Karate tourism to Okinawa booms ahead of Tokyo Olympics
Karate is one of the sports that have been added
to the Olympics, and will appear for the first time in the Tokyo Games
next year. Its popularity has surged following the inclusion,
and an increasing number of karate fans all over the world are visiting
Okinawa to learn the martial art in its birth place.
There are said to be about 130 million karate practitioners worldwide.
A group from Switzerland visited Okinawa in southwestern
Japan on a package tour for a 10-day course in mid-April.
The tour was organized by Soraya Valleret,
who teaches karate with her husband to 300 students
at three schools they own in Switzerland.
She always wanted to learn the original form of
karate in its birth place.
More than 60 students, both male and female,
ranging from novices to dan holders, expressed
interest in the tour, a first for their schools.
Its objective was to master techniques in the birth
place of karate and to learn about things
they can't learn in their home country, including its
history and people's views on it.
Karate was born about 500 years ago as a form of
self-defense for the warrior class of the Ryukyu Kingdom.
As Japan modernized itself at the end of the 19th century,
karate spread across the country and then was introduced abroad.
An increasing number of foreigners are visiting Okinawa
over the past few years following the inclusion of the sport
in the Tokyo Olympics.
The Swiss tour participants practiced for 3 hours,
from 9 AM to noon daily for 10 days at the Okinawa Karate Kaikan,
which opened in 2017. Their instructor was 63-year-old
Yusuke Onaga, a 7th-dan holder who's practiced karate
for over 50 years. Onaga is a karate legend in Okinawa.
He won in the heaviest weight category in a National
Athletic Meet in his thirties and has instructed several hundred people.
He has also travelled abroad to teach foreigners,
but has never taught a group of so many practitioners
of different levels.