Fourteen years ago, while walking with a friend, a piercing yell echoed suddenly down the hall of my university. As we followed the sound, eyebrows raised, a different sense began to take over. The pungent smell of gear that can be set out to dry, but can never really be washed, led us to the dojo.

Kendo’s visual impression proved no less unsettling: Students in robes and strange armor searched with bamboo swords for openings in each other’s guard. This bristling tension was broken here and there by the indigo blur of a strike, and although the screams were warlike, the people maintained a calm dignity behind their mantis-like masks. How, I wondered, did an activity like this come to be?

Unable to view this article?

This could be due to a conflict with your ad-blocking or security software.

Please add japantimes.co.jp and piano.io to your list of allowed sites.

If this does not resolve the issue or you are unable to add the domains to your allowlist, please see out this support page.

We humbly apologize for the inconvenience.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.