The Kodokan and an Introduction to the Spirit of Judo

The Kodokan and an Introduction to the Spirit of Judo

Fuad Olajuwon

Living in Japan, one can have access to an abundant number of experiences that can last a lifetime. Many people who come here go back to their respective lands with a positive image of the country and its people. This form of omotenashi is one of greatness and humility, showing the capability of humanity trying to put its best foot forward. There is much to do here, even for those who seek to develop themselves physically and spiritually. If that is you, then you must not miss your opportunity to visit the Kodokan and pay respects to the almighty sport of Judo.

Founded in 1882 by Master Jigoro Kano, Judo is a main staple in the vast collection of Japanese martial arts. With origins coming from jujutsu, an early grappling art designed to take down opponents quickly and effortlessly, Judo adopted similar principles, comprising of a series of skills and techniques. The philosophies behind this martial art are composed of seiryoku-zenyo (maximum efficiency), which is the use of force in an intelligent way, and jita-kyoei (mutual benefit) which seeks to develop the body and mind to be a person of value to others. These tenets are what give judo its unique appeal.

The Kodokan is a massive eight-story building in downtown Tokyo, where judoka from all over the world call home. Each floor comprises of different odds and ends that leave visitors utterly curious and awe-inspired by the rich history and tradition that the venue contains. If you’re interested in visiting, the staff will direct you to the 8th floor, which is the observation deck to see practicing judoka below. From beginners just starting out, to season veterans wearing black belts (and red belts, which is considered the highest honor in judo), you have the opportunity to witness the development of character in the form of physical and mental construction. What a sight it truly is!

Now, I know what you’re saying; how do I get in on the action? Well, look no further. At the Kodokan, you can register for a membership card. If you’re only visiting for the day, purchase a day pass of about 800 yen, and you’re off to the races. Although the membership card can be quite pricey (around 8,000 yen), you’ll be considered a member for life and a part of the worldwide judo community. There are several programs at the Kodokan. If you’re a beginner, you can start the introductory class and attend as many times as you’d like. Although the organization insists you bring your own judogi, or uniform, there are rentals available for a small fee.

Another interesting feature about the Kodokan is the ability to stay in one of the living accommodations provided. There are different room styles available for different prices, so you can easily find what you’re looking for. All the rooms must be reserved about three months in advance, so please plan accordingly. Although there are kitchen amenities, you’ll have to bring your own food and cook yourself. If not, you can sample much of the local fare around the Kodokan, giving you an endless number of culinary delights.

When you’re a judoka, you become a part of a vast and diverse family that transcends languages and borders. Go to the Kodokan at any time of the year, and you’ll meet people from all walks of life, all united in the quest of self-improvement and giving back to their communities at large. As brothers and sisters of the mat, judo becomes a part of who you are, developing character in remarkable ways. Hence the term of jita-kyoei, which seeks to embody the vision of Master Kano, wishing to create a better world through effort and determination. As a fellow practitioner of the gentle way, we look forward to meeting you soon.