Aftermath…this n that

 

Aftermath …this n that

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

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

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

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 _/|\_

 

 

尺八 – Blowing Zen the New Year


Blowing Zen the New Year…

 
It was cold, it was raining, it was not how I like to start out on a mission, trip, Journey, whatever. However, nothing to do but do it. The rain did not last much, just some light stuff that went away I was grateful and prepared. I had plans for the day, when it was early, Tai Chi, Indian lunch, then to the Society Shakuhachi session. I had this plan the other day, now like then it did not work out. I just went to the Shakuhachi gathering and even then I was late. Not a big deal, but there I was. My lateness was enhanced by stopping to buy food to bring in and one of the shops insisted on wrapping the purchase. sigh, ok, I sat, I waited, I drank tea. It was finally ready. Yeah, it was full on Japanese wrapping, very nice. A bit much for just the guys, but one rolls with it. If my language skills were better I would have explained the wrapping was not needed.
 
Ok, after another quick and simple food stop, I trucked on over to the Shaku Dojo, the few Sempais that were there had already started of course. I did my happy New Year greetings and put the food on the table, amongst a bunch of newly finished Shakuhachi from Oota Sensei. Some looked interesting with a different root end. I mentioned that it was shaped the same as the lotus bud, which is on the temple in Angor Wat. This had the same shape as a lotus bud, not a club. I was thinking when I saw it, it would be a cool Buddhist Symbolic Shaku for a Komuso.
After settling in a bit, I was passed one of the new shakuhachi to play. It was very nice. Easy to play and nice sound, not as shrill as I was expecting from a 1.8. There was some chatting from Oota Sensei if I wanted one or what size did I like, something. I did not quite get but was told he would make one for me if I wanted one. I do not recall if I said yes or it was interpreted as yes… I think one is being made for me. In ‘D”. I do not really need another Shakuhachi, I guess need is subjective. If it happens, it is supposed to, if not…
 

Meanwhile, everyone is getting settled. The main Sensei is there today. Shimura Sensei, I had heard about him before that he was going to start coming again. I meet him once at Myoanji. He is the official leader of the group. I found out later he is a Professor @ Osaka University of Arts he teaches the only class in traditional Japanese music or something like that. I also found out he is a Komuso and a noted performer. This guy is the real deal!! What good fortune to be in his group. He sent me a picture later.

I have gotten an idea to put some questions to the group about Shakuhachi and Komuso. That could be an interesting post. There is a mix in the group, I believe of Philosophy types. One day we had a short talk on Spirit vs Technique in playing over some food and sake!

I had brought along my extra flutes today. The 2.0 and the 2.5 made by Oota Sensei, but also the “bell” the plastic bamboo hybrid for the guys to look at. There was only mild interest as I expected. Only a couple blew the Bell. Shimura Sensei took the most interest, he took pictures, looked inside, etc etc. when he played it he said musugashi, meaning difficult, or perhaps something else as well. He has a doctorate in Shakuhachi Research and quite a personal collection I hear. So naturally, he would take an interest in the new kid on the block. I did not “pick up” that he was overly impressed though. This is a long flute Ryu, so the 1.8 is not the choice tool. Kishi Sensei was looking at it more from a good for a student level, whereas Shimura Sensei was thinking from a performer level. I am guessing this only. Seems logical, life is perspective.

Back to the story… I was surprised to see the 1.7’s or whatever had been on the table when I arrived. Oliver was picking up one for a new student of his from China.

 
Ok, so we played through a few songs and listened to a recording of songs some “Master” was playing, ( maybe their former Sensei) then we played the song. I have the sheet music in front of me and I can, for the most part read and play along. But something is sounding funny today! Something is weird, very weird. I am playing with the same size Shakuhachi as everyone else but mine is sounding different, not in key. I am thinking must be my angle, so I try to adjust, but nope no change. This really throws me off when playing along with the group. So I stop trying to read the chart to follow. I had to transpose whilst playing, I watched the Sensei’s fingers. So I just listened and played along that way. There were enough others and slack in the timing, that I could sort-of follow along, done softly. It was sort of like doing a Musical Tai Chi Push Hands drill, or maybe a Sticky Hands drill. The musician in me helped again, maybe some of the Kung fu Shifu. Otherwise, I would have been totally lost. Yet still a couple of times I was shown where the group was at, in order to rejoin. 
 
Ok, we had petty much gone through everything, and Oota Sensei says it is my turn to choose something. So I am thinking this is where I suppose to show if I am making improvements on Cho Shi and I will play solo. It is time for the grasshopper’s lesson. So I wanted to try out playing the 2.0 on this song, for a change. I can hit all the notes on it, but not the larger flute. As I am about to play everyone else does also. Ehhh, I say, everyone is playing? Yes! Ohh! So I am thinking this will be not good because I am using a different key flute. Yet for some reason, I did not change flutes. However, slap me down and call me Shirley, it sounds right. We where all in tune now. I am thinking, ehhhhh??? Oh well, I rolled with it. So we finished the song, no comments, so I guess I did not screw up. oK, I guess it is time for me to pick another song now to work on. Maybe the other version of Cho Shi. Yamoto.

About now we start misc stuff and again someone plays something. Then I hear Fuu-San play something your style. Ehhhhh! Again I am surprised. hmmmmm, Ok, I have been thinking about doing a Jazzy “Summertime” on the 2.0 it is my performance flute. Even though, Kishi Sensei thinks it is junk and will give me bad habits if I play it. I like it. It is in tune for playing modern music, it looks funky cool. so I gave it a shot. It went well. I was pleased. My next performance of the song I will use that flute and not the short one. Also, people end up with more than one instrument, when playing for a while. I saw one famous woman on FB that had her collection up. Maybe more than 20! She said different sounds, different feeling, emotion when playing Honkyuko. She is a pro, as a musician and teacher, I understand what she was saying. I have been using restraint with my gathering of instruments. Many Bass players and guitarist have many several and are not even collectors. Anyway Yeah, I use restraint and not having money to throw around also helps maintain the will power and discipline. I digress…

After another song that, pretty much was a wrap for the practice session. Out came the food and drinks and we relaxed and hung out for a while before heading off into the night to go home. We walked not quite so steady after the drinks, well maybe it was mostly me. Because I have not been drinking and I kept getting my glass filled. Three of us took the fast train back to south Osaka and for a change, I did not have to go the furthest.

 

 

The piglet session ….2019

 

The first Kobe Jam session… 2019

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

Happy 108/2018


2018/ 108 

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

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

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

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

 

Festivus…2018


Holiday Jams

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

Shakuhachi pilgrimages : Cambodia part 2


Have flute will travel: Cambodia part 2

 
This is the morning I am supposed to go to Angkor Wat. This is the main event. Angkor Wat, which is just a small part of a much larger complex I have learned. After several days here, now it was time for the main event. I had only a couple of things planned for being here in Cambodia, see the Angkor Wat temples, take pictures, do SuiZen and have a Cambodian pizza. Everything else was just on the fly as to how it rolled. I was for the most part alone tripping around. My wife has no interest in temples and the like. The only thing she wanted to do was, eat, rest, shop, eat, rest. I had to trip alone, quietly to my self…ahhhh
 
I started early got in the morning, Zaizen and TaiJi and was ready to go at 7:00 am. I chose not to the morning sunrise thing at the Angkor Wat grounds. I did not think it would be all that cool to me and then there was the crowds, the people…the noise…clouds
Nope passed.
A good move on my part.
 
I was ready to go, the only thing that I needed to pay heed to was my stomach. I developed the “runs” last night or so. Bummer! I was up a lot through the night. I felt reasonably ok now. Hopefully, there will be “restrooms” on hand nearby. This could turn into something unpleasant. For now, though I felt ok. So Onward!
 

My driver, the same guy, as before, took me to where to buy a Day Pass. They have gone up to $37.00 for a one day pass. Every place you go where there is something to see, on the grounds. You are asked to see your pass. I understand the tour is the livelihood.

Then we took off to the first spot on the tour, he had planned already for me. He said he was not an official tour guide, but he knew the history and studied the details of what was what. He would not be one of those who just drops people off. So I could get the background from him in English. He gave me a good deal of info. Before each stop Interesting stuff, and then set me off on a route to walk and said where he would meet me. I took the trails he suggested. There were others out there as well, sometimes not too bad as far as crowds. Some tours had only one or two people in the group. I was actually glad to be alone and meander as I may. The guides were always talking.

 
My first stop I had to walk a fair distance to the ruins. The walk was through a forest on a wide dirt road, easy. Once there I dodged the people best I could. I grabbed a few pictures and felt the need in my gut, to not stay too long. It was interesting. Once I found my way out of the complex. Next stop toilet! Ahhhhhh.
 
This was pretty much the tale for the day. There was more walking than I expected. Thankfully it was not too hot. I could imagine how terrible it would be in the hot season, yuk. I trucked on, upstairs, downstairs, through stuff, under passages. Centering internally more when caught in crowds. I wished several times I had brought along my Nikon, but others times glad I did not have to carry all that. I did get a few good pictures with my limited stuff.
 
At a couple of the temples were monks doing blessings for a donation. I got one and a bracelet wrist-tie. Same orang color as the monk’s robe.
 
At a couple of temples, I passed on exploring too much as there were some serious steps to climb. I was not up to it with a long day ahead of me.
 
Another stop I was taken to is called the Victory Gate. It was the entrance for the King and his armies to re-enter the city after winning a battle. Another called the Ghost Gate was for when they lost. That was nearby. I was told a route to go I could walk along the wall to the ghost gate. I did that. I was surprised to see no one else, as I walk through the forest along a river. After a while. I notice someone comes from the opposite way towards me. I did not pay much attention at first then notice when he is right up on me, it was my driver coming to intercept me. I sort of resented that, as there went my quiet space. Oh well, it was just for a short time.
 
Another “Loo” stop then a lunch stop. I told him about my weird stomach and just wanted something light and also vegetarian. He took me to a place, where I found something I could eat. I had offered to buy him lunch, but he said he had his own. I Had a nice quiet lunch, no need for small talk! nice. The food was pretty good, a papaya salad to help my digression and a papaya shake and some rice. I did not eat the whole thing about half. I was feeling so-so ok and did not want to push it.
 
The last stop was Angkor Wat. Usually, people start their visit here when they want to see the sunrise. Some others end the tour here to see the sunset. I was in for the Sunset…maybe. It was only about 1:00 pm, I did not feel up to hanging out all day just to see an iffy sunset, with my poor cameras. I will see how I feel later I thought and set out to Angkor Wat. I had to cross a moat or river to get to the city. It was sort of a long walk just to the outer gates. Then another long walk to get to the temple. Again interesting and crowded. Up and down steps, dodge people, repeat. I did find a few quiet, semi-quiet spots for some photos. Then, more walking and climbing.
 
Some of the people were interesting. Trying to figure out where they were from was my little game. Mainland Chinese were easy to spot, as were Japanese, French, Americans.
Ok, so a lot of walking, a fair amount of pictures, the carving, and remaining statues were interesting. After a couple of hours, I had seen enough. I started back to the parking lot. It was starting to get fairly cloudy. I figured it would not be much of sunset and I would just head back to the hotel and chill out for the evening.
I did just that, we order room service as it was cheap and surprisingly good. My wife ordered first, I tasted it then ordered the same, it was that good. Yet simple. Cream of potato soup and a lightly grilled tuna salad. After that, I practiced flute and chilled before passing out.

The next day was our last. We had plans to check out at 2:00pm. Then just hang out. I made arrangements with the driver again to pick me up at that time. The plan was he would pick us up and take us around to some local stuff, local free stuff, then back to the hotel to hang out until time to take the Tuk-tuk to the airport, that night to head back to Japan.

There was some concern if we were going to have to spend another day in Cambodia as a Typhoon was approaching this area. It would have been a hassle to make the contacts in Japan to advise them of travel issues, but otherwise, both of us were ok with it. He had to wait to find out… Like you do, in order to read part 3…

弓道 – The arrow flew…

I learned a lot or realized a lot over the last 3 – 6 mos of Kyudo practice than I did over the last 2 years or three however long it has been since I passed Sandan. Maybe three yrs, it seems like longer. Anyway, things have clicked in more now and I feel more confident. I still have a long ways to go, but at least I feel like I am improving. For a long, I felt stalled. The other day at practice I was surprised Yamashita came by after I arrived and gave, later on, gave me some more pointers. You are close to level up he says. He said the other time as well, I feel it more. My hits are not improving a lot, but my next to each other shots are. Anyway, my point to my self is, I am improving. getting, understanding, maintaining the crosses is paramount in how the arrow flies.

Update

yesterday was the shinza. I had to get an early start, and it was going to be a long day for me. There was the Shinsa, and all day affair, then I had a band gig. There was no time to return home and unload my stuff change and re-go, so I had to take all I needed in one trip. Yuk.

I packed the night before, I went to practice yesterday as well. Just for a couple of hours and something light. I closed the poor day with two hits in a row. I felt, hmmm I got a 50/50 chance of pulling this off. My hits are still few in between as of late. Oh well. I was not going make a big deal out of it. I figured out a way to carry everything using one of my handcarts, and also had a free hand for my bow and arrows, yet nothing hang off my pack. So I was fairly good. and off I went.

Yesterday I had a really nice Indian lunch. I had not been to my friend’s place in a while. So I went over to the restaurant. I got a custom order which he said he made a little ‘Hotter” than my usual medium because it was getting colder, it would help warm me. It was good a the time. The next day not so much. it made for a somewhat uncomfortable ride over to the test location and a large part of the day. I spent way too much thought on how weird my stomach felt and should I/do I need to “go”???

I met up with my group just as the building doors opened. One of my friends saw my load and suggested she take my kyudo stuff back to the dojo the next day since she was driving. Wow, A big help. I had thought about asking her, but she beat me to it!.

There was a group of us about 5 or 6 in total, plus another woman from the Shrine school that hangs with us at these things. I have tested with her two other times for Yondan. Once we were allowed to go to our starting room we all went up and found a spot. The next step was to get our spots and numbers, then check in. Oh so helpful to have others helping me figure out times and places.  Big big help. My path was to be. written test at 10:40 am, then shooting at about 4:30pm. ( long wait 😦 ) . I got my place in the lineup. At first, I was to be #4 in my group of 5. I thought ok good. I can settle into the spot and all eyes will not be on me at first. Then as people did not show up, I was told I was #2. Still ok. I thought maybe better.

The written test went fairly smooth. I am used to the drill now. They say the question, which is drawn from a closed envelope. They do not even know beforehand. This day I was able to understand the first question but not the second. So I got clarification on that and started. I always feel like I should fill up more of the paper but it is not about that. I felt ok with the answers. I waited for the person next to me to finish so I could get by and leave. That part was done.

I went to lunch with the ladies, we found a sitting spot then just hung out. Once in a while getting to watch a couple of our lower ranks shoot. One did ok, I thought, but not her. The other woman not so well. She was trying for San dan but could not hit her one shot needed.

Finally after what seemed like forever, and I took a little sitting up in lotus nap, it was my turn. I got in line to find out I am Omae, yet again! Not number two, number 1. Yuk. In a place, I dislike because of the footwork in and out. Sigh. oh well. It was not in my hands, not a good sign though. We started. I did not think about being the only Gaijin, I thought about which foot to step with first. I made my step onto the floor. Ok, but then messed up my timing bow. ok, a small thing. My steps, placement, and ending went ok this time. The group was in alignment on Honza and Shai. Ok the first arrow, thinking step by step…miss!! Oh well, it’s done. I make a step to close my feet, then realize I am not supposed to do that! I try to act natural and cover, but it was a big error. Which, one of my sensei’s called me on as soon as he saw me afterward. We laughed at my goof up!
Back to the shoot. Next arrow was no better than the first another miss. I could not tell if I was high or low or anywhere. I could not see where it hit. The black arrows, black/brown feathers look cool, but they suck like that, Hard to see at the target and in travel. My increasing bad eyes does not help. However, I can see well enough to hit at times when I have “things” as they should be and hold them in place. Seeing the details of the lines separating the colors in the Mato will not help me to hit the Mato. I still just suck at that :-). I was able to leave the floor without any more goofs. No victory dance tonight.

Ok well, another time, another day, more training is now. No one in my group except maybe one shodan passed that day. Nor did another of the other people I knew there testing. it was that kind of day.

I asked my sort of new friend from the Shrine Dojo. How many times has she tested for Yondan? She said she did not know or remember something like that. She said she just keeps doing it. I understand now why when another acquaintance from Banpaku, my first school, she cried when she passed the Yondan exam!

I know there were celebrations in some camps, but not in ours. We spoke only more training and had some laughs at our errors and hide private tears. So we parted for the day saying our goodbyes and see ya in class, ganbarimashos.

As for me. I know I gave it that extra effort practiced daily, even when not feeling it trips to the dojo. Oh well. I learned stuff as I said at the beginning of this. No Effort is a fail if you learn something. I had given some thought to going to one of those big seminars for training and testing in English. However this has shown me, I am not doing badly as there are others with the same time invested and still facing the struggle and they speak the language. Yeah, so for me, it is back to just blending all I got into a reliable unit. I will not plan on testing in spring. I will just work and practice may be the summer session…although I would like to go to the seminar in Taiwan. English speakers, vegetarian food, my Chan Shifu there, a couple of friends to Jam with. yeah, it could be a cool trip. however. No funds…on my radar.

As I told other classmates ( and myself), the Shinsa is just another nothing, you train hard before Shinsa, you train hard after shinza. It is like the Zen saying…” before enlightenment, you chop wood and carry water, after enlightenment, you chop wood and carry water”…Amitoufo