Kendo Places #4: Butokuden 武徳殿

Founding of the Butokuden

in 1895 on the 1,100 year anniversary of the transferring of the Japanese capitol to Kyoto (Heian-kyo), and as part of the building of Heian-jingu, the Butokuden construction began. It was originally meant as a demonstration platform for the Butokukai. It was completed in 1899 on the north-west side of the Heian-jingu complex. If was then also designated as a school for training Martial Arts teachers (later it would become the Budo Senmon Gakko).

At that time it was said “in the east there is Kodokan (built 1841), and in the west the Butokuden” such was its place in the center of Japanese budo circles.

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Meijin no Waza #1: Kobayashi Mitsuru hanshi’s KATATEZUKI

This is the first in a series that looks at techniques done by those that are as acknowledged as the best executors of them.


The individual final of the 1st world kendo championships (1970) was between Toda sensei, twice winner of the All Japan Kendo Championships (1962 and 64, using jodan), and Osaka police’s Kobayashi Mitsuru sensei (3rd place in the same competition, 1963). The ippon that secured Kobayashi sensei’s historic win, 33 years before Eiga Naoki saved the Japanese team from defeat by using the same technique: katatezuki.

Continue reading Meijin no Waza #1: Kobayashi Mitsuru hanshi’s KATATEZUKI

Showa no kensei (昭和の剣聖)

This small article intriduces the “Showa no kensei (昭和の剣聖)” or “The Sword Saints of the Showa period.” All of these kenshi are widely known within the Japanese kendo community, and abroad as well, but I thought a quick article in here would serve as a useful reference.

I hope to expand on this and write longer and more in-depth articles about various kenshi from by-gone years (and not limited to just kendo or renowned personages).

In particular, I feel that Takano Sasaburo’s impact on kendo is not fully understood by many modern practitioners, myself included. Doing research for these articles gives me the chance to learn more and clarify my own thoughts and ideas about kendo, which can only be a good thing!

Takano Sasaburo (高野佐三郎)
1862 or 3 – 1950. Ono-ha itto-ryu, kendo hanshi.

Notable events in his career:

1879 – Entered Yamaoka Tesshu’s Yubukan
1986 – On Yamaoka’s recommendation he was appointed as a kendo instructor at Keichicho.
1888 – Became a police instructor at Saitama prefectures Police HQ and built a new house and dojo (named Urawa Meishinkan) in Urawa City (now Saitama City).
1896 – Became a chief bujutsu instructor at Saitama Police Academy.
1899 – Established Tokyo Meishinkan (at this time there were 41 sub-branches of Meishinkan around the Kanto area, and he was said to be teaching around 10,000 people, including police and students).
1907+ – Took the lead in teaching kendo at various specialist institutes and universities: Tokyo Koto Shihan Gakko Gekkiken Koshi, Tokyo Koto Kogyo Kendo Shihan, Waseda Daigaku Kendobu Koshi, etc
1911-1917 – Was entrusted by the Butokukai as one of the people to help create/establish kendo no kata.
1913 – Awarded hanshi.

Continue reading Showa no kensei (昭和の剣聖)

Womens kendo in Japan: a survey

The following is a very brief synopsis of questionnaire results that were featured in an article by Kendo Nippon (Dec 2008) entitled “女性剣士の現状と「これから」” (The present condition of womens kendo and its future). I will list the questions and there results but will leave you to draw your own conclusions from there or to discuss in the comments. If you want to find out more then please buy the magazine!


Q1. Do you feel its necessary to have a “female quality” in kendo? (剣道において、「女性らしさ」の必要性を感じるか?)

Feel that it is: 66%
Feel that it isn’t: 22%
Other: 12%

Q2. Are there times when you feel that practising kendo as a woman is inconvenient? (女性は剣道を行なう上で、どのような時に不便を感じるか?)

12 respondents – Family doesn’t support me
9 respondents – Can’t ensure the Keiko time/place
7 respondents – No or few keiko partners
6 respondents – In the evening/holidays I can’t go to keiko
6 respondents – Its incompatible with my job
5 respondents – Feel a difference between the level of the mens keiko
4 respondents – Easily get sick
4 respondents – Period / period pains
3 respondents – Can’t take part in a shiai (can’t make a team)
2 respondents – I have other things that are more important
8 respondents – Others

Continue reading Womens kendo in Japan: a survey

Yagyu no sato 柳生の里

Yagyu no sato (柳生の里) is a small village in Nara prefecture, Japan. Passing through it in a car or by very infrequent bus, you would probably notice nothing particularly different to any other sleepy rural Japanese town. However, this town was the center of Yagyu-han, the ancestral home of the Yagyu family, the masters of one of the most famous schools of Japanese swordsmanship.

Yagyu Sekishusai Muneyoshi (sometimes Munetoshi) was already a renowned bugeisha (martial artist) when – via the skilled spear-wielding monk Hōzōin In’ei – he was introduced to one of the legends of Japanese swordsmanship – Kamiizumi Ise-no-kami Nobutsuna. Following a legendary duel in which Sekishusai lost to one of Kamiizumi’s students armed with a fukuro-shinai, Sekishusai himself became a follower of Kamiizumi, eventually reaching the depths of his system of swordsmanship. Sekishusai’s fifth son, Munenori, went on to become an official sword instructor for the Tokugawa Bakufu (shogunate) and taught three successive Shogun. In his lifetime his stipend and position considerably rose, assuring both his families success and their notoriety.

The Yagyu family would continue to teach swordsmanship to the Tokugawa and their officials right up until the end of the feudal period (in fact, I personally practised Shinkage-ryu with a descendant of the Tokugawa Shoguns in Tokyo in 2001), and members of the family continue to practise and pass on the tradition to this very day.

The Yagyu family do not own the current village, of-course, but there are plenty of things for the discerning kendo tourist to see.

* Hotokuji (芳徳寺): the family temple was built in 1638 and houses statues of Sekishusai, Munenori, and also Takuan Soho. Inside there is a small museum and you can look Yagyu related historical items (all information in Japanese though). Around the back is the family graveyard: an amazing place to come if you are interested in Japanese swordsmanship.

* Itto seki (一刀石): This is a giant rock that his been split in two.. allegedly by the sword work of Sekishusai. He had been walking through the woods when he thought he was being attacked by Tengu. He dextrously turned around and cut down through what he thought was the enemy. Instead, it was the rock. Its hard to imagine how big the rock is until you actually go there!

* Former Yagyu-han chief retainers mansion (旧柳生藩家老屋敷): This is a museum with some Yagyu related articles. You can also buy tenugui here!

* Yagyu Mazakizaka Kenzen Dojo (柳生正木坂剣禅道場): A modern kendo dojo with the frontage of an old temple from Kyoto. It has nothing to do with the Yagyu family per-se but sits just outside Hotokuji and provides and amazing place to practise budo. You can hire this place out as for keiko and gasshuku.

There are more things to see in the town, but not that much. The location is pretty remote, but it IS well worth visiting it as it is a sort of pilgrimage site. If you are going by bus you have to be very careful to time it just right — leave Nara city as early as you can, and come back in the afternoon. Its too far to take a taxi (you have been warned!).

I’ve been there only once (at the time of writing back in 2008.. since then I’ve been scored of times), but I have promised myself to go down there and visit it again at least once a year. If you live in Japan then I highly recommend that you go at least once. If you are a visitor to the area that is serious about kendo and swordsmanship then I’d say it’s worth the effort to make the visit. If you don’t you will probably regret it.


Pictures

Some of the pictures below date from 2005.

Please check out some more pictures of Masakizaka kenzen dojo from Aussie ex-pat Andy who visited there in late 2013.


Videos about Yagyu Shinkage-ryu

Yagyu Koichi sensei, the headmaster of the orthodox branch of Yagyu shinkage ryu:

A demonstration of the art from 2014 in the Nippon Budokan:


Getting there

Yahoo Map: here (Japanese)
Tourist Map: here (with English)
Address: Nara-cho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture
Phone number: 0742-94-0002.
Access: There is very limited bus access, but it can be done. Check the tourist offices in Nara city.
Times: No idea. To be safe go in the early morning/afternoon.
Cost: Most things have a nominal entrance fee. Parking should be easily found.


Links

* yagyu.com (check out the fantastic pictures)
* Shinkage-ryu Hyoho