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Photo #12 – Japanese Kyudo Archery, Kyoto Budo Center

Kyudo student at the Kyoto Budo Center

This photo corresponds with Episode 3 of the Savage Japan Podcast. Episode 3 can be heard here at SavageJapan.com or here at SavageSnowPodcast.com.


My two house mates are both さんだん (san dan) 3rd degree kyudo practitioners. They invited me to visit them at their Kyudo Dojo located within the confines of the Kyoto Budo Center. (I have learned that these 2 words are blended and a kyudo dojo is called a kyudojo in Japanese.)

The centerpiece building at the Kyoto Budo Center is Butokuden, and it looks like it could be used as a set for a historical samurai drama. It was quite mysterious and pleasantly spooky arriving by myself at night as I visited the Budo Center for the first time.

Butokuden’s pairs of large wooden doors were open all around and the dramatic sounds of kendo projected out across the Budo Center grounds as you can hear in episode 3 of the Savage Japan podcast.

Loud stomping from the students reverberates on Butokuden’s wooden floors and manic cries emanate from within this building that looks at first more like a temple than a dojo. I later found out that Butokuden is the oldest standing martial arts training hall in all of Japan. I will definitely be back to photograph Butokuden (not seen in this photo).

Kendo is a bamboo sword recreational activity that many Japanese kids begin practicing in school as a form of physical education. Kendo in its present day sport form is a fairly new invention, a martial art derivative introduced into Japan’s public school system in 1952 and now practiced around the world.

Deeper into the Budo Center’s gated property, I found the kyudojo. I’ve long been intrigued by Japanese kyudo archery, so I feel very fortunate to have access to learning more about it during this visit to Japan.

I have trained for several years in full contact, combat oriented martial art styles. After being immersed in “real” and practical martial arts training for so long (after years of doing the sport stuff earlier), I don’t have much interest in non-combat, sport styles anymore, which 99.9% of all martial arts in the world today are (including Japan). However, kyudo’s calm and meditative discipline is very appealing to me.

Kyudo does have some optional elements of sport competition, but kyudo archery stands out as something completely unique and appealing in its own right. When watching kyudo, it seems to have more in common with meditation than martial arts.

There will definitely be more to come on the topic of kyudo here on this site as well as on the Savage Snow and Savage Japan Podcast.

Photo Details: This photo was one of the first I snapped inside the kyudojo at the Kyoto Budo Center, and I think it turned out to be the best of the shots from this night for presenting the main activity in this exquisite Japanese archery facility.

Japan Photo Journal – Living in Japan
Dan Savage [Email]

Grab anywhere on map to scroll around precise spot where above photo was taken. Zoom in & out with buttons in left corner. To learn more about geotagging your own photos, visit LearningtoGeotag.com.

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