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In Japan with Sensei Ir para o Conteúdo
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In Japan with Sensei

Senpai Wenzel´s travel diary accompanying Sensei to Japan.




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    In Japan with Sensei 3

    por Wenzel - Nihon - 24-Jan-2020

    IN JAPAN WITH SENSEI 3 - Senpai Wenzel

    GOOD MORNING VIETNAM!

    (or "the third and final email of the trilogy of a trip to Japan with Sensei")


    "Yesss! ...", "... Yesss!". Japanese speaking "yes", even in English, is different. It sounds like an "Hai!". It gets out of the HARA (guts, belly button, body energy source, KIAI`s source!), just like "hai", it`s short, firm, finished with Zanshin. I listen and enjoy the disposition of the young employee of the hotel counter, with his suit a little too big for him, greeting the foreigner: "Yesss!", "Yesss!", while Sensei checks us in speaking in nihongo, to a clumsy employee. Everyone is very fast and attentive as always, but there were four tickets for breakfast.

    The breakfast in Japan is a celebration, with rice, fish, missoshiro, pickles, salad, natô, eggs and bacon (as a gift due to the foreigners), seaweed, tofu, and sometimes there is seafood pudding, a success.



    Traditional Japanese Breakfast


    But in this hotel the breakfast is self-service and can be repeated at will, there was no need for two tickets for each of us since it was a single night. As two cards came to the room, one for each, I pointed that out, and in fact, the lady charged four diaries instead of just two. I continue to enjoy it, discreetly, of course, now seeing the manager join the miss and both trying to solve the problem as fast as possible, a bit embarrassed, enough to round off the mistake, reverse the transaction and redo correctly. The two or three extra minutes allow me to observe some more check-ins of other guests, with "Yess!" For foreigners and "Hai!" For Japanese! Marvel, everything works right, besides their little slip, and me disturbing the access to the counter on the side. Oops! Gomen!

    We are in Hiroshima. The morning of that day we were on the bullet train, coming from Kyushu Island and entering Honshu, the main island by its westernmost place. Sensei told me that about 20 km north of where we were, on the coast of the Sea of Japan, near Korea, is Nagato Province, home of Yoshida Shoin. The intellectual samurai who played a decisive role in the political modernization of Japan in the Meiji reform, in the second half of the nineteenth century. From what I understand, despite not having a position of power, he is one of the intellectuals of modern Japan, a teacher and mentor to many figures who later came to be important in building modern Japan, including future prime ministers. I take him as a species of José Bonifácio* of Japan, including apparently, unexplored as well as for the crowds. *José Bonifácio was a Brazilian statesman with progressive thoughts, such as public education and Brazil´s independence from Portugal.

    It was also in Nagato that Yoshida Shoin was held in house arrest, and to where the progressives of the time were pilgrims, to learn from him. I realize that this Nagato is very far from the other political and economic centers of the time! And there was no bullet train! Yet people came from far to learn from the young Sensei that was very ahead of their time!




    The itinerary of the bullet train and Nagato



    We talked more about Yoshida Shoin. As he considered it important to join the crew of Commodore Perry and travel the world to gain more knowledge about the world and about modern rhoughts to incorporate in his ideas and projects for Japan`s modernization. He wanted to put Japan and the world in perspective. Anyway, we talked more about these subjects that we have discussed in the Golden Moments at Niten a few months ago. Commodore Perry, as the representative of the US government, could not accept him and had to return him to the Shogun authorities. Still, Commodore Perry would have had great sympathy for him, and if it was his choice, he would have accepted him to travel the world on his "black ships." The Commodore, on his travel record, speaks of the extreme politeness and refinement of "this" Yoshida Shoin and talks about the Japanese people as a whole with deep admiration, "what a fantastic people, what a fantastic country that has such amazing people!"



    Illustration of one of Commodore Perry`s black ships being received in Japan


    I remember the first image I made of Japan as a child. At that very young age, the memories are confused and sometimes they betray us, but I think it was when my mother read me the book "JIM KNOPF AND LUKAS, THE CONDUCTOR OF LOCOMOTIVE": The tiny island where Jim and Lukas live will receive a new citizen (probably someone was pregnant), and the king explains to Lukas that unfortunately, the island will no longer have room for EMMA rails, the locomotive, of course. Lukas, inseparable from Emma, decides to seal her, to make her float and to leave in search of new lands, and Jim decides to go together to take care of the two, so the three of them throw themselves into the vast ocean.






    When Jim (the boy) and Lukas reach the land, the author`s description guides what would be the first image I have of Japan in my head: a wonderfully well-groomed land, with extremely polite, delicate people in their feelings, very clean, the very polished houses and craftsman skilled and refined.

    I think I`ve mixed elements of Jim`s book, with elements from "The NeverEnding Story," by the same author that I also read in childhood, and in addition, now that I think of it, Jim, Lukas, and Emma actually come to China, not in Japan. Which is funny too, because in Austria there is a saying that "Chinese and Japanese are all the same." Which of course is nonsense as big as saying that Austrians and Germans are all the same, but from the point of view of a five-year-old kid on the other side of the planet, we can let go! Anyway, in my memory, they would arrive in Japan.

    And this image of Japan that I memorized was sort of what Sensei says was Commodore Perry`s impression of Japan!

    Now, when I come to know Japan in person, Japan continues to impress me as much as in the narrative of children`s adventures.

    The people, the education, the cleanliness, the zeal, and dedication when doing things. You need to come to Japan in person to really understand and feel the intensity of that energy. Just feeling. And if you already practice with us, even better, because Niten gives you the key to get deeper, catch your breath, and once physically in Japan, improve faster spiritually.

    Everything here reminds me about a fantastic story, still in the mood of the "confusing time". People, details, customs ... The use of small spaces, even in an urban area with rice crops and vegetable gardens. Sometimes there are left some terrain, triangular, with not more than 15m x 15m x 10m, in the midst of two-floor buildings, that have crips being cultivated. Everything so planned and well used.

    The most frugal, everyday things have their special details. For example the elevators in the train stations: most of the time it has two doors, so it fits more people, it works and flows better, because everyone enters one side, and when they leave, they are already all facing towards the exit. (It`s even fairer because the first one to enter is the first one to leave). Another thing that in Japan, the 750-kg capacity elevator comes certified for up to 13 people! Light people, except the sumo fighters, of course.)

    Can one argue that the two-door lift should be much more expensive than one? "That`s rich country luxury." On the other hand, I can imagine that they had an engineer who calculated that the greater cost compensated after so many years, because it increased the use of space, and the platform of the station that did not have space to be built bigger, would support more people, etc. Also because their elevator is Japanese, and I do not know if that`s why, or why they fix it fast, or due to disciplined use does not spoil it so fast, in Japan everything is always working. I remember the tip of my mechanic to buy a Japanese car: they almost did not break. It`s rare to see a maintenance team here. It`s all working. Oh gosh!

    And there`s mechanism and details and equipment everywhere.









    Every detail is carefully thought out. Sensei and I often spend the entire day having to carry our bags with us, literally up and down. In time to go forward and back lucky they have wheels. At the time of going up and down, we hunted the escalators and many times we got to know the elevators better! And how they were all always working very well. When we were getting around on the flat surface the heavier the suitcase the more you notice the ground and its relationship with the wheels! Even here, everything is thought of. All smooth, with no unevenness, well-made joints, and when there is a small gap, a thin rubber tarp is placed on the spot, which allows everything to run well!

    But even in your house for the most daily gestures, those you repeat day after day, nor even there you think so well in the round and frictionless operation of these gestures, as in Japan gestures and actions are thought, even of public space. Mostly public space: Things have to work! Already enough with so many times that everything has to stop for an earthquake or typhoon passing through the islands.

    On the public space, Alana, a student from Rio who spent a year in Japan, also wrote me: "In this sense, getting out of a logic in Brazil in which the public good is "if it`s for everybody, then whatever (don`t need to value it, you can get it dirty or wreck it. It`s worth mentioning that I`ve never done it)" for a thought that the public good "is also ours" it was really cool." (It was great that she wrote me this, so I also have the opportunity to correct the information from the first email that she went to do a doctorate and not a master`s degree in Japan).

    There is one of these details, one of this equipment for everything to work better, that it`s special: the BEER serving machine! And I was going to take a photo, or rather, make a video of it, for didactic purposes, to take to Brazil. But it was exaaaactly in that beer after the crazy day of the "4missions+1extramissionwithoutsleepinglastnight," and I just forgot to make the video. Toasting with Sensei has been given priority and then, well then I forgot, I must have thought that I could record at another time ... But I will describe why this is really important! It is as follows: You fit the mug into the machine and insert the coin. So far, it only makes sense if you have the machine (and the coin, which has to be Yen). But now comes the universal and important part: the machine first turns the mug to an angle of about 50 degrees, and begins pouring the beer into the mug until about half the volume. Then the machine continues pouring (it also works for beer if it has enough foam!), but now the machine unlocks the mug for an inclination of only about 30 degrees, stays for one second at this angle, pouring beer and then continues to rotate back the mug until it returns to the vertical axis, while it finishes pouring beer up to about 85% of the total volume of the mug. Then the beer stops and from a second hose, the machine still completes precisely the remaining 15% of the foamed mug. Wonderful! All students are warned that if we are serving beer, there is no such possibility of switching to foam only, and the glass should be gradually turned back vertically in synchronism with the moment it is completely full, there must have at least one finger size of foam over the beer and the foam is forming a subtle convexity beyond the edge of the glass! Reflect carefully on this, without constant training, it will be difficult to apply this foam effectively, and only with great dedication will it reach perfect convexity!

    How can I make this task even more efficient? In Japan, if we look closely, is a continuous day-to-day physics class. A competition to hit the perfect measurement, distance, temperature, acceleration, and volume.

    How can I make it work a little better yet ?!




    Sensei and Wenzel, undercovered as Blues Brothers in Japan.


    When I started traveling with Sensei, and eventually we would stay in the same room, guided the first time by Sensei, I`ve learned to always unplug the minibar, for not having that buzz of the compressor in the middle of the darkness at bedtime, however soundless it might be. That was contagious with me it, nowadays at home, I install a timer in the refrigerator so she automatically disconnects every day at rest time at night, when the city is silent and also yearns for a day`s end in deep peace and quiet. I take the battery out of the clock, to silence that ticking of the quartz mechanism, or put the clock with a second pointer that rotates continuously on pillows because even those make a zrzrzrzrzrz when hung on the wall! It was only in the third or fourth hotel that I discovered that everything is already planned here. It had a button built into the bedroom furniture to turn off the fridge. I had a certain feeling of being understood (yes, because you certainly thought the pillow story was already too much).





    It is so obvious to have this little button that I imagine to be something already spread throughout the world. I don`t know, but for me, it was that surprise. Mitsuketá! (Eureka)

    It has the other details already known of the toilets super cool, super technological and comfortable, but that in the end, when well cared, it must save a lot of water and toilet paper.

    There would be a lot of pictures to be taken of picturesque, different, unusual, funny and cute things. But I don`t want to give spoilers!

    Japan is mad about thinking of the details!

    I am enjoying this stimulus to sensitivity, this stimulus to repair in detail, in the detail of gestures and senses. It`s good to inspire us in building one environment with attention to the subtle and the other.

    Japan is full of things that inspire, stimulate, but it has the other side too, of course. Since I don`t live here, I`m fast-paced, they don`t strike me with the intensity of everyday life. What I see and do not like is the whale meat restaurant. Sensei: oyster, hedgehog, moray, array, natô (soy fermented with alien saliva), okra (with or without drool too), until bean sweet: I take it all, and with pleasure, but whale, onegai shimassu, I`m out, and it is not because of the taste or texture.

    There was also poor service at an okonomiaki restaurant in Hiroshima. The girl at the hotel, who was going to charge double the daily rates, guaranteed to be the best okonomiaki of the station (by train). The service was weak, poor! Nothing justifies! This is precisely the spirit of true good care: nothing justifies being bad. There is no such thing as "but that`s enough", bad day, bad customer, headache ... The incredible thing is just to escape from all of these pranks. Always to be good. This is mastery. Be master of yourself. Of course, perfection is utopian and unattainable, the question is where do you put your limit, your goal ?! When you throw the towel ?! That`s why it`s good to travel, get to know other cultures, meet different people, or have strong masters: to raise the expectations and the charges that you stipulate for yourself. But to give the context, it was late when we arrived (but the okonomiaki was still open and there were people arriving later as well), and the place had a system to pay before in the machine and take the ticket, and we were not familiar with that, there must have been too much for the salesperson ... The okonomiaki was good and the beer machine hit the amount of foam with unshakeable perfection.



    Okonomiaki in Hiroshima.


    Another point, it`s that we were in Hiroshima. It was the area where I proportionally thought had more foreign tourists in Japan. That point caught my attention. I tried to put myself in their shoes. Paris has a lot of tourist because being subjective is really spectacular, splendorous. The Parisians have to excuse me, but it is difficult not to have many tourists with a city of those, and it is neither a work of nature, it is their own work (or theirs and many immigrants), then sorry for them, they really have to deal with a lot of tourists, always. But Hiroshima has a certain share of tourists for a much darker motive. The most visited museum there, it is not about art. And when you think of Hiroshima, the first thing that comes to mind is not "light," or at least not a good one. I do not know if this past has to do with the most careless service in Hiroshima, it was a reading that I could not avoid but added to that I realized that for Japanese in general it is very difficult to deal with the foreigner. While the Japanese even know how it works, foreigners not only do not know the local customs, but also draw their attention with frequent rude and tactless acts towards others, without regard to the rules, and so on. Usually, the Japanese give a huge discount to foreigners, treats them like coffee with milk, even likes them, but if it is always and every day some strings will burst.

    Alana also comments on this in the email she sends me: "Leaving the idea of "Brazilian way" to the "Japanese way" (cutting, doing the right things, missing the bus if it is late) is a lesson. It is a lesson because it is thinking of the other above you and not only in the other but in everyone. "

    In Brazil, there are always 1001 exceptions that each one asks for, and the enormous energy we spend to deal with each individually. We end up never getting off the ground, or reaching the height or speed cruising because the 1001 exceptions are 1001 anchors that pull us down. In Japan, there is no such thing, except the foreigners who are asking for their exceptions.

    These are radically incongruent points with Japan:
    - to pass techniques ahead of time.
    - do not pay and honor with the agreed and pretend that nothing is happening.
    - postponing and postponing forever to deliver the necessary medical certificate.

    And etc.
    I imagine Midori, who works for Niten`s ADM, and grew up in Japan, what she feels deep inside seeing those exceptions. Even when she says nothing, I see in her eyes the fact that "it`s not the right thing to do."

    Alana: "In Japan, I understood more about myself and from where comes the strength and the will to not want to disturb, to be always willing to help, to understand that each one has their problems and that you have to face without generating discomfort to others. Anyway: think of the other. These points made me grow a lot as a person. "


    "Contrary to being more nervous about all this, I got "used to" and did not take much time, so I think the training also helped me learn faster about customs and how to act in Japan. It made me more peaceful, a feeling of being at home.



    In the morning, after another cooper, waiting for the signal to open to cross the deserted avenue.


    As there is this enormous difference of customs, and above that, of the way of thinking and living with the other, we also perceive ourselves more intensely. With the words, bows, permissions, excuses, the "please", "thank you", even if we already have a good part of them incorporated in years of experience in the Dojo, the application and the situation in Japan are different and it is an intense exercise not to fall into automatic mode when interacting with people in Japan.

    At the same time as it is a trip to another planet, all travel to far away is a journey to know yourself, as in the "7 years in Tibet". Find out where the sincerity of gestures and words is. What they actually say. What is the intention? What is your mastery of the gestures themselves? Even cooking alone at home, realizing the correctness and errors of each gesture, the slips of each ignorance automatism of the here and now is amplified again to practice the Way, which should never cease to be. Practice on the grain of rice that falls out of the pan, practice on the small piece of onion that is lost.

    In the end, if the "Arigato Gozaimashita" of the other is just katá without feeling or something sincere does not matter. It matters if your own katá has a true feeling, then yes, and that requires control and presence in the here and now.

    Found written in my notebook: "The Japanese are collective, however, they don`t look at each other, do not have much eye-contact. It is collective, but it seems that it looks more to itself, inward". And in the end, the most important point, the teaching and ultimate goal of the masters of the Japanese tradition, is always to direct the disciple to emphasize and value more than all heart/feeling/spirit, the SHIN, KOKORO.



    Tenugui with a big Kanji KOKORO (also read as SHIN), on the right.


    In response to the question that Sensei asked me in Brazil before we leave, what change would I see between today`s Japan and 15 years ago, I found a note in the notebook: "I do not scandalize with any change. I scandalize myself and marvel at the energy to work, seek improvement, do well done, fast, efficient, better and follow the procedure. Just this way for everything to work ...!
    There`s a lot of work sustaining perfection here. " I have to correct the "for everything to work" for "so much to work". Of course that everything does not work.

    I remember Brazil and that terrible tragedy and disgrace that weighs on slavery in our land, on our people. In addition to the individual tragedy for each human being, it was a tragedy for the mentality: What is the reason you have to do more and better and faster if you are enslaved in slavery ?!

    I remember the music of Devotos, punk-hardcore band from Pernambuco:"I`m in a hurry to win!"

    The stimulated mind questions and challenges itself: And why such a hurry? so much effort? It does not need that much ... that`s enough! Want Brazil to turn into Japan ?!

    In the internal dialogue, I respond again: Of course not, the whole identity and difference of Brazil is wonderful, but would not it be an inconvenient truth the fact that we need efficiency, evolution, care, improvement, and hurry yes !? With some urgency?!






    We`re coming back to Brazil. This time leaving the Narita airport, the largest in Tokyo and Japan. We ordered the last beer, sausages, and fries in a certain place because there were very visible plugs at the counter and recharging the cell phone was the priority. The girl takes the beers, with the perfect amount of foam, but forgot to pass on the request of the sausages and chips. Oops! They apologize and soon the snacks arrive too! And what a fries! They`re perfect! I did not take a photo, nor did I go ahead to portray all the dimensions of that little potato. Besides the size, the consistency, crispness, inner texture, salt, delicate extra seasoning, everything was perfect as well. Just trying to understand. Closed well!

    So many 30 hours later .. We arrived at Guarulhos airport in Sao Paulo. It`s 6:10 in the morning. I take the photo of the rising sun and it is inevitable the legend that comes to mind...





    ... "Good Moooorning Vietnaaaam !!!" ... We are back in Brazil, here the truckers` strike reigns. Everyone learning to value each drop of gasoline and each foot of lettuce.

    What a wonderful gate!

    In the small supermarket that I use to go, the impression is that solidarity emerges. Where it used to seem that everyone just looked at their belly button, people seem to stop running and realize themselves.

    They say that the mineiros* are united only in cancer situation. Badness maybe, but I think that disgrace is the fuel of solidarity, yes. *People who were born in Minas Gerais, a Brazilian State.

    This time when I arrived I do not have the "anaphylactic shock" that I spoke of the other times I returned from Japan. I recommended to the staff to carry an antihistamine in their carry-on, when to return and face the noise already in the airport, escape a crisis. That´s mean too.

    No, I`m clever now. I am more aware of the pitfalls of grumbling and complaining, I don`t think "it`s too much". Everything is a gate. Let`s go! Now I have to do, to run!

    My wife is participating in the organization of an event promoted by Americans in Rio de Janeiro. Among other news she sends me:

    "Today we had supper dinner. The Americans are very delighted with the Brazilians! "

    What a success.

    If they are delighted I imagine they have found discipline and party! This always delights! What a delight!

    When it comes to Cariocas*, I imagine a lot of partying! *people who were born in Rio de Janeiro state.

    Yes, the party is good here!

    And still, let`s move forward too!



    Japan / Sao Paulo, May-2018




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