How wonderful? Do you still speak any Japanese?
My wife and I get to enjoy a special treat next month when we will fly to Japan to visit with our son and his family. He is a Naval Officer stationed at Atsugi NAF just southwest of Tokyo. It will be very special for the wife to see the three grand kids and Japan for the first time, and me returning after over 40 years.
My son wants to take me over to the Kodokan for a visit. It was there that I earned shodan under supervision of Kotani sensei (last Kodokan Judo 10th dan alive) in 1960. Wow, that was a while back! It seems like just a few years ago in some weird way! Anyway, it would be nice to lose twenty years so I could work out, but this old fart will not do so.
Also I have Japanese astronomy colleagues to visit – some I have met with and some not. They always treat us like royalty and I am the red carpit will roll out again. Several consider me a Ph.D, like it or not – I only finished an electrical engineering degree and stopped that foolish school business in my early 30’s. But my mail is addressed to Dr. J.D. Beish and that they will not change!
At any rate it will be an experience. My son was supposed to come here to visit, but the cost would have been prohibitive given the three kids and a wife and him qand with visits to both sets of grandmas and grandpas. So is getting off cheaper by paying our way over there! Nice, huh?
It will be great to see them and also see the great hall where I enjoyed so much Judo in my younger years. What is it they say – “you can take a kid from Judo, bit you can’t take Judo away for the kid“ :-)
How wonderful? Do you still speak any Japanese?
Have a safe trip, Jeff! Is the Kodokan even in the same building from 1960?
Oh yeah...have fun, too!
Expect only what happens in the fight. That way, you'll never be surprised.
Even after all those years I still remember a little conversational Japanese. I was quite fluent then, plus all the subsequent years teaching Judo (partly in Japanese) of course I retain much of that also. At one time I cold speak Japanese, German and a little English
The new Kodokan was opened in 1959. I took my batsugan for shodan at the old Kodokan. That is now a boxing gym. It was an old wooden building that somehow survived the war (I think). I only have a few photos of my time there and they are slides that have turned reddish yellow. It was a brand new place then.
Our trip to Japan was enjoyable. My son, wife, and oldest grandson took several trains from Atsugi NAF to downtown Tokyo and after asking several people finally found the Kodokan. It was nestled in between skyscrapers and was hard to find. The last time I was there it was all by itself next to a train track. Of course, that was over four decades of progress ago.
We went down stairs to eat, they FAQ’ed in a menu in English :-), then we went visiting the museum and some offices where I talked with some old Judo players. There is a viewing gallery overlooking the main floor. It had changed a little, but still appeared the same except for the color of the tatami covering floor. I remember them just being a straw colored. Also, I could not find the workout and testing room where I tested for shodan, but it was probably right in my path and being an old fart I just couldn’t see it. Actually, we used the main workout floor (dojo) for the contesting. Then you had to defeat at least six Judoka of the same or higher rank as you were, in a contest referred to as batsugan (if that is the proper way to spell it). Anyway, after that exciting blood sport we had to perform some kata and other stuff in a testing area. Then you paid like $2 for a certificate and license in Judo as a beginner (1st dan) and some of us American/European types would get one with some English stuff on it. I joined the Kodokan and became a life member after some years. I showed my LM card to the guy running the museum and we had a great time chattering with each other about the good old days. The good old days appeared to all but gone there, as well as here.
I visited my son’s Judo class somewhere near the Navy base and met some very nice Judoka, several were Americans with Japanese parents and so on, and some locals. While I wanted to workout or begin teaching real bad I bit my lip and sat by watching. IMHO they could have benefited from some of the “old ways” that still remains within my habitual mind and their Judo was not quite up to what my memory says was all that great. Neither did I think the Judo at the Kodokan was all that great either, but I must remember that most of them were high school students (all but two were yundasha) and memories always feel better in one’s own mind than what actually was.
My astronomer friends took us for a tour of Yokohama, an observatory there, to eat lunch where I gave them a lecture on Mars in a nice room upstairs in this huge building – then to China Town for an eight course dinner (sat on the floor) and plenty of beer and saki. Hey, it must have cost them a small fortune since a beer in Japan costs $9 in our money! Yes, if you plan to visit Japan being okani, plenty of it. If that is the correct spelling then “okani” is money.
Japan is a great place to visit – but I would not want to live there. Somewhere we read that the population of Japan is near 136-million! Hey, that’s 48% of the population of the USA and only 4% the square area of the USA!!! Sardines have more room!
I enjoyed your travelogue--going to China Town in Japan!--but this part is my favorite. A black belt is a beginner--not the attitude you find here in the States it seems.Originally posted by jeffbeish
Then you paid like $2 for a certificate and license in Judo as a beginner (1st dan)
Mmmmm...China Town. I've got to say, Yokohama's China Town is one of my favorite places to eat. Last time we went, my sister-in-law and her husband took us to this little hole-in-the-wall restaurant that turned out to have quite possibly the best Chinese food I've ever eaten outside of Hong Kong and Singapore.
Thanks for posting about your trip. It was interesting to hear how things have changed from what you remembered.
I attempted to translate and find the word(s) sho-dan on my old Kodokan license and it is just too hard for me now. I used to read all that chicken scratching, but that is what it looks like to me now The best I came up with was that “sho” means sprit, vitality, or essence,” but the two symbols must be taken in context so I may be off base. I was taught that they did not use the word, ICHI (Japanese for one) to define 1st dan because the rank or grade meant, ”to begin to learn.” Something like, now that you have been shown all the techniques of Judo it is time now to learn Judo. The Way. Gentle Way and so on. You can’t just literilly translate this stuff because it even confuses us old guys
Another distinction is the 4th dan grade. It is not referred to as SHI-dan or YON-dan (some do but they are incorrect) because that is the first grade in the intermediate master grades; yodan and godan and they use the word YO for some reason I can’t remember. The first set, if you will, is the basic or lower grade group; shodan, nidan, sandan. The grades from 5th dan and below are allowed to wear a black obi or belt. Then the next set or group is rokudan, shchidan, and hachidan who can wear a red and white obi (usually for ceremony) and the last two, kudan and judan, may wear a red belt indicating “master” I think. No one ever explained to me what a “master” was since some refer to anyone who is allowed to wear a black belt is a “master.” The terms may not fit our version of the definition of what a master is. All I remember is that SHODAN was the beginning of our learning experience in Judo, nidan through godan were earned the hard way and any rank above that was more of less given for political reasons (service, old age, etc.). Hope that confused you like it did me
The name of the Chinese Restaurant is Haku-Raku-Ten. It appeared to be one of the more expensive places, but we saw a lot of fancy places in China Town. My family was guests of a group of Japanese astronomers that I have corresponded with for three decades but never met in person. They must have spent bookoo okani because we drank several beers each and at least one bottle of expensive Chinese Saki (big bucks). The eight-course meal was excellent and it was the first "sit-on-the-floor" meal that I had enjoyed for some four decades. I lived in Japan then Okinawa for two years, so was familiar with the customs and such things. We also toured Kanagawa Prefectural Youth Centre (KYC) astronomical observatory in Yokohama. We must have taken at least four taxi rides here and there in Tokyo and Yokohama -- on their dime! Guess they make much-o Yen over there.
Last edited by jeffbeish; 04-30-2002 at 08:19 AM.
Arnisador, the yen to dollar exchange then was 360 yen to one dollar. So, things were cheaper then. I think we paid 50 cents a day to sleep over and study at the Kodokan back then. I'm not sure what the Air Force paid them but I attended a class in combative measures than lasted several weeks at the Kodokan and then stayed around a few more weeks for advanced study. That is when I made shodan. We would eat rice and sushi down stairs for a dime or two, all you cold stuff in your face. When I received my certificate they wanted about 720 yen for it, handling material costs for he paper and ink I would guess. I is a nice looking thing that I sill hang on my office wall..
Maybe a good definition:
SHODAN (1st dan or degree black belt) indicates that the student is sincere in following Judo (gentle way). It is the first serious step on an endless path of discovery and inquiry.
I didn't realize the Air Force was using Japanese nationals for instruction then, even as consultants!Originally posted by jeffbeish
I'm not sure what the Air Force paid them but I attended a class in combative measures than lasted several weeks at the Kodokan and then stayed around a few more weeks for advanced study.
All these details are fascinating. Thanks!
The USAF began sending airman to the Kodokan in 1954 for combative mesaures (hand-to-hand combat) training so we could train the SAC bomber crews in survival fitness, etc. Judo classes were a byproduct of that effort and it just grew onward. We began sometime in the 1950's with a loose association of several groups in the Air Force an dwe then formed the Air Force Judo Associaiton (mostly SAC) then the Armed Forces Judo Assoc. and finally the US Judo Assoc. Good old days. You may find some of this info on the Kodokan web page, long since changed of course, but similar stuff.
Lots of people went through the classes and most of them are at room temperature today.
When I referred to the rank paper issued to us for black belt grades by the Kodokan you may be interested in what I can read from it. The special rank certificates we received in those days were among the first Kodokan Judo rank papers issued in both Japanese and in English. It is a nice looking certificate with several stamps by individual officials of the Kodokan, hand-written in Japanese above the English inset. The inset on mine states:
Mr. Jeffrey D. Beish
is herewith licensed to rank in the FIRST Grade of
the Kodokan Judo of Japanese origin, in recognition
of the great progress that he has made by his diligent
study of the art.
We expect him to endeavour for further progress
In the future.
Tokyo: September 28, 1961
President of the Kodokan Judo Institute
In those days, maybe today, we were issued similar certificates for teaching Judo, Judo kata, etc., and other stuff I never achieved. I have been a yodan, or 4th dan, for many years and in Japan that is the first grade that is allowed to teach Judo – usually as an assistant to sensei. In this country I have seen Judoka as low as sankyu teaching Judo classes. That is because of all the pseudo-politics that prevailed in American Judo now for the past 50 years whereby the old governing body of Judo discriminated against anyone who was not of Japanese or Korean origin. That is a fact, pure and simple, and us old guys still carry that burden in ourselves. In other words, the big shots in the Federation (JBBF) did everything they could to hold back us European type Judoka in promotions.
Well, some of us were promoted in Japan by our sensei who cared for us and in my case, since I was a life member of the Kodokan, my sensei just submitted my promotions through the Kodokan. Don’t need some so-called American Judoka or Federation bully group pulling any tricks on me.
If you sense some hostility in my words then you are right, think of this; I still feel towards that Judo governing body as I do about those scum who flew into the Twin Towers in New York -- but our towers was American Judo. But, who remembers or even cares now?
Last edited by jeffbeish; 05-02-2002 at 07:06 AM.
When I left Japan in the mid-80's, the yen rate was hovering around 200 yen/dollar. 2000yen was roughly $10. Almost half that, now.
Hey, Jeff...what do you think of the new Hubble pics? (I know, OT...sue me )
Expect only what happens in the fight. That way, you'll never be surprised.
I do review Hubble images from time to time, but Mars is my interest and the other stuff, while interesting, is really more refined old stuff. Since setting up my mid-sized telescope (12.5-inch f/7 Newtonian) I used it for viewing Mars this past year and some this year, but moved it around back and have not used it since. I will set up my 16-inch f/7 soon.
I do like to observe dark sky objects; however, Monday morning at 2 a.m. I got up for the mid-sleep pause to the bathroom and heard a dog barking, so I walked in the living room to take a look out front. Behold , there was the huge black bear standing in my driveway staring at me! Since my wife has never seen one in the “wild” I got her up, she went and then I walked out front and yelled at the thing to MOVE IT! No, I did not go far from my front door – I was raised in the Tennessee Hills and know bear (the ancient art of respect for wild beasts). It was near full Moon and that huge beast was stood at least 42 inches on all fours. 300+ pounder. He snorted at me and turned and walked across the street and into the bush.
In time I will begin to view the heavens again because my sky here in very dark. So dark in fact that a black bears would be hard to see as theose snealy beasts go for the kill!