京都での木剣稽古 Bokken training in Kyoto

This is a recording made in Yoko Okamoto Sensei’s aikido dojo in Kyoto during a morning ‘weapons’ class taught by Yoko’s American husband, Chris (pictured above). The dojo is in Kamigyo-ku, in an area of tiny residential streets and laneways. This neighbourhood of Kyoto was famous for the weaving of ‘Nishijin’ silk, and hence Yoko Sensei named her dojo ‘Nishijin dojo’. The practice was a ‘blending exercise’ in pairs practicing with the bokken (wooden sword). You can hear the sound of the wood sliding and sometimes colliding against wood. At the beginning of the recording you can hear Chris making sounds that accompany each absorbing movement with the sword as he demonstrates.  Then there is a sound of people’s footsteps moving quickly towards a window that opens to a tiny lane outside (pictured below), in order to shut it. The voice of Chris says, in a mix of English and Japanese – ‘no… urusakunai yo (it's not noisy)... it’s not so noisy’ and people return to their training. As an observer and visitor in the dojo that day I assumed this was about keeping the noise of the training from bothering any public outside, but later found out that there is one difficult neighbour – a man who complains about noise. I was told later: ‘Before Sensei got this dojo two years ago, the place was full of sewing machines that would have made lots more noise. We’re not sure why he’s so upset…’   The sound of bokken, then, is ‘noise’ when it leaves the space of the dojo, while it is ‘sound’ within its walls; sound that is recognised by senior practitioners to have tonality and depth when produced from a ‘true cut’ with ‘good contact’ between partners.

Bokken training

Kyoto aikido lane with student sweeping

Text, photo and recording by Tamara Kohn.

Explore Sonic Japan

More in Kyoto

More on sport and leisure

Recent posts

Arashiyama Wedding

Mon Jul 24 2017 by Tamara Kohn

What a sight in the midst of the splendid bamboo forest walk at Arashiyama: A young couple posing for wedding photos in a stream of light on the wide path. The bride’s long white dress glowed with a brilliant light that appeared to emanate from the bodies of the...>>

Green Tea Cakes and Yobikomi

Fri Jul 21 2017 by Carolyn Stevens

In my recent article ‘Irasshai! Sonic Practice as Commercial Enterprise in Urban Japan’ (Journal of Musicological Research, link here, I observe that recorded versions of yobikomi (calling in customers) are increasing, likely due to cost cutting measure – it’s cheaper to record the company jingle and play it on...>>

Genkoan and the bloody footprints

Tue Jan 31 2017 by Tamara Kohn

This temple, founded in the 14th century, sits high in the hills in northwest Kyoto. Since the late 17th century it has belonged to the Sōtō School of Zen. It is famous for its main hall (hondo) where there are two windows – one perfectly round and another...>>

More posts >>

Places

More >>

Themes

More >>