Japan Cultural Study Tour 2007
Here is the information and reports from the 2007 Japan Cultural Study Tour
Here’s the current itinerary for the Japanese Cultural Study Tour. It’s still not completely finalised, so please check back regularly.
You are meeting with a Group of Kiwi at Osaka Air-port and get on the train for NAGOYA station, arriving around 12:00. I and Grand Master’s son TORU Sensei will meet you group and escort to Hotel(Watanabe Ryokan) When settled in, we take you for walk(see the city)and back to Hotel for dinner ?/p>
13th Oct. Saturday
OZ arrives at Nagoya Air-port 08:15am and I and TORU Sensei will meet them at Air-port and bring them to Hotel by train/Bus. When settled in. We will be taken to TOKUGAWA Museum and Nagoya Castle as well as Nagoya Festival (make sure bring your Camera/Video. Take easy at Hotel or boys go to Geisha house.
14th Oct. Sunday
Leave Hotel 08:00 bound for Seki City(around 2 hour trip) Purchase sword and Tameshigiri(bamboo cutting) lessons.
Lunch at the most famouse restaurant TSUJIYA(grilled eel for lunch)
Back to Nagoya Hotel and fresh up for evening Hokushin training at Shinto shrine
at 5:00pm for an hour or two. Evening, dinner with Grand Master Kimura Hekiho.
15th Oct. Monday
08:00 Leave Nagoya by Shinkansen Train to ancient capital city KYOTO.
Tour Kyoto City
Around 5:00 ~ 6:00pm bound for HIMEJI City —— Check in at Himeji Plaza Hotel
relax at multi-sex bath at hotel free bath house.
16th Oct. Tuesday
09:00, Himeji castle tour as well as exchange demonstration at castle ground with Japanese counterpart. After Lunch, move to Zen temple doing meditation.
Evening no commitments yet, at this stage.
17th Oct. Wednesday
08:00, Leave Himeji for HIROSHIMA City. Visit Miyajima Island and atomic bomb museum . Stay at Hotel Viainn Hiroshima.
18th Oct. Thursday
08:00, Leave Hiroshima for Kumamoto.
Visit Kumamoto Castle and to Miyamoto Musashi Cave (walking up to mountain)
Stay at HOTEL HOKKE CLUB
19th Oct. Friday
Leave Kumamoto 07:00, train to OKAYAMA City (4hours by train?)
Okayama Pref. Government protocol and heading to view Japanese traditional sword smithing demonstration.
Dinner with Okayama friendship society member(3000yen per person)
20th Oct. Saturday
View Zen Nippon Iaido Annual National Event(1 hour) and heading for Kurashiki (Edo period heritage town) half hour by train.
Back to hotel and get ready for tomorrow (Going home or extended trip in Japan)
21st Oct. Sunday
Leave Okayama for Osaka, Nagoya, Tokyo or ……………………Good Bye ———–
# Warning ! This plan may changes time to time and up date with Sensei.
The following has some definite costs and some approximates for the Japan Cultural Study Tour.
Taxes etc: $434
Full payment due September 10th
Insurance: Insurance for the period 12 – 22 Oct is Single A$136 Family $264. This will in fact cover anybody staying up until 23 Oct wheras a stay up until 30 Oct is Single A$161 Family A$313. The cover provides Unlimited Cancellation & Medical, A$2000 of Overseas Dental Work, A$10,000 on Luggage plus some other bits n pieces and $2.5 million of Legal Liability. Individual items of Luggage such as Cameras, laptops etc are covered up to A$3,000 and any one individual piece of Luggage, other than these items, to a value of A$600. A 10% on the Policy cost applies to Groups.
Due September 10th with payment of airfare.
Accommodation: Approximately $AU 507.70
Tour Jacket: $45.10
Insignia: Approx. $5.00
Takeo: estimated between $50 and $80
New Zealand Report
Report on New Zealand Hokushin Shinoh Ryu Iaido Tour of Japan – October 2007
A Kiwi Perspective
After 18 months of preparation and planning we finally boarded our flight to Kansai Osaka Airport on Thursday
11th October 2007 packed with gifts from New Zealand and our trusted Katana’s. Some members would follow on Friday and we all planned to meet up with our Australian friends in Nagoya on Saturday morning. There were thirteen traveling from New Zealand and included eight members. For most of us it was our first time to visit Japan.
The flight through Kuala Lumpa was long, bumpy and tedious with little sleep. Next time it will be direct flight for sure.
We had previously talked about the possible difficulty of getting our swords through Japanese customs who after running a magnet over one of the blades then allowed us and our swords into Japan. We had also planned to meet Hikihiki from Rotorua at Kansai airport. She had spent a few days in Singapore. After exiting customs we looked around and straight away saw Hikihiki walking towards us. What a great way to start. It was going to be an excellent tour. Catching the express train to Shin Osaka and then the Shinkansen (they are a fantastic way to travel) to Nagoya seemed effortless with great help from Craig Peterson who is able to talk some Japanese (he had visited Japan a few times before). Craig was to prove a great help throughout the trip with his understanding of Japanese and the local customs.
As we came through the Japan Railway exit at Nagoya it was great to see Shihan and Sensei Toru Kimura welcoming us with open arms. It was a wonderful welcome for us to Japan. After a quick bus ride to Watanabe Ryokan we dropped our bags and headed out with Shihan and Sensei Toru Kimura to a local market. We had a great lunch, and then proceeded to the best kimono shop in Nagoya. Two hours later we emerged, all clutching one or two garments which were purchased at some fabulously cheap prices. Liz Mc Coombe brought a full kimono (after being looked after by the shop staff and a couple of local shoppers) which looked amazing.
We wandered around the rest of the market enjoying the colour, variety and array of goods before heading back to the Ryokan for a well earned Japanese bath and rest. For those who had not experienced a Japanese bath and tatami mat sleeping it was a great experience although there may have been one or two stiff backs the next morning. Ryokan hospitality is second to none and Watanabe is to be highly recommended.
Early on Saturday morning Shihan and Sensei Toru Kimura were off to pick up the Australians group and for the rest of us an extra lay in and late breakfast was fantastic. The Aussies arrived just before noon led by Takeo and all were a little tired but in good shape and after refreshing we all enjoyed an afternoon at the Tokugawa Art Museum which ranks as the third oldest privately-endowed museum in Japan At the core of the collection are objects inherited from the first shogun, Ieyasu. The Owari, like other great daimyo, also treasured the art from earlier generations. Thus the Museum has come to own most of the extant sections of the twelfth century Illustrated Tale of Genji. After the museum visit we enjoyed the famous bento boxed lunch followed by a tour of the natural green beauty of ‘Tokugawaen’ gardens and the magnificent, clear ‘Ryusenko’ pond.
We then made our way back to the inner city for Samurai Festival parade which was full of colour and entertainment. Well worth seeing and lots of fabulous photo’s taken. Shihan was keen for some of us to join the parade in our Iai-do uniform and that would have been a wonderful sight for the thousands of locals who lined the parade.
Later an enjoyable dinner at Watanabe Ryokan was had by all and it was a chance to get to know our trans tasman friends. Glenn Selwyn had joined us earlier in the day, then Chis and Heather and Rob and Lisa May from New Zealand arrived. Everyone had now arrived. Head count 28.
Early Sunday morning we were busing our way to Seki City to collect pre ordered swords, enjoy a demonstration of tameshigiri and lunch at the famous eel restaurant. The sword shop drew out our wallets and the yen flowed freely. It must have been like Christmas for the shop owner. Takeo did a fabulous job as he negotiated his way through the placement of many swords. The tameshigiri demonstration was superb. The local club held a fantastic display of precision cutting and then allowed us to participate, giving us good direction and tutoring in the art of tameshigiri.
The highlight was their master who cut a 100mm wide horizontal bamboo pole held up by a circle of paper supported by two knives. Seeing is believing! Their hospitality was terrific and after an exchange of gifts and photos we bid them farewell and headed for our eel lunch. A favourite of Grand Master Kimura, this was not to be missed and we heartily feasted on the local delicacy in grand company.
Following this we visited an original sayer craftsman and watched as he effortlessly carved his way through the beginnings of a sayer. You can wait up to 12 months to get a hand made sayer. Then it was back to Nagoya and preparation for our Hokushin training at a Shinto shrine with our Grand Master. We were really looking forward to this very special occasion.
The Shinto shrine was beautifully presented and we soon filled up this sacred area. The resident monk allowed us to do cutting practice and we also watched his swordmanship which was an art in itself. The confidence, the silky smoothness, the accuracy and the calmness clearly radiated out of the monk.
Grand Master Kimura arrived much to the delight of all those present accompanied by Sensei Toru Kimura and four Hokushin Shihans. It was wonderful to meet our Grand Master and a somewhat humbling experience to be in the presence of such a wise and masterful person. It was our chance to show our skills and although the area was a little confined we managed to nervously share our learnings and techniques. Luckily we avoided cutting the shrine lanterns that hung precariously low. Takeo did his own masterful display and this was followed by a demonstration by the four local shihans. Overall it was a very memorable occasion, one I am sure will remain with us for many, many years to come.
Dinner with Grand Master Kimura was a festive occasion and the food was superbly presented by Watanabe Ryokan. The local shihan’s proved masters of hospitality as they provided a continuous flow of beer and sake. The evening was very special with lots of sharing and laughter and ending with exchanges of speeches and gifts from all present. We trust Grand Master Kimura enjoyed our visit and we thank him very much for his kind and encouraging words. We were all given Hokushin Shinoh Ryu Iaido albums with a beautiful picture of Grand Master Kimura on the inside cover. A gift to be treasured.
Monday morning brought an early start as we headed by Shinkansen train for Kyoto, the ancient capital. Here we visited Kinkakuji-michi temple ‘The Golden Temple’ originally constructed in 1397 and rebuilt in 1955. What a magnificent site it was as it gleamed bright gold in the morning sun revered by the hundreds of tourists that snapped and clicked their cameras.
Himeji City was to be our destination in the late afternoon and we soon were settled in at the Himeji Plaza Hotel, a short walk from the train station. The manager was fantastic and showed us some very personalised hospitality. His son was a guest of Adelaide and he was keen to have us all enjoy his wonderful hotel and city and took time to escort us to a number of the venues.
First thing Tuesday morning we had an appointment with the Mayor of Himeji City and his invited representatives. A delegation from Australia and New Zealand met with the mayor and his staff where friendship and goodwill as well as gifts were shared amongst those present.
The bus then took us out of town to a location where we took an inspiring gondola ride up a nearby mountain. We sounded our arrival by pounding the huge bell at the entrance of Engyoji Temple. In an area of deep meditation, history and woodland surroundings our monk guide walked us along an ancient climbing pathway amongst 700 year old cedar trees and then there stood the great temple and its accompanying buildings that dated back forever. For those of interest the monk took us into the temple for Za-Zen meditation while others wandered about admiring the beauty and architectural fascination of the temple. Three large eagles circled overhead to welcome our visit and soon we were heading our way back to the wonderful views from the gondola return trip and to Himeji Castle.
Himeji Castle was an awe inspiring venue to do an Iai-do demonstration. The castle was a powerful back drop in the hot blinding sun. A big blue mat was laid on the ground and it became a centre piece that attracted a good crowd as we prepared for the demonstration. We soon organized ourselves in several groups and started off on a series of waza’s that gleamed in the afternoon sun. It was quite a spectacle, so many foreigners practicing the art of Iai-do right where many samurai’s of the past walked or perhaps even fought in battle. The local newspaper was on hand to record our demonstration and our hosts, the local Iai-do club gave a precision display of their own style. Their master Kobashi Shihan was to be our guide and he provided expert waza’s as his students went through their paces.
The demonstration ended with much camaraderie and good cheer and the camera’s buzzed and clicked to ensure we would remember this time. Some tour members chose to visit the castle and others joined our host master (he was also a tea ceremony master) for a Japanese tea ceremony in the nearby Nishi-Oyashiki-Ato Garden Koko-en. These gardens were only 15 years young but yet displayed the grace and maturity of a garden 1000 years old. The tea ceremony in the Souju-an (tea ceremony house) was a first for many of us and served by the delicate hands and finesse of the tea ladies we realised what a significant part of the Japanese culture this is.
We were then taken to the Hyogo Prefectural Budokan, an impressive modern building that provided a world class martial arts venue. The main stadium was built with a removable floor changing from a sprung wooden floor to tatami mats in a matter of minutes. Huge display screens above the centre arena ensured the audience could see everything and the seats all had heaters under them. Our hosts and guide was immensely proud of this building, its design and the benefits it provided participants from the prefecture, Japan and from all over the world.
Once again our hosts at Himeji City were wonderful and we were extremely grateful for the time and effort they put in to ensuring our stay was exceptional. For those who ventured out at night to enjoy the city after dark, they too experienced wonderful local hospitality, friendship and the odd sake.
Hiroshima City was to be our next destination on Wednesday morning and true to form the Shinkansen delivered us in stylish and timely fashion. We now had our boarding and disembarking of the super trains down to a fine art always enjoying reserved seats organized by Takeo the night before. A short distance by local tram put us right in front of the Peace Park. A sobering and humbling picture faced us all as we stood in front of the Dome of A-Bomb, the steel framework and brick remaining of the former Hiroshima Prefecture Industrial Exposition Hall blasted by the A-Bomb on Aug 6th 1945. A two kilometer radius from the bomb centre was destroyed killing over two hundred thousand people. The remaining Dome warns us all of the desire for peace at home and abroad.
We then strolled across the park to the A-Bomb museum where individual thoughts absorbed us as we quietly wandered amongst all the memories. Hundreds of people filed past ghostly reminders of the terrors of such an instrument and the words of peace were to be seen throughout this monument.
Outside in the hot early afternoon sun was enjoyed by what seemed like thousands of school children of all ages. Boys in their smart military style deep navy blue uniforms with their gold buttons, sneakers and crazy hair cuts and the girls all in their mini mini tartan school skirts and knee length socks all enjoying the largest bento lunch box and dripping ice creams you could imagine. It was great to see them laughing and playing in this place of remembrance now known as the Peace Park a World Heritage sight.
We were soon winging our way out of Hiroshima City south towards the World Heritage Island Park of Miyajima. A short ferry ride and we were confronted by the O-Torii Gate and Itsukushima Shrine, built in the latter half of the 6th century with its sublime appearance, it displays the artistic beauty of the Shinden style of architecture. Miyajima is one of Japan’s three most scenic destinations with its history and tradition, cultural assets, blue sea, mountains and greenery.
Deer lazily walk the streets well petted by the thousands of visitors they must see. They are partial to whatever you have in your hand and will not hesitate to try and eat paper or chew on your clothes or bags. The market place is alive and momiji manju is being baked everywhere. These are biscuit like cakes with their own unique and delicious flavour.
The township is full of fascinating temples, shrines and buildings and the walk along the seafront is delightful and a short up hill walk to the Five Storied Pagoda rewarded us with paintings dating back forever. You could stay for a week and not see everything that Miyajima has to offer. But for us it was back on the ferry and train bound for Hotel Viainn Hiroshima for a well earned bath and for those who wanted a night exploring Hiroshima.
The longer Shinkansen trip down to Kumamoto allowed us to view the array of countryside and take in the well organized rice fields in their golden haze, the vegetable gardens that surrounded all the different styles of houses, the super motorway under construction that spanned alongside the railway and the fabulous Japanese autumn colours that washed the landscape. No land is wasted in Japan. Rice harvesting was well underway and small harvesting machines worked steadily the whole journey. The weather was again at its best as we headed further south onto the island of Kyushu and into the land of Miyamoto Musashi the famous swordsman and the author of ‘Gorin-no-sho’, the book on samurai morals.
We were now very used to unloading our bags at our accommodation and then heading off to the sights Shihan and Takeo had planned for us. Miyamoto Musashi cave was one such highlight and Kumamoto Castle was another and then there were the other numerous temples, gardens and shrines, so much do and see. Taxis were ordered for those heading to the cave which was a 40 minute ride out of town and up into the winding roads and terraced hillsides of the adjacent mountains. Our taxi driver was just a gem. As she negotiated her way round the never ending number of corners and bends she laughed and chatted away excited at meeting us and sharing in our journey. Her family name was also Miyamoto.
Leaving the taxis to wait for us we rung the great Musashi statue bell, and then took the easy walk down to the entrance of this historic place. The monk at the gate bowed and passed out our tickets and the smell of incense flowed out of his little ticket office where there was a small display of costuming and weaponry. The path to the cave was easily managed and soon we found ourselves in the field of 500 monk statues, gifts, in remembrance of 500 monks who were killed in the revolts.
There we were at the foot of the cave where well trodden stairs took us up and inside the cave. A place of reverence and simplicity with its stone carvings, it’s small wooden temple stopping visitors from entering deeper into the cave and the stone monuments telling Musashi’s story. Thinking of Musashi sitting at the cave entrance considering his many Samurai thoughts came easily in this place of peace and reflection. The cedar trees outside had grown taller since Shihan’s last visit, blocking the view over the distant valley and protecting the cave. This is a place that is a must to visit for all those interested in the history of the Samurai.
As we hurtled back down the mountainside with Kazuyo our taxi driver, laughing and singing local folk songs and playing rock, paper and scissors, orange groves filled the stepped terraces and the view back down to Kumamoto blinked at us on every other corner. We graciously gave Kazuyo gifts and “arigato gozaimasu’s” and told her she was the best taxi driver in Japan as she dropped us at the entrance of Kumamoto castle. We were soon standing alongside the stationary castle sentries dressed in full soldier attire having our photos taken and giving them Kiwi badges and emblems.
The massive stonework sloped up from the walkway up to the castle was an incredible feat of engineering and castle defences. Again we imagined the Emperors, Shogunates and the Samurais that had walked the same pathway over thousands of years through the revolts, the battles, the history and the rule of Katos from1588 AD and the rule of Hosokawas to 1871 AD. The new castle was completed in 1607 AD and was rebuilt in 1877 AD after it was destroyed by fire three days before the start of the Seinan Civil war. In 1960 the main tower was also rebuilt and it is now back to its former glory.
We were told about a Musashi sword museum and we moved quickly to enjoy this small private collection. It proved to be a significant visit as we enjoyed viewing a range of fabulous katanas, armory and costuming. The evening stroll back to our hotel took us past local yakatori houses and fruit stalls with nashi pears of formidable size. For others the Castle gardens proved to be sensational as was the festival demonstration of martial arts on the lower grounds of the castle. The evening allowed everyone to wander into town and enjoy the local Ramen specialty or relax at the hotel after a wonderful day as the next day we were bound for Okayama.
It was now Friday 19th October and we had seen so much and traveled so far with still lots to come over the remaining few days. After an early start and a four hour train ride we were settling in to Kokusai Kanko Ryokan Maruichi only a short stroll from the Okayama train station. We had become experts at “congaing” our way through the busiest stations.
We had an appointment at The Okayama Prefectural Government Offices with the Deputy Governor and his International Affairs department before heading out to the Bizen sword smithing.
The meeting with the Deputy Governor was another fantastic example of the hospitality we had enjoyed throughout Japan and as the Adelaide and Okayama Ports have sister relationship it was a memorable occasion to enhance that bond. We were all seated around the circular summit room and some tour members were chosen to demonstrate iai-do to the deputy governor. This was done expertly in the confined space, pleasing our hosts before an exchange of speeches, letters and gifts reinforcing the sister city relationship.
Sword smithing awaited us a short bus ride from the city and a brief stroll through a field of old roof tiles. The making of a sword is fascinating and we were taken on a journey from the selection of iron ore or raw material known as tamahagane to the finished sword ready for the sword polisher and before the swords mei is engraved. Watching the swordsmith and his workers hammer and fold, reheat, fold and hammer brought about amazing colours, flying sparks and precision teamwork. It was a sight not to be missed and we all found ourselves mesmerized by the charcoal fires glow and the rhythmic hammering.
On to the Bizen museum and the outstanding collection of swords up to 1000 years old. A superb display that we all found ourselves in awe of as we admired the hamons, the tsukas, tsubas and other fittings that were proudly presented. The museum shop also caught our attention as some fine pieces were for sale with excellent books and articles on the Bizen area and sword making as well as some great souvenirs. Then back to the city and our Ryokan for a hot bath and a night out with our new friends from the Okayama Prefectural Government International Affairs department. They had arranged for a dinner at one of the popular restaurants not far from the Ryokan.
The dinner was outstanding as food, drink, laughter, friendship and goodwill flowed. With their staff, Masashi Nozaki the Assistant Director and Masao Inoki the Senior Manager treated us to another example of fine memorable Okayama hospitality. Some let their hair down a little more and this set the scene for a karaoke charge while some headed to a favourite yakatori spot where more food, drink and hospitality were shared. The karaoke club and others wandered in at all hours of the morning delighting in a fabulous night of singing and entertainment.
The last day saw some head off to the All Japan Zen Nippon Iaido and Kendo National event for the morning. For others a trip to Japan’s famous Okayama gardens. Each enjoying the spectacle they found. That afternoon we took a 20 minute train trip to the Edo Period town of Kurashiki. Kurashiki was a contrast of tourism and the ancient town. Shops lined the streets and tourists packed the shops. People were every where and it was a reminder of the commercialism needed to ensure these places of interest were maintained to the highest standards. A white poodle with iridescent blue highlights was led past and traditional Japanese costumers tapped people on the head with their fans bringing good luck and good fortune. The majestic white swan in the small river posed for the many of thousands of photos that would be taken of it that day.
Before we headed out that night to enjoy a Korean BBQ dinner we all gathered to end our tour. Shihan spoke of the fun we had, the sites we had seen and the benefits of the tour. It was a chance to say thank you and good bye as we would all wake up the next morning and go in different directions. Some heading back to Australia and New Zealand, some traveling on to Tokyo and beyond, some climbing Mt Fuji and some catching up with family and friends.
Very special thanks must go to Shihan for having the vision and energy to organise this tour. It went smoothly and calmly and we didn’t lose anyone and there was no injury or illness. It couldn’t have been better.
To Takeo for his leadership, guidance and patience as he calmly answered the myriad of questions thrown at him, negotiated the many Japanese Rail counters and interpreted a maze of Japanese language.
To Joel and Murray for their organisation leading up to the tour. Thank you…everything worked out. Our uniforms and trip jackets are great.
And especially to the members and their partners who joined the tour, participated with friendship and caring, who dragged their bags from one end of Japan to the other, who laughed and Konichiwa’d, congaed through an array of trains and bus stations, and visited some of the most outstanding sights Japan has on offer. Thank you.
It has been a fantastic and memorable trip.
Letter from the Lord Mayor of Adelaide
Here is a letter from the Lord Mayor of Adelaide
Letter from Himeji