Sunday, December 25, 2005

Is this Good or Bad news?

I just got word from the publishers of our kendo book that they are now the EX-publishers of our kendo book ... they are apparently going out of business! Well, that was fun while it lasted. It doesn't really affect me since they paid me up front, and in fact it solves the potential problem (more or less) of having people recognize me as the author. (Did I mention that I saw the book for sale in a bookshop in Tokyo?)

In other news, I have contacted the local iaido group here in Fukushima. Unfortunately, they don't start practice again until January. The good news is that I think they are quite strong and they are also Jikiden - woo hoo! Their head sensei is hachidan hanshi, and they also have a very young 8th dan kyoshi (about 56 years old?) who won the 8th-dan taikai last year. So, I'm guessing he's pretty good! I'm looking forward to practicing there. I just hope it's not too ridiculously cold in the gym. It's funny ... I can be practicing hard enough that sweat is pouring down my face, but my feet are simultaneously so cold that I can't feel them. Poor circulation or what??

This month's "Kendo Nippon" has a feature on Tominaga Sensei (Fukuoka jodo) so I had to buy it. Argh... those Kendo Nippon's always get me that way... two or three pages that I want to read so I end up buying the whole magazine. I wish they would just collect all of their iaido and jodo articles into one annual "Special Edition". Hmmm... I wonder if I could make that suggestion to them... hmmm...

Anyway, doing a whole lot of nothing right now. Are you planning on doing a Toshigoshi-geiko this year? Or some sort of crazy 1000-waza practice? I'm so glad I always manage to miss those things...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The BIG Picture

Sorry I haven't updated in such a long time. I've been going through a bit of a dry spell lately ... I didn't practice either iaido or jodo for about 3 weeks last month, for various reasons having nothing to do with my own laziness, fortunately. Circumstances were bad, or I had to go somewhere, or practice was cancelled... my iaido group moved to a different gymnasium (due to renovations in the old gym) and it ended up taking me almost an hour to find the new location because I got lost, so I had something like 20 minutes of practice the other day! That kind of thing. So basically, I haven't had much to report lately.

One interesting thing was a very nice visit I had to a Japanese family's home last week. I know the daughter (she's not my student but she is a student at this university) and she had a couple teachers over for a dinner party. After dinner, we did a very informal tea ceremony, and then her father proudly brought out a short sword that apparently is a family treasure. He claimed that it was Kamakura period (so about 1000 years old?) ... it was kind of a strange sword in that it looked a bit like a slender naginata which had been chopped down to make a wakizashi. It didn't have a yokote (horizontal line which divides off the kissaki) which would make it, uh, [checking google for a sword terminology website ... try ] shobu zukuri! Yeah, I knew that. Anyway, it was a really beautiful piece and it was in very good polish despite some cracks and flaws. I don't know whether it was really 1000 years old or not, or whether it was really worth what he claimed it was worth, but still... I was happy to have been shown it.

So anyway... the BIG picture. I've been thinking a lot lately (especially now since I'm hunting for a new job) about what I should do and where I should live... i.e., where is the perfect place for me to live in Japan? It would offer the perfect combination of job and budo opportunities. I think that, until I experience this (or something *reasonably* close to it) I won't be satisfied with Japan and I will keep drifting back and forth between here and Canada.

For example: if I live in Tokyo, I have a great chance to study Jodo, and I can probably get a good job teaching. But the iai here is almost exclusively Muso Shinden, so that's not ideal. Definitely I could learn a great deal from anybody I train with, but Jikiden would be better. So, where is there a lot of Jikiden? Well, going to Tosa would be cool... but it's really rural, I probably couldn't find a good job, and the jodo is probably limited. How about Fukuoka? Great jodo, there are probably a few Jikiden people, but the jobs are hard to find. (I've been looking!) Osaka? Definitely good iaido, and it's a large city so there must be jodo there, and I could probably find a good job, right? And yet I know nothing about the place, so (coward that I am) I'm afraid to just pack up and move there. And in the meantime, I rarely see good jobs being advertised there. Throw into the mix (just in case I wasn't confused enough) the fact that I'd really like to try some new koryu if I can; or at least to practice the koryu that I know (a bit). I could move to Kitakyushu and practice Niten Ichi Ryu; I could stay in Chiba and try some Katori Shinto Ryu; move to Shizuoka and try Suio Ryu; or just move at random to Motohashiyamamura-cho and try Shin-Shin-Jiki-Kage-Shinto Ryu. As always happens to me, I am paralyzed by choice...

The first step (I guess) is to look at the big picture and decide why I'm really here. Iaido? Jodo? Koryu? To get a good job? To learn about "Japanese culture" in general? To find a Japanese wife? I have no idea anymore ... I think I'll quit everything and study Zen ... the best part would be that I would have almost no free choice at all! Every part of my day would be regimented. I wouldn't even have to talk because I'd take some kind of vow of silence... but I wonder if they have internet access at the temple?