But I digress, my first ever session in Japan wasn't at the Ishizuka dojo it was at what was then called 'shihan' training. Basically only for shihan (there were not that many in those days, all Japanese) it was invite only... Still not sure how I got invited, possibly because me(with Khally on my back) and Mr Pilkington did a 1am runner away from what we were sure was yakuza black limo which was slowly following us. A faint 'ello ' the opening of the door and footsteps speeding up behind us ended up to be Soke wanting to say hello. Oops. But then I did get the invite. Anyway, I remember that first evening in Noguchi's small dojo, my partner Nagato Shihan... apart from the obvious pain I remember the slight reassuring (for me) way the Shihan would look at each other as if to say WTF after every technique.
Then there was the normal training at Ishizuka Dojo in Kashiwa, only a couple of foreigners present most sessions, maybe three on Friday night Soke night! Rolling and kihon at the start then techniques from Ten shi Jin and then henka. Saturday training after the kids class was interesting, usually due to the impromptu avoiding of shuriken as Sai and his young friends used the tatami at the end of the dojo for shaken practice, bouncing stars
Too many stories to tell really, being at Ishizukas for the afternoon doing family things and drinking while listening to the ukelele followed by him telling John and I to leave Juni (my wife, now it was a while until I realised I was not saying in my best Japanese, this is my wife Juni but rather this is my wife number twelve - always had the feeling that gave me a little kudos with the shihan though) get our gi and follow him. Now as we had all been drinking a little bit I presumed we were hitting the bamboo grove for a bit of night time ninja training - Ishizuka showed us how to run through the grove in yoko aruki style, and then sneak up on a shed like building in a clearing. He motioned us to go on through the curtain and followed us in... As we walked into a Shihan hanbo and shaken session. After nearly losing all the afternoon shoshu in one warm tra down my leg I turned to say something to Ishizuka; who obviously wasn't there! I remember Soke laughing and saying something about Ishizuka and us which made the rest of the Japanese laugh. What a session though!
I remember struggling along in the sessions with my little Japanese, there were no translators except when 'gomi' Mark was around, luckily for most of my first stay there John P was there for most of it and his Japanese was already good. But sometimes there was nobody else.
We got invited to Soke's quite a bit, I'm talking the old house where you had to negotiate the stacks of books, animals (he was very proud of the turkey he rescued from being a Xmas dinner) and heh dirty plates. Apparently Nagato related that Soke and missus had had an argument over who did the dishes, hence no one was. Soke went to get some noodles and there was a mad rush for the sink. Took me a minute to realise the Shihan were rushing to wash a plate for them to use - I was too late and spent the rest of the day wondering just whose dinner was left on my vaguely wiped bowl!
We often lost Khally to either Ishizukas mother in law who used to take her off to visit people or to the folks in the bento shop who lifted her in through the window in the wall, made a big fuss of her, returned her 20 minutes later with a heap of free food. Who was I too argue!
Training was different I think, things just cropped up and the Boss would show stuff. Yes there were pistol and knife techniques but also other incidental techniques, walking, night vision stuff etc etc.
I left Japan after our first stay to move to Australia and get involved with the crap that was going on at the time. The feeling and number of gaijin in Japan training changed every year I went back... But that's another post or two!