long island


It was a glorious cultural experience. First we went to Lindenhurst to see Alaina and Nick's new house. Little Nicky did the Hokie Pokie Elmo, spread ham all over the place, and was generally cute. He has lots of toys, though I wonder if it's just an exuse for his dad to buy them all. Nick had to go to work so we headed over to North Babylon to check out Mike and Diane's new house. Still working on most of it, but the downstairs fishing lounge is nicely wood-panelled, the fireplace looks cool, and the backyard is spacious (plenty of room for a jacuzzi.) Then we went to Uncle Mike and Aunt Stephanie's for canoli and coffee. Uncle Mike's Christmas decorations were pretty good, but I think Nick's were better. But neither of them could hold a candle to The House we saw on Deer Park Avenue. This guy has 800 amps of electricity and a sign that says "Please don't park in my neighbor's driveway." Actually the house next door was on sale (I wonder why?)

aunt pat & uncle bill

Drove up with cousin Dave and we had a lunch of leftovers which included mama's famous vegetarian chopped liver made with string beans, walnuts, hard-boiled eggs, and caramelized onions. Dave brought his iBook and we played some retro video games.
For dinner we had more veggie food: cous-cous and ratatouille. So healthy! (Finished off with icecream and more leftover pies and cakes.)


The day after is traditionally a big shopping day, so we headed to the Westchester Mall to personally instigate an economic recovery. First stop: Nordstroms, where I got six shirts, three slacks, and a sport coat for a bargain. Service is great, and the prices were unbeatable. The girls were doing damage in the rest of the mall, and when we regrouped at 4pm, the damage from the first wave was significant. Bags overflowed with post-Christmas bargains, feet were tired, stomachs empty. We finished up a couple last stores, stocked up on pretzels, and headed back home for a traditional dinner of leftovers.

merry christmas

Got up reasonably early to open presents and got a cool flannel robe and behind-the-head earmuffs! Traditional pile of wrapping paper was left on the carpet and then it was time to load into the car and head out.
First stop was Matthew's place. He was alot smaller when he lived next door, but now that he he lives off of Long Ridge Road he's a Tron-watching Ninja Power Ranger with a sweet radio-controlled helicopter that we used to terrorize the backyard trees. I know what I want next year!
Then we headed over to mama's cousins' place, home of Bob and Bobbie. Various people I think I was related to were there, as was a squaking parrot that immediately didn't like me. We continued to eat, more desert and whatnot, before finally leaving Long Island.

lost in translation

Finally saw Lost In Translation at the State Cinema up the street on Hope. Fabulous, and only five bucks. Scarlett Johannson was great, and I finally figured out that I remember her from Ghost World.
Killed a whole ham (spiral cut! Such technology!) for dinner, and Yuko continues to sleep. She's been out for a couple of days and at this rate her vacation will consist of seeing the bedroom walls.

grocery shopping

Bagel for breakfast from the parental's exploding refrigerator. But we needed more food! So we piled into Mama's Feisty 4x4 Forester and headed to the supermarket to resupply. We hit Fuji Market first to get supplies for the gyoza feast, then the super across the street. Masa and Hiroko were fine but Yuko was still jet-lagging so she went back to bed while we battled mama's lack of a teflon frying pan and made a couple hundred gyoza. We mixed, stuffed, and cooked for hours, and then ate in minutes.

Mama taught a class at the American Craft Museum (scroll to the bottom) and Auntie Em didn't. Let the feud begin!

orange alert holiday flying

I will attempt to not make this a political diatribe but this whole terrorist alert crap is really just assinine. Flying three days before Christmas is bad enough without the government scaring everybody, the cops searching everybody, and the airlines slowing everybody down with bag checks, ticket checks, id checks. Not one security protocol I went through made any significant difference for my level of safety, but sure made flying more of a pain in the ass than usual. And the joys of eating airline food with plastic utensils! So safe!
As expected, the plane was full of families who only fly once a year, so they had no idea what they were doing, had way too many over-sized carry-ons, and lots and lots and lots of screaming children. Lots of children. Screaming. The whole time. Screaming. Crying. Shouting. Children.
At least the movie was Pirate of the Carribean, and the five hours just flew by.
Got to the stink of JFK and waited patiently as they announced that luggage would arrive on Carousel 4 twice before my luggage started arriving on Carousel 5. Welcome to New York. Not entirely sure why I bothered getting Priority tags on my bags either, because it sure doesn't make a damn bit of difference as to when my bags finally showed up.
Papa picked me up and the Mighty Myron Infinity battled traffic across the bridge and up the 95 until we got to Stamford.
We got home just as the lasagna was ready and proceeded to feast in style.

seminar day 2


Somehow managed to get up and out of the house around 9am. Most folks were already at the dojo so we got started quick as some people had to leave early. Bujin-boy didn't make it for day two (I think he felt pretty lost day one...either that or his ninja skills were in full effect and he made himself invisible.)
We started with the wakizashi (short sword) kumitachi and managed to run through all five before lunch. Then Officer Crow had to leave so I hopped one one foot to say goodbye, and Neeley, Rob, and BigTony nearly died laughing.
The Arnos made it in for the afternoon session after taking their son to the hospital at 4 am; either it was food poisoning or too many pistachios at Steve's, but after some IV and rest he was doing ok. After a lunch of stunningly good Mexican food we regrouped to practice the five standing kumitachi and do a little bit of tanjo before calling it a day. The Chicago folks had to leave early, and then the toilet decided to start leaking so we pulled a quick emergency response action to pull up some mats and stem the flood.
When things calmed down Diane worked her massage magic and I turned to putty in her arms. Then she did the same to Clay and finally Tony.

We went back to the house, took a break, and then regrouped for Full Moon Sushi. I spoke Japanese to the waitress and sushi chef, evoking responses of disbelief and wonder. The food was good but totally unrecognizable as anything I'd call sushi in Japan. Loved to Volcano Roll.
More folks left after dinner, and the typical crew ended up going back to Tony's for more goofing off before heading home.

seminar day 1


Got everyone up, out, and to the dojo about 9:15. Verdugo went early to open, so when we got there many folks had already arrived. Keith and Joanna from Chicago came down, more Senpokan fools, and even some youngin's so it was a full house.
We ran through all 20 kata, broken up into groups, and the pace was fast but most folks kept up and we had a good day. More In and Out -- double-double -- for lunch, a bit of rain to keep it cool, and it was 5pm before we knew it.
We headed back to Tony's to change and shower before regrouping at the dojo and then going to Steve's place on the beach. His house is right on the water, his racing sailboat docked in front of the house. We had food and bevvies and watched the boat parade of lights and sat by the fireplace when it got cold and goofed off and generally had a great time.

Verdugo's fiancee and kid are adorable, Clay's wife is a charmer, Steve is a fine host with a dog who loves him, Neeley's ex-prison guard girlfriend is sweet enough to keep even him in line, and Bubba is bubba.

At some point Jimmy Crow revealed that after the seminar he's off to eastern Europe to meet the girl he met on the internet. We immediately started abusing him for having an internet girlfriend who was currently vacationing in Transilvania. We were concerned that Officer Crow was getting taken in, but he assured us that they video-chatted regularly so he knows what she looks like. To which Rob replied "Yeah but have you seen all of her? She's not missing a foot or anything?" So the rest of the weekend was spent making one-foot Bulgarian woman jokes at Officer Crow's expense.

bubba et al

Woke up still feeling a bit jet-lagged and had a bagle sandwich while flipping through 200 channels of nothing to watch. In the afternoon the Arno family arrived from Sacramento, kids in tow, and we waited for Jimmy Crow before cruising down to Huntington Beach to get a late lunch. Arno's youngest, a 13 year-old cutie with stereotype blonde hair and a finely honed Arno attitude, won 500 yen when she inhaled nearly her entire monster-sized burger and most of the fries. Sometime during the conversation I gave her the nickname Bubba, and it stuck.

After lunch we walked across the street to do some shopping, but food coma + jet lag = Jimmy Crow drove me back to Tony's and we napped.
More folks arrived in the evening; Rob came in, Neeley came up from San Diego, Verdugo and Clay, the rest of the Arnos...and we assembled a fine posse for a traditional strip mall Mexican feast. Tony had a work thing so we were on our own. The food was great but I was stuffed from lunch. Bubba claimed to be stuffed, too, and didn't order anything, but she sucked down half my carnitas buritto.
The Arnos went off to their hotel and me, Rob, Neeley, Jimmy C., and Barbara headed back to Tony's. We goofed off and made fun of each other for a while before crashing. Tony supposedly came in about 3 am, feeling good, but I was so out I hardly noticed.

goin' back to cali, cali, cali...

Afternoon flight from Narita so I took my time getting packed, got a cab over to the Westin in Ebisu, had lunch and picked up a few books before getting on the 12:30 bus to the airport.
Was less crowded than I expected and I was soon at the gate, then on the plane. Pretty quick flight, very bad movies, but I managed to sort of sleep a few hours before landing in the blinding sunlight of an LA morning.
Tony picked me up and took me back to his house before going back to work. I chatted with Barb a bit (who was taking the day off) before stretching out on the couch. Immediately my brain shut down and I went into PowerNap Mode for several hours, waking when Barb was back from errands and Tony was back from work. He still had a bunch of stuff to finish up his year-end, so he dropped me off at the dojo and I ran Verdugo and Colin through the kumitachi. After practice we grabbed some In and Out -- double-double with cheese -- and headed home.
I was still fried and after some tv and chitchat I crashed hard.

not at all

No one showed up for practice...expect Naganuma-sensei and Sanno-sensei. So Naganuma-sensei ran us through the basics and a couple of kata. Needless to say I haven't practiced in a while as I've spent so much time recently teaching, and Naganuma-sensei ripped me apart. Watching him move reminds of just how little I know and how much farther there is to go...

beginner's luck

Beginner's seminar, but as Naganuma-sensei and Tanaka-sensei had to work, and Ando-sensei was out, Niina-gosoke ended up running the seminar himself. I don't know if the students realized how lucky they were, but everyone seemed to have a good time and in three hours got alot better!

pink cow

Kevin is going back to North Carolina next week, and Ollie and Chiori are going back to LA, too. So they had a good-bye thing at the Pink Cow, now moved to Aoyama, right in front of Aoyama Park Tower.
Much cooler location, with a full kitchen and a great cook. 2500 yen for all-you-can-eat buffett on the weekends, smoking in the bar only, and comfy couches makes it a winner. Saw everyone; Ted, Ed, Stephan, Tony, Nancy, Jeff S. and wife, B. Zoet...

ho ho ho jorge!

Doing some last minute shopping in Shibuya and Hiroko spotted Jorge Santa:

Also Hiroko now finally knows what Thing is:


Cutting practice at Akabane. Only 8 people cutting, so we all had lots of targets and took our time. It was pretty cold, so I had a hard time getting warmed up. Tried a few new cuts like tsubamegaeshi (will need BigTony to teach me that one) and ichijin. The former being a total failure (Akama-san almost got it a couple times though) and the latter being a minor failure.
After practice I went down to Machida to Hataya's sword shop. It's a tiny little place crammed with stuff, swords, and all his polishing equipment. I introduced myself as BigTony's friend and asked him how much it would be to sharpen up my cutter. Usually working polishes cost about 50,000 yen, but as I don't care what the polish looks like, I just need it to cut, he sharpened it up for me for 6000 yen. I'll have to tell Tanaka-sensei and bring all our other swords in to get straightened and polished.


Haruka is off to graduate school in Hawaii, so to celebrate we had dinner at Piola in Shirogane. Rei-chan came, too, and Yukiyuki. Rei-chan is still doing nothing after quitting Linc 2 years ago, so we'll see if we can find her something interesting to do.
Food was great, but I was still suffering from the effects of Wednesday's drinking and went home early, skipping desert.

apple store in ginza

Apple has opened a slick store in ginza. On opening day there was a line to get in. A really, really, really long line.

good news!

Well, I guess that depends on your point of view. Nancy's digital camera was found (she did, in fact, leave it in the bathroom at Inishmore) and the pictures have been recovered.
Not pretty.

Not pretty at all.

house warming

Chez Guzofski is having a House Warming/Sinatra Day party...Hiroko and I will be a couple weeks late, but our hearts are with them!

gettin' chilly

Borrowed Yaesu practice last night from Miura-san. We had an instructor's meeting but I had to teach because we had a foreigner who doesn't speak Japanese come to check out class. I asked Kiyokawa-kun to take care of everyone else and I taught in English. Not practicing on my own sucks when it's cold. Not practicing sucks, too. The more I teach, the worse I get!

grammer check

I scored 10/10 on this grammer test, and I owe it all to me pappy.


The evening started well: toast for new officers in the board room, champagne and strawberries and champagne and small talk and champagne and strawberries and champagne...by the time I got downstairs I had five glasses of the magical bubbly and was quite enjoying the feeling. Ramesh (canrunamarathon) paid me the 11,000 yen I was owed and I immediately spent it on drinks for whoever happened to need some. More rounds were purchased, I nursed a beer and longed for the sweet taste of Lady Champagne, but was in no state to complain let alone attempt standing up.
Finally worked our way down the street to the Innish Moore where I inhaled a greasy plate of fish & chips and started in on a cider. Hammer was watching my back and replaced my cider with ice water, then Kevin and Nancy showed up and I spent the last of my money on more rounds for the troops as well as Nancy's champagne (with a glass for me!).
Most of the evening after that is rather fuzzy, but I do remember:
* A.J. making a grand entrance, someone's neck tie around his neck (not actually around his shirt collar), trading voluminous abusive words with Hammer in all good fun, and stumbling into the furniture often.
* Emiko 'The Angel' downing Wild Turkey straight on the rocks to the point that Ric and I had to carry her and throw her into a cab
* Nancy taking incriminating photos..and then being so drunk she lost her digital camera (hope she finds it!)
* Beck giving me some magical solution made of Irish Cream and something else; tasted like liquid caramel and made remaining vertical all the more complicated

For all the crap everyone gave me because I never drink and wouldn't make it through the nite, me and Kev and Ramesh and Gilohooligan were the last ones in the bar!

vice president

By some miracle and against all odds, I have been promoted to Vice President. Yes, you must now salute me.

2 on 1

Only Takahashi-san and Tanaka-chan showed up for practice, so we spent a good two hours working through the fundamentals and then the first five seated kata.
Tanaka-chan is a Shinsengumi fan, and wrote a letter to NHK that so impressed them they came to film her practicing iai last week in Ikebukuro. If only more 19 Japanese girls were as into traditional martial arts as she is.

meat eater

Ericka and Jeff took Lilly on a meat-eating tour of Europe. Bottle-feeding is for sissies.


Beck and Jeremy and his woman came over for dinner after an afternoon of Akihabara shopping where Jeremy stocked up on USB toys: USB powered christmas tree, desk fan, massage ball. Hiroko made a feast of tonjiru and fried chicken things and spinach and my infamous apple pie with vanilla icecream for dessert. Then Kevin deployed his iPod and we listened to random 70s funk, Monty Python, and Devo's cover of NIN's Head Like a Hole.

cracked like a toothpick

Had the second tanjo seminar, and besides a couple of lumps on my arm this time was considerably less painful that last time. My tanjo, however, faired far worse. In demonstrating a block for a leg strike, Niina-gosoke and Kiyokawa-kun snapped my tanjo like a toothpick. And I had only used it twice. *sigh*


The troops rallied at Lucky for a Jeremy dinner. Stevie showed up with Yuji's wife and her friend, and I made fun of Stevie's desire to go to Law School. We reviewed some of the LSAT questions he had trouble with and I realized I could probably ace that test, but I have no desire to increase the number of lawyers in the world. Anyway Stevie isn't happy at work now so best that he does something he wants to do, and he said he's wanted to be a technology patent lawyer for a while. So good luck to him!
Kevin and Jeremy where waiting for Ollie and Chiori at the Westin, and so we can blame Ollie for their late arrival. Amazingly, Stevie was totally on time, making Ollie and co. look even sillier. As soon as she sat down Chiori started inhaling food like she hasn't eaten in days. Chicken bones disappeared between her nashing teeth as Ollie lobbed bad puns across the table. The discussion included bad music, especially that Scatman dude who died, as well as funky bass lines to porn soundtracks. With Kevin, Jeremy, Ollie, and Stevie in full effect, Hiroko was in true pain. But she knew what she was getting into when she married me!
Mama at Lucky also asked me to translate their menu into English, so that's my little project for the week.


Tanaka-sensei opend his own aikido dojo in Shiomi, so he asked me to demo some cutting for the opening ceremony. Sekido-san and Ohtsuka-san brought the stand and targets and everything for me. The dojo was on the 4th floor of a plain office-type building. Nice new tatami mats on the floor and very clean and bright.
I didn't realize how squishy new mats are, and I badly blew the first cut because I just sort of sank into the mat and lost all my hip power. Demo wasn't great but afterwards folks gathered around fairly impressed, asking to see my sword and where I learned, etc. It was then that I realized just how dull my cutter has become. The hamon is completely worn off and it's so not sharp I can run my finger up and down the blade easily. That didn't exactly help with my cuts, either. Time to polish it up! We've got one last cutting practice next Saturday, and then I'll probably take the sword down to Hataya in Machida to have it repolished.

x-mas party

This year's company year-end party, held as always in the basement ballroom of the Westin Hotel, was themed Jazz Night. Always a bad sign, as I, unlike my favorite author, have an undyingly passionate hate for Jazz. Besides being Jazz, it was loud. Loud Jazz, a terrible combination. Bust everyone else, enjoying the copious amounts of free booze, didn't seem to mind, and in fact most where having a rip-roaringly good time.
Big congrats to out to Nori-chan, who won the Big Prize: round-trip flights to Hawaii plus hotel. She busts ass and deserves it.
The food was killer as always, and I thoroughly enjoyed the chocolate waffles with gelato.
After the party seems like most folks continued on the festivities into the wee hours, but I went back up to the office to finish up some equities work.


Went early to Akihabara to actually do some electronics shopping. Seems the remote control for our VCR is dead, and there's no way to program the recording timer without the remote. So I hit a couple of places, all of which told me that they don't stock that remote and I would have to order it. Finally I went out on a limb and bought a generic programmable remote that claimed to work with my VCR. It doesn't. Then again I'm wondering if maybe the VCR itself is broken. Since it's several years old, and we all know that home electronics in Japan are designed to self-destruct in five years, I think I'll take it into the local electronics shop and see if it's fixable. Maybe it's just the infrared port on the deck and it can be replaced for a couple bucks. Maybe it's time to buy a DVD recorder...
Practice was standard; taught beginners for an hour after doing the paperwork to sign up a new guy; Tanaka-sensei asked me to do it because he had to teach and his wife wasn't there to do it. Of course I screwed up the paperwork and charged him too much. Tanaka-sensei and I are basically useless without his wife around.
Last hour Tanaka-sensei ran us through hashirigakari and I worked up a nice sweat for the first time in what seems like a while. The other Tanaka-sensei (aikido and jo/tanjo) also confirmed the demo on Saturday for the opening of his new dojo, and Otsuka-san and Sekido-san said they'd provide the targets and cutting stand. Those guys are great; they do so much for me and the organization, besides each running his own company.
Hiroko got a bargain on two huge steaks ("They were cheaper than fish!") so we chowed American-style while watching the evening news.


Well this month Thursday Iidabashi practice is on Mondays, due to scheduling conflicts. However 30 minutes into practice the juggling group that always practices on Monday showed up. Oops. Seems the vice-principle gave us Monday in place of Thursday without verifying with the Board of Ed, who gave Monday to the juggling group like always. So today I came home early and will make dinner, watch tv, and goof off. And I need it; still not recovered from Friday's hell practice, Saturday's cutting, and Sunday's beating.


Tanjo, literally "short stick", otherwise known as a cane. Shindomusoryu is the staff style founded by the only man ever to beat Miyamoto Musashi. A couple of centuries later, after getting menkyo-kaiden (translation: ass-kicking license) in Shindomusoryu, Uchida-sensei went off and established Uchidaryu with an even shorter staff.
In those days (Meiji period, the beginning of Japan's modern age, just after sword bans and samurai regulation) the idea was an aristocrat would have his cane to fend off any would-be sword-carrying attackers.
Niina-gosoke is menkyo-kaiden in Shindomusoryu and taught us the more practical variations of some Uchidaryu, including defense against dude-swinging-baseball-bat and psycho-with-steel-pipe. The distance is SKETCHY; you gotta be right on top of someone to hit them with a stick 90 centimeters long, so it's fast and close. Kiyokawa and I made short work of his bamboo shinai -- splintered it in the first ten minutes, then went to town on each other. I got a nice lump on the head for being too slow, and he got a crack on the hip bone as well as a split fingernail. All in all a fun afternoon.


Otsuka-san arranged a cutting practice in Nakano, so I trained through the rain and tried to work my sore muscles through some cuts. One or two decent attempts, but in general I was cold, stiff, and tired.
Have to demo for next week's aikido dojo opening ceremonies, so the extra practice was appreciated. Someone brought a new cutting sword, and when I say cutting sword, I mean it. It was all mihaba and no niku, perfect for slicing soft targets, but likely to bend on a bad angle, and certainly no good for killing people. Think machete; wide and flat. Kiyokawa loved it because it cut so well. Unfortunately, IT cut well, he doesn't. I'll stick with my meaty cutter, thanks. When I cut with it like Tanaka-sensei did when he owned it, then I'll feel good. Until then, I'll pass on the oversized kitchen knives.
Gosoke came around and we went to Koenji to eat dinner at his local place that he's been going to for decades. The food was cheap, voluminous, and stunningly good. I had a couple different grilled fish, fried chicken, fresh rice, and all kinds of nibblies. A definite must-visit-again.

if only i could count

In what has already become a tradition, Gosoke started practice with 200 cuts. That is, I started practice with 200 cuts. I figured my pace must have been really slow, because everyone else finished way before me. After we took a break, it turns out that Gosoke actually said 150 cuts, but for some reason I had heard and done an extra fifty. 10+ years in Japan, and I still gotta work on my listening skills.

it's official!

I now have a permanent residency visa.
However, I didn't realize that I STILL need to get a re-entry permit every three years (assuming I leave and re-enter the country.) So, this entire exercise was...basically pointless.


Joined various folks for turkey at Roy's in Aoyama.
Turkey with blueberry sauce was killer, as was the desert. Service sucked, badly. But the good news is the country manager was in from Hawaii, sent to Japan a month ago specifically to kick staff-ass and make the service better. He was apologetic, professional, and took something off the bill. So we'll be popping into Roy's again at some point to see how he's doing.

maia arriola

Is born!

time management

I am endlessly amazed by my own inability to maintain even the most basic of schedules. I take as my current excuse the fact that we switched calendaring software at work last week. But I"ve had this problem for much longer, so that doesn't really fly.
Showed up at practice and Nakayama-san was confused: "I thought you weren't coming. That's why I came early."
Then Tanaka-sensei showed up early: "Ren, what are you doing here?"
Finally I remembered that we had a meeting in the office to plan next year's schedule, so I changed back and headed over to the office. Attempted to set up the old printer and get the Yahoo! BB dsl modem hooked up as we figured out all the events for next year, including the seminars and whatnot in the US.
After the meeting we went to the cheap Chinese gyoza place and stuffed ourselves for less than twenty bucks a person.


More Amy babysitting. She absolutely loves Hiroko and fairly well tolerates me. Standard pattern: cry for five minutes, fall asleep on Hiroko, into the stroller, off to the park. Likes: swings and spring horsey. Dislikes: slides.


Met Kev and checked out Matrix: Revolutions. Not bad; not great but a decent close to a nice trilogy. Watching all three will soon achieve the cult status of watching the first 3 StarWars, or The Indy Jones trilogy, I predict.
We hung around the various book stores for a couple of hours and then watched The Last Samurai, which was actually quite good. A few "huh?" moments, like the ninja with their Hollywood ninja swords, but the sword fights were well done, and the movie didn't suck despite Cruise's best efforts to overact. Koyuki was a babe, and Ken Watanabe is The Bomb. He and Chiaki Kuriyama should take over Hollywood like Jet Li and Chow Yung Fat tried to do in the 90s.

i can't move my arms!

As expected, I woke up totally sore. Cutting practice was, needless to say, largely unimpressive. Could barely raise my arms and cut half rolls, let alone full rolls. Did a little cutting before giving up and helping some of the beginners.
In the afternoon Hiroko and I went to Chai for a much needed Thai massage, then walked down through Roppongi before heading home. Still sore, but feeling a bit better. Note to self: take it easy the day before cutting practice!

one hundred

Niina-gosoke has been thoroughly unimpressed with our fundamentals these past few weeks, so class started with one hundred cuts in a deep stance. Then more cuts. Then some more cuts. Then finally one hundred more cuts. THEN we did kata, and finally ended with the fundamental patterns.
Dinner after class we bitched and moaned about being sore tomorrow, but we need it.

rain is wet

Got Neeley into a cab on his way to Tokyo and after picking up some last supplies at Namikawa Heibei (note to self: stupendously cheap sword bags, oil, polishing stones, and other stuff) took Tony to Machida. He was staying at a different hotel then he usually stays in, and came by train not bus like he usually does so it was a minor adventure, but eventually he got settled.
Later in the evening, completely lacking in sleep, Iidabashi practice was mellow. Niina-gosoke was watching and commenting on the upper ranks as I ran the beginners through the fundamentals and a few kata. It wasn't raining when I sped the Mightier Steed to practice, but when class ended it was pouring. By the time I got home I was completely soaked, and I mean wet.


Managed to get up at a reasonable hour and motivate to Asakusa for some shopping. We ended up walking all over Asakusa checking out hakama and swords parts and antiques and junk. Dave finally found the obi he needed. We got to the tabi shop but they're closed on Wednesdays so I'll have to come back some other day to get Tony's tabi.

The cool restaurant we wanted to have lunch was also closed so we ended up going down the street to a nice mom & pop tonkatsu place for some more deep fried pork. We wandered a bit more, drank some amazake to warm up, and finally headed home to relax before practice.
We got to practice about 6:30 and Niina-gosoke immediately started running Dave and Tony through all twenty kata. I was furiously taking notes and interpreting for Gosoke and he plowed them non-stop through everything.
After practice we went over to the Niku-no-Hanamasa all-you-can-eat/drink place for two hours of feeding. We piled the tables with meat to grill and got pitchers of beer and had a good time. Otsuka-san was a riot, Tanaka-sensei turned red as the beer flowed, Hoshina-san was cute as always, and Niina-gosoke and Tony got along really well. We figured out the general schedule for next year and Niina-gosoke is really happy to have Tony running the US for us.


Hiroko took the day off, too, so after a hearty team breakfast of tomato-eggs, muffins, and kiwi fruits, we took the bus up to Shinbashi and walked to Ginza. Hiroko spotted a little antique shop that had some nice art swords, and then we made our way to the shop across the street from the Kabuki theatre to buy tabi and tenugui. Of course they didn't have anything that would fit Tony's feet, but they did have tenugui and other stuff with his mon (family crest) on it.
We then went down the street to Choshuya to check out the incredibly expensive high-end stuff we'd never buy.

We then got on the subway and went over to Suidobashi to hit a couple of budo shops to check supplies and then got a great deep-fried pork lunch before heading back home.
Tony and Dave were jet-lagged and sleep-deprived, so we took a little afternoon nap and then ate some burritos as we watched Brotherhood of the Wolf.
Later we headed out to Roppongi and met Kevin at Castillos. Ishida-chan had to go on a business trip and couldn't join us, so we headed over to Hobgoblin to throw darts and be mellow. Finally headed home about 1am for some much needed sleep.


I had forgotten about Chiba. I hadn't been out east of Tokyo, deep into the motherland of Chiba, for a long time. So I purposely took JR so that I could relive my old Chiba days. With my iPod filled and the train afternoon empty, I stood at the front and watched the conductor navigate us across the river and over to Chiba Station. Got off and switched trains, marvelling at how much the station had not changed, and I stared at the monorail waiting for the airport express.
Again an empty train and I smiled at myself knowingly as I counted off the stations approaching Narita. Made it to the airport in good time and met Tony quickly. We had to wait for Dave who was to arrive a couple of hours later, so we headed upstairs to Royal Host for a quick lunch.
Dave's plane was a bit early, meaning the Narita's one-runway system was all confused, forcing them to circle and taxi for an hour before finally getting a gate to pull into. He finally came out about 6:00pm, so we got bus tickets and headed to the ANA Hotel. James messed up his tickets and was still in China, Jim's luggage somehow ended up in Texas, but other than that the flights were uneventful.
We entertained the bus with our backseat antics and the evening traffic was lite so we got home by 8pm -- too late to go to practice so we settled in and got ready for dinner. Hiroko came back about 9pm and we had a big Sukiyaki fest. After deciding on tomorrow's schedule, Tony pulled out his bargain China DVDs and we put in 8 Mile before crashing.

babysitting amy

Todd and Narumi took a little break from parenting so Hiroko and I played with Amy for the afternoon. She cried for a bout five minutes, then promptly fell asleep on Hiroko, so they both sat on the couch for a bit. When they woke up she was feeling better so we put her in the stroller and went for a walkabout. First we went to National Azabu to do some grocery shopping, then we went through Arisugawa Park, watched the ducks for a bit, and came down through Moto Azabu to Azabu Jyuban.

We stopped off at Blue and White for some shopping and by then we were all hungry so we got some oden for lunch before heading back home to watch Sesame Street.
Later on Ericka and Kairi came over with Haruka, Todd and Narumi came by to pick up Amy, and Ericka's husband joined us and we had Thai spring rolls for dinner. Kairi was first really shy, but then immediately started bouncing off the couch and running around the apartment. Amy was trying to keep up with her, but was having a hard time getting over the door jam.
Hiroko has decided that we will watch Amy once a month as she now seems cool with us.


American dude came by practice speaking good Japanese and fired up to be swinging a blade again. Seems he lived in Nara for a while and is quite an enthusiast. Ran him through the fundamentals with the rest of the crew and realized we're gonna have to break him of his bad habits and get him focused on 'cutting iai.' Worked with the beginners on timing; getting the lead foot and the blade moving together so as not to leave one's self in close and open, and also lower body stability, using the hips, foot placement.
Niina-gosoke showed up and watched the last half hour of practice and then they went off for dinner and I scrambled home. Borrowed a LONG sword from Wakabayashi-kun through Kiyokawa-kun, and Kiyokawa will have his parents send up his other not-quite-as-long sword so that I'll have two blades to lend to Tony and Neeley next week. Keith and Joanna are coming in from Chicago, too, so if they can make it they'll come to practice on Wednesday next week as well. Should be a good time!

tokyo harmful

OK, this guy is just whack, and seems to do all the cool stuff in Tokyo. (lotsa NSFW)


Went all the way to Akihabara and was about to get into the elevator when the security guard reminded me that there's no practice today. Doh! I REALLY need to check the schedule before I go to practice. I've done this like ten times now. So the Mightier Steed (whose headlight, by-the-way, is having issues, forcing me to drive around with the bright on all the time) galloped back to Azabujyuban Station and I took the Oedo Line to Shinjuku practice. Sano-sensei had his hands full, so I jumped in and took the four beginners through the fundamentals like I always do: grip, feet, arms, extend. Was good to slow down and focus myself as well. Still not totally used to the blade I got from Niina-gosoke so I'm taking it easy and getting the feel of it. Last five minutes Sano-sensei gave me some pointers on shin; specifically keeping the draw one steady movement, no pausing just before the draw and cut, and cutting immediately after I ready the blade overhead. So my homework for now is: don't stop.

farewell, Hiroshima

Another brilliant breakfast and a final wander about the garden before heading back to Hiroshima for a bullet train home. We took some final photos of the antique furniture and random chairs, had a last post-morning bath espresso, and said goodbye to the koi in the pond. We also promised to come back, and soon.


A breakfast feast following a morning bath in the hot springs. How every day should begin. After recovering from breakfast they dropped us off at the ferry station and we shuttled over to Miyajima. This island has been a bastion of oysters and temples/shrines for centuries. The trademark is a giant Torii (temple gate) out in the bay. During high tide, boats would paddle through the gate to get to the main Itsukushi-jinja (a world heritage site.) During low tide you can walk out and around the gate and the temple itself.
The rest of the island is dotted with local shops, temples, shrines, and deer. There was a slight rain but it didn't detract from the joy of wandering around. The tourism wasn't oppresive like it is in most places, and the island is religiously anti-development, as it has been for hundreds of years. Only the very coastal edge on one side of the island is developed. The rest of the island is lush wilderness (home for the deer) and the occassional temple or shrine.
My favorite was the unfinished Senjokaku that Toyotomi Hideyoshi never got to finish building because of his untimely death. It is huge, dark, and stunning, especially considering how it was build without modern equipment. One floorboard is as big as I am, never mind the massive pillars and support beams.
Also of note are the momijimanju making machines. Momijimanju are the maple leaf shaped sweets that are a hallmark of Hiroshima. Every tourist shop has a cool machine that injects the batter into a mold, drops the filling, closes and bakes (flipping over for even cooking), then opens, pulling out the sweets with a mechanical arm and dropping them into a box. There is always:
1) An old woman at the end of the line stuffing the cakes into boxes and wrapping the boxes for sale.
2) An old man poking/prodding/tweaking the machine to keep the batter flow even, the filling bin full, and the gears greased.
We ferried back from the island and checked out a couple of local pottery shops before heading over to Sekitei's restaurant to wait for the ride back. They lead us to a back room which used to be a storehouse but has been turned into a cafe. Again the mark of Sekitei; antique furniture, exposed beam architecture, comfy couch, classical music on the Nakamichi.
Back to Sekitei and again they prepared the private bath for us. I nearly passed out sitting half in the steaming hot bath in the rain, but it was worth it.
Back in the room, another fabulous 10 course meal before a final onsen dip and blissful sleep.


Wow. Sekitei is the coolest ryokan ever!
We took the SuperFast Nozomi down to Hiroshima, ate some okonomiyaki, and jumped on a local to Onoura, got picked up by Sekitei, and transported to another world. In this world, we are served by kimono-clad attendants as we stroll through the garden, bathe in the hot springs, and dine on fine, multi-course meals.
They even offered us use of the private bath, which turned out to be it's own little building, at the end of a short stone path through bamboo trees. There's a shower and outdoor tub, a small room with a sink and rocking chair, classical music playing on the stereo. Upstairs the view of the ocean and mountains are unimpeded. The wet bar is stocked, travel and architecture books line the shelves, the apple juice chills on a bed of crushed ice.
Back in the room dinner is served. Course after course after course of stupendously artistic presentations. Most of the dishes themselves were antiques, too, hand laquered cherrywood bowls, glazed pottery centuries old.
Finall in a stupendous food coma, we waddle for a final soak in the onsen, enjoying the clash of cool mist and rain and hot water, before crashing out on the futon spread out over the heated (!) tatami floor.

competing theories

"The ends justify the means."
"Two wrongs don't make a right."
Sometimes, getting results is the only thing that matters. Sometimes. it's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.
Sometimes, I wonder if I am truly fit to participate in society. People claim to appreciate honesty, but not when it's about something negative, and damn if I am totally incapable of delivering bad news in a good way. I can't sugar-coat, and I'm terrible at playing the politics game.
Some people are simply rock stars, and can therefore get away with trashing the hotel room and throwing a fit when the brown m&m's haven't been removed from the bowl, because they're musical geniuses who entertain millions.
Some people are such raving assholes that no matter how brilliant their ideas idea none of them will ever come to fruition because everyone is alienated and secretly if not openly hoping for failure.
People are petty, and in groups people are downright scary. No one wants to hear bad things, but any addict will tell you that the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. So many people choose the path of least resistance; don't point out problems, compliment. And you'll be well on your way, seen as a positive-thinking team player.
In the mean time, the same problems come up (and get ignored) over and over again. The nail that sticks out gets hammered down, and society plugs along on its merry little way, over the edge into oblivion...or not. Somehow we've managed for a couple thousand years, so how bad can it be, really?
All I know is, I'll never be president, or a rock star, and I'm really good at being an asshole.
It's not complicated; I just treat others the way I treat myself. I don't dwell on my accomplishments, that's boring and there's no challenge in it. I push myself, I obsess over my mistakes and failures, I hate it when I do something wrong, and I dread doing it again when I should know better. I simply cannot understand how most people seem to live their lives just going through the motions. Do the job, take home the paycheck. No challenge, no drive to make things better, just plodding and ass-kissing. Every now and then a truly amazing person can get away with whatever, simply because he's undeniably The Man, but that's the exception not the rule.
So what to do: toe the party line, pucker up, stop caring so much, feel lucky to be even getting a regular paycheck. And worry about the stuff that really does matter: getting a new handle for my sword, learning the advanced forms, teaching my newest student, eating fabulous meals with Hiroko, ripping all my CDs into my iPod...

teach and learn

Haven't practiced in over a week, so I was eager to get to class today. Showed up before six and swept the floor like I usually do; gives me a chance to stop worrying about the printers at work and the traffic on the way over and just get relaxed and ready.
Kawamoto-chan showed up since there's no class tomorrow, and I took her and the other two newbies and ran them through the fundamentals for an hour before doing the kata munazukushi.
Gosoke showed up and we talked a little about BigTony and Neeley's trip next next week, and about the wonderful sword I bought from him (and still need to pay him for.) He also explained that the keito (lineage of Mugairyu head instructors) was a bit different than what he originally told me, as he'd double-checked with Nakagawa-gosoke's old books and did some more research. So I've got to translate the new lineage into English and send it out to everyone.
After the regular class I joined in the last hour as Tanaka-sensei took us through hashirigakari and then we had free practice for about ten minutes.
When we left at 9:45 it was raining and cold, so made my way carefully back home to catch the tail end of some dude on Channel Three demonstrating the short staff style he invented. Kono-sensei was his name and though he mentioned the original Shindomusoryu staff, his was way more flippy and show and, in my uneducated opinion, totally pointless against anyone with a sword and the intention to use it against him. But at least he looked cool.

quality from kevin

"I think we can all appreciate these nice t-shirts."


So I'm in the van. It's a rental, yellow, but kind of like a UPS or Kuroneko delivery truck. I'm with some friends (from high school, I think) and we're driving around a posh neighborhood, possibly Southern California. I'm on point, driving around the dirt roads that lead up into the hills where the really big estates are. We're looking for the hidden dinosaur park. Down one particularly promising road, we stop to recheck our strategy. I've parked on one side of the intersection, the other folks park on the other side. I get out to go meet them, realize I forgot the parking break, and jump back into the van as it starts rolling away. I step on the parking break, curb the wheels, and take the keys out, but by then everyone's come over to meet me and discuss our strategy. We press on up the road, passing some large estates with huge expanses of rolling green hills and dense trees, hidden dinosaur park possibilities abound.
The alarm clock rings, and I wake up.
I tell Hiroko about this dream and she comments "I guess you're looking for something?"
The question is, what?

daimyo gyoretsu

We got up early, checked out, and watched the Daimyo Gyoretsu parade pass by right in front of our ryokan.
Now thoroughly sick of the crowds, we headed back on the train and got back home in time to have some Doraichi Ramen before cruising up to Roppongi Hills to check out the cool architecture.
We grabbed some taiyaki on the way back and kicked it at home, goofing off as the rain stuttered along. Finally jorge headed back to the hotel to get some work done and Hiroko and I ate leftovers and went to bed early.