Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Erica here.

This past week, cherry blossoms all over Tokyo were in full bloom. Two weekends ago, I went hanami-ing? (is that the right term?) The kanji for hanami is 花見. 花 = hana = flower, 見 = miru = to see. I went to Omiya-koen (Omiya park) one day and Kinrin-koen (in Sugito) the next day with Yoshinhara Sensei.

We have cherry blossoms in Vancouver as well, but it is nothing compared to Japan.

At Omiyakoen, a big area of the park was filled with sakura trees and in every which direction you looked was a canvas of cherry blossoms. It was breath taking and definitely a must-see if you visit Japan around this time.


Then last Saturday after karate class, two very nice guys from the dojo (Okano-san and Hirai-san) took Louise and I to Gongendo in Satte city to view cherry blossoms at night. This is apparently called yozakura. Gongendo is popular site to see sakura because it has a 1km path with cherry blossoms on either side of it. At night, there are flood lights that shine on them so they can be seen. I was told that the yozakura is for all the people who work during the day and don't have a chance to go see the cherry blossoms. So after work, when it is dark out, they light up popular areas with sakura so that people can enjoy at anytime of the day.

Seeing cherry blossoms at night is completely different than during the day. It might be the romantic/mysterious aura that is given off by the contrast of dark and light and something so beautiful. It was a very memorable experience!

Yozakura at Gongendo

Group picture!
From left to right: Okano-san, Hirai-san, Erica, Louise, Louise's friend Toshiki

Monday, April 12, 2010

11th Shiramizu Taikai

Louise here,

On the day Erica had her shodan test in Chiba, I went to the Shiramizu club tournament. All the members of Shiramizu younger than senior high school were entered, which, including a few members from other closely related clubs, totaled 366 competitors.

Lining up half an hour before the hall opened

In the first rounds in each age group, the kids had to do kata and then the final rounds were kumite (the kindergarten kids did kihon then kata). I thought this was an interesting way to organize it, so they had to be good at both to win a medal.

(Editor's note # 1; Kata was judged using a ballroom dance judging style. The young athletes in groups of 6-8 did the same kata as many times as possible within 3 minutes while the judges walked around scoring them best to worst. At the end of 3 minutes, the judges would meet to determine the best 2-4 to go onto the next round. It was a great way for judges to see the true abilities of the athletes, and it allowed the athletes to perform much more than if they had just one round of one kata to do, especially athletes who didn't go past the first round.

Note #2: The gym used was a performance auditorium which held hundreds of tiered, cushioned seats and the floor stage was big enough for 3 rings. This allowed families to see the tournament quite well while also being somewhat more comfortable during the whole day compared to a normal arena or gym space.)

At lunchtime and in the early afternoon there were demonstrations by the adults and senior high school students, along with the traditional 'Karate man' demonstration. From what I gather, this happens along the same lines every year, including the intern for that year. What a pity Erica wasn't there to be embarrassed with me. Choreographed by Okano san, the story this year was that three bad guys try to take over the tournament, I fight them off, get shot with an evil medicine bullet and become bad, five karate man heroes appear wearing hero suits, we all fight, I become good again, the good guys win and live happily ever after.

Victory pose

At the end of the tournament after the finals had been held, the adult class demonstrated board-breaking. That was the first time I'd done it, and it was very very fun.

Breaking those boards

Friday, April 9, 2010


This week, Louise and I were invited to have lunch and try on kimonos by some of the ladies who rent out the dojo once a week for hula dancing! First we were roped into doing some hula dancing. It was slow paced in general, but a little difficult to follow since it was our first time and didn't know any of the movements. After about 30 minutes of hula dancing, we commenced the fitting of kimonos!! There were 4 ladies present so we each had 2 of them to help us.

I first tried on a kimono that can be worn year round. However, before putting on the actual kimono, a towel was wrapped then tied to my waist for a 'small waist look'. Then undergarments were put on and then the actual kimono went on top. There were lots of ropes tied here and there before the obi (belt) was wrapped around. They showed me how to tie it, but I have forgotten now =_='

The second one I tried on was a summer kimono. The fabric is lighter and the design is more intricate. The obi on this one was far more complex than the last one because it was a lot bigger. They didn't show me how to do this one, but they spent a good 10 minutes on it.

After trying on a couple more we decided to have lunch. There was so much food that I was glad we were eating after we had tried on the kimonos and that we weren't eating IN the kimonos because it was a little bit difficult to breath in them =p

Louise being dressed in a summer kimono

The huge bow on summer kimonos
(This type of bow is worn on single women. Married women have a different type of knot at the back)

kimono #1

kimono #2

Louise in a year round kimono

One of the ladies modeling a child's kimono for us =)

At the end, the ladies gave us the kimonos as gifts! Thank you very much!! We love them!!!