Aftermath…this n that

 

Aftermath …this n that

It is a little over a week since I had my operation. It is remarkable the difference in the Vision in my left eye. When I compare it to the right now, which was better before than the left, I find it amazing that I was seeing reasonable at all. I do remember seeing a friend a couple of time in the park at not that much distance and also looking for family coming to visit at the train station and not being able to recognize their faces. Just more of an impression that it was them. Also some text on a box in the kitchen across the room I could not read, now I can. So it was a good thing to get the work done. The right eye is coming up next week. I am both looking forward to it and not. Rather I am looking forward to it being over and done with. I am also not so nervous about it since I know fully what to expect. Not really painful, but uncomfortable for a day or so. The drops 4 times a day is a hassle but, better than getting an infection. 
I went to Kyudo the other day the first time since the surgery. It was weird shooting with the glasses on, which I am supposed to wear for protection. A couple of people thought I was just wearing glasses and were surprised to see me wear them. I explained and they went ohhhhh. 
So the big question that was in my mind, does it affect my shooting. For sure I could see better on the left, however, it was not quite clear, as I saw just a bit of a double image or off image since my right is not balanced with my left. It is differently better but just off a bit. In a different way than before.
However, most importantly I could shoot and my hit average was up. Not only up I got more back to back shots. I finished at 60%. I do not credit all that with being able to see better, but with I am getting better at setting up the shot and maintaining how it supposes to be. Meaning my form is better, I believe. I am not going to go all nuts thinking I am making big progress because in the past I thought that way and the next time I shot I was lower. This time I was higher @ 60% than my last which was 50%. So if I can maintain that or increase I will feel, more confident about the Shinsa in June. I really want to pass in June as I feel it would honor Nogami Sensei since that is where it all started for me in Japan. To finally pass my Yondan there would be outstanding! So, I have to ganbarimasu! 
On another front, another item I wanted to do here in Japan was ceramics. I found a high-level sensei before however, he had retired, so that was a dead end. I found there was another ceramics “club” at the community center I was taking Japanese. My wife thought it may be to a beginner class, too housewifey for me. I did not bother going to check it out at all. Today I went there, I got the inspiration from going to the Budo expo to go check out. Not related but there was an Aikido class nearby I thought. I had heard back before there was one nearby, but also the ceramic clas. I had my wife call the center and yes there is a ceramic class and it was on a good day for me to go.
I went by there today and spoke with the sensei and introduce myself. I rode my bike which I was not supposed to do until I was fully healed. So I took some precautions to protect my eyes, and still, get some cardio exercise.

It is a very small group with me it would be 6 total over a couple of days and different times. I looked at some of the students work. Nothing great but some were a few nice pieces. I had taken photos of some of my past work, they were impressed.

I was shown the kiln and things were explained to me. I understood very little of all that was said enough though I felt welcome and could join when I wanted. Also, I could pretty much do whatever project I wanted. Help advice was available if I wanted. It was nice. It was also limited as there were no real wheels in use. Mostly hand building with a small hand turned wheel. However a fair supply of glazes. It made me realize how much I learned when I took the class back in college. Mixing the powders of my own glaze, using wheels, also Hand building, coiling, and slab. I was comfortable with it all. All the work done here would be by hand building, which was ok. That is how I started. I can also do that at home. So yeah, cool. I have a couple of projects in mind, I will not need to rush, so I can really take my time and work as I see fit. I want to make a couple of pieces for my garden and not houseware stuff, like before, bowls, sake containers, the like. I still have my tools which I brought from the states. So I am looking forward to it. Yeah, another something else to do. But hey, I am here to live and enjoyed the best I can with what time is left. So Kyudo, Shakuhachi, Zen training via SuiZen and some contact with my Chan teacher in Taiwan, plus the band, some occasional work, some occasional sailing. A blessed life here in Japan. If I can add some Kung Fu teaching of some type, and training it would all be perfect. But little by little, small steps. For the amount of time I have been here, it is quite a lot. I really should be looking for some more income, but I have spent most of my life chasing that, now is my time to chase my arts, with my lifetime left. With the blessing of the Universe, I should have at least another 10 -15 years left.
I will plan on starting the ceramics in May, after returning from Hawaii. The day and time is perfect and will not interfere with my shakuhachi class or when I am working during the summer back with the silver center. I believe that if I need to miss a day or time I can switch up with another since it is the same sensei running the whole program. 
Next is to find an Aikido or something club/class or even better a place for me to teach and students, that would be wonderful and the icing. I may have a place to teach, maybe. There is a new community center opening just around the corner from us, also a Sempai in the Shakuhachi group is an Abbott of a temple not too far away. Then there would be finding students. I would even give free TaiChi classes to seniors if there was interest as part of spread Buddhist dharma. It is not really about the money, same as teaching Kyudo, it is not the money. In fact, one does not pay for Kyudo instruction. You pay for club membership, space, not the lessons.
The Band.
The band has lost the drummer. Not really a big deal. I did not think he was that good anyway. Not versatile, and zero funk feel. The guitarist is on the search for one. I have spoken with the drummer I played with in the Doc’s band. He really wants something convenient for him and does not want to travel, bit says he wants to play. Also can not practice not after April 7 th, as he is involved with local politics. Hmmm, he is an option if we really cannot find someone for the gigs we have in Last April and early May. Another is to use the current guitarist on drums. I think his beat is better than the former drummer and his guitar work is ok, but not great. With him on drums and our current keyboard player, we could carry on, even sometimes use my dummy machine. My last major band in the states did not have a drummer, we played with an electronic drummer. The one that I have not is more advanced than what we had at that time. Anyway, we’ll see what the universe brings in with the tide…Amitoufo
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Out -n- about…Osaka Budo Expo


Out and about…

 
Osaka Budo Expo
 
Since I have been here, every year I see a poster at the Kyudojo about a Japanese Budo expo. I think oh, interesting …but never go. This year I change that and made a point to attend. They have most of the major Japanese Martial Arts Demo’d, Karate, Judo, Shorinji Kempo, Naginata (なぎなた, 薙刀), Iaidō (居合道), and Kyudo. Of course my main interest was the Kyudo. Even though it was nothing I had not seen so I thought. There was no Aikido which was a surprise. 
 
I was up and out of the house to get there early and not miss anything. My wife had given me directions and a Google GPS map. I figured I was set. I arrived to the train station with no problem. It was like going to the immigration office so I was familiar with the route. I asked the train personnel at the counter which way to go, once I arrived at the exit. He told me and off I went. I followed the GPS map. It was fairly simple. I followed the yellow brick road so to speak, because the route marked turned and circled. I could see a dome shape off in the near distance, that is I where I was headed, I thought. The path marked circled around this mound, small mountain like thing up to this dome. I walked and walked, round and around this mountain. I got to the top but the path just circled back to where I started. There was no way to the top dome I was looking at. WT fudge I thought. This must be off. I could see another dome shape nearby and then another dome-building just off from that. I had passed that building on the way there. It said Pool! Hmmmm, I thought , It must be in that place. I walked I’ve to it. The door I was at was Locked. Hmmmm. I walked around the building trying every door. All, were locked. Hmmmm. Strange I thought I have seen no crowds or groups of people. Hmmmm. I was back near the train station entrance. I thought about just canceling the trip, and go ok, forget it! But no. I never do that so easily. I looked around and read some of the posted park markers, and billboards. Everything pointed back to where I was the first time. I looked over that way toward the dome. I could see some people movement, not a lot but a couple of people. Ok, I will try it again I thought. I walked and made the climb again. This time going in another direction to the top, I looked over the side of the path and I could see people and windows and development below. Ohhh. I get it. The place is inside this mountain, but I saw no way to enter. I walked and walked. Finally, I saw a man walking from the top dome where I was before. I asked how do I get inside the mountain. He says the entrance is on the other side. Ehhhhhhh! I say, Hmmm. He tells me to follow him. He takes me around to the other side and points down to the entrance. Ahhhhhhhhh soouuu! I thank him. If I had stayed on the street instead of following the GPS main route I would have seen it. As it was I was in the right place but on top of the building which was mostly underground!
 
I made my way inside. I went to the main arena. There was an event there but it was some kids soccer game. I thought weird !? I sat a bit and watched, bored and feeling lost. I also needed to put in my eye drops. I decided to move. I went back out into the lobby /entrance area to get a seat for my eye drops. However, the seat I had before spotted was taken. Which turned out to be a good thing. I was looking around for a spot to sit, I notice a couple of women also looking around. I could not hear what they were saying but I got the sense they were also looking for the Budo expo. They stopped a cleaning person and asked something. He took them to outside the door and pointed off to the side then downward. Ohhhh, I thought, I bet that is where they are going! I went outside and looked around, I saw a small signage that said kendojo and judojo B3, I was on B2, there was also an arrow pointing same as the man did. I went that way and finally found the correct location. Wow, what journey. I saw some judo people and others. I walked around looking, I saw a man dressed in a formal old style archery suit. I asked about Kyudo. He said it was over!! Grrrr, crap I thought! Ok, I might as well make the best of my time now and watch some of the other demos. 
 
I sat just outside of the show area and use my eye medicine. While sitting there a man comes over to me and hands me a program and notebook. I thank him, he leaves. I am looking it over when I notice Watase Sensei from my Dojo. He has dressed also in the old school formal wear. I go to him and greet him. He asks did I see things. I said I was late and got lost. He laughed a bit. I bowed and returned to my seat. He continued to speak with the people he was with. 
After a while, I went into the show area and took a seat on the floor off to the side. Where I could see. I wanted to go to the balcony but from where I was I did not see anyone up there. So I gave up that thought, thinking this is all there is. My spot on the floor off from the seating area was good, could see well. I sat there taking pictures and enjoying the demos.
After a while, I notice another Sensei I like from my school. I wave and bow to her, she returns the greeting and smiles on her way past me. I watch the rest of the show and Photograph. It was interesting to watch. Some of the things I had not seen live before. The Shorinji Kempo was impressive as were the women with the naginata (なぎなた, 薙刀). Most of the demos were interesting, the one with the rifle like weapons, bayonet fighting, not so much. Nor was the Judo, I did not go into watch Judo earlier.
 
Overall it made me miss training Kung Fu with my classmates. There is an emotional difference in training with the Kyudo group from training with the partnering, physical contact training. Makes me want to find art here to train with. I find Aikido interesting and always wanted to do that. However at my age, the bouncing off the floor part is not appealing, however, the philosophy of Aikido is interesting, very Tai Chi like and the grappling is Chin Na. I found the “Jo” demo interesting, that maybe something to give more thought to. It would go well with my Kung Fu staff training and Kali. Something to give some thought to for later. I need to get to where I want to be with my Kyudo first. I had thought about when I reach 70, take to up Aikido. Late in life but I heard, read that it can still be done even at 80. Hmmmm, it would help maintain body conditioning. Anyway, I will give it more thought, maybe look into what is in my area. Time is short and growing less every day. “Time waits for no one…Rolling Stones”
 
I am glad I made the effort to go this year to the Expo. As the demo was ending, I see Yamasta Sensei coming by, he is also dressed old school. We greet each other, he thanks me for attending. I will attend next year, and now that I know where it is, I will arrive on time to see the Kyudo. I did get to see a filming of the shooting. A friend from another Kyudo class was upstairs in the balcony filming. Turns out I guess the seating upstairs was not visible from the downstairs entrance. I got to see Yamashita Sensei shoot in the film clip.

弓道 – Bam, Yeah Baby yeah, Holla!!

Tues was Kimono day again. It was cold, I was close to not going, but discipline kicked in and I got off my rusty dusty bum and bundled up and got ready to go. I found out as I was packing I had still left my Juban in the washer so it was not dry. Grrr bummer. Ok, I made sure I had everything else and just packed my gi in the bag and took off. The good thing about that was I could really dress warmly. I arrived on time, just a little early. I greeted my buds I did not see over the weekend that did not come to the Hatsukai, then dressed. I noticed for the first time that I am usually the only guy in the class, other than one or two of the sensei generally. Today it was just one of the sensei. It was a fairly small class. 6 or 7 of us including two Sensei. The method of selection for shooting line up is by choosing a ya. Someone holds all the people involved’s Ya. They are held behind their back then picked and placed on the floor in shooting order. Today I was last ochi (?). For this, it did not matter. It was as good as anything.

I did not give much thought to if I would hit or not. I just did what I was supposed to focus and shot!  Bam hit a loud hit. Nice. Then a wait. My turn again. Draw focus release…Bam another hit. Surprised me as well. More so since I did so bad at the tourny.

After the shooting, we get critiqued. Mine was when doing the Kimono I should have turned with the person in front of me, not the lead person. When I did it I thought it was wrong, but I was already committed. So now I know for sure. the other thing was my eyes did not follow the ya directly when doing the look at the mato part. I was told I look up then back to the ya. Hmmm I did not remember doing that, but I made a note not to do it. Otherwise, I was good., Yatta!!

Next round I was with a Sensei doing the checking. That is also training. Seeing what others do correctly or not. I usually am a little hesitant about doing it, because I am good in Japanese and I do not remember or know everyone name, even after all this time. I am still bad with Japanese names. On a side note, today I learn two names and made a point of remembering them when I heard them. I pointed out a couple of things I noticed when the others shot. Ok I was done.

Next, we practiced entry because overall it was not perfect at times. I was called out due to my steps when making the turn onto the floor after bowing. So everyone went over that together, until we all got it right. It is a good class, we work on some small detail at times so we all get things right. It is not just a shooting class. In fact, we rarely spend time on only shooting in the Kimono class. it is mostly tai hai.

It was a good class, learned some things had some fun with my friends. I feel quite comfortable with everyone. Even though my Japanese is poor we communicate and sometimes I give them a little English lesson.

I only got to actually shoot twice. Did not want to stay after class, I was hungry and cold so after a couple of hours I changed and went home. However, I was very glad I came and did not wimp out and stay home. I got a 100% hit on my shoots. Even though I only shot twice, both were hits! I thought, ok, yeah I guess I am making some improvement, back to back hits is what I need. Even though I sucked the other day at the tourny, I did the same a week earlier but three back to back.

弓道 – Shots in the dawn…

 

Tues …was Kimono day practice. It was COLD COLD. It could have been worse at the Shrine dojo, besides not being open. So glad that worked out this way. So this day Ishibashi Sensi was going to run the class no one else was there. I thought at first there was not going to be a session that day. When I arrived it was almost just me, and the others who came in later did not have on Kimono. Shacho and Sato Sensei was not there, but there was still to be a class, but Ishibashi was running it. So what is funny is he is from the Shrine Dojo, not Kishiwada.

“Somedays you are the windshield”…

So I was feeling pretty good about my last couple of practice sessions. I felt I was on the right track and finally things were falling in to place. I still needed work but I was heading in the right direction.

The next event was today. the Hatsukai, first shooting of the year. It was held at our dojo and usually is just an inner dojo event. small. I knew it was going to be small because it started at 1:00 pm. The dojo closed at 5:00.

It was a COLD day! brrr yuk! I dressed best as possible. I wore my kimono, it was a better idea rather than change. The other thing about the day beside cold, it was raining. So I had rain and cold to deal with. I was able to cover up pretty well with my raincoat, I did not have to carry anything but a small bag for stuff. With umbrella in hand, I set out for the dojo. Fairly warm and dry. the rain had stopped for the moment.

I arrive just a little paranoid that I had read the sign wrong and it did not start at 1:00 but early in the morning. I pushed that thought to the rear and keep on moving through the flashes. I arrived on time, plenty of time in fact. I timed it right. Had time to get in a couple of Makiwara shots, I could have done the mato, but I did not want to be in the way as they were starting to set up for the Hatsu -Raikai. It was COLD inside the dojo and even fewer people than I thought turned out. Ok, enough though to be fun. A couple of my buds were there.

I had been asked to do something, so I thought a few days earlier at the Raekai. I did not understand what. So I was expecting someone to tell me something. I watched, waited and took photos as usual. No one said anything, ok. Not really disa pointed. The only time I was called was to join my group section to shoot.

We started with the usual formalities and a Sensei shooting the single mato. Then two sensei did, hitomato. One Mato two shooters. That was different from usual. That was followed by regular students in groups of three but two groups at a time. Usually, we start with the tournament timing, but today we started with Shinsa timing. Afterward came the tourny timing but with only two arrows, not four. That was also different. I figured they wanted to be sure to finish in time. That was followed but tourny timing but with a mix of targets, mato and smaller. This time with a single arrow but two rounds. So far I am zero for 3. Next section was back to standard mato but only 1 ya. Then everyone shoots around but only those who hit come back for another shot.

I am 0 for 4 or is it 4 for 0? I am not a sports guy. Anyway, I got zip. One of maybe 3 people who hits nothing for the day! 😦
Sigh

Ok we line up and prizes were given out for the hitters. Then a large plastic bag is brought out, everyone was called up to pick something out of the bag. As I did not know what was going on, I was quite surprised when I heard my name and was told to pick from the bag. Ok, I dug in an pulled out a small package. After everyone had picked, we were told to open the packages. I still did not know I just watched a followed. I opened mine it was a package of hand warmer pads. They come in handy. I intended to bring one with me for the day. People here put them in their waistbands front or back. to help stay warm. I noticed some people had post-it notes and there were some on the “gifts” still out. Still uncertain what was going on, I turned my package over and found a sticker on the bottom. hmmm. ok, mine was blank, but I turned it over and there was a number. I asked a sensei, what is this about? ( but not like that). He told me showed me what was up. I found an item with my number. Ohhhh. I get now. Ok. I got a prize for my pick out of the bag. The entrance fee this year was high, usually 300 yen, this time 800 yen (about $8.00). so there were some good winning for the shooters plus some decent things for the grab bag. My prize, I do not know what it was it was packaged up and I did not open it. I think it was a Yumi cover. Whatever it was it was pink and flowery. Yuk I thought, jheeze what will I do with this? I started to walk when I spotted my friend who was having a good day. I walked over and showed her my “prize” ! She looked and said ohhh pretty, I said “it is yours” Ehhh? she says. I say you like pink right, then this is a Christmas present for you. She was delighted!

So that was it for my day. No hits, all misses, even with the draw prize, except for the heat pads.

“Somedays you are the bug”

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.
 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Days in the Life

I spent most of the day doing gardening. When one reads that you would think I have a big yard . However it is quite small, my rear Balcony mostly. There is a small front yard. In this case I am speaking mostly about the vegetable space which is on the rear balcony. The front yard space gets too many bugs! The rear space is manageable.

So I spent most of the  day there and doing related stuff instead of going to Kyudo. More on that later. The veggie garden is a good source of Chan awareness of life, interdependence and a sort of meditation. Working the soil, watching something grow, nurturing it, then eating it. A life cycle. I picked up a bunch of chicken poop for plant food the other day. Cheap. I was not getting the results I wanted with the Fish poop. I am hopefully this will be better. It is what the farmers use around these parts. I also picked up new soil for some bigger pots I got for tomatoes, and some new shelf making items. I did not really do much planting , just getting organized for the spring planting and arranging some things for the autumn stuff. There are a few things I can grow pretty much all year round, like Kale. It is a blessing to have mild winters.

Right now I have some cayenne peppers I am looking forward to harvesting I picked a few here and there now drying. Also just did a new group of lettuces plants. My one pot of Kale is recovering from the caterpillar attack this summer, and planted some news one that are coming up well. Yeah the Bamboo mantis Veggie garden is doing well.

 

 

After 4.5 years of experiments I have a good sense of what is needed, and what will work. Part of the time was also spent going to the store and picking up a few things for the gardens, front and back. It was good to do and a blessing to have and do…Amitoufo.

Kyudo…

In other news. ( that more readers care about)…Kyudo. The next shinsa is a few weeks away. I have a different attitude about it this time. I am less mental intense, but at the same time, more focused. I have gotten some new adjustments I am working on, angle of the Yumi after release. If it is the wrong way it means I messed up during the release and most likely opened my hand. This I was told by Yamashita Sensei.  Do not when going from DaiSan to Kai bring the Yumi straight down the cheek. It should be away from the face until at the lip line then brought in to the face. Left arm is completely straight, the small twist comes when pushing the left thumb toward the Mato. Not from turning the arm which makes the shoulder rise. Yamashita Sensei, Nanadan told me the other day. Your hitting on the right side of the mato is a good thing , even missing. Hitting on the left is not so good. There was a because stated, but I did not get it!  Anyway little by little it is coming together. Even if it is not time yet, when it is time, I will be awesome… Amitoufo

 

Music:

Two of the three bands have gigs schedules, so that is picking up, sort of. I had one practice session with band 1, Sieki Band, the other day. It was ok, not everyone was there, some it was very loose. But ok, by way of just reconnecting. The 3rd band has a gig next month, we will practice a couple of days before that. The gig is the same night as my Shinza. Then up at 4:45 am the next morning, Monday to go to work. It will be a looonnnng day, really a long two days.
Casually thinking about my own solo show. Slowly getting a song list together. I am really more focus right now on Kyudo and Shakuhachi.
I really have no goal plans for shakuhachi, just to get better. The goals I had were learning to play the right way , not just by ear, and self-taught and then becoming a Komuso. I got both of those now, it is just to improve for the sake of improving. Also explore more of the Sounds and Meditation/healing aspect.

Music life has two parts. Pop/Blues and Shakuhachi…The Spiritual Side. It is not as fun, but it is an internal spiritual thing. The reward is different.

I am planning a trip to Muroji next month to do Takuhatsu and visit Matsutani Sensei. I am looking forward to playing there among the Autumn colors. I hope I can time it right. We have a trip to Cambodia also coming next month. It is be a busy interesting, hopefully fun month.

The survival job…

Work at the silver center goes on. At least for another 2 months before I am off for the winter. I am up at 4:45 so I can do my morning thing and get to work by 7:00 am. There after I do my morning greetings and check in, I find a quiet spot for some Qi Gong and a bit more stretching. Then find another spot to just sit and meditated. This spot is sometimes right there with the Lads who are chatting or just off to myself. Everyone is pretty friendly with me at this point. I am one of them some have taken to calling me “Chan” instead of “San”.

I from time to time get asked to do some Qi Gong/point Pain relief for some. Sometimes interrupting my meditation, but it is ok. I am usually looked out for when refreshments are being gotten for the crew. I have a good relationship there. It is much more comfortable than working for Marina for the zen “master”. Much harder physically, but that is ok, I look at it as training and exercise. It is all perspective and gratitude…Amitoufo

At lunch I usually go off to a quiet spot and sit alone. Depending on the location. When I am alone I can eat for 30 min, practice Shakuhachi for 15, nap for 15. Sometimes I grab a selfie for my SuiZen @ Lunch photo series. Once in a while depending on the location I just eat and nap like everyone else.