After every Sunday dojo practice we all sit together in a little room and eat biscuits, rice crackers and fruit, and drink lots of Japanese tea. Today I asked Hirai sensei some questions, and he was really happy and answered with pretty long explanations. Once he left (the older sensei seem to leave earlier) I was told that 10 years ago Hirai sensei was completely different than he is now (i.e. happy and smiling). Apparently 10 years ago he was really nasty, mean and grumpy all the time, hardly talking to anyone. Once he was gone someone showed me how he would hit away a persons shinai so that they lost their grip on it. I'm glad that he's really nice now.
The fat sensei (meant affectionately) that I wrote about a while ago said he would show us a little kendo shop, and that I should buy a few new shinais there (I told him that I had broken some). He has a tiny little red car, which he has driven for 15 years, and which he won in a lottery. He is always smiling and laughing, and talking in broken English about anything. We drove back to our house first to get some money, and I gave him a bottle of fruit juice as a present. He thought it was funny.
Anyway. I have no idea what the sensei's name is (Japanese names are hard to remember). So when we were driving to the shop we noticed that he had a Totoro keychain on his mobile phone. We told him that we love Totoro (and all studio Ghibli films) and that we just went to the Ghibli museum a few weeks ago. He told us that his wife loves Totoro too, and that she says he looks like Totoro when he sleeps, and snores like him too. So we instantly decided his name would be Totoro sensei :) (but we never use the nicknames we give to senseis here)
I made this when we came home, it looks like him a bit:
At the shop we found out that they didn't sell the same shinais as I use (cheep, and big grip). But she asked us how much I had paid for them (about 5000yen, or NZ$65). She went over and took down one of the expensive display shinais with family crests and signatures on them (they look really nice, and are more than 10,000yen) and said it had a bigger grip and that I could have it for 5000yen. I was a bit hesitant, because if it broke I wouldn't be able to repair it with bamboo from my other shinais, but in the end I bought it anyway. Hey, every kendoist needs a flashy smoked shinai which he never uses, right? I might give it to someone as a present someday.