The clackety clack of wooden swords breaks a mid-summer night’s quiet. Students face off as the Kendo instructor patiently guides them in the ancient Japanese martial art. At this Japanese-era Bukotan, the past is as alive as the present in a place where the ancient skills are still taught as routine.
Built in 1937, the bukotan was once used to train Japanese prison officers in Kendo and Judo. However, time was not kind, and of the eight training halls throughout Taiwan, this was the only one to survive. In 2004, the Natural Way Foundation rescued the remaining hall, and in 2011 were granted permission to run the site.
The Six Ancient Arts
During the Chinese Zhou Dynasty (771 BC to 476 BC), the six ancient arts of rites, music, archery, charioteering, calligraphy, and mathematics were key to educating aristocratic children. Confucious also regarded them as essential to his disciples’ development. While the center teaches many of these today, they do so with a modern twist. At the center, visitors can learn Kendo, Judo, archery, calligraphy, tea making, the guqin (ancient Chinese lyre) and the game of Go. Course prices are reasonable and frequently available.
The cultural center consists of several sections. The main training hall or bukotan faces the road with a ‘training and practice arena’ and accompanying cafe behind.
A Rare Find
Far from being just another reconditioned colonial building, the Natural Way Six Arts Cultural Center has much to offer. Striking restoration work throughout offers terrific photo opportunities for budding photographers. For those simply interested in touring the site, an exhibition area beside the training hall educates visitors about the six arts. In addition, a well-stocked cafe exists to just sit, check email or catch up on one’s reading. Several shady trees throughout make exploring here an enjoyable experience even in the heat of summer.
On the whole, a rare gem in a jumble of cultural restorations across the island whose focus on preserving tradition makes it a true treasure. Entry is free throughout the year.