Diary of the trip to Okinawa 2010

Click Here to see pictures from the trip

Saturday March 27 & Sunday March 28, 2010

We started out on our journey to Okinawa at about 5:00am. going on very little sleep already I guess from the excitement of what was to come once we got to Okinawa.

We got to the airport and through security way early and had lots of time to spare. No worries though it made for a less stressful morning. Once we got to Chicago O'Hare we took the long trek over to the gate to catch our flight to Tokyo Narita International Airport. This is the stretch of the trip that is absolutely brutal. We were in the air 12 hours and of course the excitement and lack of comfort I didn't sleep more than about 2.5 hours on this stretch of the trip (UGGRAH)..

Finally in Tokyo which seemed like it took forever we got through Japanese Imigration, got our bags, went through customs, rechecked our luggage to the flight to Okinawa and got through security without any problem just a long line in customs and imigration.

Our flight was a little late getting into Okinawa having waited for a while in Tokyo for some Marines that didn't make the flight for some reason (never did find out why). Arrived in Okinawa around 10:00pm and got our luggage and met our ride to the hotel.

After stopping at a local curri restaurant so Sensei Heidi could get her first but not her last taste of Okinawa Curri to satisfy her craving :-). We finally got in to the hotel about 11:30pm and pretty much just crashed after that.

The beginning of a fast paced trip started at about 6:30am for me (way earlier than my norm) but it is what it is and just decided to go with it. We went and had breakfast in the hotel and got on the road to start seeing Okinawa.

Our first stop today was Shureido to pick up gi's and other goodies. It was nice to finally get to see the actual store instead of just ordering everything for so many years. It's actually surprisingly small considering the amount of business they do around the world. Everyone was very nice and very helpful and of course I spent way to much money.

After Shureido we went over to Shuri-Jo (Shuri Castle) it really is an amazing sight even if they were working on it.

We stopped by the hotel to drop some things off and on to visit Tokumura Sensei at his dojo and schedule our training sessions with him for the week.

After grabbing a quick bite we headed over to Kichiro Shimabuku's dojo to get ready for the first training session in Okinawa. Of course I was the outcast of the group being the only non Isshin Ryu person but Shimabuku Sensei was very welcoming and allowed me to workout with them and was it ever a workout. I lost count of how many kicks and strikes we did total I know more than 500 of each done full power and with a kiai on each one. After that on to bag work while his Okinawan students worked Seisan the adult black belts got to test out how good our cardio was by hitting the heavy bag as hard and fast as we could until Shimabuku Sensei told us to stop. Only another 90 or so strikes YIKES.. Great fun and a great workout.

After the break we worked on some kumite drills after the kids left to go home for the evening. Again more sweat and non stop moving. It reminded me of my days with Sensei Ward in Indiana. Hard and heavy workouts and great memories. Truly a WELCOME TO OKINAWA!!

After we left the dojo we went to see where the original Isshin Ryu Dojo (Tatsuo Shimabuku's Agena Dojo) once stood. Looks like today all that is left is one of the walls.

Monday March 29, 2010
Tuesday March 30, 2010

Just like Monday I was up and moving around 6:30am. This morning was much different as the workout with Shimabuku Sensei Monday night had wreaked havoc on my legs. Thats ok though nice hot shower, breakfast and some tiger balm and we were on our our way to go train with Hanshi Kensho Tokumura, 9th Dan (Kobudo) at his dojo in Uruma City. After some discussion about various topics we headed up to his patio area outside of his house overlooking the Pacific Ocean and East China Sea to begin learning Tokushin No Nunti Bo. Tokumura Sensei has developed his own kobudo kata for various weapons and this particular kata was his (what an honor to learn it where and how we did).

After training for a couple of hours we left Tokumura Sensei for the day and headed back towards the hotel.

This night we headed over to Camp Foster to train with Tsuyoshi Uechi. I found Uechi Sensei to be very open and kind also very laid back. He ran us through a series of 30 different sets of basics before working on Seisan. This was very educational though I practice Seisan this gave me another view point on both kata and bunkai. We had a wonderful workout with Uechi Sensei and afterwards ran over to the food court on base and grabbed something to eat real quick before heading back to the hotel.

This morning started early again for me but this time my legs were really shot from training on Monday and Tuesday. But again breakfast and off to Tokumura Sensei's dojo for more kobudo.

On the way to the dojo we stopped at Katsuren-gusku (Katsuren Castle) and walked up it. What a beautiful view from this ancient castle overlooking Uruma City and the ocean. This is one of the last feudal castles of the Ryukyu Kingdom and has history said the lord of this castle was ruthless and very brutal.

I skipped the training with Shimabuku Sensei this night since I knew my body just would not give what he would expect. So I stayed back at the hotel and loosened up by soaking in our massive tub in the room and trying to get the muscles to relax a little (it worked). Andy who is stationed with the US Navy in Okinawa took leave and was hanging around with us and driving us around the island came back to the hotel and picked me up and we all met his wife Sara at 50's Diner for dinner that night. Imagine that a 50's Diner on Okinawa, I was surprised.

Wednesday March 31, 2010
Thursday April 1, 2010

Well April Fools Day in Okinawa. What was the day to bring??? Well as usual we went to Tokumura's first thing for more Kobudo training. After training Tokumura Sensei took us out to Hamahiga Island and Miyagi Island to do some sight seeing. What a beautiful sight in this area. Pictures just do not do it justice at all.

We did take it a little easier today after going so much all week we were starting to wear down a bit.

We did some shopping on Gate 2 Street and picked up a few things to bring home. We ran into Ippon-Do which people had spoke highly of but honestly I wasn't terribly impressed by it. Just reminded me of a typical tourist shop.

We went back to Camp Foster to workout with Uechi Sensei and got a good workout just working basics.

After the rain my allergies started kicking in and I started feeling kinda rotten. Still going though for now.

Its hard to believe that this trip has gone so fast. This morning we met with Tokumura Sensei and went out on a private beach near his family tomb and took pictures. I am glad today was easier, nasty migraine hit sometime over night and I couldn't seem to kick it at all. Between the allergies and migraine working out was a no go tonight again :-(. We went out to eat with Shimabuku Sensei and WOW did he take care of us. What a wonderful layout for dinner and a beautiful view of Uruma City. The kindness and generosity he showed was outstanding and very much appreciated. Friday April 2, 2010
Saturday April 3, 2010

Well we took the day and went to Naha again to see some more things. First we went by the Okinawa Prefectural Budokan. This place is huge and very nice. I can't imagine though how crazy it was during the Okinawa World Tournament in 2009.

After the budokan we went to the Japanese Naval Cave which was a experience that I won't ever forget. Something I think all american's should do if they go to Okinawa. The history that is told about the events that took place there and during the Battle of Okinawa is amazing and very sad at the same time. Truly a waste on both sides so many lives lost.

We stopped by Shureido again also and picked up some more stuff. This time I was more conservative on the money LOL :-).

After we left Shureido we went and visited Kokusai Dori which was cool to see. The fish market is unreal on the things that you see, not something that you would find in the United States.

After Kokusai Dori we stopped to get something to eat and headed over to a grocery store to get some Sashimi and Sushi for Shimabuku Sensei's visit to our hotel that night. We had a rather enjoyable night with him and our other guests. Stayed up late and of course Sara kept telling Michael to shut up though he had not said a word. Lots of laughs and a good time had by all.

Well our last day in Okinawa, we went to visit Tetsuhiro Hokama, Hanshi / 10th Dan and see the Okinawa Prefecture Karate / Kobudo Museum. Hokama Sensei was so kind and very welcoming to us, offering us tea, candy, bananas and beer. After we sat and talked for quite sometime with him he took us upstairs to see the museum. Though its small there are so many treasures of the history of karate and kobudo that I don't think I saw everything.

Since Hokama Sensei is also a master in shodo we had him make us some scrolls to bring home.

Afterwards we headed to the same restaurant we went to the first day and then on to the airport to head home.

The trip home was rough to say the least. So the story is not to long we ended up sleeping in Tokyo Hareda Airport until we could catch the bus to Narita Airport for our flight to Washington D.C. it was supposed to have been about 25 hours in travel time but ended up being 35 hours or a little more (we lost track of time).

The trip was great overall and truly something I would do again and recommend to any serious karate student / teacher. Go to Okinawa and see what real karate is like, experience the culture, and the kindness of the Okinawan people. It will give you a different outlook on your training.

Sunday April 4, 2010