Spring Aikido trip to Japan
A few months late, but I guess better than never. This is my story about my first trip ever to Japan and it won’t be the last, that is for sure! How do I know? Well I already booked my next flight to Tokyo that will happen in mid November! I haven’t really planned it out yet, but I think I will be traveling less and will be training more at Hombu Dojo.
So my trip was around mid april and it lasted 2 weeks from a thursday till a thursday. 10 days of that time I spend mainly in Tokyo and the rest would be some sightseeing in Kyoto. I flew from Amsterdam around noon to Helsinki and from Heslinki to Tokyo Narita Airport, all in all the flight took about 14 to 15 hours and so arrived in the early morning local time. Narita Airport is easily navigatable so I quickly found my way to the express train that would go to Shinjuku station where I needed to be. If you know your way around the railway network you could get to Shinjuku for half the price.
At Shinjuku station I met up with two beautiful girls from the Manchester Aikido club, Marsha and Caroline that were there a few days already. So I had some guides to show me the ropes in Tokyo and Hombu Dojo. The first day was quite tiring with sort of sleeping in the plane, trying to remember all the roads we walked, going to Hombu Dojo to register and remebering the etiquettes you need to know when in Hombu so you don’t make a fool of yourself, going to Iwata shop to get one more Keikogi, having lunch that was at a Korean style restaurant funny enough, training in the evening(2 hours) and then having dinner with 3 ladies, the thrid being Ishi san who is a frequent figure who you will see at the BAF summerschool that will be starting in two weeks! With staying up all day and not sleeping as soon as I got there I didn’t experience too much jet lag and had no real problems of getting to sleep that evening…day one what a great busy day!
The training at Hombu Dojo starts at 6:30 and with my Airbnb place only 10 to 15 mins away, it ment that I had to get up at 5:30! Way to early for my liking, but for Aikido…time doesn’t matter! Be prepared when entering the building, well even before that you will be bowing and greeting people alot like to people manning the desk, seniors, sensei’s, portaits, etc. Words like ohayou gozaimasu, konnichiwa, konbanwa, onegaishimasu, domo arigatou gozaimasu, gomenasai and sumimasen is a need to know, so get your polite faces on!
First hour of practice will be done by Doshu or Waka sensei where you will train and move constantly with not alot of talking or resting, the sensei will show the technique 4 times and you will up and moving again, you wont change partners during this class. After the first hour you have a 30 mins break and the second hour will begin. This class will be given by one of the Hombu instructors, the chance of changing partners here is more common and there will be a little bit more explaining involved by the Sensei, but still hard…hard work!
After the 2 hours or 2.5 hours if you include the 30 mins break, you have some free time, since the main practices are in the morning and in the evening. You do have a class in mid afternoon, but that one ends at 16:00 and the next one starts at 17:30, so that doesn’t give you too much time to have something to eat for example…so I mainly skipped that class and took that time to go sightseeing and boy did I see a lot and ate a LOT of good food! But since this is mainly an aikido blog thing, I will leave out that part of the trip.
Iwama dojo and Aiki Shrine
Iwama a very important place in the Aikido history where O Sensei build his dojo, where he taught and trained and right next to the dojo is the Aiki Shrine. Every year there is a festival at this place where the the deaths of the Ueshiba’s are remembered. First you will have a ritual that is done by priests, after a speech by the Doshu and then demonstrations by Waka sensei and Doshu. When that is all done the picknick will follow, with a donation of 1000 yen you will receive a nice bentou box and sake if you drink(I dont drink!). During this picknick you will have some opportunities to take some pictures with your favorite sensei’s, I managed to get a few good ones!
Iwama dojo is still in use and trainings are given there regulary, Doshu and Waka sensei also give a class there once a week and that is an invitation only practice! Lucky me I know people that well you know…know people that got me invited to the practice! Thank you Caroline and Ishi san! Iwama is quite a distance away, I think it was at least a 2 hours commute by train and that is only one way, but it was definitely worth the travel to experience these events.
My days in Hombu dojo/Tokyo has come to an end and it was time to move on to my next destination. The girls reached there end of their stay in Japan and were heading back home to the U.K. so there wasn’t a reason to stay anymore…(sad face), but there was one more person to meet before I left Japan myself. That person I would meet in Kyoto and the best way to get there is by the Bullet train (Shinkansen). Within a blink of an eye…well maybe a few more blinks and a really long one…, you will be in Kyoto.
Ofcourse in Kyoto I also searched for a place to do Aikido, and well what do you know I found some! Okamoto Sensei 6th dan female instuctor is based in Kyoto, and I never been to her before. I thought this was my chance to do so, but it seems it wasn’t ment to be, she was oversees giving a seminar…just my luck… But I didn’t stop there and went to one of her dojo’s anyways and train with her students, I also met up with Pawel (the person I came to see) there. I met Pawel a few years back at I think it was the BAF summerschool, he was then still training under Holland sensei at the time. I had a good day catching up with him after not seeing him for over a half year whilst he was in Japan. But back to story, Okamoto sensei has some nice students to train with, I enjoyed my training there and will definitely pop in if I am around again.
With this my Aikido story in Japan has come to an end for now! The follow up to this will be after November, where I will be training loads at Hombu Dojo. If you have the chance to go to Japan and still hesitating, then my advise is GO! It is a great place to be! If you need tips and tricks you know where to find me!
Written by FT