Virtu in Japan
Tetsuro Shimaguchi, known for his samurai choreography and appearance in the Quentin Tarantino movie Kill Bill, is the founder of the sword performance group Kamui, as well as the creator of Kengido, a fusion of martial arts with performing arts that delivers the beauty of the samurai. Samurai are well-known warriors of feudal Japan, who fought for their clans and their country. However, Tetsuro believes samurai were artists more than warriors who followed a strong ethical code. If we define a samurai as an artist, rather than a warrior, what makes a strong samurai? What strength are they are pursuing? According to Tetsuro, the key is shingitai (心技体). Shingitai is a term often used in Japanese martial arts. Shin (心) stands for the mind or heart, gi (技) is skill and tai (体) means body. Combined, shingitai is the balance of the mind, skill and body — and you may notice that mind comes first in this word. Tetsuro is spreading the samurai ’s sense of respect to the next generation and to the world through his workshops. He also arranges photo shoots of people in samurai armor at Sengoku Photo Studio Samurai in Yoyogi, Tokyo. Nanami Chinatsu spoke with Tetsuro Shimaguchi to learn more about the samurai spirit.
TJ: Can you tell us about your mission?
SHIMAGUCHI: Whether I am on the street or on a huge stage, once I have my sword, my duty is to create a scene that allows people to see what a real samurai is. This means I have to show them what the samurai spirit is as well.
TJ: What is the samurai spirit?
SHIMAGUCHI: You may not expect it, but it’s actually about beauty: to instill beauty in everything — space and timing, for example. These are things that you need to feel rather than see, but that’s what is important for the samurai — to see beauty with the mind’s eye, and cherish invisible beauty. Being polite, humble, caring, respectful — that’s the beauty of the samurai, and I assume that’s the beauty of Japan as well. I would say that the samurai spirit is the spirit of Japan.
The complete article can be found in Issue #278 of the Tokyo Journal. Click here to order from Amazon.