Day 1 (15/16 November 2016)
This year 2016, marks the first trip to Tokyo for the members of Eishin-Ryu Iaido Singapore to participate in the World MJER Iaido Federation 5th Taikai. Team Singapore consists of Michael, Luke, Kong Hoi, Noi, Ashley, Andrew, Ryan, Rei, Hui Wen, Wah Siang and Kheng-Li.
We gathered at the Singapore Changi Airport to have our luggage checked-in to catch the 10:20PM flight bound for Tokyo. Our family and friends were present to show their support and wished all of us a safe journey to Japan. After we entered the departure hall, we spent the remaining time before the flight together sitting down at a shop having a nice warm cup of tea and having a good chat. Soon, it was time for us to board the plane and to have a good rest onboard before touching down in Tokyo.
The plane landed at Haneda Airport at around 6:00AM where we had our first breakfast for this trip. We then proceeded to make our way to our hotel (Nishi Shinjuku Hotel Mystays) at Shinjuku on an airport express bus. We checked into the hotel and had some time to settle down and freshen up before we continued to explore the places nearby.
We walked around Shinjuku area and visited the Samurai Museum Shinjuku and Kabukicho. For the remainder of the day, we travelled to Ahkihabara which is a shopping district for video games, anime, manga and computer goods. We settled in for the day and rested at our hotel in preparation for training the next day.
Day 2 (17 November 2016)
We gathered early at the lobby of the hotel with all our Iaido gears to set off for Genshinkan Dojo for our first training session. We got out from our hotel and headed towards Tokyo station where we met Kheng-Li before catching an express bus to Kisarazu where Genshinkan Dojo was located. Genshinkan Dojo is headed by Kobara Sensei.
We were warmly received by Kobara Sensei when we arrived at his Dojo. Hou Sensei, Dojo Head of Taiwan Genshinkan was also present and all members were elated to be greeted by both Sensei who had been providing guidance in Iaido for all the Singapore members. Together, we proceeded inside the Dojo and got ourselves ready for training.
Kobara Sensei focused on the waza that were required for the enbu and/or grading. He highlighted the finer details of how each move should be performed and corrected our body postures after each move. Most importantly, Kobara Sensei reminded everyone to relax. At the same time, Hou Sensei assisted Kobara Sensei to observe and to correct us during training. We are grateful to Kobara Sensei and Hou Sensei for taking their time out to help us perfect the different waza.
After training, we were delighted that Kobara Sensei invited us to his home to have a home-cooked meal. This was to welcome us for coming over to Tokyo to participate in Iaido training and the 5th Taikai. All of us greatly appreciated Kobara Sensei’s hospitality and his time spent on training us. After dinner, we bid farewell to Kobara Sensei and he wished us all the best for the enbu and grading. We headed back to our hotel at Shinjuku where we reflected on the day's training and advice given by Kobara Sensei.
Day 3 (18 November 2016)
The second training session was held at Shibuya Dojo. Shibuya Dojo is headed by Esaka Sensei, Headmaster of MJER Kokusai Renmei. As the training was in the evening, we had some time to spare during the day. We took a trip down to Sakuraya, a shop located near Kudanshita Station where we were recommended to shop for Iaido gears. After we had finished shopping at Sakuraya, we proceeded to visit the Imperial Shrine of Yasukuni which was near Kudanshita Station. Informally known as Yasukuni Shrine, it was built to commemorate those who were sacrificed in the service for the Empire of Japan.
Next, we made our way to Shibuya Station from Kudanshita Station. We still had some time to spare and we were free to explore and shop at Shibuya. We then gathered at the entrance of Shibuya Station and made our way to Shibuya Dojo.
Once the Dojo was opened, we changed to our training attire and got ready for training. The training was led by Nashima Sensei who went through all of the Seiza-no-bu waza and Battou-hou waza. With assistance of many Sensei, they observed and corrected the moves of each waza performed by everyone. Nashima Sensei emphasized strongly on the importance of the pinky finger to have proper control of the iaito when performing different waza. Great emphasis had also been made on proper grip of the iaito in order to perform a proper cut. During training, we had the opportunity to meet Esaka Sensei in person and to most of us; it was our first time meeting him. Esaka Sensei moved around the Dojo and corrected the moves of each waza performed by the trainees.
After training, we returned to our hotel for a good night’s rest after a long day of sightseeing, shopping and training. It has been a great honor to receive guidance from Esaka Sensei and a privilege to train in Shibuya Dojo.
Day 4 & 5 (19 - 20 November 2016)
On the 4th and 5th day of this trip, we continued our training at Kita-Matsudo Dojo headed by Mochizai Sensei. We set off from our hotel and travelled to Ochanomizu Station from Shinjuku Station. From there we transited and made our way to Kita-Matsudo Station and by taking a short local bus ride, we arrived at Matsudo Athletic Park where the Dojo was located.
Nashima Sensei led the training on both days by going through Seiza-no-bu waza and Battou-hou waza with the assistance from other Sensei. Correction on fundamentals were highlighted by Nashima Sensei such as footwork, postures when performing each waza and the position of the iaito after each cut. Esaka Sensei was also present during the training to give us additional guidance and help.
At a later part of the training, members were split into smaller groups assigned to each Sensei to continue with the remaining training. Each Sensei focused on the waza that were required to be performed during enbu and grading. They pointed out the details that were critical in each waza and commented on the areas that we could improve on.
This marks the end of the four days of Iaido training during this trip in Japan. We had received valuable teachings from all the Sensei who had spent their time in training us. It was also time for us to reflect on their teachings in preparation for our performance in the enbu and grading at the 5th Taikai. We were truly thankful to all the Sensei for their guidance throughout the training.
Day 6 & 7 (21 - 22 November 2016)
We had two days of free and easy time prior to the 5th Taikai Enbu and Grading. We went sightseeing and shopping and some of us catch-up with our friends who are residing in Tokyo. We also made used of this time to practice and to etch the teachings from all the Sensei in preparation for the enbu and grading.
On 21 Nov, Matsumoto Sensei hosted a dinner for us in a restaurant near Kanda Station. We were delighted to meet Matsumoto Sensei who had guided us in Iaido training whenever he visited Singapore. We had an enjoyable time catching-up with Matsumoto Sensei over dinner. Overall we had an enjoyable dinner treat from Matsumoto Sensei and spent quality time over dinner chatting and having great laughter.
Day 8 (23 November 2016)
This is the day that we had been looking forward to. We would be putting our best performance for the 5th Taikai enbu and grading by applying all that we had learnt over these months together with the training we had over the course of our stay in Tokyo.
We set off from our hotel towards Kamata Station and arrived at Tokyo Jitsugyo High School, the venue of the World MJER Iaido Federation 5th Taikai. We then changed to our best set of montsuki and gi for the Taikai. We had a few moments to practice and warm up in the main hall before the event host called for the commencement of the 5th Taikai.
The event started with enbu and then followed by grading. It was inevitable that we felt a little tense in such an event. However, we were able to keep our anxieties under control and focused on performing our best in the enbu. We like to congratulate Michael and Kheng-Li for receiving Enbu Certificates for their excellent performance within their Dan category.
The participants who were taking their grading were guided to a classroom to sit for their written examination. After the written examination, they returned to the main hall to perform their grading waza. Team Singapore Hui Wen, Ryan and Rei took their Shodan grading. Noi, Kong Hoi, Ashley and Andrew took their Nidan grading. Luke took his Sandan grading. All the Singapore members who took their grading had successfully passed the grading due largely to their continuous effort and hard work put into learning and practising Iaido.
After the official closure of the 5th Taikai, all participants were invited to a restaurant near Kamata Station for dinner to celebrate the success of the 5th Taikai. Everyone had a great time at the dinner, chatting, good laughter and making new friends. After dinner, we bid farewell to everyone that we had met over this event, especially to the Taiwan members whom we hope to meet soon in the next Taiwan Taikai and they are most welcome to visit us in Singapore.
Day 9 (24/25 November 2016)
It was time for us to pack our luggage for our journey back to Singapore after a fun-filled training/vacation experience with great travel companions. It was very fortunate of us to experience snowing in Tokyo before we return to Singapore as it was reported to be the first snowfall in 54 years. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Michael, Noi, Kong Hoi and Andrew for planning the trip and taking care of the team so that this trip could be a pleasant experience for all.
*Photos courtesy of Andrew Boey and Luke Yeo
The trip report was done by Wah Siang, the most junior member in Team Singapore. Wah Siang was in Japan for training experience and enbu, hopefully, he will be taking his shodan grading either in Japan or in Taiwan in a year’s time. The Singapore dojo would like to thank Wah Siang for the time and effort in putting up the trip report.