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.
Advertisements

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 – 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

 

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…

Shakuhachi pilgrimages : Cambodia /pt 1

 

Have flute, will travel: Siem Reap pt-1

One of the places I wanted to visit was Siem Reap, Cambodia. The once largest city in the world, Angkor Wat always seemed interesting from a historical standpoint. I loved history in school except remembering dates for a test. I digress
Later I found out about the Buddhist aspect of the place, and I grew a larger interest. From a photography viewpoint as well, always was interesting. 
In our conversations about travel, my wife and I agreed on Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia. For me it is a nice thought, but for she makes it real. We went to Vietnam Nam, now it was arranged and we were off to Cambodia. She says we are getting older, we need to do this now while we can. She is right, as are all women, all the time!
Continuing, we set off for a five-day adventure. We were booked at one hotel for two days another for three nights. She had a deal going. My focus on the trip was the Angkor Wat complex and some food. Her’s was food and chilling. I would do the temple exploring on my own.
We traveled on Vietnam air. It was a pleasant flight and got served food and drinks, like in the old days of flying. The only problem we had, was changing flights. There was no clear marker for changing flights in Vietnam. So we just followed the sign that said all passengers this way. We end up at immigration. My wife was able to get entry, but I was not without a visit, being a US passport holder. This caused some issue being understood I did not want I into Vietnam. My wife was already cleared and stamped. She had to get that canceled. Then we were told to go to another window, that line was slow, my was becoming antsy and asked someone else. We were again in the wrong line, just go through these doors and up the steps. Ok, we rushed. Now at security, again. Wife starts to panic, tells some official, person we will miss our plane, not our fault, blah blah, we get sent to the front of the line and mark the plane easy. Whew, now we (she) can relax.
Day 1
We arrived early evening at the hotel, after checking in, I take a walk around the hood to explore. and scout. Mission successful I return with a good Idea of where we are and how to get around to the main drag. Then settled in for the night. There was some couple of hours difference in time from Japan, which is later.
Day 2 
I mostly I stayed in the room, after a brief outing of hunting and gathering after renting a bike. I stayed on our balcony, ate happy pizza and played shakuhachi with the birds. Perhaps the second coolest part of the trip. I was surprised at the variety of different bird songs. I record some of the sound of them singing. I tried to copy, or ad-lib with them. The weather was perfect! For some reason no mosquitos! Perfect! Our balcony was perfect, private, yet I could see. It was a small pleasure yet held great joy and gratitude…Amitoufo
Day 3
For a large part of the day, at least the morning, again after the breakfast buffet, I stayed and practiced on the balcony. We were supposed to change hotels at noon and I was to be picked up for a horseback ride. This I just happened to find online. The ride was a three-hour tour. LoL. Through the countryside and a few villages, and up to a temple.
A tuk-tuk driver sent by the stables picked me up at the hotel. Handy. After a small mixup about who and where I was, we were off. I arrived at the stable after a short ride through the countryside. The driver aid he would come back for me. Great I said.
I went to the office and checked in. The stables were large and clean. As I was filling out my paperwork, some other people showed up. I thought they were coming to be with me. However, once I checked in, I got a guide and a horse, and we were off, after asking if I was comfortable he saw I knew how to ride. My horse was named Mexico. He did not want to go. He had to be pulled at first. My guide said, Mexico is lazy but he is a good horse. I laughed. We started pretty slow. The guide wanting to chat some as we rode. Which has hard because of the distance. Mexico had his own pace and distance he wanted.
We rode through the rice fields, along with lotus ponds and through several small villages. Poor people but seemed happy. The kids, if one yelled hello, they all would copy when they saw me. Houses on poles, sometimes you could see beds outside beneath the house, Kids, fishing in dirty water. It was kind of sad. I had a lot of imagined thoughts of being in the war there and Vietnam. Sad, scary, and blessed I did not have to go, even with no bone spurs. However, right now, I was blessed to ride a horse through the countryside with no worries about bullets or bombs, or traps… Amitoufo.
I was there taking pictures with my smartphone from horseback. I had a little hand camera but I’d not think to use it at the time. Oh well. I would have like to have gotten a shot of the villagers that looked amazed to see someone as dark as them riding horseback through the village. They waved and pointed. I gave them the traditional Buddhist gassho. They got a thrill from that, laughing and returned the bow. I wish I had a photo shot of them. Overall the trip through the villages remind me of deep Mexico, but greener. One thing I noticed in Mexico different was the number of musicians, there was a lot! Not in Cambodia. I only saw a couple. More on that later. Another common thing I noticed beside the poor factor that was in Mexico if they play recorded music at home, It is usually loud. Some of there’s house in the countryside was like that. LOUD music. I do not know if it was because of the festival, holiday, that was just ending or what? I saw some stores in town that sold A LOT of BIG speakers. I thought they were for clubs, but they are home use!
 
Back to the ride. So my impression of the countryside was it is like all poor places. Hawaii, Mexico, Malaysia, Vietnam, American Native reservations, poor is poor. Everyone does what they need to live, with what they are dealt. People are people. Even with torn or no clothes, the children play. The kids on the route were cute. The farmlands were nice to ride through, although the waterways are filled with dark water in many places. It was not as “jungle” as I thought. I would call the wooded landscape more forest like than jungle.
 
We arrive at a temple. It could not enter because I had no pass. However, I did get a few pictures outside of the temple. For my shakuhachi pilgrimage photo collection.
We returned to the stable just at dark. It was well time, there were a few times we brought the horses up to a trot. It was hard on my privates, the bouncing. I was ok just at a walking pace, but we needed to get back, I guess on time.
My TukTuk driver was waiting. He was a good guy and his English was good. I made arrangements with him to give us a ride the next day, to the massage place my wife wanted to visit. Also to a vegetarian restaurant I want to visit. The food was only so-so. Tawain rules as far a veggie food go! Another reason to return for me. There is a Kyudo seminar there. If I could return to Taiwan for a Kyudo, Chan, Eating, jam session Iw ould be quite pleased. But I digress.
Day 4
For the most part, I hung out in the room and practiced. That to me was fun and pleasure. My wife spent most of the day poolside. Later we went to get a Khmer massage. The woman I got was strong, bigger than some of the others I saw. She asked if I wanted soft, med or hard. I said hard thinking, she was not to be that strong. I was wrong. It was quite painful! She knew how to use her weight and bones. Reminds me of a Kyudo saying ” shooting is done not with the hands, but with the bones.” At least on my legs, painful! My back and shoulders were fine, but man she brought pain to my legs. The next day I was sore from her treatment. I had a spot to practice TaiChi and some Fu, boy oh boy, some stances hurt hurt hurt from her. I rolled with the pain while under her hands, thinking, ok this is training. I am Shaolin. Yosh!
Day 5
Ankour Wat …to be continued.

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

 

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