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The Budo Odyssey: Living and Training in Japan

Nagoya Castle's 43rd Annual Martial Arts Demonstration, May 5th 2012

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In the above photograph, Yakumaru Jigen Ryu from Shiga warms up for their part of the demonstration. They also gave an impromptu "hands on" demonstration, letting other participants (including myself) and onlookers practice their style.

May 5th, 2012 was a lovely Saturday in Nagoya. The overcast, windy and rainy weather that had persisted during the week seemed to call an armistice just for one day. Warm and sunny weather prevailed under a clear blue sky for May 5th, 2012. The 5th is a national holiday known as "Children's Day", part of a series of holidays known as "Golden Week". It's also the date for the Nagoya-jo Kobudo Taikai (Nagoya Castle Classic Martial Arts Demonstration).
The event is sponsored by the Nihon Dento Budo Kyokai, Aichi prefectural government, the City of Nagoya and the Chunichi newspaper. The event is staffed and assisted by Meijo Daigaku (Nagoya Castle University) "Ouendan" (cheerleaders)
, cleaning up, catering to the needs of the crowd and demonstration participants tirelessly. Japanese cheerleaders are a great deal different than the image that is conjured in the west. They consist of male and female members (more male than female), usually wearing a complete school uniform. Men wear long, knee length coats with a dress shirt, tie, trousers and a school arm band; women wear knee length skirts, white blouses and a dress jacket. They are somber, polite and extremely formal with nary a pom-pom in sight. Their budo club also a participant in this event, so after setting up the grounds, greeting guests, assisting at every stage in the event, they take a break to dress down and do their demonstration. A great deal of recognition and thanks goes out to them, without their service and sacrifice this event would be lost.
The demonstration takes place on the Ninomaru Hiroba (Ninomaru Palace grounds) that was built in the 17th century but is now just an open field. The original palace was torn down in the Meiji restoration to build an army barracks, however reconstruction efforts are underway for a small portion of the palace near the castle. The Ninomaru is most famous as the site of the Aomatsuba incident, where in 1868 the Tokugawa clan’s chief retainers of the Owari-domain were executed.
Overview of the demonstration:
24 groups participate in the event which starts at 9:30 am and ends about 4:30 or 5pm. The proceeding begins with the Kai-kai-shiki, (opening ceremony) where the Kai-kai Sengen (opening statement) is given by the Nihon Budo Dento Kyokai chiefs. Following that is the group aisatsu (greeting), along with Raihin Shukuji (messages of congratulations from the guests). Following this the Embucho-Nochui (Embu rules) are stated, which conveys the purpose of the event. Next is the Kai-kai Embu (opening martial arts demonstration) this year performed by the Muso Jikiden Ryu Iai Heiho group. Lastly, the Kai-kai-gin (poem recital) about Nagoya castle is read, musically versified to shakuhachi (Japanese flute). With that, the opening ceremony is finished and a call to the first group is given, signaling the start of the embu.

The demonstration participants, in order of appearance, were:
(Type of art: Style name – Group/School):
1) Iaido: Toyama Ryu – Seishin Juku
2) Sojutsu & Kenjutsu: Owarikan Ryu Sojutsu and Yagyu Shinkage Ryu Heiho – Shunpukan Dojo
3) Naginata: Tendo ryu – Tendoryu Aichiken Branch
4) Jukendo: Jukendo - Dai 33 Futsuka Rentai
5) Iaido: Toyama Ryu Iaido – Nagoya Toyama Ryu Iaidokai
6) Iaido: Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu Iai heiho – Nihon Iai Heiho Renmei
-Satsuma Renseikan (Kagoshima)
-Owari Renshinkan: Kobujuku; Hyakuren Nagoya Dojo; Yokkaichi Dojo (Aichi and the surrounding Tokaido areas)
-Tenken Hyakuren Denshokai (Sendai)
7) Aikido: Aikikai – Mishima Kinenkan
8) Shigen Kenbu: Koeki Shadan Hojin ; Nihon Shigen Gakuin Ninka – Nagoya Gakufukai
9) Kenshibu: Nihon Shinto Ryu – Shintokan Sohonbu
10) Kempo: Shorinji Kempo - Nagoya Hokudo-in
11) Iaido: Isshin Muso Ryu – Kenshinkai
12) Koshiki Karate do: Saekiha Gojuryu – Renshinkan Karate Dojo
13) Iaido: Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu Iaijutsu - Komei Juku (Nihon Koden Bujutsu Iaido Renmei)
14) Jodo: Shinto Muso Ryu Jodo – Aijokai
15) Tameshigiri: Soshin Ryu Iai Battojutsu – Soshinkan
16) Kenjutsu: Yakumaru Jigenryu Kenjutsu – Yakumaru Jigen Ryu Oumi Dojo
17) Aikido: Yoshinkan Aikido - Seiunjuku
18) Iaido: Sekiguchi ryu Battojutsu – Sekiguchi Ryu Battojutsu Kenyukai
19) Koryu Kempo – Owari Tenshin Koryu Kempo – Sumera Budo Juku
20) Iaido: Yagyu Shingan Ryu Iaijutsu – Meijo University
21) Karate do: Fugen Ryu Karatedo – Meito Dojo and 11 other branch dojo
22) Batto-do: Nakamura Ryu Battodo – Godokan Dojo
23) Iaido: Nihon Toyama Ryu – Nihon Toyama Ryu Iaido Narumi Dojo
24) Aikido: Aikido - Enyukai

Following the embu was the Hei Kai Shiki (closing ceremony) which gave awards to participants, recommendations to long-standing members and recognition to everyone’s effort. Following this was the Heikai Embu (closing demonstration) to “seal” the event, this year given by Owari Tenshin Koryu Kempo. Finally, the Heikai Sengen (closing statement) was given thanking everyone for their participation and congratulating them.
Immediately afterwards the members dressed down, hauled their gear out of the dressing area and began to pack up the equipment for the embu. This usually entails a type of merriment and camaraderie
by the members as they have a chance to work together side by side and cooperate. While the demonstration was intense and time consuming, the closing and working together is where the groups truly get to know each other, not by formality but through honestly pitching in to help each other. The final act of cleaning up and preparing everything for storage for next spring is perhaps more significant than the entire embu itself, at least for the participants.
As the embu closed, the sun set on the grounds of Nagoya castle and the air began to chill in the shade of the evening the day finally came to a rest. Everyone in attendance truly seemed to enjoy themselves. In the settling of the 43rd annual Nagoya Castle Martial arts demonstration everyone is looking forward to the 44th.
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Updated 05-13-2012 at 05:50 by Mekugi



  1. Webmaster's Avatar
    Awesome Russ! Sounds like a truly great embu! Thank you for posting!
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  2. Tripitaka of AA's Avatar
    That was a fascinating read. Russ, you do a great job of detailing the aspects that would be lost to the casual observer.
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