Trips around the Sun…

 

It has been a while since I posted. Life happens! Since today is the anniversary of my Sun orbit cycle for this passage, it is as good a time as any to do a new post. Maybe the best timing.

A lot has passed since my last entry. It is hard to find a beginning spot that matters if any does. The last thing I recall here is I was just ready before going back to Nara. I did I bit of Takuhatshu there, before going to the temple to play for OMatsuri at Sempai’s local temple. That was interesting. I always enjoy these small local things. They are like a small mini time travel session. I did my small bit of playing shakuhachi for the group. which was larger than I thought. They were as always impressed that I could play and was there. Everyone was nice. Details are on the Komuso Blog.

Shortly after I went to the Kobe Blues session. I do not go often do to the distance and cost of travel, besides the next day hassles of early the night before if I do not stay over at a friend’s. It is fun the session, but there is usually a feeling of empty at times. Hard to explain sometimes it is great, other times…lacking

And now after my birthday dinner and most of a bottle of sparkling wine, I can not recall must of that time anyway.

Ok, so rather than trying to fill in what I do not recall I will start from where I do. Yesterday, for my birthday my wife took me a Greek restaurant. There have been very good reviews from the locals. There are very few Greece places in Japan. This is one of 3 that had good ratings. Also, they usually had a mix of Italian food not just Greek. Coming from The bay Area where we have a lot of Greek deli type places I give it a rating of 6 on a 1-10 scale.  10 being the best! it was good and a nice change, but the Greek in better in Cal. Even from the Deli. I really wanted a Falafel !! Oh well.

The other night there was a session at Snafkin. It was really a night were the IYO band was playing. However, we were going to slip in a practice session for my band, which was performing in an upcoming concert at the beach for Snafkin. It is an annual thing. So we were going to get in a practice before and after the AYO band played. He, the keyboard player, plays for them mostly and a solo acts himself. That is the thing in Japan no one just plays for one band unless that band has a national name.

We, my new band, got in some practice time and it went fairly well. One song sounded like we practiced it more than just once today. I was surprised. I was expecting to play once more or so after the AYO band finished, but I find out I am requested to play as a part warmup act for the IYO band. I was not expecting that. Ok quickly considered what to do. I drafted the Bass player from IYO’s band. He was very hesitant! Saying he did not know the song. No big deal I said. It was weird. He was reacting the same way I do when asked to sit- in on a Jazz piece. This was just a Blues and I gave him a chart. Anyway, he agreed finally. I was going to play a song where I got to use Shakuhachi. I always need the practice live. We started the song slowly, I was having a lot of trouble getting a sound from my flute. OHG, so embarrassing!! This was a was my Zen and Kung Fu training kicked in. Do not panic, breathe, think! I fiddled with the mic and tried several times to blow but no sound. Ok, I got a drink, as if I needed it, then just started to sing. As I sang I gave the flute a few tries, and finally was able to connect. I played for just a small bit, and then I lost the sound. As in Kyudo when you miss the shot it is usually something about “you” that is the issue, not the equipment. In the case of the Shakuhachi, this is so very very true. the problem was me! There are no parts or anything with the Shakuhachi, it is a tool of truth, you can get a sound, or you can not, it is not the lacking of within the flute.

I play a little then again lose it, I did not panic, never panic. I decided to switch up and play the Harmonica. I went over to the table to get my harp and as I reached for it, I knock over my Bass which was next to it them. I laughed, the keyboard player laughed. I rolled with it and kept singing and made the switch. Things went well… of sorts. I Kept having issues with the Mic adjustment location. As the Keyboard players were doing his solo, he started dropping papers and stuff. Again we laugh, but the song goes on. That is how we roll. LoL!!

Overall even though I still had a few issues with hearing myself, we finished the song and for the most part it turned out ok. I did not realize that until afterward when I listened to the video. All that stuck out for me was the suck parts when I could not get a sound! After listening to the recording I find it was not so bad 🙂

Our next song, was really just the new band. Really a trio today as we had no percussion. We did a cover song by Stevie Wonder. This our second time playing ever, today. Surprising it turned out good. Like we knew just what we were doing, helps when the band members lesson to each other. I did this same song with one of the other bands, the Kuruzeders, we did not sound as good then as we did with this Trio!

The next day I am chilling, very limited Facebook interaction. I am planning to enjoy my birthday break. I spent the day, a small bit of gardening, mostly just working on my ceramic pieces. I hope the person in charge of firing at “club”  did /does so over the break. I now have about 8 pieces that need to be “baked” before I can take the next step and do the glazing before putting them up for sale and seeing if there is any interest. That would really really give me a boost if there was interest in buying. I could actually have something artsy that was marketable. Music is a difficult Art route for more than pleasure.

Speaking of music that is the other thing I did over my Sun circumnavigation trip anniversary. I discovered a song I want to do as part of my solo set and maybe with the new band, I am just recently asked to Join. So I worked on that song. I put down a beat track and a bass track on my looper to give me something to work from. It went well, that another song which I started with one of the other bands.  I just realized I am connected to several bands: The Kursaders, The Saki Band, Mr Joe’s girl band, and my Kaze Band, oh and sometimes the Dirty Deal Blues Band.

The other big musical thing I did was some work to my Bass. I have been thinking about changing my bridge to a Gold Brass one. I have been putting it off and off, finally, I went for it. I was nervous about doing it correctly, there are many adjustments to set and this was my first time. I took my time and it went well. I could tell a difference in the sound right away.

After all my years of playing, this is the first Bass I have made truly mine! Not just mine as in owning, but mine as in changing stuff just to my taste. Cool it is!

So all in all at this time in Life, things are pretty good. Making music, Kyudo, Ceramics, My WaterWorld life is pretty much a wash:-(, as is my Kung Fu teaching. I guess I should just consider myself retired from those fields. Oh well, one can not have everything they say. I am sort of getting a new change of plan for Japan travel. Since I can not do it by sailboat, perhaps by motorcycle. Since I have had my eye surgery I am pretty sure I can pass my eye test for a Japan drivers lic. However I do not have a motorcycle, but it would be easier to get and keep than a boat. Still, there is the money thing and with a set budget, it is pretty much in the same realm as a boat…an out-there-dream! Yet, things change as you live and breathe. One never knows what the tide ( Heaven ) will bring in…Amituofo

 

 

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Playing in the mud


Playing in the mud 

 

When I first started thinking about moving to Japan, there were a few things on my to-do list. Study Zen, Kyudo get my Yondan, Sail the inland sea, play music and study Shakuhachi. There were some other things that included the boat, but those were more business related, like teaching Martial Art classes. It could still happen and it did for a while, but it dried up. I have pretty much been blessed to have done most of those things. Even on a small scale.

I have gotten to sail the Sea of Seto, not as much as I hoped for, but I did do some. My Zen studies continue although not Japanese Zen so much. But I did have some exposure to it. The Kyudo is an on-going struggle. I am with several bands on and off as well as having and developing a solo music career. Shakuhachi is included in that along with finding a teacher and becoming a Komuso. Something I had not thought of but find rewarding, Spiritually.

Finally, I have joined a ceramic workshop. Not a class perse, but a workshop, where I can practice and develop my skill and projects. It is in the next town and I can ride my bike to the location. which is very nice. I started a couple weeks ago. I have some Art project I am planning and I have free rein on what I want to do. So that is very cool. There is no wheel in the class, and tools are limited, but that is ok. The project I have in mind are all hand built items anyway. It is good I had some background in that. As I look back on my former study I learned and was exposed to quite a bit in my college classes. I had a small introduction to ceramic as part of my Graphic Designer major. I enjoyed it to continue with additional classes outside of my required credit.

So another item checked off on my Japan bucket list.

Gathering @ Tofukuji

 

What is Tofukuji you ask? click the link. It is the main Zen temple where Myoanji is located as a sub-temple. There was just held a Komuso gathering. It was sort of low key as there were no Tengai. It was a nice event to attend for my first playing attendance to Myoanji.

Good weather, not crowded, nice after mini party with other olds school Komusos.

Since it is Komuso I am just giving it honorary mention here as a place marker and doing the full writeup on the Komuso blog for those interested.

The next day a visit to the second hand Kyudo shop was in order. Since I was in Kyoto and not too far away. I headed over to the shop. We took the Japan version of Urber. Only I went to the Kyudo shop.
The shop was open I only had one interest. I replacement Makiwara ya. I had broken mine at home and wanted another Bamboo. I found it and was surprised I had a even had a choice this time in my size. I made my score and called it a successful journey ended.

…Amituofo

…and Now for Something Completely Different

 

 

Shakuhachi Blues in the Temple Cafe

Now getting back to Japan life. There is a lot going on, it has already started a few days ago. Several band performances, Just finished one at the Sakai city Blues festival. Maybe a post about that…maybe. Up coming a performance at My SuiZen temple, Myoanji and just finished a small prayer, and visit and performance at the temple of a new friend.

Via my Komuso Sempai in Nara I made the acquaintance of another Priest Shakuhachi Player. He has a temple that is not too far from here. Just below Kobe. I go out that area from time to time, because of the Band, or Boating. Shibata Sensei’s temple runs what they call a café, once a month. Hot drinks, snacks, misc items for sale, neck massages, card telling, musical entertainment. It runs all day. From 11- 5:00. Very casual and low key.

This Priest is looking to bring more of the Shakuhachi into his Buddhist practice. He already plays at some of the temple services. He is not Zen he is of the Jodu sect. He holds formal weekly services.

I contacted him via FaceBook and made arrangements to attend the next Café, so we can do a face to Face meeting and chat. He spoke no English and my Japanese is basic and poor. However, I have nothing to lose by going and giving it my best shot to communicate. What could go wrong…

The day arrives I get directions with the help of my wife and I set off on a mini Shakuhachi adventure. I found the location rather easy and entered the Temple Yard. I was taken with the large Buddha statue. That was my first stop, bow then on to the temple. I heard voices when I enter, but I saw no one. I looked about a bit and saw through some glass and reeds people leaving a small garden. They were just on the other side of what could be a small tea room or sitting room.

I made my way to the door they were heading toward. There I met Sensei. We did the intro formalities and I was taken up stairs. There was more people than I expected there. A few sitting around a large fire pit, roasting coffee, then in another connecting room which was a large space, there were several small booth tables, food, etc out from there chairs. Next an open space which was the “stage area”, off from that a table with chairs. It was quite the place. The Sensei introduced me, then we went into another section. This was the temple “Heart”, where the ceremonies are done. We talked there for a while. I might have been asked to join now or the next ceremony, would I play?? or something. Anyway, a pray/chant, something started, a few people came. We took places at the “fish” drum/beater. Sensei explained some things, I did not understand also about following his beat.

OK we started he started chanting, then started the beat on the drumette. We followed. those who knew the words or could read them chanted along. Me I made the sound and beat the drum. It felt cool. I did not feel out-of-place, for some reason. It felt very “Native”, very basic beating this drum and chanting.

Next Sensei asked me to play. Hmm ok. I did the Tamuke offering, Fuu style. I was not bound by any “rules” on what or how to play. I was able to use a headset, which was cool. I could hear clearly what I was playing as could those in the temple hall. I dig that I could hear and so I did not think I just played.

I did not clearly know what was going. I said, I would play another tune and did something contemporary. I thought this was all part of the ” TempleCafe“. Even though I was not asked. I thought something for the Buddha, something for the folks, since I was there. Turns out I did not have that over my head.

I finished the second song and then the guy managing “the club” came in and ask would I also play in the Cafè. I thought that is what I did. Now I had used up the one non-hyukyoku I had prepared. Oh well. ON-ward, breathe…

Ok I said. We then, all in the temple hall, moved to the other section were, others sat, drank, ate, listened to the ukulele player.

I met a few other people there , one of who spoke English. I grabbed a chair and watched the show, also chatting with Sensei some. Also with the show “MC” he spoke just a little English, but we communicated. He would like me to play a song after the next act. Did I want the Ukulele player to help me? I said sure let have him and I play together. I had been thinking that for a few moments after listening to him. I felt I should have something other than “Fuu’s Tamuke” to play or any Honkyoku. Also I had done Summertime already in the Temple. Having thought I was doing the performance. Yeah, so I was only planning to do one song this time. I figured quickly to jot down a few simple cords changes on a paper and give it to the guy. Basic I/V/IV.

I said yes, we can play together…ok.

I sat through the next act. This was the Ukulele player and a woman who played an old style flute that was like a “gourd”. She was/they were pretty good.
I was up next. I was not nervous, I felt pretty relaxed during the intro…and then show time. I counted off and we started. The guy played pretty good and I tried to blend into his pattern and the changes. It went ok. The people enjoyed it, I was not that please, as it was “all just then”, birth on the spot.

It is kind of a “Mindmelt” with playing with strangers and a new piece of music. Even if it is just two cords, behaps that is more of a challenge. One reaches out with your spirit to touch another(s) and create another form, eity. This song, this vibration, and share it, giving it to humanity. It is weird, interesting amazing when one thinks about it…

I was ok with the piece. I heard a small bit of the recording. It was i the beginning, unsteady… Like a child walking. It started to find it’s balance just as the film was cut.

The people enjoyed it, it was one time vibration they experienced. So it was successful. I was asked to play one more. ehhhh,

oh snap, what am I going to play now? I thought…

Ok I fell back on Summertime. Since no one there heard it before other than Sensei. Also I never play it the same way. A little longer version with a bit more “flavor”. So it was done. People were impressed I think. Surprised for sure. Good chi was raise, so…cool

I was just pleased they enjoyed it and I did not lose face. I figured I would be asked to play that is why I brought my shakuhachi. This whole meeting was about Shakuhachi. Ok I was done. I played in the Temple for the Buddha offering and I played in the Cafè for the people. It was very Buddhist in for the benefit of society way. It was engaged, but private, sort of like doing Komuso Missionary.

I hung out for a while longer afterwards and just watched. When leaving I came across Sensei in the temple Hall with some others. He was telling them about … something to do with the shrine there. He brought out a couple of long Shakuhachi for me to look at. They were quite nice. He played a song for the couple. Amazing Grace. Japanese seem to like that song. Hmm gives me an idea for the next visit.

I put the wraps on my visit and made my way out.
I will return…Amitoufo

 

Return to Paradise…Epilogue – the good, the bad, the meh

 

Epilogue

I have been back in Japan for two weeks now. I have had really mix feelings about the trip as it all digested.

Honolulu left me kind of sad. So many homeless and poor living on the street, yet so much money all around. I had not noticed it so much when I was living there, or even on return visits. Did my eyes open more or there is just more of it…
I did get to see some examples of the Aloha spirit. Also most of the people I encounter were nice.

The visit to Hsu Yun temple was positive. Also relaxing in a different kind of way. The temple was impressive. It felt good to get some prayer time in and honor my elders. I would have like to have found a spot to just sit Zazen. They do not have a park just the temples. I could have sat there in the lower level, but I was too self-consequence at the time.

The Kyudokai people were great! I enjoyed shooting with them. If I ever go back I will take up the invite to return and shoot with them. That was fun. Nice folks, felt welcome.

As for Chozenji the main part of the visit. Hmmmm. Very mixed feelings. The instructors that I encountered were kind, friendly and helpful…The staff…hmmm…

hmmm. I had told the young woman I first met up with that I had been trying for 10 years to come there and train. I told her on the first email contact, I was interested in Kyudo, Tai Chi, Ceramics, beside the Zazen which I had experience in all of them. Then I asked if there was a shakuhachi person there as I had seen/heard shakuhachi in their pictures/video. I also played that and was interested in speaking to the teacher. I was really looking forward to practice there. To find a Sensei who did, Zen, Kyudo and Shakuhachi and spoke English was like a dream come true..

I had also told her I had a background in teaching Zazen and yet she stuck to the rule of having everyone attend the intro to meditation class before anything. Even when there was a just Zazen session I could have attended to put in part of my quota for admission to classes. This Intro class was supposed to be an hour. I received a tour of the grounds and some background on Chozenji. We talked, I thought we had a connection.  After the tour, it took her 10-15 min to explain a very few formalities to their sittings. We sat for maybe another 10-15, then we joined the main group as it started. There were two of us in the intro class, her and me…

I was told during our email conversation that after my orientation we would talk and discuss what path(s) would be available for me there. However, after orientation I was simply asked when I wanted to return and dismissed, kendo class was starting. The talk never happen, I never knew what I could do. I had to just rolled with it…

I asked to be allowed to just hang out and practice on my own for one day between classes. I was told no, by the Young manager priest. We have rules, he says. Not a good idea he says…

There is a story I heard about the founder. He had studied many Marital Arts. On one of his trips to Japan he wanted to study Hojo a form of Kendo a two person form. He asked the master for lessons. He was told, you do not have time in your three-day visit. Come back when you have three years! He requested since he had come from Hawaii to learn could he at least be shown some basics. The master agreed, bending a Japanese rule, which is rare. The story goes he learned so well and fast that in the three days he completed the training, then returned to Hawaii to add that to his other training styles. Japan is the land of sticking to the rules. However the master gave Tanouye Tenshin some slack because he had travelled far. So therefore taught him. Yet, I travelled from Japan to Hawaii to learn, I was unable to attend the classes I wanted, but would not even be given permission to practice on my own, instead of spending hours riding the bus back and forth…

Perhaps that too was a form of training, and I was/am too young to understand…

Maybe it was the three times asking test and I failed…

I upon my return to Japan I wrote a thank you letter to the person I contacted at first. I thanked her for allowing me to visit. I said, although I was sad I could not get the training I wanted or speak with the person I wanted, I still learned somethings. Even some were indirectly that I could relate to my Shakuhachi. I was grateful for that experience. I said also appreciated the contact I had with certain Sensei(s) even though limited. I then asked a question about why at that school they sit with their hands in a certain position, holding the left thumb with the right hand. Which is completely different from other Buddhist hand positions, I have encountered. I also apologized for any disharmony I may have cause unintentionally. This was almost two weeks ago, I have received no reply…

No replies to polite sincere questions always irks me…

One of their motto’s is “Kiai first” where does manners come in?

It is common practice in the Buddhist community at least and/or perhaps more so in Japan when someone Gassho bows to you, the bow is returned. Even just a head nod. This is a Renzai Japanese Buddhist Sect, I did not receive any such respect from the Young Priest who seemed to be acting head Priest or maybe just some type of managing staff priest. Certainly not an elder. Ok, perhaps it was just a cultural thing. Once he just walked by like I was invisible, after I bowed…rude. Although a few of the young monks in training there did return the gesture. So what’s the deal…

The more I reflect on these things, as I also reflect on the lessons learned, the more irked and saddened I become. Would I return…hmmm

That maybe a moot point, once/if they ever come across and read my blog. I may not be allowed back…LoL, banned for life. I have gotten in hot water before for speaking my mind on my blog. LoL. Oh well, my experience, my thoughts, my truth, my blog.

If I lived on the island yes, it is the place to go for Zen and Budo training, more so since the fee is by donation. The donation is not pushed at all, one has to ask about making a donation. That is admirable and unusual. They get points for that. It is mostly all about sharing their path, more points. People can volunteer work effort as well as money.

Would I recommend it…if one is coming to Honolulu and has the interest in having that experience, Yes. In fact I already have to an old friend.

If one is going to fly there with the solo purpose of training there, NO…
but that is depending…on your background and desires.
Just because it was lacking for me does not mean it will be for someone else.

Would I return there, doubtful, unless I have another reason to be on Honolulu, NO!

If I could return and do a sesshin with the base of actual Kyudo and/or Tai Chi, as the focus of the marital training, Yes!
However their Tai Chi is not a Martial Art base style. So that will not happen. Their Kyudo, is not Kyudo any more. I was told they still do Kyudo, but that is not often. A seminar maybe 2 times a year.

Also a week of a diet filled with hot dogs, other meat, and junk food for substance does not appeal to my basic Buddhist Philosophy. Or my personal “Tao”…

The philosophy of everything, all arts, everything is Zen, there is no duality between movement Zen and sitting Zen. All is Zen, Zen is both mind and body this Philosophy at Chozenji is pure and good.

However it stops are what you put into the body???
At Sonoma Mtn Zen Center they grow their own veggies. The week of Kyudo Sisshen/Shugyo spent there was great.

I had before going there some dream of this being a place I could go to train advance levels of Kyudo! Then finding out there was also a shakuhachi master, who did kyudo. I thought gold mine. Zen training, Kyudo and Shakuhachi in English, a pot of gold. The ceramics, Tai Chi and Aikido were icing. I was disappointed with the truth/reality. However truth is sometimes, perhaps many times like that…Disappointing! Truth is truth, regardless of our perception or vision or desire of it. It is what it is, and our perception of it gets shattered, is our suffering. However I would still recommend the experience to a beginner who lives on the Island.

 

I am currently reading a book I purchased there at Chozenji. I will be near finished when I post this. It is called Ten Shin Myo. It is basically the story of Zen Master Tanouye Tenshin and the development of Chozenji. I believe at one time Chozenji was a wonderful place to make the pilgrimage to for Zen and Budo training in America. In a way it still is, as it is a unique place. One should hold no vision of what it is or should be. A blank sheet, a mound of clay. Be water going into that place.

However for me, from my brief visit there, it is a ghost, a shadow of what it once was…or could be. However to be fair my involvement was sadly limited. Perhaps if I was able to have more contact with some of the elders I would have a different opinion. There is another Chozenji it is in Wisconsin. I have no feeling, no draw to there, so for me to go there seeking training is worthless. However perhaps for another it will be enlightening. I wonder about their Kyudo though. To me Hawaii had a special draw. The Chi of the Island, the native people are special…

Another thing I was drawn to about Chozenji is the founder Tanouye Tenshin. I heard great things about him. A native Hawaiian, a man of color. A Zen Master of color, who established a Zen society and did wonderful things. Like my late Abbot also a man of Color, of Native American and Mexican blood. I am finishing up reading Tanouye Tenshin story and the story of Chozenji. Wow, a musician, a healer, a Zen master, a visionary, respected by many and all he encountered. I read some about him in the Kyudo book. One Arrow, One Life. I wanted to experience some Kyudo at this placed called Chozenji. Kyudo beyond belts and rank, with focus on the Zen aspect.

I started to re-read the book that got me interested in Chozenji, “One Arrow, One Life”. Yeah, sad how it has changed so much since then, the master Passed away, a Wonderful Kyudojo going to waste. There is something I find interesting…the current head of the Archery has a background in Kyudo, but I was told he prefers shooting multiple arrows in the time it takes to shoot a couple of kyudo arrows. More is better, however this “head” is also a shakuhachi teacher , and tells his students, at least one I spoke to , that one can spend thier whole life playing just one note to get it right. Shakuhachi is a Zen tool not an musical instrument. Hmmm So how is it different with Kyudo and The philosophy One Arrow, one Life…SuiZen: One note, Enlightenment…

Sigh…

A friend of mine also visited Chozenji, he had a week of intensive training. He is a Kyudoka, priest and Karateka. His experience was different, and this was many years in the past under different leaders and teachers. Things change it the way of life.

Chozenji Hawaii, If one is there, or going there to Honolulu it is worth the effort to visit, take a few classes, sit with them to form your own opinion. Mine is neither fully positive nor negative. I am of both minds.  Zen is about finding one’s own “understanding ” of truth, not blindly accepting another’s view, vision, understanding. Not Buddha’s, not mine. Buddha said question everything and find your own answer. One must experience truth to fully understand it.

All of this is just my opinion and perhaps is just full of broken illusions and I am still grasping attachments which are shadows. Silly me, perhaps I need a smack…

Amituofo

Return to Paradise…finally Kyudo

Once again, I just killed time in the hotel. A little Tv, and some napping, well, a lot sleeping. I was surprised at how much napping. I think I went out and did a little shopping for some misc stuff. Nothing important at all, it was just a kicking back day. Waiting to go to visit the Hawaii Kyudokai.

Finally, the time came and I set out again on the bus. Bus rides give one the real view of the locals, not the well off, or the very comfortable. The bus has everyday people. The Kyudokai was located in the Soto mission. I am not sure if it was a Soto Zen temple or just what it was, maybe just some kind of school, or academy just named Soto.
Anyway, I found the place with not too much effort. The Kyudo Kai club was meeting in the basement of the community center. When I entered I was approached by a couple of people. It took me a while to explain who I was and who I had spoken too. I dug up the email, Someone named “Ai” via email and an introduction through other Kyudo friends. I was told by the elder there I could change and join the group.

I was told early by the person I had spoken with via email that there was a special second part of a beginners class being held that night. I would not get to shoot the indoor distance range they had set up most likely, but I could use the Makiwara! Ok, I figured it was better than nothing. More so since the shooting at ChoZenji seems unlikely, with the Master out of town and them really doing western archery. So, while I was changing I found out the person I had spoken with was a girl. A very energetic young lady I was told, who arrived while I was changing. When I came out we met. She was Japanese, and very nice, a happy sort of person. We exchanged greetings and I also spoke with another Japanese lady and some guy. People were nice, I was asked by a couple of people if I had shot before. I simply said yes in Japan, I still practice there. Ohh, was their surprise.

Class started we lined up and I was pleased and surprised to find they did a few minutes of meditation before shooting. Ahhh, it was like the old days back shooting with the Shibata group and Rick Beal Sensei’s group. I liked it. Next, there were announcements, I was one of them. A visitor from Japan, would I do a demo? Ehhhhhh! Not expecting that, reluctantly I said ok.

Then more talking and answering questions which were submitted from the newbies. Ai-Chan was a good leader, she explained things well and very down to earth. I found out later she was not a Renshi, which I thought but a Yondan. The only Sensei was the elder I spoke with when entering. He though was not a Renshi with the Federation. So I am not sure where he learned. Ai-Chan I found out later from her learned in Japan, she was only in Hawaii for about 6 years. The same amount of time I had been in Japan. Sort of we traded places We laughed about that later as she gave me a ride back to the hotel.

Ok, so the explaining went on, finally another Japanese woman said to Ai-Chan it was getting late they should start the training…Ai-chan was energetic about talking.

 

However first the seniors there were going to shoot for the new folks, a demo. I was asked to shoot with Ai-Chan. Hmmmm ok. We shot last after the first group of three. I did sadly I thought. Form-wise I was ok, but my first time there… I was fairly off target, also our Tai Kai was not together. It did not matter as it was somewhat casual, and the new folks knew nothing anyway.
After that, they started to train the new people, as it turned out there was so many I did not have a bow to use the Makiwara. I Just sort of missed out, the theme mostly for the trip it seemed.

Having no bow, I just stayed off to the side in front of the mirror and practice with my imaginary Yumi. Watching my shoulders. Feeling my alignment, making the best of the time…yup, rolling with it!

Then the class was over.  A few people who had not earlier came over and asked me questions. Curious about me and Japan and how that happened. Friendly sort of stuff. Like I get in Japan but the reverse. I replied as we cleaned up to close for the night. I changed and meet up with a few of the old members in the parking lot. I was getting a ride to the hotel by Ai-Chan and we all just chatted in the lot. I was invited over for shooting at one of the member’s private dojo on Sunday. Cool, I thought, finally I can get some shooting in. I was not going to get the help with corrections I wanted but,  I would get to hang out and shoot. That was the next best thing.

So finally I was able to return to the hotel feeling pretty good about the trip. So far it had been meh and fairly disappointing. The training at Chozen was not what I had planned, or that interesting, interesting , but not that interesting. So far nothing of what I was hoping for. I would not go back on Friday. There was a Kendo class, which had no real interest in for a one-time thing and another 45 min Zazen. I did not need an Hour plus ride in both directions, to do Zazen, which I could do at the hotel.

So Friday I just spent the day at the hotel.

That evening went out with my wife to a restaurant and did the happy hour thing with her. The PuPu ( small meal, snacks) there was pretty good, we enjoyed those with a drink.

So day 4 and 5 were Pau ( Done/finished in Hawaiian).

Return to Paradise…getting real on day three


Return to Paradise…getting real on day three

I killed time on the third day. Really do not even recall what I did, besides sleep, maybe a little shopping. Ahh we/ I move to another hotel where we would stay the rest of the trip. We had a nice view this time. Part view of the ocean overlooking the marina an park, plus the city. The marina /ocean view made me nostalgic for my Waterworld days. Sigh. I have a friend who lives here in Hawaii and has a sailing business, the boat I believe is docked in this marina. However, just like several of the other bad timing bummers with this trip, he is on vacation in Greece! So no boat ride for me. Sigh, oh well. More to roll with.
So back to ChoZenji for the second day. I made the trip there with no problem. I did not arrive as early but still within good time. This time I sat in the community room with a few other before class and got to speak briefly with a few people there. I was told I could join the class session if I wanted to after the sitting. It was called Zen and Aloha. I did not really know what it was about, but it was not something I had originally planned on attending. However, since I had my whole plan disrupted, I figured ok why not join and experience what the universe was giving me. Then it was time to do Zazen. I did my entry as I should and took a seat. I did have a little help with something or another by an older local man. Older as in about my age and experienced there at the Zen Center. Then we sat. I received a bit of straightening shortly after sitting, but not like the first time. It was not as bad this time, the long sit. However, it was going to be a long session. I was told beforehand, the session would be the standard 45 min, then some breathing drills, then another sitting session! Then whatever the class session stuff was. I was not really looking forward to 1.5 hr Zazen but, it was training so I ready my mind to deal with it! 
After the first sitting, we walked around, not slowly and mindfully like with the Soto group I practiced with before. This time starting slowly then speeding up and staying close-ranked. It was sort of weird I thought. However, I went with it. I found out later from the older guy, named Les, this is the Rinzai way. Also changing direction. Start slow for those whose legs are not quite there yet. Then the speed up close file.  followed by another 45 min sitting. Legs hurt, but not too bad. I could cope. 
One surprise about this sitting was as we started, someone started playing Shakuhachi. Wow, I had seen this on the floor earlier in the community room, but I not inquire about it. It was petty good playing. It was not a tune I had heard and did not sound quite like an Honkyoku. It went on for the full 45 min we sat. I figured it was something else made up by the Shakuhachi master there, or the person playing was improvising. It was pleasant to listen to that and do Zazen. I asked the young head priest later as I was leaving if that was him. Yes he said, I gave him the thumbs up.
Next started the class, we did some seated breathing drills, some with making vowels sounds. Basically while seated we raised one hand then the other in a half circle. Sometimes silent, sometimes with making vowel sounds, or a hmmmm. Totally unlike any Chi Gong, I had experienced. I did not really feel anything other than a little weird. Not from being self-conscious about the drill, but that felt no Chi change.

Next, we stood in a circle held hands and did some Hawaiian call and response chanting. After that we sat and did introductions around, who was who, was who, your name, where do you consider yourself from, and why are you here. That was sort of interesting, where do you consider yourself from, sort of like what was your face before you were born type of question when you thought about it. After I did my part in the circle sharing we did some movement drills, is the best way to describe it. Moving around the room in a line, not in a line, avoiding someone else moving around the room with their eyes closed and try not to hit them. It was explained as a drill in awareness. Like moving through your life, trying to get somewhere, but needing to avoid some random item, issue, person, a thing. Needing to be aware of it and that it is coming, but continue to move forward.

The last section of the class the leader asked about who wanted to do some Tai Chi or do some chanting. I wanted the Tai Chi, but the group wanted the chanting. So I remained quiet and went with the flow to learn, experience something new and different. I have never been big of chanting. Maybe to self-conscious, weird for a person who sings in a band. Anyway, we sat in a circle. We were given a book of chants. A bit was discussed about the nature of the chant. It was not about the words, in some cases, the words have been lost. It is about the sound, the vibe. The body as a sound chamber. The same as what is being done playing Shakuhachi as SuiZen. It is not the music it is the sound, the vibe.
We chatted for a while with the leader banging the fish for the timing. It was interesting, more so now that I am thinking back on it.
We ended the session with another Hawaiian hand-holding group call and answer chant.

The class session name “Zen and Aloha Spirit” makes sense now. It was not what I was looking for, but I got something out of it. I learned something, which was part of the point of going to this Hawaiian pilgrimage.

“Sometimes times one learns what they need, not want they want.”…Brown Buddha

…Amituofo

 

Return to Paradise…the Pilgrimage so far


Return to Paradise…the pilgrimage so far

 
Alohaaaa. Made it back to the islands. It was a loooonnnnngg trip. Yuk! The first day was miserable! 8 hour flight. That was not so bad, tiring, but smooth and faster than planned. We had a good tail wind I am guessing. We arrived 1.5 hours ahead of time, so really only 7 plus hours of flight. Next off to the hotel. The shuttle was way more expensive than planned or told in the guide book! Once at the hotel at 8:00am we had to wait until 3:00pm to check in. Yuk yuk yuk! We went to IHOP for breakfast! Another price shock!! Breakfast at IHOP use to be fairly cheap, maybe still is on the mainland. Not, not, not in Hawaii! More pricing shock! I was also surprised, hmmm forgot how fat Americans can be! Most of those in IHOP were as big as the native Hawaiians and Samoans here! Wow!
 
Back to the hotel afterward to sit in the lobby for the rest of the day! I was not in a good mood! Cranky! We had left our bags at the check-in in the parking lot. I had no books, no iPad, no internet! I just sat! Not the Zazen type of just sitting. I did not use the time wisely. I should have just went into a Zanzen state of mind. That would have been wiser than the irked just sitting state. Oh well… I did manage to nap a bit. I did not want to walk around the area, we were in tourist land, and I had no interest, so I just sat, breathed, sat, settled, breathed… not a happy camper. Finally decided even if it was a hassle to do for the people at the storage. I would get my hand carry bag, with my books, I could at least read. I got my bag with no hassle for them or me, and when I returned to the lobby, the room was ready! 2:00 pm …Sigh.
 
The room was ok, it was a free room due to the points my wife had, so could not complain. Noisy street view. However, free is free! Only there for two days so….oh well, roll with it. We Settled in.
 
Finally ChoZenji 
 
The next day after chilling most of the day. I located how I was to get to ChoZenji and took the bus. It was to be an over an hour ride by bus. It was different riding the bus with the locals, all kinds, all kinds, imported and domestic! Some interesting, some scary looking. Public Trans people are the same all over the world. I rode to the end of the line with the bus on the route I had. Then I had to walk about 15 min into a valley to get to the ChoZenji temple. I was early.
 
The person I had been in communication with came out to meet me. She had me fill out some form and was told I could just walk around and hang out for a while. She said she would change and come out to find me. I was told a little about the location and the small hill which was sort of the center of the grounds of two acres. It was deemed a power spot by local spiritualists!
 
I walked a bit up the hill to feel the vibe and take in the view. I took a few pictures and looked at a few of the statues. My guide came shortly and she took me around the grounds and filled me in on the history of the place and the founders. It was impressive the backgrounds of them. I was shown the shrines, the house built for former Abbot, told the story of the peace bell, and the Chinese fat monk statue. Then I was taken to a small meditation building. I was surprised I was the only one. I was told the formalities of their style of meditation. We chatted a bit then did meditation. I was surprised when she stopped us, as I was expecting 45 min but we stopped early, really only about 15 min. I was told we would now go to the main hall and join the group there. Ohhh I thought!
 
Over to the main hall, they were just finishing the setup. There were about 15 people, myself and another woman were new. The other woman said this was her second time, I heard her say when we were getting the lineup to enter the hall. She did not want to be first in line. So then we entered, bowed and seated ourselves with the formalities.
 
My meditation is usually done with eyes open, this was done with eyes partly opened. I was told so to be aware of one’s surroundings but still not be attached to them. Not sitting facing the wall, but still the half-closed eyes sitting in a square in front of a small Altar and the leader of the session.
The room grew dark as time passed, the wind blew, it was “interesting”, aware, not attached, alert, not attached. Then the lead person came around. My guide bent over and receive the stick smack. Hmmm I disliked that, but figured unless I asked I would not get hit. I was told later another time and session that it could be a choice or not. When it was not it should be viewed as an act of compassion for various reasons. The lead came in front of me, then walked behind me, then back in front of me. He adjusted my position, placed the stick behind me for alignment, adjust me more, then left. I was now much straighter, and not comfortable, but correct. So I stayed still. I was told earlier once in a position they do not move. That is part of the training. Very Japanese. In the Chinese style, if you need to adjust yourself one does so, but in a manner not to disturb the others. So I forced myself to be still, go beyond the pain, discomfort, whatever. I knew that stuff already. Ignore the itch, the loss of feeling in legs, pain in the back…become one with stillness.
It was interesting to sit with eyes open, yet lose sight of anything, watching it fade into nothingness, and snap back when I thought of it. The wind blew, the building spoke with the wind, the trees joined the song, as the rain fell. Then finally the bell, the clappers sounded and it was over. I made it. For me, it was an hour sitting, the other 45 min added to the first 15 at the other smaller Zendo. I was not sure if my leg would allow me to stand. I did so without falling, a success. I notice another person limp as we returned the mats to the stacking place.
 
The group readied the area for the Kendo class. I would not be allowed to join any classes until after my second meditation session. I was asked when I wanted to return. I said I would return tomorrow and stepped out into the night.
 
I walked back down the hill to the bus stop. It was dark and quiet. After a while, a woman comes and sits on the bench with me. She speaks, hello and then goes into her own world. I could hear her talking to herself as she wrote on a piece of paper. Hmmmm. Another one who talks to herself aloud I thought. Jheeze. She talks and writes…I ignore her.
Then it starts raining again. Oh crap, oh well. I think nothing I can do about this, other than get wet. There was a big tree across the street but no leaves hardly. The woman opens an umbrella from somewhere and slides over next to me so I am covered also. The Aloha spirit! I thank her, after a moment she says you can hold it, so I did and she returns to writing and talking. Now I can see what she is writing, it is not something readable. It was also all over the place, sideways, between lines. Totally weird! I thought hmmm oh well. I also notice that the umbrella is falling apart, spokes are broken in places. Hmmmm, oh well, just be alert, I thought. The rain stopped after a while and the bus arrived. She discarded the umbrella and boarded the bus with me and took a seat.
 
The bus, for the most part, was empty. One other person who was chatting with the driver a regular local. I made it to my stop and I got off the bus, as did the umbrella woman. We both were transferring, but she went across the street to take another bus. I waited on the opposite side since I was going in another direction.
I found my bus stop and waited. Another woman I had passed while looking for the stop was there. She was dressed lightly. She did not look so homeless like the last woman, but still for sure not uptown. She wore a dress/skirt and a shoulderless top. The wind picks up and the rain starts again. This time, we are under a covered bus stop. Still, with the wind, we felt the rain. After a short while, another woman comes up. This one is dressed casual “normal”. The wind picks up and so does the rain. The woman in the light dress reacts to the wind and rain, the new woman, who has an umbrella, looks at me and figures out we are not together and holds the umbrella in front of the other woman to shield her somewhat from the elements. She thanks her and says, it was nice when I left the house!
 
About 10 minutes later the bus arrives and we all board and ride off into the night to our different destinations. Ships passing in the night…on the same sea but different courses…Amituofo
 
 
 
Next return to ChoZenji, “the adventure” day three.
 

弓道 – Sometimes you are the bird…

…sometimes you are the statue!

There was a large Kyudo Tai Kai (tournament) this past weekend. There were several dojo attending. It was cold, brrr. I had been out the day before doing Komuso stuff in Nara. I played it smart and after much of the day spent walking, I took a hot bath and went to bed fairly early. I needed to be at the Kyudojo by 8:30 am. This meant getting up at 5:00 am. Zazen, stretch, breakfast, gather my stuff and walk to the train. it was a little over an hour ride. It was also raining and very windy before I left. The rain stopped but the wind did not. that kept up most of the day as did the cold!

I arrived at the dojo in plenty of time. I got changed and went out to see who was there that I had not seen in the changing room. There were maybe 8- 12 of us from Kishiswada. Not a big turn out but ok. we settled in and the header gave instructions. I had no idea what was being said I just figured I would roll with as always.

There was the big group lineup and everyone took a spot with their group. Announcements were made, etc, etc. and we got started. The best shooters went first. I was not in that group. After a bit, I figured out there were maybe 6 rounds for each school. I mostly just hung out, milled about, watched took a few pictures and hung out by the heater, a popular spot for the day.

Finally, it was my turn. I settled myself and got in line. I was in the middle. That was good because I need to see what others are doing, I like those in charge knew that. Ok, we went on the floor. that was smooth. then the shots. Four arrows, I miss three and hit the last. sigh, oh well. At least I got one. I am checking out the hit rate afterward. someone else only got 1, several got only two, even the Kaicho got only one on his turn. So I did not feel so bad. One more group then a lunch break. I went with my group to gather arrows, I knew that much from other Tai Kai it is something one does.

I sat in the changing room for lunch, along with several others. It was warm there, I was not about to go elsewhere. Most of my group ate somewhere else together. Which was fine with me, I was warm, I had a comfortable seat. I was not about to move on my own choice.

lunch was over then another round started. Again I got a middle spot in near the last round. this time I got a big zero hits. I felt bad, not like we as a group were doing all that great but still not even one hit was a poor showing. Hmm, need to rethink about the next shinsa. Not feeling like I will be ready. More training, more waiting.
Once I finished shooting a classmate says something as I was getting ready to go get arrows. I had no idea what she was talking about. I finally figured out I was being told to wait I needed to shoot again for some reason, this time only two arrows. Again another miss. However even though we took out two arrows, we only got to shot one, then we were finished. This was my one really feeling weird moment. I was so lost in thought of hitting my second arrow, that I did not notice no one else had knocked their second arrow, only me. I had to backtrack as everyone else was just standing there in ready position…oops. I have no idea what that was about. I did notice that one of the sensei clapped afterward even though we/I missed. So it was over for the most part. I gather my stuff to leave, hung out by the heater and clapped for my team-mates. Another round for others, then the big lineup. My goal for myself today was to support my school and examine myself. As far as that goes I was successful. As far as hitting, fail! It is interesting the more I try to do well, the worst I get. The desire factor makes a big deal. Like it is said, when you sit to become enlightened you go further away. Shooting for the prize all your skill fails. One needs to sit with no goals, shoot with no care. I did a lot better the day before when just practicing. I was back to 50% hits. I thought I had figured out a major issue I was having …nope. Oh well, back to training, or just shooting for fun. Shooting to Shoot, sitting to sit. no mind, no goals, just sitting, just shooting. Easy to say, hard to do.Amitoufo

up coming training in paradise.

Back to the tunes


Back to the tunes…

I kind of lost my place in my blog tales, near as I can figure the last thing was the Jazz band jam. Ok so yeah. I had the Shakuhachi thing at Shintannoji. I wrote about it on the Komuso blog. A brief recap here. Shintennojiis considered the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan, I was invited once again to join the memorial concert and play a song on the Shakuhachi. This is my second year doing this. It is both a big deal and nothing. I was the only “gaijin” in attendance. This is event is something that has been going on for many many years. Once again I was the first one to perform. I figured out later it was because I was the new kid on the block. It went well. I played a different length Shakuhachi this time. The one I use for modern music, because I like the deeper sound than my 1.8 standard size. It went well. I did not make any noticeable mess ups and was only somewhat nervous. A new music friend who had contacted me on-line came over to me meet and listen. She was interested in doing some music collaborations for YouTube. We went for coffee afterwards. We came across a place where there was an open mic session going on. As it turns out one person there knew me and mentioned to the club owner I was a Shakuhachi player. I was pretty surprised that he knew that as I thought this person had only seen me play bass.
Next up was another Jam session at Chicago Rock. I got in touch with the keyboard player from m band. We meet up at the club. I had planned this time to do a blues song on the Shakuhachi. The same one I did with the Jazz band. This time I was more prepared to deal with the sound issues I had before. At first, I was going to start with the group play with me on the Shakuhachi then switch at a certain point and play the bass. However, at the last moment, I changed my mind. Since I had the music chart written out I figured I would let someone else play the bass. I would just focus on the Shakuhachi and singing, maybe do a little harp depending on how it was going.
I did a couple of songs playing bass and singing, they went ok as expected. My last turn up on the mic, I chose to just play Shakuhachi. As usual, people were surprised when I bought it out. I had the bass player from the last group play bass and my friend on Keyboard plus a couple of guitar players. We started. It went well. It was a bit rough but that is to be expected at a Jam with no rehearsal and a new song for everyone, plus a new arrangement. I had no real problems with the sound this time. It was not great but I could hear myself and others could hear me. The middle section did not go as nice as I wanted but, as I said expected. However, overall it went ok. There was no point I felt embarrassed. So that was a win. I asked a couple of people afterward online what they thought all said it was good. So I have the confidence now to continue. I have figured out the getting the sound out issue, so I can move forward. Also now I am getting established as a Shakuhachi blues player, something rare on the blues world. I am getting to do something a little different, in a place where everything is the same.
The band has a concert coming up at the end of April. A big blues festival. Last year I played solo on keys and Shakuhachi. This year the new band is enrolled. I will be doing two songs with them. The guitar player has no nite a second guitarist to sit in with us. That will work out fine. I will have one of them play bass whilst I play only Shakuhachi and sing. I had thought of doing the opening with Shakuhachi then switch up midway to playing bass. This way will be better. We have two practice sessions, before the concert so there will be time to work out the rough spots in the tempo change. It should go over good and be unique and memorable if we can pull it off. Diffinetly something no other band will be doing, I want that.