I received a Skype call on Thursday from my friend Hayashi Kozo sensei to tell me that he had just passed the 8th dan examination in Kyoto. As I was working at the time in a client’s office, I caused a few heads to turn by jumping up and down and shouting in Japanese in response.
He was one of the five people to pass out of the 650 who tried on the first day in Kyoto. This in itself is a remarkable achievement but for a non-professional it is even more of a coup. As a company employee working for a house construction company, his keiko time has been strictly rationed throughout his adult life.
I have however always suspected that he would do it one day. He made it through the first part of the test (ichiji shinsa), three times in the past and has a successful shiai track record including two appearances in the Todofuken Taikai, one for the winning Osaka team.
Why I feel so overjoyed is that we have been close friends since we were in our twenties. When I started kendo in Osaka in the 70s he and his twin brother (also a hachidan contender), took me under their wing. We worked together on our kihon, waited in line together for the same sensei and on most evenings after practice went for a beer or two in Temmabashi to discuss kendo.
After I returned to the UK, our relationship continued. I have visited him 9 or 10 times in Japan, stayed in his home and we share hotel rooms on the years when I come for the Kyoto Taikai. He has also been to stay with me twice in the UK.
My only slight regret is that having been at 5 of the examinations when he didn’t quite make it, I was not there in Kyoto this year to see him make the grade. Still, there may be an opportunity to see another Hayashi family hachidan in action. His younger twin Ichizo is snapping at his heels and his older brother who retired from a successful Judo career in his 60s, subsequently started kendo and has reached 4th dan in the minimum time possible.
So the next step is to arrange for one of us to visit the other for a celebration drink. Hayashi sensei omedetou gozaimasu.
* This post is going out slightly ahead of its Monday morning slot as I am away on holiday from early tomorrow until next Tuesday.