Where does the high-profile Icelandic head coach of the Japanese national handball-team relax after a hard training session?
Calmness, relaxation and elegance are the appealing features of an “onsen” or Japanese spa in Tokyo. The one we visited was particularly special in that you bathe in hot water coming straight out of the ground. The head coach of the Japanese national handball team is one of the customers who visits it to relax.
Dagur Sigurdsson has a big aim. The Icelander is preparing the Japanese handball team for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. It’s a new challenge after his success as the head coach of the German national team who won the European Championship in 2016. Before that, he worked in Japan as a professional player.
“To me, Japan is incredibly beautiful. I always wanted to come back and had never completely given up the idea. Then there was this opportunity and it was a very, very good option for me. I knew that it would be a good choice for my life, my quality of life and my family as well.”
The onsen is like a quiet refuge before the rush-hour hits. Those are types of contrasts that Sigurdsson loves about Japan as well as the people’s kindness and their eye for detail. The rich culture manifests itself the most in Kyoto.
“All the temples are incredible. It’s amazing how well they have been maintained for thousands of years. And there are all the ladies wearing kimonos. Visiting Kyoto is like a step into the ancient world. Every view looks like a postcard.”
Kyoto harbors more than 1000 Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, palaces, theaters and gardens. It is particularly beautiful in March when the cherry trees are in bloom. We visited some of the most impressive, Fushimi Inari, Sennyuji and Hokan-ji Temple.
In Hanami in Kyoto, people meeting under cherry trees. Some of them enjoy bento, beer and sake. They are celebrating the beginning of spring. In Kyoto’s Gion district, visitors hope to encounter a real geisha. It takes years of studying fine arts to become one. But nowadays, fewer and fewer women choose this profession.
Tokyo is famous for its rich cuisine. It’s also the home of sushi as we know it today. In “Tsukiji” or the fish market, sushi’s are prepared with meticulous attention to detail.
Dagur took showed us around the area which he described as ‘like a dream’. Taking a seat in one of the famous sushi restaurants Tsuikiji Sushisay, he broke out his Japanese language skills to order us a selection of everything on offer.
“I love all kinds of sushi and I prefer them mixed. Tuna and eel are my favorites. It’s great, when you are sitting at the counter and you can watch the staff and chefs at work. It’s just beautiful. To me, they are artists!”
For Dagur Sigurdsson, Japan is full of history, energy and postcard moments.