Kyoto City Budo Centre
This is not an official website for the Kyoto City Budo Centre...I have put this up for the convenience of English speakers in Kyoto looking for information on training.
The Kyoto City Budo Centre was built by the Japanese government as a comprehensive training centre for the Japanese martial arts in 1987. It is based around the Kyu-butokuden (pictured left), which was built in 1899, and is the oldest martial arts training hall in the country.
Located in the heart of Kyoto's beautiful temple district in the East of the city, the Budo centre still thrives as a practice area for archery, karate, sword practice, Kendo, Naginata-do (the Japanese halberd)...and ping-pong. I don't know so much about the ping-pong part, but those guys do look pretty good. Oh yeah, and Aikido. I suppose I should have mentioned that one first.
Getting to the Budo Centre is easy; if you're in Japan, you probably have a tour book, and if you have a tour book, it certainly mentions the Heian Shrine. If you can find that, then you've found the Budo Centre, which is actually attached to the Western side of the shrine.
The easiest way to get there is to take the Tozai subway line (the East-West line) to Higashiyama station. Exit the station and head East until you reach Jingu-michi (if you look up the street you should be able to see the giant orange gate).
From there, head North toward the shrine itself, and then when you reach the shrine, turn left (I think the street is called Rei-sen, but I think the giant orange shrine should be enough of a landmark for you). There will be a bus parking lot on your right as you walk, and then you should take the first right heading north, just before you cross over a river. As you walk up the street, you should have a river on your left and an old stone wall on your right as you head North toward Marutamachi. When you reach the big gates on your right, voila, you've made it.
Once you're inside the grounds of the Budo Centre, you'll see a modern building on the left, where the front desk and many of the training halls are. On the right you'll see the old training hall, which is shown above. You can get a schedule from the front desk for all of the various activities that are at the Centre, or if you have a Japanese speaking friend you can call them at (075) 751 1255.
The schedule for the Budo Centre is as follows (this is accurate as of November 2003)
There are now actually two separate dojo for Aikido being run within the Budo Centre; one in the evenings and one in the mornings. Though they are both using the same space, they are different dojo and are being run by different teachers. The first dojo listed above is the one that I have been attending since I came to Japan, which is run by my teacher, Nomura Shihan. As an older and more established dojo, it has a lot more students than its newer counterpart, which is run by Yoko Okamoto, Shidoin. As far as I know, Okamoto Sensei's dojo just opened in November of 2003, so class sizes are still quite small.
Major differences are, as I said, numbers; but of course both teachers have their own style. Having trained in both dojo, I can say that I quite enjoy training with both instructors, so if you are trying to choose, drop by both classes for a visit and see for yourself.
An advantage for any foreigners who are planning on doing training - especially if you are a beginner - is that Okamoto Sensei speaks English fluently (she lived in the States for years, where she started the Portland Aikikai). You can visit her homepage here.
Whichever dojo you choose, the people are friendly and the practices are lively. Visitors are always welcome at both places, so if you just want to watch a class and see what it's about, drop by about 10 minutes before class starts and enjoy!
In the case of the evening classes, you can either watch the class, or take a free trial lesson. Single visitor lessons may be taken for only 1000 yen. The monthly fee is about 6000 yen, though you have to pay a 'membership fee' when you first join that is about 5000 yen.
As far as being a foreigner and training there, the dojo is quite foreigner-friendly, though all instruction is in Japanese. It is no problem to start there, even if you are a complete beginner...the people are quite friendly (me included).