Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Asia Trip 2012: Ohara - Iaido lineage & French bread!

FRI 13-JUL & SAT 14-JUL: Our time in Tamano City ended all too quickly, we had barely gotten to know the great people there, but the journey must continue. Our next stop would be Ohara, birthplace of the legendary Miyamoto Musashi and becoming quite the ghost town if not for the tourism and state-of-the-art budokan. We were met at the station by Trevor Jones-Sensei (Iaido Renshi 7 Dan) who, once again, offered to host our short stay.  With less than an hour before he had to go to work, we made a brief stop at Haruna-Sensei's house to pay our respects.  His wife was expecting our visit, and greeted us warmly at the door. 

It was Hanna's first time visiting the house of our Iaido Sensei' Sensei, but even with this memory, the architecture was no less impressive. The finishing of the beautiful front foyer/dojo has been maintained as if brand new, and the tatami rooms that lead to Haruna Sensei' shrine would've put the best ryokan to shame. Following Trevor's example, we performed a shinto ceremony to the shrine, then retired to the living room to admire the wall of trophies and to chat for a bit. There aren't as many visitors these days, as Haruna Sensei' students have moved on to other dojos. It is primarily foreigners who still wish to honour their lineage that stop by a couple of times a year. Trevor says she appreciates that the few of us still remember him this way, and we're sure Ohmi Sensei will feel good about hearing this.

That night, we had a very satisfying Ramen and Gyoza dinner before returning to Trevor's house. We chatted about various interests with conversations often returning to our shared involvement in the Iaido community. It is always great to hear about the past and how each of us that do Iaido in the Western world are connected by only a few degrees of separation.  Fellow Mu Mon Kai student, Michael H, has participated in recent BKA Iaido seminars and has nothing but praise for the organization and the people. We must not forget that the Canadian Iaido history is closely linked to that of the UK and while we've lost connections, it is my hope of re-establishing the communication to help each other grow to the level of the Japanese. 

The next day, Trevor brought us to a hidden French Bakery/Bed & Breakfast less than 10 minutes from his house. It was only a chance meeting at the bank that lead to this amazing discovery. Apparently, he was having a little trouble translating a phrase when a Japanese women, Hiromi, speaking near-perfect English came to his assistance. After a brief chat, it turned out that she lived with her husband and two kids, Hugo and Leo, in the adjacent city of Nishiwarakura. The family had moved back to Japan only two years ago from London, where her husband Olivier was a trained French baker and Yoga instructor. There they set up a local business next to the home, named it after the kids, and Olivier spends time baking twice a week, and teaching English, French, and Yoga in the nearby cities.

It was an amazing feeling, stepping in to this small bit of France in the middle of a village in Okayama. We ended up staying a lot longer than expected, having a great time chatting with the family about how they ended up here and what our plans were for this trip.  The discussion somehow lead to them asking if we knew a certain individual from Quebec that had visited their shop recently. Of course, in our minds we were thinking:

"If you asked if we knew someone in Toronto, it is still highly unlikely we'll know them, let alone another province"

but we humoured the question as they continued:

"Yeah, he was apprenticing under a Japanese swordsmith..."

.... what? ....really!?

That could only be one person!

Pierre Nadeau, who, along with his Sensei was invited to the JCCC in Toronto several years ago to do a demonstration on swordsmithing.  Lo and Behold!

What a small world! ^_^

When our plans were set to come to Ohara, we would have never expected such a turn of events, and this has immediately become one of the highlights of this trip. With the day moving on, we signed the guestbook and hope them good business in the future as we moved onto the Musashi Tourism area of Ohara.

Our first stop was at the Musashi Budokan, a marvel of architecture, with the roof shaped like a helmet from the side, and the Musashi Tsuba from the top. We wandered the emtpy halls, looking into the large auditorium and smaller sub-dojos imagining what it would be like to have such a facility back in Toronto. One can only dream....

As we passed by one of the sub-dojos used by the local Kendo club, we came across an interesting motto from the Musashi Budokan Kendo Club. Interestingly it reminded us of a key point in Kyudo, and is a great indication of how all the Japanese Martial Arts are related by culture and history. 

Our next stop was the Musashi Dojo, the original training spot for Iaido and Kendo in Ohara, and also the home dojo of Haruna Sensei. The building hasn't changed since our visit almost 5 years ago when our journey in Iaido had only recently began. A quick search into a closet revealed an Oar/Suburito prop used in re-enactments of the Musashi vs Sasaki Koijiro fight. We had a little fun with it as Trevor described the excitement and fun the locals put into the show. While the dojo remains empty most of the time, we are happy to hear that it still gets the occasional use, as a non-Kendo Federation Iaido group from Osaka had booked some training there in a couple of hours.

These two days were quite refreshing as we prepared ourselves for the hectic environment of Japan capital.  It's hard to believe that we're only halfway through this Asia Trip. We've already accomplished so much, now we must work even harder. So long, Okayama. Bring it, Tokyo!

Huge thanks to Trevor Jones Sensei for giving us a place to stay, taking us around town, and generally being great company!

1 comment:

  1. Great writeup, Patrick. Sounds like you're all having a ball over there. I'm envious.