Little House In Ise


Kagami Biraki 2009 / 2009年の鏡開き
January 18, 2009, 22:28
Filed under: Aikido, Expat, Family, Japan | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

This year, I participated in two Kagamibiraki (鏡開き) events. The first was held at the Aikikai Honbu Dojo on January 11th. Ueda Shihan, my teacher from Ise, and one of his deshi, Kan Ishiguro (soon to be a Honbu uchi deshi), came to participate in a national meeting of Dojo Leaders and Kagamibiraki.

That morning, when we arrived at Honbu for Kagamibiraki Keiko, we found most of the uchi deshi and many others outside in the parking area. They were pounding mochi in preparation for the events later in the afternoon. As usual, the uchi-deshi were busting their butts doing most of the hard work (mochi hammers are big and heavy) while older, more experienced members stood around giving sage advice.

Ueda Sensei had asked me to chaperon Ishiguro-san and so I offered to be his training partner. I also suggested that if he really wanted to have a good time he should grab one of the scary old men and train with them. He agreed and partnered with a very talented 5th degree black belt who is a morning class regular. They seemed to have a very pleasant (hardcore) time of it. The dojo itself was crowded with visitors from all over Japan attending that weekend’s many events. It was not quite as packed as during the All Japan Enbukai but falling was still a challenge. Class ended early in order to prepare for the afternoon and we went to lunch.

After lunch, we went back to the dojo and got in line for the Kagamibiraki ceremony itself. The line stretched about 70 meters down the street. At the front, the “cooks” were preparing oshiroko (お汁粉: a sweet bean “soup” with a lump of mochi). There were so many people attending that local high school students had been recruited to act as shoe valets. We took off our shoes in the entrance of the dojo and were given a receipt. The valets parked our shoes out in a grid marked on the concrete of the covered parking area. They were expecting between six and seven hundred attendees. On the third floor, it felt as though that was an underestimation. The dojo was filled wall-to-wall with people sitting seiza in neat rows. Uchi deshi wandered around asking people to leave their bags and coats in the locker room. We spent more than a half hour waiting for the room to fill and the ceremony to start. It was long enough for most feet in the place to be completely numb by the time the ceremony started (almost broke my foot trying to stand at the end).

Osawa Shihan acted as the MC and there were speeches by Doshu and other officials. Announcements of the Kagamibiraki promotions from shodan to hachidan were made and representatives received their certificates. There was only one hachidan announced and he came in person. After the announcements, Doshu gave a demonstration (in a very small area) that included tachi tori, jodori and san-nin gake.

After the ceremony was over, I escorted Ueda sensei back to the train station. When I returned to the dojo, I found that tables had been laid out and sake and oshiriko was being served. The second floor dojo was less crowded, this was where children’s kagami biraki was being held. Megumi, Ray and Kokoro were all there and had already eaten. The kids were very pleased with themselves as they had both received promotions (Kokoro to Jun 8 kyu and Ray to Jun 3 kyu). I grabbed a bottle of sake and made the rounds pouring for parents and then the shihan present. It was comfortable and friendly.

The next day, the Nihon Budokan held its Kagamibiraki ceremony. Kagamibiraki literally means “opening of the mirror” where the “mirror” is a pair of loaves of rice cake used traditionally as New Year’s decorations. The splitting of the rice cake was a way for upper level samurai to share their wealth with lower ranked samurai and the celebration was supposedly an important time for renewing bonds between warriors (that’s what the lit distributed at the Budokan said anyway). At the Budokan a small army dressed in Samurai era armor paraded and the Dai Shogun split the rice cake with a hammer and wedge. The Fuku Shogun had the more pleasant task of splitting the lid of a sake barrel.

After the ceremony, there were demonstrations of Kyudo, Judo, Juken (bayonet), Karate, Iaido, Shorinji Kenpo, Sumo, Naginata and Aikido. The Kyudo and Karate demonstrations were both spectacular and the Sumo demonstration was fascinating. The lethal precision of Kyudo was as beautiful and terrifying as ever. The practitioners made all of their 75 meter-ish kill shots while projecting cool control. The Karateka were as spectacular as they were brilliantly vicious and gave what I thought was the most exciting demonstration of the day. Since I have been blessed with many opportunities to see wonderful Iaido in the US, I was not particularly impressed with the Iai demonstration, it was merely professional and clean. The Judo demonstration was actually boring. It was clear that the intent was to present the most basic elements of that art as executed by masters but, to me, it seemed to lack a sense of love of the art. The Shorinji Kenpo demonstration was so energetic it was almost spastic and very difficult to follow. Sometimes, it seemed to be little more than a wild punch-fest. Juken was very disappointing with only the most obvious strikes and responses demonstrated. The Aikido portion was excellent with demonstrations by both Yokoto shihan and Sugawara shihan (yes, I am biased but they were good). I missed the Naginata demonstration because I was changing into my gi.

After the demonstrations, there was common practice with students of all arts on the floor trainiing at the same time. While this was fun and actually quite a good class (lead by Yokoto Shihan with Honbu uchi-deshi as uke) it was a little frustrating for participants who had wanted to watch the other arts training. I was definitely hoping for too much! 😉

Happy rolling!
e.

3rd Floor Dojo During Kagamibiraki Party

3rd Floor Dojo During Kagamibiraki Party

Yokoto Shihan 横田師範

Yokoto Shihan   横田師範

2nd Floor Dojo (Kids' Kagamibiraki party)

2nd Floor Dojo (Kids’ Kagamibiraki party)

Ray, Sugawara Shihan, Kanazawa Shihan, Kokoro, Me, Suzuki Sensei

Ray, Sugawara Shihan, Kanazawa Shihan, Kokoro, Me, Suzuki Sensei

Kokoro's new rank Jun 8th kyu (pre 8th kyu)

Kokoro’s new rank Jun 8th kyu (standard 8th kyu)

Lined up at the Budokan

Lined up at the Budokan

Daishogun Kabutu

Daishogun Kabutu

Samurai vs the tub of sake ...

Samurai vs the tub of sake …

The army

The Army

Kyudo

Kyudo

Karate

Karate

Nihon Kendo Renmei Iaido

Nihon Kendo Renmei Iaido

Sumo -- the flexible big guys

Sumo — the flexible big guys

Sumo -- stare down

Sumo — stare down

Judo

Judo

Shorinji Kenpo -- Japanese Kung Fu

Shorinji Kenpo — Japanese Kung Fu

Shorinji in space ...

Shorinji in space …

Juken (bayonet)

Juken (bayonet)

Aikido Demo (I'm in the fourth row on the left)

Aikido Demo (I’m in the fourth row on the left)

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2009年本部道場初稽古 – 2009 Honbu Dojo Hatsugeiko
January 7, 2009, 18:41
Filed under: Aikido, Japan | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

honbu-shogatsu

The first morning practice of the year was held on January 6th. Unlike most morning classes this one started with all of Honbu Dojo Shihan present. They lined up in front of the shomen and spanned the mat with the most senior by the windows and the most junior by the door. Wakasensei sat in front of them all and thanked us for our hard work in the old year and congratulated us on the new year. He looked his title, young and perhaps a bit nervous, but he did his job well.

The mat was crowded with almost equal proportions of Aikikai dignitaries, college students (mostly from the nearby Waseda Daigaku) and morning class regulars. The theme was Yokomenuchi and there was no departure from the normal rhythm of Honbu morning class. It was a very good way to start the Aikido new year.



Happy New Year 2009
January 5, 2009, 17:07
Filed under: Family, Japan | Tags: , , , , ,

kids-in-snow-2

If Holidays have themes beyond what our various cultures paint on them, then this holiday’s theme was probably “Discovery”. Megumi and the kids discovered Shogi (Japanese chess), I discovered a secret that Ray and Kokoro have been keeping quiet since summer and we all discovered that laughter increases proportionally with the number of people you pack into a bed.

Before the Holiday’s began, Megumi enrolled the kids in a Shogi class. Though it was a kids’ class she sat in and participated too. At the end of the class all three were awarded a rank of 20th kyu (20級) meaning they have a lot of work to do before they get their black belts. The teacher said that he could have easily given Ray a higher rank than that because he had a better grasp of the game overall (many chess skills and tactics carried over) but that it was best that everyone starting together receive the same rank. My only involvement in this, other than cheer-leading, was to provide a new Wii game that includes shogi. The Wii game can still whup their butts at a pretty low setting but that may be changing.

We were in Okayama for New Years and Ray played against his grandfather and his great grandfather both of whom tried to pass along tips and tricks while brutally thrashing the poor boy. Megumi also played a game or two with her grandfather but I don’t think he was as kind to her about providing advice and instruction. He did quite generously provide a butt-kicking that she will likely remember for a while though…

Before leaving Tokyo, I was told that there was a secret that the kids had been keeping from me since summer and they were excited to show off once we were there. The whole family was in on the surprise with Granma providing the equipment and Guranpa setting up an area to train. Megumi repeatly tossed me red-herrings such as, “We have to wait until the fire is big enough” etc. It turns out that the kids have been practicing unicycling.

Granma had gotten them one over the summer and Guranpa had used aluminum tubing to construct support bars for them to use at the beginning. They have been keeping up the training at a local play area that provides unicycles, stilts, balls and such. Ray’s focus has been stilts and I later found he had gotten quite good at walking on them. Kokoro on the other hand had put her huge heart into learning to ride unicycles. The big girls (2nd and 3rd graders) at the play area who knew how to ride gave her tips, encouragement and a hand up when she needed it. So, the kid is pretty darned good. Considering that it was only last summer that I took the training wheels off her bike I am impressed and amazed that she immediately decided that two wheels was one too many. I can’t ride those things!

Amazing!

Happy New Year!

e.

Our Christmas on the 27th (25th was a school day)

Our Christmas on the 27th (25th was a school day)

Kokoro and her loom

Kokoro and her loom

It snowed in Okayama

It snowed in Okayama — guess who was happy?

We made 16 kilos of mochi this year

We made 16 kilos of mochi!

Kokoro does quality assurance

Kokoro does quality assurance

Ray keeping the mochi machine warm... Yeah, right!

Ray keeping the mochi machine warm… Yeah, right!

Megumi, wishing for more soy-sauceMegumi, wishing for more soy-sauce

Great Grandfather and Ray

Learning shogi from his Great Grandfather

Cousins were there too! Koseke and Taisuke

Cousins were there too! Koseke and Taisuke

And away she goes!

And away she goes!

Big brother and coach

Big brother and coach

The family in Yasui

The family in Yasui




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