|LIFE IN JAPAN
Doctoral candidate in medieval Japanese history
Time in Japan:
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Israel.
What do you do?
I' currently a researcher at the Historiographical Institute, University of Tokyo. For
more than a year I've been researching the relationships between the Kamakura military
government and religious institutions.
What do you find most interesting about the Kamakura period?
The warriors' search for self-identity as a new ruling elite. For the first time, warriors
became a ruling elite and as such the leading ones were hard pressed to construct
mechanisms of control, and develop their own cultural symbols and customs. At the same
time, the Kamakura period marked a new age in the development of religions in Japan, with
Zen, Jodo and Nichiren leading the way, together with a revival of the pre-Kamakura
Buddhist temples. To me, the ways in which warriors separated themselves from the Kyoto
aristocracy and formed a new warrior class, and how they adopted religion into their
lifestyles is most intriguing.
What is Ninpo?
Ninpo is a group of ancient martial traditions that include unarmed fighting skills,
swordsmanship, stick and staff fighting, and mental training, among others. It developed
in ancient Japan by warriors and mountain ascetics of the Yamato and Wakayama regions, and
later spread to other areas. In essence, Ninpo is for self-defense of the body, mind and
spirit. Through physical and mental training the Ninpo practitioner develops the ability
to deal with any type of physical and mental confrontation. Sometimes I like to compare
Ninpo to Buddhism. In Buddhism it is said that there are 84,000 doctrines for 84,000 types
of followers, meaning that there are infinite ways of conveying Buddhist law because there
are infinite types of human beings. In the case of Ninpo, there is a solution to any
How did you meet your sensei?
I met Tanemura sensei in the US in 1987 after I had already trained for three years. When
I first saw him he was wearing a hakama and I felt as if I were meeting a warrior from a
different time and place. At that time I realized that if I wanted to understand the
spirit and essence of Ninpo I needed to be in Japan. Three weeks later I was here. The
rest is history.
What kind of training is necessary?
Honest and diligent training.
What do you teach at your dojo?
I teach patience and how to handle the obstacles one meets throughout life. I believe in
peace and in being peaceful as a recipe for a good life. Action is only the last resort,
but when you do have to apply a technique it will be in the most effective way.
How can one enter your dojo?
Contact me, tell me that you would like to join my dojo, and come to training. You fill
out an application form and then begin. It's very simple. Entering the dojo is easy, but
after that it's up to you to make the best out of it.
What do you like about Japan most?
I am a traditionalist, and as such I like the way Japan is able to maintain and preserve
many of its traditions. I like to spend time travelling to remote temples and shrines or
interesting historical sites. Also, there is a sense of calmness even on busy Tokyo
streets because people have much better self-control and awareness of their immediate
surroundings than many other people around the world.
If you were to take one thing back from Japan to your native country, what would
A tatami room and a stone garden to view (it's a set so I consider it one thing). Who
knows, I might just do that one day.
Contact Roy at 0489-32-4577, email firstname.lastname@example.org or
Roy spoke to Maki Nibayashi.
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