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Nikko(日光) Trip :Things not to miss in Japan

BY Tomoe Gozen

I really liked visiting Nikko Toshogu(日光東照宮). It has so many decorations of animals like monkeys, elephant, cats, horses, Kirin, Dragons…and so on!

Sleeping Cat

Three wise Mokeys

Dragon on the ceiling

Now I see how these places have perhaps influenced the way Hatsumi Sensei decorates the Bujinkan Honbu dojo and even how my husband, Paul, decorates the Kasumian Study Center.

They both really like using animals in the Dojo and offices. I honestly thought that Paul was putting too many animal statues and things at our study center. But I found out that each animal has a symbolic meaning or important mythological role.

I truly enjoyed listening to the stories about each animal. I grew up in Shiga/Kyoto or Koga region, famous for Ninja. You can find many Ninja related spots in my hometown. The temples in this area and Kyoto seem more simple and less decorated than Nikko Toshogun.

“Wabi Sabi” is the word for a more simple and austere Japanese aesthetic. And it is this Wabi Sabi that I am more accustomed to in the Kyoto, or Koga area.

This was my first trip to Nikko and it was very interesting to see the differences between Kyoto’s temples and Nikko which is 17th century’s architecture.

Thank you to Stephan from Germany and Ricky from the USA for joining me on this lovely day trip. If you have not visited Nikko, I highly recommend it. It is an easy day trip from Noda city and it’s beautiful temples and inspiring forest paths with towering sacred trees will certainly refresh you and nourish your spirit! I will definitely visit again.

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Otakaraya Antique store in Yokohama

Otakaraya Antique store in Yokohama posted by Tomoe

Paul and I like to look around antique stores to find  good  old Japanese stuff. It is a truely joy to decorate our Kasumi An Study Center with old Japanese antiques. We have a few favorite antique stores, but we think this place is the best.

They sell western cups and arts on 1st floor. But upstairs they sell really ancient swords, scrolls, and other antiques. Every time we go there, we talk with the guy at shop(I forgot his name).  He gives very useful information about the swords and other antiques. We like this shop not only because their selection is so good, but also because he is such a nice guy.  His knowledge is deep and wide .He has more than 300 katana in his personal collection and he told us he must clean a few swords every day one by one just for maintenance!  Chatting with him is so much fun. Unfortunately he does not speak much English, if you can understand a little bit of Japanese, you will enjoy this shop very much!

map

http://antique.otakaraya.net/en/

Here is the photos from this store.

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Human Bonsai!

bonsai1Over the last twenty three years here in Japan, I often have the pleasure and honor to translate for my teacher Masaaki Hatsumi Soke. Often a student has a question that he would like to ask. It is a always a delight to be able to help facilitate communication between teacher and student. So many questions and so many unexpected answers! One episode comes to mind.

A student asks, “Why are some people friendly to your face but then are hurtful and mean behind your back?”.

Sensei replies nonchalantly, “that is just how people are made.”. As I translate, I can see the look of confusion cross the students` faces. I too am at a bit of a loss. So the question is asked again and once again the answer is the same,”that is just how people are made.”.  Then Sensei looks up into space and asks me, “Paul, have you ever seen a bonsai?”. (small miniature Japanese art trees)I nod my head “yes”. In fact, I had just taken some friends to a bonsai garden the day before so I was a bit surprised by the sudden question about bonsai. He continues, “it is like a bonsai, people are made. You can make a person any way. But it is not natural. You would not go to a forest and find a bonsai. It is not a natural state. But you can twist a bonsai into any shape you want. People are the same.”

How true! Just the prior day I was remarking on the branches of the bonsai. Each branch wrapped with wire and forced to go this way or that way. Every branch! bonsai3Each branch wrapped in wire and forced to take a seemingly natural posture or kamae. And how unnatural it really is. We, too, as humans, each being wrapped in the culture, politics, education, religions and beliefs of those around us and society. Some people wrapped as capitalists, some marxists, some Christians, some Muslim. But all are being bound by the conditioning of the environment and society. Then what you think are your own thoughts can betray you.  In a tragic conclusion, we often we take a kamae or stance for or against another wrapped up in a different shape. Both unaware of the wires that trap them in this position.

Unwrapping these wires and constraints is an important step in the practice of Ninjustu. A true ninja will become free and his tree will grow strong and pure into a natural state in accordance with the natural state of his existence. A Ninja is able to explore his true essence in infinite space. That is why in the Go Jou or Five Precepts as taught by my teacher, a constant diligence and watchfulness to your true path is essential. First become aware of where you are now. What shape are you now? When your shape become visible, start unwrapping!

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Kan Nin Dokuso (part one)

kanninpot

Artist: Paul Masse 2007. Inscription: 天上天下唯我独

“In the all the heavens and earth, only I am exalted!”

Kan Nin Dock Son is a phrase you may hear around the Bujinkan dojo this year. Is it the theme for the year? Maybe, maybe not. Who knows?! But whether it is a theme or not is really not important, it should give you something to ponder and explore this year in addition to your continued practice of the physical movement and techniques. Kan Nin 貫忍, steadfast and single-minded perseverance all the way. Doku Son 独尊、to be revered or exalted. It most likely refers to a story of the Buddha. The story is, when he was born, the Buddha took seven steps and pointed one finger up and one finger down and exclaimed, “In the all the heavens and earth, only I am exalted!”.  What is this elusive I? Some think of it as me, my name, age ect. But you would lose some of the poetry. Who are you when your name, age, social status are stripped away. Going deeper, who are you when the body is stripped away and the mind faded and gone, and even your conscience vanishes like smoke after a fire?Maybe you have heard the Gokui (inner teachings) Persevere the body, Persevere the heart, and Persevere the conscience.

Your body had plopped out of this earth and it will dissolve back into the earth. No matter how good they wrap you like a mummy! But what of a natural energy? A power of nature that drives the seasons, sings thru a myriad of creatures? This power that keeps the clouds drifting and the water flowing, and an infinite number of stars alight? This natural power, the natural power of life is what we must become aware. When you have persevered thru all, this power will shine. Hatsumi Sensei once said to me, “it is like in the movies, when someone opens a treasure box, and their face is lit up by the golden light of the treasure.”. I really like this image. This is the treasure of Nin or Ninpo, 忍宝。 Kan Nin will help to uncover it. Be like Indiana Jones and go treasure hunting. The treasure is so near! When you uncover it, you won’t need to be and air bender or water bender or fire bender. You will know that you have been bending them all the time!

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人心看破術 Jin Shin Kan Pa Jutsu

dragonfly

Visitor at the Kasumian.  Even though the dragonfly has two big eyes, They won`t help him with Jin Shin Kan Pa Jutsu.  Which eyes do you see with?

The other day I was in the dojo training when a friend who has not been in Japan came in and greeted me. His boyish good looks still evident but under a layer of new chubbiness. (Hopefully due to a good life overseas) My initial thought was “Wow, he`s gained some weight!”. Of course, as learned etiquette demands, I did not mention it and we began training. About five minutes later Hatsumi Sensei comes walking over and greets him with a hearty “Hello! Good to see you” and “Oh I see you have gotten fat!”. Well I almost fell over and the three of us burst out laughing. As I was catching my breath I hear my friend say to Sensei, “Yes it`s true, I have gained weight and my hair is changing to gray. I wasn`t sure that you would recognize me.”. Sensei replied, “of course I know you!”. What he said next was very interesting. He pulled us together and speaks, ” I may forget a face, and I may forget a name but I never forget the mood or feeling of person. This is important, to understand someone`s mood or the feel of that person.”.

Instantly, I am thrown back in time to last October (2015), Halloween, I had dressed as Harry Potter and came to the dojo early to joke around with my friends. After having a nice laugh with everyone in the dojo and before Sensei arrived, I changed into my dogi but kept the wig and wire rim glasses on; thinking I might fool Sensei. Some Japanese say all foreigners look alike anyways! A few minutes pass and Sensei enters the dojo and barely glances at me as he walks by. Immediately I know he knows. For he would have certainly greeted a new comer more warmly. I ask “Sensei, how did you you know it was me?”. He looks back over his shoulder at me and says “Of course, I know it`s you. I don’t look at the outside, I look at the inside of everyone.”.

A few days later, I am thinking about these two events when again I am thrown back in time to about ten years ago when Sensei used to tell us the importance of the art of Jin Shin Kan Pa Jutsu. The art of reading, seeing, sensing the heart, intent, feel of a person. To know a person instantly, know his intent, his heart, clear or dark. The importance of not being fooled by outwardly appearances. If you are always taken with the outwardly shapes, forms, colors of the people and things around you will often miss their truth, their intent, their nature – good or bad. This can lead a multitude of troubles, from being swindled in love and money, to more perilous, dangerous or even life threatening situations. The ninja often used the opposite of this, henso jutsu (disquise) to hide in plain sight. Often in our training, we enjoy the practice of the more outwardly and sometimes fun henso jutsu practice but forget about the this equally important inner ability. With consistent practice to nurture a calm clear heart, the art will naturally and surely take root. The ninja must endeavor to master both the inner and outer arts to ensure a safe and a happy return.

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