Some experiences give you an authentic foray into the soul of Japan, giving you a taste of its history and traditions. This is one of those.
The local association of Ota city, a southern district of Tokyo between Shinagawa and Kawasaki, organizes lessons for beginners, allowing you to learn how to build with your own hands an authentic suit of Samurai armor. Arriving at the community center there on a quiet Sunday morning, I was amazed to see how this activity involves men and women of all ages, from children around ten years old to elderly men. Inside the room I found people busy working with their hands to their armor, and in the middle there were two mannequins wearing armor as it would appear when finished. This is an activity for anyone with dedication and a lot of patience, but the rewards and satisfaction are there. It is nice to see, how colored string and hard plastic strips can become real armor.
The finished armor will be used in a Samurai Parade to be held in Musashi-Nitta on Sunday, February 5, 2017. The parade is held in honor of Samurai Yoshioki Nitta, a brave and great warrior. He was the second son of Nitta Yoshisada, who supported the Southern Court of Emperor Go-Daigo and Kamakura from the Hojo clan in 1333, and became famous for being a strong warlord who could win against any kind of large army with his wisdom and bravery. However, he was killed by his enemies through a cowardly attack at the "Yaguchi Ferry", when they bored holes in the bottom of his boat and fired off arrows from both banks. He died on October 10, 1358.
Villagers witnessed these horrific events and decided to build a shrine for Nitta Yoshioki at the site of his death in order for his spirit to rest in peace.Today, the shrine is well known as a place of luck, and also for its 700-year-old zelkova tree that towers over the grounds. The tree has survived numerous fires, as well as the Tokyo air raids of 1945, and it is believed that those who touch the tree will receive good luck in health and longevity.
The armor-making classes will continue even in the month of December, both for beginners and for intermediate armor makers. The course costs ¥1000 for beginners and ¥2000 for intermediate, and is open to all interested people, starting from 11 years of age. To take part, send an email to the association.