Isunoki – The little known yet hardest and heaviest tree in Japan

The isunoki tree (English; distylium racemosum), often shortened to isu in Japanese, is an evergreen, broad-leaved tree that stretches up to 20m in height. It grows mostly to the east of the Kanto region. Often the leaves will have insect galls forming on them. In the old days, children picked up the galls which were empty after the insects had left, and used it as a pipe. This was often called the hyon fruit. Because of this, the isunoki is often called hyon-noki. Often Japanese people would say “Hyon-na koto kara” meaning something accidental, but some theories that this “hyon” comes from hyon-noki. That is how much isunoki is connected…

Are you avoiding Aizome for fear of fading?

The Ai (indigo) color is used not only in Kendo equipment but has been used throughout Japanese culture. Its deepness has naturally blended with the Japanese lifestyle. There is a saying; “Blue comes from Ai and is bluer than the Ai”. This refers to the blue color extracted from the Ai-grass, noting that its color is more beautiful than the color of the Ai-grass itself. This is applied as a idiom to refer to an apprentice surpassing his master. Ai is possibly the oldest plant dye used by humans, and is the natural world, at least among plants, it is the only things that gives a naturally blue color. It…

Japanese Language and Samurai Aesthetics

I have written a number of entries about the Japanese sword and Japanese idioms, which has gained much more response than I had imagined. For this edition, I would like to take things a little broader, focusing not only on the sword but on the “samurai” as we explore more idiomatic expressions. Some of these are still used in everyday conversation, whereas some have become archaic, but they all artfully express the samurai or the bushi way of life. Hana wa sakura-gi hito wa bushi (Cherry-blossoms are to flowers what bushi are to men) Among flowers cherry blossoms are the most beautiful, and among men bushi are the best. This…

Are you familiar with the expression byo-jo-shin-kore-do?

Are you familiar with the expression byo-jo-shin-kore-do? The follow is the definition: “In martial arts terms – to expel the four diseases of fear, alarm, confusion, and doubt, to keep a calm mind, and remain cool-headed is of utmost importance; this is the right path for man the highest form of morality.” This spirit is considered the highest moral standard. From its very beginnings, martial arts as put a huge emphasis on “respec”. Kendo, sumo-do, naginata-do all have the suffix “-do” attached to it. During such contests, if you clench your fists to show your delight, the merits of that move will be retracted. This is because such acts are…

Is your Aikido Hakama really good enough?

About 20 years ago, getting a good Aikido Hakama would require you to either come to Japan yourself, or try to contact one of the few stores that would accept mail-orders and ship internationally. Additionally, if you didn’t know any Japanese, then it could have been quite hard to even communicate with the Japanese staff. Being an Aikido practitioner overseas was most certainly very inconvenient and time spending at that time. Nowadays the world has changed, whether you get one directly from Japan online, buy one that is sold locally from one of the Budo stores in your own country, or buy one directly from Amazon or any other major…

Aikido: Regarding the promotional examination

Written by Tatsunari Tachibana, Yoshinkan 4-dan(Tozando) What is Aikido? This is a question I have numerous times asked the people at the various Dojo where I have the honor to instruct, yet every time I asked this question, I’m met with silence. Although it might seem to be simple to answer at first glance, the question is much deeper than that and I actually think it’s a very hard question to answer myself. The founder of Aikido, Ueshiba Morihei Sensei once famously explained that Aikido is not something that can be expressed using the brush or your mouth, it has to be comprehended. Also, except for certain factions, Aikido is…

Tozando Physical Stores

Tozando currently has a total of four branch stores, three in Kyoto and one in Tokyo. In Kyoto, the Nishijin Store, Shogoin Store and Kyoto Budogu Store, and in Tokyo the Tokyo Showroom. Please see the detailed description for each of them below: TOZANDO NISHIJIN “KENDO” STORE Your one-stop in Kyoto for Kendo Equipment and also a limited amount of Aikido and Judo equipment. This is also the location of our Kyoto Kendo Workshop with experienced Craftsmen making Bogu and offering repair services. >>detailed information SHOGOIN “SWORD & YOROI “STORE The place in Kyoto you want to go to if you are looking for Japanese Swords, Antique Swords, Yoroi (Japanese…

What is Tetsuboku?

In Asia, Tetsuboku is known for it’s hardness, hence ‘Tetsuboku’ which literary means “Iron Wood”. As the name suggests, this material can be said to be one of the hardest materials used for making Bokken today. Bokken made out of this wood are excellent for Kata and Suburi practice, however, since the fibers are not as strong as for example White Oak, it is NOT recommended for full contact training. The quality of Tetsuboku wood is very stable and it’s rare to see unwanted warping in Bokken’s made out of Tetsuboku. Also since Tetsuboku naturally consists of high rates of Polyphenol, this wood has a naturally strong antibacterial and preservative…

What is Sunuke?

Sunuke wood comes from a tree that is officially called “Isu no ki” or the Japanese Isu tree.  Only the wood that comes from trees that are 250-400 years old is called ‘Sunuke’. Therefore, although a great deal of care and attention goes into their production, it is naturally not possible for all Sunuke Bokken to be exempt from small imperfections. In Japan these ‘imperfections’ are generally considered to be a sign that the Bokken is indeed the genuine article, and therefore are preferred by some over Bokken which are without marks. While the Isu wood which comes from the younger trees, is known for it’s beautiful color gradation, Sunuke…

Akagashi: What is Japanese Red Oak?

Japanese Red Oak (赤樫; Akagashi) is generally found in the mountain ranges in the west part of Japan and has gotten its name from the fact that the wood has a distinct red hue to it compared to other oak woods. The Japanese red oak can mostly be found growing naturally in the mountains in western Japan, although it is sometimes also planted in Shrines or residences also. The trees grows to be around 20m tall, so the wood is often used as construction material or for Shamisen and other Japanese musical instruments. Since the Japanese red oak wood is also naturally strong against water, it was also traditionally used…