A Rembukan Trip to Japan
I’ve been looking back over the many decades that Yuri and I have hosted dojo members traveling to Japan. This has always been a challenge due to time, expense and the dojo’s aggressive schedule. We sometimes acted in the belief that bringing Japanese instructors here was more efficient than managing a group in Japan.
Cramming a Japan visit with the logistics of hosting Japanese instructors here within the same year has sometimes felt daunting.
Still, we have much to be proud of because of your efforts! For a private dojo, the Rembukan has sponsored so many top-tier teachers AND sent so many large delegations to Japan virtually every year for over a quarter century. This is an amazing accomplishment that speaks volumes about the membership’s commitments to budo.
There’s no question that many aspects of these adventures remain remarkably consistent. We travel, we train, we sleep and we eat (oh do we eat!) and we do the touristy thing with each visit. This was not always so. For years, going to Japan meant rarely making it out of the dojo. No two trips were the same and yet there is a shared experience for all who have made the journey, with much in common beyond surviving me in the role of assistant tour guide.
There are always elements of travel that we can’t control – that make each trip unique. That’s part of what makes for adventure – duh! These are the things that make each excursion a new and revitalizing chapter in Rembukan folklore.
The “Gang” we unleashed on Japan in October and the “Gang” we travelled with to Japan the prior year were very different in group chemistry and yet each generated cherished memories that are part of what makes the Rembukan Dojo cohesive for participants and the rest of us alike. I need simply reference “Kyoto desu” or “It’s not my fault” to trigger memories which might’ve not been a scene of perfect bliss at the time, that now bring smiles shared collectively.
The 2015 trip was blessed with a much stronger dollar than the 2016 trip. We travelled long distances by bullet train, met one of the greatest swordsmiths in Japan, saw volcanos and stormed castles that survived us but not last year’s earthquakes! We went to Michelin starred traditional Inns and gorged ourselves on sushi at one of Tokyo’s best sushiya, prepared by a preeminent chef and at bargain prices no less. We did Kyoto and Nagano as well as Kyushyu and we knew that this trip could never be duplicated.
Due to time constraints, the 2016 trip had to be shorter. We had some real hoots during the planning stages. Perhaps, unknown to the membership, but one of the ideas that Yuri and I conspired to put into action was to head to the mountains to do Shugyo (Takegyo). Can you imagine a picture of all of us stripped down and wearing fundoshi – the Japanese underwear, standing under a cold waterfall? Yes, it almost happened, and I won’t rule it out for a future trip. We did however storm different castles, float over Sulphur volcano domes, visit gorgeous gardens and show native Japanese a great time in Tokyo.
Whether preparing for the trip, planning, packing or training, the sojourns that we undertook enriched the dojo in so many ways that I’m thankful for. Most seem intangible until that moment where some essence is drawn out and utilized. Often cloaked in humor (the Rembukan style), each of us realizes in our own ways that these efforts are both individual and group accomplishments.
Towards that end and in beginning to think about this October’s tentatively anticipated trip we should take a moment to appreciate the success of these trips, how they’ve enriched us, to thank Rembukan members that have made generous financial contributions to help defray costs, ratchet up training regimens to prepare travelers to place their best Rembukan foot forward and to those yet to make the trip that take joy in vicariously hearing of our misdeeds upon our return.
There is an inexplicable something that transfers from adventure to adventure despite an ever-changing cast of characters and regardless of whether you are a participant or a witness. Whether about budo-specific waza, the state of training or how many times we went to the local temple to hear the taiko, we are strengthened individually and as a group by showing budo’s hometown for what it currently is and what it is not.
We’ll complain about the demands of planning, the costs of going, and the nutty characters travelling but in the end I can’t wait for the sequel!!
Shi (meaning teacher) Jyo (meaning to receive).
Excerpts from: March 5th, 1992 lecture by the writer Shiba Ryotaro at Columbia University, Donald Keene Japan Cultural Study Center.
Before the era of Modernization of Japan imposed by the Meiji government it was prohibited to go beyond the scope of the teacher’s thoughts. This could be viewed in every aspect of learning and was not limited to religion and scholarly pursuits but was found in medicine, art, and budo.