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Grant's Trip to Iwama

I was very fortunate that my work decided to send me to Japan to train on a new Konica Minolta model printer. As it was a business trip I didn't have many spare days. My course started on Tuesday morning 300km from Tokyo, and finished at 6:00pm on the Friday. My flight back home to New Zealand was Sunday night so I had a little bit of free time to be a tourist. I asked Roberts Sensei if it would be okay for me to travel to the Iwama Dojo and take a few photos. He said go and take some photos, but take your dogi and do some training. I was a bit nervous about the training, but you don't say no to your sensei. It was such an opportunity I would regret if I did not do it. Roberts Sensei called Inagaki Sensei in Iwama, Japan and organised my visit.

I woke up really early on Saturday morning and caught the first shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo. Tokyo Station is huge and it took a while to find the Joban line. I sat on the train and sent emails to Sensei saying I was nervous and excited at the same time. He replied back saying not to worry.

Toyohashi to Iwama is about 400km. The station is now quite new and there is a monument to O-Sensei outside.

Iwama Railway Station


It’s a ten minute walk from the station to the Aki Shrine. There was no one there....just silence and it was a very calm and peaceful place.

I was not 100% sure where the dojo was and who was going to meet me. Then I saw a pebble driveway on the opposite side of the road which lead to the dojo. As I walked up Martin from Argentina greeted me. He was one of the three uchi-deshi, live-in students, Erika from California, Martin from Argentina and Noa from Israel.

I went to the supermarket on one of the dojo bikes and got a bit lost. Finally I found my way back in the 30+ degree heat. I was then told by Martin that Dohsu was taking the training that afternoon. Doshu is the grandson of the original Master. He is the head of the Aikikai Foundation, and treated with great respect.
There were going to be many people from the Tokyo Hombu Dojo as people come from far away to train with Doshu.

There was hardly any room in the dojo and you had to be careful where you fell. The Hombu techniques are different to what we are used to so I found it very difficult. Hirasawa Sensei took me under his wing and worked with me speaking only in Japanese. Megumi would translate some things when we both got confused. He was really good, and we had many funny moments. I did get gently thrown to the ground by Doshu (which is actually a huge honour). It was 30+ degrees outside and hotter in the dojo!



That night the four live-in students (me being the fourth) had dinner and a few drinks. It was a lot of fun and we went to bed about 10:00pm. I slept in the space beside the dojo, about a metre away from the tatami mats. It was really hot and it gets light very early (4:30am). I couldn't sleep, and would just gaze at the dojo and shrine and be amazed by the history. It was silent and very tranquil in there all on my own.

5:00am was wake time, and we swept the Dojo and cleaned the walls. After that we had some free time before training because it was a Sunday. I wandered around the garden and took lots of photos.


Inagaki Sensei arrived and was very welcoming. The temperature was rising fast so I was glad when we trained with the bokken and jo under the shade of the big trees. It was a very magical place to train as so many had done before me. There were two other beginners there so we were assigned a senior student, Toshiyuki Nomura. His English was very good so he would explain in English, and then Japanese. The training was very relaxed and much less stressful than with Doshu the day before. We finished about 9:30am. The sensei then left to see the All Japan Aikido Demonstration in Tokyo. 

Akimoto Sensei arrived and took the next class inside the Iwama Dojo. I received some good advice on techniques from Akimoto Sensei and his uke, Toshiyuki Nomura. We would train with someone and then train with the person next to you on the left. The explanations were in Japanese but you could work out things by watching carefully.

It was now 12:00pm, time for a quick shower and Toshiyuki took me in his car to the train station. Off I went on the train to Mito station and then took a bus for two hours to Narita Airport.

I now have lots of cool memories and new friends from Japan.

A huge thank you to our Alan Roberts Sensei and Inagaki Sensei as it would not have been possible without their support. I will work hard to implement the new things I have learned. I hope my story will inspire others from our dojo to also have the experience of a lifetime in Iwama.

Moral of the story; Never let an opportunity pass by!

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