OK, OK, I have been a little slack on the blog front of latebut I have an excuseI live in Japan and we are all really busy!

Recently, my days are filled with kanji study, translating work, proof reading jobs and of course, all the kendo one kendo bum could ask for!

At the present moment, the Japanese kendo community are caught up in the whirl wind of Golden Week, as Kyoto in particular plays host to a number of shiai and demonstrations. Unfortunately for me though, I am not in the thick of the festivities this time around, as I chose to remain in sleepy Kumatori city to study, work and train with the others that decided to hang about.

Golden Week is a culmination of various national holidays in Japan, totalling 5 days off for most. As it falls relatively early in the school year, it acts as an opportunity for the 1st year students of the university kendo club to take off to their home towns and I assume, re-evaluate whether they made the right choice coming to Taidai uni after all!

Joking aside, for most of the newbies it is a long way from their home life in many ways, and as they left the campus with their bags packed, there was a definite look of excitement on their faces.

As I mentioned a blog or so back, we are now in shiai season. Accordingly, every training has a strong focus on performance based selections, with strategic placement of regular team members against the other eager-to-please kendo students. And without wanting to give anything away, the up and coming Taidai lads and lasses (not already in the team) are most certainly a force to be reckoned with, causing unexpected upsets that only shiai could produce uh, Ive already said too much!

Last weekend I had the privilege of watching an Osaka region, students competition held at Kansai University. This was an individuals shiai and Taidai entered many of their best in both the girls and the boys divisions.
With interesting kiais and different styles as far as the eye could see, (Kansai Uni. has a massive facility!), the Taidai students cut up the competition left to right, top to bottom, and tsuki to kote.
The finals of the girls division featured one Taidai student (placing second), and the finalists of the boys division both coming fromyou guessed it(insert proud club mate-smiley face here!)

Special treatment is certainly not a given in this patch however. For instance, the winner of the aforementioned competition hit the snooze button one too many times, and was consequently 10 minutes late for todays morning training

Now, this is a situation that nobody likes to be in. And I can assure you that the students here most certainly dont want to be late, if not for the words hanging on the dojo wall reading:

if you are late, the kakarigeiko will be harsh.

No doubt this was going through his head on the dash up the 130 steps to the dojo!

He knew what he had to do, and was the first to bow in with the sempai to get his fatal beating for being tardyits possible that he is still going actually!

I wonder if he will have to shave his head like the last guy?

Oh the joys of doing kendo!

The next competition I can report on was held in Osaka last week, and was an All Japan prefectural championship. What made this shiai unique was that each member of the 7 man team represented his prefecture as the top fighter in his age group. For example, the sempo (the first fighter) of each team was a top level high school student, followed by a rep from university level, then company employees, police etc.
Again, there was a student from Taidai entered as a representative for his home prefecture in the university student position. No results to speak of this time around, but this gives you an indication of the overall level of my new club mates.

Personally, my training is getting back on track nicely. I am participating, for better or worse, in the full 2.5/3 hours and there is no hiding in the lines for me!
I am never left waiting during jigeiko, with a consistent queue of girls (I would like to say situation normal, but I would be lying), and just as many of the lads wanting to prove their skills and take me down.
Rest assured coach, I am icing and stretching whenever I can!

In other news...after morning training today, I decided to get in early and shoot down to the supermarket to pick up some supplies for the week ahead to cook to perfection in my new rice cooker. Boy oh boy, do I love my new rice cooker!
Upon arrival at 9am-ish, I found that I had an hour to kill before the shop opened, so I headed down to a local park to eat my sammies.
While I sat on the bench and enjoyed my breakfast, I watched an old man cutting the little grass that was spread around the giant kitty litter boxerrpark using nothing but a miniature sickle, no bigger than 20cm long! I had to admire his commitment, as conditions like that in my time as a council employee back in NZ, would have been grounds for a stop work meeting!
Meanwhile, why does that other old man think it is appropriate to urinate through the fence of the park at 9:15am?

Lastly, two more things that confuse me about Japan:
1) Bosozoku Japans answer to boy racers, except with motor-cycles/scooters. Seriously guys, 2am is not a great time for you to be revving your engine and yelling through a speaker-phone to each other, right outside my house. In fact, no time is good for that.
2) People sitting in their cars for an hour and then driving off Nobody gets in or out. They just sit there, and then drive away. Is this a stake out? Im paranoid now!