karate in Sakai; old farmhouses in Osaka

Last night I had the pleasure of training at Senpai Kuwa's Kansai Seido Karate dojo in Sakai City. I am very grateful for the warm reception I received.

I can even now say that I've taught karate in Japan (bringing coal to Newcastle and selling iceboxes to Inuit are next on my list), as Kuwa Senpai handed me the reins for the second class. A few language difficulties, but Kuwa Senpai's English is excellent and he was able to translate for me. (It is interesting though that for some things I've learned a different Japanese term...like, instead of "kiai-do!" as the instruction to do the next techniques with kiai, the famous martial arts shout, they used some te-form verb I didn't quite catch, "kiai-mumble-te kudasai" - probably more polite and grammatically correct.) Senpai and his family were kind enough to take me out for dinner afterward, and even scour the menu for something vegetarian for me. Much fun and I look forward to next week's keiko. (Though today, returning to training after a few weeks off, I can definitely feel it! But it's a "good pain".)

Today, slept in after staying up late trying to deal with an internet outage at home (complicated by not being there plus being about 13 hours ahead timewise). Beautiful day and I knew I had to do something outside, so I went to the Open Air Museum of Old Farmhouses, in Ryokuchi-koen.

Friends, this is a must-see if you're ever in Osaka. Ryokuchi park is lovely to start with, but one area is a museum of a dozen old Edo period farmhouses, moved across country and lovingly reconstructed. Also on display are tools, furniture, and the like.

You can go to Himeji-jo or the old palace in Kyoto and see how the rulers lived; but come down here to see how the people lived. Thanks to the efforts of a new volunteer from Australia, Luke Hoyne, they have a great new English-language brochure to guide you. (They had a small one on my last visit, but this new one is just fantastic. Thank you Mr. Hoyne!)

In one of the houses, in front of an exhibit of farm implements and the like, is a very interesting sign, the English version reading, "Don't touch these [folk] goods. (These are valuable presents from our ancestor[s].)" Of course, I can't tell if the "valuable presents" bit is present in the Nihongo version, but it's an interesting sentiment - one that gets right back to this notion of "connection" as a key to understanding the religious impulse.

There's nothing that can connect us - or leave us feeling disconnected - quite like family. Japan and Shinto were heavily influenced by Confucianism, and it's notion of the central role of family in human relationships.

Confucius was primarily a social philosopher; the core of his teachings lays out the ways he thought we should relate to each other as family members and as members of a society. Of course it's subject to abuse, the hierarchy of elders and of rulers: but, on the other hand, it can be valuable to have social expectations spelled out. It's been very valuable to me in decades of karate training - don't know what to do? Follow your senpai.

I think this emphasis on the family, and relationships in general, in Japanese society is why people keep asking me if I'm married, if I have kids, about my parents and brother. (Reminds me I need to go back and review my Nihongo vocabulary re: family, right now I can't remember otooto versus okasan...)

I saw an anti-drunk driving notice in an English-language version of a local community newsletter the other day. It warned that not only could you hurt someone else, and their family, but that your own family would suffer if you went out and drove while intoxicated. (Yep, that's true, let me tell you...)

As I left the museum, apparently some company or group was preparing to have a get together, dinner or something, in one of the houses. Tremendously cool.

Anyway, after the farmhouse museum, came down here to Shinsaibashi to do a little clothes shopping - there's a bit of a fashion in men's hats that I rather like (I used to have hats like this, just slightly wider brims, back in the 80s...the narrow brims seem snappy, sort of, I dunno, Sinatra-esque somehow), also bought a vest at a secondhand shop (for under 500 yen, about four dollars, why not?) Grabbed a little food at Slices, now for a beer or two at Mojo Bar, where I've gotten creamed in a few games of Connect Four with the owner's girlfriend.

Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy, so I'll likely stick close to home, work the day job and study Nihongo a bit, maybe go out in the evening. If the weather clears up may be I'll bring my guitar down this way and try to find a good busking spot.

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