UK volleyball team discovers slice of BBN in Japan

Published 8:00 am Friday, June 14, 2024

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Craig Skinner took the Kentucky volleyball team on an exhibition trip to Japan to not only play against some Japanese teams but also to experience Japanese culture. However, he also found a piece of home in Osaka, Japan for his players to enjoy.

Karen Marlowe, the daughter of legendary UK basketball equipment manager Bill Keightley, told Skinner about the “No. 1 UK Wildcat Cafe” there. It’s a University of Kentucky themed restaurant.

The owner studied at UK and upon returning to Osaka, opened the restaurant in honor of his alma mater.

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“The owner came to Lexington 45 years ago and opened the restaurant about 35 years ago,” Skinner said. “We had burgers and fries for everybody.

“They had on Kentucky shirts that the servers wore with pride. The fact that the restaurant is still going strong is incredible.”

Kentucky fans often visit the restaurant and meals sometimes arrive on a UK plate with a card that says “Special thanks for visit. No. 1 UK Cafe Lexington, Kentucky. You’ve got a super meal and drink for stopping by No. 1 UK Wildcats. Thank you.”

Skinner said the trip was designed for life experiences and team bonding as much as volleyball experience.

“They got to see a completely new way of life in a different country. There were some challenging times, no question about that,” the UK coach said. “Travel is pretty convenient in the U.S. You rarely walk a long distance but this trip was different.

“You get off a plane, get to a train for a few stops with your luggage and backpacks, and then trek maybe 1 ½ miles to the hotel. The food is way different. You are taking your shoes off indoors. It’s very unique and helps you have more appreciation for our way of life.”