On the third of November (cultural day in Japan) I was lucky enough to be invited by my new jujitsu club to an annual gathering for the display of traditional martial arts in Tokyo. This event is held at the Mejijingu shrine in Harajuku. This shrine was built for the worshipping Meiji Emperor, great grandfather of the actual emperor, and his wife Shokenkogo. It was built in 1920 with the aid of volunteers and planted there are 365 varieties of trees coming from the whole of Japan and her colonies. The first presentation of each sumo champion (Yokozuna) takes place here.
This event is a chance for martial artists from all around Japan to come together and perform their chosen arts and admire the skills of others. Traditional Japanese music provided the backdrop and was played throughout the day.
The event opened with a group blowing through large shells which sounded like a rather eerie trumpet. This was followed by an elderly gentleman riding a wooded horse and banging out a fast rhythm while someone threw shirurken at a nearby target.
The styles of jujitsu on display were very interesting and showed the similarities and differences there are between the different schools of jujitsu in Japan. One interesting scenario involved someone serving tea to a patron. The patron was taken down and secured on the ground and disarmed of a concealed weapon (a dagger). Another style involved a long yell from the defender and much flailing of the arms to perform various releases from grabs and holds. Another style finished each technique with the attacker being fully flipped backwards or forwards to land back on their feet.
Japanese sword drawing was another highlight of the day and all involved showed incredible focus and concentration. There were demonstrations of solo cutting katas, two person katas, as well as cutting demonstrations.
The horseback archery was very interesting and the archers showed tremendous skill often hitting a small target whilst traveling at near top speed on their horses. I was told by one man that in the old days an archer would commit seppuku if they missed three targets because they would bring shame upon their master. Luckily these days this practice has been stopped, otherwise there would have been a few horses returning home solo.
All in all it was a very interesting day; the highlights for me were watching an aikido master performing techniques continuously for several minutes. Atemi jujitsu also seemed to be a really interesting style although I didn’t understand why both practitioners waddled from there positions to perform their techniques. I was told that next year I will be performing in at this event, Yikkes I better get to the dojo and start practicing.