I am fortunate to be able to practice kendo regularly in the UK and to visit other European countries for kendo. However with the exception of the occasional practice with visiting sensei, I feel that my own kendo level is pretty much in maintenance mode. So, whenever I can, I try to visit Japan, to gain exposure to some high-level keiko. To my mind, the best time and place to do this is in May at The Kyoto Taikai.
I am leaving the day after tomorrow to spend a few days with friends and to get over jet lag before my tachiai on May 3rd. Naturally, other than the enbu itself, there will be lots of other opportunities to train, and I hope to manage at least one, (preferably 2), sessions a day throughout my stay.
This is my 5th time at the Taikai, and I am still working on getting my men on quick enough to make the most of asa-geiko. Even with 400 or so hachidan sensei to choose from, it is still difficult to get more than 4 keiko in the hour, unless you are quick off the blocks. It is also not easy to find accomodation in Kyoto in Golden Week unless you book well in advance. I have become a regular at Nishihonganji Temple’s hotel, as a friend makes a reservation for me the year before, whether or not I can make it.
This year the plan is to spend some time in Himeji and Osaka before arriving in Kyoto in time to watch the 8th dan shinsa on the 2nd, before attending a party in the evening. The challenge as ever, will be to stay sober enough to enjoy asa-geiko at 6.30 the following morning. I already have a number of other keiko sessions arranged and the schedule is fast, filling up.
However I do in my tachiai, the next week or so should give me the the chance to take back enough memories of high-quality keiko to last for the next 12 months. Please do not expect me to add to the weight of my already overweight kendo luggage by taking a laptop, but hopefully I should have some interesting updates for this blog after I am back on May 6th.