Return to Paradise…the adventure begins


Return to Paradise….the adventure begins

 
My wife, it is her thing to set up cheap trips. We are heading to Hawaii now. It has been over 10 years since my last visit there. This time for me I had no interest in doing sight seeing. Having lived there for a while and visited afterward a couple of times, I have zero interest in sightseeing. This time for me it is all about training. Well at least 95%.
 
My last visit I wanted to visit the Hawaiian Kyudokai group. However at that time, they were no longer functioning. So no go! There was also a place called Chozenji. It is a Zen center. I called and spoke with someone about shooting, and doing some Zazen. I could not arrange it. I do not recall why, but it was a no! 
 
This time, the Hawaiian Kyudokai is back in operation. I finally after a long long time of tying to get in touch with someone, it was arranged for me to visit and shoot. I was hoping to get some help from a senior instructor on my shooting, in English. To see if I was missing anything. So it was arranged and set for me to visit…however…more the however later.
 
I was also able to contact ChoZenji successfully and make arrangement to visit. Chozenji has classes in Kyudo, ceramics, Taichi, Zazen, kendo, Aikido, Chado, and some other misc arts, and Zen training. Another, plus for the visit to ChoZen the archery instructor is also a Shakuhachi teacher, yeah, how cool is that? Heavenly training in Paradise…however…
 
There Is always usually a however. A yin to a yang.
 
Another thing, I was able to sort of arrange. My Kung fu sempai, with the Tai Chi Mantis federation his father was one of the seniors with the late grandmaster of the system. He had a school In Honolulu. There are still students there training on weekends in the park. My Sempai gave me the location, which is somewhat near where we are staying. So I can go train with them on the weekend, way cool!…no however!
 
Lastly, another friend runs a sailing school. He knows I am coming and said he would take me out on his boat! Another coolness. I will finally get to sail in Hawaii…however , yup another one 🙂
 
The however in this is my sailing friend is in Greece on vacation, maybe he will be back before we leave, maybe not!
 
The ChoZenji visit. Was arranged, thee are three howevers here. One they do western archery and call it Zen archery. They still o Kyudo archery but not all the time. I do not know when that happens. I asked about if they do real Kyudo, o was told they do both. That the end is the same, or something like that, the function is the same or something, hmmmm. My reply was hmm ok thanks. I do not know who it was that was telling me this. I do not think it was the instructor. Another however is the Tai Chi that they do, is not a standard Tai Chi. It is a 10 movement, not even the standard yang 24, something came up with by maybe the founder of the cente, who was supposed to be a high level player in many Martial Arts. I thought, well there is always something to learn, I will attend and roll with and open mind to learn something. The final however is, since my time is short I wanted to get into the center and busy asap. I will be arriving in town in the morning, the first session is not until evening. I figure great I can attend. Their prerequisite for attending any class is two 45 minute sessions. Not a problem, so I thought. There is a Zazen at 6:00pm the day we arrive. However I was told I could not attend, I needed to go to the introduction to Zazen class first. When I first contacted them I told them I was an experienced practitioner and also from the Rinzai linage. I was told I HAD to attend the intro to Zazen class. Sigh, that would not be until Tues, we arrive on Monday. So that is one day in the hole. I would miss the Taijiquan class on Monday. The Kendo class on Tues I would be in time for I really did not have that much interest. I can learn a few basics while in the islands, but I have no desire to continue once back in Japan. Even if I would be able to learn the principles, and use elsewhere. In a beginning class there are no real principals just very basics, stance, holding, etc. so really not that much of interest. Other than putting in the Zazen time, the day would be nothing of interest or new. Oh well…roll with it. Perhaps once I am there and go through their mandatory sitting, I can work out some kind of arrangement to at least practice, train on my own on the grounds for my stay. I will need to leave it up to the “Force” to provide the way.
 
The other “however”. The Hawaiian Kyudokai group had a scheduled special training class, session for beginners. They were unsure how many would show up fo part 2, the day I was attending. I could still attend and was welcome, I was told, but I would be limited to Makiwara shooting. Sigh, ok, better than nothing. I would get to meet the group and at least practice on my own…in effect roll with it.
 
The one last thing on my agenda for the visit was to visit, my linage home temple, where the sect first started in the States. I asked my abbot if there was still someone there I could see, or visit, or something I should see or visit. My Abbot passed away suddenly before I could get an answer. Sigh. So my plan for that was changed. I will still go visit the temple, pray and burn incense for my Abbot and my teacher from the linage who also passed away , maybe last year, I think it was. Whilst at it I will ask if I could speak with someone higher up than jut a regular monk and inform him of the passings and please pray for them. So rolling with it and making the best from what I was dealt. Yeah, pretty much the Cha’n way, and all we can do, under all circumstances. In sailing term, we can not control the wind, we can only adjust our sails…this is how we move forward with life…
 
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So I am on the plane now, the adventure begins.
 
Amitoufo.
 
 
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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.

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.

mourning and the lost of greatness

There are not many people in your life or have come into your life that you can say made a big difference in the course of it, for good. That can stand out. Also not just your life but in the lives of many. Usually, in my case at least it is an older person. An Uncle, teacher, coach. Rarely is it a peer. Rarely does one think of any of their hanging out buds as great people.  I do not mean great as far as a cool friend, I mean great as to humanity. It is rare to know someone who has helped change many lives positively.

 

I had the honor and blessing of knowing one such man. He recently passed away. A shocking wakeup to impermanence. I have been reading over the posts to his FB pages and I am continually touched by the remembrances from his students and friends.  His name was Steven Baugh (Da Shi ChuanSheng). We trained Northern Shaolin Tai Chi Praying Mantis together since the ’70s. Even though I was his technically elder brother, I held great respect for him as did everyone. I watched him develop his art through the years and expand beyond just the several styles of martial aspects of study. He returned to the basic roots of Spiritual Shaolin and studied deeply the spiritual side of Chinese Budo. He studied and graduated as a priest from the Hsu Yun Chan Buddhist temple in Hawaii and afterward founded the Lohan Buddhist templeSpiritual and cultural center in Las Vegas. He was already schooled in Taoism and Native American spiritual practices. Being part Native American he had inside access to that training path.

His past, training, studies, and heart gave him insight and connection to the minority community, which in many cases is overlooked when spiritual teachers are going public in Mainstream America. He told me once his teacher told him to go back to the mainland from Hawaii and teach because he was able to reach out to a large variety of people. If one saw his school, students and temple members, one could see this right off.

Once I moved to Japan, I had little thought I would see him again. I found out later that we had one of the same Chan teachers, and she held him as one of her favorites. Saying she had little to teach him as he was already deeply knowledgable. I found out he was coming to Osaka as a treat from one of his student’s who’s wife is from Japan. We arranged to meet up, and that marked a serious changed in my Chan path even after over 10 yrs of study and later became ordained through him in the Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun. 

For the past three days since his passing, I have been usually sensitive and mournful. It took me some thought to figure out it had to do with not just losing a friend, kung fu brother, but my abbot. I received direct dharma transmission from him. That gave us a different, more Spiritually Psychic connection, I am guessing.  I suffered a grave sense of loss at times over the 3 days. I made a pilgrimage to a local Buddhist/Shinto temple complex yesterday. I prayed at each of the Statues, burnt incense, and played Tamuke ( a Komuso offering song for the departed ), tearing up partway into the song unable to finish. However, it was enough. I was told by my Shakuhachi Sensei it is not important to play the whole song in this type of case. I recalled my first really public playing was as a “thank you” offering at the temple after my ordination.

This post this time is about something, someone more important than me. My Abbot, my brother, my friend ( 35 yrs + ). May you have completed all cycles and now be free of suffering.

Most who chance to read this, will not know who he was or will it matter. However, it matters to me in some small way I can honor him and ease some of my sadness with this post.
…Amituofo

 

“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

 

 

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”

Sessions…

Session by the Sea

Sessions are kind of like sex. It is usually good, but sometimes it is great! Depends on your partners. My last visit to Snafkin, I was invited to attend another session there on the 18th, which was yesterday! I was not sure who would be there. However, I was looking forward to it as there were going to be at least a couple of people I knew and played with before.
I had contacted another local musician, a mandolin player I meet at a session at Chicago Rock. We are in the same age group and he lives nearby. I played with him at Chicago Rick a couple of times and we rode the same twin home once before. I invited him to attend the session, but I was n to sure if he would. The keyboard player I have worked with and is perhaps one of my favorite players was scheduled to be there, but he said he was not sure about the time or appearance because of work. I was expecting the percussionist I have played with several times to be there, so I was told. 
The day arrives and I make ready to attend. I had three songs picked out to do. Really just two but this was just in case. I had no idea how long I was to play. I was even ready if I had to do with just myself and drums. 
It was nice it was not super cold, even though I was dressed for it! The temps were mild. I made my way to the cafe! It was not as crowded as I expected. Also, several people, I was expecting to be there were not. But it was ok. I arrived and said my hellos, I was pleased to see the mandolin player there. I was expecting him to be there to do a free Jam, but he said he was there for me! Cool, I thought. I also saw the keyboard player there already. However no percussionist. Ok, no big deal, we have played San-percussion before. 
There were a couple of acts before me. I sat, watched and grooved with them. One of them was another friend. I played with her a couple of times, she and played shamisen with me other times. Tonight she just had her keyboardist and sang. 
Soon I was up. I gathered my players, piano, and mandolin. It took a few minutes to figure out what we were doing and get things setup mic wise. The keyboardist was a little unsure about a couple of songs I spoke of, so I chose to stick with some simple blues. I also found out he remembered how I did Summertime and he played it in the right key for the Shakuhachi I brought along.
The first song was my version of “I hear my train coming,” by Hendrix. It is sort of a Jazzy funk blues. I have done it several places now. It fits me, and the people always seem to like it. It works with any group/band I am finding. Next up was “Summertime”. I played Shakuhachi on this and no bass, which I played in the first song. People are always surprised to see me bring out the Shakuhachi. Not something one expects to see for a Blues player. I was more prepared on what to expect this time as far as mixing the Shakuhachi. So that went ok. Another thing that had come to me when practicing. Is that I should be playing now, as when doing Honkyoku, it focuses on the notes, not how many I played, or how fast a run, but the feeling, the quality, tone, character of the notes. It made the playing better. Also made me less excited and able to blow more evenly instead of losing notes to just air sound. Even though that still happened at times. Overall it went very well. That was really my biggest concern is how will my Shakuhachi playing sound. It is still new to me in this venue. When we finished, we got a good response. From the band and the audience. 
My last song was a simple blues, but in a way sort of complex because of the rhythm change. Usually, I try to explain that to the players, but tonight I did not. I was going to keep it simple and just feel our way through it. Piano, Bass, harp, mandolin, and a guitarist joined us. We did the final song, almost perfect the tempo change came naturally and we flowed right into it. It was great. Again we were all impressed and pleased with the outcome. My only regret is that I did not record. I had thought about it, but after speaking with my friend about taking pictures and she wanted to use the camera, it slipped my mind to turn on my recorder on my smartphone. Oh well. It was sort of like a Zen thing, it was only to be experienced at that moment.
Afterward, we hung out a little, before my friend the Mandolin player and I walked to the train for our trip home. He gave me a lead on another good place to go fo Blues sessions, that was fairly local which also had good players to attend. Nice! I will be checking it out. Also, I am thinking more now about adding this mandolin to my personal group idea. I had thought of mandolin being more of a country sound, but this guy worked it with the blues. People at the club were impressed with his playing. I was even more impressed than when I heard him before. In this setting it was nice, nothing was too loud, so it all could be joyed, unlike at Chicago Rock where everything is so loud.
So yeah, like sex with the right partner, the session was great, a learning experience and a blessing…Amitoufo

Session @ the Rock

I had a gig a week earlier at Chicago Rock. I was part of a trio that the Chicago Rock Master had assembled. We had no rehearsal and no song list before the show. We three had played together once before again with no rehearsal just did it off the cuff. The other time we had Jo-San the keyboard player, this time no. Still even though very very loud it went over well. I was told to turn up my bass. That is really different! I neede to turn it up so it could be heard in the sitting room. In Chicago Rock, one small room is where the band is, the stage of sorts. The other room is where the people sit and drink. I had to turn up so loud it sounded distorted coming out of the amp. I did some recording that night, but because the Bass was so loud and the smartphone mic was not able to handle it, it sounded crappy when I played back. Generally, we, the band sounded pretty good, but the distortion was BAD on the recording. Which is really too bad a couple of songs we actually sounded good on! I am not sure what will happen with this group if I will play again? Nothing was said and I left pretty soon after we finished. I did not even stick around to see if there was enough income money to pay us. I chatted with a woman singer, for a short time who spoke some English. Then I took off for home. It was a good night.

Session Izumisano

Ok last on the music train. My friend the Percussionist, contacted me the other day. The day before the Snafkin session asking me to come by a show he was doing nearby my home. Usually, when I am invited it is to play something. however, nothing was said about me playing, So I was not sure. I was thinking maybe he just wants some body support at the show. However, I thought hmm ok, maybe I should bring my Shakuhachi just in case I am asked to do a ( one) song.


I went to the showplace and small little Cafe. Near the Indian restaurant, I go to and have been meaning to go by lately. The Manager saw me as I was walking by. we talk a little. I said I would be back if he was not closed. For you no worries he said. So off I went to find the Cafe. Without the smartphone. I would have never found it! Ok, I locate the cafe and someone comes out and shows me into a seat. It is a very small place. One big round table and several chairs around. I am greeting by my friend who is playing. I take a seat and settle in to watch. After about 3 songs, they are finished, I am thinking they are going on break. Nope, I am asked to do a song. EhhhH!!!!!! what? really?! hmmm. ok, I take a guitar and give some thought on what to play. I start slowly as I am not warmed up. It went ok. I changed somethings as I went along because I did not know all the Spanish words and did not have my harps. So it was just singing and guitar. Next up, a guy comes out and takes another guitar and starts playing off to the side but right next to me. I am thinking ok, I am done. However, I am asked to another song. Hmmmm ok. I say since there is someone with a guitar, I will play my shakuhachi. I give the guitarist some cords, tempo, and beat. We fiddle with it a little bit then start. It is all improvised for me, as what I was expecting to hear and what was being played were different. So I just listened and went with what was being played, not with what I wanted to hear. Again more on the tones and spirit rather than technique. I rolled with it and just freestyled, again feeling like I am doing musical push hands. Listen, Stick and flow with the energy/notes. It was good practice for me. The more I play, the better I will get, everything is practice, everything is Cha’n. Once again everyone was surprised when I whipped out the shakuhachi. LoL! Then one last song I took up the guitar again. I had been trying to avoid doing a blues but it was that time now. My first song was Besame Mucho, then the medium speed instrumental Shakuhachi freestyle. Now, something a little funky yet simple. It felt to me a little empty without my Harps but …yup I rolled with it. By now my fingers had warmed up and I was feeling more comfortable on the guitar now. It was like driving a new route not quite sure where you are, but then recollection kicks in and you are like, oh yeah I am close to home.

Again it went over well. I stopped and the next act to come on. Being mostly unprepared, but always ready, things went over ok. I wish I had known I was expected to perform, I could have prepared better. I watched the next two acts, then it was over. I made ready to leave. After a few chit chats, in Japanese, always scary. I made my way out the door. Outside my friend gave me money for coming!! I was shocked and tried to refuse, but he insisted, after three times I yield. At that point, a friend of his comes over. She is an English teacher so we chat a little before I head off to catch my train. So, new contacts, meetups, got paid, got lunch, it was a good day! I brought dinner home! Amitoufo _/|\_