dojo kendo


I rolled out of bed at 4am last Saturday on a mission. My shinai and bogu bag were pre-packed the night before, and my clothes were lying on the sofa prepared. After a super quick shower (to wake up) I was out of the door and on my bike heading to the station to catch the earliest train.  

A few days earlier an old kendo friend had gotten in touch to tell me that the dojo he had been a member of for over a decade was on the verge of being forcibly closed. He wanted my help to raise awareness. 


The dojo in question – Shingikan – was opened in January 1961 on the grounds of Kishiwada castle (reconstructed in 1954) as a municipal dojo for the city.  The grounds themselves were donated in 1945 to the city by the eldest son of the last feudal domain chief, Okabe Nagakage  (considering the period, I am not sure if it was a donation or something else). When the dojo was opened Okabe gifted some calligraphy to the facility (pictured below written right -> left) which reads 養心練技 (YO-SHIN-REN-GI) from which the dojo name was chosen: 心技館 (SHIN-GI-KAN). Yoshinrengi literally means “cultivate the spirit through polishing technique.” 

Over the past 60 plus years the dojo has served as a public space for budo practice, not only kendo but also iaido, karate, as well as other arts. 


Kishiwada city announced that as part of a drive to solve fiscal difficulties it would close all public facilities that were over 64 years old or/and those that couldn’t be maintained  to current earthquake-safety standards. It is 62 years since the dojo was built, and it has no earthquake proofing done to it all in that time. Thus, judged as potentially dangerous, it is up for closure and demolition. 

Upon hearing this I simply sighed: it is not a new story. The same thing happened to the far older Nara Butokuden, and the far larger Shiga Butokuden. There are other dojo throughout the country that face similar situations. There have been dojo that for no real reason other than economic, have been torn down. Yes, it always comes down to money. 

Japan, I am afraid, is not the shiny beacon of “tradition” it makes itself out to be. A highly consumer-based society, if something doesn’t make profit it is discarded. It requires quite a bit of effort (as well as good-will and money) for older dojo to survive. 

What can I do?

After my friend told me the info once of my first questions was of course: “When is the planned closure?” When he replied “The end of December” my heart sank. Even if I could somehow help (by taking vid, pics, and leveraging what few contacts I have) there is simply not enough time. Let’s face it, there is no way I could realistically help anyway. 


My friend had first invited my to keiko years and years ago, but it was so far away I just never managed to get up and go. This time, however, the clock is ticking. So I got up at 4am and travelled 2 hours one-way for a 1 hour practice. I am glad I did. 

A screen grab of yours truly (r) at keiko in Shingikan


(additional thoughts after the initial posting) 

1. Things in Japan happen top-down: “important” people decide stuff and less important people have to accept or and do as told. “It can’t be helped” is the usual mantra in this case. This is one reason why there is no ground mobilisation to fight the closure (or any political decision for that matter). 

(None of my friends in the kendo community here in Osaka knew anything about the planned closure.)

2. If you have ever been to Japan you know that there are millions of unsafe structures everywhere: ramshackle wooden houses, poorly constructed  concrete apartment buildings, and thousands of old wooden temples all over the place. What is different in this case is that it is a municipal building built on public land. All such structures must adhere to the latest building codes as much as possible. 

The only municipal dojo on public land that was saved that I know of is the Kitano Butokuden. It was only saved because a private (religious) corporation bought it, dismantled it, moved it to a totally different location, then rebuilt and re-purposed it.

By George

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9 replies on “Shingikan”

While this one may be lost due to time constraints could a national campaign be started to raise awareness and potentially save all those remaining

This is so disheartening. I have left blood, sweat, and tears on that very floor, like so many before me and since.  Fortunately the lessons learned cannot be torn down. Thank you for bringing awareness to this situation. 

There is a way to save it (at least a part of it), though. If possible, ask your fellas to take a thing or two from demolishing site. E.g. cracks of wooden floor, insignias, shomen etc. and make an online exhibition for next kendo generations to preserve the memory of it. Won’t take much to accomplish — just a nice camera and a landing page, but still…

Yeah, I could help with stuff like that (this page functions kind of like a mini version of that) but it’s not my place. They really should really be sorting out the details themselves (the kendo group).

The Hanamaki Budokuden, which you visited (, benefits from financial support from the city to earthquake-proof it. Hanamaki City has a Budokai that oversees its maintenance. It wasn’t up to standard when it was first built 50 years or so ago. It endured after the 3.11 earthquake, with only some roof tiles coming loose. In 2019-2020, they reinforced the interior to prevent the ceiling from collapsing. It’s a hung ceiling and they had to hire “miyadaiku” (宮大工)to help keep its original design. They also made it more environmentally friendly with LED lighting.

Since it’s maintained by the city’s official Budokai (you can work for the organization as a part-time public servant), it’s in an advantageous position because it ensures the building’s upkeep and protects it from being demolished for profit. I believe there’s a perpetual clause in place since its construction was privately paid for. However, there’s a downside. Since we’re fortunate to have a dedicated facility for martial arts (kendo, judo, and kyudo), we are excluded from using regular gyms when needed. For about six months, we couldn’t access the Budokuden due to the ceiling renovation mentioned earlier. We found a temporary solution at an old community gym, but it was short-lived because people didn’t attend due to its inconvenient location. I think this highlights that when these buildings eventually disappear or become temporarily unusable, people may drift away from these activities and even forget about kendo (in this case). The maintenance of these structures is crucial not only for their historical significance but also for the preservation of budo culture, such as kendo.

Hey Wayne,
I already posted this on facebook etc.

The fact of the matter is that the decision was made and the budget is decided, so no amount of signatures will help (especially not from abroad).

Unfortunately the dojo waited way too long before moving and even then it’s not really enough (eg asking me for help…).

Not asking and/or considering the public’s opinion is the general modus operandi of politics here.

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