December 22rd - 28th

December 22nd

Ok. So on December 22nd the school year came to a close. The following day is the emperors birthday so it's a national holiday.

On the evening of 22nd was the Bounenkai for Onohara Elementary School. A bounenkai is an end of year party, very similar to a Christmas party from back home.

We were supposed to meet at 6pm at a place behind a hotel very near to my house, I unfortunately didn't exactly know where it was, so after ending up outside a bridal shop, I decided to head back and try find the map Aotsuka Sensei had drawn me. As I got back to the apartment, he called to ask where I was, he then ran! Yes, ran to my apartment to get me and we ran back. A good start at least!

I got to the Izakaya by 6:15. All of the teachers were there and i sat with the 5th and 6th grade teachers. I was lucky enough to sit next to the only teacher I have complained about too... Awkward!

The food was great, sushi, salad, karaage, seared beef, a large Korean hotpot (soooo good!) and rice and udon to finish. Really good stuff and I made a pig of myself to be honest. I ate loads!

There was plenty of beer too, though maybe not enough to warrant the 4000 yen price tag....

During the evening Aotsuka Sensei had prepared a game, just like a tv game show! We were split in to groups of 4 and had to play games to score points, guess the teacher, who drew the picture, and a few other games. I understood very little to be honest but he sure did put on a good show!


I then made a speech in Japanese, saying that alot of people saw the awful tragedy of March 11 and that we all supported and admired the Japanese for their strength. I thanked them for their warm welcome and for helping me to settle in Kamisu. It wasn't amazing. But I was happy enough with my Japanese!

Around 8:45 people started to trickle out. I assumed this was in order to miss the nijikai (after party) but to my amazement. Everyone was gone or going by 9 pm......


I ended up going home early and hitting the hay!

December 23rd.

I woke early to drive both Sam and Zarrah to the airport, I collected Sam at around 7:45 and Zarrah at 8:15 it's a long ass drive to SAMs place!

We headed out on the highway and reached Narita at 9:30 (maybe earlier) i saw the two girls off, and headed for Narita city. In search of ramen. Instead I found a city preparing for the new year celebrations. I went to Narita San temple and spent a great morning bein seriously taken aback by the size and beauty of the temple grounds, it had many large temple buildings, two small padogas and one huge one! It was a really nice morning!

I took the scenic route back to kamisu. And found a great ramen place full of truck drivers out near Itako. I really enjoyed the drive and got to see some great views of Tsukaba mountain!

The rest of the day was sent playing Skyrim!

December 24th
Christmas eve, though you wouldn't know it...
This was the final practice day for Kamisu Budokan. With people coming from Kamisu's two other dojo's to take part. 4 hours of keiko. With juniors in groups by age doing kihon keiko followed by jigeiko with the adults. Then 1 hour of keiko for the adults. My keiko with some of the JHS students was good, but i struggled for energy in the final hour. I met all of the Kanai brothers and alot of the other teahers from the area. All in all it was a great practice, really nice to see the young kids doing such good kendo! Some of them are really great!

After the final rei (bow) I wanted to get a group shot with at least a few if the Sensei, but they were all in a rush to leave :( There was a party to celebrate Suzuki Sensei passing 7dan that night so a fee of the Sensei were asking if I was coming and insuring that I would be getting locked. Grand so!

That night at 8 I headed to the Kashima Central Hotel.

Thinking we were off to an Izakaya, I wore jeans and a shirt with a nice jumper over it. But when I got to the room, (slightly late, Irish time means you arrive at that time, in japan. I guess it means it starts and that time?) everyone, bar the two kids, was in formal wear...

Me who has 3 suits, being the only adult in the room in jeans. Schockeh!

Anyway. This thing was costing 8000 yen, in the city's swanky hotel, so I was expecting some serious food to arrive. In comparison to the 4000 one irks be to two nights previously. I didn't eat after kendo in expectation of the monster meal I was heading to...

Big mistake!

Ayer the initial speeches by Kanai Sensei, and Suzuki Sensei, his daughter presented him with flowers and his son with his certificate. It was a nice family moment! We toasted with champaign and then the drink starred to flow. I had a few glasses of beer at my table, being refilled in the Japanese manner by people walking around with bottles, topping you up, or making you drink a bit and then top up, and drunk together. It makes for a messy night!

I plucked up the courage to take a bottle myself and introduce myself to the new faces around the room starting with the head table. I toasted Suzuki Sensei in Japanese English and Irish, the Sensei seemed to like that attitude!

When the food arrived I was shocked. One tiny plate of chicken cahsew nuts and green peppers cooked Chinese style. Followed by one spring roll and an ice cream I never got to eat. This night was defiantly all about getting hammered!

Onuki Sensei. 
I was havin great craic with Kanai and Suzuki Sensei's wives, alot of banter had! Mrs Kanai is a 7dan too and a load of fun, she thought me the Japanese for kiss ass! Her daughter arrived And sat With us, a lot of fun, and a good Drinker! Former all japan student champion with (I believe)
Tsukuba daigakku.

Seriously. This Kanai family is insane. 4 brothers all 7dan, and all their kids are super strong...

We stayed there until maybe 10 or 11 and everyone was proper plastered... I kept getting challenges to drink and safe to say I didnt let the Irish down. I spoke to everyone there, even to one Sensei for 45 mins about engineering and architecture!

Everyone staggered out of the place and headed for nijikai, I went with the younger folks to a small Izakaya and hand a decent time. It's hard to communicate well, but I enjoyed what I could understand!

December 25th - Christmas Day?

Christmas Breakfast!
Well I started this day off by opening my Christmas pressents! A nice sesame street t shirt, teenage mutant ninja turtles socks and a cool clay/play doo Christmas tree making set. And of course loads of chocolate. I had a great breakfast of Irish tea, hunky doreys and crunchies!

I spent the morning playing skyrim and headed to the Kamisu culture centre for the afternoon where my Japanese Sensei, Kawaji Sensei, was performing as part of a choir.

It was so nice to sit down and relax, listening first to an elementary school kids choir and then the adults accompanied by a wind ensemble, it has been a long long time since I heard proper wind instruments playing, it was a really nice nostalgic feeling!
Kamisu City - Christmas Music Festival

After that I paid a quick visit to Ben, and went home to talk to the family on skype! I got to watch my niece opening her christmas presents (an ice cream maker, with ice-cream that Santy had made for her!!)
I spoke to most of the clan that day, and I'm glad I got to speak to them at least.

Than evening myself Ben and Candice went to Gasuto for dinner and had a nice time, it didn't feel like Christmas really, which was a bit sad!
I will defiantly be going back home next time!

Christmas Dinner!
Christmas desert
December 26th - 27th

I got a surprise phone call from Shota Matsuzawa (matsu for short) and he invited me out drinking!


We went to yakitori, which was delicious, followed by snack bar/club. Which was weird. Basically you go in, sit down and have a drink, there is a pretty high seating charge. But the staff are all ladies (or men, in a ladies one) they ladies talk to you, pour your drinks and laugh at your jokes. Not a bad way to spend an evening I'm sure, but in my western eyes, a total waste of money. it cost matsu around 160 quid for 2/3 hours. That kind of money would get you a lapdance and more in most countries.

The girl I sat beside was an absolute stunner, no other way to put it. Outside of that place, I would not be talking to that caliber of girl (well, maybe, if i was lucky) I can see why Japanese guys go there, especially in Kamisu where you have a lot o young men working in factories, shipping etc. And I can see why there is basically nothing other than snack bars in this town.

I had a laugh, tried my best to communicate but all in all I left there more frustrated than anything. After all that time talking to a girl, you get nothing. Want to talk again, sure pop on in anytime, it'll cost you though.

I'm not sure if it is possible to hook up with the girls or not, or even if there is more on offer there than I thought. It doesn't marred though, I wont be going back to one unless invited/paid for.

Still my self and Matsu had a good time, he even came around the next day to take me for lunch! We stopped by Kamisu Highschool on the way to watch the kendo, and Hiyashi Sensei invited me to the gasshuku (training camp) on the 28th.

We went for lunch with Kanai and Hayashi sensei in Matsuzawa Sans parents cafeteria. Where I was treated to my favorites!
Miso ramen, katsudon (deep fried breaded pork cutlet served with Japanese egg "gravy" (made from
Soy sauce sake and sugar) in a bowl of rice) and gyoza(dumplings)! I was stuffed!

Matsu dropped me home, and I sent the rest of the day playing skyrim!

December 28th - final day of keiko!

Akiyama Sensei called me at 10 and came around to live me up at 11. We went for a quality soba (buck wheat noodles) and ebi (prawn) and tenpura meal. It was delicious, the prawns were huge, the length of my fore arm, and really thick! The soba was great, and the tempura vegetables were really really good!

I was really happy he called me. That twice he has gone out of his way to do something for me, and it really makes me feel welcome. I feel guilty everytime I think about leaving Kamisu, everyone has been so nice to me, but especially Akiyama Sensei.

I headed to the gasshuku for 1:30. The highschool and junior highschool kids had been up since 6 am going for walks and doing other group activities, as well as preparing the dojo and sleeping rooms for the other children.

At 2 the gasshuku started. There were about 50 kids in total, some as young as 4! And all in bogu (armor)

Hayashi Sensei took them through a lot of kihon (basic) kendo practice. There are some videos I will upload later. It was a great practice, I really wanted to join in!!

There was one hour jigeiko at the end, and I really enjoyed it, I tried to do as many as possible with the younger kids, some were so small, I mean tiny, but so good! I had a good laugh with some I knew well, letting them do some fancy techniques on me etc. The JHS kids and Hs kids I gave my all against trying to match them for intensity if not speed. It was great, I did nearly 15 in an hour!

After practice. Hayashi Sensei asked me to introduce myslef, why I came to japan, how long I was doing kendo, Irish team aspirations etc. As well as what I thought of the practice. I gave it my best shot and he cleared it up for me after wards! I imagine this was the first time any of the older kids have practiced with a gaijin, and while they can kick my ass, I get the feelingni surprised more than a few!

I went home, showered and headed to evening keiko at Karuno. There were only 5 people there but it was a good session. I was trying to hard to end the year with a bang and was too tense. But I had a good laugh all the same. I really like that little group, especially Taya and Hikaru. One older and one younger, but a lot to learn from both!

Well that's all for now. I'll
Write about my winter holiday later!

Thanks for reading! I really enjoyed waffling on!