Aikido Olympics Tour of Japan

Recently I took a two week tour to Japan to train at an event I dubbed "The Aikido Olympics".  The actual event name was the 2016 IAF Congress held in Takasaki of the Gunma prefecture in Japan. 

The event happens every four years in Japan.  It was a phenomenal trip to say the least.  I went with 18 Aikido friends from home and those from Denver, San Francisco, Sweeden, Switzerland and the Oregan crew. 

What you find below is a walk through of what I saw and what you would have seen if you had been in my suitcase. Enjoy.

Leave any comments and questions in the comments section at the bottom.  If you've been before, share your experiences. If you haven't share your questions and observations.

Japanese Yoroi in Shibuya

Let's go...

Click on the links below in the Article Tour Guide to take you instantly to each place.  I highly recommend watching all the videos because that will give you a feel for what it could be like for you to travel to Japan.

First Stop - Seattle

I had a four hour layover in Seattle from Calgary.  I hopped on the train and went downtown to my favourite place... Pike Place Market.  This is home of the original Starbucks coffee shop and the world famous fish market.  When I was a corporate trainer, I used to teach people the FISH principles which were formed at this place.

Shane at Pike Place Market-2016
World Famous Pike Place Fish Market -Seattle

World Famous Pike Place Fish Market -Seattle

World Famous Pike Place Fish Market -Seattle

World Famous Pike Place Fish Market -Seattle

Most creative pepper display I ever saw-Pike Place

Most creative pepper display I ever saw-Pike Place

Original Starbucks Location in Seattle

Original Starbucks Location in Seattle

There was a 50 person line up at 10am to get in and have a favourite Starbucks beverage.  There were also many tour groups in the area taking in the sight of the original mermaids.

Starbucks Pike Place

Starbucks Pike Place

ANA Seattle to Tokyo

I had previously flown Air Canada to Tokyo out of Vancouver. This time I opted for trying out ANA out of Seattle.  The verdict?

ANA all the way!  The menu, cabin design and service from the Flight Crew was second to none. Here is a taste of what you would get sitting in the first class cabin of ANA.

Seat 1K - ANA to Tokyo (wow)

Seat 1K - ANA to Tokyo (wow)

Great space with cool entertainment for the 10 hours

Great space with cool entertainment for the 10 hours

Space well designed

Space well designed

Easily the best part of the Japan flight, the food - 5 Stars

Easily the best part of the Japan flight, the food - 5 Stars

I don't eat raw sushi/sashimi so I opted for the cooked International menu choice of fish instead.

Tokyo - Shinjuku Experience

We settled in Shinjuku for the first three nights so that we could experience Shinjuku which is a bustling entertainment (red light) district. You will never be bored in Shinjuku.  There is a balance of glitz, glamour, lights and action that is balanced out by the beauty and peace of historical Tokyo spread amongst the hustle and bustle.

Tokyo Shrine

Tokyo Shrine in a local neighbourhood

Local Jinja

Local Jinja

What are the rooms like?

We stayed at the Granbell Shinjuku.  It was a great hotel option on the outskirts of Shinjuku district. It had everything we needed.  The rooms in Japan are on the smaller side compared to North American standards, but the reality is that I spent minimal time in my room because we were on the move from sunrise to sunset.

We walked an average of 18 to 23 km per day which is about 20,000-28,000 steps.

Granbell Shinjuku single room - night

Granbell Shinjuku single room - night

Granbell Shinjuku single room - morning

Granbell Shinjuku single room - morning

These next shots came from the Metropolitan Hotel in Takasaki.  The Metropolitan was attached to the Takasaki train station which was highly convenient.  The hotel service was tremendous and top notch for $110 per night including breakfast buffet each day.

Welcome to my single room at the Metropolitan Takasaki

Welcome to my single room at the Metropolitan Takasaki

This room was highly functional and had everything you would need including a grocery store under the hotel

This room was highly functional and had everything you would need including a grocery store under the hotel

This is Where Aikido Started

Pre-training at Hombu Dojo

Pre-training at Hombu Dojo

A trip to Tokyo is not complete without visiting and training at Hombu Dojo.  This is the international headquaters of Aikido.  It's where the our Founder Morihei Ueshiba who we call O'Sensei taught Aikido. After a couple of classes we were able to have our photo taken with the great-grandson of O'Sensei.  Waka Sensei is who we sat with for the photo.  It was a truly awesome two hours of intense training in hot, humid conditions.

Training under Waka Sensei at Hombu Dojo in Tokyo

Training under Waka Sensei at Hombu Dojo in Tokyo with my two friends from Edmonton, Canada

This is where Hello Kitty was born

Whether you are a fan, you cannot argue the powerful brand force that Hello Kitty has become all over the world. Young and old alike respect and admire Hello Kitty.  I made sure to stop at the Hello Kitty gift store in Shinjuku and pick up a few items for my wife.  This is a good example of how a brand can be creative and unique in terms of the offerings put to market.

Hello Kitty Gift Shop in Shinjuku

Hello Kitty Gift Shop in Shinjuku

Kimono Hello Kitty

Kimono Hello Kitty

Shinjuku Train Station Facts

Shinjuku Station (新宿駅 Shinjuku-eki?) is a major railway station in Shinjuku and Shibuya wards in Tokyo, Japan.Serving as the main connecting hub for rail traffic between Tokyo's special wards and Western Tokyo on inter-city rail, commuter rail, and metro lines, the station was used by an average of 3.64 million people per day in 2007, making it, by far, the world's busiest transport hub (and registered as such with Guinness World Records). The station itself has 36 platforms, including an underground arcade, above ground arcade and numerous hallways. There are well over 200 exits. Another 17 platforms (51 total) can be accessed through hallways to 5 directly connected stations without surfacing outside.

Source: Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinjuku_Station

Shane heading to catch the train at Shinjuku Station

Shane heading to catch the train at Shinjuku Station.  Shinjuku station is as big as a small underground city. It took me 45 minutes to walk end to end of the station. 
Add luggage and you have a workout for the day!

Next Stop, Takasaki, Gunma, Japan

Takasaki was ready for the IAF Aikido participants

Takasaki was ready for the IAF Aikido participants

The citizens of Takasaki were well prepared for the 2,000 Aikido participants that descended upon their city for the seven day IAF Congress or Aikido Olympics event.  We had a tremendous time each day with four hours of training each day under twenty fine international Aikido teachers.

I was on the mats each day with 800-1,200 people each day.  The photo below was a light day of folks on the mats.

IAF Congress Participants warming up for training

IAF Congress Participants warming up for training

Takasaki built a new arena and we were one of the first groups to use this world-class facility.  Thank you to the Takasaki officials who accommodated our event and were terrific hosts for the event.  Each country represented at the event had their flag on display outside the arena.

Takasaki Arena Entrance

Takasaki Arena Entrance

Second floor entrance Takasaki Arena

Second floor entrance Takasaki Arena

Samurai Castle in Kanazawa Japan

We took a day trip to the west coast city of Kanazawa.  While there we toured an old Samurai Castle called the Kanazawa Castle. 

Kanazawa Castle (金沢城 Kanazawa-jō?) is a large, well-restored castle in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan. It is located adjacent to the celebrated Kenroku-en Garden, which once formed the castle's private outer garden.

Two hundred and fifty regional lords, called daimyo, ruled over large domains in 16th century Japan. Though they were subordinate to the shogunate, they were relatively autonomous. Each daimyo asserted proprietary rights, levied taxes, established judicial procedures, and issued laws within his jurisdiction. Many constructed jōkamachi, or castle towns, across the Japanese countryside. Maeda Toshiie was one such daimyo. He was the fourth son of a minor samurai family, but entered the service of a powerful daimyo and warlord when he was 15. Thanks to his skill in battle, he rose quickly through the ranks, and in 1581 became daimyo of the province of Noto.

Two years later, he also controlled portions of the Kaga area, including the town of Kanazawa. Under his rule, Kanazawa began to grow. The castle was greatly reconstructed in 1592 after the first of Hideyoshi's invasions of Korea, at which time its moats were dug. It was burned down and reconstructed in 1620-21 and again in 1631-32, then almost completely gutted in the great Kanazawa fire of 1759, and rebuilt in 1762 and 1788 (Ishikawa-mon Gate).

After several minor fires and an earthquake, it was again destroyed by fire in 1881.What remains, including the 1788 Ishikawa Gate, is now part of Kanazawa Castle Park. The Sanjukken Nagaya (an Important Cultural Asset) and the Tsurumaru Storehouse are two additional remaining structures.

Source: Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanazawa_Castle#History

Kanazawa Castle Park entrance

Kanazawa Castle Park entrance

We spent a full day, but you could spend a couple days taking your time in the castles

We spent a full day, but you could spend a couple days taking your time in the castles

Main gate of Kanazawa Castle. Impressive architecture because no power tools were used in the reconstruction of the castle

Main gate of Kanazawa Castle.
Impressive architecture because no power tools
were used in the reconstruction of the castle

My small body gives you an idea of the scale factor and how massive the buildings are

My small body gives you an idea of the scale factor and how massive the buildings are

Strong walls and moats were part of the defense security systems built at Samurai Castles

Strong walls and moats were part of the defense security systems built at Samurai Castles

Inside plaza outside of the main house

Inside plaza outside of the main house

Inside architecture of the Castle

Inside architecture of the Castle

The next photo shows how each joint was formed and put together using wood pins.  There is not one nail in the castle.  A friend of mine who accompanied us is a professional carpenter and Craig said this is a carpenter marvel.

No nails, wood pins and special grooves that are designed to flex and withstand earthquakes

No nails, wood pins and special grooves that are
designed to flex and withstand earthquakes

Video: Inside the Kanazawa Castle

I am speaking very softly because I did not want to get caught taking this video from inside the castle. Please do not report me to the castle officials, but enjoy the quick view inside the castle.

Watch the video below for a real live look at the gardens from inside the castle at the 60% mark of the video.

View from the Castle promenade grass area

View from the Castle promenade grass area

Kanazawa Castle Gardens - BEAUTY

This place was pure beauty and full of magnificent displays of nature including the oldest naturally powered fountain in Japan.

Castle garden pond area

Castle garden pond area

Kanazawa Castle Garden

Kanazawa Castle Garden

New friends whom we met on the garden journey

New friends whom we met on the garden journey. Wearing traditional yukata and kimono is part of the culture when visiting these precious historical treasures.

Amazing trees that are hundreds of years old and supported to keep living hundreds more

Amazing trees that are hundreds of years old and supported to keep living hundreds more

Great trees and blossoms found in the park

Great trees and blossoms found in the park

Natural beauty and serenity

Natural beauty and serenity

What do you think of this tree

What do you think of this tree

Oldest Fountain In Japan

Top fountain area

Top fountain area

Oldest Fountain

Oldest Fountain

Oldest Natural Powered Fountain in Japan

Oldest Natural Powered Fountain in Japan

Back on the Train

Taking the Shinkansen or bullet speed train is an awesome experience.  We went in style from Takasaki to Kanazawa in about 2.5 hours.  By car, the trip would have taken 6 hours.  Here is a quick glimpse into the reserved Green Car section of the Shinkansen.  Make sure you get the reserved car JR Pass when you go to Japan. It is only available to travelers from outside of Japan.

Boarding the Shinkansen

Boarding the Shinkansen

Such a great way to move hundreds of people around Japan. I wish I had a Shinkansen at home.

Such a great way to move hundreds of people around Japan.
I wish I had a Shinkansen at home.

Shinkansen handwashing station

Shinkansen handwashing station

You will need this on the Shinkansen after enjoying Sake on board.

You will need this on the Shinkansen after enjoying Sake on board. Impressive design with disability aids and child change and child wash stations onboard.

Video: Looking Out the Window of Shinkansen

Next Stop:  Nagano

Nagano was host to the 1998 Olympics.  It is also home to many amazing tourist areas.  I will show you the incredible Zenko-ji Buddhist Temple.  The temple was built in the 7th century and is home to many amazing artifacts that have survived to date. Incredible.

Nagano Olympic Torch

Nagano Olympic Torch

Nagano Olympic Torch Close Up

Nagano Olympic Torch Close Up

Shane taking a quick rest at the Olympic displays

Shane taking a quick rest at the Olympic displays

Zenko-ji Temple

Zenkō-ji was founded before Buddhism in Japan split into several different sects. It currently belongs to both the Tendai and Jōdoshū schools of Buddhism, and is co-managed by twenty-five priests from the former school, and fourteen from the latter. The temple enshrines images of the Amida Buddha. According to legend, the image, having caused dispute between two clans, was dumped into a canal. It was later rescued by Honda Yoshimitsu. The temple was thus named "Zenkō," according to the Chinese transliteration of Yoshimitsu's name.

Source: Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zenk%C5%8D-ji

Zenko-ji Temple Gate

Zenko-ji Temple Gate

Temple Gate Guardians Close Up

Zenko-ji Right Guardian

Zenko-ji Left Guardian

Zenko-ji Right Guardian

Zenko-ji Right Guardian

Next in the temple grounds was a cauldron that you could light incense and place in the lion for prayers and wishes.  Such a cool element of the temple grounds.

Temple Lion

Temple Lion

Temple Lion Close Up

Temple Lion Close Up

Main Temple at Zenko-ji

Main Temple at Zenko-ji

Inside the entrance was a massive temple bell.  While I was there, it was a week of prayer ceremonies.  People gathered for this week to pray and see the Buddha behind the curtain be revealed.

Watch the video below to see and hear the bell ringing in action.  Very inspiring the precision in which the attendant rang the bell to match the timing of the prayers and chanting inside.

Zenko-ji Temple Bell

Zenko-ji Temple Bell

Video: Zenko-ji Temple Bell Ringing

Video: Where is Your Quiet Place

I got a chance to shoot you a quick video when I was meditating in the quiet gardens of the temple area. I was thinking of the importance of creating a quiet place.  Watch the video for more.

Back to Tokyo - Shibuya District

After much touring around, we landed the last three days in the world famous Shibuya district.  This is one excellent place if you want to be in the heart of the busiest crossing in the world and amidst great world class shopping, people and food.

World Famous Dog:  Hachiko

I highly recommend seeing the movie Hachi.  After seeing it and traveling to the exact crossing area where Hachiko used to wait for his master was touching and meaningful.  Key thing here is that I designed this trip with cool moments like these.  Make sure you design a life of cool, meaningful moments too.

2010 Movie Hachi by Sony

Hachikō (ハチ公?, November 10, 1923 – March 8, 1935) was an Akita dog born on a farm near the city of Ōdate, Akita Prefecture,Japan. He is remembered for his remarkable loyalty to his owner which continued for more than nine years after his owner's death.

Hachikō is known in Japanese as chūken Hachikō (忠犬ハチ公, "faithful dog Hachikō") — hachi meaning eight, and a suffix kō meaning affection.

During his lifetime the dog was held up in Japanese culture as an example of loyalty and fidelity. After Hachiko's death he continues to be remembered in worldwide popular culture with statues, movies, books, and appearances in various media.

Source: Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hachik%C5%8D

Shane & Hachiko Dog in Shibuya

Shane & Hachiko Dog Statute in Shibuya

Shibuya Crossing

This is where a lot of the action starts right outside the Shibuya train station and the Hachiko monument.  You have to walk it yourself.  Catch the video below of the crossing to put yourself in the action.

Shibuya Crossing Day

Shibuya Crossing Day

Shibuya Crossing Night

Shibuya Crossing Night

Video:  Shibuya Crossing Daytime

Video:  Shibuya Crossing at Night

Tokyu Cerulean Tower Hotel

This was an amazing 45 floor hotel to stay our last few nights in Tokyo.  The view from the 35th floor of my room was spectacular as shown below.  One morning I caught a glimpse of Mount Fuji as well. I highly recommend this hotel as a central, upscale place to call home while in Shibuya. Plus. the Shibuya Station puts you within a 10-25 minute train ride to any hot spot for action you will need to find in Tokyo.

Cerulean Tokyu Hotel View 35th Floor

Cerulean Tokyu Hotel View 35th Floor

Cerulean Tokyu Hotel View 35th Floor-2

Cerulean Tokyu Hotel View 35th Floor showing urban sprawl or
the Concrete Jungle as my Japanese friends call it.

Mount Fuji from Cerulean Tokyu Hotel

Mount Fuji from Cerulean Tokyu Hotel

One Last Temple - Senso-ji

We used our last day in Shibuya to head over to Asakusa, Tokyo.  This day was filled with much fun and bags of gifts to take home.  Along the way we visited the famous Senso-ji temple near the Tokyo SkyTree Tower.

Sensoji- Temple Entrance

Sensoji- Temple Entrance

Sensoji- Temple

Sensoji- Temple

Sensoji- Temple Fittings Close Up

Sensoji- Temple Fittings Close Up

Inside the Sensoji Temple

Ceilings of Sensoji Temple

Ceilings of Sensoji Temple

Great art on the Ceiling of Sensoji Temple

Great art on the Ceiling of Sensoji Temple

Dragon at Sensoji Temple

Dragon at Sensoji Temple

Nisonbutsu - A Pair of Buddha
Repayment of Debt of Gratitude

These Buddha were a gem to find in that they are over 300 years old!  I appreciate how the Japanese folks take extra care to preserve national and cultural treasures for future generations to be able to enjoy.

A Pair of Buddha

A Pair of Buddha

The sign from the two Buddha stated that the two statues are Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara on the right and Bodhisattva Seishi on the left.  They are both 2.36m (7.75 feet) in height.  In 1687, Takase Zenbee from Tatebayashi, (present day Gunma prefecture) made these statues to repay the debt of gratitude to the rice wholesaler family who helped him, the Avalokiteshivara for the father and the Seishi for the son.

Two Buddhas

Two Buddhas

Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara

Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara is said to bring mercy to those who worship.

Bodhisattva Seishi

Bodhisattva Seishi brings wisdom.

Ending a Great Trip

All amazing things end at some point.  The best part of leaving Japan is that I want to return soon again to explore new and different places.  I already have my next trip in mind.  Thank you for joining me here today.  Leave your comments at the bottom.

Domo Arigato.

ANA Lounge Narita Airport

ANA Lounge at Narita Airport.  Great place to rest up before the flight home.

Thank you for joining me today on this tour of Japan

Thank you for joining me today on this tour of Japan. 
I am entering customs to board the ANA flight home.

Matcha delight on the flight home.  Oishee desu.

Matcha delight on the flight home. Oishee desu (very delicious).

Click Below For Another Awesome Tour of Japan

Birthplace of the Samurai

Click on the picture on the left and we will take you to our previous tour of Japan. 

On this trip we take you through Tokyo on Halloween night along with the beautiful city of Kyoto and more Samurai Castles and cool stuff.

Go there now.     Domo Arigato.

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Shane Fielder

I am a grower of human capability and a business builder. The best part of my life is helping people become stronger and develop their skills, talents and character in order to lead powerful lives. I have had the great privilege to study under some of the greatest minds of business, leadership, health and fitness along with the most talented Martial Arts instructors. My passion is helping people to become even more powerful in life than they already are.

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