2014 Japan week 4

2014 Japan Diary week 4
June 25 — July 1

Wednesday, June 25 -Hayashizaki Jinja

Met for breakfast at 7 AM so we can catch the bus to NRT2 in time to catch the 8:17 N’EX to arrive in time to catch the 10:00 Yamabiko #133 shinkansen to Murayama. We arrive at 1:08 and taxi to Hayashizaki Jinja. The taxi driver is asked to return at 3:15. We proceed to stroll about the grounds. I took a lot of photos. The shrine itself is closed since it is too small to support full-time staff and today is a weekday. Leaving Charles sitting at the jinja entrance incase the taxi comes early, we go to find the priest’s house in hopes that there is someone home who could sell us omamori. We went to the house next to the dojo and rang the bell. We waited a while and as we were walking away, thinking no one was home, a woman comes out looking like we had just woken her up (her expression was like who the hell are you and why are you on my front porch?). We quickly explain we are from Texas and would like to buy omamori. She goes to the garage of the next house to fetch an old woman who brings a tray. We are invited into the genkan where we can sit and select omamori for us and especially for folks back home. There is a young man in the household who is enjoying being able to practice his English with us. I looked up the Japanese word for offering and told the obāsan that I wanted to offer some money to the jinja (to help with upkeep). She gave me an envelope on which I put my name in kana on the envelope and returned it to her with the money inside. We thank them and apologise for disturbing them. As we are walking back to the jinja, the young man who was speaking English with us comes running up with a bag full of cherries,– a thank you gift for our donation. The taxi arrives soon and soon we are back at the station waiting for our Yamabiko back to Tokyo and from there back to Narita2 and our hotel. It was a long day, but worth it.

Thursday, June 26 – Yotsukaidō, Chiba Chūō CC, Bōsō Hantō (Kasamori, Kujukuri)

Today Charles went to Akihabara by himself, and John-Sensei rented a car so he can drive us about Bōsō Hantō. First on the list was to find and visit his former house in Yotsukaidō. After navigating towards the Yotsukaido station he gradually recognizes where he is (many landmarks had changed in 30 years) and turns back the way we came and turns in to a small nondescript road that he remembers from decades ago. Soon we are traversing the typical narrow residential streets of Japan. Eventually he finds the house, which is a very nice traditional looking one on the top of a hill. We first went to the front gate, but the person who now lives there, a friend of his, was not in. We drove around to the back entrance where the gate was not locked. We walked up the stairs to the house level and looked around at the very lush garden. He had wanted to show me the interior of the house, but that was not possible. There were one or two other places he lived in this Yotsukaidō neighborhood, but he thinks they were replaced with new houses (in Japan it’s typical to replace a house after ~20 years or so).
Next was to visit Yamashita-Sensei’s old dojo at Chiba City Chūō community center. We found the Chiba City Hall, which is across the street from it, but because the front of the CC had changed so much we had to get down the road from it before he could recognize the building. After finding and parking in the underground parking garage, we took the elevator to the 4th floor. Down the hall, over the old patched linoleum, we found on the left the Kendo Hall where some women were just leaving. I recognized the room from an old video. The windows that open into the hallway were closed that day, but on another day 30+ years ago they were open to the Judo/Aikido class happening on the other side of the hallway. This is where he had first met Yamashita-Sensei many years ago. It was very interesting to be in that space to see this place for myself and to see through his eyes how it was. He said the room hadn’t changed much at all. That was very cool. We had lunch at the CC cafeteria.
Then it was off through the countryside to Kasamori. It was rather hot in the parking lot, but the moment we entered the path leading up to the temple through the trees beside a vertical damp wall, the temperature seemed to drop about 10°. At the top, we went up the many steep wooden steps in slippers to the temple and relaxed for a while, taking in the feeling of this very old place. After that it was too late to do onsen so went to the beach at Kujukuri (literally 99 ri) to look out over the Pacific Ocean for a while. There were a few people out strolling on the beach or just sitting, but there was no one in the water. Then we drove back in to Chiba City to Sitar restaurant in Kimigawa for dinner with Damien and friends some friends of his whom I had never met (almost did in 2010, but Kogushi-Sensei called that morning), and really enjoyed getting to know them. They were wonderful people, very interested in India and bringing Indian food to Japan. After a wonderful meal Damien helped us get back on the road toward Narita. Everything was going fine until we got on the road toward the airport and couldn’t seem to get off it before reaching the airport gates. We got turned back on the road courtesy of the guards. On the way back I saw a break in the guard rails just before the road split. We stopped and were able to reverse back, after the traffic had passed, to the break and duck in to the smaller access road from which we were able to cross over to the Hilton. When we parked in the Hilton’s garage we noted there weren’t very many cars, as if most people didn’t drive here, which we could understand given the surprising difficulty we just had in getting back.

Friday, June 27 – Free day, Hotel exploration

Today I decided to spend the day at the hotel to rest and reorganize for the Gasshuku while Charles and John-Sensei went back to SakuraYa in Tokyo, but not before deciding on a time to meet in the lobby for dinner. I had been wanting to explore the back of the hotel, and to try out the hotel’s ofuro and exercise room in basement. From my room window I had noted the back had an attractive waterfall, stream, and lawn with tables & chairs. After sleeping in and taking a leisurely breakfast I started reorganizing for the Gasshuku. When I was ready for lunch I went to the hotel combini to get some onigiri, salad, and some drinks. Then I found some stairs going down to the lower floor where I found the fitness center and, a little further on, the entrance to the outside and a wedding chapel. Once outside I found and walked beside the stream, picking out a table to have my lunch at. After lunch I did a little exploring and found a way to the waterfall directly behind the glass wall of the back of the chapel. Back inside I went to the fitness center counter, handed in the complimentary pass and found out there was a bath. After getting a bracelet-key to use in the bath, I deposited most of my goods in a locker before going into the women’s bath area where I exchanged my shoes for slippers. BTW at some point I remember seeing a sign about no tattoos in the bath. There was a locker room where my bracelet-key did its job and all clothing was left here. With my tenugui sized towel I entered the ofuro and got clean at one of the stations. There was a sauna just adjacent to it. Several women came and went while I got clean. They were all gone by the time I finished so I soaked alone. There were actually two baths,– a hot bath and a cold bath. Guessing the cold bath went with the sauna. After getting dressed I wandered into the fitness room and tried out a treadmill and a few of the weight machines while thinking about the Gasshuku. By then it was time to go back to the room to get ready for dinner and continue prepping to check out tomorrow. We met at 6:00 in the lobby to take the hotel bus to the Keisei station to look for a restaurant in the station area. We ended up taking the train to Narita 2 for dinner. I had オムライス(omelet rice) with curry, again.

Saturday, June 28 – To KatsuUra BudoKan, Gasshuku

After moving all my non-Gasshuku stuff to Charles’ room (very convenient, thank you), we take the hotel bus to NRT2, then N’EX to Chiba, then Sotobō line to KatsuUra through a bunch of little towns along the line. As we stop at these small towns I tried to snap a photo of the platform together with the station name, if possible, and post it on Twitter. Thanks to Charles-Sensei’s portable wi-fi hot-spot rental we had access to the internet anytime we were near him. Chikamoto-San and another student met us at the station and take us to have a very quick lunch. On the way to the Budokan they look for a pan-ya without success. The Budokan is nearby on top of a local hill. We leave our shoes at the genkan, check in, take our stuff to our rooms, and quickly dress. I noted that my room rather smelled of mildew, but there was no time to do anything about it. There was an A/C unit on the wall and it was connected to a coin box where I read 200¥ 4 時間 (200 Yen 4 hours). The first practice is to start at 1 and we are late. Back down stairs we take the long hall past the check-in window and walk past the women’s ofuro, men’s ofuro, laundry room, turn the corner, and there is the entrance to the great hall. Just inside there is a large group of people doing Jukendō wearing special Jukendō armor. Our group is on the far side of the hall.
Here is a description of the hall from the vantage point of a viewer in the doorway: The entrance to/from the hall was placed about in the middle. On the wall to the right, centered on it and up high on a shelf, was a kamidana. To the left the floor had mats inserted into the floor for falling arts. Between that section of the floor and the hard wood section was a long stretch of mats placed on the floor, and to get to our section we would walk along or parallel to this next to the Jukendō students’ gear on the floor. The far wall had a glass doorway leading outside which was used to situate the ice chest, containing bottles of water and ice, outside and off the wooden floor of the hall. There were windows down low within reach on the far wall. The right and left walls had windows up high on the wall. It turns out we are early. Early enough for me to go back to the room to find out I had left my foot pads in Narita. I resigned myself to Seiza without pads. Gasshuku on Saturday was 1-5 and involved BH1-11, ToHo1,2,4,5, and drills in distance and timing. As it turned out, we didn’t do Seiza, Tatehiza or Iwaza at all during the Gasshuku, I think in consideration of John-Sensei, just as he didn’t do tatehiza the first weekend due to my back injury. I had brought some of the hotel bottled water with me as well as bottles I had filled myself with tap water. These were drunk during the breaks. I found that by drinking a bottle of water per break I could keep up with my sweat demands and still not need to pee. More than a bottle meant I eventually had to use the restroom just outside the hall. There was also a vending machine just outside the hall.
After practice was over everyone took a shower/bath before meeting in the cafeteria for dinner. I went back to the room, got my toilet kit and went back down to the women’s ofuro. There were a few young women from the Jukendō group finishing their baths. I enjoyed the bath by myself. On the way back to the room I ran into John-Sensei & Charles on their way to a meeting with Tanida-Sensei in his room in the first floor wing. I am requested as well, and promise to come a little later after I drop my things off at the room. Coming back I realize I have no idea which room they are in and thought about abandoning the attempt when I saw Chikamoto-San. He knew which room it was and lead me there. Inside they were all sitting on the tatami mat floor. I find out that Ikeda-Soke had decided to give Kyoshi to Charles and I. This was unexpected. While there I borrowed a few 100¥ coins from John-Sensei to turn on the A/C since I was low on 100¥ coins. Tanida-Sensei pointed out that if I just opened the window it would be cool enough. From there we went to the group dinner in the cafeteria. It was supposed to be an outdoor BBQ, but the rain prevented that, so we ate indoors. The yaki soba was awesome. They poured a clear liquid in our cups that was very smooth that I thought was sake. Found out later it was shōchū (distilled sake). Guess that explains why my face felt like it was going numb. Anyway that was followed up by some beer. John-Sensei spilt his drink which probably explains how he was able to go to the party afterwards. During the dinner T-S asked if I wanted to go to ‘morning market’ before breakfast. I said yes. We heard there was a party after dinner, and in fact it was just two doors down from my room. However when I got back to my room I was feeling really tired, but the bed had to be made before I could do anything. First I put the white flat sheet on the uppermost futon. Each bunk had two thin futons folded up, but after my experience at Hakusen Ryokan this year I grabbed a third one from the storage closet. Next I grabbed the blue sheet which turned out to be a fitted sheet designed to fit around a futon, so I pulled the white sheet off and tried to put the blue sheet on. No matter how I did it the sheet was too small causing the futon to buckle. So I just laid the blue sheet on top of the futon, put the pillow in its case and declared victory in making the bed. Also during this I had opened the window and the door to get some airflow to air it out. By this point I had no energy to go to the party and instead laid down and started to write my practice notes, until even that was too much, and I laid that aside and went to sleep. Later I woke up several times and could hear John-Sensei and I think Tanida-Sensei at the party. I seem to recall T-S was the first to leave. J-S left later, maybe after midnight. When I got up at 3 AM to use the restroom, the door was still ajar with light and a few voices spilling out into the hallway.

Sunday, June 29 – Gasshuku, Back to Narita

In the morning I donned my street clothes from yesterday and headed down to breakfast with everyone else. After breakfast I followed T-S and J-S down the hill toward downtown KatsuUra for the morning market which is like a farmers market with a lot of produce, fish and cooked goods for sale. After walking the length of the market we headed back. By the time we had trudged back up the hill I was wet with sweat, and glad to have on yesterday’s clothes. We had 30 minutes to dress and get down to the hall. I refilled my water bottles and stopped at the vending machine down stairs on the way to practice.
Gasshuku practice was from 9-noon today and included BattōHō1-11, TōHō1-5, OkuTachi1-13, and TUNK1-7. Things I work on today include ma-ai, posture/hips, and left hand. At the end of practice there was a group photo. I was the last one out of the hall as I took my practice things back to the room, grabbed my kit & tenugui & headed to the ofuro. As I did so I dropped off my sheets and pillow case in the laundry room per the instructions in the room. I was the only one there at first. As I finished up getting clean the Jukendō ladies came in to get clean. They showered, dried, dressed and left before I did. I went directly to the cafeteria for lunch, just in time to say thank you/goodbye to Tanida-Sensei who was just leaving. I didn’t think I was especially slow, but I must be. Anyway, had a quick lunch with the few folks left behind. Then back up in the room to fold the futons and put them back. Gathering up all my belongings I trudged downstairs to checkout, take some photos, and retrieve my shoes. Chikamoto-San loads us in his van and drives us all the way back to Chiba Station. I am having a bit of a headache so I took some Excederin and closed my eyes during the trip. In front of the station he stopped to help us out. We say goodbye and thank you to him. In the station we take the train to Narita 2, then the hotel bus.
Back at the hotel we check back in for the last time, get our stuff out of Charles’ room, and start getting ready to leave Japan. I think we all just had dinner at the hotel on our own. We’re really tired after the Gasshuku.
I get ready to transfer as much of my unneeded laundry, Iai clothing as I can to their extra suitcases. United only allows one checked bag for free and it has to be under 50 pounds. American allows two on international flights.

Monday, June 30 – Goodbye, Getting Ready to Go

Woke up early, ~5:30. Finished gathering all my dirty clothes that I don’t want to take back with me in a pile. Showered and washed my hair; got down to the lobby about 8:15 & found John-Sensei reading the paper having already eaten breakfast. Charles came by a little later having just finished. I go back to my room to get the dirty clothes to load into the spare bag. Will get those back the next time I’m in Denton. Back downstairs I see them off at the front, waving as the bus pulls away. They are on their way to Kansai airport for an evening flight. I go back inside and have breakfast. Feels strange to be back on my own again in Japan. I go upstairs to gather my stuff and decide how to go to Bōsō no Mura, but discovered on their website that they are closed today! What to do? I ended up staying that day at the hotel, having lunch & dinner from the hotel combini (I can’t have enough onigiri and those little Japanese salads with the cooked vegetables) while I completed entering purchased items into my database for use on the US Customs form, pulled everything out, and reorganized & repacked the large suitcase, the carry on and shoulder bag for the return flight tomorrow. I notified the front desk that due to my evening flight that I would require a late checkout. They gave me until 3 PM. Time enough to go out and do something on my last day.

Tuesday, July 1 – NaritaSan, Narita 1, Goodbye Japan

In the morning I went to NaritaSan. Kogushi-Sensei took me there in 2003 & 2005 for a brief visit and I had always wanted to go back on my own. Took the hotel bus to Keisei station, and walked from there. While wandering down a shaded path I found the most wonderful waterfall where they surely must do water misogi. The rocks about it seemed deliberately placed & shaped to support this sort of thing. Wandered around the rest of the very lovely site until it was time to return. Back at the bus stop I got antsy to be back at the hotel and took a taxi back. After a quick shower, I ate lunch, dressed, and was checked out in time to just make the 2:20 bus to Narita 1. Once there I turned the phone in, then checked my bag in. Next I put my backpack into a locker so I could stroll about to shop, eat dinner and visit the observation deck. Later, while sitting at the gate waiting to board the plane, I was happily thinking about my new shinken and musing about its black silk sageo and how it matched the tsuka ito when it hit me that I may need to get a gold sageo in the near future because my NEXT RANK IS HACHIDAN. Like age, rank crept up on me. Kind of like turning 60, 65, or some other age milestone,– you know intellectually that it’s coming, but you can’t really believe it will happen until right before.


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