Samurai dance teacher moves online as Tokyo Olympics bans foreign spectators

The founder of Bugaku and Samurai martial arts instructor Koshiro Minamoto holds a tablet as he shows his students a Samurai armor during an online class for Samurai experience in Tokyo, Japan, April 1, 2021. Picture taken on April 1, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

TOKYO (Reuters) - There was a time when Koshiro Minamoto had hoped to welcome foreign tourists during the Olympics by introducing them to the arts of the samurai from a classroom in central Tokyo.

But when the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee decided last year that the Games would be postponed, and then last month that they would be held without overseas spectators, he was forced to scrap his plans.

Minamoto, who has studied martial arts for 35 years, is known for his invention of Bugaku, or "warrior dance", a unique type of performance art that combines the styles of samurai sword play with the song and dance of classical Japanese drama.

He has been teaching Bugaku to foreign tourists for the past 10 years, also introducing students to aspects of samurai lifestyle, such as the armour they used to wear.

Minamoto had hoped his business would thrive during the Tokyo Olympics. He spent around $45,000 (5 million yen) on equipment and renovations of his school in 2019, preparing for the flood of foreigners.

Although his hopes of hosting overseas visitors have faded, however, Minamoto has found a new way to reach his students globally - online classes.

Holding a samurai sword "katana" in his right hand and an iPad in the left, Minamoto is now showing students the arts of the samurai on Zoom calls.

Minamoto charges $85 (9,450 yen) per student for in-person classes and $18 (2,000 yen) for the online version. Most of his online students are from Europe and the United States.

But the experience is not quite the same.

"If I were teaching in-person classes, I can directly correct the body posture or teach them more poses and techniques, but I think it's hard to do so through an online class," Minamoto said.

(Reporting by Irene Wang; editing by Ed Osmond)

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