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Training in Hakuba?

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  • Training in Hakuba?

    Hello everybody,

    I will be working in Hakuba for three months from December- March and as a Kendoka of 9 years I'd very much aim to take advantage of being in the holy land of Kendo so to speak. Would anyone know of any clubs in the area? I contacted the one club i did find (In full Japanese, keigo and all) and received no response. I will have a reference from my 6th Dan Sensei before i head over as well to ensure at least some trust from sensei who's dojo I ask to train in.


    Byron Son

  • #2
    It's not uncommon for dojo in Japan to set up a website and email then stop maintaining it shortly after. Kendo communities here tend to be word-of-mouth/local orientated (especially in small communities like Hakuba) so there is little need for advertising as their target audience knows where to find them.

    I did a search in Japanese and came up with Hakuba Kaitakushikan Kendo's FB page. It seems to be kept up to date so maybe give that a go.

    Also here is their website with location and practice info. I noticed that the dojo email and website are with free providers... which means the probability they get ignored is even higher. Telephone usually works much better although the one noted is a fixed line number so maybe it connects to the sports hall where they practice (Japanese are generally very weary of giving out personal contacts in publicly accessible media). If it does connect to the sports hall there's a good chance whoever you speak to has no idea about the kendo club.

    Otherwise turn up to watch and speak to whoever is in charge.


    • #3
      Thank you dillon,

      I did message kaitakushikan on Facebook, but it's there I received no reply. Would you recommend I ask the locals if they know and have my recommendation (and a gift) ready for the sensei/senseis in charge should I be pointed in the direction of a dojo? Obviously I should ask and watch first as to not be rude and presumptuous.


      Byron Son


      • #4
        How long have you been waiting for a reply? Many Japanese, particularly salarymen, do not necessarily check their personal email/social-network while they are busy during the week. This is due to long work hours, avoiding spending office time on personal matters and sometimes genuinely too busy until the weekend. Or they see the message but put off replying until they have more time on their hands.

        If you do not hear anything at all before you come to Japan then you can both turn up at the practice as mentioned on their website and ask around. I would not be surprised if they are the only kendo club in Hakuba not counting middle/high school clubs as Hakuba really is tiny. Places to ask around (still worth doing even if you plan to turn up to the practices listed as info may be out of date) include: the venues themselves, local budogu shop, police koban. With the koban you have a 50% chance the officer practices or used to practice kendo. If the officer is a judoka though, he/she might not know but could phone into the station to check if someone does. Your chances are better if the koban's patrol zone covers the venue as then the officer will be familiar with what goes on in the area.

        Leave the big gift until you are leaving. Aside from the sensei, it is usual to give everyone something upon leaving although the value of this is significantly lower. A box of snacks to distribute is usually the way to go. This will usually run around JPY100+tax per snack (e.g. box of 10 costs JPY1000+tax). The sensei him/herself would get say a whole box to themselves (a bottle of Scotch or a jar of honey also work pretty well). Kaitakushikan seems to have a lot of kids so be sure to cover them too. If the practice is community based, e.g. parents and kids practice together, they probably organize drinks and snacks for a quick refreshment post-practice or mid-practice break. This usually comes out of the club's budget. Nevertheless, bringing snacks to share (similar to the above mentioned or even cheaper like a bag of candy) shows conscientiousness towards the group. You don't have to do this all the time though, maybe just once during your three month stay before the sayonara omiyage.

        Enjoy the slopes and the onsen while you are in Hakuba!


        • #5
          About a month ago,

          I did receive an initial reply a little over a month ago when i first contacted them that explained that a lot of the children choose to ski over training kendo during the season. I replied asking if training did in fact continue regardless and if so that i was wondering if i could join in. I then received no response. I believe this may be due to him not having the time to initially reply again and then forgetting about my message. I do not wish to be pushy or rude online however by messaging again.

          It may be best to just turn up to a training as mentioned on their site like you said. They may not have many foreigners visiting to train and could be sceptical. As i mentioned though, I've been at this 9 years since i was little and i only wish to show respect and train hard while i am there. I'll see if i can pack a bunch of Australian candies for the kids there, nothing like keiko on a sugar rush when you're younger.

          The Koban is an excellent idea, i don't know why i didn't think of it before. I'm feeling a bit better about it all now. It's one thing to not practice when in other countries. In Japan, i have no excuse, nor would i want one to not train my hardest.

          Thank you very much for your help on this dillon! It's much appreciated! I hope one day we can come across each other in keiko.


          Byron Son


          • #6
            I'm just speculating here but that might be a polite way of saying there is no keiko in the winter. Hakuba's economy is tied to the winter resort business (ski and onsen) so perhaps keiko takes a break or becomes very inconsistent during that period. I hope for your sake my speculation is wrong but the Japanese are usually not direct with bad news (you need to read between the lines). Asking for clarification often gets met with silence because of this need not to tell bad news (VERY frustrating if you are not used to it). If regular keiko is not available in Hakuba in the winter, you might have to take the bus to Matsumoto (trains might be infrequent) or Nagano.

            If the local kendo club does not have keiko, you might also ask to join a middle/high school practice. No guarantees they will allow this but if you've come this far you have nothing to lose in asking.

            Japan is this weird phenomenon of having superb kendo all of the place but incredibly hard to find. Most likely in your three months you'll only start to understand the local kendo scene at the end of your time as it takes around two months before people start to open up to you. Expect frustratingly simple advice during this initial period such as cut bigger men because they want to spend time assessing your kendo and who you are.

            BTW, if your sensei is not Japanese but your sensei's sensei is Japanese, ask who your "grandpa" sensei is and say you are so-and-so's mago-deshi (grandchild pupil). This may help if your sensei is not Japanese but his/her sensei is and high ranking. Since some names can be similar it also helps to know where they came from (which prefecture, shihan of so-and-so university or prefectural police, etc.).

            Good luck!