Saturday, October 25, 2008

Arakawa Sensei, Masters Party

Carl here...

On Sunday 19th October the seniors from the Shiramizu dojo decided to have party. This wasn’t just any old party though; it was to celebrate Arakawa Sensei becoming the All-Japan Master's Champion in the kumite 40-44yrs of age division. It’s a great achievement to win this prestigious tournament, and Sensei trained hard for it, so why not have a party to celebrate winning!
Amy and I

Ueno-san (a black belt in the club) had organised the party and he also had arranged a bus to pick up most people on the way to the venue in Satte city. Amy and I, Lawrence and a fashionably ‘on-time’ Richard Sensei joined a bunch of people, including Arakawa Sensei at the Shiramizu dojo to catch the bus. The journey was pretty uneventful, but spirits were high all the same. We stopped at Sugito Takanodai station en-route to pick up some more party-goers and then we headed to the venue.

At a Japanese restaurant called Takadaiya, our group was ushered upstairs to a huge and very traditional tatami-mat room. There were four large tables set up already with the food laid out, with cushions on the floor for everyone to sit on.

Hmmm, where do we sit?
I think it’s funny that us gaijin didn’t know where we should sit, we hung around in the hall way for a few minutes and watched what everyone else did. This really didn’t help as no-one was quite sure where they should sit. Richard Sensei explained later on that no-one wanted to appear to be impolite by sitting were their rank didn’t warrant. This is typical of Japanese society; everyone has their place in their respective circles, be it for sport, social, work or family.

Anyway, Richard took up a place at Arakawa Sensei’s table and Amy, Lawrence and I claimed a full table for the rest of the international arm of the Shiramizu dojo. This only lasted a few minutes because we were quickly joined by a number of others from the dojo which we didn’t mind at all.

Get the party started...
There was a few short speeches to kick off the party, Ueno-san explained why we were all here and Arakawa Sensei offered a few words of thanks to everyone for showing up to celebrate with him.
For Carl, dodgy food! (But for everyone else, quite nice!)

Before I dared try any of the rather dodgy food, I asked Yamazaki Sensei what some of the more unusual bits were. I think (!) the stuff in the large red pot was duck with an egg on top; there was also a small selection of tempura, raw fish, cooked sea food and a selection of weird stuff in the middle. After looking at the food for a few minutes I was ready to head to McDonalds, but then everyone started to tuck in so I downed a beer and braced myself to try to sushi!

Richard here - ah the power of being responsible for this blog means I can interrupt this posting to simply say that anyone who likes Japanese food would have very much enjoyed the dinner we had. Everything was well prepared, the tempura was fresh and not oily, there were several little delicacies, plus a stew and finally udon noodles to finish off with. At dinners like this people are so busy talking and politely pouring drinks for others (it's bad form to let anyone's drink drop to half full) that people simply nibble at the food. For sure a few attendees hit a local ramen shop for a big bowl of chewy noodles on their way home,  which is really common after such a party as the purpose is to interact with others first and foremost.

Left to Right: Carl (Intern V4), Amy, Lawrence (Intern V3), Richard

Ok, so I was nearly sick. My body doesn’t like raw fish, at all! I quickly washed it down with more beer and moved onto the tempura, which thankfully tasted much better. At this point I saw my escape; one of the waitresses brought a crate of beer into the room. So I started delivering the beer to the different tables, topping up empty drinks along the way.

In what seemed like no time, the group of us had gone through a couple of crates of beer and it was time for everyone’s speech, a lot of the food laid untouched.

The speeches were kicked off by Fujimoto Sensei, a good friend of Arakawa Sensei (Fujimoto Sensei has his own Guseikai branch dojo in Tokyo). Of course, I have no idea what was said because it was all in Japanese. I’m going to guess that he said, Arakawa Sensei is a great guy and congratulations on winning the Masters! Everyone took their turn offering their congratulations to Sensei and saying what an inspiration he was. Listening to the speeches, I started to think what I could say when it was my turn, I had no idea. I was just going to wing it!

Amy presenting Arakawa Sensei with flowers

Amy on the other hand, had asked a number of her colleagues from work to translate her speech for her. I hoped I wouldn’t have to follow her speech. Amy’s speech was very well received, I think everyone like the amount of effort she had put into it. She said something like: ‘Sensei, congratulations on winning such a prestigious competition. You’re an inspiration to me and all your students, please teach me to be as great as you!’

Well, needless to say I had to follow Amy’s speech and being the ‘official’ intern, expectations were now high. I easily coasted through my last party speech in Japanese and then Amy’s great speech, I’m sorry to say that my Japanese speech was terrible.

I managed something like:
“Good evening (everyone replied good evening), ok see you...”

...I tried to escape out the door at this point which got a few laughs.
“Congratulations Arakawa Sensei. Ueno-san, thanks for the Party.”

Ok, I know it was lame. I was going for a short but sweet speech – honest!

Thank you Keiko-san

Arakawa was last to give a speech, which went on for a while. He gave us an animated blow by blow account of his win at the competition (which I’ve already written about on this blog). He also gave his long suffering wife a huge bunch of flowers as a thank you.

After the speeches ended, we all posed for a few photos and then we were kicked out. Apparently these party venues are booked for time-blocks, and the beer is all you can drink in that time.

Journey home
The bus ride back to the dojo was quite entertaining as everyone was a little bit tipsy, Fujimoto Sensei was complimenting Amy on her speech and his younger brother was singing Beatles songs and asking me if I understood what he was singing. I also ended up singing parts of my favourite Beatles song – Help!

The food was definitely not to my tastes and I’m sorry to say that the Shiramizu end of year party will also be held there. The party was still a lot of fun, everyone had the chance to chill out, drink loads and have a good chat. Like I’ve already said, it’s a great achievement to win the Masters tournament but Arakawa Sensei just takes it all in his stride and like Richard Sensei has written previously, he has a lot of goals for next year to keep him occupied.

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