Monday 12th January was the Nippon Budokan Kagami Biraki event.
This ceremony which can be literally translated into ‘unveiling of a round shaped mirror’ was originally performed by in the 15th Century by the 4th Tokugawa Shogun before going into battle, The Tokugawa’s won the battle and the ceremony has been popular ever since.
The ceremony involves an offering of two layers of small glutinous rice cakes to the gods on New Year’s Day to honour and purify a Samurai’s personal armour and weapons. The second part of the ceremony is cracking open a casket of Sake and sharing the contents.
Shiramizu has had these cakes on display in front of the small Shinto Shrine in the dojo for the last few weeks though I haven’t seen any Sake!
On January 11th or a short time after this, these mochi cakes are broken up by hand or hammer (knives aren’t used because they could signify cutting ties with people), and shared with the family or in samurai times, the clan.
This festival is believed to help strengthen family ties and friendship among warriors of the same clan.
The Shiramizu dojo was invited along to take part in ceremony representing the JKF-Wadokai. In true form, Arakawa sensei took 50 students to the Nippon Budokan.
We met at Tobu-dobutsu-koen station on the morning and took the train straight to Kudanshita subway station. After a short walk through the grounds of the Imperial Palace, we arrived at the Budokan.
The ceremony was already underway, with lots of people lined up inside the main hall.
What followed after the bow and opening speeches was a large demonstration of traditional Samurai, in full armour. It was a very ceremonial affair where the chief was presented with a feast by his minions.
After this, the giant mochi cakes and the casket of Sake were wheeled into the middle of the hall.
The chief then proceeded to ‘unveil’ the cakes and casket with the help of a huge hammer.
The samurai clan then marched around the Budokan hall and left.
What followed were demonstrations from 9 modern martial arts, I caught the Kyuudo (Archery) and Karate demonstrations which were good and a little of the bayonet demo.
All the Shiramizu people met the rest of the Karate students from some other dojo (sorry, I don’t know which ones) for a photo outside the Budokan. At this point it started to snow which made us all even colder.
Arakawa Sensei was quite funny, after the photo was taken it started snowing pretty hard but Sensei still wanted to quickly speak to everyone. I don’t know exactly what he said but I think it was something like ‘why are you complaining about the cold? You’re all supposed to be tough karate students!’ with his trademark grin, everyone started laughing and stopped shivering immediately!
Training in the Budokan
After posing for a customary photo with the rest of the Shiramizu and Hideo Takagi Sensei, we had a short wait until we were allowed into the main hall for training.
This was quite a good experience, there was eight different martial arts practising at the same time in the Budokan. The martial arts were: Karatedo; Kendo; Iaido(?); Aikido; Judo; Naginata; Kenpo(?); and Sumo.
Karate was in the middle of the hall, with approximately 80 students training in basics, kata and kumite for about 45 minutes. It was a challenge to keep focused on my kata, especially when I was more interested in the Kendo people whacking each other and the Judo people throwing each other around!
Ikimasho – let’s go...!
As soon as the training was over, and everyone bowed out, the Budokan offered everyone Miso soup. Shiramizu was on a tight schedule though and couldn’t partake in the rest of the event. Everyone had to get back to Sugito for the ‘official’ Shiramizu start of year training session that was taking place on the evening. Arakawa Sensei and I were the last to leave the Budokan, so we had to jog to the station to catch up to everyone.
...just another busy day at the office!