The Highland Games…in Japan?!


Highland Games competitor, Aaron Ramey, has done something stellar–he organized and competed in the Highland Games… in Japan! And even better, he’s agreed to answer all our nosy questions.

So tell us, what motivated you to bring the Games to Okinawa, Japan?

The motivation to bring the Games to Okinawa was a bit selfish.  I had been training alone and traveling internationally to compete so asked if we could do on here.  That motivation changed as interest grew and people were having more and more fun training.

Who participated? 

The event was a mixture of military members from the Army, Air Force, Marines, Department of Defense Civilians and visitors from off-island like Julian Vandervelde, Kengo Kubota, and Shuichi Sato.


How did you become interested in participating in the Highland Games?

Regular strength training for the sake of strength training was beginning to get stale.  After my readings in strength training progressed from Rippetoe to Pavel, I ended up on Dan John where my interest in training for Shot Put and Discus led to the Highland Games.

How long have you been participating?

I am currently in my third year of competing.

What’s your favorite event, and why?

The Weight Over Bar.  It teaches me to wait.  After using some of the techniques provided by the Pockowski’s in the Contrarian Approach to the Highland Game, my throws become much smoother and less of a struggle.

What’s your least favorite event, and why?

Sheaf.  It is hard to train the Sheaf in Japan and I always have to bum a fork from other people because of my reluctance to bring the fork on an international flight.

Do you have a games-related goal you’re striving for? If so, what is it?

I have one primary goal and that is to meet as many of the great people that are in the Games as I can.  I tend to be hesitant in meeting new people and the Games help break those barriers.  In relation to throwing goals, I only hope that I can be competitive in the A Class.

What’s your best games-related memory?

I am stuck between two.

17 March 2017, I went out to the field for the 1st Annual Torii Station Highland Games to ensure all the footboards were in place, paint was down, and all the implements were in working order.  Some of the competitors were out throwing around the implements with Julian Vandervelde.  Looking around it really hit me that the Games were in Okinawa, Japan.  That feeling progressed as I had to literally shoo competitors off the field so we could all get some dinner.

The second memory was on the evening of the Torii Station Games when everyone had departed, the lights were off, and we were enjoying the night with a couple of beers on the porch of the cabins looking over the beach and the competitor’s field .  The top female competitor of the day, Lauryn Burleson, walked away with some of her fellow Military Police (MP) while Julian Vandervelde and myself relaxed and exchanged stories.  After about 5 minutes, we both heard a distinctive “thud” followed by a celebratory “Woooooooo!!!”  We both looked at each other and wondered if we heard what we thought we heard.  Low and behold, after some investigation we found Lauryn and the MPs were out turning cabers in the dark.  Nothing like turning cabers in the middle of the night and while on break from a patrol.

Do you plan to compete this year? If so, where?

Yes.  After having completed the event in Torii, I have plans to be back in the States for training from April till the beginning of June and hope to attend the Tennessee Smoky Mountain Games, Alma Highland Games in Michigan, and any other Games I can participate in within an acceptable radius.


Assuming you’re not a professional athlete, what do you do when you’re not training?

When I am not training I am spending time with my wife and dog, working, and trying to get in a couple good books on history.  My current profession is a Security Specialist with the U.S. Air Force in Okinawa, Japan.


What are the three things in your life you’re the proudest of?

Marrying my wife, Shoko Tsukuyama.  She tolerates my hobbies and adventures and supports everything that comes along with it.

Working with the U.S. Army Torii Station Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) team here in Japan to put together their first Highland Games.  While it is our first Games, the advice I received from Jerry Bowersox and Mark McVey helped smooth out a rocky first time and provides a solid baseline for future Games.

Winning first at 215 in the 1999 Indiana High School Wrestling State Championships.  It was a cumulation of support, training, and guidance from a wide range of people in my life.

Thanks so much for sharing, Aaron! We’re looking forward to hearing about the 2018 Torii Games – be sure to take lots of pictures!