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Adventures in Japan – 21 Years Ago Today

Yesterday marked the 21st anniversary of the day that I left Australia as a recent university graduate, and embarked on a 2 year adventure in Japan. Arriving late in the evening to the hustle and bustle of the metropolis that is Tokyo, I checked into the Sunshine City Prince Hotel in Ikebukuro. So in reality, my first full day in Japan was 21 years ago today.
Having recently completed my undergraduate studies, this adventure marked a turning point in 2 major aspects of my life. I was starting out on a career in the IT industry, but my major impetus for coming to Japan was to further my karatedo studies with the hereditary head of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo, So Shihan Masayuki Hisataka (Hanshi, 9th Dan). Of course, I also wanted the adventure of a life in a country that has so many magical and intriguing customs as Japan.

On my first day, I awoke a little late. Jetlag, perhaps, but also a sense that jumping deep end into Tokyo’s famous peak hour would be a challenge that could wait. I negotiated breakfast with my rudimentary Japanese language skills at nearby McDonalds, then made contact with the company where I would commence work in 3 weeks, NCR Japan. I visited the offices, and arrangements were made for me to move in to a company-owned apartment building, with an apartment to myself for a rent of just Y120,000 per month. I was truly fortunate, and to this day am thankful to my parent’s friend, Warren, for arranging employment contacts with NCR Japan. I also made arrangements for commencing work on 1 November.

Afterwards I explored Tokyo – heading first to Asakusa and the wonderful Shrine there, before heading to the bustle of Shinjuku. I went to Shinjuku knowing that the Kenkokan Dojo was (and is) in that Ward. Having a late lunch there, I explored a while, before using my map book to guide me to the dojo. I realised quickly that Shinjuku was a big ward, and 1 1/2 hours later arrived at the dojo in Waseda.

The children’s class was underway, but Hisataka sensei was not there. I waited with a Japanese fellow by the name of Miyazato-san, who was a senior black who had just arrived home after a work posting abroard. Hisataka sensei arrived at around 7.30pm that evening, about 30 minutes after the seniors class started, and greeted Miyazato san and I welcomingly, and ushered upstairs to his office for tea and a talk.

Although I had previously met Hisataka sensei on several of his visits to Australia, and I had communicated my intention to come to Japan by mail, I presented him with letters of introduction from the then heads of Australian Shorinjiryu Karatedo, Phil Hooper shihan and Scott Brown shihan. I was made to feel very welcome, and then joined the dojo training. After training, Hisataka sensei took me to dinner at a local eatery, and later I rushed to get the train back to Ikebukuro where my hotel was.

It was an exhausting, productive and interesting day to say the least. And it remains a clear memory in my mind. It was the start of an amazing adventure.

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