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1934 Tenran-jiai (illustrated)

On the 4th and 5th of May 1934, Saineikan – a budojo located in the grounds of Tokyo Imperial Palace – was the venue of the second of three Showa-period Tenran-jiai (a budo or sports competition held in front of the Emperor). This post was mainly written in order to share some of the pictures available of the event, but I’m also using it as an opportunity to bring together related kenshi 24/7 articles.

There’s still a lot more that needs to be written both about the event itself and the people involved, but there’s no point in hoarding all these cool pictures, so here they are… enjoy!!!

(Links to related articles are after the pictures.)

Emperor Showa watching the shiai:


Shinpan and competitors:

Kata (Nakayama Hakudo and Takano Sasaburo):

Competition winners (note Noma Hisashi on the right):

Finals of the professional kenshi division:

Finals of the prefectural kenshi division (Noma vs Fujimoto):

Special demonstration match (Mochida Moriji vs Ogawa Kinnosuke):

Special demonstration match (Oshima Jikida vs Ueda Heitaro):

Special demonstration match (Takano Shigeyoshi vs Nakayama Hakudo):

Special demonstration match (Saimura Goro vs Nakano Sosuke):

Special demonstration match (Jukendo):

Special demonstration (teaching children):

Various matches from throughout the two days:

Related articles on kenshi 24/7

Teikoku Kendo Kyohon – the book written by Ogawa Kinnosuke, a shinpan and special demonstration member.

The Kendo Reader – the book written by Noma Hisashi, the winner of the prefectural kenshi division.

Fujimoto Kaoru – a look into the life of the person Noma defeated to take the title.

Takano Sasaburo – the most senior sensei in attendance and head shinpan.

Saimura Goro – a shinpan and special demonstration member.

Nakayama Hakudo – a shinpan and special demonstration member.

Takizawa Kozo – information about post-WW2 Tenran-jiai and Saineikan.

(I’ll probably expand on this list as time goes on)


The following video is NOT from the 1934 Tenran-jiai featured here, but one held 6 years later. Although a different shiai, I think we can assume that the execution is pretty much the same:


昭和天覧試合 : 皇太子殿下御誕生奉祝。宮内省 監修。昭和9発行。大日本雄弁会講談社。

By George

George is the founder and chief editor of
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10 replies on “1934 Tenran-jiai (illustrated)”

Not to grind my axe too finely, but these pictures are a firm rebuff to anyone who says “nito is not kendo.” It certainly was in kendo’s pre-war heyday. Thanks, George.

Brian, I’m glad you like the pictures… but please remember that all then nito pictures are of a single gentleman called Fujimoto Kaoru (check out his bio above). I don’t think a single person is evidence of the popularity of nito pre-WW2. Nito was – as now – relatively rare, almost always self-taught, and judged to be something on the fringes of the kendo community (at least, in Japan anyway). Back in the day it was seemingly employed mainly as a strategy in kachinuki shiai (the most common type of team competition prior to the war) to stop other teams strong competitors: the job of the nito person was to force hikiwake thereby removing the other persons strong player (and themselves). Think about that for a bit.

If you want to research into nito at this time in history I suggest hitting the old kendo manuals … however, even then you will probably come up mostly empty.

Hello George-

From your other articles I surmise that a nito practitioner was in the finals of two other tenran shiai. So maybe it was never highly popular, but what I run up against is a hard-faced “it is not kendo” attitude which I think is clearly not correct.

Thanks again,


Nito competitors were in the 1934 (Fujimoto Kaoru) and 1940 (Kayaba Teruo) finals of the prefectural section. The professional section saw no nito practitioners taking part. You’ll never hear me say that nito is “not kendo” but there is no doubt that it falls outside the classical frame of kendo shugyo …. pre and post war. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that there’s never actually been a nito tradition in kendo really…. until the Musashi-kai appeared and started to make one. It seems they are doing quite a lot to remedy the situation (which is great) but it’s blatantly obvious that it’s far more popular outside of Japan than inside of it.

Hey Nik,

I have that DVD as well… but its not the whole event I’m afraid. Two of the tenran-jiai were recorded – fully I assume – but only portions of them were released on that DVD. It’s a little bit annoying!!

“When were the Tenranjiai tournaments held?
Three of them were held, in 1929, then in 1934 and in 1940. After the Taisho Emperor passed away and the present Emperor ascended to the throne, a tournament called the “Godaiten Taikai” took place. The one in 1934 was held in commemoration of the birth of the Crown Prince. The one in 1940 took place because the year just happened to be the 2,600th anniversary of the founding of the Japanese nation. There were no other Tenranjiai tournaments. Only Kendo, Judo, and Kyudo matches were held in these tournaments. They lasted for a two-day period and the first day was for preliminary matches. The Emperor came on the day of the final matches. They were all held at the Saineikan Dojo.”

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