After a long 4 year break, members of Seito Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu (MJER) were able to get together for the organization’s annual taikai and banquet.
This will mostly be a journal-style post about my trip, but first,
What is the MJER Zen Nihon Iaido Taikai?
The Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu Zen Nihon Iaido Taikai is an annual event held in June at the Miyako Messe in Kyoto. Since it’s run by the MJER Seitokai, only MJER practitioners participate.
Any rank can participate and there is no tournament, only embu demonstrations.
Most attendees only attend the Sunday taikai, but there’s actually a banquet (zenyasai/前夜祭) the night before. I signed up to attend the banquet and stay at the event hotel, so I headed out on Saturday.
I left a little after 9AM. Living in Gifu Prefecture, it’s pretty rare that I ride the train anywhere, so it was my first time traveling by train in a while. Last time was when my husband and I went to Tokyo on vacation in January. It was hot and unpleasant weather to be carrying a heavy suitcase with wafuku and banquet clothes and a cumbersome sword, but I think the summertime is the most beautiful time to travel by train. Everything is such a vibrant green and the farmers had just finished planting the rice plants, so the water in the rice paddies reflected the fluffy, green mountains.
I took the regular trains and the Shirasagi. It was actually my first time riding the Shirasagi and it’s very cool looking and very relaxing. Unfortunately, I could only ride it from Gifu Station to Maibara Station because it was heading somewhere else. Riding the regular train after such a relaxing experience was disappointing.
The train got to Kyoto Station right at lunchtime. Some research the night before brought the fairly new ramen restaurant area on the 10th floor of the station to my attention. I’d never been up to the higher floors of the station so I decided to check it out.
Toudai popped up on several suggested Kyoto Station lunch spots, so I got my food ticket and lined up there. It was excellent after a morning of travel.
I think I’ll try to work my way through the ramen restaurants in this area each time I visit Kyoto by train.
Once I was fed it was time to head back to the trains and go to the hotel.
The event hotel
In the past the banquet was held at the Hotel Tozankaku, but it shut down a few years ago. This year it was held at Hanazono Kaikan.
The hotel is nice and comfortable. Nothing too fancy, but perhaps a little nicer than a business hotel.
Checking just involved giving my name and the event I was attending. We no longer need to show any vaccine records. It’s a strange feeling after using the vaccine record app for so long.
I meant to take a short rest in the room, but I was more tired than expected. After a nap and relaxing for a few hours, I headed to the temple next door.
Hanazono Kaikan is attached to the large Zen temple, Myoshin-ji.This temple is the headquarters for the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism.
This is one of the reasons I arrived early: I wanted to check it out.
The grounds are pretty large and there weren’t very many people there.
A couple of things this temple are famous for are the bathhouse that was built to morn Akechi Mitsuhide, the general who betrayed Oda Nobunaga, and the enormous painting of a dragon in the clouds on the ceiling of one of its halls. Also, they’ve filmed various historical dramas and movies here.
Wandering around a bit brought me to another temple on the grounds offering goshuin to visitors, so I dropped by the exceptionally charming temple, Choko-in. It’s small, but the garden and atmosphere there was very soothing even on such a hot day. The gentleman there is quite the devoted artist and creates a variety of unique goshuin for visitors to choose from. He posts them on the temple instagram, so feel free to check them out if you’d like to see more.
The banquet, or zenyasai (前夜祭) in this case started at 6, so I got washed and made up before heading to the banquet hall.
There were fewer people than in the past, but those who were there were very excited to be there.
After a some brief speeches, it was time to chat and eat. There was also karaoke and lots of booze going around, which results in many old men belting out enka. It’s pretty great.
A quick aside for any overseas readers who are preparing to come to Japan for an event: If you’re a picky eater or have a lot of allergies, banquets will be difficult for you. It’s usually a course meal and you don’t know what will come out. I have a shrimp/crab allergy and have to stay alert. I’ve been here long enough that my iaido friends give me a heads up if they notice anything, but you’re responsible for yourself in most cases.
Once everything was over, a bunch of the ladies and I headed to the sento and it was time for bed.
Morning of the day
Those of us who stayed at the hotel also got breakfast.
It was good, but aggressively flavorless. I was sitting with a bunch of my Chubu area friends and we couldn’t help but comment on it. The Chubu area is famous for food with strong flavors. It was also startling after what we had at the banquet, but this hotel is connected to the Zen temple and this is Kyoto. I mentioned it to my husband later, and he commented that’s how real Kyoto cooking is and that’s how his mom used to cook.
Everyone got ready and headed down to the lobby. We rode a bus in the past, but this year we had a fleet of taxis take us to Miyako Messe for the Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu Taikai
This taikai takes place at Miyako Messe, near Heian Jingu.
Everyone who changed on site got changed and lined up to sign in and get their pamphlets. Make sure to check your number. This year I was 134.
We don’t compete at this taikai, everyone does an embu. Everyone goes out in groups from the lowest ranked to the highest, the groups getting smaller the until the Seito MJER Soke/Seitokai President does his embu last.
I went out around lunchtime. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of it, but here’s a clip:
Unfortunately, my phone’s hard drive filled up, so I couldn’t film or get as many photos as I wanted, but here are a few.
It was smaller than previous MJER taikai, but it was a wonderful event. I’m very glad we can attend it again after such along break due to COVID and I’m looking forward to next year’s event.