Kendo Tilburg

WaShinKan Japan trip 2015

As most of the people know, WaShinKan organized a special Kendo-trip to Japan for her members in 2015. Written below here is a recap of our trip, including some pictures made by both WaShinKan members and local people, ie. Karin van Berkel or George McCall.

WaShinKan Kanji

Our trip begins with the departure from Amsterdam Airport to Narita International Airport, making a brief stop in Dubai for transfer. After our arrival in Japan we were (both pleasantly as well as unpleasantly) surprised by the crew of TV Tokyo for the popular tv show ‘Why did you come to Japan’ also known as ‘YOUは何しに日本へ?’. Jonathan de Croon was the first to arrive and was made to do some Kendo Suburi (without Shinai) with Kiai in the entrance/arrival hall of the airport. With a camera, tall foreign people and some jumping and shouting, this of course immediately put the attention on us. We then had a short interview about our stay and our reasons for coming. After meeting 2 students from the International Budo University and the bus driver, we said goodbye for the night to the camera crew and started our trip to the university. Having some fun conversations, a few naps and some Japanese candy on the bus, we finally arrived in Katsuura around 21:30.

Airburs A380 waiting for departure!

Airburs A380 waiting for departure!

Scenery from the plane

Arriving in Japan

Interview at Narita Int. Airport

Interview at Narita Int. Airport

The university! I.B.U.

The university!   I.B.U.

The following day we went to the early morning practice at 07:00. With a jetlag and sore muscles from the long sit, both in plane and bus, we were all happy to make it to the end of the practice alive. Everybody then took a shower, got changed and after a Japanese style breakfast in the University’s cafeteria, got ready to take an anti-jetlag-nap. Some of WaShinKan’s members however, met around 12:00 with Kazuhisa Kaneda (金田和久 – Iaido, Kyoshi 8e Dan) for a session of Iaido. Of course we also took this chance to talk a bit with the Sensei. After practice was over, we presented our gift, a special made NIKE jacket with both the kanji and kamon of WaShinKan, as well as the name of the Sensei printed on it. Giving the Sensei our regards and thanking him for the Keiko we headed for a drink in the cafetaria.

Our place of stay during the visit..

Our place of stay during the visit..

..and the entrance hall

..and the entrance hall

One of the dormitory's tatami rooms!

One of the dormitory’s tatami rooms!

Ivo and his students after Keiko! From left to right: Jonathan de Croon, Karin van Berkel, Ivo van Roij, Sebas Bostelaar and Joris Knol

Ivo and his students after Keiko! From left to right:
Jonathan de Croon, Karin van Berkel, Ivo van Roij, Sebas Bostelaar and Joris Knol

Empty Kendojo

Empty Kendojo

Finished the curry-rice quickly!

Finished the curry-rice quickly!

Kaneda Sensei surprised by our present

Kaneda Sensei surprised by our present

Joris handing the jacket over to Kaneda Sensei

Joris handing the jacket over to Kaneda Sensei

And of course a Iaido-group picture!

And of course a Iaido-group picture!

After changing to our normal clothes, we went to the local Budo shop to buy Kendo equipement. Then, as the tourists we were, we walked around for some sightseeing in the city of Katsuura, carrying our brand new Shinai, gi and protectors. We even saw a cute dog and a stray cat. In the afternoon we hurried back for another long session of Kendo from 16:30 until 19:00. Basically this schedule for Kendo was our daily training for the days to come.

Pretty much every students drives one of these!

Pretty much every students drives one of these!

So many different shinai to choose from

So many different shinai to choose from

Cute little dog that we met along the way..

Cute little dog that we met along the way..

..as well as this stray cat

..as well as this stray cat

Back to the dojo for some keiko..

Back to the dojo for some keiko..

..and they have weird cars!

..and they have weird cars!

The view from the dojo

The view from the dojo

Ivo doing keiko

Ivo doing keiko

I.B.U. has about 204 male kendoka and 41 female kendoka. This is only half of them!

I.B.U. has about 204 male kendoka and 41 female kendoka. This is only half of them!

Ijima Sensei giving instructions and feedback after keiko

Ijima Sensei giving instructions and feedback after keiko

However the Thursday afternoon we were able to have a private conversation with both Akira Ijima (井島章 – Kendo, Kyoshi 8e Dan) and Kimiharu Iwakiri (岩切公治 – Kendo, Kyoshi 8e Dan). We were able to ask many in-depth Kendo questions. One interesting question came about how to improve your Kendo, focussing on the mental aspects. Ijima Sensei explained that you can only do so much with regular practice and suburi. His answer took about 25 minutes. In the end he mainly focused on the practice of suburi to make something your own (as in the motto of WaShinKan: 百錬自得) giving you the opportunity to focus on timing, breathing and your mental state during Kendo to improve the overal Kendo. Sensei told us that ‘Kokki’ or ‘克己’ was the most important thing for him. He told us that his road to Kyoshi 8e Dan was a road where he wanted to stop many times doing Kendo all together. But stopping Kendo meant he would lose to himself. With this he emphasized on the importance to come to every practice and focus on your weak points, in stead of losing to oneself and skip practice because you don’t want to come, feel fatigue, are tired of work or just want to hang out with your friends. After this Ijima Sensei focused a lot on breathing and footwork in his explanations. Followed by a demonstration of how to breath in and out during shiai, we closed the lesson. We met one of the Japanese students who wanted to learn English and talked with him a bit. His name is Taihei Kegasawa and we had some good fun with all kinds of conversations. Its funny how fast you can become friends even if there is a barrier of language. We talked a bit more about his life at the university and then hurried for the next Bukatsu (Kendo Club) practice from 16:30 until 19:00 again. Ivo and Jonathan hurried after Keiko to the Kyudojo. After practicing and having a lot of fun, we of course made some group pictures and had some joking around about WaShinKan and who should be the leader. One of Ivo’s friends and a 4th year students decided that he was the new leader of WaShinKan by winning a friendly competition, who hit the small (9cm golden) target first! After this back to bed for Friday’s early keiko again!

One of the decorative elements for Children's Day (こどもの日, Kodomo no Hi) in the place we were staying!

One of the decorative elements for Children’s Day (こどもの日, Kodomo no Hi) in the place we were staying!

Iwakiri Sensei

Iwakiri Sensei

Ijima Sensei

Ijima Sensei

Bogu drying in the sun before and after practice! Totally normal in Katsuura!

Bogu drying in the sun before and after practice! Totally normal in Katsuura!

I.B.U. Kyudo group!

I.B.U. Kyudo group!

Group picture with Ivo

Group picture with Ivo

And a crazy pose of course!

And a crazy pose of course!

A tower of Kyudoka

A tower of Kyudoka

And the winner of the WaShinKan / I.B.U. competition

And the winner of the WaShinKan / I.B.U. competition. He made the note saying ‘WaShinKan new leader’ and stuck it on himself

And then off to bed

And then off to bed

The following day, Friday, we had morning practice again. Tough, but fun, everybody noticed they were improving somewhat faster and better than they ever did in the Netherlands. With newfound motivation and less impact from the jetlag, everybody was able to keep up better and better with the training schedule. After our morning ritual of a quick shower, changing and getting a breakfast at the University’s cafetaria, we were allowed to watch a beginners course in Aikido. Ivo, already having experience in Aikido, translated and showed most of the techniques in the back of the dojo to WaShinKan members. It was impressive to see Yukitoshi Tatsugi Sensei executing the different waza with such ease and relaxed muscles. There was no tention at all.

Early in the morning

Early in the morning

A rather large brunch!

A rather large breakfast/lunch!

Students from all different ranges (Shorinji Kempo, Judo, Iaido, Kendo, Soccer, Baseball, you name it) practicing Aikido

Students from all different ranges (Shorinji Kempo, Judo, Iaido, Kendo, Soccer, Baseball, you name it) practicing Aikido

Yukitoshi Tatsugi Sensei performing waza

Yukitoshi Tatsugi Sensei performing waza

After the Aikido class we went back to the KoryuKeikan, where all the international students live and where our rooms were. We were greeted by the staff of the International Office and were told that the people of TV Tokyo were here to shoot some more interviews etc. for the show. The crew asked us many questions about our thoughts on Kendo and of course the relationship between Kendo and the people around you. They kept following us in to the cafetaria where we had lunch, which annoyed some of us. As before, its hard to fit in in Japanese culture, and when there is a camera crew following you everywhere, people tend to look strange. In the afternoon, we agreed to hang out with some of my old (and new) friends from the university. We decided to go to a ‘KaitenZushi’ or conveyer belt sushi place, called ‘Kappa Sushi’. Before this, we took some snapshots in Katsuura and went for a short visit at Moriya beach (a local but popular beach) just outside of Katsuura. Its a really nice place with a relaxing beach. We took strolled around and found some cool caves and a pretty big pufferfish! We took some pictures and relaxed a little bit. The crew from TV Tokyo also went to the beach for some last shots and then went back to Katsuura. We then took the train to the sushi place and met with the other people. If you ever come around in this area, Awa-Kamogawa’s Kappa Sushi is a restaurant I would recommend.

The Dutches with the International Office staff members!

The Dutch people with the International Office staff members!

Ivo during the interview by TV Tokyo

Ivo during the interview by TV Tokyo

The whole Dutch group and Taihei!

The whole Dutch group and Taihei!

Jonathan being interviewed over lunch..

Jonathan being interviewed over lunch..

..but finally rest!

..but finally rest!

Marieke

Marieke

Joris

Joris

Sebas

Sebas

Rilakuma and some nigiri!

Rilakuma and some nigiri!

Climbing the stairs of the university

Climbing the stairs of the university

Almost there..

Almost there..

..and the view

..and the view

The Track and Field area

The Track and Field area

Trough one of Katsuura's many tunnels

Trough one of Katsuura’s many tunnels

Nen enjoying herself

Nen enjoying herself

In the train to Awa Kamogawa

In the train to Awa Kamogawa

A little bit of walking

A little bit of walking

Occupied caves: Note the sign saying 'Don't ditch your trash here!'

Occupied caves: Note the sign saying ‘Don’t ditch your trash here!’

Everyone relaxing and enjoying the view

Everyone relaxing and enjoying the view

Pufferfish!

Pufferfish!

Lots of small sea creatures!

Lots of small sea creatures!

Joris doing some exploring

Joris doing some exploring

And the rest of the group

And the rest of the group

Group picture!

Group picture!

Waiting for the train we saw these colorful grave decorations

Waiting for the train we saw these colorful grave decorations

Hopping on the train to go to the next stop: Kappa Sushi!

Hopping on the train to go to the next stop: Kappa Sushi!

Getting real hungry here!

Getting real hungry here!

Yes.. Thats chocolate sauce on top of french fries and whip-cream on the side..!

Yes.. Thats chocolate sauce on top of french fries and whip-cream on the side..!

One of Ivo's old friends from I.B.U. came to visit! Akira and Ivo reunited!

One of Ivo’s old friends from I.B.U. came to visit! Akira and Ivo reunited!

Going home after a fun night!

Going home after a fun night!

On Saturday we had our last practice in the morning, with all of WaShinKan’s members being able to have Keiko with the Sensei. After saying our thanks and farewell, we all packed our stuff and went for one last round trough the city and sightseeing spots of Katsuura before departing in the direction of Tokyo. Due to the fact that Katsuura isn’t all that close to Tokyo, if you consider the time it takes by train, we arrived fairly late at our destination near Hikifune station. Our overnight stay was located pretty close to the famous Tokyo SkyTree, which we of course visited. The base that is, since the entry tickets are quite expensive, as well as unavailable at our time of visiting. Afterwards we still wanted to go out a bit, because the room wasn’t that big and we weren’t all that sleepy. Just Karin, Joris and Ivo went out for a cool Izakaya! In Japanese izakaya, the menu may be on the table, displayed on walls, or both. Picture menus are common in larger izakaya. Food and drink are ordered throughout the course of the session as desired. They are brought to the table, and the bill is added up at the end of the session. Unlike other Japanese styles of eating, food items are usually shared by everyone at the table as in Spanish tapas. Common formats for izakaya dining in Japan are known as nomi-hōdai (“all you can drink”) and tabe-hōdai (“all you can eat”). For a set price per person, customers can continue ordering as much food and/or drink as they wish, with a usual time limit of two or three hours.

Ivo getting feedback for all the WaShinKan members

Ivo getting feedback for all the WaShinKan members

Last I.B.U./WaShinKan group picture with Ijima Sensei and Ivo in the middle

Last I.B.U./WaShinKan group picture with Ijima Sensei and Ivo in the middle

Out for a stroll on the hills of Katsuura

Out for a stroll on the hills of Katsuura

The view!

The view!

These actually flew around Katsuura a lot!

These actually flew around Katsuura a lot!

Random temple we found

Random temple we found

Made a good place to enjoy the view and relax a bit

Made a good place to enjoy the view and relax a bit

Budai Rules!

Budai Rules!

Walking around

Walking around

Another shot of the view

Another shot of the view

Walking around again

Walking around again

And back into the streets of Katsuura

And back into the streets of Katsuura

Ebi fry!

Ebi fry!

Walking around in the streets of Katsuura seeing some small cars..

Walking around in the streets of Katsuura seeing some small cars..

Streets of Katsuura

Streets of Katsuura

Cute dog

Cute dog

..really small!

..really small!

Back into the hills to another temple

Back into the hills to another temple

One of the trees there

One of the trees there

The Temple itself

The Temple itself

And the side of it

And the side of it

Making wishes (for Kendo of course!)

Making wishes (for Kendo of course!)

Wishes and hopes from people around hanging by the temples

Wishes and hopes from people around hanging by the temples

Jonathan and Nen wishing something too!

Jonathan and Nen wishing something too!

View of Katsuura

View of Katsuura

And back to the University

And back to the University

And finally in the train going in the direction of Tokyo!

And finally in the train going in the direction of Tokyo!

Late night in the big city

Late night in the big city

Nice shoji doors

Nice shoji doors

Our room

Our room

SkyTree at night!

SkyTree at night!

Late night snacks!

Late night snacks!

Delicious but hot!

Delicious but hot!

The Sunday we tried to give the WaShinKan members a speed tour trough Tokyo, visiting the famous Meji Jingu, Asakusa, Harajuku, Akihabara and Shinjuku crossing. In Harajuku we met with 2 of Ivo’s senpai: Shota Yamakoshi and Cristian Farias. Karin also wanted to meet one of her photographer friends from Instagram, so we also met this new girl called Miki Kato. We walked around the park area behind the station and in to Meiji Jingu. We saw a traditional Japanese wedding as well as some Biwa (traditional snare instrument) players at the temple complex perform. From there we went into the city, visited a lot of shops including a Kyudo-shop to buy arrows for people back home and eventually went to a Shabu Shabu place, where you eat boiled meat! If you’ve never had Shabu Shabu, its also something close to a izakaya and I’d recommend its something you’d try when visiting Japan! After Shabu Shabu we went strolling around in Asakusa to check out some cool Japanese shops. We found one shop that had some extremely cool but even more so ridiculous items. Hats that form the Tokyo Tower, a riceball and even a police light? Weird stuff, but definitely worth a picture!

Waiting for Jonathan and Nen..

Waiting for Jonathan and Nen..

..on a scooter!

..on a scooter!

Takeshita street, Harajuku

Takeshita street, Harajuku

Walking to one of the temples in the centre of Tokyo

Walking to one of the temples in the centre of Tokyo

Sake barrels..!

Sake barrels..!

Arriving at the temple we found a live concert of some biwa players

Arriving at the temple there was a live concert of some biwa players

And a wedding going on!

And a wedding going on!

Biwa players

Biwa players

Karin with Miki's camera!

Karin with Miki’s camera!

Girl in traditional wear at Meiji Jingu

Girl in traditional wear at Meiji Jingu

Shota Yamakoshi and Ivo

Shota Yamakoshi and Ivo

At Shibuya Station..!

At Shibuya Station..!

The famous story of Hachikō at Shibuya Station

The famous story of Hachikō at Shibuya Station

Tall Joris getting interviewed. Note: This is not TV Tokyo, this is yet another station!

Tall Joris getting interviewed. Note: This is not TV Tokyo, this is yet another station!

Shibuya Crossing: One of Japan's most famous crossings due to the amount of people crossing EVERY SINGLE time!

Shibuya Crossing: One of Japan’s most famous crossings due to the amount of people crossing EVERY SINGLE time!

In Akihabara

In Akihabara

To big car for a small garage: No problem in Japan!

Car too big for a small garage: No problem in Japan!

Streets in Japan..

Streets in Japan..

..on our way to..

..on our way to..

..Koyama Kyugu! So many incredible stuff there!

..Koyama Kyugu! So many incredible stuff there!

Streets of Asakusa

Streets of Asakusa

Kaori Anamizu and Cristian Farias!

Kaori Anamizu and Cristian Farias!

Paper ribbons at Asakusa

Paper ribbons at Asakusa

Temples of Asakusa

Temples of Asakusa

Tokyo Tower hat? Only in Japan..

Tokyo Tower hat? Only in Japan..

Yes, we did look ridiculous, but who cares in Japan?

Yes, we did look ridiculous, but who cares in Japan?

At the izakaya for some Shabu Shabu

At the izakaya for some Shabu Shabu

Ivo and Cristian, 久しぶり!

Ivo and Cristian, 久しぶり!

Monday morning we hurried to one of the biggest stations in Tokyo: Tokyo Central Station. The station’s front looks very much like Amsterdam Centraal, but behind that is 65m difference between the lowest (subway) and highest (bullet train) tracks! If that’s not enough, the exit located furthest away from the entrance is over half a kilometer far! It’s a labyrinth for even a lot of Japanese people who have not been there before, so you can imagine that we were searching a bit for the famous Shinkansen, also known as Japan’s fastest bullet trains. Catching the train just in time, with over 300km/h, we literally flew trough the landscape of Japan in the southern direction. After getting out of Tokyo, passing by the base of Mt. Fuji, we went all the way down to Tokyo.

Where to go?

Where to go?

Another entrance ahead!

Another entrance ahead!

Transfer to the Shinkansen

Transfer to the Shinkansen

Map of the trains in Greater Tokyo (Tokyo areas)

Map of the trains in Greater Tokyo (Tokyo areas)

Mt. Fuji on the way from Tokyo to Kyoto, as seen from the Shinkansen. Too bad it was cloudy..

Mt. Fuji on the way from Tokyo to Kyoto, as seen from the Shinkansen. Too bad it was cloudy..

Really fast train, the Shinkansen!

Really fast train, the Shinkansen!

Arriving around 13:00 with a bit of clouds and rain, we went directly to K’s Backpackers Hostel, our stay for the coming 2 nights. Immediately wanting to explore the differences between Tokyo’s modern metropolitan city structure and Kyoto’s packed temple area’s, we decided to head out in the streets for some sightseeing. We first came across the Chion-in (知恩院) temple complex, which was incredible to see for most of us. Of course we have big ancient structures in Europa, and we know the temples in Japan from the movies, but nevertheless its always an impressive sight to actually be there in person and see the 17th-century temple headquarters of Jodo Shu Buddhism with garden in real life.

Arrived in Kyoto!

Arrived in Kyoto!

Kyoto Station from the inside!

Kyoto Station from the inside!

Walking around in Kyoto passing this river

Walking around in Kyoto passing this river

Arriving at Chion-in Temple

Arriving at Chion-in Temple

Chion-in main gate

Chion-in main gate

Sadly the main temple was being renovated and not able to be seen or visited

Sadly the main temple was being renovated and not able to be seen or visited

One of the pagoda at Chion-in

One of the pagoda at Chion-in

The new roof-tiles for the under construction temple

The new roof-tiles for the under construction temple

Smaller temple at Chion-in

Smaller temple at Chion-in

Leaving the temple complex again

Leaving the temple complex again

Beautiful stairs

Beautiful stairs

After this found or way trough the small streets and passages in the outer rims of Kyoto city to the famous and historic Butokuden. This martial arts hall was built in Kyoto near Heian Shrine to carry out the legacy of ancient traditions which was started in eighth century capital of Kyoto. It remained emblematically the powerful symbol of esteemed honor and highest integrity where the prominent Japanese martial practitioners aspired to be recognized by the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai. We of course visited for the Kyoto Enbu Taikai, also known as the Kyoto demonstration championships. It’s always impressive to see the 7th and 8th dan people demonstrate their ideas in Kendo. Definitely worth watching! Since we arrived quite late, we went to the Tozando shop that is really close. It sells very nice and expensive Iaito, and a lot of Budo accessories. With these images still in the back of our heads, we went out to find a place for dinner and later back to the hostel.

Inside the Butokuden after everybody left

Inside the Butokuden after everybody left

The dojo itself

The dojo itself

At the Tozando Shop

At the Tozando Shop

And beautiful Sashimono woodwork

And beautiful piece of Sashimono woodwork

Some really expensive swords there!

Some really expensive swords there!

Tuesday, we had another long day, which started with our trip to the Butokuden for a bit more of the Enbu Taikai. Since we didn’t get to see too many fights on Monday, we decided to stick around for a bit more today. We watched most of the fights and went around the Butokuden to check out some of the local shops there for new bogu parts, keychains, tenegui and even some Iaito. Next to this hall is a Kyudojo as well as a Sumo training spot. I’m not sure how active the Sumo training is, but we at least got the chance to check out some of the Kyudoka doing also a sort of Enbu. It is really interesting to see how some people have a bow that looks way to strong for them (they are shaking to an extreme level) but are still capable of hitting the target with a beautiful form, over a distance of 28 meters!

The weather was better! On our way to the Butokuden

The weather was better! On our way to the Butokuden

Iaido at the Butokuden

Iaido at the Butokuden

Kendo at the Butokuden

Kendo at the Butokuden

Kyudojo at the Butokuden

Kyudojo at the Butokuden

Kyudoka concentrating

Kyudoka concentrating

We found a small stand that sold some curry rice and after our lunch we decided to go around the training halls to take a closer look at the Heian Shrine (平安神宮). It has a relatively short history, dating back just over a hundred years to 1895. The shrine was built on the occasion of the 1100th anniversary of the capital’s foundation in Kyoto and is dedicated to the spirits of the first and last emperors who reigned from the city, Emperor Kammu (737-806) and Emperor Komei (1831-1867). Heian is the former name of Kyoto by the way. A giant torii (gate) marks the approach to the shrine, around which there are a couple of museums. The actual shrine grounds themselves are very spacious, with a wide open court at the center. The shrine’s main buildings are a partial replica of the original Imperial Palace from the Heian Period. After visiting this open court, we found out that there was an attractive, (paid) garden with a variety of plants, ponds and traditional buildings. The garden’s most striking features are its beautiful pond crossing bridge and of course many weeping cherry trees. These trees bloom a few days later than most other cherry trees, making the garden one of the best cherry blossom spots in Kyoto around the tail end of the season, which we just missed, since that is usually around mid April. However, the garden was still worth while our visit and we loved to see the beautiful Japanese architecture in both landscaping as well as buildings.

Local shops at the Butokuden

Local shops at the Butokuden

Curry Rice!

Curry Rice!

Kyoto Heian shrine tori

Kyoto Heian shrine gate

Heian main gate

Heian main gate

A little girl in traditional clothing

A little girl in traditional clothing

Inner parts of Heian shrine

Inner parts of Heian shrine

Joris washing his hands

Joris washing his hands

An old train in the gardens of Heian shrine

An old train in the gardens of Heian shrine

In the garden of the Heian shrine

In the garden of the Heian shrine

The garden consisted of mostly ponds, small passages and some temple buildings

The garden consisted of mostly ponds, small passages and some temple buildings

Momiji, the red leafed famous trees of Japan

Momiji, the red leafed famous trees of Japan

A small flowing stream trough stepping stones

A small flowing stream trough stepping stones

A stone lantern

A stone lantern

Ivo and Joris checking out the fishes and turtles in the pond

Ivo and Joris checking out the fishes and turtles in the pond

So many!

So many!

Another girl in traditional Japanese wear

Another girl in traditional Japanese wear

Ivo wearing a Jinbei, traditional Japanese summer wear

Ivo wearing a Jinbei, traditional Japanese summer wear

Beautiful flowers in the ponds everywhere

Beautiful flowers in the ponds everywhere

And after a long day of trying, we finally got a perfect shot of this butterfly!

And after a long day of trying, we finally got a perfect shot of this butterfly!

Paper ribbon trees!

Paper ribbon trees!

After this we started walking around a bit randomly trough Kyoto’s streets to find some delicious Takoyaki (たこ焼き or 蛸焼), which is a ball-shaped Japanese snack filled with minced or diced octopus. After this we found a rather cool trail past some waterworks that led us higher and higher into the mountains. Not afraid to walk a bit, we kept following the trail until reaching an abandoned looking temple in the middle of the forest. The road there was pretty tough (small forest trails) and consisted mostly of rocks and tree-roots as steps. It must have been a funny sight to see a bunch of foreign people walk like that.

Takoyaki (たこ焼き)

Takoyaki (たこ焼き)

Following an abandoned rail track going up the hill

Following an abandoned rail track going up the hill

That is a lot of water coming down!

That is a lot of water coming down!

Top of the hill

Top of the hill

Some beautiful flowers alongside the path

Some beautiful flowers alongside the path

A small cave in the forest

A small cave in the forest

More religious items next to the forest trail

More religious items next to the forest trail

Reaching the temples!

Reaching the temples!

Small shrine and temples in the middle of nowhere

Small shrine and temples in the middle of nowhere in the forest

And back on the road, waiting for a taxi

And back on the road, waiting for a taxi

Having reached the road again, we quickly started searching for a Japanese Taxi and drove into the mountains to probably one of the most famous temples of Kyoto: the Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺). Officially called Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera (音羽山清水寺), is one of the independent Buddhist temple in eastern Kyoto. The temple is part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) and UNESCO World Heritage site. The temple was founded in 778, however its present buildings were constructed a lot later in 1633, ordered by the Tokugawa Iemitsu. There is not a single nail used in the entire structure. It takes its name from the waterfall within the complex, which runs off the nearby hills. Kiyomizu means clear water, or pure water. The main hall has a large veranda, supported by tall pillars, that juts out over the hillside and offers impressive views of the city. We made a picture like most of the people do, and this is probably the most famous view of the temple complex. Large verandas and main halls were constructed at many popular sites during the Edo period to accommodate large numbers of pilgrims, but none as impressive as this one. The popular expression “to jump off the stage at Kiyomizu” is the Japanese equivalent of the English expression “to take the plunge”. This refers to an Edo period tradition that held that, if one were to survive a 13m jump from the stage, one’s wish would be granted. 234 jumps were recorded in the Edo period and, of those, 85.4% survived. The practice is now of course prohibited. Beneath the main hall is the Otowa waterfall, where three channels of water fall into a pond. Visitors can catch and drink the water, which is believed to have wish-granting powers. We however didn’t want to wait in line for an hour (yes, the line for catching the water was this long..) so we only watched people do it.

After getting of the taxi, we walked up to Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera

After getting of the taxi, we walked up to Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera

The entrance and first sight of the temple

The entrance and first sight of the temple

All painted in red, giving it a very Chinese look

All painted in red, giving it a very Chinese look

Beautiful ornaments though

Beautiful ornaments though

Main entrance to the tickets

Main entrance to the tickets

Inside the complex

Inside the complex

Looking down from the main temple

Looking down from the main temple

Washing your hands and mouth before going into any of the temple areas is a normal ritual in Japan

Washing your hands and mouth before going into any of the temple areas is a normal ritual in Japan

Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera portrayed from the front

Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera portrayed from the front

And from below

And from below

Walking down to the taxi area from the temple, passing some small shops

Walking down to the taxi area from the temple, passing some small shops

From here on we walked trough the narrow streets of Kyoto back downhill to the taxi stand. Catching a cab, we rode to the hostel again only to go out later to for some shopping at the Kyoto Tower Hotel. The cool thing about the local shops is that they sell some really tourist stuff, as well as some traditional items. You can buy hanko (sign/signature stamps) or geta (traditional Japanese wooden sandals) and of course some ridiculous stuff as a Shinsengumi outfit for your dog. Who buys that beats me, but at least it looks really cool in the shop. We bought some small items and then went out to find a cheap restaurant. We snuck in to a local pizza restaurant (note, Japanese pizza is both smaller as well as it has some rare ingredients from Japan) and ate our full. From there on it was only a small walk back to the our hostel for our last night in Kyoto! Note the cool toilets they have in Japan, with heated seating, automatic water spray to clean, which you can even adjust!

Kyoto Tower Hotel in front of the Kyoto train station

Kyoto Tower Hotel in front of the Kyoto train station

Toilet buttons!

Toilet buttons!

Leaving in the morning on Wednesday for Osaka, we carried our bogu and Shinai and went to the station again. Only needing to take a train for a rather short time (Osaka an Kyoto aren’t that far from each other) we had a rather relaxed trip. Arriving at our final destination, Hotel Mikado, located in 200 meter from Shin-Imamiya station (about 10 minutes from Osaka Central) we got into our rooms. A tad small, but with each having our own room with a bed, a tv and a good and working air-conditioner, we didn’t have any complaints at all. Realizing we arrived really early in Osaka and had the whole day ahead of us, we decided to do some more sightseeing in that area. One thing Ivo wanted to show to everybody was a place called Nara, so all the WaShinKan members set sail for that. About half an hour by train from where we were located, we arrived at Nara. Nobody having had breakfast or lunch yet, we quickly made a stop at one of the billion convenient stores (7eleven, FamilyMart, Lawson, Mini-Stop) for some rice-balls! Nara was the capital of Japan from 710 to 794, lending its name to the Nara period. The temples of Nara, known collectively as the Nanto Shichi Daiji, remained powerful even beyond the move of the political capital to Heian-kyō in 794, thus giving Nara a synonym of Nanto (南都 “The Southern Capital”). In 2010, Nara celebrated the 1,300th anniversary of its ascension as Japan’s imperial capital. With most of the temples still in perfect shape, this is not the main reason why most people want to visit. What makes Nara really special, are the many free roaming deer (or Shika in Japanese). The deer here are so used to the people around that they walk around at the temples and relax in the sun on the sidewalks of the street. They are easy to pet and are usually eager to make a bow to you in exchange for some of the ‘deer cookies’ you can buy at local shops to feed them. Back to the temples, the most interesting one to visit here, and the first one on our list, was the world’s famous Tōdai-ji’s Daibutsu-den. The Daibutsu-den is the largest wooden building in the world. Incredibly, the present structure, rebuilt in 1709, is a mere two-thirds of the size of the original. The Daibutsu (Great Buddha) inside is one of the largest bronze figures in the world and was originally cast in 746. The present statue, recast in the Edo period, stands just over 16m high and consists of 437 tonnes of bronze and 130kg of gold. You can imagine that it is an impressive sight to see, and its definitely worth the 500 yen it costs to enter. The Daibutsu is an image of Dainichi Nyorai (also known as Vairocana Buddha), the cosmic Buddha believed to give rise to all worlds and their respective Buddhas. Historians believe that Emperor Shōmu ordered the building of the Buddha as a charm against smallpox, which ravaged Japan in preceding years. Over the centuries the statue took quite a beating from earthquakes and fires, losing its head a couple of times (note the slight difference in colour between the head and the body). As we circled the statue towards the back, there were some small scale models of the original building, which was a sight to see. Next to the original building (about 35 to 40m high) there were scale models of the pagoda that were originally based at the sides of the Daibutsu-den. Seeing how these 7-story-high pagoda stood firmly and a lot higher, we guessed they would have been around 80 or 90m high, with the bronze spike on top. A bit further we could see a wooden column with a hole through its base. Popular belief maintains that those who can squeeze through the hole, which is exactly the same size as one of the Great Buddha’s nostrils, are ensured of enlightenment. There was a big line of junior high students waiting to give it a try and their teacher waiting to snap their pictures. One of the bigger kids almost got stuck, but eventually (with some help of his friends) got pushed trough.

Temples in Nara

Temples in Nara

Pagoda in Nara

Pagoda in Nara

Cute cake in the 7Eleven shop!

Cute cake in the 7Eleven shop!

Street to the Daibutsu-den

Street to the Daibutsu-den

Ivo feeding a deer

Ivo feeding a deer

Cookies!

Cookies!

Main entrance gate of the Daibutsu-den

Main entrance gate of the Daibutsu-den

Main Entrance

Main Entrance

Incredible woodwork

Incredible woodwork

Huge wood sculptures inside the gate

Huge wood sculptures inside the gate

Teh Daibutsu-den itself

The Daibutsu-den itself

From the front

From the front

Joris

Joris

Ivo

Ivo

Looks like a face!

Looks like a face!

Size of the statue inside

Size of the statue inside

One of the smaller statues inside, covered in 2 layers of gold

One of the smaller statues inside, covered in 2 layers of gold

Ivo and Joris checking out some miniature models of the previous temple and how it was renovated

Ivo and Joris checking out some miniature models of the previous temple and how it was renovated

Incredible scale models

Incredible scale models

School children waiting in line to crawl trough the pole!

School children waiting in line to crawl trough the pole!

Leaving the gates of Tōdai-ji’s Daibutsu-den we walked up the hill to another temple complex. Not as impressive in size or woodwork as the previous one, the view was just as great. We could see most of Nara, including the huge roof of the Daibutsu-den. It had 2 huge corner shaped, 2 meter high sized, gold platted figures on top. We figured it might have been the winter shoes for the same guy who’s sandals were hanging at Asakusa in Tokyo. Needless to say, we sat down for a drink and enjoyed the view for a bit before heading into the more populated areas of Nara for some food. Closely looking around, enjoying the beautiful architecture and playing with some deer, we found a great Japanese Ramen shop. Nice and not too expensive food, which tastes very good. And if you’re still hungry afterwards, just order gyoza like us!

Spike on top of the pagoda. Sadly it was the only thing left of the complete tower

Spike on top of the pagoda. Sadly it was the only thing left of the complete tower

Temple complex up the hill

Temple complex up the hill

Still going up

Still going up

And again washing your hands and mouth

And again washing your hands and mouth

Relaxing at the top of the temple in Nara

Relaxing at the top of the temple in Nara

Thursday, the day we agreed to meet George, we strolled around in Osaka for a bit first. Honestly, we wanted to visit a zoo that was located next too our hotel, but since it was close, we went around in the same neighborhood a bit more to see if we could find some miyage (or souvenir) shops. We stumbled upon a really cool and big shopping mall (later we got told that it was the highest building in Japan, not counting sightseeing spots and radio towers such as SkyTree or Kyoto Tower) where we checked most of the shops. Next to the standard shops that we all know in Europa, they have some pretty cool themed shops there too. I looked around at the ‘crazy print’ shop where most of the clothing have some really strong prints on them like sakura on pants, embroidery of kanji and castles on hoodies, and so on and on. The shop next to it was a One Piece shop (a popular anime/animated show) and we also found a cool ninja shop. The ninja shop sold plastic throwing stars and knives, as well as ninja stickers for on the wall or umbrellas with a sword handle. You could even go to a small arcade part and throw ninja stars in a mark from a distance to win some small items! Also all the people in the shop were dressed as ninja, which of course added too the vibe. Anyways, back to George in Osaka! We hopped on the train with our bogu and went all the way to Osaka Castle. Arriving a bit early (about an hour and a half) we dropped our bogu, ordered some yakisoba (grilled noodles) and went to the castle grounds to see Osaka Castle (大阪城) for a closer look. Its construction started in 1583 on the former site of the Ishiyama Honganji Temple, which had been destroyed by Oda Nobunaga thirteen years earlier. Toyotomi Hideyoshi intended the castle to become the center of a new, unified Japan under Toyotomi rule. It was the largest castle at the time. However, a few years after Hideyoshi’s death, Tokugawa troops attacked and destroyed the castle and terminated the Toyotomi lineage in 1615. Osaka Castle was rebuilt by Tokugawa Hidetada in the 1620s, but its main castle tower was struck by lightening in 1665 and burnt down. Talk about bad luck! It was not until 1931 that the present ferro-concrete reconstruction of the castle tower was built. During the war it miraculously survived the city wide air raids. Major repair works gave the castle new glamor in 1997. The castle tower is now entirely modern on the inside and even features an elevator for easier accessibility. It houses an informative museum about the castle’s history and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The castle tower is surrounded by secondary citadels, gates, turrets, impressive stone walls and moats. The Nishinomaru Garden, encompassing the former “western citadel”, is a lawn garden with 600 cherry trees, a tea house, the former Osaka Guest House and nice views of the castle tower from below. Unlike most of the rest of the castle grounds, the garden requires an admission fee. The entire Osaka Castle Park covers about two square kilometers with lots of green space, sport facilities, a multi-purpose arena (Osakajo Hall) and a shrine dedicated to Toyotomi Hideyoshi. We met George at the entrance of the castle’s Budojo, the Shudokan.

Old geezer at the traffic lights in Osaka

Old geezer at the traffic lights in Osaka

Sleeping cat along the way

Sleeping cat along the way

A lot of wiring and stuff above ground due to the earthquakes!

A lot of wiring and stuff above ground due to the earthquakes!

Beautiful sewer covers showing Osaka Castle!

Beautiful sewer covers showing Osaka Castle!

Turtle pond at a temple complex

Turtle pond at a temple complex

One Piece store!

One Piece store!

School outfit for small kids! They all wear this yellow hat

School outfit for small kids! They all wear this yellow hat

Guardhouse at one of the many corners of the Osaka Castle garden

Guardhouse at one of the many corners of the Osaka Castle garden

Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle

View from Osaka Castle

View from Osaka Castle

You can see George his school from here!

You can see George his school from here!

After registering us for the Kendo practice that night, we enjoyed talking a bit to some local Kendoka there and waited for Keiko to start. The floor was again made of nice sanded wood planking. As we are used to in Japan, it was a floating floor, ideal for doing Kendo! The people we practiced with were very variated. We had a few 8th and 7th dan Sensei, but some beginners and local people who did it on regular basis too. A nice mix of people, everybody getting their fair share of practice with both teaching and learning sequences. In the evening, after Keiko, Jonathan went to the hotel to Nen. Karin, Ivo and Joris went out for some games and drinks! To be honest, we were all in a really good mood and took some ridiculous pictures and drunk a lot of beers and highball (whisky with soda or cola and ice) until we were pretty hammered. Then off to bed!

Keiko at the Shudokan in front of Osaka Castle

Keiko at the Shudokan in front of Osaka Castle

Streets of Osaka at night

Streets of Osaka at night

Oh god no.

Oh god no.

Drinks in a local bar!

Drinks in a local bar!

Great time!

Great time!

And our small but comfortable rooms in the Mikado Hotel

And our small but comfortable rooms in the Mikado Hotel

Friday, almost the last day, we woke up early to visit Arima, a famous onsen place near to Osaka. Well, near, about an hour drive by train. Just the remaining guys (Joris, Jonathan and Ivo) went there and enjoyed the morning both traveling with the train trough a beautiful scenery of mountains and forests combined with the cities in-between as well as hanging around in the hot springs in Arima. Hurrying back we arrived at Otemae station around 15:30, being greeted by George again. Walking and talking we arrived at his school, a bit early for Kendo practice. He showed us the dojo and we geared up. As the students slowly entered some of them gathered the courage to say ‘hello’ in English. 16:00, Keiko started and we were introduced to the class. A small warming up session, some Kihon exercises and then a friendly set of Jigeiko to finish the practice off. For the first time being the Motodachi the whole time and not getting chance to catch your breath, Jonathan, Karin and Joris got more Keiko than they had expected. It was a nice, strongly on Kihon based, practice that made the WaShinKan members happy to come to Japan.

Otemae Kotogakko! (大阪府立大手前高等学校)

Otemae Kotogakko! (大阪府立大手前高等学校)

Otemae Kotogakko Kendojo (大阪府立大手前高等学校剣道場)

Otemae Kotogakko Kendojo (大阪府立大手前高等学校剣道場)

Keiko at Otemae Kotogakko (大阪府立大手前高等学校), George his school!

Keiko at Otemae Kotogakko, George his school!

Jonathan at Otemae Kotogakko (大阪府立大手前高等学校) doing keiko

Jonathan at Otemae Kotogakko doing keiko

Karin at Otemae Kotogakko (大阪府立大手前高等学校) doing keiko

Karin at Otemae Kotogakko doing keiko

Joris at Otemae Kotogakko (大阪府立大手前高等学校) doing keiko

Joris at Otemae Kotogakko doing keiko

Jonathan at Otemae Kotogakko (大阪府立大手前高等学校) doing keiko

Jonathan at Otemae Kotogakko doing keiko

Karin at Otemae Kotogakko (大阪府立大手前高等学校) doing keiko

Karin at Otemae Kotogakko doing keiko

Ivo at Otemae Kotogakko (大阪府立大手前高等学校) doing keiko

Ivo at Otemae Kotogakko doing keiko

Ivo and George after the first practice!

Ivo and George after the first practice!

Practice was over soon, and we changed quickly to leave the school and go to the sportshall in Osaka centre. Another session of Keiko with some high-level Kendoka was planned for us! Arriving and changing quickly, we were capable of seeing how some of the really young kids (4-5 years old) were practicing with some adults. It is always nice to see kids doing Kendo, they are very fast and have good stamina. They will literally continue until their body stops. Also their technique has some sort of ‘cute’ factor to it, which makes it even more fun to watch them practice. After their practice however, it was our turn again to fight for another hour and a half or so. Again first starting with focus on Kihon (such as kirikaeshi) we quickly learned we were still doing a lot of stuff not as its supposed to be. Still trying to focus on how we should attack, the Kihon already changed to Jigeiko. The Jigeiko lasted until the end of the practice, and luckily all the WaShinKan members got to practice with the 8th dan sensei there.

Kids doing Keiko at Yoseikai

Kids doing Keiko at Yoseikai

WaShinKan members practicing at Yoseikai

WaShinKan members practicing at Yoseikai

Jonathan doing keiko at Yoseikai

Jonathan doing keiko at Yoseikai

Joris doing keiko at Yoseikai

Joris doing keiko at Yoseikai

Ivo doing keiko at Yoseikai

Ivo doing keiko at Yoseikai

A quick shower, changing and discussing where we should go, it was decided for us that we would go to a Chinese restaurant pretty close. We walked there together with George and sat down to talk about, as you can guess, Kendo. Drinking some beers, about a dozen of other Kendoka from practice joined us and started ordering some food. Hungry as we were, we tried everything. The whole evening we were forced to switch seats, which was a great experience. You get to meet a lot of different people, talk with them a bit and then get the cycle to start over again. A lot better than sitting with the people you already know for the whole night, not getting to meet the rest of the table. After the last drink, we were forced into a taxi and drove off to a Karaoke place. Neither of us ever went there, we wanted to give it a try. Pretty drunk as we were (and not just the WaShinKan members) were all singing loudly away at Michael Jackson songs, as well as the Spice Girls, the Backstreet Boys and some Japanese artists which we didn’t understand. With the drinks flowing, this was a great night. Karaoke being finished, we walked back to the Mikado Hotel with George. After arriving there, we gave him our present jacket from WaShinKan. Very happy with it, he hit Ivo a few times with his Shinai and then took a taxi home.

Drinking time!

Drinking time!

Focus!

Focus!

And singing.. Sort off

And singing.. Sort off

Jonathan is so upset that his song didn't get chosen

Jonathan is so upset that his song didn’t get chosen

'George, marry me!'

‘George, marry me!’

That is WaShinKan for you!

That is WaShinKan for you!

Nice Jacket

Nice Jacket

Getting hit by your senpai. Its all in the game

Getting hit by your senpai. Its all in the game

Nice ring George

Nice ring George

Our view of the street at night

Our view of the street at night

Saturday, the last day in Japan already, we checked out with a bit of a hangover. Getting some food and drinks at the local FamilyMart, we recollected our memories and left our stuff at the Hotel. Our flight left around 23:00, so we still had enough time left to do something. With most of us wanting to check out the shopping mall with the cool shops, we decided to walk there and see if they had some stuff we would actually want. Arrived at the shops, we wandered around most of the time on the different floors, checking out all the weird but cool stuff. Joris an Ivo had a taiko match in the arcade hall and some of us bought some Japanese style clothing in the shops. Jonathan even bought a classic, dark red, Jinbei (traditional summer wear). Which was amazing considering how tall Japanese people are. With Jonathan and Nen not wanting to join the last meal in a restaurant, Ivo, Karin and Joris ended up at a Yakiniku place. It is basically a large grill in the middle of the table on which you drop your meat, fish and vegetables. When they are grilled, you choose weather to eat them with some drops of lemon juice, some soy based sauce or without anything at all. It was delicious and not that expensive at all, considering the fact that it was an unlimited supply of meat etc.

Japanese-English translations in Japan are great!

Japanese-English translations in Japan are great!

Yakiniku! Last day in Japan

Yakiniku! Last day in Japan

Returning back to the hotel after dinner, we grabbed our stuff and went to Kansai International Airport. Bringing the Shinai and stuff wasn’t even a problem for the crew of Emirates (with which we flew) and our flight back was pretty smooth too. Everybody realized that these 2 weeks in Japan had passed at a tremendous speed, we all wanted to stay in Japan for a bit longer. Having learned and seen a lot on both Kendo as Japanese culture aspects, everybody immediately was motivated to do some Kendo practice again back at WaShinKan in Tilburg. Hoping we can keep this spirit up, saving money for the next trip in april/may 2017, we will all do our best to get stronger than before!

In the train to Kansai Int. Airport!

In the train to Kansai Int. Airport!

Trip trough Dubai back home to Amsterdam. Almost home..!

Trip trough Dubai back home to Amsterdam. Almost home..!

 


Thanks for taking the time to read the above recap of our visit in Japan. I want to thank all the members of WaShinKan who didn’t skip a practice for these 2 weeks in Japan, all the Sensei who allowed us to practice with us, both at I.B.U. as well as in Osaka. Special thanks to Yukiko Yoshino and George McCall for making this trip possible in Katsuura and Osaka, and to Karin van Berkel for most of the capturing and editing of the pictures on this trip.

Hopefully by reading this story and seeing the pictures, you can get even more motivated for every practice, just as the members of WaShinKan were during their visit in Japan.

Kind regards,

          – Ivo van Roij
          – ヴァン ロイ ・ イヴォ
                   Head Budojo
                   WaShinKan