The Newest Dojo in the World

The Chuseikan Dojo in Christchurch, New Zealand

See Chuseikan Video Here!!

The earth didn’t rock, it exploded under our feet. That was the February 22 earthquake in Christchurch last year. Not long after that, when I had arrived back in Japan, the March 11 Great Tohoku Earthquake happened, followed by a massive tsunami and the unnerving nuclear disaster. In terms of scale, the Japanese earthquake was far bigger, and the casualties inconceivable. How do you come to terms with entire villages being swept away, thousands of casualties, and then the on-going menace of radiation? Well, you can’t really, but life goes on for the living.

Life goes on for the living in Christchurch too. The tragedies experienced there were horrific and real. Nobody came out of it unscathed. But the process of rebuilding the city and trying to get some semblance of order back is proving to be very difficult. Of course, people soldier on, but with the literally thousands of aftershocks that have continued to rattle the city day in and day out, peoples’ nerves are frayed. How much longer will it go on? Some experts predict it could continue for thirty years. The fault lines run directly under the city, and they are shallow. Earthquakes have now become a fact of life in the once “more English than England” city of Christchurch. Now, I think we have much more in common with Japan!

What should people do? Leave the city and start elsewhere? Or, stay and try and rebuild the city to be better and safer than ever before. Understandably, a considerable number of people have already chosen to leave, and they can’t be blamed for taking that course of action. Others have decided to stay and try and get on with their lives. I no longer live in New Zealand having made Kyoto my home nearly two decades ago. However, as the adage goes “you can take the boy out of New Zealand, but you can’t take New Zealand out of the boy.” I will always have a close affinity with my hometown, and as I happened to experience the earthquake firsthand, I felt a strong urge to try and do something to help it rebuild.

The kendo club that I helped form in 1988 (Seitou Kenyukai) lost two members in the quake, and the building we rented as a dojo was completely destroyed, like so many of the characteristic old buildings in the CBD. Finding a place to hold regular trainings after the quake was a frustrating and expensive task for the current leaders of the club, and sports and community groups were competing to book time slots in any suitable building that could accommodate. There aren’t many, and the competition for space is stiff.

When I was shown a warehouse in the west of the city that was up for sale, it occurred to me that this could be my contribution. Against considerable odds I was able to coordinate a loan to buy the warehouse, but there was not enough left in the coffers to furnish the dojo with a wooden floor. With much trepidation, I decided to take the plunge and ask my colleagues and budo buddies in Japan if they would be prepared to “buy a floorboard”.

Given the extent of the disaster in Japan, I felt uncomfortable calling on people for favours. My reservations proved groundless, and I was overwhelmed by everybody’s generosity and offers of help. It is thanks to their charitable nature, and generosity that the dojo is now up and running. With five of our members selected to represent NZ at the 15th WKC in Novara this year, the kendo club is training regularly and very hard, and other culture and budo clubs are preparing to move in.

The new Christchurch dojo is only a tiny drop in a massive bucket that needs to be filled to get Christchurch back to its former glory. But, at least we now have a little hall where people can come and train in the martial ways of Japan. Thank you to all who supported the dojo financially or otherwise. Everybody is always welcome!

クライストチャーチ武道場復活の推進につきましては、多大なる御理解、御協力を賜り厚くお礼申 し上げます。 皆様から、過分なる御寄付を頂戴しており、物心両面より本事業の推進に全面的に御協力を賜りま したこと、こ こに深く感謝申し上げます。昨年の11月、私も初めて道場で稽古をしてきたところです。その時 撮った写真と ビデオはリンク(Youtube)で ご覧になれます。春3月頃に道場(忠誠館)の完成を見込んでおりますの で、正式な道場開きと全ニュージーランド剣道選手権大会を企画しております。皆様の期待に応え られるように 「忠誠館」のメンバー一同頑張りたいと思います。今後ともよろしくお願いいたします。