The brief period from 8th-1414 November 2022 saw two from the UK and one from Norway, conduct what was in effect a whirlwind 5 day trip to Japan in order to attend essential meetings with our Japanese Shihan(s) and other meetings with Nagaoka City Officials.
On the Wednesday (9th November), after a gruelling 14.5 hour flight to Hong Kong, we found we were severely delayed. A 20 minute dash through the airport saw us embark the plane for another 3.5 flight to Haneda. (I think I will revert to going via Narita again).
U.K. Kodansha Carl Gigg and I were met at Haneda Airport by Shihan Narumi Hidetada 8th Dan (Kyoshi). He was in good spirits, and most gracious even after enduring a wait due to our plane delay! Introductions to Carl re- made, and then the monorail was taken to Tokyo Station.
A lightening fast check into the Toyoko Inn Hotel at Shinagawa allowed us to dump our baggage, but time was running short for a critical visit to The Sengakuji Temple.
The quick taxi trip to Sengakuji (Temple famed for the 47 Ronin) saw our arrival about 30 minutes before they were about to close; our timing was good, We visited the important graves and I was able to provide a quick narrative to Carl. Neither Narumi Sensei nor Carl had visited there previously, thus it was a great opportunity to pay homage to the ‘Budo’ souls of Japan.
Carl was introduced to the Izakaya. Japan Web Magazinedescribes the quintessential Japanese after work hang-out as:
Izakaya (居酒屋) is composed of three kanjis: “be/stay”(居), “alcohol”(酒) and “shop” (屋). But an izakaya is not only a place to go to drink, but also where to go to eat. Wouldn’t that be a restaurant then? No. If I had to explain it simply, I would say that in a restaurant the main objective is food and drinks accompany the dishes, and in an izakaya it’s the other way around.
Narumi Sensei, Carl and I enjoyed the food – Sashimi, Yakitori, Tempura, Aji, Saba and other delicacies, and of course the bustling ambience. The ice-breaker of course was the Nihon- Shu (Ō Sake 日本酒) Sho- Chu (焼 酎). Carl can be quite conservative, but soon became a chatter-box and life of the party!
The walk back to the hotel was a little less smooth than the walk there!
We arrived to the hotel, to find a stranger lurking in the lobby, Dr. Chandra Mohan Murugaiah from Trondheim, Norway was playing detective, looking for us. (He soon learned that in the future he needed to go to the nearest Izakaya to find us`).
Thursday 10th November was a day for a morning’s sightseeing then a quick Shinkansen to Nagaoka. Oh, how plans go awry!
The four of us conducted a morning trip to Engakuji (Temple in Kita Kamakura where the Funakoshi Memorial stone lays) and the Dai Butsu (The Great Buddha Statue).
The Shinkansen journey Northwest took the wrong fork at Takasaki. We had boarded the wrong train! We were forced to return to Tokyo, and then re-trace the correct route. Arriving in Nagaoka some 5 hours later – all was taken with good humour that of course dissipated with a visit to a very nice Izakaya, little more food and the by now staple – Narumi no Sho-Chu. Watching him pour the drink and make it for us was endearing for the students – who essentially lived in fear of the reputation I had created within them over the years.
Friday 11th was the day of the essential meetings. ‘Booted and suited’ we attended the three meetings with the Deputy-Mayor of Nagaoka city – Mr. Otaki Yasushi and his team, , the chief of police for Nagaoka city – Mr. Tanaka Ryo, and the editor of the Niigata Daily News – Mr. Otsuka Seiichiro. These were pleasant but intensive meetings, and bonds were made. Their interest in Karate and why Westerners had such interest was charming. Their questions quite deep as they were truly interested. At times the questions were challenging, but luckily 54 years of immersion into Japanese Budo Culture allowed me to throw back some challenging retorts in response. All in great humour, even the visits were formal.
We later attended the Kobukai Dojo of Shihan Mistunori Kobayashi (Hanshi). A walk to Shihan Kobayashi’s temple (Shihan Kobayashi is the 27th successor to the family temple). He is also an Alderman of Ojiya-she Council and Ojiya and Buddhist priest of Jyosho-Ji from Kyoto. This sect are sometimes referred to as the “Six Victorious Temples” (六勝寺, Rokushō-ji) of the Emperor Shirakawa’s Hosshō-ji.
The following link shows the Kyoto temple:
We enjoyed a Tendon meal in the office area of the dojo, had a chat, tea, then it was time to train! Three hours of training under the watchful eyes of my two Shihan could be intimidating. The fact that we trained together as a group, and that I was ‘competing’ against my own Sensei made the training ‘fly by’. Admittedly the next day our bodies were sore.
Saturday 12th November saw two members taking an unplanned Shinsa (Grading examinations). Congratulations to Carl Gigg Sensei on achieving Godan and to Chandra Mohan Murugaiah Senpai on achieving Nidan.
Other information will be released in due course.
Sunday 13th November saw us attend, as dignitaries, the 69th Nagaoka City Karate Championships. Whilst there other encounters were held with Mitsuke City Council Member – Mrs Erahi Misako and Mr. Mohammed Elahi, Hachidan Hanshi of the ~World International Toryu Karate-Do Seishin Kai, along with the Chairman of the Niigata Sports Association for the Disabled – Mr. Tachikawa Kotaro. They were wonderful people, and seemed pleased to practice their English language!
After the tournament Kobayashi Hanshi hosted a farewell dinner for 6 of us. Mr. Yuki Isa, Chandra, Carl, Narumi Kyoshi, Kobayashi Hanshi and I were treated to various delicacies, inclusive of the dreaded Fugu!
Much conversation, laughter, and learning took place. We asked questions of the past and were regaled with great stories and memories!
It needs mentioning that prior to the tournament Shihan Kobayashi (Gima-Ha International Karate-Do Federation – Kaicho) presented the Dan certificates from the previous day’s Shinsa to Carl and Chandra. Congratulations, and well deserved guys! Luckily, regular training saw them well- prepared, and able to perform under pressure.
This intimate and incredible venture ended all too soon. It was enjoyable. It was chaotic. It was Karate!
Unfortunately we were unable to spend any real time in Tokyo, Kamakura or sightseeing. I can only thank our Japanese friends for their immense hospitality. We hope to return soon.
The return trip from Haneda to Hong Kong too some 4.5 hours, then a 4 or 5 hour stop-off, the 13.5 hour trip to London Heathrow. A train journey later, 31.5 hours had passed and I walked into a house with a broken boiler. It turns out that Susan had lived for the 8 days without heat! The phone call to authorities may have been a little heated.
Nihon to watashitachi no yuujin, hontoni arigato gozai imashita!
“日本とワタシタチのゆうじん 本土 アリガトゴザイイマシタ”