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The New York Seibukanīs
Japan Trip Travelogue

by Bill Kinkel & Bill Williams

Monday, October 19, 1998

Fink Sensei and his students arrived in Okinawa and were met by Master Angi Uezu and his son, Tsuyoshi Uechi Sensei, and several of their students at the airport. We were all anxious to see Uezu Sensei as well as to see Uechi Sensei again. He had recently visited our dojo for several days. On arriving in the airport terminal it reminded us of family welcoming Fink Sensei home. Fink Sensei and Uezu Sensei are old friends. Uezu Sensei arranged for Fink Sensei and his students to stay in a wonderful hotel outside of Camp Courtney Marine Corps Base. After dropping us off at the hotel to "freshen up", we all joined Uezu Sensei and Uechi Sensei for a late dinner at a "Soba House."

 

Tuesday, October 20, 1998

We all met for breakfast in the Hotel's dining room. Several of us enjoyed a traditional Japanese breakfast, while others took the "safe way out" and had a western breakfast. Uezu Sensei and Uechi Sensei offered to take us sightseeing the entire day. We gladly accepted. Fink Sensei and Uezu Sensei kept telling us how unusually cool it was. We thought the weather was wonderful! We first visited Uezu Sensei's Dojo, which is on the second floor of his home. While we went upstairs to look at the dojo, Fink Sensei visited with Master Shimabuku Tatsuo's wife. She is currently living with Uezu Sensei. Fink Sensei had not seen her in a few years.

After a tour of Uezu Sensei's Dojo he took us to a beautiful resort on the coast. The ocean was absolutely breathtaking. It was exciting to imagine that this was one of the places where the Okinawans battled the Samurai hundreds of years ago. Our next stop was the Nago Museum, which was rich in Okinawan culture. It was interesting to see how Karate, especially Kobujutsu, is so much a part of the Okinawan culture.

Next was the Orion Brewery, where we forced ourselves to sample some of the product. The Water Expo Park with native Okinawan Village displays was our next stop before lunch in Nago. We arrived back at the hotel after a full day of sightseeing in time to train with Uezu Sensei at his Camp Courtney Dojo. After class we had dinner on the base with his students and then returned to our Hotel. We were absolutely exhausted... but not too tired to party in Fink Sensei's room for several hours before getting some much-needed rest.

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Wednesday, October 21, 1998

During breakfast, we recapped the previous day and all the terrific things we had seen. We were so appreciative that Uezu Sensei and Uechi Sensei spent the entire day showing us around Okinawa. There was an odd feeling in the air; it was heat and humidity. Man, what a difference in the weather! The first thing Uezu Sensei and Fink Sensei said to us was, "THIS is Okinawan weather!" It was hard to imagine Soke (Master Tatsuo Shimabuku) and his students training outside in that heat.

After breakfast Uezu Sensei took us to visit Master Shimabuku's grave to pay our respects. He showed us where Soke's two previous dojo in Agena were located on our way to our next stop. Uezu Sensei lived next door to these dojo and showed us where his home was. He also showed us the site where Soke had the vision of Mizu Gami, the symbol of Isshin-ryu. These were places many of us had been waiting years to see.

Near Soke's grave are the Southeast Botanical Gardens, which were beautiful and serene. We spent time walking around there before departing for the Ryukyu Village for some lunch, followed by a Snake and Mongoose show, (Mongoose-1, Snake-0). In the Ryukyu Village Uezu Sensei also took us to see traditional Okinawan dancing. The costumes were beautiful! The dancers had excellent posture and balance, and it was fascinating to see how many of the dance moves resembled traditional Okinawan Kata.

After another full day of sightseeing we went back to the hotel, grabbed our dogi's, and headed for training at Uechi Sensei's Dojo. After class we went out to dinner with Uezu Sensei, Uechi Sensei and their students. It was a long day filled with wonderful sights. We all deserved and needed a rest, so we headed back to the Hotel. We planned on turning in early until... you guessed it, party in Fink Sensei's room!

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Thursday, October 22, 1998

Again we recapped the previous day's events over breakfast. Some of the "diehards" actually caved in and tried, and enjoyed the Japanese breakfast. After breakfast Uezu Sensei took us all to the impressive Shurijo Castle. We had lunch at the castle and then visited the rain forest and caves in Habu Park. It was in some of these caves that karate was secretly practiced hundreds of years ago during the time that Okinawa was occupied by Japan and the Okinawans were forbidden to practice the martial arts.

Our last stop was the Okinawa Prefecture Museum. On the way home, Uezu Sensei took us to visit several dojo, one of which was Nakahoda Sensei's Dojo. That evening we went out for a Chinese dinner before wrapping up the day. On the way back to the Hotel we vowed we would get some rest. Well, anyway, after the party in Fink Sensei's room we all got some rest.

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Friday, October 23, 1998

After breakfast Uezu Sensei took us in separate groups (since we were so many) to visit Hamahiga and Miyagi Islands. After the first group visited Miyagi Island while the rest waited in Uezu Sensei's Dojo, we all met for lunch. While the second group was visiting Hamahiga Island and the beach and enjoying beautiful views of the Okinawan countryside and surrounding waters, the first group went back to Uezu Sensei's Dojo where we trained and reviewed bunkai. Uezu Sensei took us back to the Hotel for a rest before the evening class at Uechi Sensei's Dojo. After training we went out to a Sushi dinner with Uezu Sensei, Uechi Sensei, and his wife. We then briefly walked around Park Avenue in Okinawa City, formally named BC Street when it was Koza City, before returning to the Hotel and Fink Sensei's room for our evening party.

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Saturday, October 24,1998

  We met for our usual breakfast and spent a quiet morning doing laundry. We were all a little sad that this was our last day on Okinawa. Uezu Sensei and Uechi Sensei had been wonderful to us. Uezu Sensei spent an average of twelve hours a day personally showing us around Okinawa. We were all so appreciative! In the afternoon, Uezu Sensei took us on an invigorating climb up to the ruins of a castle, which were located in a wooded area of a park. Conveniently, the local bullfights were also in that same park, so we spent the afternoon at this popular local event. In between fights there were students demonstrating Isshin-ryu Kata. That evening we went to the Agena Festival, where there was a huge Bonsai exhibition and Karate and Kobudo demonstrations, one of which was Isshin-ryu. We had a great time before returning to Fink Sensei's room for our final Okinawan party. We have never laughed so hard in our lives!

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Sunday, October 25, 1998

 Uezu Sensei, Uechi Sensei, and several of their students picked us up after breakfast and took us to the airport. It was time to pack away our Karate gis and ready ourselves for our next experience. At the airport Nakahoda Sensei, a calligrapher, presented Fink Sensei with a beautiful gift he made (This gift is now proudly displayed in our dojo.) The hospitality that was shown to us was, to say the least, wonderful. Who could imagine seeing all of Okinawa in such a short time? (We all look forward to visiting Okinawa again and visiting the friends we made.)  We all said our good byes and then boarded our plane to Fukuoka City, the home of the Seikiryukan, Hombu Dojo of Sosuishi-ryu JuJutsu.

Upon arriving in Fukuoka, we were joined by two more New York Seibukan students, Brett Diamond and Richie Citron, as well as Fink Sensei's student from Oregon/Washington, Randy Cantonwine. Shitama Manzo Sensei, the 16th Inheritor of Sosuishi-ryu met us at the airport with several members of the Seikiryukan Dojo. It was wonderful to see Shitama Sensei again (he visited our dojo in 1995)! Fink Sensei and Shitama Sensei refer to each other as brothers, and it was obvious why by the reception we received.

We arrived at the Seikiryukan Dojo, which is over 100 years old, and got ourselves settled in. Shitama Sensei's son, Shusaku helped the other Seikiryukan members distribute nametags they had prepared for us, which had our names written in Japanese. Shitama Sensei's mother welcomed her "American son" as she called him. Fink Sensei joined Shitama Sensei and his mother above the dojo in her apartment to pay his respects to Shitama Sensei's father, Shusaku (Shuzu), the 15th inheritor of Sosuishi-ryu JuJutsu, at the family shrine.

After a quick snack, we searched our luggage for our dogis and changed for class. Joining us for the class were Takaki Masanori Sensei, Fukugawa Ryuki Sensei, Nagawa Ikuo Sensei, Tanaka Takeshi Sensei, Uemura Kazuyoshi Sensei, Komori Hisao Sensei, Kido Yutaka Sensei, Hosono Hironobu Sensei, Kubo Haruyoshi, Kodama Kazuyuki, Mizusaki Hideki, Ginno Yasuro, Seri Yoshihiro, Hirata Kumi, Masayoshi Sakaguchi, and others (please forgive us if we forgot anyone). We practiced with Shitama Sensei and the members of the Seikiryukan from 3pm to 5pm. The tatami mat was packed with students both Japanese and American! After class we set up tables for what was a huge welcoming party for Fink Sensei and us. Several of the student's mothers and/or wives came to the dojo and prepared food for the party. As a matter of fact, many of these women spent a lot of time cooking for us during our stay in Fukuoka. We would like to thank them all (again please forgive us if we forgot anyone) - Nakagami Yoshiko, Seto Satsuki, Uchida Yumiko, Ikeguchi Tomoko, and especially Nagawa Mieko. It appeared that the food was endless! Shitama Sensei and Fink Sensei introduced us all to each other. We spent the rest of the evening laughing, singing songs, eating and drinking. Shitama Sensei insisted that several students stay in the dojo with him for the week. He also made arrangements for two groups to stay in the homes of two Seikiryukan members, Kumi Nishimura, and her sisters Yuri and Maki, and Kazuyoshi Uemura and his family.

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Monday, October 26, 1998

We all met up at the Seikiryukan in the morning after breakfast.  Chizuru Nishino, aunt to Kumi, and two of Chizuru's friends from her English class, Yoshie and Tomiko offered to take us sightseeing.  They took us by train to visit the Daizafu Tenmangu Shrine. We spent some time walking around the shrine, did some souvenir shopping, and enjoyed lunch with our escorts at a restaurant, which specialized in tofu dishes.

Later in the afternoon we spent some time with Shitama Sensei in the Seikiryukan, after which we practiced with the children in their Judo class.  Again our hosts prepared an enormous dinner for us before the scheduled adult class with the students of the Seikiryukan. We were all very impressed by the waza (technique) and kokoro (heart) of the Seikiryukan students. After class, while those of us staying with families headed for home, the rest of us "partied" in the Seikiryukan with Shitama Sensei.

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Tuesday, October 27, 1998

 At 10 am Shitama Sensei conducted a class reviewing the Koshi no Mawari. Koshi no Mawari, (literally, around the hips), are the Iai Jutsu kata of Sosuishi-ryu. In attendance in the class with Shitama and Fink Sensei were Joseph DeLuca, Bill Wiliams, Bob Freitag, and Bill Kinkel. We went over all the kata and reviewed technique and bunkai, while the rest of the group either watched or headed outside for sightseeing and/or shopping. After class we walked around Fukuoka and relaxed in the Seikiryukan with Shitama Sensei and his mother. We again ate dinner in the Seikuryukan, and then we trained from 7 to 9pm. Shitama Sensei had scheduled additional classes for our visit, and the Seikiryukan members were in attendance.

Inoue Sensei, a long time friend and fellow Aikidoka of Fink Sensei, and his students, Fujio and Duane Person of New Zealand, all of whom had visited the New York Seibukan, came to visit. (guess they heard about the parties afterward). While many of us partied at the Seikiryukan after class, some of us spent time with our host families before turning in for some much needed rest.

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Wednesday, October 28 1998

Shitama Sensei scheduled a 6AM class (OUCH)! Later in the morning, Shitama Sensei took us to meet the Vice-Governor of Fukuoka Prefecture, Kyotada Ota. After meeting and exchanging gifts with the Vice-Governor and doing a little sightseeing, we were treated to lunch at a Chinese restaurant and then escorted to the Ankokuzan Shofukuji Temple, a Za Zen Buddhist Temple. At the temple we received the privilege of an invitation to participate in a meditation ceremony. As we went along, the Zen priests explained to us the purpose and procedures of Zen meditation. They were also kind enough to SHOW us the tradition of atoning for your sins by receiving a couple of "whacks" with a stick. Why weren't we told about getting hit with that stick beforehand? Randy and Brett even asked for seconds. Guys...what were you thinking...Hello???

Later that afternoon, we were taken to meet the First Deputy Mayor of Fukuoka City, Katsuya Iguchi. It was quite an honor to be allowed to visit both the Mayor's and the Governor's office. We were treated as dignitaries because we were Seikiryukan members, as well as Fink Sensei's students. The mayor recalled that during the occupation after the war, the Martial Arts were forbidden to be practiced. The Seikiryukan with Shitama Shuzu, 15th headmaster of Sosuishi-ryu, however, continued to teach classes. That evening several Seikiryukan members and Shitama Sensei treated us to a "Viking Dinner" at a local hotel.

Now that we were all stuffed, we returned to the Seikiryukan and again practiced with the children's class, as well as the scheduled adult class that immediately followed. After class we were all almost too tired to party, I said almost...., Takagi Sensei took a group out to his favorite Karaoke bar, while Shitama Sensei  took the rest of the group out to another bar before returning back to the Seikiryukan.

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Thursday, October 29, 1998

We broke up into separate groups in the morning. Takagi Sensei took one group to a Buddhist Temple and a Hot Spring. Chizuru, our new friend and "tour guide/translator", and her daughter, Sachie, took a group to the Fukuoka tower and then to the beach, while Shitama Sensei took the remaining group to the Fukuoka Tower, two local museums, and out to lunch. Later that evening, several of us were invited to Takagi Sensei's Dojo to participate in his children's Judo class, while the others attended class at the Seikiryukan with Shitama Sensei.  There were approximately 30 children in Takagi Sensei's class !! Takagi Sensei is the president of the Fukuoka Prefecture Judo Association and a long-time friend of Fink Sensei. His students were very strong and equally polite.

After the classes, we had two separate parties, one with Takagi Sensei and several of his students' parents at a local restaurant, and another with Shitama Sensei at the Seikiryukan. Takagi Sensei hosted Fink Sensei and a few others to sleep in his home that evening.

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Friday, October 30, 1998

Early this morning, Chizuru took a few of us to watch practice at a Sumo Dojo, while the others "slept in." Some of us went to lunch at a wonderful steak house and later went to the Seikiryukan to spend the remainder of the day "taking it easy." Others spent the afternoon lunching, sightseeing, and walking on the beach with Mrs. Uemura. Shitama Sensei's mother showed us how to tie a woman's kimono, which several of us had purchased as souvenirs. The only problem was that Izzy was the model, and we have the pictures to prove it!! We again attended the children's class that evening. Over the course of the week, we had a lot of fun training with the children in their Judo class and were able to learn from them as well as help to teach them. After another tremendous dinner provided by our hosts, we participated in the adult class, which followed.  As usual, the tatami area was full, and stayed just as crowded for the party that followed. 

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Saturday, October 31, 1998

Shitama Sensei again conducted a special morning class to review the Koshi No Mawari. All the other students joined us afterward to practice the Kumi Uchi Kata. Sunao Fujii of the Tokyo Sosuishi-ryu Dojo joined us in practice. We got cleaned up after class for our farewell party, which took place at the restaurant of one of the Seikiryukan members. We spent the evening laughing, singing, eating wonderful foods, and drinking plenty of beer and sake.

 After leaving the restaurant we went back to the Seikiryukan where the party continued. Even some of the employees from the restaurant joined us at the dojo. WHAT A PARTY!!! The singing was hilarious! The party went on almost all night! The Seikiryukan members train hard and party just as hard! It was our last night in Fukuoka; we would all miss our new friends. They are a wonderful group.

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Sunday, November 1, 1998

We met at the Seikiryukan before Shitama Sensei and the Seikiryukan members took us to the Fukuoka station to catch the bullet train to Kyoto. On our arrival at the dojo, Shitama Sensei had set up a small table in front of the Joseki, where he sat and awarded the following promotions, much to our surprise: Bill Williams to Sanmokuroku, Robert Freitag to Sanmokuroku, Bill Kinkel to Sanmokuroku, Randy Cantonwine to Nimokuroku, and Cheryl Accardi to Nimokuroku. 

Before leaving for the train station we were invited upstairs to say goodbye to Shitama Sensei's mother. At Hakata station, we exchanged gifts with the Seikiryukan members before boarding the train bound for our next destination in Kyoto. Inoue Sensei met us at the station to see us off and even took an unscheduled ride with us for one stop. It was difficult to say goodbye to all our new friends. We look forward to seeing them again.

For years Fink Sensei has told us about the Seikiryukan and it's members. He always said that we should be proud to belong to this Koryu and how it is like belonging to a family. We thought we understood this fully, until we visited ourselves. We now realize what he was talking about. He has always stressed that the students had very strong waza, but more importantly they are true Budoka, the Seikiryukan members display more importantly, good hearts, (kokoro). He has urged us for several years to join him on one of his visits to experience this for ourselves. We are sorry we hadn't gone with him sooner. It was one of the best experiences of our lives. We are looking forward to visiting the Seikiryukan again next year.

In Kyoto Shitama Sensei's sister Teruko and her husband Koji met us. They helped us to our hotel and then took the group sightseeing at the Kyoto Imperial Palace and the Kenkakusi Temple. Fink Sensei's long time friend, Shoji, (Shitama Sensei's older brother) met us and we went out to dinner before returning back to Fink Sensei's room at the hotel for another party, before getting some much needed rest.

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Monday, November 2, 1998

We boarded the Shinkansen for Tokyo, where Ogawa Atsushige Sensei met us. Ogawa Sensei is an old friend and fellow Aikido student of Fink Sensei's. Ogawa Sensei has visited and trained in New York, and it was very nice to see him again. Ogawa Sensei made hotel arrangements for us and even stayed with us in the hotel. We spent the afternoon walking and shopping in Tokyo. Later in the day Ogawa Sensei hosted a welcome party for all of us. Joining his students and us were Yoshihiko Usuki, Sunao Fujii and other members of the Tokyo Sosuishi-ryu Dojo as well as Aikido-ka Yoichi Nakagawa who traveled to Tokyo from Fujisawa City for the party. He had just visited us in New York last month. A special thanks to Nakagawa-san for the wonderful tee shirts that he silk-screened for us. Later we all went to a Karaoke bar before returning to the hotel and the party in Fink Sensei's room, joined by Ogawa Sensei.

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Tuesday, November 3, 1998

After breakfast at the hotel (for those who weren't too exhausted to make it to breakfast) we attended a Koryu demonstration that is held annually on "Culture Day" at the Mejii Shrine. The demonstrations were interesting to watch. Especially impressive was the Yabusame, (Archery on horseback). Later that afternoon we attended class in Ogawa Sensei's Aikido Dojo. Shima Masaki Sensei of Tomiki Aikido and a master of Shinkage-Ryu Iai-jutsu joined us. Ogawa Sensei's students demonstrated Aikido waza, and the New York Seibukan students demonstrated Okinawan Isshin-ryu Kobudo, and the Sosuishi-ryu JuJutsu Koshi no Mawari. Fink Sensei lectured the class in goshin-waza (self-defense techniques) and proper Maai, (combatative distance) when performing waza. After class we attended our final farewell dinner with Ogawa Sensei and his students before attending our final farewell party in Fink Sensei's room, again joined by Ogawa Sensei.

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Wednesday, November 4, 1998

Ogawa Sensei took us to Narita Airport, where we enjoyed breakfast before departing for home. It had been a wonderful trip for us all. Because of Fink Sensei's special relationships with so many people in Japan and his dedication to the martial arts, which encouraged him to maintain these relationships for three decades, we had the privilege of enjoying not a vacation, but a "life experience." We were often treated as dignitaries, but most of all as family. This is as it should be in a true Koryu, as well as Isshin-Ryu Karate-Do, (one heart way). It was great to see our families at the airport; however, it was nice to know we left family behind to visit with again in Japan. For many of us this was one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives. We cannot wait to return.

 

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