Friday, April 30, 2010

Shinkendo Sosetsu Kinenbi – 20th Anniversary of Shinkendo!

On May 10th, the Shinkendo Honbu Dojo located in the heart of Little Tokyo and branch dojo around the world will be celebrating the Shinkendo Sosetsu Kinenbi, the 2oth anniversary of the founding of Shinkendo by it's founder Toshishiro Obata whose credits include being the All Japan Battodo Champion for seven consecutive years, Ioriken Battojutsu Champion for 5 years and Toyama Ryu All Japan Champion for 2 years. Toshishiro Obata has also been featured in many movies and television documentaries such as Fight Science and others relating to the Samurai Arts. He continues to teach Aikido, Akibujutsu, Shinkendo, & Toyama Ryu at the Shinkendo Honbu Dojo to this very day. As a student of Obata Kaiso, I consider myself very lucky to receive instruction by such a world renown swordmaster.

For those not familiar with this unique Japanese martial art, Shinkendo is a modern system of Japanese swordsmanship which incorporates all aspects of sword study: Suburi (swinging methods), Battoho (drawing methods), Tanren Kata (solo forms), Tachiuchi (sparring) and Tameshigiri (test-cutting). You can find more information about Obata Kaiso and Shinkendo at thier official website at Shinkendo

For additional books and DVD's on Shinkendo and other Samurai Arts please visit :

ありがとう ございます!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tateishi Onojirō: Japan’s First Teen Idol

I have been writing a fictional novel set in the Bakumatsu period of Japan for close to a year now. And during that year, I have had to do some painstaking research in order to make my story viable to my most critical audience. In one of my chapters, I tell the tale how my fictional protagonist William Merrick had gone from the disillusionment of the Mexican American War to finding his way to San Francisco during the California Gold Rush where along the way he befriends Nakahama “John” Manjiro. It is through these circumstances that the two friends will meet again in 1860 when the Shogunate Warship Kanrin Maru arrives in San Francisco with the first Japanese Embassy Delegation to America.

For this chapter I had read through Masao Miyoshi’s As We Saw Them to gain further insight as to what happened during that first official visit by any Japanese government to an American City. This was most helpful in understanding the likes of Katsu Kaishu and Master Scholar Fukuzawa Yukichi who make careful brief appearances in my book. In reading of their cross cultural adventure I had come across a peculiar story of a curious young sixteen year old Samurai named Tateishi Onojirō whose looks made him an overnight sensation and darling of the American Press.

“Tommy” as he had become known worked as a second level interpreter. He held no great title or high status in Japan but in America he was mobbed by women like any modern day rockstar. Onojirō had been described as a darling fellow and Japanese Prince by sailors who liked his less than repressed character as opposed to the remainder of the delegation whose composure was restricted by decorum demanded by those representing the Shogunate. Wherever this kid went, Onojirō was surrounded by crowds of women seeking his autograph and bestowing flattery. His love letters and poems became front page fodder which only increased his popularity. Of course this sounds like typical celebrity fair but when you consider this took place in 1860 one has to go wow!

Onojirō’s place in history may have only occupied a meager footnote in the chronicles of the 1860 voyage to America but his image that was so illustrated by the American Press of the 1860’s still exists in these rare photographs of the former teen sensation. I can only imagine what kind of ego he must had developed and what let down awaited him when he returned to Japan with no throngs of female admirers awaiting him. At least he survived the Imperial Restoration to tell the tale and later returned to America in 1871. By then he was just another twenty eight year old former Samurai. We will never know if he got over his former teen fame for he disappeared into obscurity. All we know is that in the last recorded sighting he was ever still the ladies man even if he was no longer popular.
To find out more about Tateishi Onojirō, check out Masao Miyoshi’s As We Saw Them - The First Japanese Embassay To The United States
To see more photographs of the 1860 delegation please visit

特別のお知らせ!American Mishima on Japan Matters

こんにちわ! I am pleased to announce that American Mishima has become a regular repost on Japan As an aspiring writer, I find this most gratifying to know that people are reading our posts and find them interesting enough to repost them elsewhere. We hope that people do appreciate our work and look forward to future posts as we publish them.  So to all the people at Japan Matters and to the people who read our posts there we wish to extend a special thank you.まこと に ありがとう ございます!


Monday, April 26, 2010

侍映画 みぶ ぎし でん - When The Last Sword Is Drawn

When The Last Sword is Drawn aka みぶ ぎし でん (Mibu Gishi Den) is a film by Yōjirō Takita. Made in 2003, this Samurai Drama tells the tale of the little known Shinsengumi member Yoshimura Kanichiro (played by Kiichi Nakai) as a recollection from an elderly Saito Hajime (played by Koichi Sato who later played Serizawa Kamo in NHK's 2004 Shinsengumi). This film also features Sakai Masato of Atsuhime fame ( who also played Yamanami Keisuke in NHK's 2004 Shinsengumi) playing the famed sword progeny Okita Sōji. Set in the last days of the Tokugawa Shogunate (Bakumatsu), a young Saito Hajime who is portrayed as a heartless killer whose personality clashes with Yoshimura who comes across as a humble yet money grubbing country Samurai from Nambu Morioka as they both serve as members of the Shinsengumi. Yoshimura quickly gets on the nerves of Saito Hajime with his politeness and constant need for money. With tests of swordsmanship, the two are a breath away from clashing swords. But what Saito does not realize at the time is the degree of sacrifice Yoshimura is making for his wife and children who has now been driven from the clan he left behind to pursue the emerging Meiji Era in Kyoto. History goes into overdrive as the "Wolves of Mibu" leave Kyoto to support the Shogun in Osaka. The end of the Sword Age comes to a climax of deadly proportions for the defiant defenders of the Shogunate as they face the Satsuma-Choshu Alliance who has equipped themselves with modern rifles and the Imperial Banner all while Yoshimura fights to the end to support his family.

Loosely based on actual historical events, When The Last Sword is Drawn is a gem for any true Bakumatsu affectionado or fan of the Shinsengumi. Told in the now familiar style of Saving Private Ryan look back to one's embattled youth ala Otoko tachi no Yamato, Saito Hajime is flooded with memories of his days with Yoshimura in the Shinsengumi when he runs across a framed photo of his former comrade when elderly Saito takes his grandson to the doctor in 1899. There are touching scenes of Yoshimura with his wife and family as well as excellent sword play starting with Yoshimura's test to qualify in the Shinsengumi when he must spar with Nagakura Shinpachi before the watchful eyes of Kondo Isami, Hijikata Toshizo, Okita Sōji, and Saito Hajime. All these events will come back to the elder Hajime who like his real life persona is recorded to have memorialized his former comrades and memories of the Shinsengumi. If you really loved the 2004 NHK Taiga Drama of the same name then you will love this well told chapter of the Shinsengumi story. We sure did! It's a keeper and an excellent addition to our Samurai DVD Collection!

You can find this film and many other good Samurai films at my American Mishima Bushidoya sStore. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

展示 Japan's Early Ambassadors Exhibit in San Francisco!

A new exhibition commemorating the 150th anniversary of the visit by the Shogun's Delegation aboard the Kanrin Maru will be taking place May 4th through November 21st 2010 at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. This also takes place while the Kanrin Maru II will be visiting San Francisco May 5th to May 9th at Pier 27. Tours of the Kanrin Maru will be open to the public on Saturday the 8th from 1PM to 4PM.

If you do make it up there, be sure to also go to Pier 9 in the Embacadero to see the commemorative plaque marking the 150th anniversary of the original Kanrin Maru that brought Katsu Kaishu, Fukuzawa Yukichi, and "John" Nakahama Manjiro. Wow! all this and you don't need a passport! I will be going up there and hopefully you can too!

Special Tribute for Teachers of Traditional Japanese Arts During the WRA

This is a special event that will be taking place at the Koyasan Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo which will pay tribute to the teachers of Traditional Japanese Arts while interned in America's own Concentration Camps (WRA - War Relocation Authority) during World War II. なに? Yes, we did have Concentration Camps in this country despite what our history books choose to call them. But I won't go into how feel about how our country was shamefully a gas chamber away from being like the Nazi's(or how much it pisses me off that idiots like current Senator(R) Lindsey Graham of South Carolina make so many openly racist comments about Japanese Americans). Instead, I am just going to repost the following information which I feel is important to the legacy to the Japanese-American Community and to the City of Angels.

So now that I got that off my chest here is the following information brought to you by the JACCC.

Sixty-eight years have passed since the end of World War II and the incarceration of approximately 112,000 Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans in concentration camps. Though much has been researched and written about the camp experience, the story of the brave artists who practiced and taught Japanese traditional arts remains a hidden legacy.
For one performance only, actual artists who taught and learned Japanese traditional arts during this period will be presented in performance and discussion. Classical Japanese dance (odori), classical music (nagauta) and Buddhist folk dance (bon odori) will be represented.
The artists who will participate in this event of performance and discussion are:

Bando Mitsusa - Tule Lake, CA, classical Japanese dance

Kineya Jyorokusho - Gila River, AZ, nagauta shamisen music; also taught koto and odori in camp

Hokunin Kyokuto Kimura, aka Molly Kimura - Tule Lake, CA, biwa music, ikenobo, tea ceremony, Japanese language, Buddhist studies

Kayoko Wakita - Manzanar, CA, koto and shamisen music, also representing her parents Baido Wakita (shakuhachi) and Nobue Wakita (koto and shamisen)

Hanayagi Reimichi, aka Reiko Iwanaga - Amache, CO, obon odori dance, also representing Rev. Yoshio Iwanaga, Poston, AZ camp

Yukino Harada - Amache, CO, Japanese classical dance

Fujima Rieyuki, aka Yuki Sato Lee-Minidoka, ID, Japanese classical dance, also representing her mother, Nishikawa Kikuharu

Koyasan Buddhist Temple - 342 E. 1st Street, 90012

Suggested donation:

$20 General Admission

$15 Seniors/Students with ID
For more information/reservations, please call (213) 628-2725 ext. 133 or email
This program is co-sponsored by the JACCC, Koyasan Buddhist Temple and the George & Sakaye Aratani Endowed Chair and the Asian American Studies Center, UCLA

Monday, April 12, 2010

一日の画像 Picture of the Day : Gunto meets Budo!

Atsumi Taichou & Rosasu demonstrating two faces of Bushido at the 2010 Southern California Sakura Matsuri this last April 11th, in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

桜祭り Sakura Matsuri 2010 This Weekend!!


Just a reminder that this years Southern California Cherry Blossom Festival is happening this weekend in Little Tokyo between 1st & 3rd Streets this Saturday the 10th, and again on Sunday the 11th. There will be many cultural events taking place not to be missed including this years Shinkendo Sword demonstration (featuring yours truly) taking place this Sunday at 3:00 PM in the martial arts pavilion. Come join us! Bonzai!

For more information please visit

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

新しいストア New American Mishima eStore!

こんにちわ! I am pleased to announce the opening of my new American Mishima Bushidoya eStore. In a new partnership with Amazon, I am making available a collection of books, dvd's, and other items to come of Japanese & Bushido Culture. It's not a matter of selling out. It's just after two years of being out of work this became a logical thing to do after answering many questions as to which books would I reccomend such as basic starter Samurai films or Shinto & Bushido books. Granted, there are other sources out there and I do list them. Given that, I hope that new readers will give my little estore a glance and perhaps help support yours truly while finding items they may wish to have. So please visit and thank you for your support! ありがとう ございます!

新刊 New Book on Noh Published

If you have ever seen a Noh Theater performance, once can not be captivated by the range of expression this unique six century old art form can convey. I was fortunate enough to see such a performance in Little Tokyo by the Kanze School of Kyoto starring Shizuka Mikata in 2008. As a person who grew up in the Goth Music Culturem I found myself attracted to dark overtones and imagery of this art. (Imagine that! Something more Goth than Goth and six hundred years older to boot?) If you have always wanted to know more about Noh there is now a new book out by Michishige Udaka who is both a lead Noh actor and producer. This book promises to give deep insights into the world of Noh with all its drama and infinate expression. This book contains many photos by Shuichi Yamagata that reveals the nuances and drama of Noh that has been handed down to us from generations of performers and craftsman. A must for anyone who loves this unique ancient Japanese Artform & Cultural Treasure!

The Secrets of Noh Masks
Michishige Udaka
Kodansha Int’l
ISBN : 978-4-7700-3095-5 / 4-7700-3095-9

Monday, April 5, 2010

侍劇場 Gackt の Samurai

J-Rockstar singer Gackt (formerly of Malice Mizer) is returning to the acting arena once again in the role of an "attractive" Outlaw Samurai in his latest debut as a leading man in a Japanese theater performance. Now if you are familiar with the Visual Kei scene or Gackt's work, you can presume he isn't exactly known as "Mr. Bushi" in Japan. But giving the man his due, he did play Uesugi Kenshin in NHK's 46th historical drama Fuurin Kazan which aired in 2007. Albeit, I didn't exactly believe he pulled off a convincing Uesugi Kenshin with his modern rockstar hair & eyeliner but if you could get past that he wasn't that bad in the role. And before anyone outright trashes his attempts to live out his bushido on film, you have to give him props for his Samurai やみ の しゅうえん "Returner" music video. I have to say after some of the more nutty costumes this guy has worn in his career(and I am not going to go there), "Returner" gave him some credibility with me. Well from my standpoint at least, Gackt may very well have some Bushidamashi in him afterall. Gackt will be starring in the play "Nemuri Kyoshiro Buraihikae." Gackt has been quoted recently saying; ‘‘In these days of weak men, I’ll etch myself in the minds of every person in the audience as an attractive samurai, a good Japanese and a nice man and show them that there are men like this.’’ According to Gackt himself he has been training hard to play the outlaw Samurai Nemuri Kyoshiro over the last six months. No details on what that training involved are available but if you are in Tokyo this May 14th, you just might see how it all paid off. If anyone see's his show let us know how it goes. ガクト- がんばてください!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

一日の画像 Picture of the Day

Hanamatsuri Shrine 2010
Koyasan Buddhist Temple, Little Tokyo

Saturday, April 3, 2010

戦争映画 - Only The Brave

Only The Brave is the story of the about the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team that fought for the U.S. Army in Europe during World War II. This low budget feature was the admirable attempt to tell the story of the Japanese-Americans who at a time when their own country turned against them, they fought for their freedom and the respect of an ungrateful nation. This film spends a portion of the film leading up to the groups enlistment shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The majority of the film takes place in Europe in the unit's famous 1944 rescue of the Texas 141st. The film centers around the men who are mostly from Hawaii's Teritorial Home Guard and volunteers from Seattle. We see and hear very little from those forced into America's Concentration Camps like those at Manzanar. To me this is the films only major flaw aside from the slow pace of the european scenes. but all in all, I am glad someone honored this units memory who in defence against Nazi tyranny earned 21 Medals of Honor, 9,486 Purple Hearts, 588 Silver Stars, 5,200 Bronze Stars. Their sacrifice has not gone unnoticed. Written, Directed, and Starred by Lane Nishikawa who plays "Jimmy Takata" and co stars Tamlyn Tomita of Come See the Paradise and Babylon 5 fame. This feature also stars Jason Scott Lee, Jeff Fahey, and Shogun Ki's favorite documentary host Mark Dacascos as Steve "Zaki" Senzaki. Also featured is the final heartfelt moments of Pat Morita filmed shortly before his death. I wouldn't say this film is the caliber of Otoko no tachi Yamato or Saving Private Ryan. But for a low budget feature it was a decent attempt to tell their story. I would have liked to have seen more of the prewar scenes which to me were more powerful than the combat scenes.

My only other two points of contention is I would have liked to have heard more Japanese spoken in the film than the Hawaiian slang used and I would have liked to have seen more of the lovely Tamlyn Tomita. And on that note please see the trailer of come see the Paradise But on a historical standpoint, I am glad that Lane Nishikawa felt passionate enough to tell their story.

This film is scheduled for a big screen presentation during this Sakura Matsuri 2010. To find out about showtimes please visit their website at, It is also available on Netflix and Amazon.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

ぶしだまし - Budo Upgrade Through Aikido & Bojutsu

For the last two years I have trained hard in Shinkendo and Toyama Ryu. After much delay I have finally joined the Aikido & Bojutsu classes taught by the Obata's in addition to Shinkendo. Classes take place weeknights at the new Shinkendo Honbu Dojo now located at 320 East Second Street in Little Tokyo across from the Japanese Plaza. With DOUSOUJIN keeping watch, my Bushi Spirit has taken on the rigors of Aikido. I am fortunate to train under Obata Sensei who once trained the Tokyo Riot Police. I could not ask for a better Sensei. Learning hand to hand combat when your in your 40's can be tough but not impossible. I will do my best and train hard. Bojutsu class is seriously すごいい! I have always wanted to learn how to wield a bo-staff and now I am on my way. According to Obata Sensei, people in Japan knew this skill 150 years ago. It was not the sole exclusive domain of the Samurai but a skill practiced by people of all classes. I find it most fun and look forward to mastering this essential Samurai Art. From time to time I will keep you posted as to how my training progresses. Since I am just starting, I will not participate in the Aikido demonstration but will participate in the Shinkendo demonstration in next week's Sakura Matsuri. Wish me luck! 私に幸運を祈ります!