“This is Japan” is a weekly blog post where I talk a little about my life here.

It’s a place where I can share some of the strange, funny, or thought-provoking stories from my week. You can learn a little about what it is like to live in Japan and some of the weird and wonderful things here.

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The other day, my husband mentioned that Japan was currently being condemned for introducing a particular martial art into the junior high school curriculum. The martial art in question is jukendo, “the way of the bayonet.”

I was not aware that bayonet was considered a martial art. Nor that is was currently sparking controversy.

Naturally, I did some quick googling.

On one side of the argument, people argue that children should have better access to “traditional” Japanese culture. Others argue that jukendo is inappropriate, since it is essentially “a killing art” and could reignite Japanese militarism.

Whenever my husband and I discuss something like this about Japan, I am usually the one who is more critical. I’m the one who is more likely to side with the view that is condemning Japan. In this instance, I find it a bit tasteless to bring back war-time training practices. My husband doesn’t think it’s a big deal.

Since, I practice Taekwondo, this led us to a discussion of other martial arts.

Sure, it might be possible to kill someone using Taekwondo, but I don’t consider it a killing art. We don’t learn killing techniques. We learn discipline, respect, yes some attacks, defence, courage, etc. etc.

I don’t think karate is essentially a killing art (although it uses nunchucks and sais). And judo and aikido are types of wrestling, I guess. I’m undecided on kendo and kyudo at this point. Kendo is based on samurai sword fighting, and kyudo is archery. Kyudo is probably the most dangerous because it uses actual arrows. It might just be the case that these are already normalized in Japan.

I also don’t think introducing jukendo is a good idea because (please excuse me, I am going to generalize and possibly offend) Japanese people are already trained to be soldiers. From childhood they are taught to unquestionably obey orders. To respect and worship authority even to the point of death, take commands, and turn off their own critical thinking abilities.

What they are missing is the skill to kill.

Currently, Japan officially “doesn’t have an army.” (Although they actually do, it’s just called the Self-Defence Force.) Thus, teaching children how to use a bayonet would add the killing skill to an already soldier-like mindset.

Understandably, neighbouring countries may see this is as a step backward toward Imperial Japan’s frightening military past. In that sense, I can understand the reason for criticism.

Anyway, what are your thoughts on this issue?

Do you think Japanese children deserve to learn “the way of the bayonet,” or do you think it is inappropriate? Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

Author

After Teaching English in Korea and Japan for three years, Jennifer came to the profound realization that teaching was not the career for her. So, she went back to school. After brushing up on her Japanese for one year, she completed a Master's Degree in International Development at a university in Japan. She is currently working on her PhD. This blog was born as a way for her to write about her adventures in Japan and around the world.

15 Comments

  1. Inappropriate. Our world has enough violence already, bringing back such skills and teaching them is just not acceptable. Perhaps our being North Americans plays a role in a decision like this but it’s simply not good to teach ways to fight. Teach the path to peace.

    • It does seem a little tasteless to reintroduce a killing skill, albeit under the guise of “tradition.” Maybe it is easy for us as North Americans to say that though, since we can’t truly grasp the tension between these countries that persists to this day. There is still a lot of bitterness on all sides.

  2. Hmmm. I don’t know enough about the Japanese way of life to have an opinion. Historically and traditionally i think it fits. Would i like my 14yr old run around with a bayonette? Probably no!! I could imagine it educates youngsters though and keep them connected to their traditions – that part i like

    • But I wonder whether this is a piece of culture that children should be connected to and actively relearning. Since this is Japan, I doubt they will learn that bayonetting was used during the war. Those types of things are hardly mentioned as a footnote in schools. And not all parts of culture are praiseworthy. I think most countries have something in their past that they are ashamed of. Besides culture is always changing, so how can we truly qualify something as “traditional.”

  3. I also think peace is the best way! Cleaner and less blood shed. Kendo means the way of the sword. It was banned for a short period after world war II but revived when Japanese people restructured the training methods to be more like sports instead of martial arts. Traditionally, Kendo was practiced by samurai. Now, we use shinai (made of bamboo) and boken (made of wood). There are only 4 spots to hit to gain points. If you’re a fan of Star Wars, light sabers belonging to imperial forces were in red color while those belonging to resistance emitted blue color. Just like any weapon, the outcome very much depends on the person who uses the weapon either for good or evil cause.

    • You probably already know that WTF is also the restructured form of Taekwondo, to make it more like a sport. I wonder if jukendo will also be restructured then. I am a fan of Star Wars, and I know that the light saber fighting is based on Japanese sword fighting, among other elements of the franchise. However, in bayonetting, if the goal is to stay alive by killing your opponent, how can one side definitively be labelled good or evil? Each side is justified in their action in their own way.

      • I look at it in a more simplified context. If another country decides to invade Japan then being prepared is a good cause. But if Japan learns bayonetting as means to invade another country then it is an evil cause. The same reason I learn Taekwondo and other self-defenses are not so that I can bully others. But because there were many incidences of burglaries, snatch thieving, pickpocketing and raping in my country that sometimes led to deadly consequences.

  4. I see it a sign of the times. We are living in a regressive age, or to be more blunt, a mini Dark Age, where ignorance is often embraced, fundamentalism is on the rise (and with it the ugly side of Nationalism), and where science and caution are scorned. A time when those who are brash and lead with bravado are favoured over the rational and reflective. Inequality continues to grow, and the resentment and hostility engendered by it is misdirected to easy targets of distraction by those that continue to benefit from those inequities. The Cult of Celebrity is at a crescendo globally, and being famous is now akin to possessing Divine Right in all things. Shiny debutants and pop-stars seem to hold more sway in minds of the masses then dedicated scholars. In North America the anti-vaxer movement was embraced by college educated men and women that were more inclined to take medical advice from a former Playboy Bunny and a stand-up comedian turned “Deuce Bigalow Male Gigolo”, and not the more than 200 years of legitimate medical/scientific research and success. Around the globe demagogues and dictators are rising and falling, and leaving chaos in there wake. So what do I think about Japanese children learning bayonet skills? I think it’s a normal contemporary response to Chinese expansionism and N. Korean aggression. If it embraces some of the qualities you mentioned about other martial arts, it may lead to increased resiliency in a generation of children and in turn may help reduce other social ills. Perhaps it will reduce the suicide rate in the next generation of 20 to 40 year olds…

    • Thanks for the mini essay. You’re probably right about a lot these things. I think Japan very much wants peace. It is one of the big things about the Constitution that people hold on to and are proud of. But the relationship with its neighbours hardly seems to be improving, and it’s doubtful whether Japan can truly rely on the US Military in the event of some sort of attack. So yeah, I think a lot of people do want to be able to defend themselves. I don’t really think Japan would every become so nationalistic as it was during the war, but at the same time, I can understand the fear of countries who experienced Imperial Japan.

  5. …or it will create a generation of stabby, bayonet wielding mass-murderers! Sadly it might just be a coin-toss either way.

  6. Should Japan not have some kind of back-up with the kind of neighbours it has – like China and North Korea? Even though if it is at a basic level. It is a good life skill to have, don’t you think?

    • Japan already has a Self-Defence Force, which is strong. There is also an agreement with the United States that the US will back them up if something happens. It’s written into the Constitution, but many people argue that it is outdated and whether the US can actually be depended on. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a country without the same kind of hostility between other countries, but I find it hard to argue that knowing how to use a bayonet is a necessary life skill.

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