Friday, 30 November 2012

American Kyudo Seminar 2012: Pre-Seminar Activities

The American Kyudo (AKR) Seminar brings together students from the States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina for a week of intense training and instruction in the art of Japanese archery. Nestled in these grueling days is a tournament and grading... just to make things interesting. =P

While the opportunity learn from three Hanshi 8 Dan Sensei is hard to match, this annual event also gives participants an excuse to visit interesting cities stretching from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic. We had an amazing time at last year's seminar in Minnesota, and after nearly a month in Japan, were looking forward to reacquainting with our western friends and further bonding with our dojo mates.

This year's AKR Seminar was hosted in Davis, a small university city near central California, known for contributions in Agriculture and Life Sciences. Our two options for flying in were Sacramento or San Francisco, and chose the City by the Bay for the tourist attractions. So did we plan a vacation around the seminar, or a seminar around a vacation? Even now it's hard to tell ;)

My recollection of our time in California was split into three segments, and so will they be separated into posts:
1. American Kyudo Seminar 2012: Before - Touring Begins
2. American Kyudo Seminar 2012: During - The Dark Seminar  (yeah..I'm reaching)
3. American Kyudo Seminar 2012: After - Touring Rises
Participants from Toronto numbered over 20, continuing the trend of being one of the fastest growing Kyudo hubs in North America. With members challenging for Shodan, Nidan, and Yondan, and accompanied by the leaders of our national organization in Mori Motomasa (President, Vancouver) and Mie Takahashi Sensei (Vice-President, Toronto), we were prepared to make another strong showing this summer.

Our touring began on a sunny, but mild Saturday morning in San Francisco. Temperatures barely rose above 15 except when in direct sunlight; peaking at 18C around noon. Six of us, the pre-seminar tour group, met up at the hotel before grabbing some food and heading out to the Lands End, a park overlooking the entrance to the Golden Gate.
A 20 minute bus ride took us to the edge of the park, and as the fog lowered around us, so did the temperature. Luckily we packed our windbreakers/rainjackets and were able to keep warm by hiking at a brisk pace.

The afternoon went by very quickly as we enjoyed the sights, sounds, and smells of the ocean. Reaching the end of the trail by the Sutro Baths, we warmed up with some hot cocoa before heading back to the hotel to rest up for the next big day: Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.
Online travel tips warned us of how the weather could change at a moments notice, from sunny to foggy, and calm to windy. Even though we came prepared, it was still quite chilly - dropping below 10C for most of the middle journey. The walk across was well worth the discomfort as we marveled at the engineering it took to create a bridge this size. Peering over the edge, we could see several groups of dolphins swimming way down below among the yachts, sailboats and ferries.

It was almost mid-day by the time we reached the other side. The fog was still rolling over the hills, but the sun was strong enough cut a window through to the ground, warming us up in the process. After a quick rest stop, we proceeded to follow the several cars and bikes down to Sausalito. Artistic summer homes dotted the hillside, while boat houses lined the shores of this small port city. We enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the community, with the now clear skies and warm sun beating down on the boardwalk. After lunch, we took the ferry back south to the Ferry Building and were about to take the train to Fisherman's Wharf when we spotted what looked like a giant bow and arrow sticking out of the ground.
What a nice scenic background
Name these five stages of the Shaho Hassetsu
It wouldn't be much of a Kyudo trip, if we passed up an experience like this! Closer inspection revealed it to be a public sculpture called "Cupid's Span". We quickly took advantage of this photo-op before hopping on the train to Pier 39. Just as fast as the weather had improved at the other end of the bridge, so did it worsen again. The winds picked up and the sun was once again hidden behind clouds. Hastened by the chilling winds, we took a quick tour of Fisherman's Wharf with some candy shopping and a magic show fitted in for good measure. A sushi restaurant welcomed us with smells of fresh fish and rice, while a TV showing the closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic Games kept us entertained as we filled our bellies with sustenance.

We ended the evening with a ride on the world famous San Francisco Cable Car back to Union Square and our hotel. After a such an exciting day, it didn't take long before we were sound asleep, dreaming of the seminar to come.
The next day, we met up with the rest of our dojo group at the airport and took a chartered bus to Davis. The check-in and registration was a breeze, as the organizers from the Northern California Kyudo Federation (NCKF) had made sure everything was in order and fully planned out.

Mie Sensei was already in class, having arrived early to participate in the senior (4 Dan+) seminar. We took advantage of her absence by decorating her room as a surprise birthday celebration. Unfortunately, we were not there to see her reaction, but she seemed very pleased when we met up afterwards.
What a way to start this Kyudo week, and it would only get better from here!

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