Tokyo Activity: A Samurai Afternoon

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A real-life Kill Bill scene. It wasn’t on my bucket list, but it is now!


One late afternoon, I arrived at JR Tabata Station which was conveniently accessible using the Yamanote line. I had signed up for an authentic samurai experience and I didn’t know what to expect for the day. Upon exiting the station, I was greeted by my lovely tour guide Yukiko-san who was holding up a sign with my name on it, as if I had just arrived at the airport. Naturally, being Japanese she was there much earlier. Seeing as the most noteworthy attraction in the area was a highway (other than the mall attached to the station that is), the first thing I asked was how far the venue was. I was relieved to find out that it was about a five-minute walk according to her.
 
My tour guide was very engaging and seemed particularly interested about me and what I do. She was surprised to find out that I wasn’t a tourist but rather, someone who was working in Tokyo. Our conversation was abruptly cut short when we suddenly had arrived at the location.
 
The small, nondescript two-story building looked like no one lived there. We went in, took our shoes off (of course) and entered a dimly-lit room. A dark figure with his back turned to us was sitting in the middle, which I refer to as the master, with what looked like his masked apprentice sitting in the corner. The apprentice explains to my tour guide about the next steps, who then translates for me in English. We were going to meditate and perform a ritual, in order to mentally prepare ourselves for what was about to happen. We would also be paying our respects to the sword.
 
I have to admit, it was a pretty weird experience. At that moment, I wasn’t sure if they signed me up for the right activity. The meditation seemed to last much longer that it actually was and the kowtowing to the altar seemed endless. When it was over, we all stood up, the lights were turned on and the blinds opened, which ended the surreal feeling and gave me a reality check about where I was at the time: an actual dojo. It was time to start the actual activity.

All suited up and ready for battle on the streets of Japan.


First order of business was to suit up! Since I was in Japan, I felt like I was having a henshin moment like a sentai in an anime. The master, apprentice, and even my tour guide turned into my entourage and just outfitted me with a legit-looking black samurai garb. Things were getting serious. Soon after, we discussed a little bit of history about the craft and the dojo’s founder, who apparently trained the man found on Japan’s 10,000 yen bill in martial arts. Then we proceeded to the good part: swordsmanship. 

The master then took out two swords of different lengths, and explained how the longer one was for battle while the shorter one was used to kill yourself. I made sure to remember this so that I don’t make the mistake of killing myself with the inappropriate sword, because obviously there’s no way I can have a do-over for that. Also, you don’t want to screw up the last thing you’ll ever do in your life. He then went on to show me the proper stance and way of holding the sword in combat: simply put, the technique was to be flexible but always aim the sword at your opponent’s throat. Duly noted.

You are no match! Notice how I aim the sword at my rival’s throat.


Next up was the part I’ve been looking forward to the most: shuriken throwing! Although technically I was there to learn bushido, and not ninjutsu, the inner wannabe ninja in me (as in all of us) could not help but get excited. As expected, the master took out a couple of the typical star-shaped shuriken and naturally, he made it look so easy when he was throwing them one by one into the cardboard on the wall. It took me a couple of tries before I stuck one into the cardboard. Then it was time to level up: we were now going to use the samurai shuriken. These were even more difficult to handle because they were shaped not like a star, but basically a huge, thick needle. These were almost impossible to use because instead of piercing through the target, they land horizontally flat against the wall, like a pencil. Fortunately, the master taught me the secret technique on how to effectively throw shuriken, which I guess you would have to find out for yourself! 😀 (Hint: it’s nothing like throwing playing cards.)

I successfully threw a samurai shuriken! Too bad I wasn’t pointing directly at it. Lol

My second favorite part of the session has to be using the bow and arrow. With recent characters made popular such as (Green) Arrow, Hawkeye and Katniss Everdeen, who wouldn’t want to look badass like them? Unfortunately, my expectations were short-lived when most of the times I fired the arrows, they just plopped to the ground like a banana. Just like tennis, it’s a lot more difficult than it looks. Well, at least my shuriken throwing skills are a lot better.

 
Lastly, we were about to get even more physical with each other through jujitsu. We returned all the swords and shuriken in order to create a scenario where we could only defend ourselves with the weapon we always have with us: our bodies. I’m glad they saved this part for last because it was the most exhausting one. The master clearly demonstrated how to use the opponent’s strength and force against them to one’s own advantage, which is the core principle of jujitsu.

The obligatory bad-ass pose. Explosion at the back optional.


“Um… Guys, let’s try again with me in the middle. Thanks.”
After an hour or so of intense training with the master, I am proud and ecstatic to say that armed with just a sword, I can now deflect several shuriken thrown at me using my blade on hand…
…Well, not really since it’s all in my imagination, but wouldn’t it be cool if I could? 😀


Thank you so much to BeMyGuest for making this activity happen! This experience is just one of the many, many things you can do in Tokyo. For more information on activities, visit their website!

For more snapshots of my #tokyolife, follow me at instagram.com/thetravelguyshops

Bonus photos: the second floor of the dojo actually has some authentic and antique souvenirs for sale (or for viewing)! 


 
 


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