FHM's 100 Great Adventures 2009

Posted by , 01 July 2009

Train as a Japanese Samurai

"Your sword is quick, the cut is deep and clean. You need only one. Why?” asks the man in the black kimono. He draws a line over his heart with his left hand. In his right he holds a katana, a Samurai sword. It is razor sharp. I don’t know the answer to his question. Four ninjas are crouched on the dojo floor near me, black-clad, coiled and ready to pounce. The lone female ‘ninjette’ is incredibly hot, but could no doubt snap my sternum in a second. I avoid eye contact. “Because,” the man explains placidly, “our opponent will not suffer, his death will be swift and honourable.” I nod sagely, and inwardly punch the air.

The man is a modern day Samurai master. Over the last four hours, I’ve been stood in a dojo in the Tokyo suburb of Ikebukuro – home to a Samurai clan that can trace its origins back to the 12th century. I’ve been thrown, felled, humiliated by speed-of-light grappling techniques and witnessed first hand the legendary – and very real – two-inch punch.

I’m living a dream. And any martial art movie buff can, too. In an afternoon, visitors can learn the Samurai’s Bushido code, and train as an elite warrior. Or follow the more morally ambiguous route of the ninja – and learn aspects of the assassination, espionage and “social chaos” they’ve specialised in since the 14th century. Granted, you’re unlikely to leave with the ability to dodge shuriken. But you will get to play with them. Like the first time I draw my katana sword and stand poised, concentrating, drawing on the physical and spiritual energy of the thousands of warriors that have lived and fought throughout time. Only the Samurai laughs. My sword is facing the wrong way.

Do it: From £90; japanican.com.

Henry stayed at the Hotel Villa Fontaine in Shinjuku (hvf.jp) and flew with ANA (ana.co.jp). For more on travelling to Japan visit jnto.go.jp.

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