Nihon Chronicles 2010…Seminar day 2

30 04 2010

I dressed for the cold today, silk Long Johns, extra stuff, etc. However not needed, it was fairly warm spring weather yay!! As it turns out it was the ONLY warm day. It was therefore a very nice walk to the dojo through the park. After the day’s training I found a spot to meditate for a while on my blessings to be able to attend.

I’m writing this from memory on this post a few days later, usually I write that evening on notepad on the Mac then clean it up later before posting. However I had been so busy with the seminar then coming back to the hotel, going food shopping, processing a few pictures and reading the Kyuhon I just crash afterward.

The sessions every day started with some kind of demos from some Sensei or several.

We got to shoot maybe today maybe two rounds each. They , the Sensei stood behind us and watched and picked things that needed corrections. Over all I got fairly few on my shooting. I did have my Hakama adjusted on the correct wearing way/placement…again. Doh. Ok, I got now!

They had us work on breathing and walking at a faster pace but keeping the timing. Another things was entering doing Rei and leaving doing Yu. We went over that a lot, everyone was a stickler on that, it is a huge big deal to do correctly. Where we were suppose to stand, etc, that kind of stuff, over and over.

We had several lecture over the next couple of days and many times told to go sit in the dojo while they were working with other to learn. There is a Japanese word for learning from watching. I recall Nogomi Sensei telling me that also. “you watch to learn , then practice”

Another thing they told everyone was to relax more! By the end of the day we were more relaxed and functioning better. One of the motivations was we should not worry about shooting, but the things they were telling us about timing and stuff and if we did not get it correct everyone would suffer! That got people’s attention.

Nihon Chronicles 2010…Seminar day 1

29 04 2010

Seminar: The gathering

I had had a fairly ok sleep for being in a strange place, strange bed. A better sleep in a way than over at Okasan’s sleeping on the floor with no padding other the tatamai and a mat. The bed was pretty comfortable.

It was a cloudy day, I was hoping it would clear up but it did not. In the afternoon it started to rain and keep that way into the evening.

On the way to the morning check-in I came up on Ed Sensei, from Georgia and the co-founder of the Kyudo Alliance, we walked together through the park which was excellent, to the Dojo.

The vendor of the day was there. I picked up a couple of very small items. I was hoping there would be more vendors there to compare, but no.
Over the next few days there was one other vendor and they traded off days. After my small bit of shopping I went over to the park to do Tai Chi  as my warm up for the day. Good way to start a day, lite breakfast, a walk, then some Tai Chi. I was ready for Kyudo.

The troops were coming in as I finished up and headed inside. I heard many languages in passing as I made my way through the mass of people. There was French, Spanish, Russian, Hungarian, German, English, Chinese that I could make out. I found out later twenty countries from all over the world  participated to the event. They were still organizing things for the registration so everyone had to hang out a bit while things were sorted out.

I came across 3M’s early, he was doing the Mr. Mom thing. We chatted just a bit then I went to change. The opening ceremony was not to start up until 1:00pm.

I met a few people and one from Sensei’s Dojo who is sort of part time student, who also trains in So Cal with Nanka Kyudo Kai and a guy from Facebook who contacted me about some things I was trying to sell to raise money for the trip. He lives in France, but was from the Bay Area. I introduced him around to a few folks, including my Senpai from RSD who was there testing for Sandan.

I had one sort of funny interesting moment. Someone came over to me and said, hi, you must be Marcus. 🙂 Wrong!!! I said no and pointed to him. Close guess since there were only two of us Nubians there. Turns out she was the editor of a magazine in Germany that did an article on him. Speaking of which, I wrote an article and LZ translated it into Japanese sent it to a Kyudo Magazine in Japan. They plan on using it in the next issue. Yeah, that’s right he is not the only brother getting some press 🙂 Out in the #15 issue of Kyudo magazine in Japan.

Everyone was changing and getting in line for practice shots. I was nervous and my usual shyness was on, so I just watched and checked out things. By the time I got ready to shoot, the Sensei were practicing for the opening so I just worked on standing, holding the Yumi and leaving the dojo. It was show time.

I really felt lost at first, how the line up went, that kind of stuff. Nothing that was a big deal and bring “oh here is a dummy” attention to me, just small things. After the opening ceremony and all, we lined up to shoot, we split into sections I was in the Mudan of course. Each group Mudan, Shodan, Nidan and Sandan had their own “dojo” I heard it called, I called it group, or clan. Everyone had a number which “ranked” them by their experience. I was number 52. Mi-chan wife of M3 was number 268 she is Sandan, that gives you an idea of the range

The whole time I’m thinking I hope I’m not Omae, the leader of my group of 5. As Murphy’s Law would have it I was the leader on to the floor.  I was a little bummed to be the Omae, at first I thought BUMMER but after I thought about it more, it is a good position! Yokatta. I set the pace I just have to be aware of the shot count behind me.

Overall I think I did ok, I was told once again about my teniuchi, so that is something I really must watch for the test along with not placing my hand too high. Place on my hip bone, not on my waist. I missed the target on my first two shoot and only shots. I did not get a chance to try again. There will be more shooting tomorrow we where told.

We as a group were told, overall our shooting is ok, we just need to work on our entering and leaving the Dojo. Doing the Tai Hai was more important than shooting. I had heard this many times before, for my level, that is where my head should be.

Once the day was over, I went back to the hotel, then shopping at the Department store for dinner, next day breakfast ( yogurt, fruit, bread and a drink)  and lunch ( 1 or 2 vegetable inari). Then a bit of reading, , small wine, some internet, a bath and then crashed. Pretty simple training life style.

Nihon Chronicles 2010…the road to Tokyo Taikai

28 04 2010

Tokyo Edition:

The road to TaiKai

My stomach was feeling weird with all the food we had been eating the last couple of days. My main worry was getting sick like on our first trip, however that did not happen, thank God!

We were up early today but no Tai Chi in the park with the group for me, no time. It was all about heading out for Tokyo. I was somewhat nervous at the thought of it. LZ said she was just going to put me on the bus and let me go for it, good training she said. However she went with me to the Shikanshin ( Bullet train ) so that was helpful.

It was a smooth fast trip to Tokyo, I took a little nap, ate one rice ball and had a small bit of Chuhai. Most of the trip was spent reading the Heike story. It is about a large Japanese samurai family. I have had the book for several years I figure this was a good chance to read it.

Once in Shinagawa station which is one of the busiest in Japan I made my way to the local train to Shinjuku. I was not quite sure about the entrance to the station and paying, but I worked it out.

Ok, so a side note about Japanese. Everyone knows them as polite people. For the most part that is true. However…In the super market crowded, not so much, they will push right past you or worse. Also coming out or going into the men restroom, they see you with a lot of stuff being carried, and you are trying to get out/in the door, they will not wait and let you go, they will push right past. Lucky I’m polite I could have easily floored a couple of guys with a shoulder “Fa Ging” from Tai Chi. I’m a visitor so I practice more manners, howver I could see how that would get old after a while.

From Shinjuku it was a smooth ride to the Yoyogai station where I got off. Now things got a bit tricky. Finding the right exit to leave the station, I had read to look for the new South or the East exit. I got off at the North, so had to hunt around for the correct one. One on the street I had to ask several people in order to find the Hotel, several did not know. One guy told me wrong but then came running after me when he saw his mistake and pointed to the correct building, I made it! Yatta!

I was one hour ahead of check in, but the desk guy called and found the room was ready, so with some broken Japanese and English we got through my check in and I went to my room. It was very small but clean and comfortable. I had a much smaller room on a stop over in Korea on a trip from Singapore. This room here was perfect for what I needed, Internet access, clean bed, shower and bath. It has a small frig, but it is more of a cooler really, stuff stays cool but does not get cold. No matter.

My next things after relaxing was to go out and find where the park (Meiji Shrine) was where the event as being held. After once going the wrong direction, then asking a lady who did not know, but I got enough of the general idea to find the shrine-park.

As I was walking up to the place a see a few friendly faces I know that was an unexpected treat. To run into the M3 clan and Ed Sensei.

We chat for a bit then head off toot our own paths. I walk around a while checkout out the greenery and a crow decides to use me as target practice while I’m under a Sakura tree. *&%@%^%! &*^! on my “zen” shirt ^*&@&*%^%*$%^&*^!.

Other than that the park was my favorite place in Tokyo. I did not know there was such beauty in Tokyo. I thought it was all concrete, brick, cars, black suits that do not quite fit some, and cuties in short skirts.

I head back to the hotel after going to the department store next door for dinner. You maybe thinking of a restaurant. No! The basement of large Japanese department stores are full of food! ALL KINDS of good Stuff, prepared, raw, groceries, Bakeries everything. They are amazing! I walk around so much and look at some much food. I got tired and did not see it all. I decided to go light and give my stomach a break, and just had a couple of small fish salads, bread and a green veggie salad. I was good, it was very good. I ate there the whole week!!

Later that evening I meet a couple of other Kyuoka who are in town for the seminar. I also hear that about 50% of the Europeans had to cancel due to the Volcano eruption ! Bummer for them after all this time of training and practice. I met these guys because they were outside my apt room talking! I find out most of the wing is filled with Kyudo folks.

Today was my first real travel alone in Japan, at least for a long distance, again no problems. It is a BIG help to know even basic Japanese. I asked a few people for directions, everyone tried to help, one guy even went out of his way to find me and put me on the right track after giving me incorrect info. No one panicked when they saw me or I spoke to them or tried not to sit/stand next to me on the train. Of course this is Tokyo.

Tomorrow is the opening day of the seminar. We pickup papers, there is a demo and a open practice. I also hear the Main Sensei(s) will give everyone once over to see where the weak spots are. It is basically an easy day though only from 1-4 or 5 p.m.

So Monday night a settle in for the week to unfold…it should be interesting.

Nihon Chronicles 2010…house hunting

26 04 2010

Day 4 around the town

I started the day again with early morning Tai Chi in the park. Another Obachan spoke with me and was tickled that I could speak my poor Japanese. They always seem to find that so special.

sakura petals floating to the sea

After breakfast it was LZ and I’s day to travel to check out some neibourhoods. These are off the main beat so we took some of the smaller local lines.

It is a different view of Japan more of the old style. However still with modern stuff. It is interesting. We went to see a Century 21 agent who showed us a couple houses on the computer then had someone take us to one to view live.

It was way up in the hills, 3 bedroom, all remodeled, with a yard. Very nice little home it was only 700 or 800 a month! Reason being it is away from the city and out of the way, no bus line, not convent at all. No matter it gave me a look at what is available for the money we will have to live off. That was what this was all about. There were a couple of places that looked nice for our budget.

This was just a trial run, a scouting mission. I can see now that it is possible to live here on our limited budget with some sacrifices.

One of them maybe my boat once we arrive, if I can not get some additional income other than my retirement that will be the key. The plan about teaching sailing on my boat or cruises will not play out in the area I can afford to keep the boat slipped in. English classes, hmmm I can not expect much from that unless I’m working for someone. Tai Chi again not much that I can see, pocket change. Working with a band, verdict is still out on that. Perhaps the biggest possible income factor. I will need to still research that. I’ll know more after Tokyo. There is the possibility of teaching sailing for Yoh Sensei, but I would need to improve my Japanese drastically, plus get licensed in japan to operate a boat. It will not a simple matter work, and start a new life in Japan, not impossible,  but not simple. Nor is life in the states… it is all about choices and which will give me the most bag for my effort bucks!

Anyway the couple of small towns where interesting, a bit out of the way. We had a small lunch break before heding back to Osaka

Next up the road to Toyko Tai Kai

Nihon Chronicles 2010 …Zen n around

25 04 2010

Zen n around:

Today we headed to South Osaka to visit Yoh Sensei and his wife. Yoh Sensei is a Zen master and listed in the Guinness World Records for sailing around the world solo in a home built 21 ft sailboat. He runs a sailing school and Yacht yard in Osaka.

He is with the same organization I am an instructor with in Cal, ASA. We have met a couple of time but never got to really spend any time together. LZ and I made a quick pit stop at a pachinko place on the way to his place for a bathroom break, the noise was off the hook!

Today we were having lunch with our wives. He ordered Sushi which we ate in his office and classroom at the Yacht harbor.

I met several of his instructors who were working that day. We took pictures and they said they were looking forward to me sailing there. I did find out part of the reason why owning a boat in Japan is soooo expensive! Slip fees. At Yoh Sensei marina for my size it will run about 300.00 a month. For the “better” areas, like Kobe and such I could expect 3 times that amount. Some places could run as much as 30,000 per year! Sugoi!!!! Ok, So that really changes my plans on having a boat near where we want to live! Another goal after returning to the states besides getting ready to sail is to improve my Japanese 200%. After a great lunch we had green tea ( macha) and sweets and chatted for a while before heading out to the temple / shrine where he practices.

It is rated as a world heritage site. The Abbots son was there, he took us around and gave us a behind the scenes tour.

The heritage site Zen pagoda is over 1,000 yrs. old! Sugoi!! It wsa under cover while being repaired and refurbished. From there we went around the grounds and over to a nearby river.

Pictures and chatting was the order. Not much to blog about in words but the pictures say thousands. It was the first day of sun and warm weather since we arrived and overall a great day. a note: Today we travelled around via train. There was at no time someone moved when I sat next to them or did not want to sit next to me. Maybe one woman, but I’m pretty sure that was because the space was small not because she did not want to sit next to a “gaijin” Pictures can e viewed here:

Nihon Chronicles 2010 …Rain, Sakura and an Izakaya

19 04 2010

Day 2

I’m up at 6:00 am, dressed and over to the park. I started with some Chen Tai Chi under the Sakura trees. A short time later the retirees shown up for Yang 24, I joined them again. Afterward one guy tried his English on me. Nice fellow about my age, he rode a motorcycle, really more of a scooter, but close enough. In Japan there is no discrimination between “Bikers”.

We are having internet installed today at Mum’s Apt. nice, I’m Jones’n about not being in touch. Yet I know I am not missing a lot, if anything, but I do need some emails stored in order to TCB here on a couple of things. I’m back at my spot on the sofa now, watching the cherry blossoms and the light rain from the window, from time to time Sakura pedals float around the trees as the breeze frees them from their birthplace. I am delighted I finally got to see some Sakura here. Although they are past their prime there is the sense of beauty that once was and how they are all over the place in Japan, remarkable flashes of color. I am looking forward to seeing them full one day.

With the rain today and the nice view, it is a good day to hang out and really rest after our journey. Today the plan is after the internet is installed, which is an all day job I am told. It involves two or three sets of people coming to the house to do stuff. Phone company, internet company, maybe the provider, sugoi complex for that here. Afterward we are going with Okasan to an Izakaya for drinks and food. Wooohoo! Then a quiet evening at home. With Sake and the internet, maybe I hope I can see the last missed episodes of Lost and “V”. I would be a happy camper.


Internet is on, yay!! I’m reconnected to the world. ( all these post are of course after being connected, I just wrote the whole time on the computer and now sorting for posts)

Dinner and drinks at the izakaiya, was great!!!!!!!

I tried some new flavors and some old, yum yum,

I got my buzz going on from a couple of plum chuhais and we are back home out of the rain.

Good times!

Nihon Chronicles 2010 …Osaka Kyudo

18 04 2010

Today was the first part of the main adventure…I now some have been waiting to read this…

Today I went over to the Osaka Kyudojo. I was nervous, I was unsure of the reception and what I was going to do/show, if I was intruding.

We had called before hand from the States, so someone knew we were coming but I was unsure if Nogomi Sensei had gotten the message. My fears were unfounded. When we first arrived, everyone was eating lunch together, so I was instructed where to change .

After lunch I was brought over to Nogomi Sensei, he was pleased to see us and thanks us for the gifts and pictures we had sent last year. We told him about our visit and the plan for me in Tokyo. He said he used to judge at the events in the past before he retired. He then said I should go practice. I went to the room next door and had at it.

I thought Dai -Sensei would just drop in and I could show him my tai hai. However after awhile I was sent for to come join the group!!

on the spot - judgement

I was so nervous also added to that I was struggling to remember polite Japanese not the equal level stuff I speak with LZ! I was unsure if I should do sitting or standing form. Everyone else was doing standing so I felt really unsure. I started with one, then went into standing since that is what everyone else was doing. Dai-Sensei went, eh?! What are you doing? Then I explained, rather LZ explained I was extremely nervous. He laughed , I was told Daijoubu and I started again. Anyway It was pointed out I was doing several things incorrect.

Mostly my tanuchi, leaving the dojo floor, holding the Yumi. Dai-Sensei said, if you lived closer (here) I could teach you correctly. I was given some other corrections by a couple of the other Sensei, how to tie my Hakama, where the knots should be, where the ties should be tucked, footwork/timing when bowing out of the dojo etc and NO jewelry…Doh. Then back with Dai-sensei. Sugoi…

I was not feeling I was doing anything correct. I was not feeling bummed out about it, just very awkward and all eyes were upon me.  However better than last time I was here. Things were not as I expected so I just tried my best to go along. The folks there were helpful in assisting. They most likely knew I felt sort of lost. Other than my blowing my Honza/Shai approach the biggest issue was my Taniuchi holding the yumi whilst in Douzokuri and straightening my left arm more when doing Daisan and Hikiwake. Turning my arm so my elbow was down more and locking in through the body.

Afterward I was speaking with another Sensei. She told remembered me from last time. She said oh, you were doing Shamen last time, now Shomen. Yes I replied. We talked a bit about style, difficulty, Kyudo in the States, Zen and Kyudo, etc. She thought the seminar would be good because the Senseis there are used to teaching Foreigners and knew how to explain things. Her feelings on Zen and Kyudo and “budo” and Kyudo was there was no separation. She had a book and gave us print out on Zen and Kyudo from the book. LZ will need to translate. This book was written by the Sensei that just past away last year. I found out later from Nogomi Sensei this woman Sensei was also a Tai Chi instructor. We noted there were several people in the class that Dai-Sensei said they are Sensei.

Nogomi Sensei at one point took a break and called me next door. He showed me and another the correct way of Dai-san and Hikiwaki, both Shoman and Shamen.

I was directed I should get in line and practice with the group, but stand near the front of the line so I could be seen by Nogami Sensei. I did so of course and received instruction from Sensei and another .
The next bit, well two bits, were unexpected. I asked for another picture with Nogomi Sensei, he said, we can do it with everyone. So he had everyone line up for a picture together I was told to sit in the front next to Sensei.

Afterwards, it was time for a break we were invited into the changing room were everyone sat and had tea and some amazing special mochi, made from Sakura and green tea and beans. Sweet but not SWEET, hand made it was SUGOI OISHII. It was at this point I feeling more part of the group, not just a visitor.

When I told LZ take a picture, a few laughed and said , yeah, evidence ne!

Afterward more practice, and another time in front of Dai-Sensei, I was helped with my standing form and orientation to the shooting line, which I was blowing, yet Dai-Sensei was patient and had someone help me. I felt better on my next to last shot when I got a dead center bulls eye and heard a couple of exclamations from behind me… yeah baby, Yatta!

Even though I did not hear what was right, since what I heard what was wrong was not really that much considering everything, I’m believing over all I did ok, otherwise I’m sure I would have heard more than I did.

The closing part was a bit of a chat with Nogomi Sensei he showed us some pictures of him 20 yrs ago shooting

He told me I could come back any time and he would teach me. I should not be concerned about bring him gifts, he was happy just to see me. As far as I was concerned, my trip was made. It mattered not if I get Shodan or not at that point, I was in with the group and made some important future connections. Whoot! Nihon is all about who you know.

More pictures: