Our second day in Chiba was a special setup by Kohama Sensei. Inviting several of the retired members of the dojo, we met for lunch at a restaurant not too far from our hotel to celebrate Doyo Ushinohi. This "Eel Day" occurs every year in the middle of the summer, typically the hottest day of the year. The nutritional value of eel is believed to help one through the long hot days. The other side of the story involves a superstition where eating food that begins with "u", like umeboshi, udon, or unagi, will make you healthy on this ushi-no-hi, Day of the Ox. Considering what we've gone through so far, we could've used this much earlier =P
The meal was delicious! Sweet, succulent meat, barbequed to smoky, crispy perfection. The seasoning was flavourful without the heaviness and overly sweetness we get at typical sushi restaurants. We leisurely chowed down on a couple of boxes of unagi-don before heading to the sports centre for afternoon practice.
The drop-in fee was only 200 yen for four hours. A convenience we made full use of over the course of the afternoon, as we took turns shooting, resting, shooting some more, receiving instruction, and doing lots of yatori. ;) The climate inside the dojo was downright muggy. With an internal dial reaching 35.9 degrees Celcius, sweat was beading from all over, including on my forearms. Never experienced that before. On the bright side, the heat and humidity allowed our bodies to move with strength and flexibility that is uncommon in an air conditioned room.
Perhaps it was due to our inexperience with kinteki practice, as Kohama Sensei (as were the Okayama Sensei) focused on improving our shaho/shagi, while not mentioning anything about taihai. Unlike the Mitsui and Tamano Sensei, who gave us pointers on Yunde, Kohama Sensei noticed more errors with our Mete and put her attention there. A few pointers later, and we were getting much more consistent and relaxed draws and releases.
A little more than half way through the session, a table was brought out with drinks and refreshments including some egg rolls we brought from Hong Kong. Over the snacks, we got to know a few of the members including Matsumoto-san, an old highschool classmate of Reiko Blackwell-san (5 Dan) of the American Kyudo Renmei. Reiko-san recently visited Toronto with her husband, Aaron Blackwell Sensei (Kyoshi 6 Dan) for the 3rd Seikyu Kai - Toronto Kyudo Seminar. Her and Matsumoto-san had lost touch until a few years ago. Reiko told Matsumoto about how Kyudo has become such a big part of her life and recommended to find a dojo. What a coincidence that it would here!
The cold tea and sweet mochi and cookies really hit the spot, and it wasn't long before our attention was back on the training. A couple of questions lead Kohama Sensei to bring out her notebook to review some finer points of Walking, Kihontai, and Recovery from Shitsu. She demonstrated a few things then we went back for a few last shots.
The class was called to an end by the PA system and we helped close up the dojo before saying our goodbyes. It was another fun experience training with friendly members who are passionate about the art. We expect tomorrow to be a much stricter environment in Amano City with Kohama Sensei' teacher; winner of the 1999 All Japan Women's Division National Tournament, Watanabe Harumi, Kyoshi 7 Dan.