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Thoughts on the cherry blossom

Kawaraban No. 50


by Kenji Shimizu

Due to the warm spring this year`s cherry blossoms dropped early. When I had my seminar in March in Germany, I told the Germans who were about visiting Japan in the first third of April, that they were going to see the cherry blossom in full boom, but I was wrong. It is difficult to express, yet I think the way how the cherry bloosoms fall down, is very Japanense. This sudden blooming , this sudden dropping stands for the Japanese love for the philosophy of life and death.

I remember my feelings when I had left the Honbu Dojo and became independent. In my mind I compared my life with a cherry blossom. There is only one life – and that is it! Whatever the future would bring I had made my decision, and could calmly expect my fate. And when I look back, 33 years have passed and I am still not fallen off.

At present there are only a few numbers of budo dojos left, endangering the continued existence. The Tendokan is – as you may notice by its name – a pure aikido dojo. There are not a few cases of dojos being rented out to other arts like ikebana or lyric groups or even to non-budo sports like jazz dance. Tendokan received as well such inquiries and requests, but I rejected flatly. My intention was to abide by my principles and not to destroy the budo mind, which has been handed down from ancient Japan. Therefore, many students asked whether I could survive financially. Don’t worry, I boasted, but actually I was a little nervous not to drop off in the end.

But the time didn’t pass uselessly, and before I noticed Tendokan was well known. In Germany as well the roots have spread and have developed quite reliably. I am convinced that it is necessary to persist with a subject on long terms. In continuation lies strength.

During this year’s foreign seminar in spring I had the opportunity coming to know professor Kimura. Mr Takeshi Nakane, Japanese consul in Munich introduced me to Mr. Kimura, an expert of German Literature (professor at Regensburg University, professor emeritus of Sophia University). It took professor Kimura about two hours to travel to the seminar location in Deggendorf, and on top of that he stayed and watched the training for about two more hours – until the very end. Wearing traditional dogi and hakama and sitting in seiza (kneeing position) like Japanese people, the 130 students of the seminar listenend to his words. Professor Kimura kindly expressed as follows: “In such training’s atmosphere I had the following impressions: This is the way to hand down traditional budo, and that the German students are studying seriously. There is no better way of Japanese-German friendship. Aikido is a cultural treasure of which Japan could be proud worldwide.

Professor Kimura, who acts as advisor for the Japanese-German Society, asked me in all seriousness, whether the Japanese government supports me on my foreign seminars. When I explained to him, that that wasn’t the case, his face turned enquiring. I still remember his facial expression quite well.

My blossom has not yet dropped off, I simply want it to bloom.

© translated by Birgit Lauenstein 08/2002