shinai complex 竹刀コン

It must have been in 2001. It was the night before the European kendo championships (Bologna I guess) and I was chatting with the then U.K. kendo team coach Honda Sotaro sensei about shinai. In particular, I was unhappy with the shinai I had taken with me to use in the competition and was seeking advice. Many of my friends proclaimed to be happy to use anything that came their way, but I was a little bit more picky than that. I remember being told by Honda sensei quite specifically that it was important to understand what shinai is right for you, and that being fastidious in shinai choice isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I felt reassured that my worry was for nothing but of-course these were the days when internet ordering of shinai was pretty much in its infancy, and when European kendo suppliers were extremely uncommon, so I didn’t really have the chance to be picky anyway.

Fast forward a little bit to 2006. I had been living in Japan for a few years and it had become amazingly easy for me to go to a kendo shop and physically choose and purchase a shinai. In that years June edition of Kendo Nippon there appeared an article called 私の好む竹刀 or “my favourite (type of) shinai” The article got 24 kenshi from around Japan and asked them about their shinai preferences (along with a picture).

I won’t translate all 24 here (read the mag!) just the Chiba Masashi hanshi section. I will then briefly post the name, height and weight, favoured shinai type, and main quote from the other 23.
Continue reading shinai complex 竹刀コン

The white hakama of Yushinkan

Yushinkan was the dojo of Nakayama Hakudo (1873-1958) in Tokyo. Nakayama had a varied and rich budo life, achieving hanshi in all three arts promoted by the modern ZNKR as well as being a shindo munen-ryu swordsman amongst other things. Its impossible to do a full bio of the man here, so I will leave that for another time, instead concentrating on the content of this article.

Nakayama was highly influential in the Butokukai and therefore the kendo community at large. He practised around the country and many of his students went on to become kendo leaders in their own right. Quite a few of the innovations he came up with at Yushinkan (and promoted by him and his students) are currently taken for granted in the kendo community now, including parts of the reiho we use, and even the method many of us tie our men-himo. This article deals only with one such thing: the origin of the use of white dogi (hakama in particular). I’ve heard a lot of explanations for its use, from the ordinary to the mystical, with people sometimes even arbitrarily defining rules for wearing white. This occurs even in Japan. However, the reason for its initial introduction is as mundane as it can be, despite what connotations people may or may not give it now.

Since Nakayama was hanshi in kendo, iaido, and jodo, and due to his influence in the Butokukai, its obvious that what is said below – although it is aimed at kendo practise – follows on naturally to iaido and jodo as well. The following is what he had to say on the matter.

Continue reading The white hakama of Yushinkan

Kamidana Statistics

Kenpō Nagasaki is a bimonthly kendo publication available to subscribers in Nagasaki prefecture. Each issue features shiai and seminar reports and articles by sensei on various topics.

Recently the magazine featured statistics about dojo in Nagasaki prefecture, including a survey on how many dojo have kamidana or Japanese flags at their shōmen. I have translated the statistics from this section of the survey here:

Area No. of dojo Kamidana only National Flag only Neither Both No Answer
Nagasaki City 34 4 10 16 4 0
Seihi Area 4 0 3 1 0 0
Isahaya City 17 2 13 1 1 0
Unzen City 5 3 1 1 0 0
Minami Shimabara City 9 2 2 1 1 3
Ōmura City 15 4 7 3 1 0
Higashi Sonogi Area 9 1 1 5 2 0
Saikai City 8 0 1 5 0 2
Sasebo City 20 5 1 11 3 0
Kitamatsu area 2 1 0 0 1 0
Hirado Area 13 1 5 5 0 2
Gotō City 8 5 2 1 0 0
Shin-Kamigotō City 10 2 1 5 0 2
Iki City 9 0 0 9 0 0
Tsushima City 18 2 0 15 0 1
Shimabara City 5 1 0 2 2 0
Matsuura City 9 4 1 3 1 0
Total 195 37 48 84 16 10

It is interesting to note that 43% of dojo have neither a flag nor a kamidana, and only 8% have both. This is in contrast not only to the western image of Japanese dojo, but the to general Japanese image of dojo as well. Continue reading Kamidana Statistics