Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Left to right, starting with red sweater, the Shiramizu instructors; Kikuchi-Sensei, Uehara-Sensei, Suzuki-Sensei & agent, Richard-Sensei. Lawrence is behind Richard.

Thanks for a great 2007!

T'is the season, isn't it? And I wish everyone a safe and joyous holiday season where ever you are!

However, as seasonal and festive as the stores in Japan look, Christmas isn't really that big of a deal here. Everyone goes through the motions of getting ready for Christmas and then most go to work like it was any other day. Unless you're 7, it's mostly a commercial occasion.

Luckily, I work with 7 year olds so I do get some time off and I'll be exploring bits of Tokyo during my time off. But another place with lots of kids is the Shiramizu dojo, which is also taking some time off.

But before all of that, the dojo celebrated its "bonenkai", when Japanese get together to celebrate the end of the year. The word is actually made up of a few words. First off, "bo" is derived from the word for "forget". "Nen" is year. And "kai" means meeting/gathering (hence "taikai" for tournament- or "big gathering").

Anyways, this is a chance for everyone to get together to celebrate the end of the year and put any bad events behind them and look towards the new year. The usual inclusion of alcohol at a bonenkai for adults also means the forgetfulness and celebration happens to full effect. At Shiramizu, there are two bonenkai's, essentially divided into one for kids and one for adults.

The first, for the kids, happened the morning of Saturday Dec. 22nd. At 10:00am there was the regular elementary and junior high class. After an hour and a half of training (which ran the gamut of all the ido kihon, yakusoku kumite, all 5 pinan katas, as well as kumite drills), the 40 student strong class invaded a nearby buffet restaurant to celebrate the end of the year. They even had all-you-can-eat cotton candy, much to the pleasure of the younger kids.

I only found out after that it was during this time all the parents met at the dojo to give it a nice cleaning and to have their own mini year-end party.

After eating way too much, it was a short rest until the start of the adult class at 4pm. The class was similar in terms of training except with slightly more complicated yakusoku kumite drills and minus the kumite practice. The class finished at 5:30 and we all had some time to relax and change (I am fortunate to live close enough to run home to shower) before meeting at the nearby kindergarten at 6:30 so a bus could take us to the restaurant for the adult's bonenkai.

2007? What 2007? Have you seen the food!?

And what (another) feast that was. With all the dojo's staff, many of it's of-age students, and some parents, there were about 25 of us there celebrating and laughing. The food (as you can see in the picture) was great and many fully used the "unlimited drinks" feature.

The night was capped off with a short speech made in turns by everyone about how their year went and what they hope 2008 holds in store for them. Filled with laughter and smiles, it's very apt that this is called a "bonenkai" because it really is a time to forget all your troubles, live in the moment, have fun, and reset your perspective to make the next year the best yet.

(ed-For those eager to keep the party going, after the bonenkai called it a night, a nijikai, or second party, soon was established by a smaller group not ready to call it quits who soon camped out at a local karaoke bar...)

And so, I hope everyone has their own mini bonenkai for themselves. I hope everyone is able to make progress towards the goals they've set for themselves, no matter big or small. So, until then, have a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

Last high performance elementary & junior high class.

Who's going to make 2008 their best ever?! Put your hand up!

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