Aiki Shrine and Ibaraki Branch Dojo
Channel your spirit to become an aikido master at the very place the martial art was born.
You’re walking alone after dark along a dimly-lit alley when someone accosts you, trying to steal your wallet. Swift and agile, you grab their wrist and throw them to the ground—little does the would-be thief know, you are skilled in the art of aikido. Well, you could be if you trained at the Ibaraki Branch Dojo, anyway.
Aikido focuses on using an opponent’s strength and speed against them while leaving them unharmed. The defensive martial art can be easily practiced by anyone as it requires little physical strength. The dojo, just two hours east of Tokyo in Ibaraki Prefecture, offers extremely foreigner-friendly aikido lessons and intensive live-in training.
Stop by Aiki Shrine on your way to pay your respects to aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba. Ueshiba erected the shrine in 1943 and spent the later years of his life living and training here.
The shrine is rather small, but as this is the birthplace of aikido, it’s a must-visit for any practitioner. It’s the only shrine dedicated to aikido in the world, and also features a statue of the founder.
Ueshiba believed the true spirit of martial arts is to nurture the spirit and live harmoniously with nature—which is why he built the shrine in the quiet farming town of Iwama.
Ibaraki Branch Dojo
Just across the street is the Ibaraki Branch Dojo, where you can level up your aikido skills. Live-in students follow a strict schedule that includes waking up at 5 a.m., cleaning the shrine, and training three times a day.
Dedicated practitioners come from around the world to train here, creating a friendly international atmosphere. Anyone is welcome as long as they register with the Aikikai Foundation and submit an application to the dojo beforehand. Live-in students typically stay for at least one week, and evening classes are open to regular students daily.
While there is a much larger aikido dojo in Tokyo—Hombu Dojo in Shinjuku— training surrounded by trees with Aiki Shrine nearby offers a more tranquil experience in the true spirit of the martial art.