Blowing Zen the New Year


Blowing Zen the New Year…

 
It was cold, it was raining, it was not how I like to start out on a mission, trip, Journey, whatever. However, nothing to do but do it. The rain did not last much, just some light stuff that went away I was grateful and prepared. I had plans for the day, when it was early, Tai Chi, Indian lunch, then to the Society Shakuhachi session. I had this plan the other day, now like then it did not work out. I just went to the Shakuhachi gathering and even then I was late. Not a big deal, but there I was. My lateness was enhanced by stopping to buy food to bring in and one of the shops insisted on wrapping the purchase. sigh, ok, I sat, I waited, I drank tea. It was finally ready. Yeah, it was full on Japanese wrapping, very nice. A bit much for just the guys, but one rolls with it. If my language skills were better I would have explained the wrapping was not needed.
 
Ok, after another quick and simple food stop, I trucked on over to the Shaku Dojo, the few Sempais that were there had already started of course. I did my happy New Year greetings and put the food on the table, amongst a bunch of newly finished Shakuhachi from Oota Sensei. Some looked interesting with a different root end. I mentioned that it was shaped the same as the lotus bud, which is on the temple in Angor Wat. This had the same shape as a lotus bud, not a club. I was thinking when I saw it, it would be a cool Buddhist Symbolic Shaku for a Komuso.
After settling in a bit, I was passed one of the new shakuhachi to play. It was very nice. Easy to play and nice sound, not as shrill as I was expecting from a 1.8. There was some chatting from Oota Sensei if I wanted one or what size did I like, something. I did not quite get but was told he would make one for me if I wanted one. I do not recall if I said yes or it was interpreted as yes… I think one is being made for me. In ‘D”. I do not really need another Shakuhachi, I guess need is subjective. If it happens, it is supposed to, if not…
 

Meanwhile, everyone is getting settled. The main Sensei is there today. Shimura Sensei, I had heard about him before that he was going to start coming again. I meet him once at Myoanji. He is the official leader of the group. I found out later he is a Professor @ Osaka University of Arts he teaches the only class in traditional Japanese music or something like that. I also found out he is a Komuso and a noted performer. This guy is the real deal!! What good fortune to be in his group. He sent me a picture later.

I have gotten an idea to put some questions to the group about Shakuhachi and Komuso. That could be an interesting post. There is a mix in the group, I believe of Philosophy types. One day we had a short talk on Spirit vs Technique in playing over some food and sake!

I had brought along my extra flutes today. The 2.0 and the 2.5 made by Oota Sensei, but also the “bell” the plastic bamboo hybrid for the guys to look at. There was only mild interest as I expected. Only a couple blew the Bell. Shimura Sensei took the most interest, he took pictures, looked inside, etc etc. when he played it he said musugashi, meaning difficult, or perhaps something else as well. He has a doctorate in Shakuhachi Research and quite a personal collection I hear. So naturally, he would take an interest in the new kid on the block. I did not “pick up” that he was overly impressed though. This is a long flute Ryu, so the 1.8 is not the choice tool. Kishi Sensei was looking at it more from a good for a student level, whereas Shimura Sensei was thinking from a performer level. I am guessing this only. Seems logical, life is perspective.

Back to the story… I was surprised to see the 1.7’s or whatever had been on the table when I arrived. Oliver was picking up one for a new student of his from China.

 
Ok, so we played through a few songs and listened to a recording of songs some “Master” was playing, ( maybe their former Sensei) then we played the song. I have the sheet music in front of me and I can, for the most part read and play along. But something is sounding funny today! Something is weird, very weird. I am playing with the same size Shakuhachi as everyone else but mine is sounding different, not in key. I am thinking must be my angle, so I try to adjust, but nope no change. This really throws me off when playing along with the group. So I stop trying to read the chart to follow. I had to transpose whilst playing, I watched the Sensei’s fingers. So I just listened and played along that way. There were enough others and slack in the timing, that I could sort-of follow along, done softly. It was sort of like doing a Musical Tai Chi Push Hands drill, or maybe a Sticky Hands drill. The musician in me helped again, maybe some of the Kung fu Shifu. Otherwise, I would have been totally lost. Yet still a couple of times I was shown where the group was at, in order to rejoin. 
 
Ok, we had petty much gone through everything, and Oota Sensei says it is my turn to choose something. So I am thinking this is where I suppose to show if I am making improvements on Cho Shi and I will play solo. It is time for the grasshopper’s lesson. So I wanted to try out playing the 2.0 on this song, for a change. I can hit all the notes on it, but not the larger flute. As I am about to play everyone else does also. Ehhh, I say, everyone is playing? Yes! Ohh! So I am thinking this will be not good because I am using a different key flute. Yet for some reason, I did not change flutes. However, slap me down and call me Shirley, it sounds right. We where all in tune now. I am thinking, ehhhhh??? Oh well, I rolled with it. So we finished the song, no comments, so I guess I did not screw up. oK, I guess it is time for me to pick another song now to work on. Maybe the other version of Cho Shi. Yamoto.

About now we start misc stuff and again someone plays something. Then I hear Fuu-San play something your style. Ehhhhh! Again I am surprised. hmmmmm, Ok, I have been thinking about doing a Jazzy “Summertime” on the 2.0 it is my performance flute. Even though, Kishi Sensei thinks it is junk and will give me bad habits if I play it. I like it. It is in tune for playing modern music, it looks funky cool. so I gave it a shot. It went well. I was pleased. My next performance of the song I will use that flute and not the short one. Also, people end up with more than one instrument, when playing for a while. I saw one famous woman on FB that had her collection up. Maybe more than 20! She said different sounds, different feeling, emotion when playing Honkyuko. She is a pro, as a musician and teacher, I understand what she was saying. I have been using restraint with my gathering of instruments. Many Bass players and guitarist have many several and are not even collectors. Anyway Yeah, I use restraint and not having money to throw around also helps maintain the will power and discipline. I digress…

After another song that, pretty much was a wrap for the practice session. Out came the food and drinks and we relaxed and hung out for a while before heading off into the night to go home. We walked not quite so steady after the drinks, well maybe it was mostly me. Because I have not been drinking and I kept getting my glass filled. Three of us took the fast train back to south Osaka and for a change, I did not have to go the furthest.

 

 

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弓道 – The path continues

弓道 – The path continues…


It was a cold day. It had been so for the last few days. My plan was to just deal with it an go to the dojo. I had not any real shooting time since before the New Year. I had a few days in at the home base Makiwara. Things felt more common more comfortable. I guess I am getting used to pushing some part like my shoulder to the extreme, down or/and back, something. Yamashita sensei had told me something about the shoulders being forced back/down, gave them stability as part of the body within hanara.
 
Another thing I am still working with but some headway. When doing Kung Fu our balance is more centralized when in a stance. More towards the center of the foot, slightly back on some stances. When in Kai, the body, the center is different. Even though expanding up and out (Nobei), it is also down. The down balance point is set more toward the toes.
 
I had plans of doing a Shaolin practice session, go to lunch at the Indian place I like then go to Kyudo. Well, I did do the Kyudo part…
 
When I arrived there were just a couple of people there, and they were packing to leave. So good timing on my part. I got lucky. The dojo was cold cold cold. Since everyone was leaving I opted not to change fully. Just my dogi top. It was nice to have the place to myself again.one everyone left, I put on my knit cap, that helped. Having, bald head at a time like this was not fun. Yeah, I could have just done it as training, but why put myself through that now!?
 
I stretched a little then got on the Makiwara. I returned to using the Bamboo Yumi at the dojo since I will only be coming in once a week now that I am not working. I will shoot at home with the Hybrid bamboo Yumi. I can check my distance self when I come into the dojo. We’ll see how that works out. I will not be testing again until Summer. I think the summer exam will be at my first Dojo, maybe that will be lucky for me. Maybe the Master’s spirit will help me! The March exam is just a couple of months away. I am not there yet. We have hopes of going to Hawaii this spring. One of the many training plans I have while there is to visit the Hawaii Kyudo Kai and have someone guide me in English just in case I am missing some pointer. I have already been in contact with them and an expected. I had also planned to visit ChouZen-Ji a Zen temple in Hawaii that has part of their teachings the practice of Kyudo. However, that has been evolved into “Zen Archery”. This temple’s philosophy has always had a big merger with doing Kyudo. They are one of those schools that value the “art” more than the rank, there are no ranks. However, now the temple uses Western Bows in their Zen Archery program. Oh well. I will still go since my interest is really in the philosophy of their style not so much the mechanics. Also the sensei teaching this Zen Archery is also a Shakuhachi sensei and a Roshi with the Rinzai order there. It should be interesting speaking with him. Hopefully, my wife can get her visa on time. so we can go. What an ordeal that has been. However, that is another story…
 
Meanwhile, back to the dojo, I digress…
I go onto the floor for my first shot, I did not give it much thought, other than to cover the points when I shot. After that shot, it occurred to me it was also my first shot of the year and Hit. I took it as a good sign. Then it was hit and miss for the rest of the session. I did end up with a 50% hit rate, so that was good. Maintaining that and improving is the thing, but for now, 50% and ending with a hit of two in a row. It was starting off a Happy New Year.
 

The piglet session ….2019

 

The first Kobe Jam session… 2019

 
Wow, seems like not that long ago it was 1999, my life was completely different but kind of the same. Now 2019, I was invited to a new year jam session, by a friend. The first musician I met when I arrived in Japan and was just stepping out. This was out in Kobe area. Which was where originally I would have liked to live. I’d not know then as I do now it is a very active music scene. I would have more paying gigs if I lived there and Kung Fu students. But, the cost! 
 
Anyway, the first Jam of the new year was held in a Kobe area music studio, I went to last year, it was crowded. A good mix of gaijin and natives. This year a little fewer people, still a bunch, but more manageable size. Still, there was food, and a lot of drinks and stuff. Some were already made, some was being made on the spot. This year the Stage was half the room, instead of squeezing the band in a corner so much. There were about 20 people there when I arrived.
Things were already going. It was different music and people than I expected. I hooked up with a few old peeps of mine. We went and chatted a bit and I slowly worked my way into the scene. I was called for next up to go live. It was a good thing I got the warning, it took me a while to get unpacked to play. I had planned on staying the night so I was really packed, along with stuff for the party, all strapped on a cart. Easier than lugging it all on my back and shoulders.
 
I saw a few more people who I knew as I made ready. I played along with the band to warm up on my harp. I kept getting pushed to go up and join, but no, I did not want to, not yet. Ok next up my turn. What had been before was sort of a rock blues. Then there were four of us, picked, we set up. We never played together or knew each other. We worked it out that one guitarist was going to sing and start with the first song, he wanted slow blues. I just played bass, as it was not a key for my harps. It went well it was rough in spots but that is to be expected. It makes it part of the liveness of Jamming. My turn, I tell the guys the format. Lucky they understood enough English. We had at it, a funky mid speed jazzy blues. It was different from all before. It changed the vibe of the room. Not in a bad way, more in a laid-back tap your foot nod your head, have a sip of a drink kind of way. The vibe felt comfortable and
I felt that way as well. I felt no need to rush just let the groove happen. We ended, fairly well and got a lot of yays! It was that kind of crowded though, loose. We mulled about a bit seeing if we were finished or not. Ok, I say let’s do one more since no one was coming to replace us. I pick a slow blues, we pull it off well and leave the stage area.
 
The next group is up with a drummer, who I know, we played together sometimes. He always takes pictures and sends me some. I grab a seat in front and take some shots. I another friend comes over and she shows me a plate with food it. She explains about it being a vegetarian quesadilla. It was being made by two women she turns and points to at the nearby table. They smile, we smile. I say I will go get one in a bit, (as I was trying to take pictures,) she says this one is for you. Thanks, I say and take a bite. It was good! I Munch down on it whilst taking a few pictures. I went back for seconds, this time as I took my seat the band started playing an old Rock Roll by the Stones. Three of my friends sitting next to me on the front row had a mic and were doing background vocals, I joined adding another harmony. I had not been drinking much for a long time. The glass of wine was good and I was feeling quite comfortable. We had fun on a couple of songs.
 
 
The rest of the evening others played, and switched, I was called up again to play bass, but another player who had not played went up. I changed over to vocals and harmonica for the rest of the evening. I was surprised I was really the only Harp player there. My lip I felt like it was getting sore by the time we stopped and people slowly left. It was a fun evening. It is rare for me to be to hang-out with other foreigners and chat in mostly English. It was a nice change.
 
There ended up being four of us guys who spent the night. I think it was three last year. Anyway, we chatted for a short while after everyone left, before turning in. We had futons and rugs to sleep on. The unit space is not set up for sleeping, it is set up to be a band rehearsal and misc room, with a small kitchenette and bathroom.
I did not get much sleep. Uncomfortable, sort of chilly, but mostly the snoring of the other guys. First one, then two, the third joined. It was an oddly rhythmic merge of sounds. I took it as sort of meditation practice, just to lay there, an listen, then not listen, just to lay. Somewhere around 4:30 I got a little sleep. I know so because I was woken by someone’s alarm to get up about 5:00 am to catch the train. I had no need to rise that early. I had the day off and a pass from the house Shacho to hang out. She was going to work that day. I would be home alone when I arrived.
 
I had a little bit more light sleep, before getting up, just after my host. I casually made my way home. It was a good musical start to the new year. It felt like a blessing…Amitoufo
 

Happy 108/2018


2018/ 108 

It was that time again, the year-end 108 ya. In keeping with the Buddhist tradition at NW of ringing the bell for the 108 temptations/ “sins” . Washing them away, vowing to do better, gratitude, the whole thing.
At midnight on December 31st, Buddhist temples all over Japan will ring their bells a total of 108 times to symbolize the 108 human sins in Buddhism and to get rid of the 108 worldly desires. This is called joya-no-kane (除夜の鐘 ).
It started as just a fun thing back in my first starting days of Kyudo. Now it has developed into something more meaningful for me. The arrow is a symbol of piercing evil, like the sword it is a powerful charm. For me these days the 108 takes on a more serious tone since becoming a Cha’n priest. I do not have a large bell and do not go to the ringing ceremonies, however, I can do my own. Which for me is the 108 ya substitute? 
Also, to me, it is a re-dedication, a vow for another year of Kyudo practice. Making another commitment to persevere! A test of will power and dedication.i was close to not doing it, I was seeking a reason not to, but I rose to the challenge. I made a bit more ceremony out of it this year. Lil incense at the start, rang a small meditation bell, had a small drink(s) of sake with my Father-in-law ( in memory with his picture ) at my three breaks for tea. This was done at the little altar I set up temporary downstairs. As we had a death in the family somewhat recently we are not supposed to have “celebrations”! My sister and brother in law are coming for Lunch on the 2nd. So we can pray there together before lunch. So yeah, I had a small altar set up, poured a sake cup for Otosan and an Obachan, I had a drink with them. I remember in Karate we would do 100 kicks then a cup of Sake, 100 punches then a drink…
My ceremony was a cup with the departed at my three breaks. It did get me a little warmth when shooting. It also caused my focus to waver a couple of time and got smacked in the face by my Yumi! LoL. It was sort of like being brought back to attention in a zendo by the person with the stick.

It is challenging training, doing it right, not just to shoot, to shoot. In the start I was gripping my yumi too tight, I could feel it starting to hurt the callous on my hand. I had to wear a thin glove, it would be a long practice. It worked, it also was handy against the cold that had set in, harder after dark. I started late in the day about 4:00 pm, around 6:00 the wind picked up and the temperature dropped. I was pretty bundled up, but still, I could feel it and it was Shugyo to hang in there. It was worthwhile. I am getting a better understanding of how I am supposed to be drawing. I can tell the difference from last year and the prior.

It took me about 2.5 – 3 hours to complete the 110 shots. Which including breaks and dinner, so it was not bad at all. Other than the cold, that was a challenge and the shoulder pain that came to visit about 50 arrows into the shoot.

I was hoping there would be another invite to the Shinto Kyudojo for New Year shooting like last year, but that did not happen. So I went beyond the disappointment, went and shot on my own. That was part of the reason I was slow to get motivated this year, as I was looking forward to going to the shrine for part of my 108 and visit the Shrine there for NY. Oh well, disappointments are part of life. Like the parting of the 2018 and lost loves, one has to just let it go and move on into 2019. May we all do better and all beings be free from suffering…Amitoufo

 

Festivus…2018


Holiday Jams

 
This is not the kind of Jam you eat, it is the kind you dig, dig?
 
I was asked to fill in with a band at a session at Chicago Rock, by a friend who plays keyboard in a couple of groups I am with. The regular harp player and the bass player could not make it to the gig. So I was. Invited. There would be no rehearsal, just pick a couple of simple songs to do, which we would test out just before the show. Ok, not a big deal, we just do something simple and listen to each other as we play. Listening to the others is Key. Something Matsuo with the blues band did not do well. Anyway. It was loose and fun, we pulled it off like we had played together a lot. The club master ( it was his project this band) asked me to join them again on a later date in January. We will do a trio, the keyboard player was busy so it will just be three of us, drum, guitar bass. It will be my first time with a group where no one speaks any English. LoL it will be interesting, but not that difficult I do not believe. Just some simple blues songs again. The guitar player is good and entertaining as the lead man. I will not have to do much other than just do my thing.
 
I came across a post by a friend who I have played with on several occasions. He and the Iyo band were playing at Snafkin the past Sat night gone. IYo-San is my favorite sax player, she has a jazz band I have sat-in with them before. Always fun. I decided to stop by the cafe and hear the group. I figured they would ask me to play something, so I figure to use the chance to try out my Shakuhachis. I took the 2.0 and the new bamboo hybrid 1.8.
I arrived after they had started. When I entered it was announced by Iyo-San. I was shocked to get applause just for showing up. I took a seat and relaxed into the music. Which was mostly Christmas stuff. They played one modern piece, upbeat and funky. I was asked as were a couple of others to join in. I said I did not bring anything, thy aid, said sing then. Ok, I joined and did a bit of scaring along. It was fun.
After a while, it was time to wrap up the show. They asked if I would do a song, what did I want? Piano, guitar, bass? I said let’s try an experiment, I have my Shakuhachi. I heard the sound of surprise form a couple of people who were listening. Ok, I gave the bass player a pattern I wanted and key, the keyboard player had done the song with me before, so I was not concerned. It was going to be loose which was ok. We started, had some issues with the mic and my Shakuhachi but I worked it out. I could not get the volume I wanted but made do. Also some small issues with a few notes but nothing to be concerned about. Overall it was loose, funky, and fun. We had a good time on the song. It was a learning experience for me. A live test with a band and the Shakuhachi. I just played the one song. Learned I really need a mic or amplification system just for the Shakuhachi. I ordered later a clip on mic holder so I can put a second mic on the voice mic stand I use, this new one I can mount lower. I also learned if I am going to play seriously I need to bring my own mic and a little amp to play through. That way I am covered by bringing my own sound system. I have been slowly putting that together of just such a thing. I have a small portable bass amp that is battery operated, easy to use and some small effects are built in. So I can add a bit of reverb to the mic and that is just on my mic, not the whole system. I also have a mic so adding just the clamp on mic holder is easy then good to go. A strap on mic to the Shakuhachi would be better, but they are costly. For the amount of using I will get, that I can foresee, it is not worth the cash outlay. So the session was fun and educational. I can work the Shakuhachi into some Blues jams, the Shakuhachi from Ota Sensei I have will work! I just need some better amplification…and more practice.
An added plus from this session is I was invited to come to another open session with many old friends attending, next month. It should be fun and something to look forward to attending.
 
There was suppose to be a Sieki band practice up next on my schedule, however, it was canceled. I found out about it on my way to rehearsal. Good thing I was going to contact them to say I was running late when I found it there was nothing none. Some error cause me to get the notice late. Not really a big deal, just some time lost.
 
Next up is the monthly blues Jam in Kobe. Rarely go, it is too far. Since I had some other reasons to be out there I attended. I also arranged to meet a couple of friends there who live in the area. It is a 2-hour train ride from my home, so I like to make the trip worthwhile. Also, I need to catch a train in time to get back before the pumpkin hour. I arrived a little later than I planned but still in time to use the happy hour for food and a drink. I was spotted by one set of friends. A sailing friend from Team BLISS the sailing friends. A bit of chatting then another friend spots me, the drummer form the old blues band. I had also contacted him about coming by, we still jam together sometime. He got to talking with my other friend and joined us. Meanwhile, we are both called up to play. I notice they are short on musicians tonight. Usually, there are more musicians to play than there are customers to enjoy. Tonight was different. After I insisted that I eat first I went up afterward and did a couple of songs, playing Ba and singing. I had gone up on stage earlier and played the harp and sang a bit when I first arrived and after ordering my food. At this point I was spotted by another couple of friends, I had arranged to meet there. I had not seen them in several years, so a quick chat then back to, my food before going back on stage. Usually, I get to play a couple of songs then I am done because I have to leave and there are many others playing. Tonight different I played Manabe six songs before I had to catch the pumpkin train back home.
It was a fun night chatting with misc friends, in English and playing a lot more than planned. It was a good night!
 
The next stop on this music train. Chicago Rock with the Seiki band. After several issues, with sickness, broken bones, hurt feeling, it was show night. I was not expecting much of a turn out. The weather during the day was pretty sucky. There was another band playing as well so that would be a larger split afterwards.
I arrive on time and went in, we got setup and did a small practice sound check. It was well. As I was waiting for our turn to start, we were the second band. A couple I meet on the plane back from the states came to the club. It was a big surprise. This was the second time they have shown up for a show. This time they brought along their son. They speak English but spoke in Japanese. They took a seat and waited and watched the opening band. A very short while later another friend showed up. I friend from Kyudo, the shrine school. She had said maybe she could come but never said if she would or not, or followed through with my question about her job. So I was very surprised to see her.
After a short while, we were up. The mainliners for the evening. There was a fair amount of people, but it does not take much to fill TheRock it is very small. We played without issue. Some songs went very smooth, others went ok smooth. Nothing was really poor. Overall we did well. I usually keep an eye on the watchers. Seeing if they are nodding or tapping to the beat to judge. My friend showed nothing, I could not read if she was enjoying or not. No foot tap, no head nod, a cool number she is. Overall people seem to enjoy. With Americans you can tell if they are enjoying, no question, with Japanese… not so easy, except the drink ones 🙂
 
Our final song, the encore, which was clapped on by the last band, as we did to them, was pulled out of the hand, by me. Not one we usually do. The singer and harp player from the first band joined us for this song. He sang some. I was glad he did not play harmonica because his playing is hard to listen to for me. We shared singing and I played harp and bass as normal. It was a good session, people gave congrats afterward.
 
It was a good evening, I took a few pictures with friends before bounding out the door to catch my pumpkin train.
 
That was a wrap on the Christmas sessions. I have a New year, jam session coming this weekend, it is very very loose more of a party, potluck than an official Jam, although that will differently be happening as most attending are musicians and we will be in a rehearsal studio of my friend. The nice part here is I will crash over at the studio so I can stay and hang out without turning into a walking home pumpkin.
 
For now, it is preparing for the New Year, cleaning house, organizing, etc. the Kyudo 108 ya is upcoming on New Year eve. I was expecting and hoping to hear about the New Year shooting at the shrine dojo, but no invite has been forthcoming so. I will write that off for this year and go back to my solo New Year Kyudo 108 ya ritual.
 
Oh ohhhh I forgot there is one more jam tonight @ Chicago Rock. I suppose though it is an end of the year Jam rather than a Christmas. Not that it matters. It is in a few hours. I am still mulling over the idea of going or not going…it is always good to be seen and recognized..good PR even among just musicians.
 
Well, I caved on the idea.
I was dressed and walking to the train station when I changed my mind. Doubtful if it matters, and I did not commit to attending. C’est la vie, my zensence said no.
I will stay in a practice Shakuhachi and chill in general, on this cold windy night. This makes the minister of finance, happy because I am not spending money. I have only maybe two or three work days before the job is over for the winter. For me it will be cut back on travel and spend time doing at home study. Reduce spending, increase knowledge. Tomorrow is house cleaning for the new year and the Un-party New Year’s dinner with my in-laws. How fortunate that we get along well…Amitoufo

Shakuhachi Pilgrimages: Cambodia- finale

Have Flute will travel: Cambodia

It was the last day. The plans had changed some during the evening. We opted to pay for an extended stay at the hotel. Instead of 1:00 pm check out, we went for 4:00pm. The typhoon had fizzled out so the planes were flying. That was not going to be an issue. Our flight was at 9:00pm. we had most of the day to hang out. I had arranged with my driver to pick me up at 12:30, to take me around town. My wife wanted to do something or another then just hang out poolside in the Jacuzzi.

After my morning drills, a light breakfast, my ride came and I was off. The first stop was the Killing fields Memorial. He gave me the story about what happened. I was under a different impression from what I had heard. He gave me the story then let me walk around. I read the posted writings. It was sad. I went around to the Misc statues and bowed in respect and silent prayer. Over in one unit were the bones of those they had recovered. I paid respects there also. Then we left. I had thought of canceling that part of the day at first in the morning because of the time, but I am glad I went. Interesting, and educational. I just was watching a youtube show about the 7 wonders of the Buddhist world. Some of story of Cambodia was included.

 

We next went to a local Buddhist temple. It was old but not like the Stone ones at the paid sections. This small shrine/temple complex also had a new temple being built on the grounds and it was an active temple, with monks there. Nothing spectacular but still interesting.

Next stop was a local made in Cambodia marketplace. We pulled into the parking lot. I thought the place was closed as there were no cars or anything in the lot, not even people. That is other than a few musicians lounging on a raised platform. My driver tells me after I say something about no people, it is lunchtime. Ohh. I said.

When the musicians saw us they sat up and started playing. I looked at them for a small bit. My mind flashed back to my earlier thoughts a few days ago. I had seen no street musicians other than a trio of the same instrumentation at a marketplace the other day. I had thought briefly them about asking to play with them. As were ever I went I had my Shakuhachi. However, I did not follow through on my brief thought at that time. Again I had the thought now should I go up to them???

I was taken over to the entry doors of the main store by my driver and entered. I walked around looking at stuff. I felt uncomfortable. The people here have a habit of following you around the store and jumping on selling anything you touch or look at for more than a moment. It is irksome. In the states that is done more so to make sure people of my color are not going to steal something. I have never had that in Japan. Here it is for a different reason but it still was irksome. I walked through, and I found nothing of real interest to buy at least. In my price range in mind.

I went back outside. My driver was waiting. The musicians sat up and started playing. I listened for a bit. Then walked over and gave a donation. These were not just street musicians they were disabled in some way or another. I bowed and made a motion asking if I could join after pulling out my shakuhachi. They smiled and nodded yes. I tried to play along, but could not quite find the notes. Other than one or two I could not get the tone pattern. The tuning was different. They finished that song. One of the players of a violin type instrument played a note for me to hear and sample. Hmm Ok, I could get that and another. Hmmmm I thought maybe it could work. I asked to take a picture with them. They made a spot for me to sit with them on the platform. I gave my driver the camera and sat. This time I lead the music and they followed. It was better, not perfect, it was rough but ok, different and interesting. I think if we did another take on something it would have been a lot better, but I did not want to stay too long, my time was limited for the day. A few other local people from the next stand came over to see what was going on as we played for a bit, then stopped. They asked a few questions about me of my driver and the shakuhachi. Also, I had on my old kung fu pants. I did not change from my morning Tai Chi set. loose and very comfortable. They had some Chinese symbols on the legs. That was noticed and commented on. My Driver translated. I explained about my background being a Cha’n priest and a Komuso in Japan doing sort of what they do. I showed them a picture of me as a Komuso and gave the one guy who spoke a little English, my card. This little session was the other high point of the trip for me. I bowed and we took off just as a couple of Tuk-tuks pulled up with other tourists.

We made our way through the town and along the river. Interesting views all around. Interesting, but not always pretty. The next stop was at the Imperial gardens and another Temple. This was a mix of Hindu and Buddhist. Cambodia is a very Buddhist country however at one time it was Hindu. There was a big conflict at one time in the past between the two. It was resolved that they could get along. The Angkor Wat building design is a sort of reflection of that past. It foundation design was Hindu in nature. Later the Buddhist influence became more dominant at Angkor Wat. This temple we visited today was mixed, but more in practice than just design. Hindu dominated here though it was a more modern building it leaned more to the Hindu side of Spirituality. A combined worship place. Sort of like how the Buddhist and Shinto con-exit in Japan. Just that here it was the same temple. I walked around a bit here and ended up getting overrun with ladies wanting to sell me scarfs. When I spoke with one, then others seeing that came over. I was surrounded. I politely got away. I told one I would think about it and come back. She got on the cell phone. I walked away. I few minutes later she comes over to where I am, with another price. I speak with her, then others see and again swamp, me. I am ready to buy one, then the others overwhelmed me. I start to get pissed and strongly say NO! One of the women “got it” from my tone and laughed and backed off, as did a couple of others. One keep at it! I made a purchase from the first woman. The other woman is still at it. I ask, are you married? She looks weird and says yes. I say, “you must drive your husband nuts being so pushy”. She goes back into her selling mode. I walk away she follows still talking, I ignore her, and she walks off, to another person.

I go back to my ride and say I had enough for the day. Off we go back to the hotel. I have not yet paid this guy for the two days he drove me around. I ask the price. It comes out to about $28.00. I give him 30.00 it was worth it. If you go to Cambodia, I will give you the hookup for him if you want.

The rest of the day is spent after packing, poolside until dinner. Afterward, we are taken to the airport and it we are off back to Japan.

It was a good and educational trip. My wife really enjoyed the hotel and wants to return. She felt comfortable. Most people spoke English so she could cope. For me once to Cambodia was enough. I would rather go to Taiwan. Even though the hotel was not all that where we stayed, and did not really get to spend any time outside the city, other than the Ch’an monastery. Modern cities are the same, and Taiwan is not poor, but I would rather go back there. I am sure they have some scenic places. The food there was better for me, there is a nightclub I can jam a bit at, there is Kyudo there, there is my Cha’n Shifu, I have local friends. If I could find a Kung Fu Shifu it would be wonderful. Maybe maybe maybe, if the Kyudo seminar turns out to be real thing I can go back. That is a big maybe, almost doubtful due to finances.

Our reality starts with a dream…so we’ll see how the Universe wants me to roll with this…Amitoufo

 

Shakuhachi pilgrimages : Cambodia part 2


Have flute will travel: Cambodia part 2

 
This is the morning I am supposed to go to Angkor Wat. This is the main event. Angkor Wat, which is just a small part of a much larger complex I have learned. After several days here, now it was time for the main event. I had only a couple of things planned for being here in Cambodia, see the Angkor Wat temples, take pictures, do SuiZen and have a Cambodian pizza. Everything else was just on the fly as to how it rolled. I was for the most part alone tripping around. My wife has no interest in temples and the like. The only thing she wanted to do was, eat, rest, shop, eat, rest. I had to trip alone, quietly to my self…ahhhh
 
I started early got in the morning, Zaizen and TaiJi and was ready to go at 7:00 am. I chose not to the morning sunrise thing at the Angkor Wat grounds. I did not think it would be all that cool to me and then there was the crowds, the people…the noise…clouds
Nope passed.
A good move on my part.
 
I was ready to go, the only thing that I needed to pay heed to was my stomach. I developed the “runs” last night or so. Bummer! I was up a lot through the night. I felt reasonably ok now. Hopefully, there will be “restrooms” on hand nearby. This could turn into something unpleasant. For now, though I felt ok. So Onward!
 

My driver, the same guy, as before, took me to where to buy a Day Pass. They have gone up to $37.00 for a one day pass. Every place you go where there is something to see, on the grounds. You are asked to see your pass. I understand the tour is the livelihood.

Then we took off to the first spot on the tour, he had planned already for me. He said he was not an official tour guide, but he knew the history and studied the details of what was what. He would not be one of those who just drops people off. So I could get the background from him in English. He gave me a good deal of info. Before each stop Interesting stuff, and then set me off on a route to walk and said where he would meet me. I took the trails he suggested. There were others out there as well, sometimes not too bad as far as crowds. Some tours had only one or two people in the group. I was actually glad to be alone and meander as I may. The guides were always talking.

 
My first stop I had to walk a fair distance to the ruins. The walk was through a forest on a wide dirt road, easy. Once there I dodged the people best I could. I grabbed a few pictures and felt the need in my gut, to not stay too long. It was interesting. Once I found my way out of the complex. Next stop toilet! Ahhhhhh.
 
This was pretty much the tale for the day. There was more walking than I expected. Thankfully it was not too hot. I could imagine how terrible it would be in the hot season, yuk. I trucked on, upstairs, downstairs, through stuff, under passages. Centering internally more when caught in crowds. I wished several times I had brought along my Nikon, but others times glad I did not have to carry all that. I did get a few good pictures with my limited stuff.
 
At a couple of the temples were monks doing blessings for a donation. I got one and a bracelet wrist-tie. Same orang color as the monk’s robe.
 
At a couple of temples, I passed on exploring too much as there were some serious steps to climb. I was not up to it with a long day ahead of me.
 
Another stop I was taken to is called the Victory Gate. It was the entrance for the King and his armies to re-enter the city after winning a battle. Another called the Ghost Gate was for when they lost. That was nearby. I was told a route to go I could walk along the wall to the ghost gate. I did that. I was surprised to see no one else, as I walk through the forest along a river. After a while. I notice someone comes from the opposite way towards me. I did not pay much attention at first then notice when he is right up on me, it was my driver coming to intercept me. I sort of resented that, as there went my quiet space. Oh well, it was just for a short time.
 
Another “Loo” stop then a lunch stop. I told him about my weird stomach and just wanted something light and also vegetarian. He took me to a place, where I found something I could eat. I had offered to buy him lunch, but he said he had his own. I Had a nice quiet lunch, no need for small talk! nice. The food was pretty good, a papaya salad to help my digression and a papaya shake and some rice. I did not eat the whole thing about half. I was feeling so-so ok and did not want to push it.
 
The last stop was Angkor Wat. Usually, people start their visit here when they want to see the sunrise. Some others end the tour here to see the sunset. I was in for the Sunset…maybe. It was only about 1:00 pm, I did not feel up to hanging out all day just to see an iffy sunset, with my poor cameras. I will see how I feel later I thought and set out to Angkor Wat. I had to cross a moat or river to get to the city. It was sort of a long walk just to the outer gates. Then another long walk to get to the temple. Again interesting and crowded. Up and down steps, dodge people, repeat. I did find a few quiet, semi-quiet spots for some photos. Then, more walking and climbing.
 
Some of the people were interesting. Trying to figure out where they were from was my little game. Mainland Chinese were easy to spot, as were Japanese, French, Americans.
Ok, so a lot of walking, a fair amount of pictures, the carving, and remaining statues were interesting. After a couple of hours, I had seen enough. I started back to the parking lot. It was starting to get fairly cloudy. I figured it would not be much of sunset and I would just head back to the hotel and chill out for the evening.
I did just that, we order room service as it was cheap and surprisingly good. My wife ordered first, I tasted it then ordered the same, it was that good. Yet simple. Cream of potato soup and a lightly grilled tuna salad. After that, I practiced flute and chilled before passing out.

The next day was our last. We had plans to check out at 2:00pm. Then just hang out. I made arrangements with the driver again to pick me up at that time. The plan was he would pick us up and take us around to some local stuff, local free stuff, then back to the hotel to hang out until time to take the Tuk-tuk to the airport, that night to head back to Japan.

There was some concern if we were going to have to spend another day in Cambodia as a Typhoon was approaching this area. It would have been a hassle to make the contacts in Japan to advise them of travel issues, but otherwise, both of us were ok with it. He had to wait to find out… Like you do, in order to read part 3…

弓道 – The arrow flew…

I learned a lot or realized a lot over the last 3 – 6 mos of Kyudo practice than I did over the last 2 years or three however long it has been since I passed Sandan. Maybe three yrs, it seems like longer. Anyway, things have clicked in more now and I feel more confident. I still have a long ways to go, but at least I feel like I am improving. For a long, I felt stalled. The other day at practice I was surprised Yamashita came by after I arrived and gave, later on, gave me some more pointers. You are close to level up he says. He said the other time as well, I feel it more. My hits are not improving a lot, but my next to each other shots are. Anyway, my point to my self is, I am improving. getting, understanding, maintaining the crosses is paramount in how the arrow flies.

Update

yesterday was the shinza. I had to get an early start, and it was going to be a long day for me. There was the Shinsa, and all day affair, then I had a band gig. There was no time to return home and unload my stuff change and re-go, so I had to take all I needed in one trip. Yuk.

I packed the night before, I went to practice yesterday as well. Just for a couple of hours and something light. I closed the poor day with two hits in a row. I felt, hmmm I got a 50/50 chance of pulling this off. My hits are still few in between as of late. Oh well. I was not going make a big deal out of it. I figured out a way to carry everything using one of my handcarts, and also had a free hand for my bow and arrows, yet nothing hang off my pack. So I was fairly good. and off I went.

Yesterday I had a really nice Indian lunch. I had not been to my friend’s place in a while. So I went over to the restaurant. I got a custom order which he said he made a little ‘Hotter” than my usual medium because it was getting colder, it would help warm me. It was good a the time. The next day not so much. it made for a somewhat uncomfortable ride over to the test location and a large part of the day. I spent way too much thought on how weird my stomach felt and should I/do I need to “go”???

I met up with my group just as the building doors opened. One of my friends saw my load and suggested she take my kyudo stuff back to the dojo the next day since she was driving. Wow, A big help. I had thought about asking her, but she beat me to it!.

There was a group of us about 5 or 6 in total, plus another woman from the Shrine school that hangs with us at these things. I have tested with her two other times for Yondan. Once we were allowed to go to our starting room we all went up and found a spot. The next step was to get our spots and numbers, then check in. Oh so helpful to have others helping me figure out times and places.  Big big help. My path was to be. written test at 10:40 am, then shooting at about 4:30pm. ( long wait 😦 ) . I got my place in the lineup. At first, I was to be #4 in my group of 5. I thought ok good. I can settle into the spot and all eyes will not be on me at first. Then as people did not show up, I was told I was #2. Still ok. I thought maybe better.

The written test went fairly smooth. I am used to the drill now. They say the question, which is drawn from a closed envelope. They do not even know beforehand. This day I was able to understand the first question but not the second. So I got clarification on that and started. I always feel like I should fill up more of the paper but it is not about that. I felt ok with the answers. I waited for the person next to me to finish so I could get by and leave. That part was done.

I went to lunch with the ladies, we found a sitting spot then just hung out. Once in a while getting to watch a couple of our lower ranks shoot. One did ok, I thought, but not her. The other woman not so well. She was trying for San dan but could not hit her one shot needed.

Finally after what seemed like forever, and I took a little sitting up in lotus nap, it was my turn. I got in line to find out I am Omae, yet again! Not number two, number 1. Yuk. In a place, I dislike because of the footwork in and out. Sigh. oh well. It was not in my hands, not a good sign though. We started. I did not think about being the only Gaijin, I thought about which foot to step with first. I made my step onto the floor. Ok, but then messed up my timing bow. ok, a small thing. My steps, placement, and ending went ok this time. The group was in alignment on Honza and Shai. Ok the first arrow, thinking step by step…miss!! Oh well, it’s done. I make a step to close my feet, then realize I am not supposed to do that! I try to act natural and cover, but it was a big error. Which, one of my sensei’s called me on as soon as he saw me afterward. We laughed at my goof up!
Back to the shoot. Next arrow was no better than the first another miss. I could not tell if I was high or low or anywhere. I could not see where it hit. The black arrows, black/brown feathers look cool, but they suck like that, Hard to see at the target and in travel. My increasing bad eyes does not help. However, I can see well enough to hit at times when I have “things” as they should be and hold them in place. Seeing the details of the lines separating the colors in the Mato will not help me to hit the Mato. I still just suck at that :-). I was able to leave the floor without any more goofs. No victory dance tonight.

Ok well, another time, another day, more training is now. No one in my group except maybe one shodan passed that day. Nor did another of the other people I knew there testing. it was that kind of day.

I asked my sort of new friend from the Shrine Dojo. How many times has she tested for Yondan? She said she did not know or remember something like that. She said she just keeps doing it. I understand now why when another acquaintance from Banpaku, my first school, she cried when she passed the Yondan exam!

I know there were celebrations in some camps, but not in ours. We spoke only more training and had some laughs at our errors and hide private tears. So we parted for the day saying our goodbyes and see ya in class, ganbarimashos.

As for me. I know I gave it that extra effort practiced daily, even when not feeling it trips to the dojo. Oh well. I learned stuff as I said at the beginning of this. No Effort is a fail if you learn something. I had given some thought to going to one of those big seminars for training and testing in English. However this has shown me, I am not doing badly as there are others with the same time invested and still facing the struggle and they speak the language. Yeah, so for me, it is back to just blending all I got into a reliable unit. I will not plan on testing in spring. I will just work and practice may be the summer session…although I would like to go to the seminar in Taiwan. English speakers, vegetarian food, my Chan Shifu there, a couple of friends to Jam with. yeah, it could be a cool trip. however. No funds…on my radar.

As I told other classmates ( and myself), the Shinsa is just another nothing, you train hard before Shinsa, you train hard after shinza. It is like the Zen saying…” before enlightenment, you chop wood and carry water, after enlightenment, you chop wood and carry water”…Amitoufo

 

弓道 – As the arrow flies : A well dressed man

There is no Ebay here in Japan. I heard there was at one point but, it was not popular. Culture differences. There is a Yahoo auction though. Which is basically the same. Small differences, but overall the same. I get stuff from time to time there. Not too long ago I finally found a Kimono that would fit. It is a fairly heavy silk with lining. I wanted wool, but I could not find the size in the price I wanted. The Kimono I got is dark blue, heavy silk and lined. it also came with a Houle jacket. ( outer jacket). I had my tailor make some adjustments so I could use it for Kyudo. I have a Black linen Kimono, but I wanted something for the winter. Now I am good. It is not for a formal shinza, because it is blue, not Black. Only mostly for class, training, those formal Rae-Kai and Tai-Kais.
I wore it to class the other week. It was spotted right away and I had a small group of my “buds” surround me checking it out. It was kind of funny!. I got the approval after I said the sleeves still needed a bit more adjusting. The tailor opened them, however, she opened them too much much. That was one of the things that my friend spotted right off and came over to inspect which brought others.

One thing I had to adjust on the fly was the length. I had asked the tailor about it being shorter and was told, It is usually adjusted via the Obi. Yeah really, it is a bit weird but it does work. When wearing it with no Hakama the length is good. I like it, but with the hakama, it hangs too low.  I got it worked out now after a couple of wears. I do not want to cut it I may wear it one day to something else other than Kyudo, like a Shakuhachi recital.

Otosan’s Haole @ Taikai

One of my goals on coming to Japan and Studying Kyudo was to get 4th dan so I could wear my father-in-law’s Kimono jacket. In the states, it is a big deal to wear the kimono and one in the “federation” can wear it only after reaching 4th. In Japan, not so much.
Once we arrived in Japan some of my kyudo stuff vanished. The kimono was put away to be safe. Yup, you know how that goes. Well, it was safe just lost, for years. Until just last month! I have since then found out it is not a real kimono, even though expensive, it is the jacket that is worn over the Kimono. It is also short in the sleeves for me, therefore, can not be worn with my Kimono. Yeah, so that was a bummer, so much for that little “honor my father in law” fantasy. However I did figure out that I still can wear it on those cool days at the dojo, when I wear the dogi but I am not shooting all the time. Like at Rae-Kai and Tai Kai’s. I need some extra body cover but want to be kyudo stylish. 🙂

I ended up doing just that this past weekend, it worked well at the Tai Kai. Even though it got warmed up by the afternoon, I still wanted to wear it because I was fighting a cold and wanted to stay warm. Since I had spent the last two days in the house sleeping so to wage war on the attacking virus. It helped, I won, Friday I was yukky, Sat still so-so but better. By Sunday I was ready to go to the Tai Kai.

So how did I do you ask?

Not bad, not great but ok. Yamashita Sensei said I did well after hitting my first 3 of 4. opening round. I only hit one of the second, Hmmmm, still good enough to pre-final, which I failed but, I was not expecting to get there. It helped me feel better about the upcoming shinza on Sunday.

Winter dress rehearsal

In a few times in the past, because I had seen people wear turtlenecks and/or long-sleeved undershirts at the Dojo when practicing. I figured it was ok, it is. However I had carried that thought over to a Tai Kai with Kimno wearing, maybe some first of the year thing last year.

The Sensei who rarely smiles says quietly to me; You do not wear that combination. eh?? I am thinking! a Dogi with kimono is ok for an adult, he says, but not the whatever I was wearing with the kimono. That was a no. I thanked him, and gave some thought to translating what he said and then went “ahh sou ka!” I got it. Ok, I also filed that away for later use, under a red flag.

Now that it is getting cooler and I have my winter kimono and expect to be doing more, I asked one of the Senseis. Is it ok, should one wear a Dogi with a Kimono and Juban or just the Dogi and kimono?

He told me something, I did not quite get, but sort of understood. I heard him speaking with another afterward and came back to me and said, ignore what I said I am not sure. There was some talk I could find the answer on the homepage for the school. Later that evening he sent me a link.

My next visit to the dojo I was approached by a sempai who spoke of something while pointing at a sheet of paper, that took a couple of people to help me understand, to what she was referring. It was about wearing an undergarment with Kimono, the question I asked another sempai/Sensei. They spoke in terms of numbers ok. So I was sort of understanding after some thought. Layers they are referring to not names. Yes, a Dogi with kimono is ok and Juban. Ok, I got it, I should make a mental note of what others wear and judge. Doing, understanding for myself, most times works. I started checking out those at today’s event.
I notice later Yamashita sensei was wearing Dogi, Juban, and Kimono. My next encounter with him in passing. I spoke with him for clarification. He gave me what I needed to hear.

The next kimono class I wore the threesome, it worked well. So when it gets really cold I can wear this setup and a sleeveless undershirt and maintain some warmth. Like at the Shrine New Years shoot. I am still not sure about at a Shinsa, it may be ok, I will check out who does what on Sunday. I can deal with the temp for a short time shirtless, in my Linen Kimono, rather than make an error, and lose face, but be warm for a short time. Discomfort It is good training! …Amitoufo

尺八 – The blessing…

In the broad Cha’n sense, every day is a blessing, Gohan Shifu says every day is good. Narrowing it down though to a smaller scope here I am referring to a blessing pilgrimage of sorts I took. Hmmm thinking on it more, it would be better called a purifying pilgrimage. I went just before going to Myoanji, the last trip.

While practicing some songs on different flutes to determine some sound differences. I got carried away on playing with my “A” shakuhachi. 2.0 , that Oota-san from the Shakuhachi society gifted me. I had not thought of it in my Takuhatsu practice, but it could be used. This thought came when I could play some high notes on it but not the 2.5. Also about taking it to Moriji next time and use in an offering at the temple.

I also wanted at some point to go to the nearby bamboo grove and get some bamboo for a new project, several in fact. One of which was a simple as stakes for the tomatoes and anything else. Instead of buying tomatoe racks. This grove was on or next to my favorite local Buddhist temple. I have gone there before and sat and played. Most times it is very very quiet. The thought was born to take the 2.0 to the local temple and give it my own purification ritual.

So now with the need for bamboo and the thought of taking my 2.0 flute and do a purifying ceremony. The next day was chosen, the weather was excellent. A lovely autumn day I mounted my bike and peddled off to the temple. I gave inner thanks for the beauty, peace, and blessing of riding my bike to the local temple in Japan to play my flute and do some Tai Chi. Also, grab a few photos. I am still a stutter bug. I do not get off on taking photos of myself but I am a handy model whilst out and about.

It is a fairly easy trip to the temple, other than the last bit, where it is easier to walk the bike up the hill or leave the bike at the bottom and take the steps. There is some kind of tradition to the steps. I think it is 100 steps. If you use the stone steps one gets a blessing or merit or something, a wish filled…? Usually, I take the steps just because, I can. However not today I walked the road outside and around the temple grounds to another entrance. I wanted my bike there. and I had to go to the bamboo grove just across the road, the lot, something. Anyway, nearby and still needing to climb the hill. From that side of the temple, one must also go to the highest point around for quite a ways. One has a great view of the countryside.

From the other side of the grounds, one can see to the bay. That is the side of the grounds where the 100 steps are and the old main gate with the two stone guards. Next to that is the cemetery.

So I guess technically I enter from the back side of the temple. No matter. I had some concern about where I had parked my bike but, unwarranted concern. I enter the grounds and felt the spiritual presence of the area and again gratitude for being there. I went to the main temple urn, and found insense burning. I took out my flute and passed it through the smoke and bowed. Then played a single Ro note. I did this also at the main temple steps.

Once done there I went to the front side of the temple to where the great bell is located. There I played more. Maybe Cho Shi and/or Tamuki. I do not recall. Afterward, I did some Taiji, to bring my physical vibe up speed. Balance out, it a good thought. Sort of like doing walking meditation after doing sitting.

 

I left this spot after a while and went to another of my favorites. It is next to a pagoda just behind a sand and rock garden. I can climb up on the rock and hang out. There I settled in an do some playing. A group of people came onto the grounds, they were heading for the great bell and one of the other smaller pagodas. I kept playing at one time I would have stopped, or tried to play softer, now I am Komuso and I play for others. On Buddhist temple grounds and people coming to pay respects or homage to their departed loved one, it felt appropriate…Amitoufo