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Japan Day 2 (Tuesday) – Orientation, settling into the routine

I love the simplicity of the Japanese sleeping arrangements. Futon laid out on the tatami, didn’t even worry about a blanket last night until the early hours of the morning because it was quite warm over night. At a guess, a bit over 20 degrees and quite humid.

Tuesday (Day 2) there was no scheduled morning training, so we got up and did our own anyway. 30 minutes seiza, train for an hour then clean the dojo. This the boys had the chance to learn that cleaning doesn’t end with the dojo itself, but extends out to the entrance and front steps.

Breakfast, wash the gis, the the plan was to head out towards downtown area and get everyone familiar with the lay of the land and a few more useful shops to know. Just before we were going to head out I went downstairs and found Higuchi Sensei in had dropped into the dojo to do some kobudo training. As well as being one of the local seniors in Chito-Ryu he’s also a long time student of Okinawan Kobudo.

I popped my head in the door of the dojo and said hello and he invited me to join him for a short session, where he introduced me to some of the basics and showed me how it is a bit different to Chito-Ryu bo technique. Although it’s a bit different, there are still some good ideas.

Higuchi Sensei been invited to run a kobudo class at the Sohonbu on Wednesday nights for Chito-Ryu shihan and this will start next Wednesday, so I’ll get a chance to catch the first one. Although the there is some differences to Chito-Ryu kobudo, there are also some interesting ideas and Soke Sensei wants to encourage seniors to study a little more. Although I feel quite comfortable with Chito-Ryu bo, I really felt like an absolute beginner. It’s always nice to feel like a beginner again.

Unfortunately I had the cut the session a little short as the others were waiting for me and they didn’t really know where they were going. So, I arranged to catch up with Higuchi Sensei again the next day.

Off we went into town. There are a few bicycles that we’re allowed to borrow, but not enough for everyone. Bicycle really is the best way to get around in Kumamoto when you don’t have a car, but we decided to walk into town because it’s a good way to get your bearings as you have time to take in the landmarks. A few stops on the way, various places to eat out, get take away or lunch boxes. Then a stop of at Ace Supermarket. Personally I find this to be my preferred place to shop when I stay at the Sohonbu because it has a good selection of fresh foods, packaged foods and lunch boxes.

The food locations out the way, we continued on to the main shopping precinct of the downtown area, Kamitori (Upper Street) & Shimotori (Lower Street). Once you get to the shops the street is shut off to cars and bicycles, only pedestrian traffic is allowed. The street is paved in timber and the there is roof over the street for the full length so pedestrians are protected from the weather. When you get to the end of the Kamitori there is a main street with a tram stop where the lines converge. Then across the street into the Shimori. Before lunch time, this area is normally fairly quite, but once you get into the evening and on the weekends especially there it’s just a sea of people. So for an orientation trip it was probably a good time to go out.

After walking the full length of the Kamitori we went across to the Kostu Centre (the main bus terminal). They’re doing a huge redevelopment there at present so there was a lot of construction work going on. A quick walk over to the castle markets. This is a very touristy kind of area. Lots of small shops mainly selling packaged local food, which is a very common gift in Japan. We just had a really quick walk through and decided to head back towards the Shimotori for some lunch.

On the way we found a ramen shop and stopped for some noodles and gyoza. Not thinking about such things, we just headed straight in, but realised pretty quickly that it was a smoking restaurant. Smoking is still a lot more socially acceptable in Japan than it is in Australia, but I have to say, it’s a little difficult to really enjoy a sit down meal amongst the smell of cigarette smoke.

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Again this was another chance for the boys to practice their chopstick skills and slurping their noodles. While it’s bad manners to slurp your food in Australia, it’s the exact opposite in Japan. Once you embrace the habit you start to realise why though, when you slurp, it spreads the flavour of the soup stock all the way around your whole mouth and it just tastes better. But it does take practice.

After lunch we made our way back to the dojo for a bit of rest time before evening classes started. In total it was about 11km’s walked. A little bit of a stretch before training is probably a good idea after lots of walking.

The Tuesday night class is Noayuki Sensei’s class. We went down to the dojo to get warmed up and people kept coming in. The class is scheduled to start at 7:30 and run through until 9:00pm. But just before start time Naoyuki Sensei came in and asked me to teach because he was going to be held up in a meeting. Lots of white belts, lots of young kids…. Not a challenging class to teach at all…MUCH.

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If this was Australia, most of the kids that were in the class would be well and truly home and probably in bed by about half way through the class, but not these kids. This class is quite popular and so many young kids all absolutely full of energy. It’s completely different lifestyle than we have in Australia. Most of our kids classes at our home dojo are done by 6pm, usually just the more senior kids stay on a bit later and then the adults. Our classes are normally all done by 8pm, so this is quite a change compared to what Bailey & Luc are used to. At least when we’re finished training we can find our way upstairs and collapse on a futon after a quick snack and a shower.

Just as training was wrapping up, Soke Sensei came out with more old photos from 1997/98. Talk about a trip down memory lane.

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Thankfully by the end of day 2, energy levels are still fairly high, which is good. Morning training with Soke Sensei tomorrow morning.