* “J-WOTD” = “Japanese Word of the Day”
If you enjoyed the movie Babel / バベルの塔 (official English language site) as much as I did then I’m sure the first thing you did when you got home was to do a Google Search to find out who that unknown girl was playing the role of Chieko. While I’d heard of (and recognized) Yakusho Koji (役所広司), I hadn’t heard of Kikuchi Rinko (菊池凛子)before (official English language site).
Following the hype surrounding her Academy Award nomination, I had read a little about her in the press. It turns out that she is more than just a good actor, she is also a very fast learner. Apparently it only took her 9 months to learn sign-language in order to play the role of Chieko, a deaf Japanese high-school girl. (No comments on why a 26 year old is playing the role of a high-school girl please.) Low and behold, the hobby page she has one her official site mentions this but today I’m writing about another of her hobbies, Iai. While I’m sure that most Weeaboo’s probably are already on top of Iai, it was a new word for me, despite my many (unathletic) years in Japan. Thanks to my good friend, Blue, who enlightened me to the wonders of it. (As you might have noticed, it wasn’t even registered on the almighty alc online dictionary).
Context on her page (although I admit that it is not that helpful):
Iai (居合い), is one of the very many martial arts in Japan. Put in lay terms, it is like Kendo but with a sword. In fact, it seems to place a great emphasis on sword use and the art of removing it swiftly from your sheath (鞘、さや）. As they say, a picture tells a thousand words so please take a quick look at the below video that I found on Youtube. It does the best job of illustrating the art.
The thing that struck me as the strangest about Iai is that it apparently claims to be an art that it claims to heighten your character (「修練の過程を通して、人格を高めることも目的とします」 [source]) . If any stippy.com readers out there can enlighten me as to how this could be possible while slicing people’s arms of with a Japanese sword (真剣） then please leave a comment below!
Oh, if you are more athletic than me and spent a few years practicing Iai while you were in high school then feel free to test out your knowledge at Iai University (Japanese language website).