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In Japan with Sensei

Senpai Wenzel´s travel diary accompanying Sensei to Japan.

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    In Japan with Sensei 2

    por Wenzel - Nihon - 24-Jan-2020

    IN JAPAN WITH SENSEI 2 - Senpai Wenzel


    Promptly early, Sensei knocks on the bedroom door only once. It`s a sign that we`re leaving. It´s time to pick up the backpack already set, jump in the shoes prepared in front of the door, properly pointed out, and reach the Sensei in the corridor towards the elevator.

    With the time still "confusing", I had slept a little early in the night and then spent the whole night awaken, answering emails and writing the first text of the trip. At 5:20 am Sensei called the room announcing that the day reserved four missions to be resolved, quickly enumerated each and confirmed that we would leave at 6:00 am.

    It was the perfect time to finish the text, include some pictures and wear kimono and hakama.

    At exactly 5:52 am, seven minutes early, Sensei knocks on the door. If he hits at 5:53, it would be six minutes plus a few seconds. To not lose even these seconds, Sensei`s early 7 minutes, are so accurate that you have a few seconds to spare. This is what we call the Sensei Time in Niten. We have in Niten always the clock set by Brasília time (GMT -3), usually marked on the cell phones and we have the "Sensei time", accurate 7 minutes early, which is the current time in Sensei`s wristwatch. And that`s what is considered when we`re with Sensei. Particularly in Gashukus and Shugyos. Yes, sometimes it`s a little confusing, I also found it very confusing. Why not keep a schedule just and score a little earlier ?! But just because of this confusion, we end up throwing more energy into the perception of time, we always have to do a little arithmetic and become more aware of the time we actually are. It works.

    We left the hotel by taxi and headed to the first destination. By 8:00 am we could already cross two items off from the list. We have the privilege of walking back to the hotel, discovering how well Google maps works and seeing life in the city daybreak.

    A truck was finishing a delivery or a repair on the road, I couldn´t figure it out, and the official swept the asphalt with a straw broom. There was not much dirt on the floor, on the other side of the sidewalk I didn`t really see any dirt, but even so, any dust left was swept there and collected with a little dustpan. A picturesque scene for a large truck, and an overworked worker, with the witch`s broomstick and the little dustpan picking up a delicate garbage.

    Japan is very clean, that means that they clean a lot too an/ or they don`t mess. It wouldn`t be so clean if nobody did the hard work, or in the case here, a clean job. Japan is very polite, I have for myself that has always meant that they educate very well. Did they learn the lesson of Confucius? I`ve never been to China to put this into perspective. But we realize that there is a great culture of education. The Dojo itself is this: a place of the Path is necessarily a place of learning, and by definition, Path is a place to learn to see, perceive and live the truth. I remember the epigraph of my first written work in Niten for the "Theses" event which was a Van Gogh phrase: "Learning to read, learning to see, learning to live."

    There are some exceptions in Japan that also appear on this trip, such as when we come across the river`s edge of the first jog in the morning with lots of trash along the course. Plastic dishes, leftover food, torn packs and beer cans lying on the floor next to the ashes of a campfire. That was a shock. The unusual mess in Japan was added to another different fact, which was the plate to not leave trash in the place that we found a hundred meters further on ... written in Portuguese! Oh my! I don`t need even say what was the inevitable logical assumption that the mind judged with full of prejudice at that moment.

    Google is obviously accurate and we got to the hotel, the right hotel! We check out, we take the bullet train towards the 3rd mission. We changed trains, another train, crowded this time, we have to stand. At WhatsApp who sends the news is Rocha, former (former is more beautiful than "ex"!) Coordinator of Niterói, who just arrived in Japan also, for a few days academic visit. Rocha studies meteorology, develops gadgets for satellites, gits photos of solar specter from Nasa and could be in the The Big Bang Theory series.

    Chat with Rocha and photo inside the train.

    Ohayou gozaimassu Senpai Wenzel
    Shitsurei shimassu

    Domo arigatou for the email sending to us all. As I commented before when I was a trainee, I came to Japan too. I am going to present my research and visit the university.

    It`s 12am here in Funabashi (Chiba province), and the feeling is amazing. Another world.
    There`s a lot to learn.

    I want to push myself to make this trip with Sensei someday, in the `hard mode`

    Arigatou gozaimashita
    Shitsurei shimassu

    Apparently, he would be Sheldon: he had to note that in technical accuracy the clouds are not the same in Japan.

    "Eppure sono uguali" is my answer, to stay in the nerd language and ask for help from Galileo!
    *eppure sono uguali, italian, meaning `They´re still the same`

    We arrived in another province. Taxi again. The impression I have is that we always get lucky with the taxi drivers here. Thank goodness we had a puffed up taxi driver in Kumamoto later so it would not sound like a dream.

    Mission 3 of the day: check! I admire these checklists of aviation pilots, who create their processes to minimize failures even in 10,000 reps. Here in Japan even the "flanelinha" (person in charge of the castle parking lot) has his checklist and can get his pen stuck in his shirt pocket in less than 0.237 seconds. We follow after Mission 4 and just over an hour after Mission 4: check!

    We went back to the train station and had lunch there. A pasta with fish roe. A mix of Italian with Japanese. The dish is not large. It`s not supposed to eat much. The amount is correct. It´s better for us because we don`t have to stay the rest of the day slow and tired trying to digest unnecessary amounts of food. It says that eating little, without exaggeration, prolongs life. Besides, you can`t go to battle with a full belly.

    Hoping to get the dishes Sensei is excited! Sensei stares at me with giant eyes, grimaces and solemnly proclaims, "We won the Day! You know why ?! SENKI!" And imitates a boxer fighting punches.

    I share from the heart the happiness of solving many things! How good it is to be able to travel on a land without having to be a tourist, but having things to solve. Somehow, for me, places like this get more life, more taste. I can enjoy the place better if I have a productive purpose to fulfill and have this in common with the locals. There´s no need to fit me into the role of the passenger who comes just to take pleasure while the rest are in battle.
    We solve it, so it tastes better, wonderful!

    Now the schedule tells us to go on to another province, check in at the hotel, and end the day with feeling and beer of mission accomplished. That beer after the battle, which gives so much taste!

    But it would not be that simple. The early 7 minutes are in Sensei`s blood already. Sensei starts consulting me if we could anticipate the mission the next day and still fit it on this day !?

    There is still a shinkansen trip (bullet train) to get there, we would have to get rid of the bags at the hotel, and then a 40-minute drive to the place. The end of the day is approaching, both with the "messy time" beginning to weigh in the afternoon and to me, it is added the previous night spent awake. Sensei leaves the decision with me, if we try to advance the schedule, or if it would be "a bridge too far"?

    We have to take some pictures on the spot, and I`ll need to focus on that. It wouldn`t be any photo. In the bullet train, I study the solar trajectory that still remains to us during the day and its orientation according to the place. Sensei and I checked the various weather forecasts available for late afternoon. The possibilities offered by technology are incredible. The apps allow you to virtually place yourself in the exact location of the photo and see where the sun will be and see the satellite image if there`s a chance of a cloudy sky. Wow! Young people can hardly imagine the astonishment that this can generate for a person born before the cell phone, even before the PC at home.

    We slept on the bullet train. I always remember to set an alarm on the cell phone, 10 minutes before the train station in which we have to jump off, just to make sure we both don`t fall into a deep sleep and go straight ahead. The bullet train is so fast that a half-hour nap might be like jumping off a plane in a quick stop in a cloud and landing a hundred miles ahead. I think we slept in the taxi from the station to the hotel too. Despite or thanks to the little naps we are okay, going ahead with SENKI: it is possible to achieve the fifth goal that day still! OK, let`s go! We have to take risks because the next day there would be several factors that could compromise the mission. It was better to increase the number of attempts and the chances of success! Strategy, Strategie, Hyoho!

    EAnd it worked. The Gods reward those who get up early! (and with the timezone reversed, this is easy!). Check! We anticipated one day, and seeing it later, it wouldn`t have worked out the next day. The Gods reward those who use strategy, that´s for sure!

    Extra mission accomplished, we are the last one remaining in the place, isolated in the bush. The sign of the cell phone stops working and we are isolated, accompanied by a cat and a monk, who helps us calling a taxi.

    We started the next day with a morning cooper again. It will serve as recognition of the city, in the case of the Sensei who always comes to Japan to refresh the memory of that city. We are in Kumamoto, a historic land of samurai, revolts, uprisings against the Meiji Reformation, the real stage of the movie "The Last Samurai", and the paths lead us to the walls of Kumamoto`s Castle.

    Passing through the statue of Kato Kiyomasa we make a photo stop. Sensei soon begins to tell some facts about this important, brave and very esteemed Samurai in Kumamoto. I remembered that inside his tall and striking kabuto there were scrolls with the Buddhist Nichiren sutra, but Sensei is now talking about politics, alliances, conflicts of the period before the battle of Sekigahara, relations with power, and Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the period when Kiyomasa had been sent to Korea and should fight the Mongols, not only Koreans ... The jog continues, we round the walls of the castle, climb the ramp, go around the large park around until arriving at the entrance of the Castle. It`s still early morning, but the castle remains closed all day because of the damage caused by the strong earthquake of 2016.


    We refreshed ourselves in the fountain of the sanctuary dedicated to Kato Kiyomasa and in the walk back, Sensei brings me more and more facts and characters, intrigues, and strategies, that form the history of the power, the conquests, and battles of the samurai between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Japan.

    Every time a new character enters the board, always with strange names, never heard before, completely slippery for the brain to remember. Sensei speaks of them all as if they were old friends. He tells their stories and then the parallel stories, "that people do not know".

    I understand that the Japanese themselves know these stories in a shallow way, with no more than 5 characters, and with the same depth with which they teach the Minas Gerais Conspiracy or Brazil`s Independence Day. With some simplistic tales, shallow anecdotes and boring and alienating official versions. When told by Sensei, it looks like a Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy, full of characters (and names, difficult to remember!), on human plots, strategic. A Shakespeare and his symphonies of human virtues and faults.

    From time to time, Sensei tests me to see if I`m following up or I confirm if the samurai in question is what I`m imagining since the names for me are still smooth and slippery like muddy mud. I begin to get some grip when correlating the stories with our Niten stories and characters. The many units, our campaigns, our wars, all this also holds parallels with the adventures of samurai fiefdom and associations become inevitable. Sensei also does his connections and reveals me some of these. Who is who in Niten.

    A special story, among many others, more spectacular, more political and decisive of great battles, I draw with more affection, since it symbolizes so well that sensitivity and think of the other that so much impress me in the perception of Japan. When Toyotomi Hideyoshi, feudal lord meets Ishida Mitsunari, still a young monk at the time. On one of these extremely hot summer days, Hideyoshi comes to refresh himself in the monastery, and even without the abbot`s knowledge, the young Mitsunari brings him a pot of iced tea. After taking it and bring relief to the noble feudal lord, even without being asked, the young man brings him a second cup of tea. This time there is less liquid, and the tea is no longer chilled, now it has been served warm. Once taken the young man brings a third cup of tea. This time with less content but still warm, in a sequence that goes with so much feeling adapting what is offered to the experience of the other, to satisfy the body until the experience of the palate until the feeling and touch the spirit, each one in its measure.

    On the walk, we passed the pavilion that in the earthquake had its bases collapsed except a single sequence of stones that still supports it. It`s been there in the same way since 2016. Sensei calls me down a ravine path below to take a better picture and comments that that sight, that solitary stone, is how SENKI could be expressed! The fierce to fight, to combat. SENKI! Do not give up, do not surrender.

    Today is Sunday. Ask for a pipe!*
    *Brazilian children`s traditional folkloric verses.

    Later, close to the lunchtime we returned to the castle, there were many families and visitors, food stores, souvenirs, a museum, and we came upon a group of artists in samurai costumes about to stage their cosplay-historical performance. Sensei soon recognizes by a detail here and there that samurai each one is representing. I think it`s funny! The artists are also somewhat puzzled about how they were revealed by this Japanese ... but ... I imagine that the Japanese may be generally intrigued by Sensei, because Sensei speaks Japanese, looks like Japanese, acts like a Japanese, but there`s something strange indicating that might not be "only" Japanese ?!

    After some historical facts here and there, one of them diverges with Sensei about one point, but when the group director arrives, he confirms that they need to capitulate. The Sensei version confers! Sensei is a few steps ahead, full of details and is a theme enthusiast. Even the actor who was insisting on that point, according to Sensei, should be limping, to represent his character correctly. There is! We took a photo to seal the peace and we won a souvenir.

    At the end of the day we skip dinner, Sensei stays at the hotel and I go out for sightseeing even on Sunday night. It`s the end of the weekend. After dark, the streets are empty in Kumamoto, but there is a covered pedestrian street as if it was a gallery, which is crowded with people. Young, not young, couples, groups, coming back from the party, coming back from the walk. I sit on a bench and take the opportunity to watch life go by and calm the mind. When you go to another place, another country, it takes a while to arrive. If we just run up and down, it`s like it takes longer to get there.

    It seems that Japan nowadays is less obsessed, less amazed at the technology than 15 years ago. At that time there was a lot of "cute stuff" in stores, on the street, everywhere with technology, and it seemed that society was eager to show itself how it dominates and had the latest news in electronics, computers, etc. It called attention how everyone was hypnotized on the cell phone.

    Now we are all more used to this already, I think both they and us. This doesn`t call all that much attention anymore, and the vibe is now turning to the people themselves. Sounds good to me if we`re making that comeback.

    The next day in Hiroshima, at the end of a full day and late arrival at the hotel, we set off to find a place still open for dinner. It all closes very early here. We are in the spring and the temperature is more than pleasant, fresh, you can leave without a warm coat. Walking down the street we commented Sensei and me, how pleasant it is to walk so unconcerned.

    The feeling is the same we had in the afternoon when we were in a forest, also with Kamae unarmed, and a deer came to Sensei`s side. "Sign of Luck" according to Sensei. I imagine. A deer on the side is a sign of harmony. Harmony with everything around you. Luck and Harmony may be synonymous!

    It`s quiet here, it`s safe. Not only in the forest, we are in the center of the city now, next to the station. It`s really veeeeery secure. We can reeeally walk with the Kamae unarmed. Imagine walking on Monday at 8:30 p.m. on the streets next to the Central do Brasil in Rio or the Luz station in São Paulo*. That enormous amount of energy we expend for a Kamae, here can be all saved. We can think of other things. The mind can calm itself in daydreams.
    *Places known by its insecurity.

    One afternoon on the local train, I feel this extreme peace again, and I imagine this energy being accumulated, saved, to be dumped in an energy-filled training at the Dojo. Yes, because it`s not because they do not train a closed Kamae uninterruptedly when they are on the street, that the Japanese are less trained to release a powerful Kiai in the Dojo! Of course, that constant training strengthens. But always, without pause is also stressful, bringing tiredness and exhaustion? Perhaps?! Oh my God!

    Here in Japan, every moment brings us a stimulating reflection. I have to take note always fast in the notebook because 30 seconds is enough for the thought to lose in another reverie or reflection, and forget the previous one. And remains that terrible feeling of having forgotten an idea! The "messy time" should help to confuse.

    The restaurants are closing, Sensei pulls the step forward while I stood back taking note about the kamaes. Sensei already says one more, which I also note: "In Japan, people are more aware of the time, about the minutes: 1 minute, 2 minutes, 6 minutes, 7 minutes. Everyone runs more, gives more value to time ... ". It is true. Here 6 minutes is different from 7 minutes!, We feel every second pass with more attention. It`s like the rice grains, here I give huge attention to each one! It seems like each one was prepared, washed and cooked separately. They are all always bright, perfect, in shape, texture, size. You don`t let any grain get lost in the pot or on the sushi board, just like the minutes of life.

    It draws attention as, compared to Brazil, things here are zack, zack! The person, do, thank, and go. Follow the next one. Without wasting time.

    We walked through a convenience store and I alerted myself with a group of 5 young men on bikes converging at high speed directly against each other and all against the shop window! In the next second, I do not know how that mess was solved and everyone already leaned their bicycles side by side and they were already entering the store entering the halls looking for something. The passers-by all following their course unaffected. Fifteen seconds later, they found that there was nothing in the store they were looking for, and they were already cycling on the sidewalk again.

    Sensei sometimes has a more critical view of young people in Japan. At a boat station, I have noted in the notebook about the Sensei commenting on the young people with dead-eyes. In a bus, the criticism of the young people sitting lazily on the benches, without bothering if there were older people standing, or lacking space for others. But mostly his reading that they are all there, the young people in Japan, in their trajectories being prepared to become robots, robots of the society, of the meat grinder of Japan. Turning robots and heading for the slaughterhouse.

    I try not to confuse myself seeing the young people in Japan and comparing them only to the youngsters of the Etapa College in Brazil (privileged high school of Vila Mariana in São Paulo, massively frequented by the children of the Japanese community). Perhaps at Etapa, they`re going to the slaughterhouse of the vestibular*. But our common young killer in Brazil is probably another, in the general context. Our young man is the one who runs the risk of being co-opted by the drug dealing and/or who is black and poor and will be killed by the police. Killer by killer, we have ours too.
    *Important exam to apply for a university. The best universities are more competitive to enter.

    Sensei comments on Yamagata, a relatively young Japanese reporter living in Brazil who is writing a series of articles about Niten for the Nikkei newspaper in Sao Paulo. Sensei tells how this Japanese reporter is rightfully delighting in the history of the Institute and Sensei, because Sensei was able, against all the paradigms of Japanese society, to do what he wanted! How Sensei managed to escape the of people formatter!

    The formula "Uenzel" is always that: "Discipline and Party!".

    Yes, discipline and party: on this trip, we are doing many things in a few days. With Sensei`s rhythm, we`ve attached one thing after another. The pace is strong. And all of this, always have a space for beer, at the end of the day, a bath in the onsen, or a moment of reflection and nap. But the rhythm is intense. Sensei is always pulling forward, to get ahead in time. I imagine this trip in a group, without this flame in the lead, without this SENKI, when as in a walk, all the members seem to be disputing among themselves to see who walks more relaxed and less anxious to arrive, demonstrating more "coolness" and stretching the spine backward, breaking the advance.

    Not here with Sensei, here we really run!
    "You know, Uenzel, there are people who are ashamed to run. There was a time that I thought that at the age comes we have to stop running. But later, I saw that I don`t! I`m not ashamed to run. I really do! It keeps me young!"

    We are on the bus, just sitting tight among the young, and Sensei continues the conversation about the Japanese reporter`s astonishment about how Sensei has escaped from inside the box. The reporter commented that this is why when the practitioners of other teachers appear, wanting to join the Niten as a second Dojo, to learn here too, and with this would bring confusion and question the values of Niten bringing the mass culture, Sensei no longer wants to waste time with it. Better not to come. Therefore, amend the Sensei, that practitioner who sent e-mail and of which we spoke the previous day, better not to come. It just takes us from our Path. It was not without struggle that Sensei managed to escape.

    When we got off the bus we ended up going to a crazy shop as well. Trinkets, trinkets, Totoros, and trinkets. While I try to find something to give to some people in Brazil, and I walk around the store a few times (without finding the Totoros still), Sensei is already having fun in a show of pins, with unusual messages. He is there choosing, having fun on this and the one that will lead to several people. Either because it fits perfectly, or because of sarcasm!

    I get the pin of "Yasashii Senpai", "Cute Senpai" (Until so far no one had the courage to say whether it was by irony or not.)

    “Yasashii Senpai”

    Sensei is showing me the others he has already chosen! He laughs!
    Finally, Sensei finds one who chooses for himself!
    "I am free!"

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