2014 Japan week 1

2014 Japan Diary week 1

June 4 — 10


Wednesday, June 4 – Arrival

Didn’t get much sleep on the United flight from Houston to Narita.  I worked on Japanese I might need on my first day, but the moment I stepped through the arrivals door and I saw Tanida-Sensei standing there waiting for me that all flew out of my mind as I was so delighted to see him again in Japan.  His wife was also there and helped me to find the SoftBank counter where I got my SIM card for my 4S iPhone while he went off to get the car.  Then I made a quick stop at TIC & found out the Tokyo office had moved again & got the new location.  TIC = Tourist Information Counter.  Then it was off to the JR place in the basement to exchange the rail pass voucher.  They were able to have it activate for June 11.  Then we went to the car and drove to a restaurant on the 9th floor of Sogo depāto in the heart of Chiba City.  It was getting dark by the time we sat down for dinner.  After dinner they took me to Hakusen Ryokan where I did the minimum to unpack, get clean, then crash.


Thursday, June 5 – Chiba Exploration

(TIC, Oxydol, Loft, Mr. Donuts, monorail, Kendo shop)

Woke up at 4:30 AM, and it was daylight already (no summer time).  I couldn’t go back to sleep so got up and started puttering around with the semi chaos left over from last night.  Went to breakfast at 8.  Asked re kusuriya & got a location.  Explained I was going back to the room to organize, then off to the station.  By noon everything was in its place and I could go.  It started a soft rain.  The rest of the day was intermittant rain and solidly overcast.  Was getting hungry so stopped at a combini on the way to the station and got three onigiri, a frozen maccha sweet, and a frozen solid lemon water (the frozen part was a surprise).  Walking to the other side of the station I spy the Chiba City tourist center and a spot to sit and eat.  I eat then go chat with the tourist center person.  Found out that the Chiba Prefecture Goods place had moved, but the travel center had stayed.  Asked re kusuriya & got the same information that Okami-San (Mochizuki-San) had said plus one more.  Also got location of Loft, it’s Sogo depāto 8th floor (recommended by Ali).  In the course of this chatted with the lady there who was curious as to why I was in Chiba.  She was ok with my doing Iaido, but the smile froze on her face when I said I was staying at Hakusen Ryokan.  I think the idea of Westerners staying in tatami mat room did not compute.  After I left there I went to Perie basement and found the kusuriya with some concerned help (store help concerned that a foreigner asking for the pharmacy may be a sign that I was in medical trouble).  Had a lesson re hydrogen peroxide in Japan.  I asked for hydrogen peroxide per the Midori dictionary and they said they had none.  I was surprised, but then they said they had this stuff that contained it that was called Oxydol.  Found out after I got back to the ryokan with the bottle, and searched for Oxydol Japan, that the Japanese equivalent to the H2O2 sold in the US is something called Oxydol.  I was able to clean my teeth just fine with it.  Anyway after the kusuriya I went back to the Chiba peanuts section and bought 3 bags for David.  Chiba peanuts are the best.  Then off to Sogo.  In Sogo went to Loft which turned out to be a great place and I bought a hat, 2 tenogui, and a fan.  Then down to 7th floor & bought a very nice furoshiki.  Then down to the station where I charged both Suica cards.  Suica is a very convenient cash card that can be used for trains, subways, monorails, and select stores.  Then decided to go to monorail station, where I  found Mr. Donuts.  Just as the article said they had all kinds of maccha goodness so bought one of each, then off to ride the monorail to the end of the line and back.  Got off one before Chiba Kōen and found the Kendo shop where I bought a pair of suede sole tabi.  Walked back through the park taking pictures of flowers on the way back to ryokan & got there by 5.  Dinner at 7, the bath, this journal, now bed at 9.


Friday, June 6 – Kashima & Katori Jingu

Woke up at 4:30 and started preparing for the day.  This involved doing some Japanese language study in preparation for the day’s outing with Tanida-Sensei to Kashima Jingu.  Also read a little about Kashima via Wiki.  Breakfast at 8, then in the lobby by 8:40 to wait for him.  Meanwhile chatted with Okami-San about takuhaibin service to use for transfering my suitcase to Narita.  Tanida-Sensei came and we were off to Kashima.  It rained all day long.  In fact still raining right now.  Because of the rain and the weekday (it being Friday) there were few people so we could enjoy the shrine grounds as we walked about.   Inside the Kashima grounds was a shop selling snacks and sake.  We enjoyed a treat there consisting of  three delicious roasted balls (mochi?) on a stick.  After walking back out to the car we went to Katori Jingu where we first had lunch (soba & tempura) at a restaurant just outside the gates before walking into the shrine grounds.  We cleansed ourselves at a chōzu (aka temizu).  The shrine building was looking very fresh and new.  I was told it had been newly replaced just last year.  After walking, praying at the shrine, doing omikuji, we went back to Chiba.  On the way back I told him that I had injured my left back muscle about three weeks ago and I wasn’t sure if I could do tatehiza this weekend.

I was rather tired after today and yesterday, and still jisaboke, so I laid down at 4 to take a nap and didn’t get up until 7:30.  I was still feeling tired, but knew I had to get out for some dinner.  Went to Perie and got a very nice salad (lettuce, nori, avocado, clear noodles, etc.), mixed rice, and some walnuts & fresh fruit.  Also scored a nice new clear plastic umbrella.  Other stores were already closed.  Came back through the pouring rain with new kasa.  Ate dinner, sent an email, bathed & washed hair, now ready for bed at midnight.

Note:  there was a small earthquake shortly after I laid down.  Made me think of the giant catfish in the legend of the Kashima no Okami sama (Takemikazuchi).


Saturday, June 7 – PanYa, C One, Evening Practice

Woke up at 5, but was able to go back to sleep until 6:30.  Yay!  Since it was a no-breakfast-at-Ryokan day I ate some leftover food with tea, then headed to the PanYa in Perie and bought a BUNCH of bread stuff (all good), then decided to walk C One, which I couldn’t do last night because it was closed.  It went on for a LONG distance.  Finally headed back while noting curry restaurants for future meals.  Took my bread back to ryokan and ate most of it, then became rather bloated, probably because of all the wheat.  Laid down until it was time to dress for practice.  I was down in the genkan area ~20 minutes before 4.  Tanida-Sensei arrived on time and off we went to the 5-7 practice at the Chiba Ken Budokan.  When we got there we had to wait for a Judo meet to disperse.  I received from him this year’s seitokai year book.  Also I was able to transfer yesterdays photos from his SD card to my iPad.  There was no Kendo class happening in the other half of the room.  I think they moved to an upstairs room.  There were five people in attendance including myself,– a sandan, a godan, a renshi, and two nanadan.  When we got there the junior student immediately took from Tanida-Sensei’s bag the scroll (Hayashizaki great bright god) and the cloth with all the waza and put those up on the wall (scroll in place of honor).  As usual folks were wearing various iaigi.  Tanida-Sensei had on a plain black osode.  The three senior students were wearing montsuki in various colors, and the junior student had on a blue practice top with white Edo Sashi stitching on it (I have one just like it back home).

We did BH1-11, ToHo1-5, Seiza1-11.  Practice was mostly him doing then we do twice.  Half way in we had a break to drink and oil sword.  At this point I’d just like to mention that there was no A/C at this practice or any other practice I attended including the Gasshuku, just open windows.

After a while he would occasionally stop to explain something and or have a student do the waza, just as he did in Denton.  In addition to various technical points, some new, but many familiar, there is a new way of going into seiza, introduced by the 22nd, now done ALL THE TIME (rei, waza, etc.).

After practice ended it was decided that Chikamoto-San would pick me up for Sunday practice.  He lives near to Hakusen Ryokan and probably has the best English skills of the group.

After practice Tanida-Sensei took me to dinner at the high-end traditional restaurant where in 2005 I had live fish.  We talked about food preferences, ZNIR, and an Iaido demo in Washington DC by Gonohe-sensei.


Sunday, June 8 – Morning & Evening Practices

I was already dressed out when Chikamoto-San picked me up at about 8:15.  Practice is at Hanamigawa Community Center.  9-11 is solo waza.  11-noon is paired practice.  At the end of the solo part there was a group photo with everyone who came.  We did BH1-10, Seiza1-11, ToHo1-5, OkuTachi1-7, and TUNK1-7.

There were ten people at this practice, including myself,– one shodan, two nidan, one yondan, one godan, one rokudan, one renshi, and three nanadan.

There were more lower ranks at this practice and I noticed Tanida-Sensei was demonstrating more slowly and stopping to point out basics.  His teaching is pretty much as it is in Denton, but he doesn’t use a board (because no board).  He often picks out someone to do a waza for everyone to see.  Then makes corrections.  Some of the same corrections he made yesterday were made here.  I was again selected for kesa giri.

During the paired practice there were three pairs practicing TUNK.  I was paired with Chikamoto-San.  We did rei as a group, then pairs would work at their own pace.  First we did 1-7 with me as shidachi, then switched and repeated 1-7.  Then Tanida-Sensei, after watching us, replaced Chikamoto-San, and I did 1-3 with him as shidachi.  Then it was time to go.

We went back down the tiny narrow one-lane road that leads to the community center to a pasta restaurant (Mama Pasta) on a nearby corner.  The lunch party consisted of Tanida-Sensei, Chikamoto-San, myself, and another student riding with Chikamoto-San.  We had pizza & pasta.  Yum!

Chikamoto dropped me off at the ryokan after we agreed to another 5-7 practice (his usual time for such).  Tanida-Sensei couldn’t join us because he had a committment with his wife that evening, but would join us next weekend.  I took a shower and rested as much as I could before it was time to dress out in my driest, least smelly keikogi & juban.  At ~4:20 he came by.  The practice was at the Chiba City Budokan which is smaller and seems older than the prefecture budokan.  We go to the genkan to put our shoes in the shoe shelf, then head upstairs.  There were two people practicing TSKSR, and a karate group was having a practice (the small kids were very loud).  This large upper room was divided in half with one having insert mats for Judo, Aikido and such.  And the other half had a nice hardwood floor for sword arts, karate, etc.  In the center between the two areas opposite the entrance door was a kamiza.  We did BH1-11, then Seiza1, 5-8, practicing and reviewing each waza.  After bowing out I tried sitting tatehiza and going through the motions of yokogumo.  Muscle wasn’t complaining much.  I might be good to go for tatehiza next weekend.

He drove me back to the ryokan.  Since it was a holiday for okamisan I went out after a bath to get some roasted meat on a stick from the local yaki niku and some goodies from the combini.


Monday, June 9 – Laundry & Rest

I wasn’t so tired last night when I went to bed, but I was sure dragging today.  After breakfast it was with difficulty that I could bring myself to straighten up from the chaos of the weekend and to do laundry.  Whenever I could I just sat on the floor propped against the futon pile.  Putting the clothes away took a while.  By about 1-2 I decided I needed to go to the prefecture goods store to look for peanut butter for Charles-sensei.  I could barely walk down the street I was so tired.  I found the store in its new location, verified they had the peanut butter, bought a few things, then went to C One for  a curry rice lunch.  C One is a long string of shops directly beneath the Keisei tracks.  The first place I came to I couldn’t understand the menu selection displays, and being too tired and hungry to work at it I went on and found a nice restaurant with wait staff.  Later I walked back on the outside of C One back to the ryokan.  Still so tired.  It wasn’t until I took some aspirin and had dinner that I felt my energy returning.

BTW sitting on the tatami mat floor, listening to this week’s History of Japan Podcast, the catfish quivered a tiny bit at 5:59 PM.  This was #2.


Tuesday, June 10 – Chiba Zoo

Went to the Chiba Zoo via the monorail and was there all day.  I first went to the bird watching area.  Such a nice change from the crowded C One yesterday!   I lingered there and took many pictures, including one of a snake on a large rock.  I walked about the rest of the zoo.  It’s really a nice zoo with many enclosures looking like they were designed by a traditional Japanese gardener.  There’s also a great look-out place to get a birds-eye view.  Had lunch at the zoo restaurant which was a small adventure taking as it did a bit of explaining on the part of the staff.  The lunch ordering interface is a ticket machine interface, but the ticket is passed electronically to the staff while you’re given a number on a slip of paper.  Then you wait for the number to be called.  I listened carefully for my number, but either I missed it or the staff thought I might not understand it, because one of the staff brought my curry rice to me.  Outside on the plaza there were many groups having their group lunches on blankets or towels arranged in a large circle on the plaza pavement.  Groups use a separate entrance which means that single people like me are not having to contend with them.  A really stellar idea.  In the flamingo &  duck enclosure I happened to notice there was a snake trying to get out.  The birds were nervous and out of the water.  In the Emu enclosure there were two hungry emu engrossed in their food box.  Same for the crane.  Most animals were typically uninterested to do anything, but the Shoebill was a big surprise.  The only one to have a posted name (じっと) it flew over to where a mom & child and I were standing and seemed to show off its wings and large beak with which it made loud leathery sounds as it snapped the beak closed.  What a personality this bird had.  Later in the zoo shop I saw this shoebill on half the merchandise.  He was a ROCKSTAR, and knew it.  After I was done wandering about the zoo i took the monorail back to Chiba Kōen station, then walked through the park back to the ryokan.


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