2014 Japan week 3

2014 Japan Diary week 3
June 18 — 24

Wednesday, June 18 – Takuhaibin, Chiba Kōen, Charles-Sensei arrives

Good that I didn’t try to squeeze in a visit to SakuraYa. My idea of where to look for it was wrong. Thanks to their web page I now know how to go. Unfortunately they are closed on Wednesday, so I will try to go tomorrow.
This morning at breakfast Okamisan gave me some omiyage. Unfortunately some of it is heavy, which is why she gave it to me today, but I worry about exceeding the baggage weight limit on the flight back (United only allows one checked free bag <=50#).
Well I spent most of the day, until 2 PM finishing deciding what should and can go into the suitcase versus the back pack, packing & repacking, then dragging it downstairs leaving the form on top. During this time I made a 90 min recording of local neighborhood sounds (going to miss them in the Hilton). By then I was tired of hanging around the room and decided to go for a walk in Chiba Kõen and to get some real food to supplement the meager snacks I had for lunch. On the way to the park I decided to take an alternate route going up hill through a bit of the Benten neighborhood that ultimately lead me to the park via a downhill route. The lotus blooming season is coming along nicely. I paused at the lotus garden to take pictures. After walking about for a bit I headed back after swinging by the 7-11 for drinks and an onigiri. Back at the ryokan by about 3:30 I was surprised that my bag was already gone. I was going to ask if it was ok to lock it. Too late now. I reimbursed her for the expense. Tomorrow night I need to do laundry. Before dinner I worked on the journal, looked at my photos, and tweeted.
Also got an email from Charles-Sensei, one of my travel companions for this trip, that he had arrived at the Narita Hilton.

Thursday, June 19 – SakuraYa, Laundry

Today I went to SakuraYa while Charles went to Akihabara. On the way there in the train I thought about ma as I observed the distance between myself and the person seated across from me. Idly wondered if Japanese Iaidoka had thoughts like this too as they rode the trains. At SakuraYa I bought and had shipped a new greenish stripped hakama, a thin summer-weight black poly keikogi, white suede tabi, navy suede tabi, juban, and a nice little bag with a carabiner clip. I went back to Chiba afterwards to find an email asking if I could get him some peanut butter on the way up tomorrow. I did not relish trying to walk through Perie with a loaded backpack and wondered if I could run up there and back tomorrow morning before checking out. Tonight I used up the last of my laundry powder that I brought with me doing laundry (there is no self-serve laundry at the Hilton).

Friday, June 20 – Move to Hilton, John-Sensei arrives

After breakfast I pay up with Okamisan and ask about the opening time for Perie explaining that my friend wanted Chiba peanut butter. Not until 10. So at 9:30 she drove me to a nearby supermarket that opened at 9:30 and I got a tub of non-sugar peanut butter for Charles. Then she drove me to the west entrance and dropped me off. She is very sweet. Took a train to Narita 2, then took the Hilton bus at stop #26 just outside the terminal. While transferring from the rail station to the airport I went through the security check point where I had to let them examine the iaitō. It was no problem, but it took some time. While waiting for the hotel bus I was able to get both iPad & iPhone on Narita Free WiFi, and thus could try to help Charles get to the kendo shop in Chiba, and afterwards the geta shop. Meanwhile I got checked in, relaxed a bit, received my suitcase in my room, reorganized the suitcase and backpack for the weekend, and had a lunch purchased at the hotel combini. By the way the takuhaibin service had locked the suitcase with a plastic lock tie. Then it was time to go to Narita 2 to meet John-Sensei. It was there I met up with Charles for the first time, who was there waiting for him to emerge from customs which he eventually did. We got caught up on the bus ride over and agreed to meet for breakfast at 7:30 the next morning.
I got a dinner at the hotel combini, had tea, and will soon take a shower & go to bed. That evening I also practiced Iaido waza in my room, because I could,– the ceiling height permitted even standing waza.

Saturday, June 21 – Kyoto, Tō-Ji, Party, drinks with friends

On the bus ride into the airport we placed our sword bags and other luggage in the overhead bin. We had no problems going through the security check point at the airport; they only wanted to see our passports and did not look in the overhead bins. We got seats for the next Narita Express. When we got to Tokyo station we got seats on the Hikari Shinkansen bound for Kyoto. At Kyoto station it was just two subways stations north to hotel. John-Sensei researched that the correct subway exit, the one closest to the hotel, was #20, but we didn’t know exactly where that exit was relative to landmarks & streets. Anyway we got turned around, but after asking around and consulting online maps, we eventually reached the hotel. At the hotel we were told that we were too early to check in (apparently everyone has to check in at the official check in time), but they let us leave our bags so we could go out and find a foreign currency exchange, which we did in a MaruDai Depāto just down the street from the hotel. We also ran across that great furoshiki place we shopped at in 2010. After he got his money converted we got a taxi to Tō-Ji temple to check out the vintage/flea market that Yokota-Sensei had told me about on Sunday at the Hanamigawa CC practice.
None of us had ever been to Tō-Ji before, but it was obvious something was going on by the time the taxi dropped us off at the entrance. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to shop in the many wonderful stalls selling all manner of things, including very inexpensive haori ($10 each), furoshiki, kimono, food, etc. after walking the entire grounds it was time to taxi back to the hotel where we had just enough time to shower & dress for the party.
We took a taxi to the party hotel (we took turns paying for taxi rides during the trip) and arrived a little later than Tanida-Sensei’s suggested 5:30 arrival time due to very crowded Kyoto streets (lots of cars and even more pedestrians). The party was at the same hotel as in 2010, but in a smaller room. The room was long, but a bit narrow with a head table on the right as you entered from the middle of a long side. On the other end was a small stage where karaoke was later done. Between were three long rows of low tables with low chairs on each side. Seating was not assigned so we got a place with 4 empty places in a row so Nate-Sensei could sit with us. This was on the far side from the high table in the middle row next to the karaoke stage. The food was great! In addition Yokota-Sensei and Chikamoto-San were there in the next table up from us.
At some point after a number of folks had come by to pour drinks for us, I decided to go pour a little myself for Tanida-Sensei, and also for Kogushi-Sensei to thank him for taking me to the Keisei Rose Garden. Kareoke got started after a while and there were a number of spirited people singing. At the end we bid farewell to Ikeda-Soke as he left the hall.
Afterwards we went out with Nate to a bar to talk and have a few drinks. We taxi-ed back to the hotel about 10.

Sunday, June 22 – EmbuKai, dinner with friends

In the morning we dress out then meet downstairs for breakfast. We seem to be the only ones at the hotel who are there for the TaiKai, being the only ones dressed in men’s formal wafuku (and the only foreigners) in the lobby. They had a small, but free breakfast bar. We taxied over to the TaiKai place. The TaiKai is actually an Embukai and was scheduled to start about 9, but when we got there shortly before 9 the doors were still closed. Once we got in we discovered that the large area next to the embu hall was the men’s changing area. The women’s was way far away on the other side of the building, and it was locked until the end of the event as I discovered when I tried to get in sometime later. Registration tables were set up at which I used my SeitōKai membership card to check in. This got me the program book. Commemorative tenogui and SeitōKai yearly club book were picked up directly after we walked off the embu floor (they did let us take extras home).
The embu hall was laid out as follows from the vantage of the doorway leading in to the room:
On the far side was the high table, behind the center of which was the place of honor. Soke was in the center with the 23rd on his right, and people on either side of them. On the right side of the room (the left side of the place of honor) was another long table consisting of 10dans. The registration tables were just inside the door to the right near the wall. On the left side of the room near the head table was the number board that Tanida-Sensei worked. This board together with the program book could be used to know who was on the floor. On the door side of the embu space was a long row of tatami mats that the following group would line up on to receive inspection and perform reishiki, unless they were 8dan and up in which case they went out to the floor directly when called and did reishiki there. The inspections were new (for me) and consisted of someone going down the line to inspect and sometimes correct clothing, sageo placement, etc. I had my sageo placement adjusted just slightly. Next we did reishiki then waited for our name to be called at which we would say ‘hai’ and walk out to our taped spot on the floor, except that I dampened my tabi on the wet cloth before walking out. Behind this row of tatami was two more rows placed together that formed the observing area where people sat to watch. The dressing/stuff-leaving place was in a large room adjacent to the embu room on the left, the same large room that the men were changing in earlier. Groups of people of the same rank would be grouped here and lined up in numerical order per the program book before filing into the other room. It was all done like clockwork.
The embuKai open formally as we all lined up, did rei, sang the Japanese anthem, and listened to a speech by the 22nd and I think the 23rd as well. Then we were dismissed and the dangai, including a young boy, got ready to go out. We each checked which group we were in and where in the group we were.
The 7dans went before lunch. Charles was the first one and I was one over, right in front of Ikeda-Soke. I did my five, but felt I could have done better. John-Sensei’s group went after lunch. Lunch was a bento box with drinks had from the vending machines outside in the hall. Everyone up through at least the 9-dans were facing toward the high table and away from the spectator sitting area during embu. There were cameras set up in the front corner between the numbers board and the high table. Before the 10dans did embu the floor was rearranged with soke in the left corner near the tatami mats facing diagonally to the far corner, and the 10dans facing diagonally toward him. I was standing behind the tatami mats to take pictures when Nishio-Sensei requested me to sit down, which I did. The very last to do embu was the 23rd Soke. After it was all over, I think, there was a group photo. I was in the very back row perched on top of a table with others. They had to bring in extra tables for folks to stand on. There was also another gathering of everyone there to officially close the TaiKai.
After it was all done people immediately started changing clothes, including Ishibe-Sensei whom I greeted on my way back to the women’s room to get the few things I had left there. Came back just in time to say good-bye to Ikeda-Soke as he left the hall. Next Tanida-Sensei said good-bye on his way out the door and off to the station to grab the next shinkansen home. John-Sensei and I hung out just outside the doors of the hall waiting for Nate, who was busy inside doing take-down, and said good-bye to the many Japanese leaving, including Fukui-Soke who looked just like a typical business man in a nice grey suit, but with a sword case hanging from his shoulder. Eventually Nate emerged, also Shikari-San his wife, arrived and we all went outside to get a taxi back to our hotel so we could get a shower, change, and go out to eat with them. Only thing was the taxi couldn’t get us all the way back to the hotel and became completely immobile in gridlock. So the driver told us where to walk to get to the hotel and let us out. So there we were in otoko no wafuku and sword cases turning heads on a crowded Kyoto street surrounded by Japanese in yōfuku.
Once back at the hotel we showered, changed and immediately went to the lobby to walk with them to the Korean BBQ restaurant where we ate ourselves silly with plate after plate of thin meat slices that we roasted over a grill and dipped into many sauces. Unfortunately in the rush at the hotel I left my gifts for them back at the hotel, but Charles had a spare taffy gift box left that he let me use to give to them (Thank you, Charles-Sensei!). Amazingly enough I found room for a maccha ice cream cone on the walk back. I joked on the way back about just shoving aside stuff on the bed sufficiently to lay down and fall into a food coma,– and did just that when I got back in my room.

Monday, June 23 – To Seki City, Then On To Narita

This day was a long day of traveling with a little bit of shopping in the middle. First we took the subway from our hotel back to Kyoto station, then a Hikari shinkansen to Nagoya, then walked to the nearby bus center to catch the bus to Seki City. At the Shinden bus stop I phoned Noshu who sent a nice English-speaking lady in a car to pick us up. Miwa-San also made an appearance. At Noshudō Charles arranged for some repair work while I looked for, and found, a shinken from their already-made stock. They wanted to take us to the sword museum in Seki City, but by the time our business was done there was no time. So Miwa-San took us to the main bus terminal where we boarded the bus back to Nagoya, where we got seats on a Hikari shinkansen bound for Tokyo. On the way there I did a little research and determined we could save ourselves some hassle by changing to the Narita Express at Shinagawa, which we did. On this trip the N’EX took longer than usual to get to Narita 2 due to heavy rain in the Narita vicinity. We were rather tired by the time we got back to the hotel.

Tuesday, June 24 – SakuraYa, MeugaYa, SenSō-Ji, Denny’s

We went to Tokyo to SakuraYa, then walked to JR Ichigaya station, then John-Sensei left us to go see his friend for a planned 1 to 3 visit, with a promise to call later to meet up again. Meanwhile Charles and I go to MeugaYa (Tabi shop) behind SenSō-Ji, taking pictures along the way. After the shop we stroll about a bit, walk down the shopping avenue, and head back toward the subway entrance that we had emerged from (4A). We duck into a Doutor coffe shop where I have a maccha soy latte followed by a maccha cake while waiting for the call. He eventually called to say he was at the station coming to A4 exit, so we walked into the subway station toward him and we met up again. From there took the Ginza line to Ueno, then changed to Hibiya (?) line for Akihabara. Ate at a Denny’s there,– the curry omu-rice was great. Then to JR Akihabara station to take the Yamanote to Tokyo where we got the last Narita Express for Narita 2. Then we took the bus back to the hotel after agreeing to meet at 7:30 for breakfast. That night I researched the travel schedule for tomorrow’s trip to Hayashizaki Jinja and realized that in order to have enough time in Murayama we had to make the 10:00 shinkansen which meant we had to meet for breakfast at 7:00. So I used the hotel phone to call everyone about the change in plans.

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