It’s been only 56 hours since I got back from Tsu, Japan. In some weird way, it feels as though I have traveled to another universe. I have lived a very blessed life for many reasons including all the places I've been able to travel, surf and roll...but this was my first time in the Land of the Rising Sun. The country, as we Americans like to say, “blew my mind." For me, it was the best country I have visited to date.
To me, these are the three words that best describe Nippon: Pride, Respect, Excellence.
PRIDE - No matter where I went, every single place was spotless. You cannot find a single piece of trash anywhere. Everyone recycles. There's not even a dirty car on the road. There’s this underlying,unified country pride- pride in their thousands of years of traditions and histories. This is their underlying guiding impetus in everything that they do. Now I know why the Japan soccer team did what they did at the World Cup this year. They live with ‘think of Japan first before the family name’ mentality. Now I know why Ryoji funded our agreement before any written contract was signed. I have never seen such a thing. Back then we had only met once! What American would do such a thing? Can you imagine if we all lived like that!?
RESPECT - I have never bowed so much in my life. I am a hugger, but I was trying to respect their culture...I could not help it, and I ended up hugging everyone by the last day. Respect is taught in the home at an early age, thus they have learned ‘the right and the wrong’ since they could barely walk. They place others before their individual self expression. Even punk rockers bowed when they entered a shrine. It is cool to be respectful. Again, can you imagine if we lived like that?
EXCELLENCE - Every single item, every single structure was made with perfection and precision in craftsmanship. They do not make anything with mediocrity. Every single millimeter is respected and crafted with pride and excellence. There is no short cut. ...Can you imagine if we lived like that!
My whole purpose for this trip was to support our new Kekoa partners in Japan- Jun and Ryoji. We were attending a jiu jitsu tournament in Nagoya. For me, personally, I wanted to get to know Ryoji more on a deeper level. Our partnership is brand new; it's only a few months old. We had spent a few days together back in June when he visited us in Oahu. And now I stayed at his home in Tsu- abeautiful home sits on a corner, quietly surrounded by the mountains, rice fields and bamboo forest. I watched the sun rise every morning from my bedroom window.
For the first day or so I had my shirt on, but by the end, the both of us were walking around the house in our underwear (those who know me know that I hate wearing shirts).The weather was in the 90’s with 110% humidity. We ate out every day, and holy shit! Everything I ate was absolutely incredible. I tried many ‘firsts,’ such as: Matsusaka Beef (that costs $1,800/lb), beef tongue, raw liver, whale (yuck...), Tonkatsu with miso sauce, Nagoya chicken wings...in silence I dedicated this to one of my favorite humans, Anthony Bourdaine.
I have met his tribe and so many others in the jiu jitsu community. Similar to many of us here in Kaka ako, they share the same passion for the Gentle Art, and it is infectious. Maybe many of them have never been to Hawaii, but all of them unintentionally live their lives with Aloha First. The warmth and the welcome I received touched me deeply. The bows became hugs. All I can share with all of you is the Universe has blessed and brought us an Aumakua (guardian angel) that is going to perpetuate The Kekoa MOVEMENT in the East. I rested my head on my pillow on the last night with great joy and comfort knowing that Ryoji and Jun will lead Kekoa Collective Japan with their hearts first.
Ryoji, Jun and the people of Mie, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for the unforgettable memories. I could not be more grateful for your friendship, partnership and leadership on our adventure.
I have always believed business is all about relationships. Humans come first before profit, process or policies. Like I said before, I have no idea where Kekoa Collective is heading, but I can assure you with family members like Ryoji and Jun, everything is possible and everything is achievable as long as we are united with passion and lead with our hearts first.
In short, I sat on JAL on my way back thinking to myself, "We are no longer partners. We are a family." Finally I have found a nickname for both of these men! Jun, you are now my Sumeragi and Ryoji you are my Ito. (Just read Shoe Dog by Buck Knight - the Nike story).
To both samurais and the people of Mie- me ke aloha pumehana. With all my love may the Mindful Living MOVEMENT march on towards the East.
Your humble servant - The Donger
PS...I LOVE JAPAN!