05-01-2012, 02:55 PM
For someone who likes humidity, Iwama is the perfect place. It's humid all year around; hot and humid in the summer and cold and damp in the winter.
But there are actually a few months in the spring and fall when the weather is pleasant. May is especially nice with the sakura (cherry) and ume (plum) trees blossoming. We used to go up to Mount Atago for hanami (flower viewing) parties and to pick the ume and take them home to make umeshu (plum wine).
Sunday morning class in the summer was especially refreshing. Sometimes the heat and humidity got so high that a person could just move their hand and it would break out in sweat. That wasn't a big deal while we were sitting in seiza watching Saito-sensei demonstrate a technique or listening to him lecture. Only when we got up and started training.
After the summer morning classes I used to go home, jump into the cold shower, and chug a bottle of cold beer. Talk about heaven in Iwama!
Ah, and there were the "yabuka" (destroyer mosquitoes). They used to eat us alive while we were sitting in seiza and weren't allowed to move much less shoo or swat them. There was a medicine called "kinkan" which appeared to be mostly ammonia that we used to put on the bites and helped some, but there was still a lot of itching.
And the winters! A person could wear several layers of clothing and the cold would still come right through.
The temperature got close to freezing in the winter and all the windows in the dojo were open. Of course there was no heating, and we were only allowed to wear thin keiko-gi. Needless to way we all wanted to start training and keep moving as fast as possible to get warm.
Some of mats were covered with green plastic, which got colder than other mats that were covered with canvas. There was a children's class before the regular class on Sunday mornings, and there was a spot on the mat next to the main entrance where the sun came in and warmed up a small space on the green mats. The kids used to fight with each other to get a place on a warm spot.
There are a lot of people training in Iwama these days, and I don't imagine that much has changed. Saito-sensei's generation enjoyed the same ambiance, but it was a bit harder for them. There were no mats in the dojo; just a hard wood floor. Saito-sensei told me about how they went around the dojo with a hammer before each class hammering down the nails that were sticking up.
He also told me about the origin of the tobu-ukemi (flying breakfall). They were getting thrown very hard onto the wood floor (especially by O-sensei), and invented it as a way to reduce the impact. And O-sensei used to give really long lectures.