A Brief History of Kendo in Hawaii

The first government-contract immigrants to Hawai’i from Japan arrived in 1868, the first year of Meiji Era right after the end of Tokugawa Shogun's reign. They brought with them the art of Kendo and Sumo to the islands. The Kendoists at the time were actual Samurai or students of Samurai teachers, so their technique was more of thrusting and cutting with a real Japanese sword, Katana. On February 11, 1885, the immigrants were reported to have demonstrated these arts for King David Kalakaua. A year after the Sino-Japanese War in 1895, a Kendo Taikai was reported to be held on O’ahu.

Mr. Hanzaemon Furuyama came to Hawai'i in 1915 as an official Kendo teacher for the immigrants. Kendo became part of the requisite grade school curriculum in Japan in 1911 to help children develop physically and morally. In Hawai’i, early in the twentieth century, legendary teachers like Mr. Yonematsu Sugiura and Mr. Shoji Mikami united the Kendoists into Hawai’i Kobu Kai. Mr. Sasaburo Takano, who is considered a father of modern Kendo, visited Hawaii during this period. By 1940, when the Hawai’i branch of Dai Nippon Butoku Kai (the organization of Kendoists in Japan) opened, Kendo was taught at the many Japanese schools and Dojo throughout the State. There were some 3,500 participants at a Taikai of that time.

Kendo was banned in Hawai’i in1941 at the onset of World War II, but Mikami Dojo re-opened in Kapahulu soon after the war in September of 1945. Many of today's senior Sensei remember the rigorous Keiko at this small Dojo on Martha Street. The Hawai’i Budo Kyokai was established in 1947 (first president, Mr. Shinichi Sugitaya), five years ahead of the All Japan Kendo Federation (AJKF). It was renamed Hawai'i Kendo Federation (HKF) in 1955 with Mr. Ietoshi Takahashi as its first President, then became an affiliate of AJKF in 1959. Mr. Choichi Furuyama, Mr. Shigeo Yoshinaga, Mr. Akeji Kozaki, Mr. Takao Hedani, Dr. Noboru Akagi, Mr. Iwao Sato, Mr. Arnold Fukutomi, Mr. Terushi Ueno and Ms. Kathleen Nekomoto are past Presidents of HKF. 

Mr. Masayuki Furutani now serves as the President with over 300 registered members practicing Kendo and Iaido at various Dojo on the islands of O’ahu, Hawai’i, Kaua’i and Maui

The International Kendo Federation (IKF) was organized in 1970. HKF became independent of AJKF in 1972, then became an affiliate organization of IKF in 1988. Every three years since 1970, the World Kendo Championships are held where Kendoists from all over the world gather to demonstrate their skills. The Hawai’i team had been awarded third place in 1973 (San Francisco) and again in 1979 (Sapporo).

We had the good fortune to have many prominent teachers from Japan visit us. Some of the famous high ranking teachers include Mr. Yoji Oasa (Hanshi 10th Dan), Mr. Takashi Ozawa (Hanshi 9th Dan), Mr. Kiyoshi Horiuchi (Hanshi 9th Dan), Mr. Tsukasa Kojima (Hanshi 9th Dan), Mr. Yasoji Nakano (Hanshi 9th Dan), Mr. Saburo Abe (Hanshi 9th Dan), Mr. Kiyoshi Nakakura (Hanshi 9th Dan), Mr. Suekichi Nagashima (Hanshi 9th Dan), Mr. Kazuo Ohya, Mr. Kakuji Ichikawa, and Mr. Toshio Watanabe. Mr. Hiroshi Onuma and Mr. Takeshi Nakamura stopped here on their way back to Japan from the Second World Kendo Championships in 1973. More recently, Mr. Saburo Imai (Ibaraki), Mr. Haruo Nozawa (Saitama), Mr. Taizan Shimano (Osaka), Mr. Hikoto Aoki (Oita), Mr. Shiro Konishi (Tokyo), Mr. Masashi Chiba (Tokyo), Mr. Takeshi Kudou (Tokyo), Mr. Kotaro Oshima (Tokyo) and others have given us valuable advises and Keiko. Mr. Tadashi Fujita (Iaido Hanshi 8th Dan, Tokyo) brought a group of teachers in April of 1998 to conduct the first Iaido Dan Examination here.

Mr. Shintaro Onuma (Tokyo), Mr. Kazuo Kato (Yamanashi), Mr. Kichibei Tsuchida (Hiroshima), and Mr. Kazuyoshi Inoue (Fukuoka) are some of the regular visitors to Hawai’i.


Much of the information in this narrative came from Dr. Patrick Lineberger's account of "The Arrival of Kendo to Hawaii" which appeared in the HKF 40th Anniversary Program (August 27, 1995). Other information were obtained from Dr. Jinichi Tokeshi's "Aiea Taiheiji Kendo Manual" (1995), an article in Kendo Nippon (Ski Journal, February, 1981, p.140), and through personal communications with senior Sensei. (Updated June 2005: DYT)