Japan: Ancient Traditions (Part 1)

Japan:  From Ancient Traditions To Blue Note Club Franchises 

By Paul Yanuziello

(Part 2 Japan) (Part 3 Nobeoka) (Part 4 Kyoto) (Part 5 Osaka)

I started martial arts in the late 1980’s. I had recently retired as a professional musician, a drummer. I required a channel for all that excess energy. For many years I had been able to vent all my frustrations on an innocent drum set. I owned a heavy duty Gretsch drum set with Rogers memory lock hardware. That meant I could hit the drums as hard as I wanted, the drums and hardware could take it.

As I became serious about martial arts I also started to study the history and the fascinating culture of Japan. I was studying the typical Japanese karate (a style referred to as Shotokan) as well as the more esoteric Koryu or classical martial arts of Japan, Eishin Ryu Iai- do (sword) and Shinto Muso- Ryu Jodo (short staff).

Japan Flight

Flash forward fifteen years and we are off to Japan for a martial arts keiko (training) and an international tournament. I was accompanied by my wife Nina and eighteen other martial artists from the organization I belonged to at the time, Seibukan Canada. We had with us a cache of weapons that made me obviously nervous due to recent aviation disasters (9/11). 

Arriving at Pearson International Airport just before 6:00 A.M, we are the first of our group to check-in. The Air Canada check-in, goes smoothly until the counter staff  asks me, “What’s in the riffle case?” I have prepared for this, nervously I tell them that it is sporting equipment. She asks, “What kind?” I respond, “The martial art variety.” Seeming to get a little impatient she says once again, “What kind, as in, like guns?” “No, swords, knives, sticks that kind of thing,” I respond. She fills out a form and has me sign it. This is some kind of waiver for insurance purposes. So far so good, we head for customs. Other members of our group are arriving and we greet them warmly. Time to line up at the ticket counter, joining an ever-growing long line of folks flying to Japan.

We clear the security checks and enter into the boarding area with another two hours to lounge around prior to boarding. At 9:00 A.M we finally board our plane and we are off, to Vancouver! Another five hours, a couple of movies, and an Air Canada lunch. With the heightened security concerns, lunch is served with metal spoons and little plastic forks. I laugh at the irony, nineteen martial artists on a flight — with plastic forks and metal spoons, yes this is a secure flight. The announcement comes that we will be touching down momentarily.

A beautiful sight greets me. The majestic mountains and a landscape that I promise to explore at some point in the near future. At this point, we have to change planes and there is a delay of approximately two hours. Our group wanders around, investigates the duty-free shop, eat some good Japanese food and head back to the waiting area. At last, the appointed time arrives and we get to board our plane to Japan. I can’t wait to get there, but wait  I will. This will be a nine-hour flight.

Planning for this trip had started the previous year; fortunately, our teacher a Japanese Canadian named Ryuske Juge made all the travel arrangements and informed us of the importance of purchasing a rail pass from the Japanese National Tourism Organization prior to leaving. In my opinion, this is the best move you can make, it saves you a lot of money, as rail transportation is very expensive. If you wish to travel the country by rail, which I believe is the only way to travel safely, a rail pass is a wise investment.

Once you contact the JNTO they will send you a fantastic package of information. The package provided to us had great information on getting around in Japan.  Included in the package, maps of the areas you are interested in travelling to, lists of Ryokan, the traditional Japanese style accommodation. A list of hotels, restaurants, important terms and tips, such as do not tip, as it is always included in the cost of accommodation and food.

We received some fantastic advice in regards to the currency, Japanese Yen; buy your Japanese currency before you leave your home country. Many of the restaurants and most small stores do not take any credit cards.

For more information on my journey to japan please have a look at part 2.

  Copyright © 2020 Paul Yanuziello, All rights reserved.