2013-05-01 - Tuesday was our last class with Osada Steve. The time had gone so quickly, and we were both a little subdued in the morning. We looked at suspension techniques in the afternoon, and although I think much of what we looked at was familiar to Rigger, he seemed now to be looking at things from a a slightly broader perspective. It showed me again the differences in his rope, and my feelings were confirmed when Osada Steve summed up his progress, echoing my thoughts and feelings throughout the week. We said our goodbyes, and realised later that we hadn’t taken any photos with Osada Steve at all during our visit, something we both regret deeply.

After class we went to the baths, had a long relaxing soak and then headed to a restaurant that T had recommended to us the week before. We climbed the narrow stairwell, lined with plants and looking more like a block of residential homes than a building where you’d find a restaurant. We opened the door to find what looked like a breakfast bar big enough for five people in a small homely room with a friendly looking woman on the other side. Behind her was a tiny but well organised kitchen, full of all kinds of exotic looking food, not to mention some more familiar ones, and a small fridge filled with cold beers.

We ordered a beer each, and started working on the language barrier. I managed to explain that I don’t eat meat, and with the help of the pictures in the menu we ordered a selection of spicy tofu and vegetable dishes. Our host, whom I shall refer to as ‘M’, was unlike many Japanese women we’d met. She was petite, but had a robustness about her, and a deep, warm belly laugh that filled the room. She seemed to find everything funny, and soon Rigger and I were laughing along with her. She cooked the food in front of us in minutes, and it was simple, delicious and satisfying. Rigger and I agreed that this tiny restaurant, if it could even be called that, was one of the best places we’d eaten in Japan. M was like a mother figure, so warm and welcoming and eager to feed you something tasty and healthy. We hoped we’d find time to visit her again.

Wednesday was our first lesson with Yukimura. We left extra early to give time to find the address, and took small gifts with us – Dairy Milk and a pretty little plant in a ceramic pot. After some confusion over the address, we finally arrived: a little late, a lot flustered and without a translator. We fumbled through the lesson, using lots of gestures and facial expressions to communicate, and we quickly understood that Yukimura’s teachings are as much about a philosophy as they are technical classes. The previous weeks classes with Steve had provided Rigger with a good foundation to learning the way Yukimura thinks about rope, and I felt he did well in the classes, responding emotionally as well as physically.

S was there, the beautiful Japanese bondage model from dinner at F’s the week before, and she helped with the translation. She was quiet and poised, but I couldn’t help feeling like she had some kind of hidden strength. She was confident without being arrogant, and had an air of passion and drive about her. I liked her instantly.

After the classes we all went to eat at a Japanese restaurant nearby. Yukimura ordered for us, and we had a selection of tempura, miso, rice, fish and vegetables. Somehow, the language barrier melted away (with much help from S, who spoke better English than she claimed) and we had a pleasant evening. As we took the train home, Rigger and I reflected on the day and the new ideas we were being introduced to. I felt a real sense of identity with parts of Yukimura’s philosophy, and wondered how the idea of ‘the caressing rope’ would be received in the UK.

The next day we arrived on time and unflustered, and we were introduced to B, our translator. B was witty and sharp, and it made a huge difference to have her with us. The class progressed quickly, and at the end, Rigger was asked to tie S. He seemed less flustered this time, although he was clearly nervous, and he approached the task with a certain confidence that made me smile. Watching him tie made me realise how much more dextrous and fluid he’d become over the last two weeks, and his rope seemed more articulate and communicative from an observational point, as well as a models’ perspective. I saw him carefully balance the techniques that he’d been taught with his natural style, and a deliberate attempt to both please and negate offending at the same time. It was a difficult task, but he did a great job, and his model looked genuinely moved. Her feedback reflected this, and I was really proud of him.

On the train home I asked Rigger about how it felt to tie S. He told me that she had a natural resistance about her, like she was goading him without really moving at all. I was a little surprised: she looked so passive from the audience perspective, but not shocked at all. It fitted well with the idea I’d built of her character, and I liked her subtlety.

That night we packed, and the pair of us were subdued and sombre.

The next day we struggled with our bags to class. The lesson flew by, and this time we couldn’t stay to eat or chat as we had to get to the airport. I felt like one minute we were carrying out our daily routine of classes and rope, and the next we were sitting in an airport hotel ready to go home, and it unsettled me. Rigger and I shared a bottle of wine over dinner at the hotel and discussed what the last two weeks had meant to us. Our friendship felt different now, like it had evolved into something a little more sturdy. It had been tested – two weeks is a long time to live in each other’s pockets, and I think we were both looking forward to some breathing space.

Authors: Jakara

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