Little House In Ise

Riai with Jo
September 25, 2006, 15:23
Filed under: Aikido, Japan | Tags:

Aside from a cold that has gone from one of us to another we’re OK. Still no place to put our things so there are waaaaay more boxes around than I prefer but cabinets, dresser drawers and a few other things are supposed to arrive soon. Once we have places to put our things away the boxes will slowly disappear. Theory and practice are usually quite different so we’ll see how it actually plays out.

The dojo here don’t seem to do weapons regularly so seminars are the main place to train with them, I _think_. The focus of this seminar was jo waza and I learned a couple of wicked ikyo-variations that I’ll need to keep in my bag of tricks. They’re so simple and effective that I just had to smile while doing it. My uke obviously thought I was a freak 🙂 . There were only three non-yudansha at the seminar. Both of the others thought I was yudansha and asked for help whenever I worked with them. It was very flattering. There were some very strong Aikidoka on the mat and they certainly showed me a few things. I had a great time.

After that, a bunch of us went to lunch together. That was pretty cool too. I wore my gi to the seminar and didn’t have clothes to change into afterward. They said not to worry about it. I was the only one in our group in a gi but as we arrived at the restaurant another group of grizzled guys in gi and hakama came pouring out. I’ve no idea what art they did (white hakama w/rough and tumbled judo-gi …  kyudo? ia? jujutsu?) but I no longer felt like the odd man out. The food was good, the conversation nice but the camaraderie was the best. They just accepted me.


Robots on the Brain and Butt
September 16, 2006, 03:16
Filed under: Expat, Japan, Robots, Work | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


On Sep 13, 2006, at 6:50 AM, marcus j chavez wrote:
ERIC!!!! how’s Nippon how are the children adjusting Megumi, CAN you go home again:)

Funny you should ask. I was just soaking in the tub listening to the rain. There was a horny cricket out there trying to get a little action. The burping of the tub as it heated up to 40 gave this little corner of the world a nice bass accompaniment. Right now, Japan sounds nice.

But there is a darker side…

I work in an office where industrial robots are designed and built. I walk past half a dozen varieties every day. I think, Asimov would have approved but been a little disappointed. None of these look even vaguely like people. The coolest of the lot, the AGV, looks a lot like the love-child of R2-D2 and a VW microbus (hi Bro!). It gets about as much love. I desperately want to add, “Are you Sarah Conner?” to its repertoire of error signals but no one around here would really get it. Anyway, my point is that I’m spending a lot of time around robots lately. So much so that I wish that Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics were a reality. They might’ve saved my ass today.

It all starts with the almost fetish-like attitude toward personal cleanliness that is more than a stereotype here. This fetish has resulted in the development of plumbing that would look right on the set of a Star Trek episode (if they ever filmed in the bathroom). At the very least, I am convinced that the current models of toilets are robots in disguise. Most seem to be Three Laws compliant but the one in the far left stall of the visiting men’s room at my company stands out as being a deviant.

No one has complained, yet, that I use the visitors’ bathroom rather than take the long hike, to the farthest corner of the building, away from where I do my business, in order to do my business. The visitors’ bathroom is cleaner, or at least has better air freshener, and is equipped with robo-pots that do everything for you except, well, the obvious. Step up and the lid lifts, wait a moment and the hoop lifts. If you sit down you’d better read the instructions before you get serious otherwise you may need to call tech-support. If you think I’m kidding, think again. There is a two-page bilingual manual (full-color, glossy, nice use of graphics) hanging on the wall of each stall.

So, get comfortable, do your thing, press the right buttons, reduce the pressure and temperature — it’s always too powerful — and then fire up the dryer which, thankfully, is_much_ less powerful than the Mitsubishi JetTowel. Done, right? You’d think so but what happens when the toilet displays the Blue Screen of Death? How do you reboot a toilet? Sneaking away isn’t an option as the person to be blamed would be pretty obvious. Damn! Dr. Asimov, where are you when you’re needed!?!? When in doubt, a good engineer returns to the documentation, to RTFM a little more… Aha! On page two, “Tlouble Shooting”, is an answer Scotty would have been proud to use! There is a manual over-ride! The lid and hoop mechanisms still work so, getting down to open the hatch where the override is artfully concealed isn’t too horrific. Sure enough, lower right side behind the graphic showing how to open the hatch is YES! A hatch! With a flush lever. I rule! It may be an indicator of something that this is the sort of victory that I savor. 🙂

Anyway, wouldn’t it have been so much easier if the damn thing just followed orders? (second law of robotics)

Assembly Line Haircuts
September 11, 2006, 15:07
Filed under: Expat, Family, Japan | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Ray and I have been desperately in need of haircuts. Fortunately, Kokoro and I had discovered a barbershop near where I’ve been hijacking an internet connection. We went on the weekend. The place had that black and white marble interior with brushed titanium equipment giving it an overused “cool” techno look.

Ray and I walked in to a chorus of, “Irashai” and were told to go to widely separated seats. I ignored the offer and took Ray to his chair. I didn’t want him to feel abandoned and I wanted to tell the barber how to cut his hair. The first thing I was asked was if Ray should have a shave… He’s a tough little seven-year-old but I don’t think he needs to shave quite yet. Besides, those straight razors scare _ME_! I got him set up and they arranged a nearby chair for me and the assembly lines started rolling.

The first fellow did from my shoulder level up to my ears and then called for backup. Another dude stepped in and began the fade phase of the cut. After the foundation was laid the cleaner was called in and he began working over my whole head with tiny snips here and there, occasionally applying talcum powder to what was left of my hair. The kid with the knife came next. He did the neck, sideburns and ear shaving portion moving a little bit too quickly for my comfort. At this point I was transferred to the shampoo which, though skilled, didn’t really stand out as anything special. The masseuse moved in after my head was steamed and, for the finish, a guy, who looked a lot like Mao Tse Tung in a black smock, came in for the bland finale. He kicked up a haze of fine hair so he really was doing something back there but for the life of me I can’t think of what.

Ray’s experience was different in detail but over-all pretty much the same. I don’t think he liked the lollipop.

Aikido in Ise
September 6, 2006, 03:06
Filed under: Aikido, Japan | Tags: , , , ,


I’ve started practicing again. Ise is going to be good for Aikido and my ego …

The location of practice at Ise Aikidokai rotates from day to day. It seems as though they are trying to tie four different city dojo together into one organization and they’re still having organizational birth pains. I dunno. I don’t care.

The first night’s practice was held in local shrine in a beat up old room with mat space about half again that of my old dojo just longer. The mats are beat-to-hell old tatami. I’d forgotten how tatami is both slippery and abrasive depending on the direction you slide. There was no picture of O Sensei just a massive rising sun flag on the far wall and metal lockers lining both sides. The only thought of safety was that people closed lockers when they swung open. 🙂

It was HOT, stinky, painful (tatami burns from the tips of my toes to ankles and knees) and exactly what I needed. The style is similar to how I trained in Seattle so I fit in immediately — aside from the part about being the only white person in the room and about a head taller than almost everyone. The sensei watched for a few minutes and started saying the same things that my old sensei has been telling me about my foot angle and relaxing my shoulders. It was wonderful.

I’ve sometimes had the very juvenile fantasy of walking into a dojo, kicking ass and then being recognized by a pro for my skills. I hadn’t been thinking that way this time. I was just terribly happy to have a place to release stress with friendly people. I went in relaxed. I kicked major ass the first night. The second night Sensei announced before class that I was a force to be recognized (and studied) and that the Japanese students could learn from my manners and presentation. I spent the whole class keeping up with his head black belt assistant and after that sensei came up to me and talked about testing. He told me to test for black belt in December.

It’s flattering and bewildering and it looks like I’m going to be pushing my physical limits again. I haven’t exercised since a week before I left F5 so I haven’t been this badly out of shape in ages. These young black belts are tough, wiry and have stamina that I haven’t had in ages. So, there is a challenge ahead of me that I think will keep me going for a while. It seems as though Aikido is going to make this move worthwhile for me. We’ll see.

ERCH Japan Update
September 2, 2006, 03:13
Filed under: Family, Japan | Tags: , , , , , ,

Kokoro and me at the airport

We landed at a run and haven’t really slowed down yet. First day on the ground was hell with the kids in different states of jet-lag and the heat and humidity overwhelming us from the moment we got off the plane. We flew from Narita to Nagoya where we over-nighted. The hotel was very nice and walking distance, for two adults hauling two kids and two massive cart loads of luggage, from the airport. The only draw-back was that the carts didn’t fit into the elevators up to the hotel 🙂 Though the place was really comfy and pleasant we woke up at Lost-in-Translation hours and had a very early breakfast. Megumi wanted to tour the airport as it is a bit of an engineering marvel (artificial floating island etc …) so we gave it a go. We were too early for most of the fun stuff (the robot center was closed and shuttered) so we hopped on the train to Ise.

The big move

We took the Kintetsu line which may have been a mistake but we’ve only done it once so I dunno yet. Have you ever heard of a train with stairs? I hadn’t and we had to get through the smoking car to get up the flight of stairs to our seats. Hauling the kids was tough enough but the carts of luggage made it a real challenge. To think that some folks in HR (single, no kids) suggested that the whole trip was easily doable in a day still makes steamed. We made it with only lightly frayed nerves, small bruises and no contusions to speak of.

The Boys on the Train

So, our house, air conditioning, fans, power, water, gas, fridge, cell-phones and washer-dryer (one machine don’t get me started) are all a go. The fiber optics for the phone, net and TV are due on 9/11. My parents can’t wait to get Video Skype going again. The family car, a Honda Fit, arrives next Saturday. I wanted to get a “Life” just to tell people that I finally had one but the Fit was a better deal. I’m looking into single or tandem dual seater “minica” for my commute.

The boat with our stuff hasn’t arrived yet so we are short of most things. Life is better than camping due to the hard work and brilliant timing of my in-laws. They showed up on day three with a pickup-truck load of futons, chairs, tables, pots, pans and anything they could think of that would fit. We were all in awe. Then they stepped past Megumi and me and went straight for the kids… well duh! 🙂 It was great seeing them and we were sad that they had to leave so soon.

Work is going to be funky. I haven’t really gotten a feel for it yet. Suffice it to say Asyst-Shinko is very Japanese — picture stereo-types from 90s movies and you’ll have a glimpse.

Aikido is still on the back burner. I have scouted three of the dojo where the folks in my ryu train but have yet to attend a single class. You can probably guess that I’m close to popping with frustration. I’ll meet the local dojo-cho on Monday. He has already given me permission to train for that evening and provisionally there after. I bought a new gi (Mizuno, light judo type) for the occasion. 🙂

I’ll send this the next time I can find a poorly secured hotspot. Sadly, that’s not a joke.

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