Dana Goes to Japan


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Monday, July 29, 2002

Here I am, actually really finally in Japan! At least, I know I landed here in a foreign country, but it is humid and there is kudzu all over the side of the road, so I practically feel like I am in NC still. :) Orientation is 1500 gaijin in this hotel, wandering around together and being loud, speaking in English of various accents. On Wednesday, our shepherds come to take us to our new homes for the year. Hopefully, they will be patient and speak English. I have a 6 hour bus ride ahead of me, in order to get to Miyagi. Not exactly the 2 hour shinkansen ride the tourist brochure they sent me was touting. Ah, well. I guess it will be a good chance to get to know other people from my prefecture.

Now I will quit making this keyboard keep switching from English to character style, and go continue my adventures in finding an international phone card that works.

Monday, July 22, 2002

Here's some of the bare bones information about me in Japan, to tide you over until I actually get there and can update about Japan itself.

Where I will be: Northern Honshu, Miyagi-ken (prefecture), Sendai (city)

What I will be doing: Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) at two high schools in Sendai, working with a total of 8 teachers, I think, although that might just be the total from one school.

Address and phone: I have no earthly idea

When I'm leaving: Friday, July 26 for Chicago Pre-Departure Orientation (where they claim I will have my passport and visa); Saturday, July 27 for actual Japan

This isn't very helpful, but it's what I have so far. My predecessor is selling me a bunch of furnishings and says that it will be quite humid when I get there, as it will be right after at typhoon. All the information I've recieved from supervisors and other teachers has sounded very nice. I am encouraged, but still don't have much of a firm idea of what to expect.

No, I'm not going insane yet with packing. That will happen on Thursday, as I wander through the house wondering what essential item I'm forgetting.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

This sums up so many of my feelings about karate, which have a lot to do with why I decided I wanted to go to Japan in the first place.

"Therefore, the kata begins when the mind is opened, with 'kamae' or readiness. It is calmness and latent energy. Then the kata flows, and the body is moved as a log is carried in a river. The kata is punctuated by 'kiai' when body, mind and energy meet at a focal point. It is finished with sanshin, when the body has ceased to move, but energy still flows. Kata is stillness and movement, form that fills emptiness, piercing sound and silence, strength and gentleness. Kata is moving Zen. No classical dance was ever more beautiful than perfect kata....
"You see, with Karate, you never stop learning. Sometimes you get stuck or despondent, even injured, tired, or maybe over-weight. No need to give up though, because you can always go back to the very beginnings, and it is the beginnings that are always fresh and new. To me, Karate is the spring of the soul, a quiet spring that can send up encouraging young shoots each time I feel the browns and greys of winter mould settling on me."
-C. W. Nicol, Moving Zen

I will now rhapsodize about karate. I started taking Shotokan karate in 5th grade after I had quit ballet and I needed to find a new physical activity or my mother would for me. My brother was going to be taking a free class at this karate school, and I just went to watch. Needless to say, I ended up taking the class as well, and that was that. I was hooked. I came at it from the mindset of a perfectionist ballerina who had mostly just quit ballet because she realized she would never be amazingly good at it. I could identify with a style that demanded personal excellence and achievement, and based itself on precise and controlled movements. Those were the things I had liked in ballet, and in karate, I loved them.

I went to karate every day that I could, twice during the week and 2 hours on Saturdays. I went even when I was sick. I had to go, we were going to be learning all sorts of neat stuff! And that was just for basic blocks and kicks.

Then I learned my first kata, and it was all over. Taikyoku Shodan is, from many people's points of view, a very boring kata. It only has two hand movements, those being lunge punch and downward block, and all steps are done in zenkutsudachi in the most basic I pattern. But that night on the way home, I practiced it the whole way in the car. I was doing ridiculous little mini-punches and blocks, turning in my seat as much as could with the seatbelt on to emulate stepping. In the 8 years I practiced at that school, I tried to learn every kata anyone would teach me. Kata was my passion. It was my reason for being there. It embodies, in my mind, the entire spirit of karate.

Since I started college, though, I have not had anyone to really practice with, let alone anyone to teach me. Shotokan is not as popular in the US as TKD, and at Grinnell, tiny school in the middle of Iowa that it is, hardly anyone had even heard of it. I have practiced these past 4 years on my own, and taught beginner's classes, but it has felt mostly like standing still, trying to perfect what I know and hoping I'm not forgetting too much. I really want to find a dojo in Japan where I can practice and learn again. I want to want to go to class even when I'm sick. I want to regain that feeling from when I was a white belt. I don't think this is unreasonable, and it's certainly something to hope for in Japan.

Monday, July 08, 2002

This is my blog. Is it not nifty? It's not really serving a purpose yet, since it's main function will be telling all those people I know who aren't from my college and thus don't know about my plan what I'm doing in Japan. I will try to make it more interesting in the interim, but not just yet. Let's see if this works...