Imposter Syndrome

May 12, 2016 in Hebari's Blog

20150406 - Sabina  0069-EditI frequently feel like an imposter, especially when I have a scene lined up with someone and there has been a lot of build up.
I think to myself, “hang on what am I going to do?”, “I can’t think of anything that is going to blow their mind” ….. “hang on, do I even know how to do this?”

Then they are in front of me, and I force myself to relax and enjoy the person I’m with. To be present.

And then it just comes, the connection, the little creative thoughts that connect together to become a fun and personalised scene. And everything is ok, better than in fact.

Because it’s not about the plan, it’s about the person and trusting the connection.

Focussing on them, not the tools.

Visiting Tokyo

April 19, 2016 in Hebari's Blog

wp-1461033970015.jpegI come to Tokyo at least once a year, normally two or three times, and have done so for the last 6 years or so.
When I first started to come, it was just about rope, doing lessons and tying every day, but as time has gone on it’s become more about discovering the country and the culture, reading about the long and interesting history and visiting the places myself. Coming from such a young country (at least from European cultural perspective), it’s really amazing to sit in buildings hundreds of years old and look at arts and crafts developed over more than a thousand years.
On my latest trip especially I’ve played guide a bit to some of my friends visiting from Australia, so I thought I’d write a post about my favourite places in Tokyo and a few things I’ve worked out to make things easier.

Making It Easier

So first things first, when I get off the plane in Narita airport the first two things I do are get a data SIM fir my phone and enable my Suica card (travel card for buses and trains). As I leave the customs area in terminal 3, I go down stairs where the telcos have booths, they all have pretty much the same stuff so all good there. From terminal 3 its a bit of a walk or a short bus ride to terminal 2.
The trains run from terminal 2 so I go to the JR office and get my card re-enabled and put 5000 yen on it then head to the Keisei Skyline, which is basically a short shinkansen to Ueno in Tokyo, 2400 yen and a 40min trip so really good value all around, the Narita Express takes about 2hrs and is 3600 yen go figure.
A note on money, the best thing in Tokyo is cash and the most efficient way to change money is generally to hunt around at home for the best rates before you go and change most of your spending money ahead of time, ATMs are really expensive wats to change money.
Now I have my travel pass, a bit of cash and a data dim in my phone. So the next thing is that technology is your friend, Facebook and Whatsapp are great for staying in touch with everyone in and out of town cheaply and google maps is just brilliant. It will give you all the details you need to navigate Tokyo with ease, from walking directions to train and platform information.
Lastly for the general stuff all I can say is wander a bit, Tokyo is at its best when you don’t run from point A to point B, the little lanes and shopping districts have amazing treasures if you bother to look.

Places to Visit

Asuksa and Senso-ji Temple

Asuksa is the suburb surrounding the Senso-ji temple, one of the largest in Japan from the Asuksa metro station you come up just at the front of the arcade leading down to the temple itself, it starts with a huge torii (stylised gate) and heads down through a dense market through to another torii before you step into the temple grounds themselves.

Then one either side there are streets full of shops with food as always and a lot of traditional arts, and more than a little touristy crap. The surprise for me was just how much good and well-priced stuff there actually is, probably because 95% or more of the tourists are actually Japanese.

There are a couple of things you will see when you enter, the first is small buildings on the side with lots of little drawers, these have fortunes in them. The idea is that you put a 100 yen coin in the slot then pick up one of the steel containers and shake out a stick. On the stick are 3 kanji, just match these up to the corresponding drawer and inside is your fortune. If it’s a bag one you can fold it up and tie it to one of the racks near bye to get rid of the bad luck.

The next thing you might see is a big basin with lots of smoke coming out of it. You can buy incense just next to it and light it on the lighters then offer it with your prayers. When you are done put it in the basin. Also the smoke from the basin is good luck so waft it on your body where you need some help. Also if you buy a bracelet or jizu at one of the stores the smoke will cleanse it and fill it with good energy.

Kinoko once told me that I should get a jizu to help filter out bad energy when I’m tying people. Ki energy flows in the left hand, through the heart and back out the right, so a jizu is worn on the left hand to filter out bad energy, so you share and share in good energy.

After that you can go and look at all the gardens and shrines, there are lots of different things you can get for good luck and as offerings with your prayers but I only know a few.

Harajuku and Meiji-jingu Shrine

Harajuku has something of a split personality, on one side there is the shopping district the suburb is so well known for with bustling crowds filled with local fashionistas, cos players and foreign tourists. On the other side of the JR line is the Meiji-Jingu shrine to the first Meiji emperor who took back power from the Tokogawa shogunate and began the Japanese process of modernisation and involvement in the world at large.

The shrine is one of my favourite places in Tokyo, the moment I step into the grounds I’m surrounded by peace and clam away from the usual pace of Tokyo. Inside is the shrine itself, which is one of the most extensive in Tokyo along with a wall of wine barrels from French vineyards, given by the French at the dedication of the shrine and a wall of sake barrels given by the sake makes each year for the New Year’s celebrations. The big things for me though is just the meditative peace, it’s a great place to collect my thoughts after lessons or just as a calm start to a big night out in Shinjuku

Ueno Park and Markets

Ueno Park and the area surrounding it are filled with shrines, temples, gardens and museums all largely catering to Japanese internal tourists and external tourists to a lesser extent so the pricing and number of people are generally a bit nicer. The part itself is full of cherry trees so during sakura season <insert dates> and to a lesser degree lotus season, the park can get a lot fuller as people come to relax and watch the uniquely Japanese spectacles. The rest of the time the park is a pretty relaxing place to be.

Peoni Garden & Toshogu shrine

Up on the hill overlooking the Ueno park pond is the Toshogu shrine, dedicated to the founding member of the Tokogawa shogunate beginning the Edo period of Japan (Edo is the old name for Tokyo), leading up to the shine is a path lined with old carved stone pillars and to one side is the peoni garden, for 1100 yen you can access both, for my part I think they are well worth visiting, if like me you have an interest in the history and culture of Japan.

Ueno Garden Pond

20160408-Tokyo-008The large pond in the middle of Ueno park is split in half by a cherry tree lined walkway that end in a moderate shrine. On one side of the walkway is an open pond with small boats that can be hired some shaped like swans for the romantic at heart. The other side is full of lotus. In spring the lotus rises up to the surface just after the sakura have passed, at first the round leaves resting on the surface and finally the flowers that open each morning at dawn.

During sakura season the pond is lined with delicate pink and white sakura blossoms and almost looks like an infra red photo.

Shopping

Akihabara

Also called Electric Town, Akihabara is well known for its electronics and maybe less often for its sex stores which are a great resource for anyone on a kinky holiday. Here you can find all the usual bits and pieces you would expect at any sex store with the addition of some great costumes, SM gear and toys and of course SM videos. Be careful what you buy though a lot of the video content isn’t legal in western countries.

Asuksa

20160412-Tokyo-010Asuksa and the area around Senso-ji temple are filled with food and all kind of vendors selling everything from cloths to kitchen equipment and knives. Most of the stores have a traditional bent and so make a great place to shop for quintessentially Japanese items from cooking knives to kimono and often at very good prices despite being a tourist area. The upside of the tourist business in Asuksa is that there are a fair few English speakers so for people that haven’t gotten into Japanese for dummies yet ( yes I used this book J ), it’s a great spot to shop.

The alley leading up to the temple itself has a few interesting stores though it is the most crazy part of the area and has the most touristy stuff, it’s still worth a look.

Kappabashi

Kappabashi is also known as cooking town and forms a dense grouping of cooking supply stores mostly catering to the commercial market, so prices are really good though English speakers can be a bit thin on the ground. It’s almost half way between Ueno station and Asuksa so I tend to walk it.

I’m passionate about food and cooking so Kappabashi is a little gold mine for me that has claimed more than its fair share of my holiday budget on more than one occasion.  Some of the great things you can get are traditionally made knives, noren (the curtains used in doorways) and a whole range of different bits and pieces used for various Japanese cooking such as lanterns, soba trays and wooden trays for making sushi rice.

Ueno Markets

The markets in Ueno run from Ueno JR station to Okachimachi station underneath and parallel to the train lines. Here you can find all the daily basics like cloths and shoes along with lots of food and food components. One of my favourite stores sells fresh fruit on sticks for 100 yen, the pineapple is brilliant.

To be honest the best thing to do is just wander J

Bars

Arcadia

Run by Teshin san, Arcadia originated in Osaka as the brainchild of Outski san, a famous bakushi from Osaka. It’s a fun bar located in the Kabkicho area of Shinjuki, \ with a lot of cool factor and welcoming to western guests as long as they know how to be polite. The times I have been there it’s been great fun but best to go with an interpreter as communication can be a problem.

Mitsu

Run by Yoi san, Mitsu is just across the stairs from Ubu. Mitsu means honey and also is a way of saying secret, also it’s a girls bar primarily. Fitted out in a traditional style it has a great atmosphere and Yoi is a an amazing host and rope artist so definitely worth a visit.

Tied Up

In a basement full of bars, Tied up is the newest of the rope bars in Tokyo and has a relaxed loungy feel with integral cat. Also for out of towners the staff are ok with English.

Ubu

Ubu like MItsu is owned by both Bingo and Yoi but mostly run by Bingo. It’s the regular stopover for a range of rope people in the know while in Tokyo so you can regularly see well known faces as you are greeted by Bingo at the door.

Muga and Connection

April 19, 2016 in Hebari's Blog, Rope

20151226-untitled-150Muga is one of those words, if you have heard it you may still wonder what it’s all about. I didn’t get it for a long time to be quite honest. I thought how can I tie with no sense of myself or with no intent? It was only recently that I came to an understanding of it.

On my most recent rip to Tokyo, I have been doing a lot of healing and a lot of growth in general. Clearing my head and working on bad coping mechanisms, so I have been in a very good state of mind to get into feeling my way rather than thinking my way through things.

The click with muga for me came when I got off the station at Harajuku on my way to Meiji-jingu shrine. Anyone that has been to Harajuku can attest to the madness of the crowds, a sea of people to try to get through on the way to anywhere, and I thought to myself “If I wanted to get to the shrine from here I could just force my way through” and then it occurred to me, I’d forced my way through crowds before without much success. The times I’d gotten through crowds in the best way is when I’d kind of gone with the flow, I knew which way I needed to go but then I just waited for the gaps to open up, not gotten frustrated and just felt my way through. To me that is a big part of muga, or at least what I understand muga to be. The goal is known to some degree but the path isn’t set.

In the context of rope, muga for me is about having some idea of where I’m going but then putting that aside in favour of feeling my way through. More than that though it’s about relaxing, putting the ego aside and feeling for those spaces, they are there just the way there is an indefinable right time to kiss someone. None can teach you either, you just need to know they are there, relax and feel for them, when you get it you know.

Reddit AMA

April 4, 2016 in Hebari's Blog, Rope

For anyone interested I’ve started an AMA thread on Reddit 🙂 A great opportunity to ask anything you like.

Goodbye Sensei

March 9, 2016 in Hebari's Blog, Rope

Yukimura Haruki Sensei was a great man, and the world is less for his passing.

0004cab1-37c2-c3a9-8f50-37560ab14059_720I had heard of Yukimura sensei for some time before I finally met him in 2012 while visiting Japan for rope lessons with Kinoko and Osada Steve.
I was lucky enough to be in contact with Hajime Kinoko and asked him about meeting Yukimura sensei, he said he would find out and the end result was both of us doing two days with him as students.
Aside from the time with sensei, I also had the honour of watching Kinoko san and Yukimura sensei chatting and discussing the world of rope. The old and the new generation of nawashi together, it was something I’ll never forget.

 

 

0004cab1-b88a-fc86-0146-08b95cc497cb_720Over the next couple of years I went to Japan 3 or 4 times a year and despite how little I managed to retain of the language, I worked hard on my rope with sensei. The patterns didn’t change much but each time I got better at what I had learned and slowly got glimpses of deeper concepts. One hard earned layer becoming the foundation for the next

 

 

 

 

 

 

0004f470-6913-9a85-02d2-ee0d60f104ae_720On the 13th of March 2014, sensei bestowed on me my student name and my first class teaching certificate on his visit to Sydney.

While I felt very lucky, I knew then that it was just the beginning of my responsibility to learn all I could and deserve the honour I had been given.

 

 

Unfortunately that is just chronology and doesn’t say much about a great man. Sensei had a wonderful way about him, just very relaxed and easy to laugh. He played the role of the dirty old uncle so very well, turning models into jelly with a few gravely words, and the lightest touch of his hand. Everything looked so casual and relaxed, almost an afterthought, but if you asked any of his models they would tell you they never felt his presence waver from them while they were in his rope.
Nothing was overt with sensei, like a finely spiced meal, nothing overwhelming but the cumulative effect was so powerful to watch and ask any of his models and they would tell you how addictive it was.
Something my rope is only the shadow of.

I remember tying a Japanese model in front of sensei in his little lounge room, feeling like I was starting to get it when sensei said a few words in his rough relaxed voice and my model just came apart. I looked up at my translator and gave her a questioning look. She said “Oh, sensei just said she’s a naughty little girl and he’ll have to have her suck his cock later”, and that was so him, to be able to deliver the dirtiest talk with a little laugh and have models just fall apart with shame and excitement. I’ve never seen anyone that could come close to that.

My favourite memories were of the lunches at his place, sensei was a brilliant chef, quite simply the best food I’ve ever had in Japan was at sensei’s table. Relaxed lunches and suppers with our models chatting about rope and the west, about energy and feeling. I learned more about the real art of sensei at those times.

I want to write more but I can’t at the moment, I’m just a bit too sad but maybe I’ll write more later. For now I just hope to give a few people a little glimpse into the amazing man I had the privilege to learn from.

Thank you sensei
Haru isamu