This years Kyoto Taikai finished today and while it was a vast improvement on last years somewhat stilted affair, it was still not back to the usual, far more casual and festival-like event of the pre-pandemic past.
Participants were given a ribbon and allowed to stay on the day of their embu to watch other people. The shopping booths were back which, although I never really buy anything at the event, are great to have.
Again this year the ZNKR live streamed the event and uploaded pictures over all four days. At the same time, however, they attempted to prohibit participants from taking pictures or video. Hmmm. I furtively took a few to share with kenshi 24/7 readers anyway:
Tachiai and keiko
This year I participated only on one day, the 3rd. I knew my tachiai partner as we had worked together a few years earlier at the 16th World Kendo Championships. Also, since we are the same age/grade, we are in the same cohort when it comes to Kyoto Taikai tachiai. So even though we have never faced-off together, I had seen her kendo a few times before. In particular I knew she would try to kaeshi-dou me, so I ensured that she never had the chance!
Pre-pandemic there was always loads of different keiko going on everywhere, so you never really struggled to find a place to practice. Last year and this, however, that was not the case. A friend, sensing the problem, took matters into his own hands and started his own “open keiko-kai.” This year he held two keiko sessions, each with about 150+ participants. I took part on the first session on the evening of the 3rd.
There is a lot of budo-related events held over the Golden Week period in-and-around the Kyoto Taikai. Although not strictly part of the ZNKR run “Kyoto Taikai” they are culturally and historically connected. I was asked to do koryu embu on the 2nd, 4th, and 5th, in addition to my usual kendo one on the 3rd. If I was younger, didn’t have a young daughter, and had the time to spare, I would love to spend the week immersed in budo, but it just isn’t practically at this stage in my life. Instead, I opted to do kendo on the 3rd and a koryu embu at a large shrine the day after on the 4th.
This particular embu, held at Shimogamo shrine (not too far away from the Butokuden), was run by the Nippon Kobudo Shinkokai with 38 ryu-ha represented. Traditional schools using bow, spear, naginata, sword, and so on, pretty much any traditional weapon you can imagine demonstrated. This time there was no restriction on the audience or the taking of media.
Over the years I have participated in many embu, 99% of which have been in shrines/temples. This one is a particularly good embu because of the location, the ryu-ha represented, and the proximity between the audience and the demonstrators. Check out the video below:
Anyway, that’s another year done. I assume that 2024 will be back to normal. If you have the time, please consider joining, either as a participant or spectator in the near future. Cheers!