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Tue, Dec. 8, 2015 Nara & Yagyu: On the Road to the Sword of Peace
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Yagyu, which is located just outside Nara, is the ancestral home of the Yagyu family, which established Yagyu Shinkage-ryu. This sword art school was adopted by the Tokugawa Shogunate for its defense strategy.
Its core philosophy-the sword of peace-had enormous influence on the shogun, ushering in an era of peace that lasted for 250 years during the Edo period.
On Journeys in Japan, Stephen Nagy visits the area. The scholar, specializing in international relations of Northeast Asia, is a martial arts master, who holds a fourth dan grade in Kendo and fifth dan in Aikido.
He'll discover the philosophy behind Yagyu Shinkage-ryu's "sword of peace."

This Nara temple has a history of 1,300 years. Stephen took part in a Zazen session here.
Address: 11 Chuin Cho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture
Tel: +81-(0) 742-23-1377 (Japanese only)
Nara Hotel
Nara Hotel
This classic hotel from the early 20th century has hosted royalty and famous entertainers. Its restaurant serves traditional Nara dishes, including "tea porridge."
Address: 1096 Takahata Cho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture
Tel: +81-(0)742-26-3300
Toge-no-chaya (Summit Tea House)
Toge-no-chaya (Summit Tea House)
Located along the old Yagyu Kaido trail, this charming teahouse serves udon noodles and the popular sweet, kuzu mochi.
Address: Setarin Cho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture
Tel: +81-(0)742-81-0498 (Japanese only)
The family temple of the Yagyu clan has a small museum, with materials related to the clan and the Yagyu Shinkage-ryu, on its grounds.
Address: 445 Yagyushimo Cho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture
Tel: +81-(0)742-94-0204 (Japanese only)
Naramachi Museum
Naramachi Museum
Popular souvenirs of Naramachi, including the Koshin san talisman, are available here.
Address: 14-2 Nishinoshinya Cho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture
Tel: +81-(0)742-22-5509 (Japanese only)
This café offers a wide variety of Japanese tea and sweets. It's a perfect place to take a break in Naramachi.
Address: 22 Nishinoshinya Cho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture
Tel: +81-(0)742-27-3083 (Japanese only)
From Tokyo, take the Shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto and transfer to the JR Nara Line or the Kintetsu Kyoto Line. It's a three-hour journey from Tokyo either way.
Travel Log

Traveler: Stephen R. Nagy > More Info


Occupation:Associate Professor / International Christian University

Length of residence in Japan:14years.

Reason:Graduate studies at Waseda University in international relations focusing on regional politics and a deep interest in Japanese culture.

My Yagyu Kaido journey to Nara was filled with discovery. It left me with the impression that the region and its people represent the continuation of living traditions dating more than 1400 years.

At Gangoji Temple, Priest Minematsu introduced me to zazen and shared his insights on its usefulness in ancient and contemporary life. His tour into the inner sanctuary of this 1300-year old temple was like traveling back in time as little has changed since its initial construction.

Whereas Gangoji Temple was a trip into the distant past, the Nara Hotel blended late 19th century European architectural interpretations with elegant, Japanese aesthetic tastes. The rustic atmosphere, aged wooden interior and regal decorations were a perfect match for the local delicacy Nara chagayu (rice, simmered to soft perfection in local green tea).

All along my journey I met many interesting characters: The 21st generation head teacher of Hozoin-Ryu Sojutsu School of spearmanship Junzo Ichiya Sensei and the Komparu Noh Master Kinzo Komparu whose graceful footwork influenced the sword master Yagyu Muneyoshi. My Yagyu Kaido encounter with a kuzumochi maker presented a softer, authentic side of Nara more rooted in everyday life than high culture and history.

The knowledgeable and charming Yoko Matsumura guided me through the lush-green Yagyu Kaido sharing its rich history and hidden secrets, such as the Buddhist figures etched in rocky outcroppings along the way. They all had a connection in some way to the Yagyu story and the "Sword of Peace" that I came to the region to explore.

Visiting the temple Hotokuji, I learned more about Yagyu Muneyoshi in a tour by the head monk Josho Hashimoto of the local museum dedicated to Yagyu's legacy. I had a chance to pay my respects to the Yagyu ancestral graves and to experience Yagyu Shinkage Ryu swordsmanship under the tutelage of two long time practitioners.

It seems the founder of Yagyu Shinkage Ryu influenced the region's arts; culture and history through sharing a philosophy grounded in his samurai training but forwarded thinking in terms of searching for a new way to forge human relations which was clearly seen at Hotokuji.

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