For two years, Miss Eiko Kuwabara has reigned as Japan's national women's kendo champion - topping generation of youth who have revived the ancient art of Japanese fencing.
Eido Kuwabara walking towards camera (2 shots)
Exterior Kokushikan University
CU University sign
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Students clean floor (2 shots)
Men exercise PAN to Miss Kuwabara
CU Miss Kuwabara
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MS Miss Kuwabara
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Men seated PAN to Miss Kuwabara
Miss Kuwabara puts on faceguard
Miss Kuwabara stands up
CU Miss Kuwabara
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MS Miss Kuwabara & partner practise (2 shots)
WS women practise (2 shots)
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Background: For two years, Miss Eiko Kuwabara has reigned as Japan's national women's kendo champion - topping generation of youth who have revived the ancient art of Japanese fencing. Aged 20 and a student at Kokushikan University in Tokyo, Miss Kuwabara has shouldered her kendo sword every day for the past ten years.
The revival in the sport has boosted membership of the university's kendo club to more than 500. Miss Kuwabara is one of the keenest, turning out for practice daily for two and a half hours - at 5.30 in the morning and again in the afternoon.
Kendo primarily is a man's sport but more and more Japanese girls are taking it up for posture improvement. When Eiko Kuwabara first began kendo while at primary school in Japan's southern island of Kyushu, she was the only girl in the local club. Now she's one of thirty women members at the university club.
Kendo translated means "fencing art". It developed rapidly in the 12th century with the rise of the military class and the simultaneous refinement in the art of making swords. Every "samurai" (swordsman) looked on his weapon as the embodiment of his spirit.
With the introduction of modern military weapons, kendo was almost forgotten in Japan. However, in recent years it has been revived both as a gymnastic exercise and an aid to mental discipline.
In Kendo bouts, each contestant wears a face-guard, a plastron to cover the chest and gauntlets to protect the hands and arms. The four-foot long swords are made of bamboo.
In an attack, each competitor arms at the opponent's face (front) or side), the side of the chest or a thrust to the throat. Hit in any of these places, a contestant concedes defeat. A match goes to the winner of the best of three bouts.
In kendo, however, mere skill in hitting an antagonist accurately is not prized so much as are displays of coolness and self-control. And this is what attracted Eiko Kuwabara to the sport.
With two national kendo victories and several minor titles to her credit, Miss Kuwabara is without doubt Japan's top woman exponent of the sport. And with long hours of daily practice, she's confident of retaining her lead.