Kyudo · Uncategorized

Long Hiatus and Beard-Haters in Japan

Hisashi buri!

Long time no chat folks.

Not due to a lack of bow and arrow in my life, but rather very much the opposite … plus giant bucket loads of other life deals flowing around. It’s at times like these I remember what a luxury it is to be able to consistently work on a blog. Blog activity is so important for the kyudo world to share the many different experiences that can be found on this path, and just for me personally. I’ve struggled for so long wanting to write, but just having too much to say for the short time allotted has kept me back. Plus, I’ve come to notice more and more how difficult it can be to talk about kyudo at times. Anything I write can be misinterpreted or even deemed straight up wrong and so I hesitate to make steps.

But screw all that.

The best advice I’ve ever gotten from the hanshi sensei in my dojo is, “Don’t make excuses.

That along with a quote from Braveheart that I’m sure isn’t exactly correct, “You know what will happen if we don’t? Nothin’” makes me feel like it’s time to put some words to computer screen and help color a little of this black and white wilderness.

So, I hope to utilize this blog in the way I’ve wanted to for a while now by dropping little leaves of experience I’ve found in this crazy forest. Just a leaf here and there may seem small, but who knows what kind of green mountain creature it can turn in to.

For now I’d like to embellish in some of the free time I’ve found in this moment to do two things:

First, I’d just like to say that I passed the godan test last month. For anyone who may have followed this blog since I was a tiny little gaijin without a hakama perhaps this is an interesting point in the story. I’ll tell you it was a giant of a mountain that took a hell of a lot of effort, took me to some of the lowest hell pits I’ve ever fallen into, and is thanks to a lot of support I have from my teachers and training partners. It’s a testament to the path we kyudoka take where nothing is given freely. Only you yourself can shoot the bow, from beginning to end this is the black and white cold truth. No excuses. No tricks. Just you in your environment, doing what you do.

Second, I’d like to do some serious ranting about Japanese beard-haters.

So, if you’re not into that then I suggest just moving on and checking in next time when I return to more productive kyudo talk.

For the others, time to open your eyes and mind here.

After my test I decided to grow out my beard as a little present to myself. After a week I got really sick for a week and didn’t shave, so I’m now at two weeks and past any “scruffy” or “nice short clean cut safe happy beard” phases. And so I get big stares, joking comments, and seriously worried people.

As for getting stared at, I could really care less cause I get stared at wherever I go anyway being a foreign dude in Japan, and is the first kind of culture shock you need to get over quick if you want to keep your sanity here.

The second I welcome cause funny jokes are funny, and maybe it gives me a chance to make a funny joke about you too.

The third though, starts to arouse some deep cultural based arguments.

So I went to a kyudo seminar today and got lots of stares from people who have known me for a while as a guy that usually doesn’t have a beard. Then I got lots of jokes and we all laughed. But at one point my teacher came up to me and said,

“You know Zac, maybe you really should think about shaving your beard.”

“Really? It’s not that big of a deal.”

“No, you really should. It’s not good.”

“What do you mean?”

It gives a bad impression. People will think you’re ‘manuke’.”

“What’s ‘manuke’ mean?”

Mmmmmmmmmm ….”

“It’s not good?”

No, it’s not.”

I vaguely understood it at the time as meaning “idiot”, and just looked it up to find it out it does in fact translate as, “idiot.”

“Wow, that’s weird. You know, how it can be the complete opposite in another country.”

I’m trying to be very nice and use sensible words even though I’m starting to get frustrated with this lightly said but deeply felt prejudice in Japan … one of the many.

It gives a bad impression. See, these teachers that are teaching us, if it was the normal you with a shaved face you’d look smart and willing to listen and easy to talk to. But with your beard, you look dumb and like you won’t listen or care about what the teachers are saying.”

“But it’s still just me.”


“Wow, you know in America it’s almost the complete opposite …”

Something took away my teacher’s attention and he ignored what I was saying childishly because he knew where I was going with this. Very immature. I have very similar tactics for avoiding conversations with him when he says things I don’t want to hear about. Funny humans and their relationships.

But anyway, that’s for real. I can’t say for the whole of America (in fact I’m pretty sure there is absolutely nothing you can say generally about all Americans), but where I’m from, you stand out if you don’t have a beard. In fact, you look childish, even enslaved maybe. (Going to far? Told you this was a rant.) Having a clean shaved face can mean that you have given up the choice to share your true nature, and instead blindly follow the rules sent down from above.

I’ve even tried to explain the sheep metaphor to trusted Japanese friends, and they just don’t get it. It’s about the same as trying to tell some people here that weed is not the same as heroin, and that alcohol and tobacco are arguably the most dangerous drugs on the planet.

What a joke these mass societal arbitrary decisions.

In Japan, beards are dirty and worn by old people and idiots.

In other parts of the world, beards are a sign of greatness and honor and are super awesome.

“Zac, you don’t even look good in one.”

I don’t grow so that other people think I look good!

The bigger the curlier the thicker the crazier the better.

Not because it looks good,

not because it makes other people think a certain thing,

but because you fucking can.

So yeah. Tirade mostly over.

I’m not an idiot cause I have a beard.

And my teacher is not an idiot because he thinks I’m an idiot for having a beard.

I’m thankful he’s honest with me and can enlighten me on this one particular Japanese bias I may not want to hear about. As long as I know that having a beard will make the people around me slightly biased, I can operate the way that I like, because I’m a full grown man free to make his own decisions.

I guess that’s one American characteristic I’ll never knock.

Warning to any bearded gaijin coming to Japan: People will react differently to you because of your facial hair.

I won’t even get started on long hair (for guys),

or SHAVED HEADS! I actually got so sick of the treatment I got after shaving my head I will never do so again as long as I live in this country.

Did you learn anything helpful from this blog?

Tune in next time for much shorter and artful entries.

Party on.



4 thoughts on “Long Hiatus and Beard-Haters in Japan

  1. I generally feel that those Japanese with beards are the most interesting. They are the ones who are artists or own funky bars and cafes, showing that they have opted out of the big scheme. They are the shepherds, not the sheep.

  2. Wow, WOw, That was interesting. I am just now getting back to some reading. I have been consumed with my journey stateside and prep. Kyudo is on Tues, seems like It has been forever…I was just making a brief pass,,,

    I knew about the thing with Japanese and beards, but that was still …sugoi!

    Congrats on the Go-dan… Tai Hen Ne!
    I will most likely wait until spring before another Shinsa.

    1. Thanks for dropping back by! Looking forward to hearing about your journeys back Stateside and returning home (Japan!) (as you mentioned). Who knows what kind of revolutions can happen in the bow before next spring, surely some that will make for the two best arrows possible.

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