The Iaido Journal  Oct 2005
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The ‘Kashima Jingu Gasshuku’ Experience

copyright © 2005 Ray Sosnowski, all rights reserved

The “Kashima Jingu Gasshuku” Experience –
My First Trip to Japan for a Jodo Gasshuku
Raymond Sosnowski, Maryland (USA);
President, Northern VA Budokai, Inc.
11 April 2005

Author’s Note 

The above title, “The ‘Kashima Jingu Gasshuku’ Experience” refers to titles from seminar reports of Jodo Gasshuku in Maryland in 1998 and 1999 that I had previously written about (Sosnowski, 1999, 2000).  Much has happened (“interesting times”) since those heady days and more than a little turmoil in jodo training resulted. 

By January 2005, I was ready to reestablish personal contact with the man that I consider to be my Jodo teacher, Kaminoda Tsunemori sensei of Tokyo, Japan, after almost four and a third years of separation.  I had attended all five of Kaminoda-s.’s annual Gasshuku in Maryland from 1996 through 2000; I published seminar reports on all but the first Gasshuku (Sosnowski, 1998a, 1999, 2000, 2001). 

For those who are unfamiliar with the art as taught by Kaminoda-s., Shindo Muso Ryu or SMR consists of Shindo Muso Ryu Jodo (the “way of the stick”), Kasumi Shinto Ryu Kenjutsu (the “art of sword-usage”), Uchida Ryu Tanjo-jutsu (“walking-stick art”), Isshin Ryu Kusarigama-jutsu (“sickle-and-chain art”), Ikkaku Ryu Jutte-jutsu (“forked-truncheon art”) and Ittasu Ryu Hojo-jutsu (“rope-tying art”) [author’s ‘translation’ of the arts]. 

Concept: The ‘Kashima Jingu Gasshuku” Experience  

Let me explain this concept as I understand it quoting from my article on the 1998 Gasshuku:

This year [1998] Kaminoda-s. wanted to bring the “complete” Kashima Jingu Gasshuku experience to us; this prompted a change of location from the gymnasium of St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD, where the previous two Gasshuku [1996 & 1997] were held, to Catoctin Mountain Park in western Maryland, so that we could all eat, sleep, train and socialize together and not be distracted by outside concerns [emphasis added].  I am sure that most, if not all, would agree that we had indeed experienced the essence of the Kashima Jingu Gasshuku.  (Sosnowski, 1999).

That is, the Gasshuku takes place at a self-contained facility.  Kashima Shimbuden in Kashima City, Ibaraki Prefecture, while having more of suburban than rural setting in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountain Park, fit the bill quite nicely.  Even better was the large dojo; although unheated, it was tolerable (better that than the hot and extremely humid Japanese summers). 


Kaminoda-s., as head of the Nihon Jodokai, holds Jodo Gasshuku twice a year in Kashima City, a rather pleasant change from Tokyo.  Typically these Gasshuku are held in Feburary (or March) and September (or October or November).  Although the training emphasizes Jodo, one or more of the minor arts may also be included – this year it was Kusarigama-jutsu.  What made this Gasshuku even more tempting was that Sensei planned to stay on for two more days of training after the Gasshuku for additional training with the visiting students from outside of Japan. 

First ‘Day’ in Japan (Friday-Saturday, 4-5 Feb. 2005) 

I met my sempai and the practice leader of the Northern Virginia Jodokai, Dr. Dan Pearson of Silver Spring, MD, at Narita Airport at the currency exchange just outside of Customs & Immigration; he had come by a different airline through San Francisco.  (And it is true that people in Japan think that when you are saying “Jodo” that you are mispronouncing “Judo.”)  We got train tickets for the hour-long ride from Narita to Ueno Station in Tokyo; then we rode the Ginza Line subway to Aoyama Itchome Station where we went to Hotel Asia Center of Japan to stay for the night. 
Tokyo sunrise from my hotel window; in the background just to the right of center is the Tokyo Tower (photo courtesy of the author)

Dan had to do a bit of shopping so after we checked in and freshened up, we went back out to the subway to get to the stores he was interested in.  While we were out, two fellow students from Wisconsin, Drs. Rich Friman and Claude Gilmore, had arrived and checked into the hotel.  We all met for breakfast the next morning.  Afterwards Mr. Araki from Tokyo came to pick us up and drive us to Kashima City – four hefty gaijin and their gear in a compact Japanese station wagon took a bit of doing, but we managed to get everything in finally since we used lap space as well – there was no need for air-bags for the three of us in the back. 

Side Trip to Katori Jingu (Saturday, 5 Feb. 2005) 

We broke up the morning trip to Kashima City by stopping at Katori Jingu (Shrine) in Sawara City, Chiba Prefecture, which as on the way. Katori Jingu, one of the oldest shrines in Japan, is dedicated to the martial deity Futsu-nushi no Okami (aka Iwainushi no Mikoto) according to an English language handout (also see Bocking, 1997).  After entering via the first torii, Aaraki-san took us off to the left on a steep side path; we passed several small shrines, including one dedicated to the fox deity. 

The Romon at Katori Jingu (photo courtesy of Dan Pearson)

When we reached the summit, we passed through the magnificent red romon (tower gate), approaching the haiden (hall of worship).  We paid our respects by performing hairei, an individual form of Shinto worship (Bocking, 1997): make a small monetary offering (saimotsu) by tossing a few coins into the offertory box (saisen-bako), bow once or twice, clap hands (kashiwade) once or twice, and bow again.  Before leaving we bought ema (wooden votive tablets), omamori (talismans) and other small mementos from the adjacent shrine shop. 

Again, Araki-san directed us to another side path to lead us back down.  We went down a path through the hillside, which contained huge cedar trees and giant timber bamboo (madake).  We stopped at a set of stone stairs leading to a small fenced area that contained a large grave marker.  This was the grave of Izasa Choisai Ienao (1386 – 1488), the founder of Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu (Draeger, 1973), one of the oldest (some claim the oldest) ryuha in Japan.  It was a short photo-op for us before returning to our car for the short trip to Kashima City.

Gasshuku Day 1 (Saturday, 5 Feb. 2005) 

We were one of the first groups to arrive at Kashima Shimbuden; we quickly unloaded, found our assigned room (the gaijin had a pair of adjacent bunk rooms) on the second floor, and we settled in.  Each of the regular dorm rooms had five pairs of bunks complete with tatami.  We gathered our futons, makura (buckwheat hull pillows) and kakebuton (comforter), along with the associated linens, and made up our sleeping quarters; this was a rather unique aspect of the “Kashima Jingu Gasshuku Experience.”  One of two gaijin living in Japan, Mike Rogers, came around and handed out information packages prepared for us foreigners including an English language schedule.  By previous arrangement, he had also picked up suede-soled tabi for us, which proved to be very handy in the unheated dojo. 

After signing in and paying our Gasshuku fees, we all met in the dining hall for lunch and several welcome speeches.  I recognized a number of Kaminoda-s.’s senior students from the annual Gasshuku that I had attended in Maryland from 1996 through 2000, and they, like Sensei, remembered me.  It has been a few years since I ate a group meal like this, but this was the first time I ate Japanese style; group dining is a significant part of the “Kashima Jingu Gasshuku Experience.”  For dessert, we had bonton, a kind of super-thick skinned grapefruit that Sensei had shipped from his hometown on Kyushu (that thick pulp between the outer skin and the fruit is used to make a kind of popular Japanese candy); this continued throughout our stay. 

Sensei had brought a large number of supplies with him – mostly weapons (jo, tanjo, bokuto, shoto, kusarigama and jutte & tessen) and books [Jodo Kyohan (aka the “big book”), Jyodo (for Seitei Jo Gata), Isshin Ryu Kusarigama-jutsu, and Ikkaku Ryu Jutte-jutsu & Ittasu Ryu Hojo-jutsu – we expect to see Kasumi Shinto Ryu Kenjutsu & Uchida Ryu Tanjo-jutsu published before the end of the year].  Dan had pre-ordered jo, tanjo, bokuto, and shoto for our students which we picked up after lunch; Dan also picked up a kusarigama for a sempai, and I picked up one for myself (Dan had picked up a jutte & tessen set for me at the February 2004 Gasshuku last year).  As the weapons used in the SMR arts are standardized, and the specialized weapons like jutte and kusarigama are unique and specially made, the “weapons bazaar” is a recurring aspect of the “Kashima Jingu Gasshuku Experience.” 

Inside the dojo at Kashima Shimbuden (photo courtesy of the author)

After lunch, we changed into keiko-gi and hakama, and went to the dojo for the formal opening of the Gasshuku.  The dojo is a short walk from the dormitory past a small orchard of Japanese plum trees, and several trees had a few early blossoms (by contrast, in a sheltered orchard just outside of Katori Jingu the trees were almost at peak blossom); from this fruit, the owners made their own umeboshi (salted pickled plum), which was served with every meal including breakfast [umeboshi was as ubiquitous as meshi (rice), miso soup and o-cha (green tea) with every meal].  The sun was bright although the air was cool (daytime temperatures were in the mid-40’s while the nighttime temperatures fluctuated around freezing).  The dojo was cool, but not unpleasantly so; even so, those previously obtained tabi were good to have in the dojo.  The unheated dojo (in winter, and uncooled in summer) is an aspect of the “Kashima Jingu Gasshuku Experience” relatively unique to Japan. 

Gasshuku attendees in front of the dojo entrance at Kashima Shimbuden (photo courtesy of Kaminoda-s.)

The attendees, who numbered about 50, were divided into four groups.  I found myself moved up to the advanced group with the rest of the gaijin.  We spent the afternoon working on the first half of the Kage set (the Ura Gata of the Omote set) with Abe Osamu sensei; he had attended the 1st Maryland Jodo Gasshuku in 1996.  During the break at mid-afternoon, small cans of hot tea, coffee and cocoa were brought in for us; this little “ritual” would continue throughout our entire stay.  In the late afternoon we broke for dinner, and then returned to the dojo in the evening for Kusarigama-jutsu; Amdur (2002) has a nice introduction to this interesting weapon including our particular version.  Sensei led us through four kata, three from the Omote set and one from Ura.  Thus I was able to break in my newly acquired kusarigama.  After practice and a trip to the ofuro (Japanese hot tub), small parties broke out in several dorm rooms; the gaijin and a few of the younger Japanese students assembled in an adjacent dorm room.  Post-training socializing is an integral part of the “Kashima Jingu Gasshuku Experience.”  With the fatigue from jet lag setting in, I left the party uncharacteristically early. 

Gasshuku Day 2 (Sunday, 6 Feb. 2005) 

We assembled in the courtyard in front of the dojo at 7 AM to raise the flag and sing Kimi Gayo in Japanese (Michael’s info. Package contained the lyrics in Romanji); it was a sunny but cool day.  Afterwards we went into the dojo for warm up exercises and kihon (basics) practice.  After breakfast, we left for the morning to visit Kashima Jingu and the gravesite of Tsukahara Bokuden – I will highlight these separately below.  We returned to Shimbuden for lunch.  After lunch, I found some time for shakuhachi (Japanese 5-hole, end-blown bamboo flute) practice (I have practiced Kinko Ryu for two years with the Kisuian Dojo headquartered in New York City, and I was preparing for my monthly lesson with my teacher for the Sunday after my return from Japan).  Early morning pre-breakfast training is a standard part of the “Kashima Jingu Gasshuku Experience,” but you do have to be in Japan to visit the shrines. 

In the dojo after lunch, I somehow got volunteered to “play” the o-daiko, a large two-headed drum that rests horizontally in a cradle.  Sensei had talked about it the previous day, and said that it was important for us to be able to do it well when called upon during mokuso (short meditation before and after class).  He had a group of his seniors at one o-daiko in front of the shrine in the other wing of the dojo and a group of beginners at the o-daiko in front of the shrine in our wing.  One-by-one members from each group took turns beating out the rhythm – three long, seven short and two long beats.  I decided to go last in our group as the other members were Japanese – I wanted to observe as much as possible before my turn.  The beater was the size of a wakizashi; I took a position like jodan but with my hand above my shoulder and struck the drum head as I have cut tatami-omote with a wakizashi.  The drum responded with a deep resonant sound that seemed to filled the dojo.  Although I do not recall how well I “scored,” I do recall Sensei saying that I had done rather well for my first time.  The o-daiko experience is news to me – it’s almost unknown outside of Japan. 

Our group continued working on Kage, getting through the first nine of fourteen kata with Yamaguchi Mitsuru sensei; he was well known among the gaijin, having attend the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Maryland Jodo Gasshuku in 1996, 1998 and 2000, respectively.  A couple of the Japanese who could not get Monday off left quietly in the evening.  We changed into “civies” for dinner because dinner was followed by the official group party, another aspect of the “Kashima Jingu Gasshuku Experience.”  We began with Kirin beer, followed by sake and finally local plum wine.  When we broke up, it was time for the ofuro and the smaller group parties.  However, the fatigue really hit me hard, and, once horizontal, I did not move from my bunk until early the next morning when I went to the ofuro for a quick shower before the start of the day’s activities. 

Trip to Kashima Jingu (Sunday, 6 Feb. 2005) 

After breakfast, we piled into cars with our equipment and took the approximately 3-mile trip to Kashima Jingu.  I realized only when we were leaving that we had made a one-way trip through the shrine grounds, and I was not able to take pictures of the entrance way and the shrine (the cars had been moved from the front entrance to the back entrance to facilitate our trip).  There was a large elaborate chouzuya, a pavilion for the purification ritual (washing the hands and rinsing the mouth – ritual purity is an important aspect of Shinto) before approaching the shrine.  We walked up the path until we came to the place to pay our respects and make an offering. 

Kashima Jingu, which is traditionally twinned with the nearby Katori Jingu, is dedicated to the warrior-kami Taka-mika-zuchi whose story is told in the ancient Japanese text Kojiki (“Records of Ancient Matters,” 712 C.E.) (Bocking, 1997).  We walked a distance behind this shrine to visit a stone in a small enclosure, called kaname-ishi, that is believed to be the stone that the warrior-kami had extracted from the head of a giant catfish to seal down the earthquake kami, Nai, who also has the form of a giant catfish (Bocking, 1997).  Sensei gave a short speech here before we returned to the shrine. 

There is a wide boulevard that connects this shrine to the shinden/honden, the main shrine.  A number of us picked up our jo and, in groups of three and four, proceeded up the avenue while doing kihon; shrine visitors responded to our impromptu embu (demonstration) with a flurry of picture taking.  We proceeded to the shinden/honden and our group was admitted into the sanctuary where we were met by the kannushi (chief priest) and his assistant.  We sat in seiza as prayers to the kami were offered on our behalf and then we were blessed; I found myself in the front of the group and had a very good view of the proceedings. 

The dojo entrance at Kashima Jingu (photo courtesy of the author)

Dan and Ray during the Embu at the Kashima Jingu (photo courtesy of Kaminoda-s.)
Kaminoda-s. beginning with formal Reiho for the Embu at Kashima Jingu (photo courtesy of Dan Pearson)

We proceeded further on to the shrine dojo where we held an embu, which the kannushi attended.  Jodo kihon and all the SMR arts were demonstrated as well as Iaido.  I managed to get on the floor to do the first five kata from Omote with Dan.  Sensei used the opportunity to hand out scrolls for Gomokuroku, and Oku-iri.  The kannushi handed out embu menjyo (certificates for participating in the demonstrations) to the senior student; they were later distributed to us along with a fancy cardboard tube to put them in.  After the embu, we proceeded out the back gate into waiting cars to drive to Tsukahara Bokuden’s gravesite in Kashima. 

Trip to Tsukahara Bokuden’s Grave (Sunday, 6 Feb. 2005) 

Tsukahara Bokuden (1490-1571) is the famous kenshi associated with Kashima Jingu; Indeed, his father was a Shinto priest at the shrine.  He learned the local fencing style, Kashima-ko, from his father; a relative of the local lord then adopted the boy and taught him Katori Shinto Ryu.  Like Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645) who came after him, he went on to test his skills in duels and founded his own style, Shinto Ryu (the name is not unique as there have been more than one ryuha to use this name), which unfortunately did not survive past the next generation.  He left a manuscript of 98 poems encapsulating his understanding, supposedly composed late in life while living in a hermitage near Kashima Jingu (similarly, nineteen months before his death, Musashi retired to a cave in Kumamoto in central Kyushu to write his magnum opus, Gorin no Sho).  Sugawara (1988) devotes his first chapter to Tsukahara Bokuden (and his second chapter to Musashi). 

The pavilion over Tsukahara Bokuden’s grave (photo courtesy of the author)

Tsukahara Bokuden’s gravesite is on a hillside covered in timber bamboo that is approached from a single lane road on the dike between rice paddies.  There is a small parking lot at the foot of the hill.  The path passes by a local cemetery; there were some rather old grave markers next to some rather recent ones.  Tsukahara Bokuden’s grave marker is under a covered pavilion about halfway up the hill.  Apparently Kendo students leave shinai as offerings.  We paid our respects, bowing and burning incense.  A large group picture was taken as we walked down.  At the base of the hill, a reading about the life of Tsukahara Bokuden took place while we drank small cans of hot coffee.  There is a waka on the gravesite that appears in Shirakami (1987) on page 14 that I stumbled across after my return that seems to encapsulate what I felt on my visit. 

“Tall waving bamboo
By this peaceful hillside grave;
Soul of Bokuden,
Following the sword’s long path
Guiding true each hand and spirit.”

Afterwards we returned to Shimbuden for lunch. 

Sensei and company below the gravesite listening to the reading of Tsukahara Bokuden's life (photo courtesy of the author)

Gasshuku Day 3 (Monday, 7 Feb. 2005) 

Day 3 began like Day 2: raising the flag, exercising in the dojo and eating breakfast.   We returned to the dojo after breakfast for the final session of the Gasshuku.  Our group continued working on Kage, getting through twelve of fourteen kata with Yamaguchi-s. (we skipped the two forms of Neya no Uchi no Kage – Yamaguchi-s. said that is was just maki-otoshi).  Finally all the groups reassembled, and we all ran through all twelve Seitei Jo Gata.  At the end of the Gasshuku, we were all presented with certificates of attendance.  We returned to the dining hall for lunch, our last meal together.  After lunch, the majority of the participants left.  The gaijin were relocated; the seniors stayed in Sensei’s tatami room suite, and the rest of us stayed in the adjacent tatami room, quarters that Sensei’s senior people had occupied during the Gasshuku. 

Sensei and the American students; from left to right: Michael Rogers, Dr. Dan Pearson, Corey Comstock, Dr. Claude Gilmore, Kaminoda-s., Peter Boylan, myself, & Dr. Richard Friman (photo courtesy of Kaminoda-s.)

Extra-Training Day 1 (Monday, 7 Feb. 2005) 

After lunch our smaller group returned to the dojo; we continued with the “Kashima Jingu Gasshuku Experience” in the small – more intimate and more intense.  Kaminoda-s., assisted by Yamaguchi-s., ran us through the seven o-dachi vs. o-dachi kata of Kenjutsu.  Participants included Michael Rogers and Corey Comstock (both currently living in Japan), Drs. Richard Friman and Claude Gilmore (both from Wisconsin), Peter Boylan (Michigan), and, of course, Dan and myself (both from Maryland).  We were joined by a Japanese woman, Sato-s. of Osaka, who had received Gomokuroku from Sensei at the end of the embu at Kashima Jingu.  Yamaguchi-s. and Michael Rogers had to leave at the end of the day, reducing us to a group of eight.  After dinner and a soak, we joined Sensei in his room for some drinking – the sake was good, but the shochu, Japanese-style vodka, must be an acquired taste. 

Sensei with Corey on the receiving end of a Hojo-jutsu lesson (photo courtesy of Dan Pearson)

Sensei held an impromptu Hojo-jutsu session.  Out came the hojo (tying cords) as we tried our hands at some elementary techniques.  Sensei began to work on Corey; he trussed Corey up in several different ways.  Sensei then demonstrated a variety of prisoner control techniques that had Corey flopping all around the tatami room.  At 77, Sensei manhandled Corey as if he were a rag doll.  It was quite the experience (but I am glad that I was a spectator). 

Extra-Training Day 2 (Tuesday, 8 Feb. 2005) 

Tuesday morning dawned cold and wet, and the flag raising was cancelled.  We went to the dojo before breakfast and reviewed the first three kata from Kage, and then Sensei instructed us in the first of five kata from Gohon no Midare.  Sensei told us that the late Shimizu-s. created this set having been inspired by kata from Tendo Ryu Naginata-jutsu [apparently Shimizu-s. was on friendly terms with the 14th soke, Chiyo Mitamura; similarly, Kaminoda-s. is on friendly terms with Hanae Sawara, a classmate of the 16th soke and a senior exponent of Tendo Ryu; I had the opportunity to train with Sawara-s. in March 1998 at a Tendo Ryu Gasshuku held at Asilomar in Monterey, CA (Sosnowski, 1998b)].  After breakfast, we continued to work through the remaining four kata from Gohon no Midare.  Our group shrunk again as the two Wisconsin students departed for Narita before lunch; now we were a group of six. 

We take a longer than usual lunch break to rest.  I took the opportunity to practice my shakuhachi again; I had to go down to the dining room so as not to disturb the others.  The assistant cook came over, intrigued by the playing and was a bit surprised to find a gaijin.  Conversation was sparse though as he spoke no English, and my Japanese is minimal. 

After lunch, Sensei first reviewed the four Kusarigama Kata from Saturday night’s training, and then added one more kata from the Ura set.  Sensei then switched to the SMR Omote set, and he covered the first three kata in detail, pointing out a number of subtleties.  After a hot bath and dinner, we again retired to Sensei’s quarters for sake and budo talk. 

During the evening, Sensei signed my Kusarigama-jutsu and Jutte-jutsu & Hojo-jutsu books (he had signed my copies of Jodo Kyohan and Jyodo during the 1999 Gasshuku in Maryland) – “signing” in this case amounts to a full page of signed and sealed calligraphy.  He also shared with us a bottle of fine sake from Kashima Jingu – it was like the liqueur Geldwasser in that it had small flakes of gold foil in it. 

He was free with his opinions concerning people, events, and organizations within the Jodo world, especially his relationship with the late Shimizu-s. (Kaminoda-s. was with Shimizu-s. daily – in the dojo, the Tokyo Riot Police training center, and in the office as Kaminoda-s. was the personal secretary to Shimizu-s.).  With respect to waza (techniques), he was especially adamant about the role of uchitachi in the various SMR arts.  

Extra-Training Day 3 (Wednesday, 9 Feb. 2005) 

Our last day dawned cloudy and freezing – puddles of rain had turned to ice.  We all trooped into the dojo for pre-breakfast training.  Sensei reviewed the seven o-dachi vs. o-dachi kata of Kenjutsu that we had trained in on Monday afternoon, and then went on to instruct us in the one nito vs. o-dachi kata and the four o-dachi vs. ko-dachi kata.  After breakfast, Peter Boylan left by train for Narita and his flight home to Michigan.  The five of us returned to the dojo after breakfast for our final training session.  We opted for a session of Jutte-jutsu (given the Gasshuku and the extra training, the only thing that we did not do was Tanjo-jutsu).  Sensei led us through five kata, four from the Omote set and one from Ura.  Sensei himself was uchitachi using an iaito (real jutte do not work well with bokuto) he is quite a scary sight coming at you with his sword in hasso – I felt like a man overboard in the water with an approaching ocean-going tug boat bearing down on me at full throttle. 

During the morning break with those ubiquitous little cans of hot coffee, Sensei asked the three remaining gaijin to demonstrate three kata from Iaido; Sensei himself is a senior exponent of Muso Shinden Ryu Iaido.  After Corey and Dan, Sensei turned to me and asked me to do a single kata, knowing that I was from a different style (Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu), saying that he could assess my Iai with just one kata (which I know to be true).  So I did ipponme Mae from the Shoden set (Omori Ryu) of MJER.  Sensei commented that it was a strong demonstration, and that my teacher was from the Osaka area [actually, my late guiding instructor, Matsuo Haruna (1925 - 2002), Iaido hachidan/hanshi, whom I saw annually from 1997 through 2001, was from nearby Okayama Prefecture].  After break, we returned to Jodo, running through the Omote-level kata a number of times.  Then the clock ran out, and it was time to return to the dorm for lunch and final packing. 

“The boys from Maryland” at Kashima Shimbuden: Corey (left) attended St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD, in the late 1990’s; Dan (center) and myself (right) currently reside in Maryland (photo courtesy of Michael Rogers)

Departure (Wednesday, 9 Feb. 2005) 

After lunch, we brought all our gear down; both Kaminoda-s. and Sato-s. packed all of their stuff in boxes and had them shipped back home – it works well for them in Japan.  That left just the three gaijin with gear.  We all piled into the Shimbuden van for the short ride to the Kashima bus station.  The staff of Shimbuden came out to bid us all farewell.  The five of us said good-bye at the bus station.  Kaminoda-s. would return to Tokyo, Sato-s. to Osaka, and Corey to Sendai where he now lives, and studies with Kaminoda-s.’s designated successor, Osato Kohei sensei, who is also a veteran of the Maryland Jodo Gasshuku (1996, 1997, 1999, and 2000), and who also attended this Gasshuku but had been working with groups other than ours. 

Dan and I hopped in a taxi for Narita driven by an old Japanese gentleman who spoke no English; however, we did get there and dropped off at the proper terminal.  We had a couple of hours to kill – Dan dropped off his rented cell phone, we had coffee, and did some gift shopping.  We said good-bye before checking in – as we had different carriers at almost opposite ends of the terminal, chances were slim of seeing each other once we checked in and passed through security, and customs & immigration. 

I needed a book to read on the flight back as I had already read the two that I had brought (Bones of the Master: A Journey to Secret Mongolia by George Crane, and Enigma: How the Poles Broke the Nazi Code by Wladyslaw Kozaczuk and Jerzy Straszak) on the flight to Japan – only during long flights do I have the luxury to read uninterrupted for long period of time.  In the airport bookstore, I found The Last Shogun: The Life of Tokugawa Yoshinobu, a work of historical fiction by Ryotaro Shiba, to read on the way home; I had previously read his Drunk as a Lord: Samurai Stories, and had enjoyed it immensely.  After this, I went to the currency exchange to change my yen back into dollars, and then wait to board my long flight home. 

Sensei’s Post-Gasshuku Mailing 

On 23 February 2005, the postman delivered a fat airmail envelope, which had Kaminoda-s. return address.  With great excitement, I opened the envelope and examined the contents.  There was a letter from Sensei with a report of the February 2005 Kashima Jodo Gasshuku and a receipt for my payment.  The “fat part” was a series of photographs: six of them were group photos taken at Kashima Shimbuden, Kashima Jingu, and Tsukahara Bokuden’s gravesite, and four were candid photographs from the embu at Kashima Jingu.  I am simply touched by his thoughtfulness. 

Lessons Learned 

On a personal level, I found the following lessons throughout our training: 

Comparing my previous experiences at the five Maryland Jodo Gasshuku with my experience at the Kashima Jodo Gasshuku, it seems to me that they were rather similar: the “Kashima Jingu Gasshuku” experience is essentially the group intense-training experience with emphasis on the group.  The Japanese experience had some unique aspects that could not be duplicated at the 1998-2000 Maryland Gasshuku: authentic Japanese food, sleeping quarters and bathing as well as o-daiko, shinza, dojo, and the old jingu. 


First and foremost I wish to thank Kaminoda-s. for his generous teachings over the years.  Sensei’s senior students, Yamaguchi-s. and Abe-s., provided much of our instruction during the Gasshuku.  Mr. Araki provided transportation for us from Tokyo to Kashima, and was our guide at Katori Jingu.  Dr. Dan Pearson, who provides the leadership to our local Jodo group, was a wonderful traveling companion and provided much of the detailed information on how to travel and train in Japan (we have both come a long way since our first meeting in Guelph, Ontario, in July 1996).  Mr. Corey Comstock provided training pointers and real-time translations during the Gasshuku.  Mr. Michael Rogers provided us with a lot of information on the Gasshuku before we left, an information packet when we arrived, and real-time translations as well as delivering those suede-soled tabi so we could be a bit more comfortable in the unheated dojo.  Dr. Richard Friman provided additional insights on Budo and other things Japanese, especially how to eat natto (boiled soybeans fermented by yeast) for breakfast.  I have known Mr. Peter Boylan for years – we bump into each other in Guelph once or twice a year it seems since at least 1997.  Peter also provided real-time translations as well as additional insights on Budo and other things Japanese like ofuro.  Lastly I wish to thank my wife, Ms. Val Matthews, for all her support in my pursuit of Budo, and especially in planning and executing this trip, my first to Japan. 


Amdur, Ellis, 2002.  Old School: Essays on Japanese Martial Traditions, Edgework, Seattle, WA.  275 pp. 

Bocking, Brian, 1997.  A Popular Dictionary of Shinto, NTC Publishing Group, Lincolnwood, IL.  251 pp. 

Draeger, Donn F., 1973.  Classical Budo, The Martial Arts and Ways of Japan: Volume II, Weatherhill, New York, NY.  127 pp. 

Shirakami, Ikku-Ken, 1987.  Shuriken-do: My Study of the Way of the Shuriken, Paul H. Crompton, London, England, 128 pp. 

Sosnowski, Raymond, 1998a.  “The Second Annual [Oct. 1997] Shindo Muso Ryu Gasshuku in MD” Journal of Japanese Sword Arts #93, 10(7/8), 4-7, July/August.

_____, 1998b.  “Shingetsukai Tendo-Ryu Naginata-jutsu Gasshuku [Mar. 1998] at Asilomar,” Journal of Japanese Sword Arts #94, 10(9), 5-9, September.

_____, 1999.  “The Third Annual [Oct. 1998] Shindo Muso Ryu Gasshuku in MD – the Kashima Jingu Gasshuku Experience,” Journal of Japanese Sword Arts #99, 11(2), 3-9, February.

_____, 2000.  “The Fourth Annual [Oct. 1999] Shindo Muso Ryu Gasshuku in MD – the Kashima Jingu Gasshuku Experience Revisited,” Journal of Japanese Sword Arts #106, 12(1-2), 11,13-15, March/April.

_____, 2001.  “The Fifth Annual [Oct. 2000] Shindo Muso Ryu Gasshuku in MD – the First US Inkyo,” Journal of Japanese Sword Arts #112, 13(3-4), 10-15, March/April. 

Sugawara, Makoto, 1988.  Lives of Master Swordsmen, The East Publications, Tokyo, Japan.  157 pp. 

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TIN Oct 2005