Visiting Japan brings with it the pleasure of seeing old and new friends again, some indulgence in my favourite hobby of aikido (a kind of energy minimisation problem in a martial context) and the very serious business of sports and sports engineering. Last month was my most recent trip which might be of mild intrest.
A few weeks ago I found myself on a plane and Japan bound again, I think this is the seventh visit, last year was for an international aikido camp I help organise but mostly it's a mix of business and pleasure, this time I was accompanied by centre protege Dr Jim Lee. This was Jim's first trip to Japan, and while eating fish (including raw fish) isn't high on his priorities he assured me that its 'not a problem' , well I hope not because the visit is a precursor to his 1 year Japan Society for the Promotion of Science fellowship which is due to begin in December. Anyways we board the Osaka bound Jetstar flight, again somehow its nearly empty (my last trip was during Japan's Golden week) which means economy is about as comfortable as economy can be. Unfortunately we forgot to book meals and they had run out by the time the cart gets to us, likely story! as we are in the third row of the plane! No blanket either (thats an extra $5 too), fortunately the seat belt is included in the price of a ticket and with no entertainment we at least have our presentations to work on. They have to be good because its a Japan conference so visuals can really help our non existent Japanese!
Thus we make it in pretty good order to the Kansai headquarters of Aikido Yuishinkai and who should I find intruding on my idea of being the only westerner in a Japanese martial arts dojo but Lisa and Mark of Balina/Byron dojos. I first met Mark in the UK 10yrs ago during a stint in the finance industry, and we continue a fine tradition of bumping into each other as we can around the world. The ensuing class was excellent and sensei was obliging in working through some of the advanced mathematics of stability, centre of mass and optimum toppling moment, colloquially known in the aikido community as aiki-age and aiki-sage.
After practice we adjourn to a local noodle house for some Japanese English conversation that becomes progressively more animated and sensei shares a little of his insights into inyo, a concept that has only recently hit my radar following discussion on aikiweb.com, reading Amdur's book 'Hidden in Plain Sight' and a Kareteka / Shintaido practitioner that visited our dojo recently.
Eventually we decide to brave the rain and head down in a slightly different direction, pretty soon we hit some sign posts that have nothing recognisable on them (not that uncommon in Japan for ignorant gaijin) and proceed, using our our aforementioned poor sense of direction. The road gives way to vehicle path gives way to vehicle track to a path, gives way to a goat track that leads us down something pretty steep halfway up a ravine and judging by the cobwebs its not used that much. About now I'm thinking of the stories in the news about tourists that get lost in our local bush around Brisbane, without protective clothing, map, food etc… and with daylight fading we realise that yep thats pretty much us and if we are not careful we'll end up in a cemetery. Funny that, because thats exactly where we end up just 10minutes later. Wiggling our way further downhill we run into a few Japanese tourists, Jim practices his skills and there is lots of giggling, buts thats Jim and language is not barrier there and we make out way back to our hotel.
pic of the inside )
The conference was a great way to catch up with research colleagues in Japan that I have got to know over the years through collaborator and pal Yuji Ohgi and more from several universities around Japan and a few companies as well, including ARS. I was mistaken for David Rowlands at once point, I guess us westerners all look the same ;) Most nights we are whisked off for dinner with another of Yuji's colleagues, into the back streets to feast on something that is famous for something from a particular region, though at times we aren't sure what it is we are eating, and sometimes we discover its better not to ask.
Apart from that the dinner conversation is quite dignified *cough* with a colleague sharing a little of his work as a famous sportswear designer. His work builds 'supportive wear' for females of all ages shapes and sizes, which piques the interest of most people carrying the XY chromosome at the table as he describes the challenges of the occupation and the importance of very thorough testing. There is some excited talk of collaborative work in the future, though for those of us that are married it looks like a high risk venture.
Later on we journeyed Tokyo way to Keio Universities Shonan Fujisawa campus, where we were invited to give a lecture to the students and have a good look around. Jim was particularly interested in the facilities as this is where he will be based for the coming year looking at prosthetic legs for running athletes and a bit of swimming on the side.
All too soon it was time to say goodbye and jumping on the train to Narita and heading home on the night flight.
First up is the confrontation with my underfed addiction to sugar and fat, which a familiar multinational fast food is eager to satisfy....do i feel conned ?
Again the plane is 1/2 empty, and through the wisdom of computerised seating systems we are all jammed in to the back half of the plane. Newly invigorated with a love of sports, once the plane is at altitude I make the 30 yard dash for the spare seats up front and manage to get a reasonable nights sleep.
 Budo bums in Japan, see Trip and Seminar Reports
 I find a compass essential because in the northern hemisphere my sense of direction is the opposite (but not opposite enough that i trust it) and emerging from the rabbit warren of japanese subways and confronted with Neon signs its hard to find something that tells you which way you need to go
 Tozando is a somewhat well known martial arts store that does mail orders overseas, it's kinda the Ralph Lauren of uniforms and equipment. www.shogoin.com is Haruko-san's shop
 recent conferences include Tokyo APCST, Kanazawa, Tsukuba, Akita, Fukuoka (which sadly I missed) and now Kyoto