It’s been longer than I’d expected since my last post, so forgive me if I race through things somewhat.
Two weeks ago was Sendai Oktoberfest. This was the second such event I’ve attended in Japan and in my life, and was just as weirdly resplendent as I remember it. Having just come from an international event with some school children wherein I served tea and scones and Jay taught German dancing in lederhosen, it was a little bizarre to seeJapanese waitresses in (rather more flamboyant) German clothes just a few hours later. Nevertheless, the city found some real Germans to play for us in the beer
hall tent while we concentrated on getting as much overpriced beer into our systems as possible. Friend of the show Josh and I shared a two litre boot which was very nearly upset as we put it down on the table and attracted a lot of attention from passers by. We probably gave up all of 100ml to strangers wanting a photo with it.
At long last I have (re)started kendo in Japan. The first session was very daunting indeed, with about 35 members present. For better or worse, most of them were school children, and some of them my students. The order and content of practice was, as expected, different, but the extent to which my arms and feet have softened was much more so. I felt like I was going at half the speed of everyone else, but with practice things can only improve.
In the end, however, it was not an enthusiastic ten-year-old but my own body that cut the first practice short. I missed the last 20 minutes or so to avoid bleeding over the whole dojo and devote a bit of time to cleaning and taping up the blisters that had developed. This was not the most impressive start to my new kendo career, but at least everyone was understanding.
The second session went rather smoother, not least because there were half as many people present. This caused me to be the fourth-highest ranked member of a club I’ve only visited twice. Hopefully I can rise to meet the standard expected of me by the younger members when they (inexplicably) defer to me.
Yamagata is big on their mountains. It’s in the name, it’s on the flag, it’s in the scenery. Three mountains in particular, the holy Dewa Sanzan, are known for being sites of pilgrimage and general hiking challenge. What better time than the morning after a large party to tackle one of them?
Gassan looked resplendent in autumn colours and sweeping views during our ascent, but was overcome with clouds by the time we finished our lunch break at the summit. The whole thing took about 5 hours in total. It proved an excellent hangover cure and a bracing walk that completely justified our later indulgences in onsen and enormous plates of tonkatsu.