, so it wasn’t all that surprising. He had a few words with my host, who passed on the message that the guy was amazed at my dexterity with chopsticks. Apparently he felt I could use them better than he could.
It was an unexpected compliment and one that I often have a chuckle about when it comes to mind.