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 http://home.earthlink.net/~steinrl/glossary.htm
] 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?