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.