Hands on with a Katana – a true Japanese Cultural Experience


Samurai, the infamous warriors of Japan, are well known to have been masters of the mighty Katana sword. During the feudal era, powerful families and the shogun (military warlords) ruled Japan, flexing their might by employing both the Samurai and their legendary weapon to achieve and maintain their dominion. Less than an hour from Niseko, hidden amongst the farmland, you can have now an in depth experience with this famous blade for yourself!

 

Step back in time, with the infamous Katana

 

While the Japanese people are renown for their craftsmanship in many ways, there is nothing quite like getting hands on with a 150 year old Katana sword to appreciate these efforts up close. Having taken a trip to the Japanese Sword Museum in Tokyo a few years back, and learning of the long and labour intensive process to forge each sword, only made me more excited to finally see the real deal.

 

Katana Niseko

Your host Junichi-san framed by Mt Yōtei

 

The short but beautiful drive through the countryside ends outside a small Buddhist temple, sitting in the shadow of Mt Yōtei not far from Niseko. After being greeted by the host Junichi (a lifetime Kendo practitioner), you’ll be invited to wear traditional Kimono and Hakama – with a range of options so you can really imagine yourself in the role!

The temple patron then began proceedings with a combination of chant and gong, setting the mood before a short tea ceremony with hand mixed matcha green tea.

 

Hand mixed matcha tea with your host

Swordplay in a Buddhist Temple, not an average Tuesday!

 

Junichi then spends time to outline the history of the Katana sword, with more than a few real points of interest. For anyone even slightly curious about the world renown swords, getting up close and personal is a real treat. The fine details of the wrapped handle and shine of the blade itself kept me busy for a good 10 minutes!

 

Beautiful craftsmanship and detail of the Katana 

 

After some extensive training under the guidance of Junichi on proper sword handling technique with practise swords, it’s nearly time to get hands on with the real thing. With such a sharp blade involved, there’s plenty of reason to practise with a dummy sword to make sure you leave with as many toes, thumbs and fingers as you arrived with!

 

Very hard steel and an equally sharp blade

 

The whole experience culminates in trying your hand at Tameshigiri (test cutting); making 3 cuts through a rolled tatami mat. Tameshigiri is an art unto itself, and once you have spent time working on your overhead slice technique, and heard the ‘pfffft’ of a perfect cut slicing the air in front of you.. it’s time for the real thing.

As you stare at the target ahead of you, sensei looking at you encouragingly, and breath out one last time… it truly felt as if I had stepped back in time. With sword in hand, it’s even more incredible to truly picture yourself in the shoes of a Samurai warrior as they faced off, watching every move of your opponent, ready to deliver or receive steel to flesh…

 

A great opportunity to grab some once in a lifetime pictures!

 

If you’ve paid attention, and focussed on your technique rather than power, you’ll get to feel the smooth sensation of the Katana blade cutting through the mat with ease. It’s plain to see that the Katana would make short work of an unguarded opponent, and you’ll learn more about this and other secrets of the sword on the day – I don’t want give to much away here!

 

The end result of a clean cut through the tatami mat

 

Make sure to get in touch with the team at Whiteroom if you’d like to make this experience a part of your time in Japan. Many of our Niseko ski tours and private guiding experiences in the region can be tailored to include the Katana Experience. Group bookings are also available so you can share the day with friends and family.

There’s always more to explore than just great powder with Whiteroom!

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Greg Young