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.
 
Advertisements

The piglet session ….2019

 

The first Kobe Jam session… 2019

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

Happy 108/2018


2018/ 108 

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

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

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

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

 

Festivus…2018


Holiday Jams

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

Shakuhachi pilgrimages : Cambodia /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

 

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

 

 

 

Return to Myoanji

This maybe a boring post if you are not into Shakuhachi…

Today there was a Shkuhachi concert at Myoanji temple. in Kyoto. Myoanji is the home temple of the Komuso SuiZen sect. It is now also my home temple. It is hard to believe it has been a year since I was there, listening to the same concert. It is some kind of event, but I do not know what.

I did realize it had been a year until I saw the leaves starting to color today. I am aware of that because I want to go to Muroji soon. I am trying to work out when is the best time. Next week is sort of early I am thinking. I want colors still on the trees mostly, and not too cold. So I am on tree watch for the color changes, today I noticed it starting in Kyoto. So the tree in the temple yard today gave me notice and I recalled it was like this last time I was there.

Not only did I go because I am now a member, but mostly because my Shakuhachi group had players there. I wanted to support them and get some shots for the group’s FB page. Last time I got there after it started. This time I was almost right on time. It had just started when I arrived. They started with chanting the Heart Sutra. Then played “Cho Shi”. I was sort of surprised to hear them chanting, but it was a good lead into Cho Shi.

After that and a few brief words, the players started. Almost all of my group was playing in the morning, including the group leader who I had never met. Only one of the group was scheduled for the afternoon. He was number 45, I would miss him. I had no plans to hang there all day.

I was surprised how chilly it was in the hall. Cold in fact. I was glad I dressed as I did and wished I had a something else, like a heavier coat or another sweater.

 

One thing that came to my attention was the different colors and patterns of the Buddhist neck wear…the Rakusu (O-kuwara (大掛絡) for Komuso). I do not know if it is just a Komuso thing or what. In the states I always thought, Plain solid blue was for Novices or the like. Black was for Priest, Brown was for teachers. I found out later Purple is for “Masters”. Here I heard any Buddhist wears them. The colors, hmmm unknown about that I will have to research, seems like it does not matter. Here at least I noticed with the Komuso they have other colors and patterns. I am wearing my black one, that my Abbot gave me. Which gives it some personal significance. Other Komuso wear more colorful ones. It does not matter really, it is just a “thing”. Sort of egoish to desire something more than my functional black. I do get twang of fashion desire when I see the other Komuso “feathers”. I saw a cool purple one with a nice pattern. Yeah, I love purple and it was a dark purple. Nice, I had a moment of lust. It passed 🙂

 

It was good to listen to other players. Hear their phrasing on songs that I knew. Listening to the quality of their notes and the sound of their flute. My ear has changed. It rolled along smoothly. At one point there was a fairly large number of people in attendance listening. I was surprised.

After my group had played. I got to met the head guy, said my good-byes and took off. I was invited to stay for lunch but, I chose to hit the road. I did stop at a local “Indian” restaurant before catching the train home. Last time I was there the guys asked me if I was from India, this time another guy asked if I was from Brazil.

The wrap, it was a good day, listening, learning, the visuals. It was on the chilly side but bearable. I am pleased I went. It was a good day trip…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.