The Okinawa Karate Kaikan, a unique new facility intended to preserve and promote Okinawan karate around the world, held its grand opening this week near Okinawa’s capital Naha.
Okinawa, the chain of sub-tropical islands to the south of Japan, is famed as the ancient home of karate, so the Okinawa Karate Kaikan has been built as a base from which to preserve, pass on and develop Okinawan karate both within Japan and abroad.
The only specialized public facility of its kind throughout the country, the Karate Kaikan consists of three main buildings:
- the Karate Dojo, housing four competition courts with seating for 380 spectators, training and seminar rooms,
- the Karate Archives, an exhibition hall containing an entertaining “paid reference room” with interactive displays on karate, a shop selling karate-related goods, and food and drinks area, and
- the Shurei Hall, a special dojo crowned with a red tiled roof symbolizing Okinawan tradition, for use on special occasions such as high-ranking black belt promotion tests and public performances.
The new facility aims to allow as many people as possible to experience the world of Okinawan karate, regardless of their prior karate experience. The founders hope that it will attract karate practitioners from around the world to gather in Okinawa, the birthplace of karate, and share their knowledge and expertise, as well as provide the opportunity for those new to the martial art to try it out in welcoming and authentic surroundings.
Several national and international events are already planned for the new facility, including international seminars on Okinawan karate in August 2017 and 2018 - an excellent opportunity to learn about the essence of karate direct from Okinawa’s resident masters - and an international conference on Okinawan karate in August 2018. The New Zealand karate team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is also considering holding practice sessions there as part of an intensive training camp in Okinawa.
The Karate Kaikan is located in Tomigusuku City, on hills connected to the ruins of Tomigusuku Castle, with panoramic views of Okinawa’s capital Naha. Just 10-15 minutes’ drive south of Naha and with easy access to Naha Airport, it is of equal interest to anyone who already practices karate, or those keen to learn more about the martial art ahead of the Olympic Games in 2020.
Budding black belts and other visitors to the Karate Kaikan can combine their training or visit with a visit to some of Naha’s key tourist sights:
- Shuri Castle, the reconstructed former palace of the Ryukyu Kingdom
- Tamaudun Mausoleum, burial chambers of the royal family of the Ryukyu Kingdom
- Kokusai Dori Street, Naha’s lively and bohemian main drag, lined with cafes, souvenir shops and restaurants
- Tsuboya pottery district, a centre for Okinawan pottery since the era of the Ryukyu Kingdom
- Shikinaen Garden, unusual tropical Japanese-Okinawan landscape garden
Find out more about the new Karate Kaikan’s facilities here: http://karatekaikan.jp/en/
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