If you have been entertaining the idea of traveling to Japan to train at the Hombu dojo, there is no time like the present! Matt sensei will be in Japan this coming January, and will be joined by John Bibbee who is making his first pilgrimage there. Proposed training dates are January 18th to the 24th. Matt is extending an invitation to anyone from our dojos that wishes to come train with Hatsumi sensei and the Japanese Shihan; this is the perfect opportunity.
Where to Stay
The most affordable accommodations are at Paul Masse's Kasumi-An ryokan (guest house). Cost is ¥4500/night for a traditional tatami-style room. The center is within easy bicycling distance to the Hombu dojo.
Cost for Training
Soke's classes are ¥3500 each. Classes taught by any of the Japanese shihan are ¥3000 each.
What to Bring
Other than basic travel necessities, bring your gi, obi (belt) and tabi for training, and make sure you have money to cover expenses like food and transportation. You will get a more favorable exchange rate if you order Japanese yen in advance from your bank. Matt sensei will help you obtain an SUICA pass, which is like a pre-loaded credit card that is used to pay for public transportation. Much easier than using cash, especially if you are in a hurry. You will only need to pay for transportation to and from the airport, and any traveling you wish to do for entertainment (sightseeing, etc).
Many Westerners are nervous traveling to Japan for the first time due to the culture being so different from our own. Here are some suggestions for how to make the transition smoother.
Regardless of your rank or experience, treat your visit as an opportunity to learn and be a student. Treat everyone you meet in the dojo (especially the Japanese) as your teacher. This shows them respect and in return they will develop respect for you for being so humble. If you are given a correction by a Japanese instructor, acknowledge this with a short bow to show you understand and appreciate the guidance.
When initially entering the Hombu dojo, bow at the sliding door to show your respect to Soke and all that he has given us. You bow again to the Kamiza when first stepping onto the mats in the dojo, but it is not necessary to bow again until you finally leave the dojo for that training day.
The entryway is called genkan. This is a tiled area where people remove their shoes and replace them with indoor tabi. There is a certain etiquette that should be followed here. Remove your shoes and place them on the shoe rack, but be careful not to step on the tiles with your tabi or socks because there will be dirt, small pebbles, etc. that people have tracked in from outside and you don't want to transfer any of this to the mats. Instead, move over to the wooden planks and put your tabi or socks on there, then you may step onto the mats (and bow). If you need to leave the dojo during the training time, be sure you put your shoes back on when exiting the Hombu. You may notice some Westerners do not observe this etiquette but it is contrary to the way Japanese do things and you will set a good example if you try to do it the proper way.
If you will be coming to visit this January, please let Matt sensei know by January 1st. This way, he can reserve you a space at Paul Masse's ryokan and you will have a place to stay.