Au Japon, le 5 mai représente Kodomo no hi, la fête des enfants. Un jour férié pour les japonais marquant la fin de la Golden Week. On célèbre les enfants et on accroche de nombreuses carpes en tissu laissées au vent dans le ciel. Cette fête ancestrale, provenant initialement de Chine et connue sous le nom de Tango no sekku fut […]
Are you looking for a truly unique Japanese experience? If you answered ‘yes’, then I have just the tour for you. TABICA is a Japanese tour company established in 2015 with the vision of “connecting people by trips”. They offer fun and unique cultural experiences that allow you to “dive into the life of locals” and experience the real Japan. Each tour is accompanied by an English interpreter, who helps break down the language barriers between foreign tourists and Japanese local hosts, who are monks, geisha, farmers, chefs, bushido masters and many more.
Some of the many tours on offer include; a day with a Buddhist monk at a temple, a day with a bushido (Japanese sword) master at a dojo, a day working with organic farmers, and a day with a soba making master. The tours are located at various places around Tokyo, all within one hour of the Tokyo Metropolitan area.
|Shibuya Scramble Crossing in Tokyo|
I was recently invited along to participate in their “A Day with a Bushido Master” tour, which I accepted with open arms as a huge samurai culture and history fan.
After a brisk 90 minute ride on the Nozomi Shinkansen (bullet train) from Gifu, I arrived in Tokyo, where I made my way to the TABICA office located just off the famous Takeshita-dori street in Harajuku, Tokyo.
|Takeshita-dori Street in Harajuku|
The TABICA staff is available to meet you at their office, or in front of Harajuku Station. The tour heads off as a group with an English speaking interpreter, who is extremely friendly and knowledgeable about the subject matter leading the way. They also speak excellent English which is a big relief especially if you can’t speak a lot of Japanese, or are new to Japan, as a first-time visitor.
We arrived at the dojo (training hall) located near Kudanshita Station on the purple Hanzomon Metro line in the early afternoon. The dojo is located on the second floor of an old building and is full of authentic samurai armour, swords, tsuba (samurai sword guards) and pictures. The oldest piece of samurai armour dates from the 17th century and once belonged to a famous samurai in the Kanto region of Japan.
|Samurai Armour from the 17th Century|
First, we get dressed in our traditional Japanese clothing, which is called keikogi (稽古着) and is the uniform used in martial arts or bushido training. It includes a hakama (袴), the clothing of a samurai, gi (着) and obi (帯). This isn’t as easy as it sounds and actually takes a little bit of work with all instructors on hand to help get us dressed appropriately. You certainly feel the part if not look it in these traditional bushido clothes.
|Dressed in Traditional Japanese Martial Arts Clothing called Keikogi|
Second, we learned the correct way to enter the dojo and start the training. This is very important in Japanese culture and is called aisatsu (formal greetings). To learn how to do these greetings properly would take a full day’s training. Not much fun, so we did a short condensed version that teaches you the basics to get started. Bow to enter the dojo. Enter the dojo with your right foot, if you are standing on the right side of the room and left foot, if standing on the left side. This is very important and is done as to not step on the kami (god) of the dojo. Bow to the master and then bow to Amaterasu (the sun goddess), who is famously enshrined at Ise Grand Shrine in Mie Prefecture. The goddess can magically visit the dojo via a mirror which is placed in a small shrine on the wall of the dojo. This shrine is called the showmen, and is usually at the front of the dojo.
|Samurai Armour and Swords in the Dojo|
There are many different styles of sword fighting in Japan that have been passed down from generation to generation and from master to master. This school teaches Iaido (居合道), which is a modern Japanese martial art that focuses on the quick drawing of the sword, a resolute attack, and a smooth withdrawal.
The first thing to learn with the swords is how to draw them from the sheath and hold them correctly. This luckily isn’t too hard to learn and can be picked up quite quickly. You learn which part of the sword is best for striking and how to wield the sword in both hands. The key is 80% of the gripping power is in the left hand, while 20% is in the right, which is mainly used for guiding the sword. You also learn the correct stance with right foot forward, well balanced posture with lose shoulders and relaxed hands.
|Practicing Kata or Set Movements with the Sword|
There are also many different kinds of sword strikes or cuts, so we learn the basic two of straight cut (makko giri) and diagonal cut (kesa giri) using practice swords.
After practicing the two different strikes via kata (set movements), it was time to put the strikes into action and actually cut something with real swords. Away went the practice swords and out came the shinken, a razor sharp sword. You get to practice the strikes by cutting wet tatami (straw) mats, which have been soaked in water for several days. They actually smell quite fowl, but do a good job of simulating the limbs of a human body.
Surprisingly it doesn’t take much effort to easily cut through the mats with the razor sharp swords and is like slicing through butter with a knife.
|Cutting Tatami Straw Mats with the Sword|
Last of all after working up quite a sweat, it was time to watch the master and his instructors in action. Sitting on the wooden floor of the dojo and watching their precise, graceful and powerful movements was a treat and something that I will soon not forget. It is easy to tell that they have been practising this art for many years and have a great knowledge and experience in handling the swords.
|The Iaido Instructors in Action|
I really enjoyed my interactions with the instructors and the sword master, Mr Sakaguchi during the tour. It was great to be able to find out the history behind the samurai armour and various tsuba on display. The master also visits Gifu on a regularly basis as Seki City in the Mino region of Gifu Prefecture is a famous sword-making area, that has been producing high-quality blades since the 13th century. Mr Sakaguchi has a great sense of humour, telling us funny stories as well as many Japanese proverbs (kotowaza), which originate from samurai culture and samurai swords. Most of our interaction is in Japanese, but he throws in a little English now and then, which always brings a laugh.
|Training with the Bushido Master|
|Mr Sakaguchi, the Bushido Master|
I highly recommend this tour if you like me have an interest in traditional Japanese martial arts and samurai culture. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget.
If you are interested in joining a TABICA tour, check out their website, or contact them via email (email@example.com). Tell them John Asano from Japan Australia sent you and you are bound to receive the VIP treatment.
Eagle Talon is a Japanese animated cartoon series that began in 2006 and has gained enormous popularity. It is about a secret society called Eagle Talon (Taka no Tsume) based in Tokyo’s Kojimachi district that makes repeated, but failed, efforts to take over the world, ostensibly to bring about world peace. The full title in Japanese is Himitsu Kessha Taka no Tsume, or “Eagle Talon Secret Society.”
Eagle Talon’s twist is that it depicts the scheming but ever-failing members of the secret society as the “heroes’ and its enemy, who is technically on the “right” side, as ridiculous.
Eagle Talon was created by Ryo Ono, originally from Shimane prefecture, and has since been made into films, TV series and video games.
Eagle Talon takes another step in November this year with the Shirozeme (“Besiege the Castle”) event to take place at Matsue Castle in Shimane, on November 14th 2015.
Shimozeme will feature a range of different activities, all based on the warrior samurai theme that Eagle Talon draws on, and including hands-on samurai experiences for participants. The event is foreigner-friendly with English language support available.
Tickets for the Shirozeme event go on sale today, Friday, September 4th 2015. Tickets cost 5,000 yen for adults and 3,500 yen for children. If you want help buying tickets, contact GoodsFromJapan, who will take care of it all for a reasonable fee.
See the Shirozeme homepage for more details..
It was a long journey to Miyamoto, Okayama. I watched my first Taiga Drama, “Musashi” in 2003. My daughter says you never lose your love for your first Taiga Drama – her’s was 2001’s Hojo Tokimune – and I fondly agree. Over the years she and I have visited many places in Japan whence the legendary swordsman traveled.
I thought we had been to them all, until I was researching attractions in Okayama Prefecture and realized we had never set foot in the town of Miyamoto Musashi‘s birth. So eleven years after that show began, we took a train from Himeji to the small village of yes, Miyamoto, in Mimasaka, Okayama Prefecture.
As we disembarked from the local train, the first sensation I felt was the quiet. Next, we saw a cheerful arrangement of statues – Musashi, Otsu, and Matahachi – the three childhood friends.
Signs pointed the direction to other related sites. We had a pleasant 20-minute walk along a largely deserted street – it seemed as if we were the only people outside and about, except for the black snake we saw along the way.
There is a museum, a statue of the adult Musashi, and a few other points of significance, such as the birthplaces of Musashi and Matahachi too. But for the most part, this peaceful area invites one to think about what it must have been like to live in this tiny and far off village and to aspire to become something greater.
This is for all you lovely lads taking part in the glorious tradition of Movember this year. At Japan Centre, we want to see if you’ve got the spirit of the samurai in you! Visit our Twitter site, tweet @JapanCentre your best samurai Mo and accompanying warrior face. The winner will receive Thomas Cleary’s ‘Samurai […]
The NHK’s 2003 Taiga Drama was the story of the legendary swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi.
Based on the novel by Eiji Yoshikawa, the show presented some speculative fiction, but that didn’t matter to me at all. This was my first Taiga Drama, and I was completely mesmerized by the action taking place on the screen. After each episode a short travelog aired, showing the historical locations connected to the evening’s presentation. These vignettes piqued my interest in the country of Japan.
When my daughter and I traveled to Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture we planned to visit Ganryujima, site of the infamous duel between Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro.
We boarded one of the ferry boats and it first motored over to the waters near Akama Shrine. Founded in 1185, Akama Shrine is dedicated to the young Emperor Antoku, who perished at Dan-no-ura in the last and decisive battle of the Genpei Wars. We had seen the demise of the Heike Clan played out in the NHK’s “Yoshitsune” (2005) and “Kiyomori” (2012).
After pausing briefly at the shrine, the ferry headed for the small island. We disembarked, and as we began walking a man beckoned to us to listen to the story of the duel. While a small group gathered, he sold sticks wound with spun sugar for 100 yen.
He then gave his interesting presentation. If you do not know the story, it is a good idea to stop, sit, and listen, because there is not much to see on the island itself – and then you are able to imagine the duel and the events leading up to it.
Later, Amanda and I saw the statue of Musashi and Kojiro engaged in battle, a brief moment in time, literally – for Musashi put away Kojiro with one fell swoop, and then he left the island.
And when we left the island, what did we see? Not a Heike Crab anywhere, but only jellyfish.
The armored Samurai in Brazil shows football skill incredible What a fantastic! Are you getting excited for th […]