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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

JAPAN TRAINING 2015 -- August 3 -- LAST DAY

August 3, 2015.  1800 Japan time
Japan Airlines 60.  Osaka Kansai to LAX

I’ve had a wonderful visit to Tokushima to visit Masumi and Dave Cooper and the Toyosaki family.  They were awesome hosts and Masumi’s father, Masao, would not let me pay for a single thing – from my hotel to the express bus to Kansai this morning.  He said it was because Terri and I took such good care of Masumi when she came to visit us in Texas about ten years ago, but I suspect he would have done that anyhow.

Yesterday we went shopping at the new mall on their side of the Yoshino River from Tokushima City.  Since it is new and since it is hot as hell right now, the mall was packed, and my true feeling is that if you’ve seen one mall, you’ve  seen most malls and this was no exception.  I found a couple of very cool shirts for Jacob and a summery shirt and breezy trouser set for myself, and then we ate in the food court with the kids.  After we dropped Masumi and the Kids off, Dave and I went for a massage.  Male masseuses work on males and female masseuses on women.  You are fully clothed in a little Jack LaLane style jumpsuit.  No oils.  My guy was very good however and after two weeks of travel and karate, he had me asleep on the table after about twenty minutes.

Dave dropped me off at the hotel while he went to catch up with his Awa Adori dance group at a Shinto shrine where they would perform later.  Masumi and family picked me up later and we also went to the shrine.  Got there right at dusk and the orange full moon was rising over the massive tori gate entrance.  The walkway was lined with glowing lanterns on both sides and I had a feeling something magical was about to happen.

The Awa dance dates back to the 1500’s when Tokushima prefecture was known as Awa and was the fief of a Samurai daimyo.  The dance is very tribal and seems a little like a mating ritual, with the women in their geta and kimonos, very fluid and supple as Se grass, and the men in jembei and colorful headbands and tabis, dancing around the women like dervishes.  The drums are pounding, shamisens and wood flutes droning on, and bells ring constantly.  Like reggae, it is almost impossible not to start moving your body with the beat.  The saying for the Awa Adori matsuri is “You’re a fool if you dance and a fool if you don’t, so you might as well dance.” The dancing lasted about an hour and then there were sparklers for the children.  Afterwards, Dave and I took the other car to the local onsen baths and had a most wonderful soak.  Then a light meal and some good conversation before he dropped me off.

Today Masumi, Dave, and the kids came to my hotel and we walked to the JR station together to have a light brunch at Starbucks and some last minute shopping.  I was terrified that I was not going to find the items Terri had given me for her “shopping list” but at the stores around the station, I scored big time and found everything she had requested.  She likes the small, interesting items like coin purses.  Tokushima is famous for its indigo blue dye and I was able to find the items in that beautiful deep blue with almost tie-dyed patterns.  Very exquisite.  Then we had to say our goodbyes and I boarded the express bus for Kansai, while Dave and Masumi had plans to head for the Oboke Gorge to visit their whitewater rafting pals.  Both of them used to be river guides.  They were such great hosts and are dear friends indeed.

All over Japan I am impressed with their civil and structural engineering fetes, mainly the way they have managed to build amazing roads, tunnels, and railways throughout this mountainous nation.  Today, however, I was awed by the entire area around Kobe and Osaka.  The area is one huge network of ports and bridges that almost defy imagination.  Wow!  Kansai airport itself was created as an island by using cofferdams, pumping the ocean out, and bringing fill in.  Then it was connected to the mainland by a bridge that must be four miles long and allows shipping passage beneath it.  This is one amazing country and a very ambitious people.

 In another eight hours, God willing, I’ll be in Los Angeles.  I always suffer a reverse culture shock upon arrival after the  politeness and orderly manner of Japan.  But it’s my country and I miss it.  I mainly miss Terri and Jacob.  It seems a long time since July 18 when I departed on this journey.  Thank you, love, for supporting my need to go.  Thank you to my senior students who took the dojo classes for me while I was away.  Thank you Dave and Masumi, and also the Aussies who always adopt me.  Thank you to Shihan Fujiwara and his wife and family for being so hospitable at their ryokan, and for him being my teacher.  Shihan, you are the best of the best.  We all know it.  I hope you do also.  I think other ryuha thought Seiwakai would be diminished after Tasaki Hanshi passed, but we have in fact grown and are getting better.  That makes me happy and proud and is a legacy I try to instill in my own students.

Now it is back to our lives.  Being able to attend a gasshuku such as ours is like entering a monastery.  We live and breathe Karatedo and don’t even think about news or politics or the mundane things that typically fill up our existence.  We get to do ONE thing and do it to the best of our ability.  And when it’s over we’ve  grown in ways we don’t even know and have hopefully changed in positive, subtle ways.  I know I have.

So, from somewhere over the Pacific, I’m signing off for now.  Thanks for coming along on this journey, whether actually or vicariously.  I hope you’ve grown some too.



  1. Thanks for the very interesting reading.
    Scott Durand
    Shingokan Australia

  2. Please don't be too disheartened by the testing aspect of your experience, there were many people younger than you who also failed!!!
    Life is about the journey not the destination.