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For anyone interested in martial arts, there is no replacement for living in Japan.
This was impressed on me soon after arriving in Kyoto. I was minding my own business, riding my bike down the street and taking in the scenery like any tourist, when a middle-aged man on a bike passed me going the opposite direction and carrying an eight-foot-long thin purple clothe bag and a wooden quiver. Random encounter with kyudo-ka. Oh yeah, we've got that at home... not.
(That was just in the first couple days, though. Since living in Kyoto for a while and taking the rail systems, etc, it's become a not uncommon site to see adults or school children carrying some manner of traditional weapon.)
About a week and a half ago, I was doing laundry. Villa Bianca has a washing machine, but no dryer, and we haven't got enough room to hang everything. So sometimes you have to take the wash to the laundromat to get it dried.
The laundromat is only about a block away, so I popped in there around midnight. Sitting in the corner is a white guy with a little goatee. Normally, I keep to myself, but one thing I've learned since traveling in Asia is that the other people who don't fit the surroundings can be interesting and/or useful, so I tentatively introduced myself as a traveler visiting Kyoto for cultural studies. Yeah, I'm studying aikido. Have you heard of that? It's a martial art, you know, like karate, but a little different. We try not to hurt people.
Terms that might help explain what's going on in my blog posts...
arbeito: Japanese for "part-time job"
bento box: a small prepackaged meal available for sale in grocery and convenience stores; usually contains some protein, veggies, and rice, such as grilled fish, tofu, bean sprouts, and rice
-dori: Japanese for "street"; e.g., Marutamachi-dori is "Marutamachi Street"
hiragana: Japanese syllabary for native words, as opposed to katakana and romaji; "mi" in katakana = み
hyaku-en: 100 yen; technically, it should be written hyaku-yen, but it's pronounced hayku-en; 100 yen is worth about $1.05 according to Google, but I'm getting a rate of more like 90 yen to the US dollar; anyhow, it is easy to imagine that 100 yen = 1 dollar, and that is about how it's used here in Kyoto (e.g., there are hyaku-yen shops that are about equivalent to a dollar-store in the US)
Imadegawa: the closest main street to my apartment; currently, I am blogging from an Internet cafe on the southwest corner of Karasumaimadegawa, looking out a picture window over the grounds of the Imperial Palace; my apartment is about one-and-a-half blocks west
ippan: regular dojo training classes, as opposed to the special kenshusei classes