Recreating Samurai Armor is an experience which combines time travel, apprenticeship with master craftsmen, and dedicating yourself to the moment through an ageless craft. The recreation of a suit of armor is like the reincarnation of a Samurai Soul. It is not only the suit of Armor that takes shape.
Characters begin to assume their roles as our Samurai Armor Workshop processes get streamlined. Clothes make the man, as we enter a new way to experience the world.
Watanabe Sensei and his master craftsmen are giving us specially customized work on Samurai helmets and face masks. The face masks are carved from wood by a master sculptor who specializes in Buddhist statues. They are preparing several versions for me, not only to lead the iCLA Group in the Shingenko Festival Parade, but also for appearances on other occasions sponsored by Yamanashi Prefecture.
With concentrated focus, we are making good progress in our project to make Samurai Armor by hand, in which we will march in the April Shingenko Samurai Festival in Kofu, Yamanashi. Cutting out templates for the various sections, marking and punching holes, and now beginning to tie them together with brightly colored cords. Those who finish early will be able to work on special decorative knots and other accouterments.
Zen Culture, by Thomas Hoover, is an excellent read for anyone interested in Japanese history, art, and the Samurai.
It is available for free in a number of digital formats from The Gutenberg Press digital library, at:
Follow my board and pins on Pinterest for cool photos of Samurai Culture. http://pin.it/SHyJb4F
Today we had our first workshop of the year making Samurai Armor from scratch. In three months we will complete the project and march in the Shingenko Festival in Yamanashi.
Watanabe-San and his three expert assistants gave us on the spot instruction and advice on how to measure, cut, and punch the armor plates. Great focus and concentration as each person works at the craft.
In the background we listened to an audio book on Samurai history. The stories bring it to life.
Six hours went by in a flash, with many, many more holes to punch and cords to thread.
A poem is born, or reborn?
A piece of calligraphy comes to life. Short version.
My teacher Morioka Koshu paints a Tehon for our monthly Shodo magazine in the Sogeikai in the 1980s, and of course I have kept them all as a treasure.
30 years later I meet Rogier Uitenboogaart in the mountains of Kochi at Yusuhara, where he himself has been making Japanese Washi paper by hand for 30 years!
Almost exactly 30 years after I first saw the Tehon shown here, my friend Iwamoto-san at iWeave kindly presents me with the work I painted in February, wonderfully mounted on a scroll, which now hangs in my office.
Here is my translation of the the Chinese poem:
Laughing in the Spring breeze
The dancer swirls in veils of silk.
This is the time to drink up!
How can you leave now,
When we have hardly begun?
I am not sure who wrote the original Chinese poem, but I have an idea that it was 白居易 Bai_Juyi, a Tang Dynasty poet from about 1200 years ago.
A poem is born, and reborn across time and many communication platforms.
William Reed is a full time professor at iCLA (International College of Liberal Arts) Yamanashi Gakuin University in Kofu City, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan. He is a 7th-dan in Aikido, and a Shihan in both Shodo and Nanba Jutsu. He teaches these arts at iCLA, in addition to a course on Spiritual Dimensions and Traditions in the Japanese Martial Arts. Detailed Profile on the About Page.