Tokyobling's Blog

Iaido – Yasukuni Shrine

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on March 26, 2012

One of the most elegant but least well known of the Japanese martial arts family of Budo, is the art of drawing the sword, or iaido (居合道). Unlike most martial arts in Japan iaido is practiced without an opponent and focuses on the ritualized drawing, cutting, and replacing the Japanese sword, the katana, in a fluid and well practiced motion. Classical iaido takes place sitting down, but these days a lot of kata (movements) are performed standing up. I have never practiced iaido, but it looks and feel similar to kyudo, which the art of zen archery, in that the outcome of the kata is not important, only how you execute it. In this, both iaido and kyudo is very philosophical and have strong elements of zen buddhism. I seem to remember having heard about the background of this very elegant sport, many of the noble classes of ancient Japan lived with the risk of being assassinated or attacked by enemies who would pose as emissaries and it became necessary to practice the quick draw from a sitting position as you would never know when the attack would come. Yesterday I went to Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo’s Kudanshita district to see several well know iaido practitioners perform in a spring ritual. Unfortunately I missed out on the younger martial artists and the females. To become good at iaido you will need to spend years and years perfecting you breathing, your movement and your balance. I think it is impossible to become good at this without almost adopting wholly the Japanese way of acting, working, thinking and living. One day I would like to try!

20 Responses

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  1. Marie said, on March 26, 2012 at 5:56 am

    It sure is beautiful and very close to meditation.

    You can hear from the sound the iato does when the swordstroke is just right.

    I trained some before, you tend to get calluses right beneath your knees due to all the sitting and then moving up from sitting position 🙂


    • tokyobling said, on April 3, 2012 at 9:55 am

      Thank you Marie! I think I remember someone mentioning that, I would have loved to see you practice! You’d look great on this stage!


  2. Jonelle Patrick said, on March 26, 2012 at 8:02 am

    Wah, I wish I could subscribe to a feed that would alert me to places you’re about to go take pictures! I would have loved to see this! (As always: gorgeous pix.)


    • tokyobling said, on April 3, 2012 at 9:56 am

      Hahaha… maybe I should make a future-feed for this blog? Good idea! Actually there are so many cool things going on around Tokyo, you just have to keep your best boots on an be ready to walk around a lot! (^-^;) Thank you for the kind comment Jonelle!


  3. Coal said, on March 26, 2012 at 8:28 am

    Would love to give that a go (mostly because I have the right build for samurai garb and finely crafted swords are awesome) but from what Marie says, my knees wouldn’t last five seconds. Can’t even kneel on a cushion without hearing cracking noises and getting leg cramps. 😉


    • tokyobling said, on April 3, 2012 at 9:59 am

      I can’t imagine you’d look anything but fantastic in this outfit, but for the sake of humanity I hope that your knees are preserved for an even greater art form… (^-^;)


  4. Timi said, on March 26, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    I just want go there, sit down somewhere around and watch them. It must be breathtaking.


    • tokyobling said, on April 3, 2012 at 10:25 am

      They move really slowly most of the time, and the sudden bursts of energy! It is really quite captivating! (^-^)


  5. Moony said, on March 26, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    The 4th picture is really amazing!! It totally froze me. His stance is incredible.
    By the way~, you know, I’m an art teaching student, I’m in my 3rd year and today a professor asks as to do an exercise about analyzing photographies. And well, for homework she asked us to analyze 3 pictures from a professional photographer and I thought about you. She said we need to credit the artist with his/her name. Would you mind to tell me your name or artistic name at least?

    Thanks in advance!!! ♥


    • tokyobling said, on April 3, 2012 at 10:29 am

      Thank you Moony! Sorry to reply so late, last month was very hectic! Of course you can analyze my pictures, please use my blog name, Tokyobling! (^-^)/


  6. romainboitier said, on March 27, 2012 at 9:13 am

    I have to say i didn’t have much time to comment recently, but you done some amazing stuff.
    This one is paticulary cool, posing, attitude, respect of they art they do. In one word it’s awesome.
    I actually loved a lot too you posts on the small and old commercial streets, really typical.
    Really to much i haven’t comment :(.

    Really would love to see some video of iaido 😀

    Have 2 questions, any idea which periode seems the better to travel trough Japan?
    And i know there is a kind of house in Tokyo, like very old house, people transforme them in some kind of artist loft, but it’s really traditionnal. I’m searching for the name of those kind of houses. Any idea?



    • tokyobling said, on April 3, 2012 at 10:35 am

      Thank you for your kind comment Romain! I would have loved to shoot some video of the Iaido, but I didn’t bring any tripod (I never do) so it would have been unbearable to watch… besides Nikon cameras make terrible videos… I would have had to go Canon for that! (^-^;)

      I think every season is interesting for travel in Japan, but in terms of weather I’d say late summer or early autumn maybe. Spring can be tricky with hot and cold spells, and really cold nights. Early autumn though is almost perfect! It also depends on where you go, Hokkaido is perfect in the summer and Okinawa springs are fantastic. About the houses, I am not sure at all… sorry! (>_<)


  7. nalecorner said, on March 27, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    as calm as flying skies


    • tokyobling said, on April 3, 2012 at 10:37 am

      Very calm! Very concentrated… (^-^)


  8. kes said, on March 27, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    Ahhh… I love when you show these kind of photos.

    The stances are faboulous… it looks easy but I bet it’s pretty hard.
    #4 looks like an old wise and dangerous man. He is not the type you want to start a fight with ^^


    • tokyobling said, on April 3, 2012 at 10:40 am

      Thank you Kes! Yes, photo #4 is popular… I prefer the other ones though. Maybe because they are calmer? All of these men must have fantastic balance to be able to do these poses…!


  9. JUURI said, on March 28, 2012 at 4:46 am

    Yep, pretty much I’m screaming over an old man in the 4th photo. You caught an amazing moment. Gooooood job! (◕‿◕✿)


    • tokyobling said, on April 3, 2012 at 10:45 am

      Haha… thank you Juuri! (^-^;)


  10. lilichan06 said, on April 6, 2012 at 8:13 am

    Great experience, thanks for sharing with us !
    You’re really lucky to enjoy things like that …
    Japanese culture and traditions are so rich …
    Everything is so aesthetic … the movements, the place and the wonderful outfits!
    I confirm, you’re very lucky 😀


    • tokyobling said, on April 6, 2012 at 12:38 pm

      Thank you Lili! Yes, very lucky! And Japan is great in that they haven’t thrown away their culture or identity, unlike Europe… (>_<)


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