Trips around the Sun…


It has been a while since I posted. Life happens! Since today is the anniversary of my Sun orbit cycle for this passage, it is as good a time as any to do a new post. Maybe the best timing.

A lot has passed since my last entry. It is hard to find a beginning spot that matters if any does. The last thing I recall here is I was just ready before going back to Nara. I did I bit of Takuhatshu there, before going to the temple to play for OMatsuri at Sempai’s local temple. That was interesting. I always enjoy these small local things. They are like a small mini time travel session. I did my small bit of playing shakuhachi for the group. which was larger than I thought. They were as always impressed that I could play and was there. Everyone was nice. Details are on the Komuso Blog.

Shortly after I went to the Kobe Blues session. I do not go often do to the distance and cost of travel, besides the next day hassles of early the night before if I do not stay over at a friend’s. It is fun the session, but there is usually a feeling of empty at times. Hard to explain sometimes it is great, other times…lacking

And now after my birthday dinner and most of a bottle of sparkling wine, I can not recall must of that time anyway.

Ok, so rather than trying to fill in what I do not recall I will start from where I do. Yesterday, for my birthday my wife took me a Greek restaurant. There have been very good reviews from the locals. There are very few Greece places in Japan. This is one of 3 that had good ratings. Also, they usually had a mix of Italian food not just Greek. Coming from The bay Area where we have a lot of Greek deli type places I give it a rating of 6 on a 1-10 scale.  10 being the best! it was good and a nice change, but the Greek in better in Cal. Even from the Deli. I really wanted a Falafel !! Oh well.

The other night there was a session at Snafkin. It was really a night were the IYO band was playing. However, we were going to slip in a practice session for my band, which was performing in an upcoming concert at the beach for Snafkin. It is an annual thing. So we were going to get in a practice before and after the AYO band played. He, the keyboard player, plays for them mostly and a solo acts himself. That is the thing in Japan no one just plays for one band unless that band has a national name.

We, my new band, got in some practice time and it went fairly well. One song sounded like we practiced it more than just once today. I was surprised. I was expecting to play once more or so after the AYO band finished, but I find out I am requested to play as a part warmup act for the IYO band. I was not expecting that. Ok quickly considered what to do. I drafted the Bass player from IYO’s band. He was very hesitant! Saying he did not know the song. No big deal I said. It was weird. He was reacting the same way I do when asked to sit- in on a Jazz piece. This was just a Blues and I gave him a chart. Anyway, he agreed finally. I was going to play a song where I got to use Shakuhachi. I always need the practice live. We started the song slowly, I was having a lot of trouble getting a sound from my flute. OHG, so embarrassing!! This was a was my Zen and Kung Fu training kicked in. Do not panic, breathe, think! I fiddled with the mic and tried several times to blow but no sound. Ok, I got a drink, as if I needed it, then just started to sing. As I sang I gave the flute a few tries, and finally was able to connect. I played for just a small bit, and then I lost the sound. As in Kyudo when you miss the shot it is usually something about “you” that is the issue, not the equipment. In the case of the Shakuhachi, this is so very very true. the problem was me! There are no parts or anything with the Shakuhachi, it is a tool of truth, you can get a sound, or you can not, it is not the lacking of within the flute.

I play a little then again lose it, I did not panic, never panic. I decided to switch up and play the Harmonica. I went over to the table to get my harp and as I reached for it, I knock over my Bass which was next to it them. I laughed, the keyboard player laughed. I rolled with it and kept singing and made the switch. Things went well… of sorts. I Kept having issues with the Mic adjustment location. As the Keyboard players were doing his solo, he started dropping papers and stuff. Again we laugh, but the song goes on. That is how we roll. LoL!!

Overall even though I still had a few issues with hearing myself, we finished the song and for the most part it turned out ok. I did not realize that until afterward when I listened to the video. All that stuck out for me was the suck parts when I could not get a sound! After listening to the recording I find it was not so bad 🙂

Our next song, was really just the new band. Really a trio today as we had no percussion. We did a cover song by Stevie Wonder. This our second time playing ever, today. Surprising it turned out good. Like we knew just what we were doing, helps when the band members lesson to each other. I did this same song with one of the other bands, the Kuruzeders, we did not sound as good then as we did with this Trio!

The next day I am chilling, very limited Facebook interaction. I am planning to enjoy my birthday break. I spent the day, a small bit of gardening, mostly just working on my ceramic pieces. I hope the person in charge of firing at “club”  did /does so over the break. I now have about 8 pieces that need to be “baked” before I can take the next step and do the glazing before putting them up for sale and seeing if there is any interest. That would really really give me a boost if there was interest in buying. I could actually have something artsy that was marketable. Music is a difficult Art route for more than pleasure.

Speaking of music that is the other thing I did over my Sun circumnavigation trip anniversary. I discovered a song I want to do as part of my solo set and maybe with the new band, I am just recently asked to Join. So I worked on that song. I put down a beat track and a bass track on my looper to give me something to work from. It went well, that another song which I started with one of the other bands.  I just realized I am connected to several bands: The Kursaders, The Saki Band, Mr Joe’s girl band, and my Kaze Band, oh and sometimes the Dirty Deal Blues Band.

The other big musical thing I did was some work to my Bass. I have been thinking about changing my bridge to a Gold Brass one. I have been putting it off and off, finally, I went for it. I was nervous about doing it correctly, there are many adjustments to set and this was my first time. I took my time and it went well. I could tell a difference in the sound right away.

After all my years of playing, this is the first Bass I have made truly mine! Not just mine as in owning, but mine as in changing stuff just to my taste. Cool it is!

So all in all at this time in Life, things are pretty good. Making music, Kyudo, Ceramics, My WaterWorld life is pretty much a wash:-(, as is my Kung Fu teaching. I guess I should just consider myself retired from those fields. Oh well, one can not have everything they say. I am sort of getting a new change of plan for Japan travel. Since I can not do it by sailboat, perhaps by motorcycle. Since I have had my eye surgery I am pretty sure I can pass my eye test for a Japan drivers lic. However I do not have a motorcycle, but it would be easier to get and keep than a boat. Still, there is the money thing and with a set budget, it is pretty much in the same realm as a boat…an out-there-dream! Yet, things change as you live and breathe. One never knows what the tide ( Heaven ) will bring in…Amituofo




The Bamboo path

The Bamboo path

The Classical Shakuhachi Society
The Shakuhachi journey has various roadside stops. It is interesting along with the people one meets. We had our monthly Classical Shakuhachi Soceity meeting last week. This time we had a full house. I had invited a new aquitence I meet, via my Komuso Sempai. He is a priest, of a Jodo Buddhist temple, as is another our of group. Another member had bring along someone who had contacted him and there was a new player/student of another member there as well. He was new to playing Shakuhachi. In total there were nine. Three more than usual. It was a nice size.
We did a round of introductions, I got very little of the info, of course. However it did not matter I got the gist of it! Afterward we played together a few songs and individual songs. Afterwards we had the refreshments. Misc foods, wine, sake, words and laughter. I am not suppose to be drinking, but I still had some. Just did not over do it. Once in a while is ok! It was a good session, we all had fun. One nice thing about this group we are all about the same age.

Zen Rhythm Cafe
The following Sat, my new friend the priest’s temple held their monthly Cafe session. I went this time. It was my second visit. This time I had prepared some songs. The cafe is held inside of his temple on the second floor of a wonder building. There are a few tables set up for buying gifts, coffee, a small meal, foot and or back massage, and fortune telling. Also there is floor space for music acts.
I arrived later than I planned, but still in time to do several songs. I played Shakuhachi with myself as backup. I had made a recording of myself on Sansen, piano, bass, an guitar. I wanted to test how it would go, as part of my plan for solo performances. As I arrive late there were not late many people there, but it was well received.
I hungout afterwards and spoke with a few people. I spoke with the fortune teller as she was starting a group session. I learned she was doing the Japanese version of Tarot Cards. She said she is the only one in Kansai who does them. She also said it is a Shinto tradition, I did not know that. I passed on joining and just watched.
Another guy comes to me, he is a friend of the priest. This person speaks English. He is like a Japanese Caropractor. He studied in the states. He was invited by the priest to act as a translator so we could speak easily. The guy was interesting. We spoke of natural healing and energy flow as well as sound vibrations.
After all was done, and the “cafe” was over, we went downstairs to the kitchen. There the priest’s wife made a “Hotpot” ( Nabekura) meal for the priest, his friend, the new student from the Shakuhachi group who had also come and myself. We ate a lot and drank. There was a lot of wine and some sake, but I did not feel over loaded. We chatted and drank. After eating we went to the garden area and sat on the porch and listen and watched the rain fall on the garden. We spoke spoke of gardening and life. The priest’s wife brought us dessert and tea, the men sat and talked. It was very Japanese.
A nice way of spending a Sat night…Amituofo

Playing in the mud

Playing in the mud 


When I first started thinking about moving to Japan, there were a few things on my to-do list. Study Zen, Kyudo get my Yondan, Sail the inland sea, play music and study Shakuhachi. There were some other things that included the boat, but those were more business related, like teaching Martial Art classes. It could still happen and it did for a while, but it dried up. I have pretty much been blessed to have done most of those things. Even on a small scale.

I have gotten to sail the Sea of Seto, not as much as I hoped for, but I did do some. My Zen studies continue although not Japanese Zen so much. But I did have some exposure to it. The Kyudo is an on-going struggle. I am with several bands on and off as well as having and developing a solo music career. Shakuhachi is included in that along with finding a teacher and becoming a Komuso. Something I had not thought of but find rewarding, Spiritually.

Finally, I have joined a ceramic workshop. Not a class perse, but a workshop, where I can practice and develop my skill and projects. It is in the next town and I can ride my bike to the location. which is very nice. I started a couple weeks ago. I have some Art project I am planning and I have free rein on what I want to do. So that is very cool. There is no wheel in the class, and tools are limited, but that is ok. The project I have in mind are all hand built items anyway. It is good I had some background in that. As I look back on my former study I learned and was exposed to quite a bit in my college classes. I had a small introduction to ceramic as part of my Graphic Designer major. I enjoyed it to continue with additional classes outside of my required credit.

So another item checked off on my Japan bucket list.

弓道 – half step back…

I went to the Dojo again today. It was not planned, I needed to go past the stop on the train, so I figured I might as well make use of the trip. It turned into a rainy day shoot. I love rainy days when I am inside. It is rare for me to go two or three times a week when not working. However, I felt I needed to and since I was “going nearby” there I should make use of it. It was only a couple of yen extra to make the stop and pay the dojo fee.

The Kaicho was there today along with a few others I had not seen in a while, so it was good. I was reminded of an upcoming TaiKai at the end of the month and informed of a few details like we will start with Kimonos then changed to Dogi after the opening due to the heat of the day expected. It should be interesting. Sounds like several dojos will attend.

I did a few shots, on my own just to review what I had been told the other day. I had meh results. I asked the Kaicho to check me out. He gives me detailed explanations, I do not understand it all, but he tries to explain in a way I can get it. I asked him about my back and shoulders. To place his hand on them as I shot and say which was correct. He says arch and it does indeed mean arch. It is impossible to round my back as I thought I was told the other day and to arch at the same time. I surmised that I was leaning too far back and not staying centered was what I was doing wrong. Support with the “bones” he said, do not use muscle strength. To be sure after he told me that I showed him the word “bones” in Japanese he said, yes that is it. he also went over a few other things I asked about just so I was clear. My left hand Tenouchi, and right Tenouchi, my release. Another thing from the other day was the space between my forearm and bicep. I had been under the impression that once my elbow was in place it was only my body that expanded. This caused the gap, the “v in my arm to be too small. It is ok to open up a small amount so that my right hand is not so near to my head in Kai.

He also said more about keeping everything in line of my arrow line. So I am making more of an effort to point the right elbow at the target. A few times he said yes, that is just right, even when I did not hit. I always find that weird. How can it be right if I do not hit? However, I am growing to accept that. I told Kaicho my brain was tired with Kyudo. It is so complex, so many small details, that are a big deal! He said, little by little, small steps advance.

I was asked several times by others when I was doing the next Shinsa. I said it is a long way off before I am ready. I need a lot of practice and training still. We laughed.

My overall score for the day was low again, however it did not matter. I have a clearer idea of what to work on at the Makiwara…I hope.

I am getting a new smart phone tomorrow. I will finally be able to use my translation app. Hopefully, this will help when I need something explained…hopefully. Kyudo is difficult enough as it is, but throw in fully not understanding the explanations, that doubles the difficulty. My sometimes solace is that there are others still struggling at the same plateau as me. Misery loves company 🙂

弓道 – Two steps back, a step forward

I went to Kyudo today. I got to see a couple of classmates and a sensei I am fond of. It was nice to feel missed and welcomed. I did not expect to really get a lesson, just to practice and try to figure out why my shooting was so bad the other day. I thought the Kacho would be there to check me a bit. However, he was not. My Main sensei was there yesterday, but I did not go due to the rain.

Today was pretty quiet. Right off my string broke, yuk. Anyway, I got set up and started to practice. My classmate gave me a couple of pointers she noticed. It helped a bit. During one of the transsions, I asked the Sensei who was there, who is also my friend and fellow musician about my release. Wow, that really turned into a major makeover of my draw and release. Jheeze I was not expecting that. I apparently had the wrong image of what I was supposed to be doing, and position at full draw. Pretty sure due to my poor Japanese understanding. Well, I can only do the best I can do. Sigh…My fear is that I work on it over the next few days and return to have another sensei say it is wrong. Perhaps not wrong, but not right. Oh well, step by step, inch by inch I move.
I was able to make the last two shots in a row after the adjustments. It also felt much better, more relaxed. Something that the Kaicho has been telling me for quite a while I am not relaxed.


Well, all I can do is practice the best I can and see where this takes me on this Kyudo Koan. I continued to practice after the time I had set aside, and most everyone left. I put in a three-hour practice instead of the two. I was able to make my last to hits back to back along with another back to back pair earlier. I finished with a 35% hit rate for the day. Which is back to my normal average for a shooting session. Well, an improvement over the other sad and sucky day. It was said to me by my Kung Fu uncle in the past, sometimes when you lose you win. So without this setback, perhaps I would have continued on the wrong path and just have been lucky, not skilled. I will count this as a win!

The adventure continues…Amituofo

Almost perfect

Almost perfect

I was not really up to it, however…I went. That is one of the things about years of Martial Art training, and not even just MA but doing daily Zaizen, discipline. Maybe the MA training helps with doing daily Zaizen, since I have been doing that longer…discipline comes. Discipline is part of daily life. So many times, not all times, because I am weak still, even when not feeling up to it. I do it. This was one of those times. I did not feel up to going to going to the kyudojo, but still I went. I had band practice afterwards was the plan. I would go to the dojo , then go to band practice. I had gone to Kyudo the day before, however I made the self commitment I would go today as well. I could save money and get in my practice by going on the way to rehearsal. It is about a 20 min walk from the train station to the dojo. It another 10 min walk from my home to the train station. When it is hot it really takes will power. It was hot for a day in May. Training mind set engaged!

I got off my Rusty dusty and headed out. I would only get about one hour of shooting in before the dojo close and I would go to rehearsal. However, 1 hours was ok, better than zero.

I arrived at the dojo one of the Sensei’s and another dojo mate were leaving. Ohhh you are late they said. I replied no problem, just a bit of practice is ok. They gave me the key and left. I was alone as expected. I had at it. The day before I had a 50% hit rate. I was thinking ok, maybe 40% today that would be good. I will feel like I am advancing.

First shot center of the mato, however high just above the mato, hmmm. The next several were the same. I was disappointed but not really surprised. I tried adjusting everything. I went through a series of shots. I was at a perfect zero hits. The last two shots of 16, I stopped caring, my time was up. The very last shot was a hit. Spoiling my perfect zero percent for the day. What is the sound of the Universe laughing? Toward the end I was starting to get into not hitting. Sort of like becoming one the pain, at one with the suffering, embracing the suffering.

I checked with the band about rehearsal, it was cancelled. I was the statue today…The Universe was the bird…sigh.

How does one translate the feeling of dong right at the mato, to hitting at the range…

I am re-reading the Zen book beginners mind. There is statement in there about sitting just to sit, doing just to do. No goals…just sitting is enlightenment.

I have said many times about we are where we are suppose to be…perhaps I have reached where I am suppose to be and now just need to be content sitting. Is that the same as giving up? Staying down when knocked down, or enjoying the getting knocked down. Enjoying the act of re-standing…a Kyudo Koan.

How wise of me not to try for the next Shinsa.

I wonder if all those who join dojos, with no ranks no tests, do so, because they could do no better. Is it really about self development or a failure to achieve the skill… or the fear of failure… or sitting just to sit.

either way, more practice is needed… to just accept… or to improve…or to improve at accepting.

Maybe it is a biorhythm thing. If I can figure out my good days and plan according…adjust my sails as it were…or just plain more practice. 2 thousand kicks instead of 1 thousand…3 thousand? Or maybe it is more Zazen. I have heard it said when you do not hit it is because you are not spiritually balanced. or something like that. When you shoot you are “naked” spiritually. My Shakuhachi Sensei has said when one fails to produce a good sound it is because they need more Zazen. Hearing that from him is always interesting as he is not that kind of person. Anyway yeah. Maybe more Zazen, standing Zazen, which could in a sense just be another term for more practice 🙂

If I awake tomorrow, I have the choice to piss in the wind or turn. Life is great like that…Amituofo

On a good note, I did save a life that day. I was walking back home through the park. I spotted a shape in front of me on the ground that was different. It was hard to see as it sort of blended but not quite. I could notice it, but doubtful if many others would. Japanese are not very observant when it comes to walking and paying attention. So I stopped and took a close look, it was a baby turtle. at first, I thought it was perhaps already dead. but I picked it up and it moved. I replaced it in the bushes off the walked path. It was worth the trip of a depressing day, at least it mattered to this little turtle.

What a blessing to have one of the largest issues in my life is not progressing at Kyudo…Amituofo


Treading water in the Pond


Recess is over

It has been a while since I went to the dojo. Maybe three weeks. I have still been practicing but just not going to the Kyudojo. Part of it was to save money. I had some other things going and needed to cut back on my travel expenses without the minister of finance being on my case. Partly also I was just not up to it. I have however been putting in Makiwara time daily at the Bamboo Mantis Hidden Makiwara Dojo.
The other day I got asked by the dude next door not to practice!!! I went out at 10:00 pm and was going to shoot my min of three arrows. I shot one, and he comes out in his underwear saying it was too noisy. Ehhh! It took me a while to figure out what the heck he was saying when I did, I was shocked! He creeped back into his house. This is a guy who does not want to have anything to do with anyone in the hood. No one likes him! So, yeah. I was not pleased. At first I thought screw you and shot another arrow. Then I thought about it… ok, it is after 10:00 but it is not loud. Still, I should be considerate. I put my stuff away. I asked my wife if she could hear me shoot from inside the house. She said when I am downstairs yes. Hmmm ok, I thought. She also said but it is not that Loud. I told her what happened, she said you are usually only there for a short time. Yeah I said, and I only shot once before he comes out whining. Still, I thought I should chill because he is a jerk, does not mean I need to be one also. Also made a note not to shoot after 8:30- 9:00 at the latest. It is something I generally do not do anyway. This time was rare and I was not thinking about the time. With some effort I let go.
Back to the main thing. I have been practicing at home instead of going into the dojo, and working on internal stuff. Balance, form, breath, etc. it is kind of difficult because I am not really sure just what it is I am suppose to be feeling at the Makiwara. When shooting at the Mato, one knows, what up, you hit or you or not. With the Makiwara, you always hit. Ok, I did miss the other day, I totally spaced and the ya slipped!
 That was the first time in the four years here doing this. I did learn I really need to stay focused and a bamboo ya is a lot quieter when it is dropped. So I really like my replacement Bamboo Ya to replace the broken aluminum one that hit the brick wall. Oops!
I have been faithful with keeping up my daily shooting, when not raining, along with daily walks at night and some “Fu” practice. Yeah back down to business baby!
Today I pushed myself to go to Kyudo. Not to the class, but just to go shoot. I thought I had band practice and I could stop on my way the studio and shoot do at least an hour at the Mato. No one would be there I figured or minimum people would there. I also needed to heck on when the TaiKai I had signed up for was happening. I was a little concerned I had messed up and missed it. So I need to check the board at the dojo.
So it turns out I was ok with that. I double checked since I was reading the Japanese and I not see the signup sheet that was there before concerning the Event which made me a little, nervous. I Sent a “LINE” message to my Sempai. Asking if I had missed anything. I had a cold and did not want t could me in, I was sick. This was also true, just not the main reason. Anyway. She asked if I was ok and I has missed nothing important. Cool I thought and asked if she had passed her 6th dan exam. Nope! I told her I was currently at the dojo an we encouraged each other…”fighto” we said !
Ok I was in the clear with that and had at my practice session. I was able to take my time and just focus on what I had been working on. I was only able to hit a couple in a row, however overall I hit 50%. I was pleased with that, and felt encouraged I was making some progress. I need to maintain that and improve, that will be the test of next time. Today I felt like I was progressing. I will go in again in a couple of days. I have a band show then. I will stop by and shoot before going to the gig on Sunday. That will be the real test if I am indeed improving. In the past I have done good on one day and then sucked the next. If can get another 50 or even 40% on my next visit, I will feel like I am progressing. I am tired of just treading water, time to start swimming.



Focus shift : External to Internal

External to Internal


In the world of Kung Fu, there is a false calcification of Internal and External Kung Fu. Hard (external) and soft( internal) Kung Fu It’s really all Kung Fu, with the purpose to arrive at the same place, top of the same mountain you could say. The difference is one trains from the external development toward internal development. The other Is the opposite. Example, Tai Chi is considered an internal art it works from inside power to outside power. Ki, breath, centering, then develop external power/strength. Shaolin is an External style working on outside power first, then to an inner power.

What this is about is Kyudo. I consider Kyudo and boarder line art. It is both external and internal at the same time. My opinion. Up until now, I have been focused on the external part. Fixing my form. In Zen there is the thought of form and formless, practice, action. etc. The form is chanting, sitting Zazen, reading sutras. Formless is acts of kindness and compassion, sharing.

In Kyudo I believe the stances, the grip of the bow, the draw, elbows, all forms. Formless would be the breath, the Ki, the mind, the spirit. After much time and frustrations in advancing. I have decided to change my approach. After reading the Book from the Chozenji master, where he states Kiai first, I figure I need to change my training direction. Even if it is is wrong, it can not hurt. I have decided once again to put off the next Shinsa. I am not ready.

I am now putting my focus into my internal workings, the use the building of chi, internal balance on not just shooting, but on all things.

More focus Chi and the waist when doing my Chuan Fa, more focus on Chi, Tan Tien, Hara when playing Shakuhachi. More focus on centering when doing Kyudo. Compacting the breath in the Hara, expanding from there and not the muscles. Sinking more.

I have been at this for the last month since returning from Hawaii. My wife says she thinks I will pass the next exam, my “Ki” has changed, I have leveled up. I do not know about that, but even a small step forward is a step forward.
It is easy in Kyudo, well Federation Kyudo to get caught up in the goal, seeing the rank as the purpose for shooting better. Not just to shoot better, just to shoot better. It is challenging to keep one practice pure. That is one of the nicer things about Kyudo study outside of the Federation. That rank distraction is removed. Practice is simple, you practice to practice, you practice to better your self. Sort of like Soto Zen, when you sit you just sit. In Rinzai there are Koans, breath focus, in some sects, Chi building and movement and just sitting, but the posture needs/should be “right”.

So yeah the struggle with Kyudo continues. It is sort of my Koan, passing to Yondan. I dislike koans! The result of my pilgrimage to Hawaii was I wanted to understand the connecting link between Kyudo, Shakuhachi, Kung Fu better, now it is a matter of applying it, better. That was my lesson from the trip. Everything is connected via the breath, Kiai, the spirit. Really a reenforcement, not a new revelation. As I retrace my shooting past, I shot better when I was focused more on the Formless of shooting instead of the Technique of hitting. Even now, when I just go up to the line and shoot, no care if it hits…I hit. When I care and I get lost on the parts, the mechanics of shooting, I miss. My thought I need to stabilize my Chi more, sink and balance. It is said if one is missing, then it is an internal issue. I am finding inspiration from re-reading some old books. The One Arrow, One life book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, and the Ten Shin Myo book.

Overall I am rebuilding my lost budo “spirit”, restoring some forgotten Kung Fu, in front of the Makiwara daily, more walking meditation. Even making shakuhachi practice part of that oneness training. There is no separation, no duality, even though one is not one or two. The whole is not one thing, it is many things, but it is one thing. I have understood this mentally but I believe I need to put this more into actual physical practice when practicing.

ok so I am giving this a shot (hahah), let’s see where it goes…Amituofo


Terra Zen

Terra Zen

This is a new term I have coined. There I standing Zen, motion Zen, SuiZen. I am now referring to gardening as earth meditation. Maybe it should be Terra Fauna Zen. Hmmm. Doubt if it matters.

It is that time of the year for planting here at Osaka Lohan Buddhist Hermitage.

I am actually almost done. Having tested things for the last several years I know what I can grow and plant according. Kale, Tomatoes, basil, Shiso, peppers, lettuce, are the main crops. With a few herbs here and there. I am also keeping it down to 1 plant per pot this year mostly. The multi in one pot did not seem to work well. Therefore growing several plants of the same in different containers is my next step. Hopefully, that will increase my harvest. Another thing I am doing different this year is by using chicken manure instead of fish emulsion. In just a couple of weeks, a couple of the plants have really taken off.


There is a simple pleasure and peace about growing one’s own foods, even if just a small amount. Care for the plants, nurturing them. It’s all very Zen. Of course, everything is Chan. It is everyday life. Even though I am working on a tiny balcony garden, I feel like I am in my mountain field. Just outside the temple grounds doing my Zen work practice for the day. I can for certain can feel a connection to the earth and nature when doing gardening. We are all part of the same source-ness. It is that same type of feeling form doing ceramic working with clay. I understand how the Late Roshi at Chozenji would include that as part of their curriculum. If I had such a Place I would have. Chan ding ( Zazen), Ceramics, Gardening, Kyudo, Tai Chi, Kung Fu, Shakuhachi, Tea. It was a dream at one time to have such a retreat on an island in Japan.


I never dreamed when I was a child on my grandparent’s farm helping in the garden behind the house, I would be in Japan growing in my little home garden. Life is interesting, things we carry from Childhood into another time. I was just getting started at that time in life and now I am putting the wraps on it. Interesting.

A Garden is one thing I found to be missing from Chozenji grounds. Unlike Sonoma Mountian Zen center which has their own garden and most of the vegetable dishes are prepared from that.

Anywho…the Hermitage garden is off to a good start. Soon the bug wars will start…not fun.


…and Now for Something Completely Different



Shakuhachi Blues in the Temple Cafe

Now getting back to Japan life. There is a lot going on, it has already started a few days ago. Several band performances, Just finished one at the Sakai city Blues festival. Maybe a post about that…maybe. Up coming a performance at My SuiZen temple, Myoanji and just finished a small prayer, and visit and performance at the temple of a new friend.

Via my Komuso Sempai in Nara I made the acquaintance of another Priest Shakuhachi Player. He has a temple that is not too far from here. Just below Kobe. I go out that area from time to time, because of the Band, or Boating. Shibata Sensei’s temple runs what they call a café, once a month. Hot drinks, snacks, misc items for sale, neck massages, card telling, musical entertainment. It runs all day. From 11- 5:00. Very casual and low key.

This Priest is looking to bring more of the Shakuhachi into his Buddhist practice. He already plays at some of the temple services. He is not Zen he is of the Jodu sect. He holds formal weekly services.

I contacted him via FaceBook and made arrangements to attend the next Café, so we can do a face to Face meeting and chat. He spoke no English and my Japanese is basic and poor. However, I have nothing to lose by going and giving it my best shot to communicate. What could go wrong…

The day arrives I get directions with the help of my wife and I set off on a mini Shakuhachi adventure. I found the location rather easy and entered the Temple Yard. I was taken with the large Buddha statue. That was my first stop, bow then on to the temple. I heard voices when I enter, but I saw no one. I looked about a bit and saw through some glass and reeds people leaving a small garden. They were just on the other side of what could be a small tea room or sitting room.

I made my way to the door they were heading toward. There I met Sensei. We did the intro formalities and I was taken up stairs. There was more people than I expected there. A few sitting around a large fire pit, roasting coffee, then in another connecting room which was a large space, there were several small booth tables, food, etc out from there chairs. Next an open space which was the “stage area”, off from that a table with chairs. It was quite the place. The Sensei introduced me, then we went into another section. This was the temple “Heart”, where the ceremonies are done. We talked there for a while. I might have been asked to join now or the next ceremony, would I play?? or something. Anyway, a pray/chant, something started, a few people came. We took places at the “fish” drum/beater. Sensei explained some things, I did not understand also about following his beat.

OK we started he started chanting, then started the beat on the drumette. We followed. those who knew the words or could read them chanted along. Me I made the sound and beat the drum. It felt cool. I did not feel out-of-place, for some reason. It felt very “Native”, very basic beating this drum and chanting.

Next Sensei asked me to play. Hmm ok. I did the Tamuke offering, Fuu style. I was not bound by any “rules” on what or how to play. I was able to use a headset, which was cool. I could hear clearly what I was playing as could those in the temple hall. I dig that I could hear and so I did not think I just played.

I did not clearly know what was going. I said, I would play another tune and did something contemporary. I thought this was all part of the ” TempleCafe“. Even though I was not asked. I thought something for the Buddha, something for the folks, since I was there. Turns out I did not have that over my head.

I finished the second song and then the guy managing “the club” came in and ask would I also play in the Cafè. I thought that is what I did. Now I had used up the one non-hyukyoku I had prepared. Oh well. ON-ward, breathe…

Ok I said. We then, all in the temple hall, moved to the other section were, others sat, drank, ate, listened to the ukulele player.

I met a few other people there , one of who spoke English. I grabbed a chair and watched the show, also chatting with Sensei some. Also with the show “MC” he spoke just a little English, but we communicated. He would like me to play a song after the next act. Did I want the Ukulele player to help me? I said sure let have him and I play together. I had been thinking that for a few moments after listening to him. I felt I should have something other than “Fuu’s Tamuke” to play or any Honkyoku. Also I had done Summertime already in the Temple. Having thought I was doing the performance. Yeah, so I was only planning to do one song this time. I figured quickly to jot down a few simple cords changes on a paper and give it to the guy. Basic I/V/IV.

I said yes, we can play together…ok.

I sat through the next act. This was the Ukulele player and a woman who played an old style flute that was like a “gourd”. She was/they were pretty good.
I was up next. I was not nervous, I felt pretty relaxed during the intro…and then show time. I counted off and we started. The guy played pretty good and I tried to blend into his pattern and the changes. It went ok. The people enjoyed it, I was not that please, as it was “all just then”, birth on the spot.

It is kind of a “Mindmelt” with playing with strangers and a new piece of music. Even if it is just two cords, behaps that is more of a challenge. One reaches out with your spirit to touch another(s) and create another form, eity. This song, this vibration, and share it, giving it to humanity. It is weird, interesting amazing when one thinks about it…

I was ok with the piece. I heard a small bit of the recording. It was i the beginning, unsteady… Like a child walking. It started to find it’s balance just as the film was cut.

The people enjoyed it, it was one time vibration they experienced. So it was successful. I was asked to play one more. ehhhh,

oh snap, what am I going to play now? I thought…

Ok I fell back on Summertime. Since no one there heard it before other than Sensei. Also I never play it the same way. A little longer version with a bit more “flavor”. So it was done. People were impressed I think. Surprised for sure. Good chi was raise, so…cool

I was just pleased they enjoyed it and I did not lose face. I figured I would be asked to play that is why I brought my shakuhachi. This whole meeting was about Shakuhachi. Ok I was done. I played in the Temple for the Buddha offering and I played in the Cafè for the people. It was very Buddhist in for the benefit of society way. It was engaged, but private, sort of like doing Komuso Missionary.

I hung out for a while longer afterwards and just watched. When leaving I came across Sensei in the temple Hall with some others. He was telling them about … something to do with the shrine there. He brought out a couple of long Shakuhachi for me to look at. They were quite nice. He played a song for the couple. Amazing Grace. Japanese seem to like that song. Hmm gives me an idea for the next visit.

I put the wraps on my visit and made my way out.
I will return…Amitoufo