Re: Training at Aikikai Hombu Dojo - Experiences
I do think visiting hombu dojo gets easier after you get a little used to the program there. It gets a lot easier if you go a lot and get to know people, though that takes a lot of time. Also, different instructor's classes have very different feels to them, so it's good to check out a few of the different instructors. I definitely have my likes and dislikes as far as some of the different teacher's classes, and would encourage you to check out a few different instructor's. Doshu's early morning class tends to be a pretty happy crowd, I don't think you would feel that people aren't enjoying the practice there.
My reasons were pretty simple. To learn the aikido there I felt I had to train with the people that were familiar with it, not be a tour guide all the time. Plus, since I was living there, I think it was pretty natural that I would want to train with the people that I had become friends with. On top of that, I was nineteen years old, so we're not talking about a lot of maturity here.
Now, if someone was visiting who was a friend of one of my friends, that was different. If it was someone who had trained at hombu who was back visiting, that was different. As things were very nationalistic back a long time ago when I was there, (Americans and English hung out together, French stuck to themselves, etc, which happily does not seem to be so much the case nowadays.) I would even train with someone I didn't know visiting from America if they were there for a few classes, and I got curious about them, but I just didn't feel I could spend the majority of my time there training and showing the ropes to a constant parade of visitors who weren't familiar with the practice or the dojo. That was reserved for someone who had moved to Japan and was going to be at hombu for a while, as the Americans who were there when I got there did for me.
Now, at any other dojo where you have the normal membership of say fifty people that train together all the time, with visitors coming in now and again, I think it would be very bad not to train with visitors. I make it a point to train with visitors that come to our dojo in San Francisco, and strongly encourage all the membership to do so. But like I said, at hombu the situation is different.