Valerie (also known as “Eri”) is a modern day nomad based in Tokyo, Japan. She makes her living dancing contemporary, teaching yoga, writing about her adventures, and making other people smile. When life hands her lemons, she brews up tea to sip with pinkie raised.
Latest posts by Valerie Taylor (see all)
- Best Places and Ways to Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Japan - December 29, 2017
- Tokyo’s 10 Best Spots to See Christmas Illuminations in 2017 - December 15, 2017
- Samurai, Ninja and other Martial Arts Classes to Try in Tokyo - November 27, 2017
Tokyo is often called a world in and of itself. Though it is more lively than the rest of the country – it is also where countless international trends seem to be most predominant. The very essence of Japan continues to thrive here among the neon lights and pachinko parlors.
Unfortunately you will no longer spot Samurais walking down the streets of Tokyo – you can still experience their training, as well as ninjutsu and other forms of traditional martial arts while traveling in Japan. Here are some of the best samurai, ninja, judo, karate and other fun experiences available in Tokyo.
Musashi Ninja and Samurai Experience
- Website: https://musashi.ninja/
- Address: Minato-ku, Shibakoen 3-5-8 The Kinkan Shinko Kaikan Building B4F
Technically, B4F doesn’t exist in the Kinkan Shinko Kaikan Building, which is located right across from the Tokyo Tower. But that is how you know that these ninjas are legit. I can personally attest to the wisdom and longevity of the Musashi Ninja Clan, which has been in existence since the time of Tokugawa Ieyasu.
The Clan is now comprised of ninjas who do more than just martial arts. You can book a 3-hour private lesson in ninja arts, meditation, sword handling and other fun activities. There is also a ninja and samurai experience package, where you can learn the best of both worlds. Don’t worry about not knowing any Japanese. The Clan will happily provide you with an interpreter (Narashino-sensei is amazing at what he does, so even if you don’t understand the language – you’ll understand his instructions).
Hanayashiki Ninja Training Experience
- Website: http://www.hanayashiki.net/e/ninjadojo.html
- Address: 111-0032 Tokyo, Taito-ku, Asakusa 2-28-1
Though this is more for entertainment than hardcore training – this fun 45 minute lesson is great for families or groups of people of varying ages. The Hanayashiki Ninja Dojo is “hidden” within the confines of Hanayashiki, the oldest amusement park in Japan. You don’t have to enter the actual park – simply follow the signs to the “training experience.” From there, you can enter the ninja store full of goodies, and ask about the training.
Sometimes, there’s a ninja standing outside, asking you to try shuriken throwing. The training introduces you to drawing a sword, camouflaging yourself, as well as throwing ninja stars. The instructors are fun and enthusiastic – you are guaranteed to laugh, learn a lot, and to enjoy your time there.
Ninja Trick House, Kabukicho
- Website: http://ninja-trick-house.com/en/
- Address: 160-0021 Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Kabukicho 2-28-13 Daiichi Wako Building 4F
When I first tried to find the Ninja Trick House, I was actually led by my sensei from a kickboxing class… since I probably wouldn’t have found it on my own. Fortunately, there are now clear directions on the website for you to follow! It was one of the coolest experiences that I booked on a whim, and I highly recommend it to people who want a quick introduction to the world of ninjutsu.
The Ninja Trick House in Kabukicho is unique, since you get to see exactly how ninjas would conceal themselves and their belongings within a building. In addition, you get to practice striking with a wooden sword and throwing shuriken (stars) at a number of targets. The main instructor speaks English so you don’t have to worry about the language barrier. For just 1,000 yen – you can dip your toes into the world of ninja (then head straight to the Samurai Museum which is close by).
Samurai Museum, Kabukicho
- Website: http://www.samuraimuseum.jp/en/experience/index.html
- Address: Shinjuku-ku, Kabukicho 2-25-6
Naturally, the Samurai Museum is all about the samurai history, where they come from, why they fought the way they did, plus all the cool tools that samurais had at their disposal. However, simple explanations are not the only thing that you can find at the Samurai Museum.
There are also a number of experiences which range from a Japanese sword class, where you can learn about the mystical katana and get some tips on wielding one. Though it is not as hands-on as other experiences – you get to watch a ninja and a samurai duke it out at specific times (be sure to check out the website for up-to-date information).
This could be the ultimate inspiration that you need to enroll for a kendo class or two! Also, if you’re interested in shodo or calligraphy – there are classes for that here as well.
Tokyo Kyumeikan Kendo Dojo
- Website: http://www.bekkoame.ne.jp/~kyumeikan/homenglish.htm
- Address: Itabashi-ku, Akatsukashin-machi 2-1
One of the best places to experience kendo would be the Kyumeikan dojo. Presently, the are over 3,000 alumni in 50 different countries around the world, and many of these graduates have gone up to open their own training centers. So, if you find yourself falling in love with kendo – you might be able to continue practicing it even when you get back to your own home.
The reason why Tokyo Kyumeikan Kendo Dojo is a perfect place to try out wielding a samurai sword is its environment. Though much of the instruction is provided in Japanese, there are a number of foreign students who know enough English to help you. This center is also a great place to learn about other aspects of the Japanese culture, as well as budo (martial arts). Who knows what you will be invited to try next?
- Website: http://kodokanjudoinstitute.org/en/learn/
- Address: 112-0003 Tokyo, Bunkyo-ku, Kasuga 1-16-30
Ever wanted to try judo? Then what are you waiting for! You’re visiting Japan, after all. While in Tokyo, make sure to stop by one of the world’s best training centers for judo. The Kodokan center has an international program if you are interested in staying for more than few weeks.
There are a number of classes for different skill levels, plus there are even women or children-only workshops so that everyone feels more comfortable. If you have some experience – you are welcome to join the kata workshops or take a challenging Randori class. The best part is that you only pay around 800 yen daily. During the Summer, you can also take a weekly camp that will reshape you from head-to-toe!
Japan Karate Association
- Website: https://www.jka.or.jp/en/
- Address: 112-0004 Tokyo, Bunkyo-ku, Korakuen 2-23-15
You don’t have to be a member to join a class or two with the world renowned Japan Karate Association (JKA), which now has branches across the entire globe. The classes are reasonably priced (3,500 yen per class, with discounts for 2 or more) and there are multiple classes offered throughout the day for different skill levels. Simply visit the website to download the appropriate forms and bring them in with you when you go to a class (do contact them beforehand though).
If you are just coming in for a few classes, you don’t even need the uniform. What is great about the Japan Karate Association’s headquarters is that you are learning the original karate from Okinawa, which is the birthplace of this ancient martial arts form. The classes are large in size, though everyone is friendly and is willing to help out. You won’t feel intimidated at all.
- Website: http://www.axisjj.com/
- Address: Tokyo, Setagaya-ku, Matsubara 1-34-16-1F
Axis is a good choice for those who want to experience a real Japanese dojo but have limited cultural abilities. Axis is quite accustomed to hosting international visitors. There are two general class levels — basic and advanced. It is a very friendly environment for those who know nothing about jiu-jutsu (柔術). If you want to experience this special martial arts form, which focuses on flexibility while disengaging one’s enemy with grappling – then this is the right place for you.
Jiu-jutsu is an ancient art form which comes from the Muromachi period in Japan, though the most popularized version nowadays is the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). Please note that this center specifically requests that any person or group who is visiting from abroad contacts them beforehand. On some specific days of the week only the members are allowed in. So it’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Website: http://kokyuren.com/english.html
- Address: There are two locations both in Koto-ku where you can attend Japanese archery lessons with Kokyuren:
- 135-0044 Tokyo, Koto-ku, Ecchujima 1-2-18
- 136-0073 Tokyo, Koto-ku, Kitasuna 1-2-9
Long time ago, the samurai wielded more than just swords. They were famous for raining down arrows upon their enemies, or even firing them while riding their horses. Just like a sword, the arrow was an extension of their image — and they made archery look simple. Though archery might not be your strongest suit, I highly recommend going in for a lesson.
The size of the bows plus the way you have to aim and shoot is actually kind of meditative – once you get the hang of it all. Plus, you get to wear the traditional uniform and engage with other students in a friendly environment. Beginners are allowed to come in when the classes are in session. Simply contact the center first to ask when would be a good time to visit. You will have to become a member of the Federation to use their facilities, though it is worth it, especially if you can squeeze in a couple of sessions.
Have a hankering to study the Japanese martial arts while traveling abroad? Any of these amazing experiences are sure to give you an in-depth sampling of the Japanese culture and its wonderful martial arts tradition. Regardless of your fitness level and understanding of the martial arts in general – there is something for you to enjoy. The real challenge here is in deciding which one is a must try for you!