7 Reasons All Martial Artists Should Visit Japan

Japan is the original home of marital arts.  Many arts, now practised all over the world, have their origins in the warrior traditions of the samurai.  Judo, karate, sumo, kendo, laidȯ, akido, kyūdȯ and shorinji kempo all have roots in Japan.

As you know, succeeding in any martial art is down to dedication and continual training.  Whatever stage you're at in your journey with your chosen martial art, there is always more to learn.  Even true masters are students as well as teachers.

There are thousands of people each year who visit Japan to deepen their knowledge of martial arts and immerse themselves in the ancient culture where their practice began.  If martial arts are your passion, a visit to Japan should definitely be something you're planning to do.

Let's have a look at 7 of the most compelling reasons why all martial artists should visit Japan.

1  Katori Jingu in Chiba Prefecture

No trip to Japan should fail to take in a visit to this shintȯ shrine.  It's the head shrine of around 400 other Katori shrines around the country.

A stunning and atmospheric location, this shrine holds a national treasure – the Kaijū Budȯ

Kagmi, which is a round mirror from the Chinese Tang Dynasty.  It's decorated with patterns of flowers, insects and beasts from Japan's past – both real and mythological.

You can also see a ceramic pair of komainu statues.  One of these statues was featured on the 250 Yen stamp.  They are designated as an Important Cultural Property of the country.

There are festivals and events throughout the year at the shrine.  The main festival is held each year on April 14th.  Visit www.katori-jinju.or.jp to find out more.

2  The Japanese Sword Museum in Tokyo

Sword fighting features in many traditional Japanese martial arts.  For anyone with a keen interest in finely-crafted swords, the Japanese Sword museum in Tokyo is a must-see.

The museum features exhibitions of contemporary swords and the ancient techniques used by traditional craftsmen.  There are also many amazing examples of traditional Japanese artworks to enjoy.

As well as contemporary swords, the museum houses many important swords from Japanese history.  This includes weapons made by the legendary Nobuyoshi Kuniyuki (Rai) and Kuniyuki (Taima).  There's also sword fittings, armour and documents detailing the ancient craft available to see.  

To find out more about the museum, including opening times, visit its website www.touken.or.jp

3  Kyokushin Training Hall in Ginza

The Kyokushin organisation states, “The heart of our karate is real fighting.  There can be no proof without real fighting.  Without proof there is no trust.  Without trust there is no respect.  This is a definition in the world of martial arts.”

The Kyokushin Training Hall in Ginza is a centre for karate.  It offers lessons to foreign  visitors as well as instruction on dogi uniform dressing.  Lessons are conducted in English by a lecturer who is held in high esteem by followers of this art.  Masaki Fujii is a black belt (Ni-dan) full contact karate master and is a member of Ōi-Chȏ Dojo of the Jȏnan- Ōi-Chȏ division.  Find out more on the training hall's website, www.welcomejapan.jp/ginza_en/culure/karate

4  A Traditional Japanese Dojo

Visiting a traditional Japanese dojo is a dream for many western martial arts enthusiasts.  However, although the culture is gradually mellowing to be more welcoming to visitors, being able to visit a dojo may not be as easy as simply turning up and asking to be allowed inside.

Traditional dojos are places dedicated to ancient teachings and many do not allow tourists to visit.  Some are more welcoming, though.

The best advice is to seek assistance from someone who may have connections to the dojo you'd like to visit.  Your first enquiry should probably be with your sensei.

If you don't know anyone with a direct connection with the dojo, consider enlisting the help of a Japanese-speaking friend to telephone and politely ask if you may visit.

Although it's not always easy to enter a traditional Japanese dojo, if you can arrange it, the experience will be something you'll remember for a lifetime.

5  Kodakan Judo Institute in Tokyo

For judo practitioners, the Kodakan Judo Institute is a valuable and inspirational visit.  An international organisation, they are very welcoming to visitors from all over the world who wish to practise judo at the Kodakan.

There are daily lessons and teachings and also a hostel you can stay in at a very reasonable rate whilst you study.  All students are welcome, from absolute beginners to those with a much higher skill level.

You'll also find a judo museum at the institute that is fascinating for people interested in this popular martial art.  The museum displays photographs and information about Jigaro Kano, the father of judo.

Have a look at the institute website, www.kodakanjudoinstitute.org to find out more.

6  Tokyo Budokan

The Nippon Budokan in Tokyo is near the Imperial Palace.  It's the central organisation for Japanese Budȏ and the promotion of this art.

The Budokan holds tournaments and demonstrations throughout the year.  Not all tournaments are open to visitors, but many held on Saturdays and Sundays are welcoming to tourists.

For anyone interested in  Budȏ, the Budokan is a must-see.  Visit its website, www.nipponbudokan.or.jp to find out details about the Budokan and forthcoming events.

7  The Kashima Shrine at Ibaraki

This shrine is also a very worthy destination for any martial artist.  It's dedicated to the Shinto Kami Takemikazuchi-no-Ôkami – one of the patron deities of martial arts.

During January each year, the Kashima Shrine is visited by over 600000 people from around Japan and is the second most visited shrine for new year pilgrims.

There is a treasure house, gate and prayer hall to enjoy, as well as an enclosure of deer.  These deer are considered to be messengers of the gods.

Kashima Ôkami is the main enshrined deity at this fascinating location, and is named as Takemikazuchi – the great god of thunder.

There are festivals and events throughout the year at the shrine which are open to visitors.