Year end, year start

Happy new year !!!! I hope all kenshi 24/7 readers had a great xmas and Hogmanay/new-year period.

Japan, being a non-Christian country, basically doesn’t stop for a holiday break until December the 29th or 30th depending, and even then many shops will remain open throughout the whole period, perhaps closing only on January the 1st. Although this is depressing work-wise, it does mean that kendo doesn’t stop! In fact, with the combination of school holidays (i.e. lots of kendo renshu-jiai and godo-geiko) and year-end kendo drinking parties, it often feels like one of the busiest kendo times of the year. Yay!

Here I’d like to introduce a couple of special types of keiko that regularly occur in Japan during this time, both of which I attended this year: toshigoshi-geiko and gantan-geiko.

Toshigoshi-geiko (年越し稽古)

“Toshigoshi” basically means “year end” and refers to keiko that happens on December the 31st. There are many different variations of the style of keiko, some happen during the day of the 31st itself, some start in the evening and end just before midnight, whilst others start at 11pm and go through midnight into the new-year.

I’ve been attending toshigoshi-geiko on and off for about 10 or 11 years now. The style of the dojo I mainly go to for this type of keiko is relatively simple: we generally roll-up around 9 or 930pm, warm-up with some kata practice, then get our men’s on at 10pm. Shinai kendo then continues until 1140-50pm, whereafter we take our men’s off and go into mokuso. When mokuso is finished it’s already the new year!! We bow, thank our sensei and friends, and – after perhaps a small cup of sake or a beer, head home for bed.

btw, check out the third picture in the gallery below: this is this years dojo motto written/painted (complete with Chinese zodiac inspired picture) by one of my favourite sensei and hung up on the dojo wall in time for toshigoshi-geiko. It reads 「一年の心 勝る 一年の心」which I take to mean something like “exceed yourself this year more than the last” and refers to the onward shugyo of working continually to become a better person. 頑張ります!

Gantan-geiko (元旦稽古)

“Gantan” is simply the “first day of the year” and refers to keiko that happens on January the 1st. Even though some shops are closed on the 1st, public transport continues unabated… such is the beauty of Japan!! Gantan-geiko sessions are quite common in Japan, and are generally just free jigeiko sessions.

This year I attended a large, open gantan-geiko practice held in the north part of Kyoto. On the way it was a little bit chilly and there were flakes of snow to be seen… however, while we were doing warmup stretches and suburi a full-blown snowstorm erupted!!! By the time we left the dojo everywhere was covered in 3-5 inches of snow and I could barely feel my feet due to the bitter cold.

Feeling happy and motivated!

It at time’s like these where I feel lucky/privileged to be in a situation where I am able to do so much kendo. I guess back home in the UK I’d simply have spent the time boozing and eating, which was fine when I was in my 20s but not so fine in my old age! At least this year I spent the holiday period relatively healthily!

Wishing everyone a successful, and most importantly healthy and injury-free, 2015. Cheers!


By George

George is the founder and chief editor of
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