Love Letters from Nihon: the beginning of the end

Posted on 11.04.2012


When we left off, we’d just enjoyed a full day of tourism and were totally wiped out. That effectively kept happening.

On Monday, B and V left to go home and we had training as usual in the morning, just without them. After training, the remaining three of us decided to just take it easy and re-stock for the apartment, and begin to take inventory of what we’d need to do and need to get rid of upon leaving. Training was a bit slower as we were winding down with the ryu-ha and techniques from this seminar, but it was still good.

We had some very specific issues in the training and it was because the technique was difficult to follow. We made the decision to photograph the technique, since it would be hard to explain in our notes all that was happening. So now we have some great images that take us step-by-step, in case we should forget. Not like we will, but you know:)

After the training, we went back to the apartment and hung out. A and I did a test-wrap for a photo shoot we’ll be doing, and we did that as we talked about what we’d do with the rest of the day. Basically, we rode around and ran errands, like buying food and checking out the local UNIQLO. I got a scarf. I was looking for things I’d seen last year at Narita airport, but they didn’t have them. I wonder if the airport shop is special and I’ll check it out when I’m there:)

I specifically remember thinking on Monday, as we were out and about, that I wouldn’t take many photos. It wasn’t a protest and there was no reason, it was just that there wasn’t a lot going on and I didn’t feel the need. Also, G has been taking photos non-stop, so I knew that even if I didn’t do it, she would. That was nice.

Tuesday was a different story!! We had PLANS for Tuesday. Tuesday was our last day of ‘special training’, so we finished out the last technique of the seminar and then spent an hour doing sword work with the new techniques that Sensei’s been working on lately. It was great to train it with him and discuss my personal issues, but he helped me to solve them and get over them.

I have a very specific problem, and it’s twofold: I’m a woman and I’m short. I have to mention the gender issue because women and men wear their belts differently. Men wear their belts on their hips, while women kind of HAVE to wear the belts on the natural waist in order for it to be tight and not move. This causes a TON of problems when you’re wearing this huge sword (pictured) and have to draw it out of the sheath with your tiny carny arms from a belt that is too high. The math just doesn’t work.

So we solved that problem and then moved on to all of the other problems I have with this series of things, and we spent a lot of time on some major basics. But it was a nice time nonetheless and I learned A TON about this stuff. That was excellent.

After class was over, we made a plan to go back to Asakusa to get some training tanto (knives) before heading over to Shibuya and then walking to Harajuku.

We spent MUCH longer in Asakusa than we’d intended, but it was totally ok.

We got the knives (we each got one), then walked around the shops and we ended up buying some AMAZING female obi (belts) to train in. We’d realized this trip that some of us were tying our obi like men and wearing them like men, and it’s kind of an important part of our training to accept our femininity and to really use it.

With that in mind, we felt it was only fitting to remind ourselves of that every time we dress for class by wearing female obi rather than the ones made for men.

Here’s the Obi that I chose: it’s light blue with a geometric pattern on one side, and then dark blue with chrysanthemums on the other side. And both sides totally sparkle. I think it’s fitting for me, personally, and I knew it was the right one as soon as I saw the juxtaposition between the flowers and the geometry. It’s just like the rest of my life, and I felt it was fitting. And it’s even colors that I love.

I almost bought a hot pink one, but I thought that might have been taking it a bit too far.

These obi are far different in material and size from men’s obi. I’ve taken a photo for those of you who don’t know the difference.

The female obi (left) is far wider than the male obi. It takes up a greater amount of space on the body when worn and generally is worn around the natural waist (the smallest part of the hourglass). This is the only place which it can’t move from: too low and it’s loose and rides up, too high and the same thing happens, but it falls down. Either way, it always ends up on your natural waist. PITA, really.

The female obi is also generally always a bit more decorative and made from a nicer material. Sure, there are more casual ones for around the house, but these things are really only worn for special occasions, so the prettier, the better. You can see that my first (male) obi (center) is thinner and doesn’t really ‘shine’ the way that the new one does.

But shiny isn’t necessarily better, the new one is quite slippery and I’m going to have to practice tying it. It’s rough!

In Asakusa we ate some tempura and got back on the trains to head to Shibuya. We were there for 2 or 3 hours when we’d only planned one, so by the time we stepped off the train and out of the station in Shibuya, it was dark. I was totally ok with that:

We’d chosen to get off at Shibuya rather than Harajuku because I’ve always wanted to see Hachiko’s statue, which is located at the front of the station. After we found him, we contemplated shooting the wrapping shot at the intersection, but after about 45 minutes of back and forth and trying to find a place to do the wrap, I just decided not to do it and said we could do it next year if we were still interested.

We began our walk to Harajuku, which should have been about a mile. About halfway there, we started to get hungry again and decided to have a rest. We ended up at some small hole-in-the-wall restaurant with no English menu, but plenty of photos that were like cards to go through and point at. We ate a bunch of food, drank a lot and then took a cab to the station, since it was already 9:30, and got on the train(s) back to Noda.

Considering all we’ve done the past two days is either walk all over Tokyo or ride bikes all over Noda, I don’t feel so bad about not having done a ‘regular’ workout. It occurred to us today that we’ve had 11 straight days of training, even if it was only 2 hours, and then lots of walking and riding on top of that. We’re all amazingly sore and our bodies are completely worn out, and we’re ok with that… we’re just really happy to have a break now, but also totally happy, of course, to have been here and learned as much as we did about ourselves and the art itself, especially as it pertains to women.

My next (and maybe final) post will be totally different, as tomorrow I head to Kyushu with A for 2.5 days of tourism with our friend, Kikue. We’ll be doing a lot of walking and taking a lot of photos, most likely, and we’re excited to see this other, faraway part of Japan. It’s been great here, but I’m definitely ready for a break from the training, if only to just get my head on straight about everything I’ve learned and get it all into a word document!

Posted in: budo