Tokyobling's Blog

Iaido Performance at Yasukuni Shrine

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on March 26, 2014

Last weekend while visiting Yasukuni shrine to see the sakura trees I also spent a while watching the semi-annual iaido performance at the Kagura stage in the shrine grounds. There were iaidoka, practitioners of iaido, of both sexes, from young to old and including at least one foreigner. Iaido is a highly philosophical sport focused on the quick drawing of the sword, a resolute attack and a smooth withdrawal. Because it involves actual weaponry there is not competition aspect to it. There are three kinds of swords, a wooden boken that is used for kata (or set movements) with more than one person, iaito which is a blunt metal sword and a shinken, which is a sharpened sword. There are also kata for more than one swords, extra long swords and sneakier “stealth” kata that involves hidden daggers.

Originally iaido was a real practice for real combat situations but these days it is more like a very fluid form of zen meditation, similar to zen archery, kyudo, and not even remotely similar to the combat sports like kendo or naginata. It takes a lot of time and dedication to become reasonably good at iaido. There is something comforting about a sport where the best practitioners are also usually the oldest!

Despite this performance being free for anyone to watch it is not very well advertised apart from a line or two on a sub-page of the ever elegant and modest Yasukuni shrine official website.








7 Responses

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  1. Shelli@howsitgoingeh? said, on March 26, 2014 at 11:36 pm

    I’m so happy to see a female participant!!! It was my dream when I was little to take kendo lessons….


    • tokyobling said, on March 27, 2014 at 12:18 am

      There were plenty more females, both younger and older but for some reason the camera preferred the guys this time! (^-^) Kendo is never too late to start. Females have an advantage in Kendo in that it is more similar to dancing than any other sport, so good coordination is vital. Get going!


  2. Jonelle Patrick said, on March 29, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    As always, you capture the spirit of the people in your pictures so beautifully. I think it would be very difficult to take good pictures of people practicing Iaido, because you have to capture the gestures that define the art. It’s amazing to me that you got so many that were so lovely.


  3. Timi said, on March 29, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    This is the first time hearing about Iaido! I wish there would be chances to do it here. Also thanks for the amazing pictures, I can actually see their spirits around them! 🙂


    • tokyobling said, on March 31, 2014 at 12:47 am

      Thank you Timi! I am sure there are someone doing Iaido even in your country, but I agree, it is one of the most minor of the budo sports.


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