In Japanese, tomeru/tomaru "to stop" is (less commonly) written as "". However, if we add sanzui ("three waters") to the left, it becomes tameru/tamaru "tamaru" "to collect, gather, store up". (the -eru forms are generally transitive verbs, the -aru forms intransitive.)
The difference is crucial; both tomeru and tameru imply the absence of movement. Stopping, however, is the end of action. It may be immediately followed by a new action, but the flow is lost. There are two thoughts, to movements. No matter how quickly in succession they are performed, they are not one, but two, and that disconnect, even if only a fraction of a fraction of a second, is an opening to be exploited.
The water radical on the side of tameru implies flow, continuation. A river of course is flowing. But even a still lake, with a calm glass surface, stores up the water that flows in from tributaries and ground springs. Even if there is no particular movement at the moment it is observed, it is in a state of preparedness. Like a frozen stream, it has not stopped flowing, it's just pausing, to freeze and thaw, before continuing on.
A more modern analogy: run the battery in your cellphone down until it stops working. That's dead. Now plug in your cellphone, recharging the battery whilst using it. Hang up. Now make another call. The battery drains, charges, drains and charges.
This is hard to explain, especially in Japanese, where the word hayai means both fast (as in speed) and early (as in time), but it is important in making a distinction between merely moving quickly and repeatedly, and moving at the right time. If it is not yet time, you do not tomeru, you tameru. No matter how quickly you move, if you move too early, the enemy merely waits and counters. If you move too late, well your speed doesn't matter; you're already ready.
Just like the famous quote "The slow blade penetrates the shield", a well-timed strike is more effective than the fastest cut at the wrong moment.
In practice, there is no suki, no opening, in atomic movements, nor in the time between atomic movements when there is tame; storing, building, energizing, waiting. A single atomic movement from the moment the hand moves to draw to when the sword has completed its cut. And then...tame, patiently, sword pointed at the another instant the sword is readied overhead and then strike quickly immediately or...tame; pressure, closing, tempting, holding, until the enemy moves to fight or flee and then strike, react in an instant no difference between his movement and yours, no opening in time or space no difference between movement and stillness and movement again.

sybilla obi

Hiroko had a couple of kimono obi custom made, using cloth from sybilla:
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sword o' elvis

sword o' elvis, originally uploaded by renfield.

'Nuff said.

jesus was a jew party

Conan and Millie (and various other adults) came over for the traditional too-much-food at the Kuroda house. There was much eating and drinking and general silliness, though somehow we ended up with more wine than we started.
More photos from the Ishiharas.

Spiral glazed ham. One word: MAGICAL!

kimonose kawahagi

kimonose kawahagi, originally uploaded by renfield.


I have a brother:

(the goggles are for his own protection.)
He has a blog, on which he writes. very. infrequently.
I have heard that the first child get's all the mom's calcium. So I think he has better teeth than I.
Other than that, I am infinitely the superior blogger.


Literally "forget the year party", the tradition of the end-of-the-year bonenkai is a celebration of all the stuff you want to leave behind you as you look forward to a new year. Then again it seems like all the silliness you want to forget about is what you end up doing at the bonenkai itself.
After practice I hooked up with the SCT posse in shinbashi and closed out the evening walking home from Roppongi at 1:30am. At least this time I wasn't assaulted by Russian Women of the Evening. Instead I had a lovely conversation with a girl dubiously named Ichigo (strawberry) who was a dumb as she was cute, but her tips were pre-paid by the generousity of my coworkers and therefore she was perfectly content to talk about the benefits of a buzz cut, being able to speak the language as a foreigner in a strange land, and why pachinko never took off in the USA.

reach? lean?

Today we worked on distance, specifically closing the distance between the Other Guy. The basic idea is go-no-sen: move second. First see what he does, and once he's committed to attacking in a certain, respond. He goes high, you go low, etc. The key is move decisively, quickly, and close. The other key is to wait long enough for his attack to be committed, but not so long that you get hit. Move to early and he'll simply adjust his distance and hit you were you're going, not where you are.
All of the kata assume many things, most of them totally 'unrealistic'. Then again kata were never intended to be actual mini-recreations of possible real-life encounters. They make assumptions and promises in order to define parameters within which you can learn something; some technique, a theory of response, the eye to see and judge distance, timing. Most of the kata start with the assumption that you are getting attacked where you are. Therefore, you have to wait until the other guy has actually attacked you, where you are, before you can evade and counter. And obviously, you have to evade before you can counter.
We worked in pairs with wood, trying to understand how a millimeter difference means evading or getting hit, understanding speed and reaction time, checking distance. I am a big believer in working with someone else in order to really feel what it's like to evade and deflect, to focus counters on target, and to verify distance. Ultimately though if you cannot imagine the enemy, see him standing there in space, and hit him consistently, then you are his mercy, because you are only capable of reacting, and therefore he is in control. Ultimately, we strive to overcome such control, by the enemy, by the environment and situation. Ultimately, we are simply part of it, neither controlled nor in control, neither action nor reaction; simply there.
But that's far away, and right now it's hard enough to keep from getting bonked on the head.

big lunch bad

Wasn't necessarily that busy, but didn't end up having lunch until 2pm. By then of course I was really, really hungry, and ate way too much. By 7pm I was still feeling really full, and kind of over-salted, too. Not the best condition to hit the dojo, but I went anyway.
After the first half-hour, I went to the back and sat down with my water bottle, where I remained for the remainder of class. Moral of the story: listen to your stomach.


Went to the quarterly antique faire at Heiwajima but didn't really find anything too exciting. There was this one kind of cool small box, seemed quite old and the dude selling it was telling me it was 300-400 years old. I pulled all the drawers out of it and on the bottom of one of them was written "Meiji 20" which is 1888. The dude was surprised; he'd never looked at the bottom of the drawers. Then I flipped the whole thing over and on the bottom was the date and the maker's name. He offered me a discount but it was in such crappy shape it wasn't even worth thirty bucks.
After the antique fair we defrosted the crab we sent to ourselves from Hokkaido and had hand-roll sushi.
Oh yeah, and damn it got cold this weekend! What's up with that? Oh right, winter, eh.

genghis kahn in shinbashi

genghis kahn in shinbashi, originally uploaded by renfield.

Ah, the joy that is grilled lamb. Went to Shinbashi to check out an authentic Genghis Kahn BBQ. Not quite as good as Hokkaido, but damn fine. Excellent meat, plenty of stinky smokiness, and real charcoal.

driving in tsukiji

driving in tsukiji, originally uploaded by renfield.

Anyone know what these things are called? They're all over Tsukiji. And I think they're deisel.


tsukiji, originally uploaded by renfield.

Got up not too early and headed down to the Tsukiji Fish Market to buy...t-shirts.

lucky mama

lucky mama, originally uploaded by renfield.

Hungry after practice so I got off the bus early and walked down to Lucky. Mama was there with a bunch of her friends, and they were all welll on their way to drunkedness, so I joined their table and stuffed myself silly. I am not just a regular, I am somewhat of a legend ever since I translated their menu into English, so everyone there already knew all about me. Kind of spooky, but the Taiwanese garlic noodles were great, so no complaints.


Japanese Sushi: The Documentary.
Brilliant. The dudes who made this are a comedy team call Ramenz. They are brilliant.

danger:do not upset kiev girls

danger:do not upset kiev girls, originally uploaded by renfield.

See the pained expression on my face? I was physically and psychologically violated by a woman from Kiev in a Sketchy Place on a side street in the bowels that are Roppongi.
There are two possible reaons why she abused me in Russian and slobbered a big glitterly lipstick stain on the collar of my favorite blue shirt:
1) She really, really liked me and took offense when she discoverd that I was married and the feeling was not mutual.
2) She was upset that she wouldn't be making a few last extra yen before 4am closing because I turned down her offer to show me her various body piercings in the privacy of the back room.

Moral of the story: if you must go to a Sketchy Place, bring someone who speaks Russian. Or even better skip the Sketchy Place and go straight for the late-night/early morning ramen. Even if the waitress abuses me, at least I get to eat.


karaoke, originally uploaded by renfield.

KY and OK doing the Pink Lady medley at Voice.

simon's finger

simon's finger, originally uploaded by renfield.

During dinner at Daidaiya, Simon demonstrated his dexterity.

keys found

As expected, left at the dojo. Seems I put my stuff away, locked my locker, and left the keys sticking out of the lock.


Please let me have forgotten my keys at the dojo. The alternative is that I lost them.
There is a very good reason why, ever since I have had my own keys, that I have kept them on a long chain attached to my person. Why did I take them off the chain to open my locker at Honbu Dojo? One of the great mysteries...


garlic!, originally uploaded by renfield.


IMG_1360.JPG, originally uploaded by renfield.

Jeremy in town for a couple days, so we did that wander-about-tokyo thing, checked out Oriental Bazaar and got a deal on some antique kimono for me and hiroko, and of course had the traditional Nathan's hotdog lunch.
Finished off with bevvies at Tokyo American Club -- thanks Jeremy!

@ yoshida's

@ yoshida's, originally uploaded by renfield.

Roadster and The Other Balding White Guy at Yoshida House.

Headed southwest from Shimokitazawa to celebrate at Them Yoshida's place. Saw their killer honeymoon photos taken in Taiwan. Seems the cool thing to do in Taiwan these days is to spend a couple hundred bucks and get an all-day photo shoot, resulting in a heavily photo-shopped and very cool photo album. Also ate massively delicious food, as all of Yoshida's friends from Orange Page can cook something serious!

xmas party

xmas party, originally uploaded by renfield.

KY and The Fish gettin' jiggy wid it.

Scrambled to the dojo and back in time to make the company X-Mas party. Much food, much more wine and bevvies, enough silliness to go around. About 11 we headed to the seedy pit that is Roppongi, packed 200 people into a bar the size of a small couch, wandered down the street to the The Place Downstairs From The Really Sketchy Place, and I managed to get home before 3am. The rest of the crew...?

sword (and mutton) sunday

Met Buenavista early and cruised up to Honbu Dojo for some early morning training. Weather was cold and my shoulder felt stiff so I took it easy.
In the afternoon we headed up to Akihabara for the beginner's seminar. Good turnout with about 30 people. Always fun to teach the beginners; the lack of any preconceived notions means they're not burdened down with what they think they know and therefore they pick things up really quickly. It was a long session but at the very end when I forced several people to test for kyu promotion we were all tired but satisfied. Or at least I was!
Headed back to Honbu and ran through the last part of my 6dan test. Still can't do the kata maegoshi well, and Gosoke chewed me out for that. Then everyone present got to choose one of the forty hyakusokuden (old Japanese poetry) to test me on. Gosoke would say either the first half, and I would have to complete the verse, or he'd say the second half and I would have to provide the opening line. I just barely passed, getting eight of ten correct. The last two I couldn't remember a couple of words, and both of them were when he provided the ending line and I had to remember the opening. That, combined with the stress of sitting in the middle of the floor with everyone watching, and my mind basically blanked.
But anyway even though I couldn't do the most basic of techniques and forgot all kinds of stuff, Gosoke passed me more out of pity than anything else.
Now I can really begin training, finally!

Came home and hiroko and I attempted to recreate the joy that was Genghis Kahn. She bought a rentan

which is different than a shichirin:

Shichirin is wider and shallower and uses charcoal, whereas a rentan is for special charcoal called, well, rentan:

We got the genghis 'helmet' plate:

and used the meat we bought and shipped from Hokkaido.
Unfortunately, the rentan is kind of deep, so the coals were too far away from the plate, but it all worked out in the end. It was cold on the balcony, but we persevered and had some fine eats.
Of course, by the time were done, the coals were a perfect white hot.
So for next time: put a grill or something in the bottom of the rentan to lift the coals up closer to the plate and to allow more airflow, start the coals early and let them burn for an hour until they're all white hot, and don't go outside until it's time to eat, because it's cold!
rentan bbq genghis kahn bbq

kimono date

Went to zazen practice in the afternoon, and then hiroko and I went on a kimono date to Ginza.
It was bit cold, so we bundled up. Tried the ginzamusubi style of obi tying:
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And yes it is supposed to look kinda...droopy. hiroko was looking stylish as always, especially with her grandma's handmade silk coat.
First we headed to Mitsukoshi Department Store for the Okinawa Special Sale so that hiroko could buy her stinky tofu. We checked out all the local goods, including dragon fruit juice and mango juice
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and they even had a demonstration of traditional weaving:
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Afterwards we went over to Toyoda and had a fine feast. Hashimoto-san hooked us up the quality eats, and hiroko had some hirezake: warm sake with grilled pufferfish fin in it. Most of the alcohol is burnt off when pouring:
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All photos.

mita station

mita station, originally uploaded by renfield.

grandpa's grave stone

grandpa's grave stone, originally uploaded by renfield.

Grandpa Jerry's grave stone was unveiled last night. Papa took this photo for me. Seems nice enough; not really sure how one is supposed to comment one one's dead grandfather's grave stone unveiling.
Not really thrilled about the big blank space on the left just sort of awaiting grandma's impending death. Nice that at some point in the future they'll be together...but I'd prefer it to be far, FAR in the future.

Hakodate, Hokkaido

Took an express train for several hours down to the southern end of the little bit of Hokkaido that sticks out on the bottom near Aomori. Hakodate is a wee fishing village with some interesting history in that it was a major port and has some of the first foreign buildings like the British Embassy Office and various churches. Again lots of cool late 19th and early 20th century architecture, a cool blend of Western, Japanese, and both.
Also rode about on the trolley, ate some killer seafood, and saw stunningly significant historical landmarks.

sapporo, hokkaido

Took the train from Otaru to Sapporo, grabbed some ramen for lunch, walked a couple blocks downtown and checked into the lovely Okura Hotel. Spending just one night in Sapporo, so we only had two missions:
1) Eat "Ghengis Khan"
2) See the holidy illuminations
Mission Accomplished!
Ah, the taste of fresh lamb cooked over real charcoal in a smoke-filled closet!
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Ooh the glitter of lights and holiday cheer!
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otaru, hokkaido day two

After a massive breakfast we shuttled down to the train and rode a couple stops to Otaru City proper. First we bussed down to the former villa of the Aoyama family, barons of herring fishing from the turn of the century. Lucky for me I am unable to read the Japanese signs that say "No photography", so I took lots of photos.
Herring fishing was obviously good for the Aoyama clan, because they spent a fortune on this house and the details are stunning, from the ceiling beams made of a single piece of timber (no more trees long enough to make such a thing anymore) to the staircase made of rare wood and put together without nails, the sinks carved out of a single block of marble, and the family heirlooms formerly owned by the Shogun.
We bussed back into town and wandered around the historical section, full of old brick warehouses and glass shops. There are also many brick buildings built at the turn of the century, including the old Bank of Japan branch and former post office.
Getting hungry we stumbled through the backstreets until we found Naruto, Otaru's famous fried chicken.

otaru, hokkaido day one

Landed in New Chitose Airport near Sapporo and hopped on the express train up to Otaru, a wee hot spring resort kind of town on the north/western side of the little southern bit of Hokkaido that sticks out below the big mass of Hokkaido to the north.
Van picked us up and took us to Kuramure. Wow. Awesome blend of modern/traditional Japanese architecture that Hiroko and I do so love. The building looks like a collection of old warehouses, and each room is it's own building; a full suite with bedroom, main room, second room, and a stone bath with hotspring water. There is also a main indoor and outdoor bath for men and for women, awesome common areas including a cool lounge, library with all kinds of old books, and a tea room. Meals were taken in the dining room, in our own private room. The food was, of course, stupendous.
Oh yeah, and ALL drinks, anywhere in the place, at any time, are included in the bill. Too bad Hiroko and I don't drink professionally, but she got to taste some lovely sake and I discovered that sweet white wine gives me a thumping headache and an allergic reaction after the forth glass.

pre-flight boot polish

pre-flight boot polish, originally uploaded by renfield.

kuroda family

kuroda family, originally uploaded by renfield.


KSchan, originally uploaded by renfield.