I went to Japan for the first time in 1990 with my friend Pedro. I still have vivid memories of this first trip.
When I began training Bujinkan with my first teacher Sylvain, everything was amazing. But it was nothing to compare with the awe I felt when meeting with Hatsumi sensei and the Shihan in Noda.
My teacher came back from Japan in 1984 and opened the first Bujinkan dōjō the same year. I began training in June 1984, joining a small group of "ninja".
We went to the first Taikai organized by Peter King in 1987, then it was Stockholm with Sven, then Munich with Moshe. Each year we woud travel europe to meet with Hatsumi sensei wherever he was. But visiting Japan was much more than to attend a few days seminar.
In 1987, Sylvain went back to train in Japan with Hatsumi Sensei and brought with him many pictures showing what we were doing in France. As you know we were also training basic Shugendō inlcuding many ascetic practices in the snow and the frozen rivers. I was on one picture nearly naked in the middle of huge chunks of ice. When Sensei saw it he said: "Aruno looks like a real polar bear (Shiro Kuma)". And since then this is how he calls me.
Around 1992, he gave the Shi Tennō a dragon name for each one. This is quite common today to see people chosing their own dragon name, but in these times only Sōke could do it. My dragon name is Yūryū (brave and courageous dragon), but Sensei prefers to call me Shiro Kuma.