The Art of the Sword Without Fighting.
The blink of an eye, the flash of steel, and the flutter of the blade. In one swift movement, the head of the rolled tatami mat suddenly tumbles to the floor and the swordmaster resheaths his katana. With nearly 30 years of training and experience, 21st-century samurai Yoshihiro Abe is carrying the traditional Japanese swordsmanship art of iaido into the modern era preserving not only the past but also embracing the future.
Nestled into a fertile river valley enclave of the Mogami River, with snow-crested mountains looming on all sides is the quiet town of Murayama. In the region named the same as the town, less than 45 minutes away from Yamagata City by car, Murayama City is most famed as the birthplace of iaido (pronounced ee-Ay-doe), a traditional Japanese sword art dating back to the 15th century. Here, Abe-san and a handful of fellow iaido practitioners are devoted to assuring that in a world of smartphones, bullet trains, and skyscrapers the ancient arts of the samurai are not only still being practiced, but that the skills and techniques bequeathed down to them by their predecessors will still be passed down from one generation on to the next.
Experience Iaido Samurai
You will experience Iaido taught by a Iaido practitioner.
This tour is indoors inside a Japanese dojo.
This experience is co-led with an English-speaking experienced local guide who can interpret.
All necessary equipment is provided.
15,000 yen per person
Approximately 2.5 hours
Minimum amount of participants
Single applicants may be accepted on a case-by-case basis with an additional fee to cover the time for the instructor and translator.
We ask that guests make their bookings at least 1 week in advance.
Experience the way of Iai Swordsmanship
Today Iaido lives on in the form of the educational demonstrations and iaido experiences that Abe-san offers in his Murayama City dojo. While traditionally the art is practiced with a real sharpened katana sword, those looking to experience and train in the art will learn using a dulled steel blade to replicate authenticity while still maintaining safety. During the iaido experience, you will learn traditional forms known as “kata” that embrace some of the essential elements of this martial art. Removing the blade from the scabbard in one smooth motion, making a clean cut strike with the blade, removing the imaginary blood from the blade with a graceful flick of the arm, and receding the blade back into the sheath in one movement are four of the foundational elements that you will learn during this experience. While sounding simple in nature, these four elements take years of training to master. Under the guidance of Abe-san’s expert instruction, you will be able to appreciate the truly hard work and devotion that go behind this 450-year-old art in addition to the meaning and cultural significance the legacy of iaido has to offer.
The climax of your iaido experience will be combining what you have learned into attempting to slice a rolled tatami mat in half with a real sharpened blade. As this is one of the few places in Japan where you will have the opportunity to handle a real sharpened katana, Abe-san will first demonstrate the technique and safety precautions before he instructs you. If you are successful in slicing the head of the bamboo mat in half, you can keep it as a souvenir of your triumph to take home.
Sample Program Outline
10:00-10:20: Meet at Iai Shrine, learn about the history and philosophy of Iaido.
10:20-10:35: Get changed into dogi (robes) and stretch.
10:35-10:45: Explain parts of the sword (names, usage, method of making).
10:45-10:50: Brief demonstration of kata and proper techniques.
10:50-11:10: Begin learning foundational moves.
11:20-12:00: Explain why we learn kata, learn the kata, and put it all together.
12:00-12:20: Abe-san demonstrates the tatami cut strike before students do it.
12:20-12:30: Final questions and closing remarks about protecting the future of the art.
12:30-finish: Customers change and finish.
This Iaido experience has been made in collaboration with Murayama City and Japanese American martial art experts Jeff Imada and Mike Yamasaki. Jeff Imada is a veteran Hollywood stunt director who helped to advise the flow of this experience and how to present it to international audiences. Mike Yamasaki is a world renowned sword expert and industry leader in the Japanese sword world who has given us guidance on how guests should be introduced to katana with respect to their cultural and historical significance. They have advised in Hollywood movies where martial arts or Japanese swords have appeared such as Kill Bill, as well as sword experiences throughout Japan. The Hidden Japan is honored to work with and welcome them in the close future to help us further this flagship experience of Yamagata.
Reserve your Iaido Samurai Experience today!
Please note this form does not confirm the availability of an experience or reserves an experience straightaway.
Our general cancelation policy for our experiences is below. Cancelation fees may vary according to exceptional circumstances.
3 business days before date of experience
2 business days before date of experience
30% of total price
1 business day before date of experience
50% of total price
100% of total price