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.