Nine of us toured and practiced throughout Japan on a two week trip.
Six members from Aikido of Hilo were-
Barbara & Bob Klein, Louis Elia, Heraldo Farrington,
Aaron Gushiken and Sai Weiss
We were joined by -
Sharon Gilbert & Bill Stockton from Kona
and Hiroshi Kato from Oahu...
Clicking the links in this text,
you can see a few of the places we visited.
We departed Honolulu March19, crossed the international dateline, and arrived at Kansai airport (Osaka) on March 20 . At the airport we picked up our pre-arranged Japan Rail Passes and immediately boarded the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) south to our first destination, Fukuoka. This is the largest city in Kyushu, southernmost of Japan's three major islands.
We checked into our hotel and rested up until the following morning. That day was a national holiday, the Spring Equinox.
We arrived in time for a big Embukai (aikido demonstration). There were many hundreds of participants from numerous dojos. Dozens of instructors demonstrated. The event continued for about five hours! Whew! There was a huge party afterwards! The next day (Wednesday 3/22), we visited Kushida Shrine and the Hakata Folk Museum where we bought toys for the dojo. Then we departed Fukuoka and travelled to Kumamoto, where we spent the next four nights. Our first night there was also our first aikido practice.
We were greeted by our friends at the Kumamoto dojo, including:
Thursday we visited Reigando, the cave where Miyamoto Musashi spent his later years meditating & writing his famous Book of Five Rings. Approaching the cave is a hillside covered with hundreds of stone Buddhas. Afterwards, we visited a small temple with the grave of Kato Kiyomasa, local diamyo (feudal lord) in the early 1600s
and designer of Kumamoto Castle.
It was here that we saw our first beautiful Sakura (Cherry Blossoms). Friday we made an excursion to Nagasaki. After a great lunch, we explored the Atomic Bomb Museum, then walked to the memorial at the Hypocenter and then on to the Peace Park. This was a memorable day, reminding us all of the value of peace and the horrors of war.
Our last day in Kyushu was Saturday, 3/25. It was a busy one!
In the morning we met the Nishiyama family at our hotel. Hitomi (the mom) took our gi bags in the back of her van. Many hours later we would see them again. We walked with Hiroki and
Leaving the castle, we took the local tram to the end of the line, where we were met by several Kumamoto members with cars & vans. They took us to class on the outskirts of town.
We took the train to Nara the following day. We spent the night at a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), which was a unique experience for everyone. The next morning we visited Nara's famous Daibutsu. This Great Buddha statue is housed in Todai-ji Temple, the largest wooden structure in the world. Approaching the temple, we passed through the famous Deer Park. The friendly (and greedy) deer ate all the senbei (crackers) that we bought for them. The afternoon we travelled to Tokyo and checked into our hotel where we would stay for the rest of the trip. We met up with the Ikemoto Family (former dojo members) - Seiya, Michiko, Kazuya & Natsumi. We had a wonderful dinner together talking about old times in Hilo and their lives since returning to Japan.
The next day, Tuesday, we attended morning class with the Doshu. We spent the day learning our way around the area,
running errands, shopping, etc.
We took class again that night at Hombu dojo with Yokota Sensei.
We have no photos of this day.
Wednesday again began with Doshu's early morning class. We enjoyed the intense practice with so many highly advanced partners. Many of the the class members have been attending class daily for decades!
In the afternoon we joined a group of sensei from Arakawa Aikikai, led by Sato Sensei who has previously visited our dojo.
They took us on a tour of Asukayama Park where the sakura were in full bloom. It was awesome!
Then we went to class and out afterwards to a terrific restaurant.
We began Thursday with Doshu's class. At mid-day we went to a great museum at Ueno Park. After a few hours there, we had a rendez-vous with Inakoshi Sensei (visited Hilo last October) and he escorted us to his nearby Aikikai Shohtoh Wago Juku Dojo.
After practice we went out for dinner with his group.
Saturday was our last chance to attend morning class at Hombu dojo. After class we joined Inakoshi Sensei, some of his students and 3 members from Manchester Aikido Dojo (in England) for a trip to Iwama. After a two-hour train ride we reached O'Sensei's old, country dojo. We were greeted by Inagaki Sensei who gave us a tour of the Aiki Shrine and of the founder's private living quarters adjacent to the dojo.
He then taught a great class to our group of visitors and then hosted us for a terrific outdoor bento lunch. This was our last day of training in Japan. It was a memorable conclusion to our trip.
On Sunday, April 2nd, we departed our hotel, took the train across town to board the Shinkansen back to Osaka for our departure. We left there in the evening and (thanks to crossing the international dateline) arrived
back in Hilo on the morning of the same day.