Dojo tea party

Tea Party

Last night after the Sunday practice we sampled two varieties of shincha (the first green tea harvest of the year) as well as some Japanese sweets.  A tatami mat was spread out on the dojo floor and we gathered around it.  Present were Jon A. sensei, Brad, Billy, and myself.

Brad had provided one of the teas, a Farmer’s shincha which is minimally processed.  It has the appearance (before brewing) of grass clippings and a nice fresh scent.  More information about this tea is here:

The other tea was a shincha maccha (aka matcha), which I supplied, which was finely ground and had a deep green color.  More info:

In the sweets department, Billy had brought melon bread to share and I had brought mini dorayaki, daifuku and ohigashi.  The melon bread, dorayaki and daifuku were bought at either Daido or Seiwa (Houston area Japanese grocery stores).  Japanese green tea is typically not sweetened, but rather a sweet is eaten first before sipping the tea.  More information on ohigashi (ordered from Hibiki-An) here:

The water boiler I brought boiled the fresh water then kept it at the correct temperature while we practiced so we could get right to the brewing.  Green tea requires a lower temperature than black/fermented tea for the best taste.

The tea making process was explained during execution for each tea, including the special maccha tools (chasen, chashaku, chasen holder).  Everyone was able to enjoy some first-rate tea, the snacks, and each other’s company while expanding their Japanese cultural horizons a little bit.  Thank you to everyone who could come.

Here at Clear Lake Iaido I think students should learn more than just how to swing the sword.  Without some knowledge of the history and culture that produced MJER Iai, students’ understanding will be limited.  Therefore discussing and reading (or listening to audiobooks & podcasts) about history and culture, or cultivating an interest in other aspects of traditional Japanese culture (cuisine, religion, clothing, etc) is encouraged.  And occasionally we have tea parties.



Display Ending May 30; New Brochure

If you haven’t yet been to the Evelyn Meador Public Library in Seabrook, Texas, to see the Japanese cultural display in their display case, you have until Wednesday next week (May 30) to do so.  The next day the items on display will be removed.

The dojo brochure has been updated with mainly new photos and some better written content.  It replaced the older version at the link at the bottom of the home page.  Also here:

News Seabrook display

Embu at Evelyn Meador Public Library in Seabrook, Texas

The joint embu/public presentation by Clear Lake Iaido Dojo and Tora no Tsume Dojo was a great success.  Everyone brought a lot of energy into their demonstration, and the audience had some good questions.  One question regarding the use of the sageo lead down some interesting avenues that high-lighted both functional and symbolic roles.


Seabrook display

Seabrook Library display case

Today a new, joint display went up in Seabrook’s Evelyn Meador Public Library that showcases aspects of Japanese history and traditional material culture.  The display represents the joint efforts of Ash Wellborn-sensei, from the local Shin Shin Ryū dojo, and myself.  The display will be up for about a month.  Next Saturday, May 5, there will be a joint embu given by us and the Shin Shin Ryū dojo at the library, starting at 11 AM in the meeting room.  It is open to the public.  This is an excellent opportunity to see two different sword styles and to ask questions.

Photos of the display case can be seen at this Flickr link:


The library address is:

2400 North Meyer Avenue
Seabrook, TX 77586


Group photo with Jon Andresen Sensei

On Sunday, April 22, Jon Andresen Sensei of The San Antonio dojo was able to join us at practice.  All of the active, local students were also there, so I took a group shot.

Houston Japan Festival News

2018 Houston Japan Festival, The Cold One

Many many thanks to everyone, both students and those who support them, who made the demonstration on Saturday and Sunday at Houston Japan Festival possible.  It would not have happened as well as it did without everyone’s help.  There is a photo attached to this post of everyone who demonstrated.

The weather was phenomenal this year.  For those who have never been to Houston Japan Festival, this is a purely outdoor event held annually next to the Japanese Garden in Hermann Park in downtown Houston, so the weather plays a pivotal role.  Usually Japan Festival is a sweat fest. This was the first year ever that I did not break a sweat during the entire event, even during the demonstrations.  It was actually cold in the morning when we demonstrated, making the warmth of a winter weight haori and wool hakama feel very cosy.  

There were more than a few vendors selling vintage Japanese clothing.  The large booth that debuted last year was back selling lots of kimono and yukata.  This event has become a great place to look for obi, koshihimo, juban, kimono, yukata and haori.  

The JAXA booth was displaying a poster of Nemo since he’s currently on ISS until June.  I tried to get an extra copy of the print, but no joy.  So I took a photo which is attached.  

The Japanese Garden in Hermann Park was recently enlarged so I strolled through it, enjoying the relatively quiet and spacious grounds.  I highly recommend it when the hustle and bustle of the rest of the festival starts to wear at one.  If interested in lotuses, there’s a variety grown there that is descended from very old seeds (~2000 years according to the sign) discovered at an archaeological dig in Chiba Prefecture.  


John Ray-Sensei Practice

On the 2018 February 9-11 weekend John Ray-Sensei came down from Denton to the Clear Lake dojo to conduct training for the southern Beikoku Tendai Iaido Kai (BTIK) branch dojo.  Attending from the Baton Rouge dojo was Neil Melancon-Sensei.  Jon Andresen-Sensei represented the San Antonio dojo.  In the course of the weekend we practiced Seiza, Battō Hō, Tōhō, Tatehiza, Oku Tachi, Kaewaza, and Tachi Uchi No Kurai.  Everyone worked hard and came away with fresh insight.  Even after years (20+) of practice there is still so much more to learn.  This is what makes MJER Iaido so rewarding for the effort put in.

Also, in addition to the waza practice, Jon Andresen-Sensei brought some of his tantō for a show and tell.  

Book Review History Japan

Book Review: Tour of Duty

Book Review by Emily Egan
2017 Dec. 3

Tour of Duty: Samurai, Military Service in Edo, and the Culture of Early Modern Japan
By Constantine Nomikos Vaporis
2008, University of Hawai’i Press
318 pages

This book first caught my eye on the University of Hawai’i Press site ( It describes the institution of sankin kōtai or alternate attendance as done in the Edo era, from the overall process to the experiences of individual daimyo retainers on the road and in Edo. Of special note to MJER practitioners, a lot (but not all) of the description of process and experience is specific to Tosa domain because apparently a lot of primary material in the form of Tosa retainer diaries have been preserved. For those in MJER who do not know the history of the style, just know that from early in the Edo period, starting with the ninth headmaster (Hayashi Rokudayu Morimasa, 1661-1732) the style was passed on in Tosa domain only (later in the Meiji era Tosa became the modern Kōchi prefecture).

This excerpt from the Introduction is a nice summary of the author’s intention with this detailed work.

“However my purpose here is to put a human face on the political institution— to render alternate attendance as a lived experience. As much as extant documentation allows, I examine what the trip to and from Edo was like, what the period of enforced residence in the nation’s largest city meant to individual retainers, and how that experience effected both their personal lives and careers as well as the cultural life of the city of Edo.”

There is a LOT of information in this book, both in the main text and in the numerous notes in the back. While many of the notes are just citation of sources, some contain interesting information, so the reader is advised not to ignore the notes. The density of the information made for slow going, especially at the beginning, but towards the end where the focus is on retainers’ experiences in Edo it picks up a bit.

Before reading this book I knew about alternate attendance from reading about Japanese history, but had no understanding of what was involved in the preparation and execution of the trip, or of life in Edo as a member of a daimyo compound. This book filled in huge voids in my knowledge that I did not know were there.

Below are a few of the many things that stood out to me during my read through:
* The Yamamoto-yama tea you can buy today is part an unbroken continuation of the Edo-based shop of the same name (established about 1690). Back then the tea was a popular gift that retainers on duty in Edo would buy for their friends and family back in the domain.
* A description of a Kurume retainer going to Edo to learn a style of swordsmanship,— earning a license to teach after five years, then returning to the domain to become an instructor in the domain school.
* Buried in a note was a description of the daughter of a merchant family, employed in a daimyo compound, who was taught not just reading, writing, confucian studies, dancing and singing, but also martial arts.
* A brief mention of young women’s sumō (in Edo).
* In some domains retainers picked to accompany the lord on the trip to Edo were told to get in shape before hand. [Daimyo processions covered about 35 to 40 kilometers a day.]
* Listed in a note, the hierarchy of samurai ranks in a daimyo’s household.
* Mentioned in a note, Tosa samurai testing their new swords on a boar’s head,- then cooking & eating the head.
There were many other details worth mentioning.

Here is a link to the book description on the University of Hawai’i Press site. Also at the link are more reviews, an author bio, and a listing of the table of contents under their respective tabs.

Summary: If you’ve ever wanted to know more about alternate attendance, this, and no other, is the book for you.


Visit by John Ray Sensei

Many, many thanks to my teacher, John Ray Sensei, for visiting us to share his passion for Iai.  In addition to two students receiving their Shodan certificates, we had a great practice with him yesterday.  Everyone worked hard and benefitted from the sincere instruction.

Seabrook display

Seabrook Library Display Photos

A few days ago all items for the display case at the Evelyn Meador Public Library in Seabrook TX were in, so I took some photos and placed them in an album on Flickr. This is a display of Japanese items that I and Ash Welborn, who works at the library, put together from our respective collections.  We’ve been doing this every year since 2012 in observance of Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month (May).  The display will be up for the remainder of May.  On the Saturday (27th) of the Memorial Day weekend there will be a demonstration of Japanese swords arts starting about 1 PM in the library’s meeting room.

The link to the Flickr album for this year’s display is below.  If you tap the ‘Back to albums list’ link near the top it should take you to the rest of the albums, including those for previous display years.

2017 Seabrook display