As I may have mentioned in previous posts, like many kendoka, I am a member of the Kendo Professionals group on Linkedin. I recently started a thread about kendo travel and received an interesting question from Emilio Blas of Milwaukee about the best way of transporting kendo equipment. In these days of Airline cuts it is not an easy task and I posted the following answer:
“It depends on how generous the airline is with baggage allowance. I normally take a big suitcase and pack my bogu and a lightweight nylon bogu bag inside to cut down on pieces of luggage to carry. There is also less chance of breaking or cracking your dou if it’s padded out with other items. It helps if you take a lightweight keikogi and also try to ensure you dry it after keiko as it weighs more wet. I have given up on taking shinai on most kendo trips, as European Airlines charge the price of a shinai to carry sports equipment. I either ask in advance to borrow shinai from my hosts, or as per my last trip to Japan, buy them there and have them posted home. If you are planning to do lots of kendo on a trip, it gets more difficult. I came back from Japan with my baggage allowance in a suitcase, plus two hakama and keikogi in hand luggage weighing 12 kilos. I have checked the cost of sending my bogu by post, but it does not seem to be particularly cost effective to do this internationally, although I normally send luggage ahead if travelling within Japan. I envy swimmers who can get away with packing a 4 ounce pair of Speedos.”
Just thinking it through, when baggage allowances can be as low as 20kg and a full set of kendo equipment can weigh 15kg, this severely limits the amount of clothing you can take, so if you are on a business trip of several weeks and you need suits and spare shoes etc. you have an inherent problem. One of my pet hates is packing for a trip that involves both keiko and refereeing or sitting on a grading panel. As well as bogu and shinai ,you need the standard blazer uniform and, if you do not want to go out looking like a penguin in the evening, a change or two of casual clothes.
Gone are the days when you could pack men as hand luggage. The x-ray machine will now identify mengane, and any diligent security person will suspect that you are smuggling weapons or worse. So what to do? Friends who travel regularly to the same locations have taken to keeping spare sets of bogu and shinai to use on each visit, but for the random kendo traveler, it is a matter of taking lightweight equipment, borrowing shinai and trying to get as many wears as possible from the least amount of clothes.