I totally missed this year’s martial arts festival at the grand Meiji Shrine but I had lots of fun at last year’s festival. Aikido was well represented with dozens of practitioners from several countries. When we think of Aikido we don’t imagine the use of deadly blades but sword art is also a central part of Aikido.
At the ancient martial arts festival in Tokyo’s Meijijingu Shrine yesterday I saw many more variations of Kobudo than I have ever seen in my life. The Kobudo is the ancient form of ordinary Budo, which includes modern Karate, Kendo, Judo, Aikido, Kyudo etc., which is called Shinbudo or Gendaibudo or just Budo. All of the Kobudo predate 1868 and are generally fiercer more combat-like with the express purpose of actually winning a battle, hence the sometimes sneaky methods like throwing a knife before drawing your sword to engage the enemy, or female combatants using weighted chains to ensnare enemy warriors. But the most photogenic weapons is as always the Japanese sword, the katana. Here are some of the participants demonstrating cutting techniques on rolled up mats. I am not very good at kobudo or budo, but I am sure someone would be able identify the particular school or technique they are using from just seeing these photos.
Sometimes you just stumble upon amazing performances – for free – if you just keep yourself busy enough and are not afraid to explore the back streets of Tokyo. On a converted parking lot in Shibuya back in September I saw the music and performance art group Kao=S, with amongst others the gorgeous Kaori Kawabuchi (川渕かおり) and led by guitarist Shuji Yamagiri (山切修二), in the first photo, who is known among gamers and otaku alike as one of the main motion actresses for the hit game Final Fantasy where she used her sword performance skills to help give the computer generated characters a realistic motion pattern. I am not sure that performing in broad daylight is the most fitting for a group like this, but they pulled it off well in the scorching sun and way above 34 degrees heat. The musicians and sword performers combine to make an exciting and artistic show, I wish I could have gotten good shots of the entire cast, but most of my shots were lost due to the glaring sun blowing out most highlights. If you want to see snippets of their show I recommend heading over to their homepage here. And by the way, I didn’t do any photoshop on the girl in the last photo, she must have the most amazing skin of any human being alive in Japan today – absolutely flawless. Either that or she is a remarkable talent in the world of cosmetics.