Ikutokudō 育徳堂

Ikutokudō 育徳堂

Dōjō Name: Ikutokudō (育徳堂 Hall of Cultivating Virtues)
Art Practiced: Honda-ryū Kyūjutsu (本多流弓術)
Location: Tōkyō University, Hongō Campus, Bunkyō-ku, Tōkyō, Japan
Construction Type: concrete
Completion Date: Shōwa/昭和 10 (1935)
Summary: Tōkyō University’s purpose built dōjō for the practice of traditional Japanese archery

NB: I have never practiced traditional Japanese archery so I have very limited knowledge of these arts. I also visited this dōjō when a practice was taking place without prior arrangement. Therefore, I was not permitted into the buildings out of safety concerns. The following description is therefore based on investigating from the outside and on kyūdō reference material. Any corrections or contributions from kyūjutsu/kyūdō practitioners are welcome.

formal genkan 正面玄関

matoba 的場

About a minute walk from Shichitokudō is Tōkyō University’s Hongō Campus kyūjutsu dōjō. Built in 1935, just a few years prior to Shichitokudō, Ikutokudō is one of two dōjō used by Todai’s kyūjutsu club for the practice of Honda-ryū kyūjutsu (本多流弓術). The other dōjō is located at the Komaba (駒場) campus, which judging from photos on the club’s website is a much newer and more utilitarian facility.

Honda-ryū kyūjutsu emerged during the Meiji Period from efforts by Honda Toshizane (本多利實), the kyūjutsu instructor at Tōkyō Imperial University (the old name of Tōkyō University), to preserve traditional Japanese archery. Similar to other traditional Japanese martial arts dating from the feudal era, kyūjutsu was seen as outdated and unnecessary given the introduction of Western weaponry and military tactics. Traditional kyūjutsu ryūha at the time focused their training on either the military or ceremonial aspect of traditional archery1. Honda Toshizane combined these two aspects into a hybrid style, a move that caused an uproar in the traditional schools but eventually was credited with preserving kyūjutsu/kyūdō for future generations. I could not find a definitive date for the establishment of Honda-ryū, which leads me to speculate that it indeed emerged over a period of time rather than was “founded.”

east side of shajō 射場の東側

east side of shajō 射場の東側

Architectural Styling
Overall, Ikutokudō shares many architectural characteristics in common with Shichitokudō. Both are made of concrete and mimic traditional Japanese temple or shrine architecture with pronounced post and lintels. Ikutokudō is also finished in plaster and painted. As both border the topographical depression that holds Sanshirō Pond (三四郎池), the ground also falls away to one side of the dōjō, thereby revealing a basement level for the shajō that also presents itself as a plinth with a heavier more solid reading.

The roof are of the kirizuma yane (切妻屋根) or gable type. In this style the roof swoops down from a ridge called the munagi (棟木), a large central ridge beam, which is tiled over. The roof overhangs past the walls to form eaves. There is also a central dormer cross gable on the roof of the matoba. This is known as a chidori hafu (千鳥破風). Like Shichitokudō, these roofs are covered in traditional ceramic tiles.

Layout of a Kyūdōjō
Ikutokudō has many of the elements found in an archetypical kyūdōjō (弓道場), which is made up of three principal parts: the shajō (射場 shooting place), the matoba (的場 target place)and a large empty expanse between these two called the yamichi (矢道 arrow path).

makiwara 巻藁


dōjō 道場

Shajō 射場
The shajō is where kyūjutsu/kyūdō practitioners launch their arrows. On the ground floor is the main hall with a wooden floor. One side of this, the long south side in the case of Ikutokudō, opens out over the yamichi with the matoba at the other end of. This area where the archers actually stand and launch arrows towards the matoba may be referred to as the dōjō. The term dōjō therefore applies both to the entire facilities as well as to this particular area of the shajō. Within this area are some important positions related to how an archer would move within this space and these terms, as described next, are more important terms in the practice of kyūdō.

The sadame’noza (定めの座) is the establishing position. It is an imaginary spot from where, in a formal embu, archers begin their approach to the honza.

The honza (本座) is an imaginary line across the floor where the archers take their initial positions.

In front of this is another imaginary line called the sha’i (射位), which is set to the required distance2 from the mato (的) or targets set within the matoba.

section & plan セクションと平面図

Like a dōjō used for kendō or judō, there is a hierarchy within a kyūdōjō. Facing the matoba, to the right end of the shajō is the formal entrance into the dōjō and the kamiza. In the case of the kyūdōjō typology this is traditionally a raised alcove similar to a hikaenoma. To the left end is the informal practitioners’ entrance and the shimoza. The sadame’noza is positioned towards the shimoza end.

Behind the honza is the hikaenoma (控えの間). Some kyūdōjō will also have a separate additional area behind the hikaenoma for either storage and/or shooting practice on makiwara (巻藁). Makiwara are straw targets mounted up to shoulder height for archers to shoot from only a a bow’s length away. The purpose of this close range shooting is so that the practitioner can concentrate on the movements without being distracted with the trajectory of the arrow once released. In the case of Ikutokudō, the makiwara are placed outside below the eaves on the north end of the dōjō. Concrete pads are provided in front of these for practitioners to stand on while they train on the makiwara. There is no additional internal area behind Ikutokudō’s hikaenoma.

rear of matoba 的場の後ろ

Matoba 的場
The matoba is where the mato (的), or targets, are housed. The matoba is open on the side next to the yamichi in order to expose the mato to the shajō. Mato are set into an earth embankment called an azuchi (安土). Facing the mato, on the left end of the matoba is the kantekisho (看的所), the attendant’s room. To the right is a storage room for holding additional targets and equipment.

More modern kyūdōjō may have a flashing light system to warn archers not to shoot while the attendant removes arrows from the targets and the azuchi. In the case of Ikutokudō, the attendant simply tells everyone to stand down before leaving the shajō to walk along the yatori michi (see below) to the matoba. Some matoba will also feature a curtain hung over the opening called an azuchi maku (安土幕). This is not the case however with Ikutokudō.

matoba and yamichi 的場と矢道

Yamichi 矢道
Separating the shajō from the matoba is the yamichi (矢道), a large empty expanse. It is usually a lawn but in the case of Ikutokudō grass only grows in the middle of the yamichi due to the shade from nearby trees. The yamichi is separated from spaces to either side by walls. In the case of Ikutokudō, these are low masonry walls that serve as a sort of planter for some vegetation, which would help catch any stray arrows. Modern yamichi would often have taller walls to ensure stray arrows do not get past at all. Ikutokudō does however have a storage shed on the other side of the separation wall where a wayward arrow would most likely stray to, just reducing the chances of an accident. This is not shown on the drawings but can be just seen in the photos showing the west side of the matoba.

To the left of the yamichi, when looking towards the matoba, is the yatori michi (矢取り道), which the attendant walks along to retrieve arrows. For a typical modern kyūdōjō to the right side of the yamichi is the kanranseki (観覧席), an area for spectators to watch. I was asked to observe from this area instead of from the yatori michi, but found it hard to see much through the plants. These functional arrangements to either side of the yamichi explains why the separation walls of the yamichi are not symmetrical with the left side closer to the center of the yamichi while the right wall is placed further out for safety reasons.

west side of matoba 的場の西側

It should also be noted that the kanranseki is to the right of the yamichi because the archer would position his/her left side towards the target. Like other Japanese arts, kyūdō is taught and practiced right handed regardless of the actual handedness of the practitioner. The kyūdōjō is arranged so that the audience and archers would always face each other. Similarly, the kamiza is positioned so that a sensei seated there can see the student’s technique clearly.

Compared to a dōjō for close quarter arts like kendō, judō, naginata, etc., a kyūdōjō has a very specific layout that is tailored to how kyūjutsu/kyūdō is practiced. This is important not only for the practice and viewing of shooting itself but also for maintaining safety.

yatori michi 矢取り道

Like Shichitokudō, Ikutokudō is an example of a mixture of traditional architectural forms with Western neo-classical sensibilities and construction methods. Honda-ryū kyūjutsu paved the way for the establishment of standardized kyūdō, which is today a very popular activity in Japan beginning with high school. As Honda Toshizane was a kyūjutsu instructor at Tōkyō Imperial University, Ikutokudō would no doubt have special significance to modern kyūdō practitioners.

1In Japan traditional archery was already considered outdated for large military units a few centuries earlier. The Nanban Period
(南蛮貿易時代) from 1543 to 1614 saw the arrival of European matchlocks and their evolution into Japan’s tanegashima guns. With archery requiring years of training to be able to wield effectively, daimyo quickly learned to arm their forces with firearms and rely less on the bow. In addition, the long period of peace during the Tokugawa Bakufu meant that kyūjutsu was already practiced for reasons other than military necessity long since before modernization.

2The range varies from one style to another. The standard range for the All Nippon Kyūdō Federation is 28m.

Reference Material
Asahi kyūdō glossary

「絵説弓道全」 稲垣源四郎(著)東京書店株式会社 平13月7日10
(Inagaki, Kenshirō. Esetsu Kyūdō Zen. Tokyo Shoten Kabushikigaisha, 2001)

Recommended but not found in time for this post:
「続・弓道三昧―運動機能解剖と射法」松枝利明(著)愛生社 平14
(Matsueda, Toshiaki. Zoku· Kyūdō Zanmai – Undōkinōkaibō to Shahō. Aioisha, 2002)

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