miyako...(enjoy in HD)i was searching for a train station. the kind you rarely see. small. countryside. we found it. and by accident, found something else. someone else. miyako. the station master. i watched her smile at each exiting passenger. then, noticed her wave at the departing one-car train. then, surprisingly, she continued waving. she waved until there was no trace left of the distant train. no one witnessed her, except, well, me. in that short span, my love and wonder of life was renewed. when i spoke to her later, she said at first she felt so shy. and hardly waved at all. slowly, over time, she began doing something she neither needed to do, nor imagined she ever would. so, this is miyako, master of a tiny station in the middle of nowhere japan who attends to every train and passenger that passes by:
Posted by Erez Sitzer on Wednesday, 30 September 2015
We say that budo is more than just techniques. We say it is a Way. What does that mean though? Japanese culture has been steeped in Neo-Confucianism for hundreds of years. It was part of the official doctrine of the Tokugawa government for over 200 years. Neo-Confucian thought is deeply concerned with how people become exemplary, what Neo-Confucian thinkers call sages and worthies, through self cultivation.
At a more general level, Neo-Confucian thought is about how people can develop themselves to the highest level both as individuals and as members of society. This is the Way of the Neo-Confucians, and it is the Way that so influenced much of Japanese thought and resulted in the creation of the many formal Ways in Japan (Budo, Sado, Judo, Kendo, Kado, Sojido, etc), and a limitless number of personal Ways that have not been codified.
In the film above by Erez Sitzer, Miyako shows one of these personal ways. Hers is the Way of being a good station master. She started out being shy about waving to people. Over time she created a Way to develop herself as she felt she needed. Notice that her wave is very graceful and stylized. She has clearly spent time figuring out exactly how she should move when waving and then practicing that motion to point that it is gentle and perfect. The practice helps her to better fulfill her role as the master of this station.
Instead of seeming shy, judging from the movie Miyako has become quite outgoing and relaxed with the passengers and train conductors. She smiles easily and cheerfully, and seems to chat with everyone without hesitation.
You can see from her movement and interaction with passengers that she has certainly mastered her role as the gregarious station master. Sincere practice of her Way, waving and talking and paying attention to each passenger has paid off and Miyako is able to fulfill her role as completely as possible.
If you watch, it looks like she made a kata out of the parts that were difficult, particularly the waving. It’s a kata, a form, and yet she fills it with appreciation and concern for the passengers.
This is what we should be doing with our own practice. Not just the technical forms, but all parts of the ways we practice. If you’re reading this, you probably practice some form of budo, or martial way. Looked at coldly, the odds of needing martial skills on any given day are pretty low, but it is almost a given that we will need all the other things we practice. Whether I am practicing iaido or judo or jodo, we have proper ways of greeting people, showing respect, giving honor and deference when it is appropriate. These essential elements of politeness and respect are somewhat lacking in modern popular culture, and people are often amazed at the result that simple politeness and respect can have. This true not only in the corridors of business and polite society, but even more so when tempers flare and and inhibitions against violence weaken. The power of politeness and respect to defuse and deescalate is amazing. This part of our practice deserves at least as much attention as how strike, throw or cut.
Being polite. Showing respect. Acting with dignity. All these things are part of the Ways we practice. I hope my practice is as sincere and as successful as Miyako’s.
She has created a marvelous Way.