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A Variety of Martial Arts and Culture Exhibited at Japanese Culture Center

• The Japanese Culture Center in Belmont, Chicago, held an Open House on September 12. The two-story building was crowded with visitors, and martial-art demonstrations were performed on the first floor.
• The demonstrations were Shotokan Karate by Japan Karate Association Chicago, Shuriken Throwing by Meifu Shinkage Ryu, Swordsmanship by Mugai Ryu Iaido, Shorinji Kempo, Bujinkan Taijitsu, Shuri Ryu Karate, Grupo Capoeira Brasil, and Aikido by Aikido Association of America and DePaul Aikido Club.

• On the second floor, tea ceremony by Urasenke Chicago, shodo calligraphy by Seiran Chiba, flower arrangement by Ikenobo Ikebana, and taiko drumming by Tsukasa taiko were performed.
• There were also exhibits on the second floor. Anime goods by Animespice Store, JET program by the Consulate General of Japan, health oriented food by my fit Foods, and Mugai-Ryu Iai Hyodo were introduced.

• The Japanese Culture Center

• According to Stephen Toyoda, his father, Fumio Toyoda, founded the Japanese Culture Center in 1978 to share the beauty of Japanese culture with the people of the U.S.
• Founder Fumio Toyoda was Aikido Shihan (teacher of teachers). He was a student of the martial arts since childhood and held a 6th degree black belt (rokudan). He was the youngest person to achieve that rank, and the record still stands to today.

• Toyoda Shihan was also founder of the Aikido Association of America, Aikido Association International, and Aikido International Foundation. His martial art training was supplemented by years of study in Zen, massage and therapeutic breathing.

• Toyoda Shihan was named as a dharma successor to Tanouye Roshi from Chozen-ji. His Zen name was Tenzan Gensei Rokoji (Zen master).

• Although he obtained a law degree from Senshu University in Tokyo, he elected to make martial arts instruction his life’s work.
• After arriving in Chicago in 1976, he envisioned a facility where various disciplines devoted to “the way” might be united under one roof. Thus, the Japanese Culture Center was established.

• Toyoda Shihan suddenly passed away on July 4th, 2011 at the age of 53, but his legacy has been continued by his family and the members of the Center.
• Toyoda Shihan’s full story is available at

• Brief Interviews

• Ilaine Mack was volunteering as a Japanese/English translator at the Open House.
• While he enrolled in a college in Michigan, he was interested in studying abroad and chose an exchange program with Japan. After studying Japanese for one and a half years, he went to Waseda University in Tokyo for one year. During a winter break, he went to Hakuba resort and worked in a ryokan (inn) where everyone spoke only Japanese. He said that his Japanese skills were greatly improved in that period.
• His host family in Tokyo was practicing aikido, so he started to practice it in Chicago after he found the Japan Culture Center. He said that he never thought that the practice was a hardship.
• After watched tea ceremony demonstrated by Francis Omar, Mack said that he would like to study the chanoyu.

• At Mugai-Ryu Iai Hyodo’s exhibit table, a woman, who has been studying iaido since 2003 and holds a 4th degree black belt (yondan), explained about iaido. According to her, iaido would be the best for teaching swordsmanship that sharpens the awareness through practice. Awareness means what is going on around you, and recognizing your body position, your eyes, timing, distance, and all other things.
• More information is available at

• The Japanese Culture Center offers a wide range of classes including martial arts, Japanese language, zen meditation, and a variety of Japanese culture at 1016 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago.
• More information is available at or 773-525-3141.