A new attraction for foreigners: Sword fighting like samurai

A new attraction for foreigners: Sword fighting like samurai

OSAKA - A kimono-clad man snaps at an intruding female ninja, "Who are you?" The ninja merely replies, "I am here for your life," before leaping at the man, who swiftly slashes her with a sword. It was a scene from a staged sword fight workshop held last month in a building in Nishi Ward, Osaka. The participants, all clad in kimono, learn how to fight with swords like actors in Japanese samurai dramas.

"You fool," the man said to the ninja as she collapsed to the floor. The man, who smiled bashfully when the other participants applauded him, is a 29-year-old student from the Dominican Republic and the ninja is an instructor. Two other foreigners took part in the workshop.

The workshop was held courtesy of Nihon Tatedo Kyokai, an association for proliferating the art of the staged sword fight, called "tate" in Japanese. The event has attracted many foreigners.

"The ancient skills of the samurai have not been lost, and instead have been handed down to today," the student said. "It's splendid."

Works with striking sword fighting scenes, such as in the anime version of "Rurouni Kenshin" and the Hollywood film "The Last Samurai," are well-known in the Dominican Republic, the student said. "Tate [sword fighting] is fun, it energizes me," he also said. "I think it can be a good tourist attraction."

Osaka Prefecture has enjoyed an increase in foreign tourists since 2012 partly due to an increase of flights by low-cost carriers to and from Kansai Airport. The prefecture estimates that more than 3 million tourists visited in 2014.

The Nihon Tatedo Kyokai association in Nishi Ward was set up in 2004 and has given workshops for homemakers and company employees. About three years ago, these workshops began attracting non-Japanese - more than 1,000 from 32 countries last year. The association receives applications for the workshop from hotels and travel agencies and also from foreigners studying in Japan or visiting Japan on business.

The workshop has three courses: quick (30 minutes, ¥3,000 (S$34) per person), regular (one hour, ¥5,000) and special (90 minutes, ¥7,000). Participants learn how to handle swords and perform basic movements.

The most popular regular course allows participants to perform an actual skit with lines. Trademark sound effects for sword dramas, such as the clanging sound made by clashing swords and the one made by slashing through an enemy, are particularly popular, according to the association.

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