Band on the Road
It was my plan since I had the time and opportunity to go to the Kyudojo that I would do the New Year 108 ya shoot there, instead of at home on the 31st. I figured it would not be crowded so I could just settle in and do my thing. Wrong!! It was the last day the dojo was open so it turned out that a lot of people wanted to get their last shots for the year. It was crowded. I was surprised to see even the Kaicho. Even turned out I got a lesson. I need to relax at Hanari. I tend to force my release I was told, instead of relaxing into it. Small point but one of those easy to understand , but difficult to do. Reminds me of Tai Chi Chuan strike, one needs to be relaxed but still deliver power, by using the body and legs. So with Kyudo a good ground, use one’s body with the strength of the bow. Something good and worthwhile point to keep in mind.
So it seems that we, the band, are booked as a regular monthly band. Just what I was hoping for as a minimum doing music in Japan. So that aspect has worked-out perfect as hoped for. Even nicer the lads in the band are cool. Many times there is one jerk, pain n the rear type.
The pilgrimage : R.I.P. Nogami Sensei
An so I am off . It started out very rainy this morning, still very cloudy, but no rain. I dressed for max foul weather as one does ( should do ) when traveling to parts unknown. I had thought it was kind of appropriate to be rainy and funky when one undertakes a pilgrimage. One does not think of vacation weather when undertaking a pilgrimage. The foul weather adds to the dramatic ambiance of the undertaking. More so when one is not, risking getting eaten by bears, sleeping in the cold, shedding blood from crawling on one’s hands and knees for miles and miles…
Although it was full of people, breathing who knows what from their bodies, riding in a high speed metal object, with open access to any Tom, Dick or Terrorist, a flipped out Knife-wielding saleryman…at least I am not in the states and have to worry about being gun down by some policeman in fear of his life because of my in the case Bow and Arrow…
…sorry I digress.
Meanwhile back in the real world…
I have a two-hour train ride ahead of me ( which turned out to be 2.5 hrs), so I have my trusty old fading-out with age battery iTouch/pod with me. Starting this post whilst on the move. This gives me a little something to do whilst traveling. Very little right now so I will play some computer “GO” whilst on the go after I type a bit. Next stop Banpaku Kyudojo. A little nervous, having not been there in over a year. Aug ‘ 2013 before the passing of Sensei. I am not expecting anyone to remember me except for one Sempai, if she is there. I hope so as I have a group gift and pictures, she can give them to the group. Not that any of that really matters, the remembering me part, as I know the routine for shooting and the like. It is just easier than explaining my history in my poor Japanese. I had written to another Sempai who still trains there from time to time. Alas he is busy elsewhere so can not met me. Perhaps at the first shooting of the year at Osaka Castle, he said.
Anyway part of this being a pilgrimage is, it is my first trip this far in Osaka alone. So far I have changed trains 4 times and have two more to go which are monorail, before walking several blocks to the Dojo. The Dojo is located in a city park, recreation center complex, near the Expo, monorail station. A pretty straight shot ( heheheh) once one clears the complex grounds.
It is done, now on the way home. I got there with no problem with the trains or monorail. However once there walking to the Dojo I missed it, kind of hard to see anyway. Not a big deal I just back tracked some and it was all good. The problem is the street splits a bit and I was on the wrong path. No matter I got there and it only took a few minutes to correct.
So when I arrived the first person I saw at the entrance was the Sempai I wanted to see. Perfect, it was a good sign. She remembered me of course, not that many Americans of color roll through there. She helped me check in and we chatted a bit. It turns out her English is better than I thought. She had spent a year in Mich. I gave her the candy for the group and pictures of Sensei she took care of the rest. A couple of people remembered me, everyone was nice and welcoming. Those that did not know me once Nogami Sensei’s name was said with mine as a student, were also very welcoming.
I first went in the makiwara section to warmup and work on my draw. After a while the Sempai came and asked if I was only going to do Makiwara. I said, after a bit of warmup I will do mato. She said ok, please join us when you are ready.
So after a short while of several ya, I went into the main hall. It was chilly, but there was a couple of heaters going and a heated carpet, nice. The rain had stopped, kind of a bummer, I think it would have been cool to shoot through the rain, watching it fall.
So another older Sempai asks me if I could do Tai Hai with a group of five and what is my Dan. I said yes and gave my rank. She gathered a group to shoot which included a couple of Sensei. It seemed like I was being checked out as a couple of other Sensei took a spot on the “platform” and a couple of other Sempai sat there as well. I noticed that the candy and pictures I brought where also there were Nogami Sensei would sit. It kind of pleased me. Reminded me of offering, leaving out fruit and sake with the picture of Otosan Miyatani. With that there and doing a full Tai Hai with some of the Sensei it was like doing a ceremony for Sensei.
I was asked if second position was ok. No problem I said. We lined up and entered. I made mental notes of all I was supposed to do and had learned. I kind of felt like Sensei was there. I felt his memory strong. It went off without any problems, I even hit both shots, the first dead center the second off to the edge. Still aww yeah, representing! Sensei would have been please, I was! On a couple of levels.
So a few more shots, than I was invited to join everyone for tea and cakes. This is one of the things I enjoy about this Dojo is the group tea time. I do not understand what the conversations are about, but the vibe is good, it reminds me of the Pasadena Kyudo school and at time the Berkeley school. It brought back good memories the whole experience sitting there with Sensei. I noticed several of the students look fondly and a bit sad at the pictures of Sensei I gave them with the candy.
It was a long trip but worth it to my spirit to pay my respects to Sensei’s memory. I will go again next year and spend the day in practice not just for a couple of hours like today. It is comfortable knowing I am still welcome.
Still it was a good worthwhile day trip, I felt Sensei was pleased.
R.I.P. Sensei _/|\_
Once upon a time, back in the day when I was still an innocent infant to Kyudo, before I learned about the factions, the separations, the politics ( people always got to be trippn). At that time I thought Kyudo was Kyudo, everyone was one big family, just a matter of family style ( Shamen, Shomen ) made the difference. I was a student of the Shibata style at the time. I had heard that in order to practice with a group or DoJo in Japan I needed to be qualified with a group/style in Japan. Shibata Sensei’s style in the States was not. As I had plans to move to Japan with my wife, I needed to research Kyudo in Japan…Osaka, Japan.
I took my first trip to study Kyudo whilst in Japan visiting with family. I made a visit to a local Dojo. I was told since I had some small amount of training I could come in and shoot the Makiwara. However the master was due in that day and I would need to get clearance from him. There were many Godans, Renshi and Kyoshi there that day to practice with him, so his approval was needed. The master was Nogami Sensei Hanshi Hashidan. I was told where to change and to wait.
Nogami Sensei arrived and after changing he spoke with me via my wife who translated. After a bit of introduction and chatting the Master showed me how to wear and tie the Yugaki.
He then worked with me some on Tenouchi, entering the Dojo and some other basics. I felt like a bumpkin, most of what I had done so far in training was way different, wrong, or not there. Kind of embarrassing really. I just rolled with it and listened carefully. One learns more by listening than by making excuses.
He spent about 1 hour with me. Then excused himself to work with his class and had me practice. A short while later he sent over a student of his who turns out to be a Kyoshi, who worked with me for another 30 min.
We then receive word the master wanted to see us. He had arranged for the students to give a demo and invited me to sit with him while he explained what was being done. Afterwards everyone went into the break-room where we had tea and cakes.
Needless to say I was quite shocked by all this as I only thought I would be shooting Makiwara for an hour then leave.
After tea the master again worked with me some before again having another of his students, another Sensei practice with me.
All in all I was at the Dojo for 4 hours, watching, practicing, listening, amazed.
Over the next few years I stayed in touch and visited, trained, was advised and corrected when in Japan.
When I returned last year to Japan as a new resident he was delighted to see me. I was introduced to everyone again, students, sensei’s, and the dojo Kaicho. Sensei had been seriously sick and was just returning to the Dojo at this time. He was not shooting but he was still guiding the students.
I informed him I would be moving to another area of Osaka and couldn’t attend this dojo easily. I asked for a suggestion on where to attend. He gave me his home phone and said he would make some calls on my behalf. After a short time later I was told he had spoken with a Kyoshi about me and I should look him up. This person Yamashita Sensei gives lectures at Osaka castle Kyodojo and often travels to New Zealand and Australia to give seminars. I was delighted and grateful.
A short time later before I had a chance to speak with this Sensei in person, he calls me to say Nogami Sensei had passed away. Few people knew of it mostly family. Otherwise it was kept low-key. He felt I should know.
I am forever grateful to Nogami Sensei for his help and kindness.
In two days I am making the first of my annual memorial pilgrimage to my old Dojo to practice in Honor of Sensei’s 1 yr “passing-on” anniversary, which will be this coming Sunday. I say a pilgrimage because it will be a 2-hour train ride to get to the Dojo. Now I have two personal Kyudo “quest” a year. The “New Year 108 Arrow shoot” ( based on the 108 Buddhist bell ringing practice), and the “Annual Nogami Sensei Memorial Kyudo Pilgrimage”.
R.I.P. Nogami Sensei arigatou gozaimashita.