IMG_0475.JPG, originally uploaded by renfield.

Took a quick flight down to Yamaguchi Prefecture, and then a long taxi ride through the mountains to get to the Japan Sea coast side.
Checked into Tomoe in the early evening and hit the hot springs before the multi-coursed feast that was dinner.
Tomoe is fairly new ryokan, built to look like a series of kura (wherehouses). Each room has a beautiful garden view, and the whole place is a tasteful blend of traditional and modern.

crab & riverfish sushi @haneda

crab & riverfish sushi @haneda, originally uploaded by renfield.

happy nano birthday hiroko!

happy nano birthday hiroko!, originally uploaded by renfield.

open wide

Getting chilly, drizzly for days...Autumn. The best season for training; not humid, not hot. Only a couple people at class and Niina-gosoke watching over, so I got to focus on my own thing for a couple hours.
Expanding more on my left elbow theory, especially since Niina-gosoke explicitly taught one of the newer guys that in order to generate that Umph! for the draw and cut, you need to use not just the right arm going out, but the left elbow/shoulder going back as well. So I think I'm on the right track. The way I imagine it, the left hand holds the saya and kind of aims the koiguchi at the enemy right where you want to land the start of the cut. The left elbow/shoulder pulls back just as the sword rockets forward in as straight a trajectory as possible. This is tricky due to the curve of the blade and the tendency of the arms to move in an arc (as the radius of a circle whose center is the shoulder.) Too much snap and it's a jerky movement, not enough explosion and it's slow and ineffective. And of course moving the upper body independently of the hips just gets you all twisted up and doesn't deliver enough power. Too tiring to use all arms, too, without the hips.
As with everything, timing and acceleration (logarithmic seems to be good) are more important than muscular strength. The strongest cut in the world is no good if it's a centimeter short or a second late (or early.)

jessica mae stover

jessica mae stover, originally uploaded by renfield.

JSto is totally a big, famous Hollywood star. And she totally likes me. And by totally I mean as in this much. Check out the personalized message:

Dear Ren,
Thank you for your undying fandomness. As long as you stay in Tokyo, you're cool. However, my lawyer requires that I remind you that it is against CA state law for you to come within 50ft of me, my place of residence, or my car. (True story.)
And on the little note she wrote "Thanks for your help and support. When I take over the world, you shall not be forgotten."
I am totally the Snape to her Voldemort.

Oh yeah and she has really cute, bubbly, girly handwriting; she dots her i's with hearts and smileys and draws unicorns instead of exclamation marks. But she will totally kick your ass if you cross her. And she has a posse.

ryuken tsuba

ryuken tsuba, originally uploaded by renfield.

I headed over to Yamazaki-sensei's tsuba shop Ryuken. Wow. I believe he's the only tsuba maker alive who can make what he makes. His tsuba look like they were made 200 years ago. To the point that I've seen his tsuba on sale for three times the price, dated early 1700s.

japan saq

From Newman: Seldom Asked Questions about Japan. A wealth of useless knowledge.