Deep Akihabara Tradition And Technology - Martial Arts, VR, Robots And More!

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Akihabara, the town of otaku culture and cutting-edge technology, hosted a unique event featuring two fascinating sides of Japanese culture: tradition and advanced technology. We introduce a review by a reporter who actually took part in the event!

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On January 27th, 2018, Akihabara hosted a unique event showcasing Japan's traditional culture and most advanced technology. Let us introduce you to the highlights of this event through the eyes of Mark J. Hill, a reporter who has been living in Japan for 18 years already, who actually took part in the event!

Robots, VR, Anime Illustration and Drawing - Akihabara's Charms in One Place!

On Saturday I braved the unseasonably frigid cold in true Japanese spirit and went to the Photorogaining & Tokyo event in Akihabara showcasing tradition and technology. Although there was a lot to see, it was quite intimate and not at all overwhelming like some larger events.

There were tiny robots, virtual reality products to try, some cool DIY accessories made from used computer parts, a samurai uniform to try on, a live painting event, a photo rogaining event, and even martial arts presentations!

Deep Akihabara Tradition And Technology - Martial Arts, VR, Robots And More!

For instance, at the booth of Noratelier, they were featuring a wide variety of toys and industrial-use gadgets.

Deep Akihabara Tradition And Technology

At another booth, you could try on a Japanese armor! The booth next to it was featuring virtual reality experiences. Some of them gave you the chance to wear virtual reality headphones while wearing an armor. It was a challenge that attracted a lot of participants. Many of them were taking photos.

Deep Akihabara Tradition And Technology
Deep Akihabara Tradition And Technology

On the stage, the popular illustrator John Hathway was holding a live drawing event. Right before our eyes, he created a mystical image of the world in the near future with a girl standing in there. We could see that drawing come to life on the screen before us. It was amazing! Everyone was clapping their hands in excitement.

Deep Akihabara Tradition And Technology

I also played a virtual reality game at the Dospara computer shop booth where you ride a roller coaster and collect coins while avoiding bombs. It was crazy realistic!

The Highlight of the Event! An Authentic Martial Art Demonstration

My main purpose for attending this event was to see the martial arts demonstrations.


First up was the katana and other weapons from the team at Sougetsukai, a dojo in Akihabara offering training in martial arts weapons. I was expecting a flurry of crippling moves like you see in martial arts movies but every movement was methodical and calculated, with an emphasis on precision, much like many other areas of Japanese society.

The emphasis of their style, Genko Nito-ryu, is ”cutting with closest and quickest movements, and cutting without any wasteful movements.”

The graceful movements were truly beautiful to see. My impression was that, rather than a vengeful act filled with rage, as often portrayed in martial arts movies, the artists were quite somber and reflective almost as if to convey that there is a regret in having to kill your opponent.

Deep Akihabara Tradition And Technology
Deep Akihabara Tradition And Technology

One particular weapon I hadn't seen before was called kusarigama. It’s used in the traditional martial art of Isshin-ryū kusarigamajutsu, in English - the art of using the chain and scythe.

Some say the origin of its use is traced back to the 14th century. It was impressively wielded by a 13-year-old practitioner of the art. I was so impressed I asked her for a personal demonstration and I was not disappointed but I must say I am now a bit wary of 13-year-old Japanese girls.


The last act was Gamba Masaru’s nunchaku demonstration. Gamba is very charismatic. The first half was a demonstration of more traditional forms followed by a very entertaining show of freestyle movements set to music, a very creative way to showcase tradition and modernity.

I was speaking with my friend Chuck Johnson, founder of Quiet Flame Productions, a stuntman with 25 years of experience in the martial arts, about the event.

He says:

“The Japanese katana is one of the most popular but oxymoronically misused and misrepresented weapons in modern international cinema. It’s great to see people showing an honest and earnest desire to understand the real weapon, and its uses and applications through events like these.”

Try Your Hand with the Nunchaku! Taking Part in Lessons

Deep Akihabara Tradition And Technology

If you are in Tokyo, a great way to experience Japanese culture and history would be to take part in a martial arts event, class or workshop.

Chuck from Quiet Flame has an Air BnB program called “Be an action hero for a day”. Gamba Masaru gives nunchaku lessons at his studio in Nakano which is only a few minutes by train from Shinjuku.

Sougetsukai Dojo had a performance on February 3rd at the 23rd Hirano Cultural Festival in Saitama prefecture. They also offer trial cutting with swords and lessons for the proper use of weapons. All are welcome, even children.

Photos of martial arts demonstrations of Sougetsukai and Gamba Masaru by MATCHA.
The other photos are courtesy of DeepJapan and Mark J. Hill.

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Tokyo, Japan

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