The next few days went by uneventfully. I went to class, napped when I needed to, and briefly entertained the notion of using one of the abandoned TVs from the storage room (possible, but too bulky).
During that week, Marta, an Italian student in the J1 program who lives off campus, had been talking with Natascha about joining a club. It sounded like it might be worth a look, so I got a copy of the club booklet from the office. In addition to the usual tea ceremony, baseball, chorus, dance, and other clubs, they had some traditional combat arts as well. The naginata looked like it might be fun, but also carried a 4000円-per-semester fee. The kendo club, however, was free to join, so the three of us decided we’d go and visit them that Thursday and see if we liked what we saw.We were entirely unfamiliar with the Hoshigaoka campus (yes, that Hoshigaoka), so one of the office ladies, Oka-san, accompanied us to the bus that shuttles between campuses. The timing was somewhat inconvenient, meaning we had a lot of downtime before and after the bus ride, but it couldn’t be helped. Upon arrival, one of the office ladies from that side directed us towhere the meeting would be. It was a meandering path that took us through buildings and back outside, then up a spiral-staircase tower to a gymnasium located at the top of a regular classroom building. It was an impressive view from up there, but it was well before meeting time, so we headed down to the YamaDen plaza to wait.
When we finally got back to the gym, there were a few people already there, half-suited up and killing time. (The outfit, by the way, consists of several pieces, including armor for the chest and a full-face helmet.) We three waited a bit before I finally entered and asked if it was okay for us to stay and watch. They said yes, and we ultimately managed to find an upper-class girl to explain a few things. Her name was Atsumi, and she was studying English, so she was fine to use either language. Atsumi explained to us that the club had a competition on Sunday, so they’d be training that day in preparation. We also learned that most of the members had been practicing for three or more years, save one girl who’d only been at it a year and a half, and one newcomer who’d only started in April. That said, the three of us sat back and watched.
From what I gathered, kendo is basically a very structured form of swordfighting done with a bamboo sword. Your goal is to get an uncontested strike on the forehead, chest, or neck (by stabbing), but you don’t swing the sword around wildly. It reminds me a lot of fencing, with footwork and specific striking points and the full-face mask, only in kendo you yell and (occasionally) showboat if you land what you feel was a good hit. We stayed for the full two hours, meeting people and absorbing what we saw.
Once it was finished, we spoke to Atsumi a little more. She seemed eager for us to join, and we wished them luck on their match and thanked them for letting us stay. Natascha was already decided by that time; she wanted to join. I was on the fence, myself, while Marta sounded as though she wasn’t going to join up. The three of us headed back down toward the bus station, saw Marta off at the subway, and headed back to the dorm. I got off at the bus stop closest to Seiyu and went in for a seasonal McDonald’s sandwich called a 月見バーガー： a hamburger with a fried egg and bacon (and cheese, if you wanted), along with some sort of sauce. First Kitchen back in Okazaki had sold those, but I think it was a stock menu item for them, and I don’t know if they gave it the same name, but I knew I liked them.
That night, I had quite a bit of homework. While Wednesdays are basically half-days for me, Thursdays are when I get assigned a lot of work, which filled the rest of my night.