My First Time in Honbu, Japan

The dream to visit the country that spawned the rise of the legendary ninja had been growing since my first encounter with Grandmaster Tanemura Soke some years earlier. The reality of this dream was about to be realised as I boarded my flight from London Heathrow in May 1998.

I landed at Tokyo Narita International Airport, Japan after a flight which seemed to last forever. I don’t know if it was excitement or nervous anticipation which prevented me from sleeping on the journey, but when I exited the baggage collection area, I felt tired. I had no time to relax just yet though as I had to meet my contact who had been arranged to ensure safe passage from airport to the accommodation where I would be spending the next six weeks.

I had been told a Mr James Wright Shihan would meet me. I had never met Wright Shihan before and had no clue what he looked like. I feared he might not recognise me; however, as I wondered around the airport lobby, I felt the stare of another non-Japanese looking at me and knew Wright Shihan had found me.

No time to waste, we trudged through the Tokyo metro (underground) and then boarded a train, with me dragging along an oversized suitcase and ill-fitting backpack. From there it was onto a bus, by which point I was starting to doubt if I had the stamina to engage with any physical training in the Dojo, as I was already reaching exhaustion. Eventually the bus stopped and after a short walk and final flight of steep stairs we reached the apartment. I was given my instructions, “rest for the next day then attend the Dojo for morning class”. I didn’t think to ask where or how to get to the Dojo, Jet-lag, exhaustion and relief engulfed my very being and I slept deeply on the futon bed until my alarm clock woke me the next morning.

More to come…….