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Japan 2005 diary

Chidokan MJER dojo


The plan is to arrive Kyoto Kansai 28th May, with visits to the following dojo:
5/29 Sun. P.M. 6:00~8:40 Oji dojo
5/30 Mon. P.M. 6:00~8:00 Taniyama sensei's dojo
5/31 Tue. P.M. 7:00~8:50 Takarazuka dojo
6/1   Wed. P.M. 6:00~8:50 Uozaki dojo
2nd - 8th June 8.00~21.00 Ozu, Seinen No Ie camp
Return to Kansai 10th June
Kyoto tours for first four days covering Sanjusangendo, Budokan and of course iaido/kendo shopping!

After a LONG flight, (I dont sleep much on planes), arrived Kansai around 8am. An hour on the bus, an hour on the train and a pick up by Nishimoto senseis brother got me to Nishimoto senseis house. Bonkohara san, (he won the prefecture tournament for godan while I was there) turned up, drove me over to Himeji, and I was in hakama etc by 11:30. Not too bad, a little tired, but today was shinsa training day with 30+ 7th dan and four 8th dan in attendance. Only amusement was seeing a rather nervous 6th dan head a panel, choose one guy for the point, making him win 2-1, then saying the other guy won! Apart from that pretty serious stuff as could be expected. I was put on the spot by being asked who won after every match and why... only got one wrong, and that had gone to a 'discussion vote', so must be learning something at last...
           After that we went straight to the Kyoto university dojo for a 2 hour session, with me having the 'priviledge' of doing an embu at the end. Now worn out and ready for bed, sensei announces that as its the end of term, and they have a guest, it was party time. A good meal and a lot of beers later, I finally hit the sack at 3:30am. Unfortunately traffic noise woke me up around 7am, and we went shopping and playing tourist. Some excellent bargains in the Kyoto second hand store area, a load of obi for 10 each, kimono under 20 that will convert into gi quite easily... how could I resist such bargains??!!! ten obi and four gi later back to the car and off tsuba and sword shopping. sageo for 5 and 10, antique tsuba starting at 25, again I cant resist.... Meirin next, although I found them expensive (the jubans I bought cost more then the silk kimono) but still got a nice antique tsuba...
Training at Taniyama senseis dojo that night for a couple of hours, a nice dojo that opened straight onto a busy street. All the shutters were down to let the heat out, so passersby were treated to the sight of not only an iaido class but got the chance of seeing a westerner in there as well. The looks on some of their faces were quite funny as they did a sort of double double take on what was going on!
Next day sightseeing at Kyoto museum, where I just missed out on an exhibition of arms and armour of western Japan, Kiyomisudera temple and its kiddie tourist shops, all sweets and things you dont need....and Sanjusangendo (the archery temple) with its thousand buddhas, with a tour of the local shops for proper gifts for the family. Training again that night at another of Nishimoto senseis dojos (I visited 3 while I was there).
Next day off to Himeji castle and museum, with a fantastic tour by Yabe sensei and his friends. It turns out Yabe s. was an extra in 'Last Samurai', so have been promised a tour of the locations next time I am over. I am now going through the film trying to spot him! See the armour photo for a laugh, I was 'volunteered' into wearing it in the museum and reckon it should fit someone around 5 fet tall and weighing 120lbs. I am a little bigger than that, so had to bend over the heels of the shoes and breathe in a LOT to get that body section on. My ribs still hurt even now...Yet another visit to a different dojo on the evening and a meal and drink afterwards. By now I had come to hate the tiny glasses you get for beer, and after a hard sweaty session in the dojo I could have downed the pitcher, never mind those tiny glasses! You will be pleased to know I maintained the western image of being able to drink a lot without getting drunk, but it was sweating out faster than I could pour it in...
         Up the next morning to meet Mark and Steve at the airport at 6am. The famously punctual japanese train system let us down and it took all day to get down to Ozu, arriving at 7pm when we should have been there around 2pm...
       Six days of hard training started with Iwata sensei asking for questions. This means demonstrating the point you have trouble with, him ripping you apart and you practising over and over for several hours until you get it right. Excellent practise! I hit lucky and had Isshikki sensei stood over me for all six days. You just know someone is good when you cant even come anywhere near copying them...his technical ability is awsome, and I had no hesitation in asking him to come over to England next year for his second visit.
 Yabe sensei turned up with a new student...who then decided as I tried to help him along that he would have me as his teacher! I tried to explain Yabe s. was his teacher but he was having none of it. Obviously a twisted sense of humour there...
        Some interesting lectures on iaido philosophy by Nishimoto sensei and the use of body muscles in cutting by Makino sensei to break up the evening sessions, and it was all over bar the trip back up to Kyoto. The final night saw us cleaning up the rooms by disposing of the leftover beer and snacks... Isshikki senseis demonstration of how to use hara (while drunk) will never leave me... 
          Dropping off the various people on the way back to Kyoto I met Yabe s. wife again... she has 7th dan as he does. Can you imagine the problems of ordering a nice sword you like?
"I've seen a nice sword, lets buy it (for me)"
"yes dear, but make sure its the right length for me first..."

A special treat.... being jammed into a suit of armour more suited for someone five feet high weighing about nine stones.... Now I know what the last sardine into the tin feels like.....


with Yabe sensei at Himeji


A dojo in a school in Kyoto..a floor to die for...

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Kiyomizudera temple....close by, a long street full of 'tourist shops' selling all sorts of things you dont really want....


Nishimoto sensei and some of his students


Taniyama sensei is front centre. The dojo is on a high street corner near some shops so quite difficult to park nearby. It was so hot the dojo shutters were removed and I got some excellent double takes from people walking past less than five feet away. Some even came back and took photos!