弓道 – Sometimes you are the bird…

…sometimes you are the statue!

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

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

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

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

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

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

up coming training in paradise.
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Back to the tunes


Back to the tunes…

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

弓道 – The continuing long and winding road…

Long and winding road.

 
Before my eye surgery. I was starting to feel like I was making serious progress. Like things were coming together. With some tweaks here and there, I would ready for June Shinsa. A few days ago a went by the dojo. It was closed for a while due to repairs from the Typhoon. It is now re-opened. I went by, and shoot. Only a couple of people were there. For the most part other than some chit chat, I just got to practice. I did poorly. I worked at a few things, there was a slight betterment. It is not my eyes. I never really thought seriously that was the problem. However, if it did make a bit of difference with focusing. It was in my mind, due to the distraction of not seeing well. I can see clearly now, a bit of unfocus is there, but at my age it is normal. Maybe some to do with my eyes still healing. Anyway. I can see and I still do not hit! Hahahahaha
 

So Thurs I take my tired act to the dojo to practice in front of Watase Sensei, the main guy, my for real sensei. Always watching when I shoot. He is the head of our sector with the Federation although not the highest rank. Yamashita Sensei is the highest that I know of, connected to our school.
Yeah, so I arrive later than I planned. Not a problem. I thought I would just miss Sensei and just practice. Even though I wanted Sensei to check my shooting, at the same time I did not want him to. 
I am walking through the park on the last section before arriving at the dojo, I encounter a classmate, Emi-Chan. We chat a bit. She is testing for Yondan next week. She said had been practicing, there are still a few there practicing, including Watase Sensei, who was bugging her. We laughed. I understood, so it is not just me. He is always watching, correcting. It is good, but still “Urusai” ( bugsome)
Matane, we say as we walk on our ways. I go into the Dojo, greeting some long time no see friends and settle in. Sensei is busy shooting. Part of my task of the day is to restring my bow. The string broke the other day at practice, I didn’t replace it then. I do so today. Go to the side area and settle in for the task. I find out the string I am storing in case one breaks, which I did not have with me the other day. This string is not broken, but close to it, it is frayed. I did to prepare two string today. I have at it. It takes a while to do two strings. The group kept practicing, some left.
I am just about finished. Sensei comes down my side to go to the rear. We chat a bit, he askes about eye is it better now? Can train for the next Shinsa? Hai, Keiko, I say, more training!
 
I notice everyone is making ready to leave. I am asked what mato do I want to shoot? I pick one. I always have trouble with how to say. “I do not care, whatever.” I just now remember a way. Great I will use it next time.
With everyone leaving, I figure I will not change and just wear a dogi and shoot.
I warm up a bit then go out on the floor. Sensei is busy doing something with a wheel barrel going to the back area. I make ready to shoot. From the side o my eye, I can see him in the distance off to the side watching. 🙂 Arigatou sensei.
 
I continued with my shooting, badly for the next three sets of ya. I am feeling discussed with myself, but slowly trying to understand what am I doing so wrong. I make some corrections, thing improve some, bit still suck! Sensei comes over and watches, he tells me several things I am blowing. I thank him and continue to practice. I am back and forth, Makiwara to mato, Mato to Makiwara. Sensei asks me how many times do I come to the dojo, 2 times or 1 time? I say for now one, but I have a Makiwara at home I practice on. He nods.
 
I got a lot of info that day. All in Japanese of course. A lot of it, I did not understand, work for word. However, I understood the points being made. I will work on them hopefully it will bring me back up again, maybe higher.
I decided also to seek some extra help at least once. I recalled the sensei who spoke to me in English back at Kishiwada one time. I thought she was someone else, I found later just who she is, from the person I thought she was. I asked a friend at Sakai Dojo, was there a sensei Named Sato, who spoke English there. Yes. She said, bingo! I said I want to meet with her, I have spoken to her before she invited me to class me to NZ to a seminar. I want to meet with her here and look over my shooting and give me feedback, in English. In case I am missing something in Japanese. My friend says in May that Sato sensei and some other top guy from NZ will be here in May, I could speak with them both. I said great, I will contact you again after my stateside visit.
 
I have made arrangements to study a bit of Kyudo at Chozenji temple in Hawaii, also with the Hawaiian Kyudo Kai on my upcoming visit. I will also get in some Kung Fu practice time with Tai Chi Mantis family. It should be a good training pilgrimage.
That, plus meeting with these Kyudo Sensei In Sakai, and back to serious practice I should pass this summer’s Shinsa. Yosh!

“Koten-shakuhachi-kenkyuu-kai”

“Koten-shakuhachi-kenkyuu-kai”

Society for the Study of Classical Shakuhachi

 

We had our monthly meeting a few days ago. The day before my return to Shitennoji to play. So it was another good chance to practice in front of serious ears.

Today we were supposed to have a guest. A student of Oliver, a sempai to me of course. He is a college prof and a writer. You can read his blog/webpage here on Komuso, shakuhachi,  Ok,  so his student from China who is visiting in Japan was going to be there. Hopefully, she would bring her Chinese Koto and play.

I was coming for sure that day. I came from another part of town than usual, I wanted to attend a Buddhist meetup I had been pushing off for a long time. A spent a lot of lost time that morning searching for the location. However, all of that is another story. I arrived at the Shaku group meeting a little later than planned but not enough to have missed a lot. I needed to pick up food to bring and grab something to eat then.

I slipped in and joined in the song that was upcoming on the agenda. A short while later another elder sempai bows his way in. We continue and also repeat Cho Shi together once more.

The way is made around the table for everyone to play a solo piece. I did Tamuki as a test for the Komuso offering event at Shitennoji. ( FYI: that whole story is on the Komuso blog). It went over ok, no one gave up any corrections except do not move the flute around so much. ( I was trying to find the sweet spot). The correction I was given last time I got the ok nod from another sempai when I asked him it was, ok? So ok, past that. I am feeling better about the performance on Sunday.

The visitor is up. She says she will not play shakuhachi but will play her Koto for the group. Perfect! we all some questions about the Koto as she was tuning. We all looked it over from all angles.

When she played it was heavenly. We all loved it. It was suggested that since I was the musician that she and I do a song together. If there was the time I would have liked that, however, I was feeling a bit shy about that at the moment as was she, so neither of us stepped to make it happen. Thinking back now I should have tried. It was not like a big deal to sound bad. Hahahah. It would have been all in fun. Sometimes being humble and shy is a fun blocker. I still need to step out of my comfort zone more, yet another personal challenge to work on….Amitoufo

 

 

…and so we are here.

Life can get in the way of blogging. LIfe rules. Life goes on, blog or not. You can not blog without life. I am in the deep post stage of healing now from the operation. No side effects I can see. ( hehehe) . I am so glad it is over. My eyes sight is still recovering, I am told about a month for vision to stabilize. Even I am so much better off now, visually speaking.

…In the world of bows and arrows.

I will get back to Kyudo training now, I can see clearer. Visually and mentally. I think I should make some progress now. I do not expect a lot of change because of the vision thing, but because I am understanding more about alignment, holding it, without tension. The other “seeing”. I can go back to shooting now, the weather is warming up a little. Summer shinza will be here soon. I will pass this year! I have signed up for a Tai Kai at Osakajo park dojo. It is the end of the month. It has been a while since I have gone to a Tai Kai outside of Kishiwada. I have not felt confident. I am better now and improving. This will help strengthen dojo ties, focus, form and be fun…I hope 🙂

…In the world of Sounds and beats.

I have been working on a couple of musical projects. Oh, wait did I tell you the drummer with the Sieki band quite. Not a big deal, I did not think he was that good. Ok in a limited scope. The leader has found a new guy. I do not know if he is long-term or filling in for the spring Shows. I hope he is a good player.

Then there is my stuff. I have a Komuso Shakuhachi memorial coming up this weekend. This is the one had to play at in front of the masters last year. to have my sponsorship announced. Now I am back,  I have been putting some extra time as possible. Trying to memorize the song. Having eye surgery and no job kept me time free to get some practice in. I decided this year to go with the long length Shakuhachi. At first the 2.0 now I am thinking the 2.5. The sound is much richer and fitting a shrine performance offering. Also, I seemed to have improved because now I can hit the higher notes. Sensei said to me today at my lesson. If you miss a note, let it go as part of the performance. In other words, It is done, let it go. Make the wind part of the note. In short, roll with it.
That’s something that every musician learns. Life is Zen, Music is Zen.

Life (Sound) is impermanence. When poo happens ( bad notes), learn and move on. The moment like the sound has faded away…Amitoufo

Ok, yeah I am doing the long flute. Another point today in class, I was shown more than told the answer to a question I did not ask but had been thinking about. Did I have to play the way it was written? No, I play what I feel, that is the point of an offering. I was corrected on a way I played a line at the Shakuhachi Club when I was giving a demo of me playing for the temple. Sensei gave me an example of playing the song as an offering in the temple. Much more in keeping with my thought, although much much better! LoL! So my main key to mind is playing to enjoy it, the feeling is more important than the notes!

 

The other project also involves the Shaku, but in a completely different setting. I had not been to the Ozaki Jazz society session in a while. I wanted to make a point of going this month. I organized 4 songs, to play. with whoever wanted to join. I also arranged for a friend who plays Mandolin to attend and another woman friend who attends regularly was going to be there. She agreed to play piano for me. I like her playing. So she and the mandolin player knew in advance what I wanted music wise. So I felt pretty set. The rest of the players could be sorted out on their parts as they felt them.

When I arrived it was quite crowded, I was surprised. Many faces I did not know. I greeted all I knew when I came in and had a seat near my friend. The session was lively and interesting. It was my turn…

I thought I had things all worked out about the sound. The last time I played the Shaku with a band I could not hear it well. I brought along a small amp and a clip-on mic holder, this time. I thought I was set. I explained things to the drummer and keyboardist how I wanted the beat and tempo. Turns out they both speak English, the keyboardist I knew did. I counted off and we started. slowly fleeing the groove. I got organized and stepped-up up to the mic for a note check. BLahhhh. Weak !  Weak! sadly weak I signaled to the MC for another mic to switch with the one I brought. We did a quick swap to the house system, I could sort of hear. I had to make do and just roll with it. I could not get into the feeling I wanted because I could barely hear myself, I am flat or off, or what. I suffered to hear. I could hear a few notes and I could hear some shouts of approval from the crowd. so I played on trying to hear by feeling, by sense. We made the timing change in the song it was a tricky part. The drummer blew it but we got past it and went into the next groove. I kept my Shakuhachi playing low-key, like background strings. Once in a while, I throw in a few solo bars notes. We made the tempo switch again this time the drummer really blew it, I was able to reset the time and get it back up to beat. Listening back on the video, it is not too bad. Some parts were even good. The attendees seemed to love it!

I was only able to do the one Shakuhachi song, then another song on the Bass, two total, because of the size of the attendees. No matter I found out what I needed to know, it was an experiment. It went well, it is no longer a question if I can play well enough or if I can pull it off mixing the sounds. The next issue is being heard. I mentioned that also to Sensei today. He told me the correct position to place a Mic and the best angle. I was way off-putting it at the end, it needs to be next to the mouth like a metal flute. Duh!!! ok, Now I know so it was a successful mission. Next, I will take it to the Blues club for a run. If the sound issue is solved I should be good to go. If you want to hear the cut-instrumental cut of the song, you can click here.

next return to the temple

 

 

Aftermath…this n that

 

Aftermath …this n that

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

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

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

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.

The eyes have it

…And now for something completely different.
 
My eyesight has been getting bad, not extreme but bad. I have been to the doctors a couple of times and they have verified something is up. My last drivers’ test I barely passed in the states. I have a boat license test coming this year. I did think that not I would pass. Cataracts I was told by one doctor. Another at the local hospital have that but my problem was not that so much there maybe, maybe something else. An old injury. That was news to me. My wife was not satisfied with the verdict from the hospital. This was last year. My boat License needs to be renewed this year. So I wanted to go to get glasses if needed. I was ready to deal with the glasses if needed. Also, I thought maybe it will help with my Kyudo hits.
 
My wife did research and found an eye clinic nearby, with a good, very good reputation from the locals. The thing that is said about government-aided health care is long lines. I have never had a long wait in the five years we have been here. We go in just before my appointment and I am out within an hour or less even with blood tests and the like. This clinic for the first visit one does not need an appt. my wife went in ahead of me and I would come over after my Kyudo class, she would check in then we expected to have a short wait. After she arrived she called me saying there was no wait come as soon as I could. When I arrived we waited about 20 min as people had started coming in.
 
The doctors saw me and ran me through some checks. I was amazed at the high-tech equipment there. Anyway, yes. My main problem was not my eyes so much, but the clouding due to cataracts. The operation would cost about 600.00 (US) per eye. Even with our insurance. The operation was scheduled for the next week. Better to get it done and over with. One eye was set up, the other, if I wanted, could be done two weeks later. Ok, I said. Let’s get it over with. I was somewhat uneasy. I have never had any type of surgery. AT my age that is I guess unusual. I know others who have had major operations, some who have almost died, and some who are dead. Getting old is not for the weak. I dislike medical stuff. So far I have been blessed. I do think though if I had stayed living in the US I would have had some problems by now, due to the western diet.
 
There would be a visit beforehand for checks and explanations of what was going to happen. I came back for that and received drops to start taking three before the operation. Ok, it was set. Things were explained to me by someone who spoke English as my wife was not available to attend. Very nice guy, helpful.
 
Day of the operation, I needed to be there two hours beforehand for pre-stuff. More exam does, etc etc. I was told there was be no pain. No pain so I was not too concerned. My wife was more so than me. On the day of the operation, there were many others there also. I settled in, listened to some Zen podcasts and waited. The operation I was told would take only about 5-10 min. I watched people go into the back and a short while later would return out with big patches on their eye. But none looked stressed. Ok, I thought this may not be too bad as they say. I had been told just what would be done during the procedure. It weirded me out a little, but I stuck with the no pain part. My turn. I go in and I am asked about where what arm was best to put the drip. This is all in Japanese, it took me a little bit to figure out what was being said. I thought oh jheeeh, ok it is on, this is real. Must be some kind of numbing I.V. into my arm. Ok, done, I waited.
 
Ok my turn, I followed the nurse into the back room, there were several techs and a doctor(s). I sat and they set me up. Face mask, covers, shields. I was getting the creeps, but not bad., breath, in breathe out I had been told I would not see the knife or anything but only like a kaleidoscope. It was supposed to be done with ultrasound and then a vacuum after eye lens was moved forward. Ok, it was on. I watched the lights. I was told at one point there would maybe be a small pain. I felt a burn, not bad, but still a burn. That must have been the cut /burn out of the connection to the eye film. Only was for a moment, then other stuff was done I was told there would be no pain. That was true. It was not pleasant and seemed like forever but soon it was over. I was relieved…a lot. Next out to the waiting area. Although there was no real pain I was a bit in trauma. My legs were shaking, not a lot and no one could tell but me. Like I had the chills. I knew I had gripped the chair tightly during the operation a couple of times and told/made myself relax, Zen and Shaolin training. I was asked if I felt ok, did I need to vomit while I was waiting. No, I was ok. I understood then why they said no food a couple of hours before the operation, I guess some people have gotten sick. Yeah I could see that from my shakes. It was more a mental thing than an actual pain thing. I received some more instructions. Shortly later a person came and gave me more drops and some painkillers if I wanted to take later. It was done. I went home and fell asleep for a while. Then there was some pain, not too bad, small. I had dental work before that was worse. I did not take the pain pills. I just rolled with it, after a few hours it passed.
 
I had a reasonable night sleep, after my first nap. I watched some TV and played Shakuhachi before going back to bed. I had another appt. in the morning for a checkup.
 
I was feeling ok the next day. I had no idea if I could see, I had the patch on. I could see just a little from the side but not really see. I wanted to keep my eyes closed because when I moved one they both moved and I could feel it, not comfortable, but not painful.

Back to the clinic. After the patch was removed. I was cleaned and checked, given more drops, asked questions, rechecked. I was asked how my vision was. I had a little difficulty opening my eyes fully but I could do it and I was shocked how clear my sight was on that eye. More drops, waiting, checks. At one point another man spoke with me who just also had the operation the same day as me. I was also good. I was given new drops to take home, protection glasses, and a night shield, more instructions, and my bill. Because we are low income we have another government discount. The same we received when I had my dental work done. Which in the US would have cost me $5-10,000.00. No matter what procedure within a month, my cost would be about $380.00. Pharmacy stuff like drops and glasses where extra but they were only about $15.00 U.S.. My next operation is in two weeks within the month period, so I have no other medical cost for this. With our standard medical it would have come to about $1,200. U.S. there are some good points to being low income in Japan if you can live simple. My U.S. SS income is not counted toward our income support. So to the government here, we live off of my wife’s part-time work and my part-time work.

 
It was a blessing moving here. Not only for my health benefits. but being away from all the hate, madness, and anger that is going on in the States right now. It is all so depressing. I am cutting back, way back on my FB use. It is too much of a drain my spirit, the bickering, attacks, divisions, lies. Also, there is no reason to do me to be so emotionally involved. I do not live there and have no plans to ever again. It is waste of time to be on FB so much. Losing friends and all that over things I can not do anything about other than vote my heart, like everyone else. So the point of this is besides the story is all the talk about how bad universal health is, is BS! I know of no one in any country that has it, not want to have it.
 
Anyway back to the operation, it was not pleasant, I guess no medical thing is. In this case, it was more, mentally distressing than physically. I go back in two weeks for the other eye. I am not looking forward to it, but it is bearable and beneficial to have it done and I’ve after a few days of discomfort. If you need to have the surgery, do it and move on. Now I can see clearly and able to get a Japanese drivers license. Maybe, just maybe I can get a small motorcycle one day an explore the countryside since it is doubtful I will get to explore the Waterworld anymore than I have. I have some slight access to a local boat, but I dislike being a bother, troublesome for the access. On the other hand, one never knows what the tide or the universe will bring in…Amitoufo.
 
 

弓道 – Bam, Yeah Baby yeah, Holla!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

弓道 – Shots in the dawn…

 

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

“Somedays you are the windshield”…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Somedays you are the bug”