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


Photos on Flickr; Brochure on main page

I recently finished uploading almost all of my Japan 2014 photos to Flickr.  The galleries on this site are slimmed down sets.  So if you want more, please head on over to:

Start at “Waiting at IAH” and work your way to “Narita 1 Observation Deck”.  Thank you for your patience.


In other news the tri-fold style brochure for the dojo is now available for download as a PDF from the main page.  It has its own header and is located at the bottom of the main column.


2014 Japan June Twitter Archive

I tweeted a lot during this trip and thought including my June Twitter archive, which covers all but the last day, would provide an additional point of view of how things went.  Unfortunately the archive that Twitter generates has no dates attached to the tweets.  They are arranged with the oldest tweets at the bottom so please start there and work your way up.

Your June Twitter archive



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.



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.


2014 Japan week 2

2014 Japan Diary week 2

June 11 — 17


Wednesday, June 11 – Narita Hilton Recon & Misc

Today my JR Pass is active and after some preps I went to the station and started getting familiar with trains again.  Got on the sobu (blue train) for Narita City.  Then got off, wandered about inside the station, then back on the platform for the train to Narita 2.  Found the #26 bus stop for Hilton bus just in time to be picked up.  Took about 15 minutes to the hotel.  Compared to Hakusen Ryokan the Hilton was in a waste land just off an expressway linking the airport to a major highway.  I saw nothing but a few gas stations on the way there & back.  Verified my reservation, had them fill in their address in the transportation form for my suitcase, got a printed shuttle bus schedule, had lunch there (2800¥ buffet), and rode the bus back to Narita 2.  Wandered about Narita 2 a bit before heading back to Chiba.  Had wanted to go to Bōsō no Mura, but it’s too far out and I had no time.  Wandered about Chiba station and bought some cherries (including a box for okamisan) and other food stuff & drinks before walking back to ryokan.  That night worked hard on translating and understanding the Chiba station train schedule so I would know before leaving when my trains leave.  Got a lot of email done.  Also contacted SoftBank and had the issue with the phone resolved (simple matter of turning 3G back on).  Yay!  Then notified folks re the fixed phone.


Thursday, June 12 – Kogushi-Sensei, Keisei Rose Garden, Gokoku Jinja, Chiba Kōen

Woke up too early at 6 AM.  Still tired.  Decided this would be a day of rest with just local trips on foot, when Kogushi-Sensei called on my iPhone and says he will pick me up at 9, so I hurriedly get ready for his arrival.  Since I had no idea where we were going or when I would be getting back, I cancelled the dinner plan.  He arrived late, almost 9:30, due to traffic.  He took me to the Keisei Rose Garden located in Hanamigawa, I think.  We talked about the article about his dojo in the Seitokai yearbook.  At the Rose garden we walked around the grounds in the soft rain looking at the roses (so many!) and other plants they had on display and for sale.  We chatted about herbs and this and that,  Everything looked very wet and fresh.  It was past the prime rose blooming season, but I didn’t mind.  I bought a small rose flavoured honey jar for okamisan.  After the garden we had lunch at a soba restaurant.  I noted his new smaller car has an old driver sticker on the front and back.  We mostly spoke in Japanese.  After lunch he took me back to the ryokan by 2.  However the door was locked so I walked to Chiba Kōen and Gokoku Jinja.  Bought omikuji and omamori (2 ema, safe driving sticker, and a school studies talisman).  Wrote a wish on one ema & hung it, but couldn’t find the omikuji to tie it on before a wedding party started to arrive so I left.  Then walked back to the ryokan and it was open.  Took a nap then ate dinner.  Ended up eating in after all.

Tonight I am trying hard to get caught up on this journal. Including Iaido notes from practices.  However I had to stop when it got near 10 to go to the ofuro & then bed.


Friday, June 13 – MeugaYa for Tabi

I slept in until about 7:25.  It’s hard to sleep when it is so light so early and no black out curtain on the window. I’ve been using a towel to cover my eyes after the sun rise so I can continue to sleep.  I spent so much time getting my effects ready for this trip  that I neglected, until too late to plan just what I wanted to do and where to go in Tokyo and other places outside of Chiba during my Iaido down time.  I thought hard about the main purpose of my trip, Iaido, and decided not to try to get out to the Apple Store opening or go to nearby Meiji Jingu (been there anyway).  I made a list of places to go related to or supportive of my Iaido endeavors such as the tabi shop in back of Sensō-Ji, the sword museum, SakuraYa near Yasakuni, and the new location of the main TIC (for information).  I spent all morning thinking about this, making a list, studying maps, and figuring routes.  Shortly after noon I left for the station, stopping at the neighborhood combini to get some onigiri and drinks for lunch (planning a lunch on the move).  The majority of the places were best accessed directly by taking the yellow line into Tōkyō.  However I forgot that the yellow line is slow and it took almost an hour to go from Chiba to AsakusaBashi where I got on the Toei subway train for Asakusa.  Once there I walked to the temple, keeping on the left side behind the shops of the main shopping avenue, trying to remember how Tanida-Sensei brought me four years ago.  Fortunately I thought to bring the tabi  wrapper which had a map on it.  My memory couldn’t get me there, but the map did!  In celebration I bought new tabi, a new bag, and new setta.  By then it was 2:30 and time to play Escape From Tokyo, i.e., get out before the rush hour begins.  On my way back I scored a kurogoma ice cream hambaga (ice cream sandwich) and also got a small present of soybean balls for okamisan.  Back at the subway station I got on the wrong train,– correct direction but some kind of express train which skipped the station I needed.  So I had to exit then reenter to go back to the next station.  Then I could get back on the yellow line back to Chiba where I arrived about 4:00.  Today was a warm and sunny day so I was wet with sweat by the time I got back.

Since Wednesday my iPad has been unable to get email.  The iPhone is fine.  Tried power cycling, reset, and reentering the password with no result.  [The iPhone developed the same problem the day before I left Japan.  This was fixed after the trip, when I had some time to do the research, by deleting the G-mail account and then adding it back in.]


Saturday, June 14 – Migraine & Evening Practice

Woke up with the start of a migraine headache and recalled that I didn’t drink much yesterday during that hot trip to Asakusa.  Took Excederin with a full bottle of water soon , but not soon enough.  After breakfast I rested hoping it wouldn’t get worse.  Took more Excederin at 1 PM with food (ate up all my snacks) and napped for a while.  I did a little bit of practice to see if I could do tatehiza and was satisfied that I could.  I was feeling better, I thought, and got ready to go to practice.  Okamisan knocked at the door as I was halfway through tying the hakama.  Chikamoto-San was already here.  I quickly finished, grabbed my gear, downstairs, and out the door where he was waiting in the car.  We chatted about where I went during the week as he drove to the Chiba Ken Budokan where the parking lot was quite crowded with young sports enthusiasts (is it this way every weekend)?  I was dropped off and went on inside while he parked the car.

At the practice I told Tanida-Sensei that I thought I could do tatehiza.  Today we did BattōHō1-11 (2 each), TōHō1-5 (2 each), Seiza1-11 ( mostly just one rep), and Tatehiza1-5 (no problems!).  Today’s lesson was about using both hands together.  I was corrected on a waza to use the open space in front,– an example of knowing what to do, thinking I’m doing it, and failing to realize that I’m not.  I made it through the practice OK, and Tatehiza1-5 felt great, but at dinner with Tanida-Sensei and Chikamoto-San at a restaurant the headache got worse and I became nauseous and could barely eat anything.  Discovered there’s a Japanese word for migraine:  偏頭痛 へんずつう。On the way back to the ryokan, Chikamoto-San took me to the Family Mart near the ryokan where I got four onigiri and drinks to help feed me tonight and tomorrow morning before practice.  I went to bed early thinking tomorrow might be a MiToriGeiko practice.  Woke up at 11 and had just a clean-up; still feeling too sick for a soak in the tub.


Sunday, June 15 – Morning & Evening Practices, Geta, Tonkatsu

In the morning I took more Excederin when I woke up, had some onigiri, and laid down until I felt like getting up.  Wasn’t feeling great, but I dressed out, got my things and waited in the genkan.  Chikamoto-San picked me up and we were off to the Hanamigawa Community Center for a 3 hour practice from 9 – noon.  The flow of the practice was solo waza from 9 to 11, then paired practice from 11 to noon.  Solo waza sets were BattōHo1-11, TōHō1-5, Seiza1-11, and Tatehiza1-10.  There were a bunch of lower ranked folks at this practice, so he stopped often to talk about basics, much as he teaches in Denton, except in fluent Japanese instead of halting English.  Would that my Japanese comprehension was as fluent.  Paired practice started with pair drills 1&2, then TUNK 1-7 several times each side, the last one a  straight run through.  Zanshin and fighting spirit was stressed throughout.  No slack.

After practice he took me to the geta shop in downtown Chiba and helped me to buy a custom pair with a selected base and top.  For lunch we went to a shopping plaza near the ryokan, on the road under the monorail, in the direction of the Chiba Ken Sports Center.  There is a KatsuYa  (tonkatsu) restaurant selling inexpensive & delicious dishes.  It was great.  Afterwards we went into the nearby grocery store to look around.  It reminded me of our local Hong Kong market.  He said this was the best place to get inexpensive items. He dropped me off at the ryokan after agreeing to pick me up before 5.  I bathed and rested until it was time to get ready for the next practice with Tanida-Sensei.  Like last weekend I picked out my driest juban and keikogi to don.  This time I was down in the genkan early.  He picked me up and we were off to the Chiba City Budokan.  We were the first to arrive so we went upstairs to the main hall where a large Katori Shinto Ryu practice was underway.  Chikamoto-San spoke with one of them and even introduced me, then we sat at the side of the floor and watched their practice.  Meanwhile Tanida-Sensei and several other students arrived. After their practice was over we bowed in and started the practice.   At this practice we did BattōHō1-11, OkuTachi1-10, and some ma-ai, targeting and timing exercises.  I learned some things watching Tanida-Sensei’s left hand and center.  The exercises were new to me and it took some prodding and serious trying on my part before I could correctly close the distance from the middle distance using the back foot and hips to push me forward.  After the exercises there was some free practice time that I used to practice my 5 waza for the EmbuKai next weekend, and work on items pointed out by Tanida-Sensei.  He continued to teach on a one-to-one level during this time until it was time to bow out.

After our practice we went to a restaurant for dinner where I was able to eat everything on my plate, plus a delicious maccha drink.   From the restaurant Chikamoto-San drove me back to the ryokan where I promptly crashed after getting clean again.


Monday, June 16 – Laundry & Rest & Research

This day was devoted to laundry & rest; I really didn’t want to go anywhere other than the nearby Family Mart combini for some lunch & drinks. Also I needed to reorganize from the chaos of Sunday, and continue to plan my day trips to Tokyo.


Tuesday, June 17 – TIC, Sword Museum

2:44 AM, jishin woke me up, but I went back to sleep.  Woke up by 7:30 alarm.  Staggered out of bed & got ready for breakfast.  Breakfast included a whole roasted fish, which always takes me a while to get through due to skin, bones, etc.  Upstairs I straightened up the room and collected the  brochures & maps I would or might need.  Headed out a little after 10. Stopped by the Family Mart for a drink which I drank on their handy wooden bench in front of the store, then discarded the bottle into the recyling box before continuing to the station.  Hopped on the Chūō local line (yellow line).  Studied maps and relaxed on the long trek to Akihabara.  Used the rest room at Akihabara on the way to the Yamanote line (green).  Took the Yamanote to Yurakucho where I used the map I got from TIC at Narita 1 to find the new location of the main TIC.  I wanted to get the bus schedule for going from Nagoya to Seki City.  This was a brand new problem for the four employees there and they all worked hard to solve it.  I had to tell them which day we would arrive in Nagoya and how we would be getting there.  Also, Seki City apparently is big enough to have several bus stops so they asked where I was going in Seki City.  I told them Noshudō and they were able to find the web site!  From there they could see where it was and suggested 新田(Shinden) as the place we wanted to get off.  In the course of all this research they found out I did Iaido, was from Texas, and wanted to look at shinken with intention to buy.  They wanted to see photos of Iaido so I showed them the library demo photos.  I was there longer than I thought.

Next I went back to Yurakucho and took the Yamanote to Shinjuku where I transferred to the Odakyu line (by Odakyu Depāto).  Before going to the platform I bought some onigiri for lunch, being hungry.  I was careful today to avoid express trains and found a local train there waiting to leave.

In just two stops I was at Sangūbashi.  The station exit was on the left so I had to go up, over & down to get to the other side where the sword museum is located.  Before exiting the station I sat on a wooden bench and ate my lunch and drank my drink.  This was made possible by the excellent luck in weather.  Then it was time to follow the map to the sword museum.  Inside they had an exhibition of award-winning works by current smiths.  It was wonderful.  Unfortunately the museum shop no longer had the tsuba strap or jewelry.  So I just bought the exhibition booklet.   Walked back to the station & waited for the subway train back to Shinjuku.  At Shinjuku I got on the Chūō yellow line for Chiba.  Thought about stopping to do a quick search for SakuraYa, but due to the time and being tired, decided just to head back to Chiba. BTW I happened to get into the lead car and discovered how wonderful it was to look into the driver’s section and past that to the track directly ahead.

Back at Chiba I picked up some maccha goodness including a cake for Okamisan.  Then back to ryokan to have dinner, relax, do this journal and report results.  After dinner I started sorting things to go via takuhaibin to the Narita Hilton.



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.


Demonstrations Houston Japan Festival News

2014 Houston Japan Festival – A long and rambling post

This year the Martial Arts demonstrations were chaired by Mark Lipsinic Sensei, who also heads the Yurusu Aikido of Houston Dojo (Nishio-ryu Aikido & Aiki Toho Iaido). He did a great job coordinating with everyone and making sure we had good facilities. Everything went very smoothly.

As was the case last year, the stage was shaded with a high canopy. This is a huge help to the demonstrators who can focus on what they’re doing instead of avoiding the blistering hot sections of the stage. The stage itself was also a bit bigger. This made backing away during paired waza a little easier. One year, in a different group, some folks backing away almost stepped off the edge of the stage. We learned from watching that to be very mindful of the space and to feel for the edge with our feet. The only down side was the surface of the stage was rather dirty and splintery, but that was covered by mats the whole time. The mat created their own problem though, as my feet adjusted to the soft surface in the middle of the demo, but at least I didn’t have to worry about damaging a formal hakama.

The thank-you from the festival this year took the shape of free bottles of water (always welcome!), some food/drink tickets, and an attractive J Fest bandana. Thank you Japan Festival and Lipsinic Sensei!

We were lucky with the weather this year. Both days were warm and mostly dry. Unlike most other Japan festivals that I have been to over the years, the Houston event is an entirely outdoor event held in Hermann Park near the Museum District. Only the tea ceremony demonstrations are held indoors inside the small tea house in the Japanese Garden.

I think the Japan Festival demo team was at its smallest this year with just Ali, Nemo, and myself. The two new students neither had the clothes nor knew enough to be able to participate. Thank you, Ali and Nemo, for your support on both days. And a big thank you to Houston for video taping our demonstration on Saturday.

There were a LOT of anime otaku, especially cosplayers, at the festival this year. In fact talking with Yōko-sensei at class later that week, she and her friend noted that there seemed to be fewer and fewer ethnic Japanese coming to the festival. I think some people assumed I was cosplaying too judging from the comments thrown my way (ronin?), and the several queries by cosplayers wanting to know where I got my outfit. They were disappointed when I said Osaka (both the wool hakama and the white montsuki were from the Meirin Sangyo main store in Osaka). The hat I had on was a lucky find at a Kansas City Japan Festival years ago. Unfortunately the hat is getting too old and frail to wear it much anymore.

On Saturday I dressed out and got to the site early. There were already people wandering about, so I was not surprised to read later that a new attendance record was reached. After using the only flush toilet on the site inside the Japanese Garden for the first and only time that weekend (constant long line ever after) I decided to stroll about the garden, which I hadn’t done in years. Our demo was not until 1:30, directly after another Iai group, so I had some time. While wandering I happened by the tea house where a few people were lined up for the first tea ceremony of the day. On a whim I decided to get in line. Inside I found myself seated in the middle of the second row, a fair spot for taking photos. Mochizuki-Sensei, the head of the Urasenke School of Tea in Houston, was doing the honors, assisted by her students. Watching her, was great. The centered calm, the un-rushed efficient motions made this one of the most impressive things I saw that weekend. One can understand why the samurai took to tea.

After that I circled through the vendor area, visiting with merchants I knew, before heading to the car to eat lunch. Bringing my own lunch and drink this year turned out to be a good idea which saved me from standing in line and saved a little money. Then it was time to get ready.

Regarding vendors, some of my perennial favorites include the Chiba Sister City booth (this year selling Chiba lapel pins, lotus T-shirts and bags), and my favorite Kyoto vendor, KyooHoo, from who I got an attractive furoshiki and few more tabi socks in large sizes. I was too late to the Japanese flea market booth,– by Sunday they were well picked over.

Every year as this demonstration nears it makes me think about Iaido, especially the intangibles, in order to figure out what to say to get across to people the larger picture of what it is we do and why we do it during the five-minute or so introduction I do at the beginning of our demo. This year I thought about Iaido’s place in the culture that created it, and some of the differences between MJER and other Iai and ken systems. Also thinking of how both the originating culture and the setting in which the Iai is intended to be used could greatly influence the entire system. In particular I had been contemplating the differences between our MJER and a more recent system that was developed for a very different setting than Edo-era Japan. So this year my what-is-Iaido talk with the audience included the usual explanation of Iaido as Samurai training to always be prepared both mentally and physically, and this time to high light that I pointed out that we did our waza in civilian attire of the time with our sleeves and hakama unbound and untucked, and not wearing armor. I don’t know if what I said helped them to understand, but thinking about it I think has helped my personal understanding a little.

Also I had with me a short prepared Japanese script that my Nihongo Sensei wrote for me years ago just for this demo. After we were introduced I proceeded to follow this until I noticed that my Nihongo teacher was not in the crowd as she usually was on Saturday. At this point I got impatient to get to the what-is-iaido section of the talk that I had thought so much about and abandoned the script 3/4 of the way in. Later it turned out she was there, but had to step away to answer a phone call. I resolved to do better tomorrow.

After the opening reishiki, since there were only three of us we did embu all at the same time, but finished at different times due to the number and type of waza each person did. When all had completed, Nemo sat at the back while Ali and I retrieved our bokutō and proceeded to do Tachi Uchi No Kurai including the formal opening and closing reishiki. As usual the Saturday demo had a few hiccups which were smoothed out the next day. Then we all did closing reishiki. There was some extra time and I attempted to elicit some questions from the audience, but no one had any so we exited to allow the next group on.

Every year there are interesting comments from folks who come up after the demo. This year there was a nice gentleman from Austin, a Sekiguchi MJER person, who thanked us for the ‘seminar’! In the past sometimes students of the language have questions about my choice of words. And then there was the person last year whose ‘helpful suggestion’ testified that they didn’t understand what we were doing or why.

A new thing happened this year. A Ph D. Student of the Department of Anthropology at Texas A&M asked for an interview. As I recall he was interviewing folks who did koryu for a research project related to his graduate studies. We settled down at one of the vacant tables by the path and proceeded. He asked a lot of interesting questions that really got me going, stirring up as it did a lot of mental sediment that had been dormant for years. I talked for what seemed like hours, and could have gone on for longer. He confided afterwards that he was planning to go back to Japan after school to resume his own koryu path, begun during his time in Japan teaching English. I wish him all the best.

On Sunday I arrived early and went on another stroll in the garden. Then there was a little time to shop before heading back to the MA stage to catch the Shin Shin Ryu demo. From the front row I filmed about four minutes, took some photos then just sat and watched. After their demo I was chatting with them when they invited me to a group photo shoot in the garden. One of their own was there that day, but not dressed out so he did the photo of us all, then I volunteered to do one of all of them including camera man. By then it was time to head back to get ready for our own demo.

After the introduction, I started in on the prepared speech and made the mistake of scrutinizing the audience. The reader may recall the comment from above about the dwindling attendance by ethnic Japanese to the festival. This was also very noticeable at the MA stage. So I looked out, didn’t see my Nihongo Sensei (who is normally not there on Sunday), saw only round eyes, asked myself what the point was to doing this English/Japanese speech, and decided on the spot to skip it. I found out later that Yōko-Sensei was there that day too! I felt very bad.

After the demo I sat at the table by the path, provided by the MA chairman for demonstrators to provide a static display, have cards/pamphlets to hand out, and answer any questions by festival passersby. I had brought my nicer silk brocade sword bags to lay out on the table as an eye-catching display. Some thought they were obi. I was able to watch a little bit of the demonstrations as I handed out schedules, and answered questions from passersby.

When the weather threatened to rain, I changed clothes, made one more circuit to spend the remaining food tickets, then headed to the car and home.

Thanks to the following we had lots of photos and a video of our demonstration this year.

Yōko Tonu, Nihongo Sensei
MineralBlu, photographer friend of Ali
Houston Porterfield of Clear Lake Iaido
Travis Boardman of Shin Shin Ryu

For a small sample of the photos please look in the photo galleries elsewhere on this site for the 2014 Houston Japan Festival album.
Also, later I plan to add a link to the video once I get it hosted somewhere.


Denton shodan shiken Tanida-Sensei Tanida-Sensei koshukai

2014 Koshukai & Shodan Shiken, a brief personal journey

2014 Denton SwordThe story really began three weeks prior when David and I came to Dallas for the North TX Irish Festival. In addition to the festival I spent most of Saturday in Denton just to the North visiting my teacher and participating in the Saturday morning class. All was well until the day after we got back where upon I fell ill with a respiratory disease. After a week of making little progress I saw my doctor and started on antibiotics. Meanwhile my heightened conditioning routine, necessary to prepare for the physically demanding Koshukai, came to a halt. I recovered barely in time to gather the many things needed for the long weekend, pack, and drive off to Denton, as planned, on the Wednesday before the weekend.

Thursday morning was spent resting, organizing, and waiting for Sensei to complete his work for the day so we could run errands in the afternoon. I did the driving as we stopped to get gifts for Tanida-Sensei and his wife, arrange for the pizza dinner on Friday, check the key operation at the gym, arrange for tables, arrange for checking in at the hotel, and buy fruit & snacks for the hotel room.

After getting back to the house we enjoyed a smoothie before heading down to the dojo for the Thursday practice. The easel was also brought to the dojo and set up. Everyone in attendance was testing, so the practice consisted of jūkeiko followed by a practice Shiken. Afterwards we went out to eat with Charles-Sensei and continued to discuss planning for our trip to Japan in June. Much later that night Neil-Sensei arrived and settled down in Sensei’s study for the night.

The next day Nemo-San came by in the morning before heading to the airport to pick up Tanida-Sensei, in order to collect the hotel check in paper, the basket for the hotel room, and the care kit. This allowed us time in the morning to complete preparations at the dojo and get things ready to move to the gym for the evening practice.

Promptly at the appointed time, Tanida-Sensei came to the dojo to start the afternoon practice with the assembled Kanchō. Every year he seems on fire to transmit to us the technique and essence of MJER. Every year he challenges us to raise our Iai and that of our students. This year was no different.

Four hours later the practice with the Kanchō is done and we are able to take Tanida-Sensei to a private viewing of Kogushi-Sensei’s family sword at the nearby Denton Annex where it is on display. Afterwards Nemo-San took him back to the hotel to rest while everyone else was busy moving stuff to and preparing the gym for the evening practice.

Promptly at 6:30 he arrived and lead a three-hour practice for everyone in attendance. I wasn’t feeling up to another practice so instead I ran a camera. Afterwards there was a small pizza party at Sensei’s house for Tanida-Sensei and Kanchō.

The next morning I woke up with a migraine that included a touch of nausea, so I took medication and rested that morning while everyone else participated in the morning practice at the gym. I sent the refreshed care kit to Nemo-San courtesy of Neil-Sensei. By noon I was feeling better and was able to participate in the afternoon practice, even doing tatehiza techniques. There was a group photo before everyone dispersed to get ready for the party.

The dinner party that night was at Sensei’s house and featured Martha’s tasty Tex-Mex food. We couldn’t eat enough. We also watched a video of an MJER practice in Japan from the early 1980’s lead by Tanida-Sensei’s and Sensei’s first teacher, who had incredible Iai. Later that evening Sensei presented him with a printed copy of the latest newsletter, which included the published interview that Neil-Sensei did last year with him. Others, including myself, presented their own small gifts before he retired for the night.

The next day we gathered at the gym for the last large group practice in the morning. After a few hours there was a break to allow those testing to do jūkeiko, and everyone else to set up for the Shodan Shiken to follow. I was running on fumes by then so I just helped a little with set up and rested as much as possible.

Before the test the Kanchō were given tournament evaluation forms for the first time ever, and Tanida-Sensei explained how to fill in each part of the form and which pairs of testers we were practicing on. This was done I think to begin preparing us to judge a tournament.

The Shodan Shiken went very well. While I was able to watch Nemo-San and Rob-San from the front table, I could only observe Jon-Sensei and Ali-Sensei from the rear as I awaited my turn. Every one did very well I think.

After the test was over, and the various group photos with the Sensei were done, there was the usual mad rush to break down, change clothes to get ready for lunch, while fielding all the good-byes from the many leaving to go back to where they came from. Finally everything was packed, cleared out, and locked up, and we could journey to Brent’s for a by-reservation-only delicious meal catered by Babe’s of Sanger TX. We couldn’t eat enough of the good food. While resting & digesting in a quiet corner of the house, Tanida-Sensei came by to let Nemo and I know that he wanted to have a practice at the dojo in one hour. I got up and immediately notified everyone else. Knowing we had to go back to the house to get our gear first, everyone jumped up and headed out.

Even dressing out directly at the house and going immediately to the dojo, the practice had already started by the time I arrived. After some general comments by Tanida-Sensei he commenced to teach us the finer points of the paired waza we knew. After three hours this, the last practice, came to a close. Neil-Sensei took his leave to drive back home. The rest of us, after changing, all headed out to a soup/salad/sandwich shop for dinner, our last chance to visit, and to conclude the business side of the event. Tanida-Sensei was taken back to his hotel for the last time as we headed back to the house to grab some sleep.

Morning came very early as a handful of us rose and hurried to the hotel to see him off to the airport by 7AM. Afterwards most of us went back to bed, including myself.

After waking up again I could barely move around to do laundry, re-pack, and head out the door to run some necessary errands, which included a much-needed chair massage of the lower back at The Cupboard. After Sensei completed his work for the day we spent some time checking out his new laptop before heading down to the dojo for the evening practice. There was no practice as the handful that showed up were all way too tired and sore from the weekend. So we just quietly talked about how it all went.

Still worn out I was able to move around a little bit more on Tuesday and conclude my business in Denton (including another chair massage, this time focusing on the upper back & shoulders). With the car fully loaded I headed off back home at 2 PM,– a time picked to avoid both Dallas and Houston rush hours. Back home I was too tired to do more than unpack the car and go to bed. It was several days later until I had the desire or energy to unpack, and eight days until I was finally out of the deep well of exhaustion that effected everything and I could resume my normal work out.

Lesson for next year: Don’t get majorly sick before the Koshukai, and if that fails, settle for just watching and taking notes.