Budo Boom among Foreign TouristsFlock to Equipment Stores and Watch Practices in Kyoto
"Budo," or martial arts, such as Kendo and Iaido are gaining in popularity with foreigners visiting Japan. The number of customers has been increasing at martial arts equipment stores in Kyoto City, where hand towels which are used when wearing protective gear for Kendo, bamboo swords and other equipment are hot sellers. Facilities at which nighttime Kendo practices are held are crowded with a large succession of observing visitors. This reflects the growing interest in sports which have roots in the "Samurai" fighting style.
According to Tozando, Kamigyo Ward, which runs martial arts equipment stores in Kamigyo and Sakyo Wards, the number of foreign visitors has perceptibly increased in recent years. Analyzing the context of the boom, Mariko Kimura, who works in the company's public relations department, said, "For quite a number of years, there have already been a lot of foreigners at our stores in Sakyo Ward, which are close to tourist sites, and our other store in Kamigyo Ward has also seen a 20 to 30 percent increase over the past five years. Besides the boom in foreigners visiting Japan, martial arts themselves are becoming more popular overseas."
Some foreigners practicing Japanese martial arts in their countries purchase equipment for themselves, and many novices buy stickers with family crests, bamboo swords and towels as souvenirs. Zach Hernandez, a New Zealand university student who practices Iaido, ordered an Iaido outfit from a Sakyo Ward store. He happily said, "I came here to get Iaido uniform sets along with Kyoto sightseeing. I feel that martial arts goods sold at stores in Kyoto are more authentic than those in my hometown."
The number of foreigners visiting nighttime martial arts practices, which are held by Kyoto Kendo Federation in the Butokuden, a martial arts hall located in Sakyo Ward, ranges between a few to a dozen or more people. The secretary general of the federation said, "We have had an increasing number of visitors, especially this year. Many of our customers happen to come by individually, while others are brought as groups by travel agencies."
After reading their compatriots' weblogs, two interested French tourists visited the Butokuden in early September while sightseeing in Kyoto. They eagerly watched the practice and sometimes took videos with their smartphones.
One of the French tourists, who is learning Chinese martial arts, said, "I was impressed with the athletes' state of mind toward enabling readiness for offensive movements and instantaneous concentration. I really want to try doing Kendo in order to master this."(Translated by Mie Hiuzon, Psyche et l’Amour, Inc.)