Veronique’s Trip to Japan April 2015
Veronique is a shiatsu practitioner from Belgium, who is currently in my teacher training programme. She sometimes organises courses for me and has arranged an invitation for me to speak at the Belgium midwives conference next May. She also runs regular courses for midwives herself, after initially assisting me on some midwives courses in May 2012. Before studying shiatsu she studied Aikido and it was through this that she first made her first links with Japan.
Last April, I was fortunate to be able to travel to Japan for two weeks. Suzanne asked me to write something for her blog, so I am very pleased to share my experiences with you. What I have observed by writing it only now, is that I see and feel more and more what it brought on a deeper level, not just being a wonderful trip!!! But let’s start with the beginning.
I was lucky to travel to Japan 15 years ago to visit an Aikido Sensei (Iwagaki) to study Aikido. This time I wanted to go with a fellow Aikido student on our own, just following our intuition. I felt that my inner Self wanted me to be there to collect something, and bring it back. It is a strange feeling, because I knew it was important and I just had to trust it. I have already learned that following an inner impulse is right and fulfilling, so I just invite you to do the same. The Universe teaches: If you care about yourself first (love yourself for who you are and what you need), then those you love will also be looked after. Let your worry go and trust that there is help in the physical world also for YOU. This gives me an amazing inner feeling of joy and freedom.
When we were planning what to do I really wanted to experience some shiatsu in Japan. However, I found out that there were no courses while I was going to be in Tokyo. I decided to listen to my heart and felt I still wanted to go, to reconnect with myself and nature instead of taking some new information and teaching. Letting go and charging inwards was obviously my purpose.
We decided to go to Tokyo for 4 days to be absorbed by the life and energy of this amazing city and practice Aikido in the Hombu Dojo, where Doshu the grand son of Morihei Ueshiba (founder of Aikido)still teaches. For every aikidoka this is a real dream.
One of the most impressive things of Tokyo, for me, is the discipline, the flow which is restful rather than chaotic. Thousands of people travel every day in Tokyo, but there is no rushing, no shouting, no tooting cars. Everyone waits patiently in a queue in the metro, looking at their smartphones.
There is not much personal contact. It is amazing how such a big city full of life feels so safe and easy. People are very helpful although they are a bit ashamed not to speak English! So lovely, knowing we really only knew a few words of Japanese!!! The food is also amazing. Everywhere you can eat healthy food, although only fish and meat were easily available. If we wanted veggie we had to search more.
The experience of being between and with a huge amount of people and feeling peaceful and respected, is still even now a big example to me and our Western rushing world. It is because people respect each other and obey rules without too much resistance that this society works so efficiently. I understood that if you want to work together you can have your own ideas and attitudes, but if team work is the aim, everybody has to respect and honour existing commitments. I decided to use it in teachings I do in homes for the elderly to help people to work in teams together. I spoke about this on the 28th September.
After 4 days I really wanted to go to the mountains. We took a flight to Nanki –Shirahama,to go to the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage in the mountains.
We stayed in the Blue guest house in Hongu). It was a lovely place and the owner was friendly. He is known in the Lonely Planet. The rooms are typical Japanese style with tatami to sleep on, super!!! And, without knowing before, we slept a few hundred meters next to one of the oldest Shinto Shrines of Japan (Kumano Hongu Taisha) part of the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage.
WoW what an energy there! I really could feel (and still can!) the amazing power being all around. It was as if nature also looked and felt much more whole, soft and peaceful. I felt that as Divinity was visible, nature was showing and offering Divine energy. I had wanted to come here because I had read that my akido Sensei (Morihei Ueshiba) always came there to meditate and walk the pilgrimage afterwards.I immediately felt and understood why.
When I entered the temple a huge feeling of Respect and Inner Silence overwhelmed me as if I was pulled into Myself. I felt honoured to have the authority to enter in the part where no religious people may come. In the middle of the Shrine only Priests may enter. Full of respect, everybody is around. In Belgium the churches are often used as places to visit but not to pray as respectfully as I saw there. The eastern people still have their belief and surrender to Divinity being the Source of All. That nourished me too, because it feels right to me. I decided to stay a while there, sitting under 2 big trees. I meditated a bit and felt a very strong and nourishing flow coming up to my legs in my body. I immediately knew, that this was why I came to Japan. Like being fed in the wholeness of our being, female and male energy coming together and being balanced, just by surrendering and being silent and very grateful. I understood that by doing and searching all the time I had not enough rest and being in my life. I felt very clear that when I would be back in Belgium i would have to care more for my energy, just doing nothing to know what to do afterwards.
This helped me a lot and I really try do what I feel is needed. It gives so much more peace inside. A peace I really want to share with others.
The following days we just walked and walked, through the mountains following the Kumano Kodo and passing through several spiritual Shrines. Heaven, so peaceful. We even found fresh umeboshi prunes in little shops on the road. Oooooh what a different taste from those in Belgium.
The third day we went to the Yunomine Onsen. Yunomine is a quaint little collection of inns tucked into a small valley deep in the heart of the sacred mountains of Kumano. The waters here are said to change colour seven times over the course of a day. Yunomine Onsen was discovered about 1,800 years ago, and it is thought to be one of the oldest hot springs in Japan. Pilgrims performed hot water purification rituals in these piping hot mineral waters after their long journey in preparation to worship at the Kumano Hongu Taisha Shrine. This was also amazing. We went to the Tsuboyu.
It is a small cabin by the creek that runs through Yunomine Onsen. You can privately bathe in this small stone lined Onsen for up to 30 minutes. It is the only medicinal hot spring that you can bathe in that is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was nearly to 60 degrees so we had to put some cold water in it to be able to go in. Everything smelt like sulphur, so hot, but feeling how the body was purified. I understood why we only may go for 30 minutes, you just can not do more. When we came out my eyes were different: my view was so clear: my liver had been cleaned. People do not go longer than the Onsen rules prescribe.Nobody breaks the commitments, shoes out, clothes outside, respect to and for all.
After a week in the mountains we took the bus to the sea, Shirahama beach. I really felt I did not want to leave the mountains, this was a good exercise to let go attachments.
Arriving at Shirahama somebody spontaneously offered to drive us (for free!) to our hotel. Like falling out of the clouds, amazing how much help we had during whole the trip, so easy even without speaking their language properly. Again a good exercise in trust and intuition.
The sea was strong and clear, white beaches and a lot of rocks, that’s what I loooooove! We stayed here our last days and again I felt the message inside of ‘let go doing, go for being’. For me the best place to be nourished is the silence of nature. It is like answers just arise in the mind.
We didn’t do a lot, the weather was warmer than the mountains so that was nice. The hotel had its own onsen, male and female separated, always. Our last nourishing days after the long walks in the mountains. Having great food, ready to go back to Belgium.
I would like to invite you all to go one day to Japan, to feel and live the respect, focus, discipline and warm open heart of the Japanese people. They respect us, and they felt so happy when they saw we tried to do like their culture ask. Just speaking a few words to them, opens a big heart and a flow of warm help.
Thank you! Domo arigatoo gosaimasu