I Just returned from a week and a half stay in Japan.
I was sick before I left and spent the first half of the trip feeling like crap and trying to get used to the time change. But despite this, I managed to get some really good training in.
This trip was a group trip with my teachers and some fellow students. We got in Friday afternoon and made our way to Kashiwa on the train. It has been two years since my last trip, so I had to re-familiarize myself with the process.
As a side note if you plan to visit Tokyo, get a Suica card. There are machines at most stations and the airport to purchase the Suica card. Most fairs are a little cheaper when you use the card, but mainly it’s just a lot less hassle to not have to buy a ticket every time you get on the train.
We stay at the Kashiwa Plaza Hotel. It’s a very nice hotel with great customer service. The rooms are small and clean, but you won’t be in them much anyway.
Kashiwa station is pretty close to most of the training opportunities available. It’s about a half hour train ride to the Bujinkan Honbu Dojo.
So, we got to our hotel about 7:00pm, exhausted, but part of getting on the right time, is NOT to go right to bed. We decided to grab a bite to eat at my favorite ramen place. Ramen and gyoza with a little glass bottle of Coke, very satisfying. Then a drink at the local Irish Pub. Yes, I know we’re in Japan, but the Irish Pub is an easy place for a drink when your exhausted. Then, bed time. I’m still pretty sick at this point, so sleep was elusive for me.
Saturday we had training at the Honbu dojo. Seno Sensei at 10:00 and Someya Sensei at 13:00. Both were great training sessions, but being sick I had trouble keeping up. After training I promptly went back to the hotel and passed out.
Sunday most of the group went to train with Seno Sensei again at 9:00. I opted to sleep in and try to feel better. But I did make it to see Soke Hatsumi at 11:00.
The week continues along these lines, training one to two times a day with different instructors. It took me about half the trip before I started to feel human again. But even though my mind was in a fog for the first half of the trip, our body’s tends to remember our movements even if our minds are otherwise occupied.
This trip was, I believe, about my 10th visit to Japan, and this year is my 27th year training consistently in the Bujinkan. I’m always amazed and blown away when I visit the Japanese Shihan. Their level of understanding and their fluidity of movement, always reminds me of how much I need to learn. This reinforces my belief that one never truly “masters” anything, There will always be more to learn. This can and I believe should be very humbling.
During one training session with Nagato Sensei, I was used as the uke for about half the class. (Uke for my non training friends, is the person who gets beat on to demonstrate a technique). I was still very sick at this point. But I always enjoy being Nagato Sensei’s uke. I tend to learn more when on the receiving end, instead of just watching. After training I had a chance to chat briefly with Nagato Sensei. He always asks who your teacher is, so I told him. He knows my teacher well and on other occasions I have heard him refer to my teacher as his “brother” in budo. Anyway, when I told Nagato who my teacher was, he said “Good, he is always your teacher, forever, this is important, you understand?” I of course answered yes.
This reinforced something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. I’ve always considered my teacher, my teacher. Some in the Bujinkan believe that once you reach a certain level, you somehow circumvent, your original teacher and become a direct student of Soke Hatsumi.
This may have been the case at one point, but the Bujinkan has grown tremendously over the past 30 years. It’s completely unreasonable to believe you’re a direct student of Soke, if he does not know who you are.
Every time I have heard Nagato Sensei “interview” someone, he always asks who their teacher is. It’s important to him that you have a teacher and you train with them regularly.
Overall it was a fantastic trip, the training was fantastic and just as important the reconnection with my teachers and other buyu (budo friends) who now live in different parts of the world, always brings a smile to my face. Especially those that I have know and trained with for more than 25 years. These relationship, I can not put a price on them. Thank you guys.