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Relieve stress by smashing tiles, play fighting

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Hiroki Ishikawa splits a stack of 15 kawara roof tiles in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo.

By Sae Ikemoto / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterStress can build up in our daily lives without our realizing it, and we often need to seek relief. Being one of those people myself, I recently tried out some unorthodox approaches to stress-busting.

The first place I visited was Kawarawari Dojo (Training facility for kawara roof-tile breaking), a service offered at the Ishikawa Shoten shop in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, which specializes in roofing work.

Standing in front of a stack of 10 tiles, I lifted my right arm and forcibly brought my fist down in the center of the top one. The stack of kawara crumbled to the floor. The impact left a dull pain in my fist but made me feel refreshed.

Established in 1951, Ishikawa Shoten started to offer the service in 2012. Hiroki Ishikawa, the shop’s third-generation owner, came up with the idea of providing people an opportunity to come into contact with kawara because traditional roofing is no longer commonly used in ordinary houses. However, Ishikawa, 37, realized many customers were using the service to blow off stress.

So far, about 700 customers have visited his shop to break tiles, according to Ishikawa.

The roof tiles used for the service are called “noshigawara,” and are normally placed in layers on rooftops. About 1.5 centimeters thick and weighing 2 kilograms each, the tiles usually have a cut about 2 to 3 millimeters deep running the length of their center. They are cut in half by a hammer-like tool before being placed on roofs.

The tiles used for the Kawarawari Dojo service are the same quality as those for roofing work, but the cut down the center is one centimeter deeper than usual. Ishikawa thought the deeper cut would make it easier for people to enjoy breaking the tiles with their fists as a stress buster. If customers perfectly split the tiles into two, his shop uses the pieces for its roofing work.

A 41-year-old self-employed woman from Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, tried to break a set of five tiles. “At home, I can’t vent my frustration on objects,” she said, “but I can here. It feels great.”

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer Sae Ikemoto, right, gets instruction on how to throw a star-shaped weapon in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    A woman practices fighting with a fake sword.

Some customers even smash tiles with their forehead, Ishikawa said.

I next visited Ninja Trick House in Tokyo, a facility in the Kabukicho district of Shinjuku Ward with traditional Japanese features such as objects similar to the torii gates at shrines and traps that can be found in ninja houses.

Visitors can enjoy exploring the facility while feeling like a real ninja. Throwing shuriken, star-shaped weapons, is the most popular attraction, and the sound of the iron stars hitting their polystyrene targets can easily be heard.

Tomoyuki Yumoto, the president of the company that runs the trick house, used to work as a salesman, but he quit his job because of stress. He opened the facility in July, hoping to make it a place for others who feel stressed.

Foreigners initially accounted for 60 percent of all visitors, probably because of its location in central Tokyo, but the facility is now being frequented not only by businesspeople on their way home from work, but also by families on weekends. It is also used as a popular dating spot for couples.

“Some people scream their bosses’ names as they throw shuriken,” said Yumoto, 42.

I didn’t call anyone’s name but just focused on throwing the stars. My second try hit the target.

“You have good ability,” Yumoto said, and that made me feel good.

Finally, I came up with the idea of acting like a samurai and headed for a sword-fighting lesson in the same ward.

Welcomed by smart-looking women in hakama skirts, I was given a fake sword to learn basic footwork and postures before “fighting.”

When the upbeat background music started, I followed instructions and brandished the sword. The women playing the people I “attacked” groaned and fell to the floor while special-effect slashing sounds were being played. Of course, the sword didn’t actually touch the performers, but I felt like I was playing the role of a heroine in a samurai drama who defeated enemies as they ambushed me.

The lesson was held by Guy’s Entertainment in Fuchu, Tokyo, a training school for actors playing action roles. It started sword-fighting lessons for non-acting women in 2008, and more than 1,000 have attended the lessons so far. Eighteen people took part in the lesson on the day I visited, a group that included company employees, homemakers and students, some of whom wore full makeup with colorful yukata summer kimono and hakama.

Instructor Utako Takano, 50, used to work as a stuntwoman. She was under heavy pressure while trying to balance child-rearing and nursing care, but she was able to relieve her stress by resuming her sword-fighting practice.

“It [sword-fighting practice] can help your posture, and also help you switch gears,” she said.

I found actions that require quick, forceful motions — such as throwing ninja weapons and wielding a sword — can help to shift emotional gears much better than I expected. Anyone can do this even without being good at sports. Why not try some of these ways to relieve frustration before it erupts?Speech

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