The kendo year is now in full swing and I have a number of kendo travel commitments already booked. Whilst I am looking forward to them all, I know that each of them will provide the challenge of how not to spend as much on transporting shinai as they cost in the first place.
In Europe I usually get round the sports equipment charge that most Airlines impose by borrowing shinai from my hosts. When I went to Brussels earlier this month I came up with the cunning approach of sending my shinai and bogu in a friend’s car while I took the plane. I am going to Japan next week for the 16WKC Referee Seminar. The plan is to travel with an empty shinai bag and buy some shinai there with the hope of persuading the nice Japanese ground crew that they should bend the rules to further the international development of one of Japan’s key cultural pursuits.
I have whined about this before and readers have come back to me with a number of tips to get around the problem. I have been advised to tape the shinai bag to my suitcase, use a combined ski and clothing case, try a golf or ice hockey bag and a range of other creative approaches to luggage. Frankly I am too old and too small to pretend that I am an itinerant ice-hockey pro. I like the feeling of travelling in my own skin, as a tourist with my bogu inside a normal suitcase and with an added shinai bag.
I met Kumi Sato last year at Copenhagen Airport and she had successfully managed to take her shinai on board as hand luggage on a flight from Stockholm. This was probably helped by the fact that her two shinai were in a brightly coloured polka-dot shinai bag. Readers in the UK will get the picture if I mention Mr Blobby.
The fact that she was allowed to take them on board may have been a part of the drive by European airlines to allow bigger hand luggage to cut baggage handling costs and I am seriously considering exploring this approach. Nevertheless, I have the feeling that Kumi’s more playful shinai bukuro may have stood a better chance of getting on the plane than the usual bag with its austere martial arts kanji. Can anyone lend me a Hello Kitty shinai bag?