The 2nd Children’s Kendo Festival
By Stuart Gibson
Recently, I was lucky enough to be invited by the Japan Kendo Promotion Association to participate as a guest at the 2nd Children’s Kendo Festival, held in Saitama on June 15, 2014. The aim of the festival is:
“Widening the recognition of kendo, supporting the health and growth of children, and through competition giving a chance to develop new friendships and demonstrate their improvement through practise.” (http://kenshinkyo.jp/event2014.html)
As part of this festival, I and the other guest participants – Kiwada Daiki, Yoneya Yuichi, Hojo Tadaomi, and Hashimoto Keiichi (all very famous over here) –were taking part in a number of different sub-events while the main shiai was taking place.
I (predictably) spoke about kendo in Japan from my own foreign perspective, and fielded a few questions (though surprisingly not one child asked about my height or shoe size), Kiwada-san did a kihon-waza seminar, Yoneya-san did a suburi workshop, and Hojo-san gave a lecture and instruction on reigi. The kids were well covered for a variety of activities, and also had the chance to sit in on a Q&A session where they could ask all five of us together any question they wanted, which ranged from, “Is Hojo-san related to a particular “famous” Hojo?”, to “What is your least favourite waza?”, to “How old were you when you started kendo?” – to which my answer of 19 years old, for some reason, appeared hilarious.
During a break in the main taikai, the guests also did a brief demonstration, consisting of a few simple things like kiri-kaeshi, some kihon-uchi, and kakari-geiko. The special treat for the children though was Haraguchi Akimasa, a very popular comedian in Japan who also practises kendo. Interestingly, kendo in general entertainment is having its day in Japan at the moment. I’ve seen it in a couple of different formats as part of the kind of “celebrities doing other stuff” type of programmes. It’s great to see kendo outside of the All Japan Kendo Championships being done for the masses during primetime TV. And it really is prime time! Haraguchi-san did a demonstration ji-geiko with Kiwada-san, and while proving that he generally knew what he was doing – he was better than I was expecting – he did finish the demo off with an awesome kaeshi-do that turned into barrel roll to end up star fished on the floor, much to the noisy satisfaction of the collected crowd.
Obviously, the kids appeared to all be having a great day. I love doing kendo with, and for, children, so I was happy to walk around and chat to them (and sign autographs! A new experience for me, signing the inside of more than a few children’s do…) For me, it was a great experience to see all these kids just enjoying a day of kendo, and I really hope to get to take part again.
Photos of the event can be seen here: