弓道 in the Shinto Temple’s shadow


弓道
I dislike getting up at 5:00 am. More so when I do not have to go to work, hmmm maybe that’s not right, more, like, when I have to go to work…perhaps. Either way I dislike it. It was at least holding the gift of not being cold. So there I was up and off to the train station.
I was heading over to my first Japanese Kyudo training Seminar. I was told someone there would speak Japanese…maybe. I had my concerns about that. I figured I would just float, listen and keep my eyes open.
 
I made it to the practice hall without any problem. As I got off the exit, so did a couple of other people going to the seminar. Nice! I figured I would spot some people down at the location. This was a plus this early. As it turned out, it was a short walk to the Kyudojo. As we got nearer, I became awed by the grounds. I was not sure just what kind, but it was a temple, of some type. Just not sure what. There seemed to be some type of what I thought was a flea market being setup. But no, I find out later. It was not. This was also the weekend Matsuri festival may have something to do with that. I was told later by a friend.
 
I was the first to arrive. Although I did not think so at first. There were others there, they all spoke and bowed. Kids, well high school age. People were coming and their was a van which seemed to unloading. I figured out this was the place. I did not know what was going on. Someone announced to the kids, to give the speaker the yumis. Then they started to load them into a van, I watched… no one paid me much attention…I paid attention to everyone.
Then one guy, a grownup asked me a couple of questions, in sort of
both Japanese and rough English. He tells me the kids are going to another Shrine to shoot. Hmm ok, he then took me where to changed into my Dogi. Oh, this was part of the “oops” thing. I did not bring my Kimono, I was not sure what was going on, but I did not think about a Kimono was needed as I test now in Kimono…duh! So I asked this guy and he spoke with another both figured, well you can just make do , should be ok. Ok, I was relaxing more now. I was treading water, and not floating away. I changed into my gi. Another woman shows up, someone bows to her, she looks like she has some knowledge, another sensei, she is in a Kimono. I question her. At first she looks at me and says go upstairs. Ehh I say! Ok I need to get my Yumi and stuff. Then she says, ohh, you are doing Kyudo, yes you are correct here. Then point into the room I was in from the start.
 
We chat a bit, I get more of a low down in what is happening. At least for me not messing up. This was taking some effort, she spoke no English. Anyway, I get signed in, numbered and setup. Slowly others started to arrive. I saw a few people I have met now from other dojos. Not a lot but a few. One of these friends speaks English. We were sort of in the same group. But did not train together, as I hoped for. I figured she could translate if it was important. We only spoke during the event briefly on a break or something. As it turns out, the men trained mostly with the men and women with women, with the Sensei of the same gender leading each. Unlike in the states. However at the end we were all just shooting and walking together not being in a lecture type groups. Although the Nindan’s Senseis just dealt with that group. Oh, oops, wait, I will explain, there were two main groups, nidans and sandans. Then that was split into men and women. So, two groups of women two of men.
 
So I am in my group. Then we are split, sort of into Resha and Kisha, (standing or kneeling). I am asked if I speak Japanese. I think I was asked in Japanese, he did ask some thing basic in very broken English. We figured out I could sort of follow, with 6 yrs experience. I could just copy the movements for wearing the Kimono. They said in the opening statements what was being covered and done in the seminar. That was pretty much, well mostly over my head. Other than hearing Kihontai, the rest was lost. No matter, I was rolling with it. It was working so far.
 
We went through the routine of putting the Kimono on and off, kiza, foot placement, hand placement in bowing and standing, how much juban should be showing under the Kimono, turning with the Yumi, toriyumi, that kind of basic stuff. It was a good review.
We took a lunch break. The sensei I saw from Kishiwada, my dojo went out and got his lunch then came and sat down with me. I had brief moment of panic as my peaceful non-thinking lunch break was over. I had to now small talk in Japanese sigh. I like this sensei though so not a big deal. We hung together before at the Tai Kai in Kyoto. We chatted a very little bit and ate. Still it is a struggle for me to make chit chat in English much less Japanese. After a short while another lady from another school I had met a couple of times and knew sensei. She joined us. We chatted more, and I met another couple of people who stopped by to briefly speak to sensei. Including the Sensei I first encountered when trying to check in. The main thing is I pulled off the encounters. yatta! yeah baby!
After lunch we walked, and walked, turned, walked forward , backward. Finally did some shooting. I was able to shoot four arrows, two each turn. Not really much correction there. Elbow a little more back, a little more tilt in diesan. I missed all for times. I pretty much of expected that. I was using my “at home” Mikiwara yumi. So my sighting was off. I did not see my where my second set hit. However the first two were in the target area but just both too high. Yet next to each other. I will take that as a win.
 
After that the lineup and bow out. Everyone went to change or just left. When I came out of the dressing room most everyone was gone. So I did not get a chance to speak with the Sensei for my group. Oh well.
 
I went over to the temple grounds next to explore. Big big grounds and a lot of buildings. It was also just before closing so I did not get much chance to look around, as I was walking in one area my friend and her posse run up behind me, and breathlessly explain to me about one of the shrine alters. You look through a bunch of stones inside a fenced area, if you find three with certain marking, you get good luck. My friend helped my find what I needed and gave them to me. Cool I thought.
We said our “mata ne” and they took off, I as well just behind them, as the guard was urging us to move. It was a good day, over all. I did not get the level of corrections, instruction as I had thought, but I was checked over and received no big No no’s for my shooting forms. So winner! Yeah. 
I made a mental note to return to the Temple ground the next day to explore at my leisure. That I did and got some really nice shots, with my camera. Since I am running low on disk space I am cutting back on my picture posts. A link to Flickr if interested.
Anyway I was going to say. I found out from another source he saw the temple photos and said, I got my Kyudo Nindan from a priest there. Ehhhh? I said. So it turns out there is another Kyudo group that is within the Shinto temples, but not part of the All Japan Federation. Wow, that was a bit of a surprise. I will research more on this, just for my own edification
…to be con’t
 
 
 
 
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Chan, Music and Food: Taiwan / 1


Chan, Music and Food: The Taiwan tour, pt 1

 
When I became involved with the Heart Chan group many of the members were from Taiwan. The “master” was based there. I had wanted to visit on my way to Japan. That did not happen. Once in Japan I became involved with another Chan /Zen teacher who was also in Taiwan. He made a visit to Japan where we met and he said Taiwan has a lot of vegetarians, and since it was only a couple of hours by plane I should go visit. It stuck on my mind. Later I met a musician at a club here in Japan who was also visiting from Taiwan. At some point I mention to My wife I wanted to visit. She had heard the food was good in Taiwan and was also interested. For me it was more about visiting my Chan bases and eating. I had hoped there was some Kung Fu family there but that was not so. There was also a large Kyudo group there in Taiwan, however for this time around my focus was Chan and Food. My wife made some arrangements and found us a special deal on a flight, along with some points she had on her card, we ended up with a great deal for a short vacation. So off we went.
 
I contacted my Chan groups and arrangements were made for me to meet with some members. I contacted my musician friend I met here in Japan and arrangement were made to hook up there in Taiwan as well. He was also a vegetarian so suggested several places to eat. Also he found a place were we could go Play some music. Things were looking good.
 
Day one arriving, we had an easy flight over and made our way to the hotel. We were able to make a early check in and then headed over to a restaurant to meet up with my music friend and his friend. He was treating us to afternoon tea at a very popular vegetarian cafe. So popular that without reservations you could not get in!
The place was very nice and we had a nice afternoon lunch. It was great to be able to pick anything on the menu.
We had a relaxing and pleasant visit with him and his friend who is a piano teacher. After tea LZ and I went back to the hotel to relax for the evening. We had gotten up early for our flight, so a break was good, and I had an early meeting set up with my Chan Teacher.
 
The next morning I was up and away early. i needed to met my Shifu at 9:00. I had to get to the meet spot via train and it was a ways off. I mostly did ok with the travel. I was about 30 min late even though I left with plenty of time. I checked with one guy about which train to ride and he sent me on an opposite direction going train. As most of the people I encounter during my stay where helpful and nice. I am going to keep the thought that he just man a mistake and was not being a jerk, even though he looked like a train station official.
 
 
No harm done, shifu waited for me until I arrived. Then we sent off for my next adventure. We were going to what is called Dharma Drum Mountain. It was on the other side of the mountain from us. So it was going to be a long ride, it took about 1-1.5 Hrs. Yeah long, over side of the mountain. I was told there is another move direct route , but it takes longer. So we went up one side of the mountain and down the other. Lots and lots of curves. Shifu said he does not drive this way during the fall and winter usually due to the fog. We were in luck the weather was good, excellent in fact. The Force was with me.
 
The monastery was huge. Dharma Drum Mountain complex was fair new. Just completed a few years before the “master” my teacher’s teacher passed away. His name was Sheng Yen. We drove into the parking lot them got a shuttle up to the entrance. Shifu showed me around, he spoke a few words to the staff as we entered. They all bowed and us the go as you wish hand motion. This was noticeable to me, as everyone else was with a group. I found out just how much “clout” my Shifu carried. I was told while we walked around and he explained stuff that he was going to arrange for me to meet a “ranking” monk and hopefully if he was back a certain Abbot. Wow, I am thinking. So I got a tour of the main building, gallery, give some history, shown some notable places, etc. 
After our walk about and visit with the Monk, we followed the crowd which was heading to large hall. There was to be a lunch served. That day there was a large ordination ceremony for some new monks and nuns. This was also effected be able to visit certain area which were on use due to the event. So will followed the crowd an after speaking with a group of monks at the door we were invited in for lunch. There were maybe 100-150 people many more, all Chinese except me. The only foreigner. No one openly stared like some would in Japan , with that size of crowd. The lady i sat next too was helpful , she asked about my speaking Chinese, I said very little. So she speak mostly to Shifu about if I wanted, needed something. Shifu explained things to me about the huge spread of vegetarian food. basically, when it was our table’s turn, go up get whatever I wanted put it into the single bowl I would get at the table. A huge spread of food, I could eat everything, I passed on the mushroom stuff though. I did not make a pig of myself even with the rest. I filled up one bowl, like the size of one’s very loosely cupped hands. One could go back for second if wanted, and there were things I did not get, like soup choice and desserts. I showed restraint. Amituofu. 
 
After lunch we walked out and Shifu spotted the Abbot. They spoke a bit, the Abbot spoke a bit with me in English, surprising me. He could meet with me but not until after 3:00. That was a small bummer as I had to leave by 3:00 in order to get back to the hotel. We were changing to another via LZ’s master plan. Oh well, that part was not meant to be, but I was cool with it as I was not expecting it anyway.
 
Next we made our way down to the book store, I looked around at this and that. There was a Tibetan Monk there looking around also. I had seen him down in the gallery, he had asked Shifu a question about some pictures there. He spoke in English. This monk asks me where are you from? I say Osaka, it was a bit surprised. I asked where are you from, your English is good. Tibet he says, but I have lived and still live in the states. After a few back and forth it turn our he has a temple (one of several ) in California. The main one where he is located is in Alameda, the city we moved from upon leaving Ca. I knew just where his temple is when he told me. Big shock, we spoke just a little more then parted.
 
Shifu and I then made our way back to the car. There was a big crowd at the bus loading and a small vehicle for transport. We opted to walk down the hill. The weather was good, it was down hill, and not far, way not. Off we went. I got to ask a couple of Buddhist type questions and enjoy the greenery and creek we passed. 
 
Shifu said he was now going to take me to the location of the Dharma Drum’s first temple, then takes me to the train station. Off we went, back over the mountain…
 
When we arrived at the next place I was quite surprised. I was expecting an old small temple. Wrong, here was another new temple, a monastery. This looked like a modern university or Art Museum. I was told this is the site of the old temple, it indeed was a tiny old building.
This new place was …well new. This was right in the city, I think I heard headquarters, but the other place is more I am guessing the dorm, museum, as well. I guess ?? Anyway you can see from the picture.  
 
I was dropped off at the train station after I was shown around. We did not go inside I just checkout the main outside area. From the it was just a short ride to the train station, on the way now being in real traffic, i notice just how many motor scooters there are. Very few bicycles , a lot, a lot of motor scooters.
 
 
That night I agreed to go with LZ to a choice of her’s. A night market. basically a certain street(s) with mobile venders. That roll up and go home. There are also some fixed stores there as well. So a mix of shopping, plus stall cooks and local foods.
 
We walk the aisles, a lot of people also out and about. It took a while I but I found some vegetarian food. I was not sure about it at first, but I went for it…it was good good good. A Buddhist run stall I find out later as I am checking out my surroundings.
After that LZ wanted dessert. She found what she wanted i. The Taiwan version of shaved ice, or snow cone. She had been wanting that. It took a while with my broken Chinese, English, Japanese to explain to everyone what was wanted. Finally we sat and ate, yum yum yum.
 
Afterward it was back to the hotel to chill. The next day I was supposed to meet up with another Chan-mate, from my first group. However, I been slowly growing sicker during the evening. By the time I was at the hotel and could not turn the a/c down I was sick and a mess by the time I went to bed. I ended up canceling the meeting for the next day. I figured rest was a better plan…
 
To be con’t.
 

Sixty something…

Sixty something, wow…

Wow, I did it. I beat my own personal best record for trips around the sun…that I know of. Go me! Hahaha. Yeah, it was that time of year, “Hime” and I had our birthdays. It has been about 20 years, but I still miss her. My Akita named Hanako Hime., we had the same birthday! That really makes it a special day.

I had wanted to spend part of my day sailing. Go down to Snafkin, have lunch then sail back. However The boat I wanted was in use that day for a class, so. Out of luck sort of. It was not a day as I planed but I still made it work…

Otherwise it was just another sun trip for me. Although this is the year I really understood, “time is almost up”. Beside the fact it could be so, as I write this. I am though just speaking about our limited “vision” of our time. I spent the day quietly in meditation. 🙂 sounds very monkish ne?!
Well, in a meditative state would be closer. I was up at 6:00 am, I wanted to get to the shrine, before the heat! 
 
It was a peaceful scene at the shrine, mornings are extra nice. I took in the calm of the morning and the vision of what had changed since my last visit. The clearing was larger, a tree gone, the boulders moved. I adjusted my spacial sense and made my plan. I would practice first then, do some blowing Zen for the Shinto spirits.
 
I stretched a bit, and absorbed chi and the pleasure of muscles being awakened. I started with some Chen taiji, wanted to feel a sense of quiet power to set the tone for my day. I followed those with Hing Yi, some Mantis and sword work. I had some ideas of how using the could work and blended some moves, ideas, principles from Mantis, Kali, and Shaolin and so was born : The Tao of Shaolin Chan Lohan Flute. In Japanese Shorinji Zen Rakan Shakuhachi Do. Sounds kinda cool ne!? I was just messing around, a joke. Still sort of fun to say I have created my own system, style as it were. It reads well, even though there will never be any students of Shorinji Zen Rakan Shakuhachi Do. My martial art legacy .
 
Ok, so back to real stuff…
About the time I was finished practicing the mosquitoes came out. When I first arrived I tried to light a mosquitos coil thing. I could not get the lighter to work. I figured it was the Shinto spirit saying, ohhh no, not here! So I did not push it. I took a few pictures, a grandpa’s birthday, then I was going to play flute. I got a few in, my sister-in-Law posted them on her FB page. Captioned my Brother-in-law. The unspoken part was the weird old grandpa! Hahahahah
The Mosquitos increased their attack and numbers. I thought to the Shintos Spirits well you guys don’t want me to kill here then you should keep them (the mosquitoes )at bay, WTF! Even with no smokey stuff they are dying from me splatting them. Nothing is changed. Ok, screw it, I went for the smoke thing again, thinking it will keep them away not kill them. I got the lighter to work, I tried to light a coil, it would not ! After several tries it did , burned a couple of seconds then went out. Several times of this a gave up. Ok ok I get it, I say to the Shintos!
 
I tried to practice then to shakuhachi. I was being attacked by a horde of mosquitoes. Ok ok, I am out of here. Done! I bowed and left the shrine grounds.
 
I walked back home, and needed to jump right in the shower. I was hot, sticky, and bitened. After a nice shower with some Dr. Bonners lavender castle soap I was feeling refreshed. I started my regular day from there, Zazen, short chant, breakfast.
 
From there on it was pretty much like that, a bit of this and that a lot of shakuhachi playing, some other instruments, some gardening, a movie and nice NAP! Pretty much a cruising day. I had a lot of thoughts and feelings of gratitude. With the thoughts of aging came some goal settings for next year, and five. All personal achievement stuff except for becoming a modern Komuso. An Active, engaged practice. That is really more of my Buddhist path direction, ministry, something for the world, rather than something just for me, like getting that Yon-dan status. So I am feeling pleased to have gotten some sense of a spiritual life direction, I lost that with the Zenamaran and have just been re-centering, seeking a course.

The day full thoughts and gratitude had very little, if any thoughts on how to make money in my senior years. My wife would not be happy about that. I should be more thoughtful of that as I see the world change and the sands of time drop. Logically I should be very concerned, my working years I spent concerned and lost it all. Now aging, wiser(?), why do that again…all my possessions can fit in one room, rely on only the Universe as my support. So far it has worked for these years. Basically I am just along for the ride.

吹禅 – Lohan Shaolin Shakuhachi


Lohan Shorin Shakuhachi

 
My two-year of formal shakuhachi study was last month. I have yet to make my annual anniversary pilgrimage. It is coming though. I did have a small one of sorts. Rather unplanned.
 
I finished learning my second traditional Shakuhachi song this week. Golden week here in Japan. It was a struggle for me. The first two days I spent in pain and a numb mouth from dental work. Which was just hours before my scheduled Skype Lesson. I believe I already said this on my last post. So I will not again, if not, just imagine, numb mouth shakuhachi class. Next two-day a cold! Anyway, I persevered. My fellow Zen path follower was kind enough to teach me the song I needed to do a day with a Komuso upcoming later this month. I am grateful for the help to make the trip possible. Now I need practice! 
 
So any-who, I decided on Friday the weather was great, I was feeling almost 100% normal…for me. I make the choice to go out, get some practice in, some fresh air, some exercise. One of the things, that stuck me holding the shakuhachi was its feel as a weapon, having a martial art background. I read that some of the old Komuso, being former samurai also felt the connection with the shakuhachi as a weapon and they at time used it as such. With that in mind I had been thinking about training with it with a different mind-set. In my shaolin studies, we have a short staff “form” or kata as it is called in Japanese. This lends itself well to use of the shakuhachi as a a short staff. However, i was thinking more in terms of sword. I have a Tai Chi sword form I am re-learning, this I felt would be perfect for use with a shakuhachi instead of blade. In Japan I can not freely go out and practice with my swords as in the states. So I use a cane, or a collapsible sword or cheap meal. Both work , but lack a feel, which I am sure is a mental thing. I decided, practicing with a shakuhachi would give the practice a different feel, something unique. A different feeling than with a sword, but also different from a fake sword. That would be part of my practice for today. Physical, mental, spiritual, audio. Formless and form. I could also Practice Kali with the shakuhachi. But really unnecessary due to the nature of Kali. Also the limits of a two-part Shakuhachi. None of the training is really suitable for a two piece shakuhachi, however the Tai Chi jhian form is the least of being chanced harmful to the shakuhachi.

So I have my plan. Go to the temple grounds near our home. This is my favorite temple in the area, Chokei-ji. The grounds over look the area . I can see to the Osaka Bay from over by the large Bell, which is next to the grave yard. The place is usually quiet. I can practice some of the faces of Chan, in peace. Movement, stillness, sound, as well as take a few photos. Practice my photographic art. I wonder sometime from something LZ said if people think I like posting pictures of myself on FB. Really I have started being able to separate myself as the model and as me. The model is just there, because I need a subject or as part of the subject really more a prop. My photos are more about the shot than about me, or a graphic to support the story.

Off I set on the bike heading for the temple grounds. It is about a 10-15 min bike ride to the grounds. Then there is a climb of 100 steps to reach the main ground. It is said that a wish is granted after climbing the 100 steps at the main entrance. I also feel a charge going up the steps , then passing through the entrance gate with the two spirit guards on the sides. I am guessing the entrance is very very old from the looks of it.

 
I make the upward passage to the entrance, I bow and enter. Today I am being extra respectful as I have a motive from coming. I go to the main temple and to the incense burner and forever candle. I light a stick of incense I brought with me. I pass my Shakuhachi through the smoke of the incense after a small thanks of gratitude for the use of the grounds. Next to the altar and bell. I made an offering , bowed, small prayer. Now I felt I could do my practice, after giving respect to the spirits.
 
I went over to the large bell and changed my clothes. There I took few shoots, and practiced Tai Chi, hand and sword sets. Then I walked around a bit and took some more shots I thought would be interesting and fun. There were some that thought would be great, but I did not want to walk on certain parts of a pagoda, it did not seem proper. I was made more aware of that when I visited the Kyudojo in Kamakura and I was stopped from walking on an area near a prayer spot. This was also in my mind from watching the visitors there today. The pagodas had some meaning as they prayed at them. So I figured the best way is to avoid possible lost of face. I grabbed a few shots from here and there , changing my on some planned shots.
 
I picked a spot overlooking the main grounds and had lunch among the rocks. I was not sure if I should be eating there so I kept a low profile. Afterwards, I played the Shakuhachi songs I felt fit the place. One was the new song I am learning. My Sensei said when I go to visit temples, the amount that I have learned is proper and enough to pay as a “gift”, offering. I also played the new song I was just taught. I did not play long but what I felt was enough. Then just sat for a bit before making ready to go home.
 
This day was the first I had ever seen any of the temple staff. A couple were out doing gardening, another couple went in and out of the housing area. I watched them closely to see if I was doing something wrong. I was pretty much ignored the whole time.
After I had finished my audio shakuhachi practice and was packing my stuff. I did not think I was playing that loud, or noticeably. I thought I was pretty on the “under”. Someone came out of the housing area, a woman, on her way to someplace else. She looked over at me directly and did a small bow. I did not notice at first, she did it again, I returned the bow, she left.

World Naked gardening day

NNGD…

 
It is said that working in dirt, feeling it, helps cure depression. I can see how that would happen. There is a certain feeling that comes from working with clay, doing ceramics, bring something to life from dirt. Gardening is bring something to life from dirt. I call it the God complex, they have I am sure other names. Anywho, yeah, doing gardening is therapeutic, very Zen active mediation kind of thing, Kyudo, Tai Chi, shakuhachi, kind of Meditation. Other faces of Chan. I heard one of my Chan Shifu recently say that, along with every day life is Chan, Chan is everyday life.
 
So my Chan gardening meditation project, spring session has started. I thought it would be a one day project but it has turned into three. It is a good golden week project. I will be working with reduced hours for a while, so on another level it is good to be planting food. Helps to eat fresh, save money, eat healthy. I do not have enough space to really be serious about growing. However herbs, tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, teas, can be grown easy and enough to be worth the effort as harvested.
 
It took me travels to three places for soil, food, misc. It was a large undertaking.
I am putting more effort into the garden this year. Last year was weak, very weak. The first year was better. This year I am adding more organic fertilizer, but of a different type. We’ll see if that makes a difference. I am also setting up a computer sheet, showing what was planted where, and what date. I will not rely on guessing what was growing. I tried labels, but they come off, get wet, something. This is a better idea…so far.
This time I have a chart with pictures as well. This way I can recall the seed. Don’t know if I can find these again, i got them from a place in northern Ca called the seed bank. It is an old bank changed to a retail seed store. I have my oldest in contact still friend living in the same town, so there is a chance of a repurchase. God be willing and the creek don’t rise.
 
I finished up the planting yesterday. It was a three day task. The downer of two of those day was my trip to the dentist. First time in many years. I need work. 😦 Three shots on day one! My mouth was a wreak trying to take a Shakuhachi class afterward. I also ended up chew my cheek flesh a bit, when eating and not being able to feel. It made the evening not too pleasant.
 
On the third day a cold struck ! Maybe from the dentist…the chill change in the weather, stress from being in the chair, holding on for dear life. Actually, I started thinking about Kyudo, if I can remain relaxed while this guy is digging in my mouth, I can easy stay relaxed when at Shinsa. Although, being relaxed at shinsa is not my issue, hitting is….I digress
 
So yeah the third day. I heard that May 2nd is World Naked Gardening day. I thought, wow, perfect timing. As I am finishing up today. So I joined in the celebration. I took a couple of photos, because you know the saying, if there is no pictures, it never happened.
 
So the first picture, I could not find my tripod, so I took it while holding the camera.
 
 
I was called away afterward so I could not get back to working until after the dentist, and my shakuhachi class via skype from Chicago. That is kind of different iznnit! Lesson from Chicago on a Japanese instrument, while I am in Japan. I am learning one certain song that is why. I need this in order to get the Komuso experience …coming soon. Oops , digression, the picture, yeah, so I got back out to finish up, I found my trip so I was able to get a full shot, it was a little dark though. Oh, well…
 

I am looking for a good harvest this year. I have some ideas in place that I have been thinking on from the last couple of plantings. The practice is evolving.
_/|\_

Sliver


Silver…
I have been back with the Silver steady now for several months. Silver is what we of the Silver Center call the place. The Silver Center refers to the workers are all of retirement age, you know Silver haired.
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At one time I may have been the youngest, I think that has changed. Still I am treated like the muscle of my group when we are out. It is kind of funny to me. However less funny as my back hurts. I practice mindful lifting when I am working my pitch fork.
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Still some places are brutal like when working on the side of a hill, maintain footing, stepping on fresh cut bamboo stumps and move a bunch of dead and cut grass and bush. This time of year there is a break from the struggle, in that the weather is cool and there are no mosquitoes!! That is a blessing to be grateful for, also the temps do not have one swimming in sweat.

 
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Anyway the guys, my fellow workers are the backbone of Japan. Blue collar workers, down to earth folks. Different from the Kyudo people or the Yachting people. Although to me they are the same. Just people doing different stuff. I have notice their attitude towards me changed somewhat.
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Fortunately not in a bad, way. I was a curiosity before, now it is more like I am one of them. I am sure before me many had not spoken with a gaijin much less one of my hue. Several joke and kid around with me more, some who said nothing or little, now speak, sometime jokingly. It is interesting the noted change, at least I notice. I still stay off to myself during breaks and stuff, because I do not want to have to struggle with understanding, and I am usually a loner anyway. A sociable loner. The language thing though is really my weak spot, I need to develop that more this year. That holds me back from being all that I can be.
 
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Sometimes I think what a long strange trip it been to get here from my early life beginnings, in Philly and Virginia. Then there was the West Coast life, so very different. A Southern and Northern version. Now in Japan hanging with the locals a city employee manual laborer. Laughing and sweating together. Some of the guys I really like and the work bonds us.

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I have developed calluses at this late age, and my back hurts. However I look at it as continued training and practice. I ride my bike a lot but I do not do much lifting and muscle work, so this is good training. I can be very lazy about strength training, which is important at my age.

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So the Silver is a double blessing to be grateful about. The even though small money helps us have a life other than basic food and paying rent. Kyudo is costly even without buying stuff, there is transportation and dojo use fees. There is also my Shakuhachi lessons. Not really a lot but still it all adds up, even living a simple life as we do.

Mindfulness training

 

Back to muscle work

 
It had been a while since I had been working for the silver center doing landscape work. They had not called, which was really ok with me, but now things had slowed down with the boating and money was get tighter. LZ called to find out what was up with no calls from them. They said they thought I was busy so did not bother. Hmmm, well whatever. She told them I had time, they said they still needed help and to pick the days I wanted to work. So I am back to the labor job, on Monday and Weds. I figured that was good. Two days a week and a break in between the days. It is good, at least I can depend on them for work for this time of year still at least until year-end. I no longer have any trust in the Yacht company. More on that later.
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Monday and Weds I work for them, the Silver center, Tues I do Kyudo, Friday I work at the boat yard. Thursday I can choice to do nothing or something. Plus I have flexibility to switch as needed. Cool. This is a good time of the year to do this outside work. Much cooler. This summer was brutal so I am glad I missed out.
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Everyone was pleasant when I came in to work. A few of the old guys I like came over to talk a bit. They said I lost weight, etc, etc. One change I noticed is before I would be the only one doing warmup stretching when I got there. Now they have group warm ups in the morning before going out. One guy I noticed was not really putting any effort into the warm ups. I teased him about it afterward. He laughed and said some things I did not understand , but I got the drift.
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As before I am the guy on the rake detail. It is fine I am used to it now. Although I have developed calluses on my hand even through the gloves. I am bummed about that. What is really funny is as I am the youngest, I am the muscle guy for lifting. Little me, I am put on the parts that need some strength to do, loading the truck, pulling a load of grass and such up a hill to the truck. It is kind of funny. I look at it as training, some physical work is good, more so at my age, it is a good thing.
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So any way, it is simple work no hidden agendas, I am sure there is some ego thing involved, because people are people and there is the “sempai” thing with the Japanese, meaning the new guy vs the seniors. I am somewhat beyond that being a Gaijin, it is not so much in my face. I get a pass, sort of. But I see it with others.
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Anyway, it is a good Zen practice, being in the moment, dealing with only the task at hand. Still my mind wanders and I am constantly bringing it back to rack the leaves, pulls the rope, lift the branches, load the truck, not interesting , not fun, just is work, paid work, and Motion Zen training. Sort of like walking meditation…being fully present in what you are doing.

Going back to Calli – Sonoma/Napa

Wine Country

My first day in Sonoma did not go as planned. That was to go to DMV renew my drivers lic. Then go to the seed bank for, yeah thats right seeds. Then go to my sissy’s place for the night. I did not make it to my Sissy’s the other stuff did not happen, I found the seed bank but no time to go, I did not find the DMV untIl my “sister” took me that evening on our way out to dinner.

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We went to an Italian place. The salad was excellent the pizza was way too salty. I wrote it off to the combos use where all salty. Still I thought it was extreme as did my Sis. So the rest of that evening we stayed up and chatted and did old hippie stuff.
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The next day I was up and at it early. I went to DMV, I went fairly early, still there was already a long line. I joined and took a deep breath. Once I was in and got my papers done, then I sat as I had no appointment. I had a lunch date planned in Napa for noon. Some 20 miles in another county, Napa, I was in Sonoma at the time. So I wait and wait. I am thinking I will leave at 11:45 having waited since. 9:30. Just as I was considering walking. I was called, yatta! 
 
I went up, paid my fee and was told that was it other than the eyes test. I was expecting to have to take the written test , Yatta. I was asked if I wore glasses, I said no, even though I had gotten some in Japan. I figured I may pass without them, I will try first before using them. I first I could not focus, and started off wrong, she switched me to another section doing one eye at at time. I went through the, pretty fast, missing one. She let me slide!! yatta! I wrapped it up with a new photo taken. Then I hit the road for Napa.
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With much much effort and waiting I finally hooked up with my friend. She is a friend from on line who is a friend of Friends and she did Kyudo. We have connected n line some three years ago almost. We met for lunch at a little Greek deli.
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The food was excellent! Greek was on my list of foods to eat while in the States List…so it was perfect. We left there and went to a marketplace where she works. There we had cheese and wine. One of the things she trained in is cheese and pairing, with stuff. We had a small sample plate of cheese and a few condiments as well as some samples of snack items she is making. All of it was yummy! We eat and talked until I had to hit the road again.
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My next stop which was near where we were, and also in Napa was a former students house. He was one of my first students when i started in Northern Ca. He has come and gone , come and gone with his class attendance, but we remained in touch. A short visit with him before once again one the road.
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This time back to Sonoma, in the mountains. It was a long and winding road finding my way to the Sonoma Mountain Zen Center. I was to meet a Kyudo Sempai, the one who gave me my first Yumi. He is also a Bass player and a Buddhist. In fact is part of the Sonoma Zen Center.
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I choose to meet there because it is some what on my way back to my Sister’s and we, Sempai and I have history at the Zen Center having taken week long seminar in Zen and Kyudo there.
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It was a good meeting connecting with him. We arrived at the same time. I had made a wrong move and missed my turn, as I was turning around, I saw a car that looked like his. I could not look inside, but I had that sense it was him. He said the same when he saw the car following him. We also while walking the grounds came upon a resident who knew us both. We chatted with her for a time before leaving. I was expected back at my Sisters for dinner. I was late but not to bad, and it was expected since I am packing a lot in.
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The next day was my run into Alameda our last residence area…
 

Virginia


Virgina

Virgina, was the main section, #2 of the trip. Here we go to see my mother in the nursing home. I am not going to say much on that because it is personal stuff and no concern to most. So, Just a bit. I asked my Mum if she knew who we were ( she has Alzheimer/Dementia ) , when my brother and I went. She surprised me and said yes. Big shocks as she usually does not know anyone. Also the next day we had a small conversation, she was not all there but there was a couple of times she was shockingly aware of what I was saying and about who/whom.

 
After seeing my Mum on the first day we went to see my Uncle, my Father’s brother, the last of my father’s generation. Uncle Fred is 88 , a year younger than my Mum, but he is still sharp alert and getting around on his own. It was a short visit with him as we had to travel more that evening.
 
We headed further south into Virginia, my cousin, a school supervisor had sent me a Skype message. I had replied back but got no answer. My brother and I had to drive by my cousin’s house on the way to my mother’s property. I saw some people in the yard and it turns out to be my Cuz and his wife. We were all shocked at the timing which worked out well. He was off and in town that week, they were going the next day On a vacation to Florida. He was just home to do some yard work and such. They usually stay in South Carolina were they work. So anther connection came together for my fast lane tour to America. Chatting with my cuz was fun, he, his wife and I all went to high school together for a time.
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One of the things I found out was there was an earthquake there which shocked everyone. Yeah, it is a changing world on many levels.
After a while we moved on. We went by our family land and I also stop at my mother’s parents gravesite. Something I do every time I am there. We had problems locating one of the properties as it had been grown over by pine trees and such. 
 
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However after a time I figured it out. From there we went to another piece of land. This is the one with a house on it I helped. Built when I was a child, and almost died in the process , almost having the tractor I was driving almost flip over on me. As it turns out there was someone living in the house, we had mot been aware of this.
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My Uncle, my mother’s remaining brother, had not been in touch with us concerning the place. It was the daughter of his girl friend living there. Not a problem, actually good since someone was there taking care of the property.
This also was lucky as we wanted to get in touch with my Uncle, my mother’s brother but had been unable to. She took care of that and got us hooked up. We drove over to his girl friend’s house and met him.
 
There was another cousin on the list of people I wanted to see however, time was running out. Therefore I skipped the last visit. We returned to my father’s brother’s place and encounter a cousin I had not seen in many many years. Then we went again to the nursing home to visit our mother. This was sad and joyful…I said my goodbye.
 
The next day I spent just hanging out at my brother’s. Sleeping, teaching my brother how to meditate, organizing for the next section of the trip, introducing my brother to ZatoIchi and also getting the real story on my sister’s behavior concerning my mother estates.

The trip was joyful and sad…

Next up going back to Calli

 

La Migra


La migra

 
If you do not speak Spanish, you may have no idea what this is means. La Migra. I posted at La migra on my Facebook page, my wife says, why do you post things that make no sense. They do , I said, if you understand, just because you do not, does not invalidate my words.
 
So what is La Migra, you say. This is what Mexican say when talking about Immigration: police, dept., office…
 
I had to go to immigration a couple of weeks more or less ago. My visa was running out. This time I could apply for a new visa extension also a permanent resident status. I thought I had it already, but no, one can not get permanent resident status right away, I had/have a spousal visa. The “gaijin” card. The “green card” of Japan. Much much easier and cheaper to apply for than the US card. It cost me hundreds of dollars and all kind of investigation question to get one for LZ. The “Gaijin”card will cost about $80.00, once!
 
The process was pretty simple for dealing with a government. Now I am the waiting mode. However the Migra visit was only part of the story for the day. I had spoken with a Shakuhachi acquaintance about a flea market near me. It was being held at a temple in Downtown Osaka. The Buddhist temple is listed as the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan. It was sort of on the way to “La Migra”. I figured how to stop by on the way to immigration. 
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I found the place without too much problem. I had to ask a few people but I made it. The place was big. Later I found out much much bigger than I thought. I was in a rush when I arrived so did not have much time to look around. What saw was impressive. Cool stuff , a lot of cool old stuff. I love cool old stuff!!!
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When I first entered, I was stopped by a Monk who spoke English for a chat. Longer than I wanted, but had some interesting things to say. I had to comments however as I was in a rush I did not want to engage him too much. He started speaking to me as if I knew nothing of Buddhism, then when I checked that, he raised the level but still like a beginner. I smiled and nodded. I found it interesting that he spoke of his begging as his job. He had lived in the states, he owned a house in Japan, and wanted to return to the states. Too bad I did not have the time to really chat. Some things I could have debated with him on. Buddhist are the only group who are, have been non violent (something like that) peaceful, there is no God, No Buddha, a couple of other statements which I have since forgotten.
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Anyway, I did a quick walk through of the grounds, then went to immigration. After getting done with them I went back to the flea market. Sadly it was over. People where closing up.
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I did however get to see the full size of the grounds and market area/size. I was impressed. This is a monthly event, same dates every month. I will be returning in Aug, since I am traveling most of July. Even LZ wants to attend. It also turns out I know someone who live just across the street from the temple. So it may turn out to be a nice meetup next time.