Lazy me. I’ve been back from Japan for about 3 weeks now. I’ve been working mostly on my photos and haven’t been blogging at all since the first few days I was in Sapporo. So without further delay, here are my posts on recent trip to Japan.
Even before I arrived in Japan, I had gotten an email a few days before flying out. It outlined that we’d be going for an outing the very first day of class. It asked us to wear shorts and sportswear for the first day because we’d be doing Kendo. The email even came with a handy PDF poster for the event.
The main reason my wife and I came to Japan was to take Japanese language lessons. We signed up for 4 weeks in the Summer Program at Hokkaido Japanese Language School, or JaLS. The Summer Program offers not only 3 hours of Japanese language classes in the morning, but also cultural experiences and activities on some afternoons and some weekends. The Kendo Experience was just the first of these many activities included in JaLS’ Summer Program.
Needless to say, I was quite excited to try my hand at Kendo. I’ve seen it a few times on TV and in anime, but I’ve never actually tried it.
We hopped onto the blue Tōhō Line of the Sapporo Subway at Ōdori Station and took the train out to Toyohira Koen Station. There was a large sports complex connected to the subway station. We simply walked straight out of the station into the sports complex.
As with many places in Japan, we had to take off our shoes before entering certain areas. Kendo was going to a barefoot activity for us. I thought we might actually donning the fancy full-body Kendo gear. Only a select few actually got to try the gear out.
First off, they talked to us in Japanese about kendo and other martial arts and fine arts that are practiced in Japan. I only had a vague idea what they were talking about based on the kanji (Chinese characters) they displayed when talking. My Japanese is no where close to fluent. Then we had to practice the proper bowing etiquette. There was a name for almost each gesture. The sensei would call out the gestures and we were to follow.
After learning a good deal of gestures and bows, we finally started to learn actual kendo moves/strikes. I recall distinctly that they taught us at least 3 striking moves. The first strike was to the helmet. As we struck the helmet of our opponent, we were to yell men. The next move was to strike the chest protector. We yelled do as we attacked with this move. The last move was to strike the glove or hand of the opponent. We yelled te for this motion. So as we practiced, there was a lot of yelling going on in the room. My voice was pretty hoarse at the end of it all.
At the end of our hands-on experience, the teachers (all women by the way) gave us a little demonstration. Two of them sparred for about 5 minutes. It was neat to watch them in action in their kendo gear.
All of us students left with a buzz. We were all so excited to have tried out kendo. It looks like quite a discipline just like any other martial arts. I am not sure I would look into doing kendo more after this, but I was quite happy with this brief experience.