JuShinKan went to Japan

Monday 24.10 – Sunrise in Tokyo and sunset in Kyoto…

Between the sunsrise and sunset, the Shinkansen bullet’ed us across the country, we visited the Heian Jingu Shrine and the peaceful pearl of a garden behind it.

Found the Ryokan, a Japanese style inn – tatami room with futons layed out at night, beautiful view on a small garden to wake up to, japanese style breakfast, which is only complete after viewing the Koi in the pond (which come to you when you clap your hands!) and usually there is a bath house (one for women, on for men).  The scrubbing shower followed by a hot, hot bath was most welcome!

Tuesday 25.10 – NorthWest Kyoto

Really recommend looking up Yoko Okamoto Sensei (a lady 6. dan} in Kyoto – whe studied mostly with Yamaguchi Sensei and was student of Tissier for a couple of years in Paris before teaching in Seattle for some years then opening her own dojo in Kyoto! (tip: the dojo very difficult to find, do take along an enlarged google map and the address written in Japanese!}

Made the morning practice at Okamoto Sensei’s Nishijin Dojo, followed by a visit to the coffee shop around the corner with Sensei – one could never have guessed it was a coffee shop from the outside!. Then Sensei showed us to the weekly market at the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine situated a few street behind the dojo (mmh, hot baked sweet potato!} and left us with a tip about an Onsen in the mountains… and a welcome back to next day’s practice.The Ryoanji Temple ang vast gardens, a few metro stops and a kilometer up the hill further West is where the famous Rock Garden lies: there are 15 big rocks in a magnificently cured white-pebbled bed, and one never can see all 15 at once, no matter which angle one admired the garden from – fascinating!Onwards to the Palace & the Gardens at Ninnaji Templefantastic place, it’s like stepping into a movie set, with massive gates, impressive walkways, intricate housing of tatami’ed rooms and surrounding wooden corridors, surrounded by carefully cured gardens, a 5-storied pagoda, moon-viewing bridge, splendid golden wall paintings and more…
The day was rounded up with watching the evening’s naginata, kendo and iaido practice at the Kyoto Budo Center, where, incidentally, Yoko Okamoto teaches aikido & weapons on Friday morning (not on the centre’s official schedule…) and where this year’s Tissier/Yasuno june seminar was held.
Wednesday 26.10 – Temple Day in the Higashiyama Area in East KyotoWalk – NanzenJi, a  bouddhist temple from 1291 with the Sanmon, a giant two story entrance gate, an Roman-style acquaduct and a wonderful small moss garden.
Walk & coffee at the beginning of Jingumichi street, then we almost made it up to the Shoren-In temple, but got a private tour of a calligraphist’s house instead, in japanese, from a very enthusiastic lady-monk…
– Walk, walk, walk – ChionIn Temple – a massive Gate with huge steps leading to the absolutely magnificent main building, still decorated with “skirts” around the buildings after the recent celebration, a humongous bell house, wonderful small Yuzen Garden, the view over Kyoto being very secondary to the experience.

Walked through the Maruyama Park, spurred on by hello’s and bye-bye’s from uniformed school children on school busses, and found the small walkway with steps up to the KodaiJi Temple established by Nene, the wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1598, with a Kangetsu-Dai (moon viewing pavilion), wonderful gardens, pebble landscapes and bamboo-groves.

Walk & noodle-lunch in one of the small restaurants on Nene’s Street, a well preserved and fully functional historic street, before heading through the merchant street leading up to Kiyomizudera Temple hanging on the mountain side & the Jishu Shrine within it, where we witnessed young girls going blindfolded from one rock to the other, as this would ensure them to find the right partner in life.

Walk around and found the Yasaka pagoda, only because it is throning 49 meters above the two-storied houses around it and on to the Yasaka Shrine, which comes to its best at nighttime with all its lit lanterns…

 Walk out the main gate and you’re standing in Gion, walk across the shallow river, take the first tiny pedestrian street to the right and you’re on the Pontocho – one restaurant after the other, one better than the other.
After 9+ hours of walking, I’m sure I forgot to mention a few more of the temples and shrines passed by… I’m nowhere near “shrine’d out”, but I sure earned the extra round at the little sake bar and the taxi ride home!
Thursday 27.10 – a day for the Spirit, the Mind and the Body

Local train to the Kurama Onsen in the mountains (thanks to Okamoto Sensei tipping us about this place!) – outside hot springs with a view of the forrests on the mountain side – so peaceful and inspirational for a quiet mind – it was easy to
decide to stay up in the mountains for the day. Walked through the small village of Kurama, home of the Tengu figure (the red mask with the looooong nose hanging in our dojo},  and witnessed preparations for a funeral – everyone was dressed in black,
solemn-looking, lining the main street, felt soooo

out of place in our touristy attire… and
walked up to the Kurama Shrine, fantastic web of shines and subshrines connected with trails through forrests and mountain tops. Connected to some spiritual peace and got down again with a peaceful mind in time for some more practice  for the body with Yoko Okamoto!!!
Friday 28.10: Nijo Castle!
Incredible architecture, edifices, wall paintings, carefully cured gardens, moats, huge koi, and the quiet… am I really in the middle of Kyoto? The castle gardeners arranged the gardens so that there is always one plant or other blooming all year (saw the list and the plan!). An ingenious feature of the construction was that the floors of the outer corridor were built to squeek as to “announce” intruders, but the squeeking is pleasant as it sounds like little crickets.

Will miss the Ryokan (Japanese style Inn), its Japanese breakfasts and the great staff – but time to move on: took the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Himeji and had a grand night out in a small restaurant chatting away with the cook in japanorwenglish – a hellovanevning!
Saturday 29.10 – The White Heron
Himeji Castle, also nicknamed the White Heron due to its tall white keep (main tower, representing the head} and surrounding fortifications folding out like wings to its sides. There are 3 moats, walls impossible to climb, trick architecture to fool possible storming troops, several baileys and a maze of paths through 64 gates (now only 12 left) – built to impress, control nearby castles (Osaka) and Western Japan. Was used as “Edo Castle” in the film Shogun, as well as for many other samurai films… I’m definitely IMPRESSED!!! –
Just had to take the (free!) guide out for lunch to complete the experience!!
Believe it or not, there were cherry blossoms! not as plentiful and beautiful like the spring ones, but the “late year” cherry blossoms were blooming right now (well, not so unusual this kind blooms from april to november)…
And by the way, for the time being the main keep (castle tower) is covered in a huge tent due to restauration work as the roof tiles and the white plaster are being replaced, that in itself an impressing engineering feat! The tent is painted with the image of the keep and within it there is a viewing tower that enables you to see the outside from very close, as well as see how the roof and the walls are built, a rare opportunity! Reopens in 2015.- and to top the day, I discovered plum liqueur on the rocks. Mmmmmmh… Ume! Kampai!

Sunday 30.10 – disappear into the mountains
Trip to Mount Shosha, which could be seen from the Himeji Castle. Drizzling drops (the only ones during the whole trip) only added to the serenity of the wonderful forrest walk – but am very thankful for the funicular that takes you up the steepest bit to the Engyoji Temple, which has a main temple throning on the mountain side (resembles the Kiyomizudera in Kyoto) and is surrounded by many secondary temples. One of them is where many scenes of ‘The Last Samurai’ were filmed, a.o. the cherry blossom scene… and by the way… the cherry blossoms in the movie were as fake as the snow in the snow scenes…(both fabricated for the scene shooting)… but the buildings, yes, they were real and the scenes shot on location! One of the rooms is now called the Tom Cruise room (he rested there…).
Monday 31.10 – immersed in historic Japan
Woke up with a view over Biwa Lake, Japan’s largest lake. To begin with, it was shrowded in haze, which dissipated during breakfast and uncovered the surrounding mounds and mountains. Hikone castle may not have the biggest keep (main tower), but is strategically set on top of one of those mounds with intricate defensive waves of walls, zigzag enty gates with collapsable bridges, rings of moats, lake and river… even the surrounding living areas were built in a way that was strategically defensive.
No wonder the castle never was attacked during the 260 year continuous reign of 14 successive Lords of the Ii family!! It was given to the first Ii Lord for his excellent contribution at Sekigahara battle (the one that unified Japan under one Shogun). And by the way, the “crazy scene” in the film ‘Shogun’ (from 11’35) was filmed on some of the steps and gates at Hikone Castle…Funny, we haven’t met a single foreigner ALL DAY, which makes this Japanese Culture immersion the more special!
And I’m learn how to say the time by listening to train announcements: Ju Nana ji… San Ju Ich… Ichiban sen (took the 17.31 train from track 1, obviously…).
Tuesday 1.11 – the Black Crow at the foot of the Japanese Alps
From the ‘White Heron’ to the ‘Black Crow’, Matsumoto Castle‘s nickname earned by the tar’ed wooden walls.

Surrounded as it is by kilometers of flat marshlands and beyond that the magnificent Japanese Alps, it’s a flatland castle (does not sit on a mound or mountain), so its moats are much wider – a musket shot’s width. Arrows don’t make it across the moat, therefore no need to protect wooden walls from outside fire. Got yet another ‘free’ guided tour around the castle, and the ‘payment’ was: conversation time (in English) with the rest of the volunteer guides – so worth it!, asWe were VERY lucky with the weather, the Japanese Alps in the North are usually enveloped in mist, but there was a clear view from the castle, could even see the spear temple on the mountain silhouette! (even the guide was taking pictures!)
Wednesday 2.11 – Culture shock!
After the quiet temples and shrines and the vigorous mountain air, we woke up in the biggest city of the world – Tokyo! Up at 4.30 am to make to the sunrise practice at Hombu dojo with Waka Sensei (Doshu’s son and newest addition to the teaching staff at Hombu). Shop, shop, shop, then an afternoon Endo session followed by a Miyamoto session. Gazed at the Eiffel tower. Ok, it’s the Tokyo tower, but it damn right looks like the Eiffel tower in Tokyo – go figure!
Thursday 3.11 – a Holiday in the Holiday
The 3rd of November is a National Holiday – therefore Hombu dojo is closed… what else to do than to go watch the all-day budo demos at the Meiji Jingu Park:
Emtpy Minds Films made a video of the day: long version (7 mn) or short version (3 mn), I’m sure we’re in the crowd there somewhere!
– Kyudo at the Shiseikan (which is also Kashima Shinryu’s Inaba Sensei’s home dojo)
– Aikido demos (not Aikikai, but Korindo Aikido, founded by Minoru Hirai in 1938)
Kobudo Shinkokai Embu (58 different schools of “older” budo forms, read the webpage from the second paragraph on and DO look at the pictures, they’re fantastic (from a few years ago) and give a great cross section of the selection demonstrated!
– Momote-shiki (traditional archery)
– Yabusame – Incredible to witness archers hitting their 30 cm target shooting from horseback in full galop, then reload and hit the next target 100 m down the track!!! Tomoko Mizuyori came to spend part of the day with us at the Shiseikan, and she explained that all the children dressed up in the most beautiful kimonos are brought to the Shrine for the ShichiGoSan Festival (7, 5 and 3-year-old children). Ended the wonderful day by paying our respects at the Meiji Jingu Shrine and then headed for dinner at one of the regular restaurants near Hombu with Gaute Lambertsen, who also ordered a terrific selection of delicious foods and it all became a great evening to end a great day out!
Friday 4.11: Excellent practice with Gaute at Doshu’s morning session.
-The Zojo-Ji temple grounds lie right next to the Tokyo Tower (the local Tour Eiffel) and it’s where the Mausoleum for 6 of the Tokugawa shoguns can be found.
-The Senso-Ji is Tokyo’s oldest temple and is known for its huge red lantern hanging in the gates, for being the birth place of Tokyo for its market and shopping in and around the
 grounds of the temple.
-Evening practice with Endo followed by a hearty meal and sake with a great group from the dojo…. ever had half a tuna head served as a delicacy? the cheek and the gelatinous stuff behind the eye is the best! (and that was just one of them delicacies). What a FANTASTIC DAY!!!
Saturday5.11: Last Day
Made it to Doshu’s morning class again and got Tani Sensei as partner for an hour of Ushiro Ryotedori – quite a workout interspersed with a wealth of lessons and you can’t imagine the width and levels and kinds of lessons that Tani had in store for me. Much to take home in gratefulness. Wow!
Found my camera that I’d forgotten at a temple shop at the Senso-Ji… Wow!
Nice cozy dinner at Tomoko’s place in the outskirts of Tokyo, home-made food and home-made Ume… Wow!
Sunday 6.11: Going Home is Not Easy
Took the looooooong way to Narita airport… well, actually there’s like at least 7 different ways to get to Narita, and that would be just for the train choices! Tried at least 3 of them. Kind of, changed underways, I think… But since I’m sitting here in Norway writing this, we must have made it to the airport in time!
Now starting to plan next trip…

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