Hello all, I wasn't sure exactly where to put this thread, but I figured you can't go wildly wrong with 'general'.
Someone suggested I make a post about my experience so far training at Honbu in Japan so I thought a thread where people can discuss their own experiences too and maybe ask questions would be of benefit to people considering doing this?
So, In January of this year, I quit my job, got on a plane and came to Japan to study Shodokan aikido at the Honbu dojo in Showacho, Osaka. My intention is to stay for about a year and a half in total, so far I'm two months in.
Before I came here I asked two of my sensei in England to contact a foreign aikidoka here who owns English schools and he set me up with a job as an English teacher on their recommendation, so I got super lucky in being able to get a job before I even got here. But it is perfectly possible to find a job within a month of getting here - depending on your qualifications. A university degree will do wonders for you since you can't (or at least it's extremely difficult to) get a working visa without one.
Many of my aikido friends at home know the 'gaijin crowd' here, so I felt like I already knew them a bit and I became good friends with them pretty quickly. It was really wonderful to have a support structure here so early in my visit and made me feel really welcome and settled.
Training at Honbu is wonderful and the teaching quality is through the roof! In England, I would train with a couple of dan grades in a class, but usually mostly kyu grades, but here I'm always paired with dan grades and more often than not they are nidans and sandans so I'm always with someone who really knows what they're doing. The language barrier is minimal because I already know most of the "aikido Japanese" that is used in England anyway and the rest I am picking up quickly. One of the senior instructors speaks very good English and is extremely helpful and happy to explain in English, which is kind of him.
Those of you studying Shodokan aikido may be interested to know the belt system is different here. Instead of the judo belt colours we use, at Honbu it's white until light blue for gokyu & rokukyu, green for yonkyu & sankyu and brown for nikyu & ikkyu. And university students wear white belts until shodan, so that white belt you think is a beginner may have you flying to the other side of the room!
One thing I did not really anticipate was that in order to get rent money, dojo fees and money for food etc. I'm having to work whenever I can get students - which tends to be more in the evening. So I'm not training twice a day like I intended. Far from it. I actually miss four out of six evening classes a week. But there's still mornings and Sunday classes to attend and it's still worth being here!
Any questions? Comments? Experiences of your own?