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5 sports to try in Japan

In Japan sport is a way of life. And the nation is currently on a sporting high.

This month the nation will host the Rugby World Cup and in 2020, the Olympics. 

But you don’t have to wait that long to be part of the action. In sport-mad Japan, Osaka’s skill and mental training are strongly associated with more traditional sports like sumo, karate, archery and sword fighting.

The best part for families is that you can experience all of these sports on a trip to Japan. We spoke with InsideJapan tours about their Japan sports tours. These unique experiences will really give the kids a chance to understand the culture of Japan. 

Here’s what you need to know.

1. Sumo – Inside Experience Tokyo

Step inside the world of sumo wrestling with a visit to a sumo stable in Tokyo to see a morning training session. To become a wrestler requires years of strict training at a heya, or stable as it is known in English. This is where the wrestlers eat, sleep and train. There are 47 stables in Tokyo today and a wrestler will stay with the same stable throughout his career.

Sumo Japan

You can watch the Sumo wrestlers train in Tokyo. Credit: Shutterstock

Families heading to Tokyo can arrange access to the sumo stables through companies such as InsideJapan tours. You’ll be accompanied by one of our “Insiders” who’ll explain all about the sport and the strict etiquette for spectators watching the wrestlers train.

2. Kyudo (archery) – Kyoto

Japanese archery, known as kyudo, is an extremely popular martial art in Japan. Most high schools have a kyudo club. The first images of archery in Japan date back to the Yayoi period (500BC – 300AD) but the practice really took off in the 12th century when it was adopted by samurai as part of their training. 

If you’re planning a trip to Japan, you can organise a private kyudo lesson with a master archer in Kyoto. Copy the instructor’s movements, then attempt to shoot arrows from a two-metre kyudo bow. An important part of kyudo is the ritual preparation of each shot in order to train your mind as much as your body.

Japanese archery is known as kyudo. Credit: CreditLShutterstock

3. Samurai Kenbu Sword Dancing – Kyoto

Kenbu translates as ‘sword dance’ and is the name given to a traditional style of Japanese dancing with a katana sword and fan. During the feudal period, the samurai performed kenbu in order to hone their mental concentration and summon up strength before a battle. You may remember a kenbu scene in the film The Last Samurai. The dance is usually accompanied by Japanese poetry set to music.

Families can join a two hour kenbu class where they can step into the shoes of a samurai and experience first hand this fascinating facet of Japan’s cultural heritage

4. Aikido Martial Arts – Osaka

Join an aikido class with up to 15 participants at a popular martial arts school in Osaka. Aikido literally translates as ‘the way of the harmonious spirit’ and is a means of overpowering an opponent simply and effectively, but without injuring either party. An important aspect of aikido is mental training in order to achieve balance in mind, body and spirit. 

5. Karate – Tokyo

If your kids do karate, you can be fairly sure their local dojo will have an affiliation with a dojo in Japan. Talk to your sensei before you go. If you’re lucky, they can arrange for you to continue your weekly lessons at a centre in Japan. This is a wonderful experience for the kids. They get to see the culture of karate and meet some Japanese friends. 

karate Japan

You can organise to train at at karate school in Japan. Picture: Alison Godfrey



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