Making "Do-dai" Story
京都昇龍堂 / Kyoto Shoryudo
-Please tell me the story about how you came to begin the production of ”胴台” Do-dai.
Kyoto Shoryudo：At the beginning, my father started to make Do about 80 years ago (around 1920〜1930).
There was no typical example of kendo equipment as it was the time when kendo was allowed to restart after the war.
So, I’ve hard that it was a continuous process of trial and error.
-How come you started to make Do-dai?
Kyoto Shoryudo：I started to engage in the production of Do naturally because of the background.
Originally, the production of all kinds of kendo equipment was conducted by a craftsman.
However, the work and processes had been gradually divided and the production of Do is regarded as a professional job at the present time.
Compared to other parts of men and kote, used materials and skills are completely different and the pattern of the arrangements is various.
So I thought I could refine my own technique and skills.
-When did you start getting involved in the production of Do-dai?
Kyoto Shoryudo：Since I was an elementary school student, I helped with my father’s work partly for fun.
I was interested in making something and handicraft by nature, so, I learned the techniques of the production of dou from my father.
Since then, I have been engaging in the production of Do-dai for over 60 years.
My father was making Do-dai to 90 years of age, and I took over his business formally in 1968.
-Please describe the history of Do-dai.
Kyoto Shoryudo：Initially, Do-dai was made simply by forming the shape by bamboo and connecting it by leather straps.
But it was imperfect as a tool for protection, for example, in the case that bamboo was split.
So, the toughness was improved by covering the surface of the assembled bamboo with bull leather.
That is the original form of Do in the present.
However, in this method, leather straps frequently break off when Do was hit as the straps are connected on the surface of Do.
So in the new method, leather straps are connected inside and the surface of Do is lacquered.
Speaking of the material, we use “孟宗竹（Moso Bamboo = Phyllostachys pubescens）”
which is straight and easy to handle rather than other normal bamboo.
The current shape has been made through much trial and error from my father’s generation.
In this way, our dou was completed with additional value which is beautifulness and toughness.
-Then, the products of superior quality began to appear.
Kyoto Shoryudo：Do was able to get distinctive added value among other Kendo tools by adding high-quality decorations on its surface.
The used material was not only beautiful but also never used before, for example, sharkskin, ray leather, high-grade lacquer and gold lacquer.
These are originally the technique used for high-grade lacquer wares that were offered to military authority as a tribute.
(Originally the strips were on the surface of Do-dai)
-Is there any change from the past?
Kyoto Shoryudo：The physical constitution of Japanese became larger than in the past, probably because of the change of diet.
The standard wide of Do was about 83.6cm in the past. But recently it is 87.4cm.
Of course, we do make various sizes of Do as it fits to each user.
In addition to that, the quality of bamboo had changed.
Recently bamboo became tenderer than those in the past, as well as shinai.
Through growing in a cold environment, the fibers densely shrink and the density of bamboo become high.
I think such good bamboos have decreased because of the influence of global warming.
As the result, the material with good quality became unobtainable than before.
-Please tell me the production process roughly.
Kyoto Shoryudo：I cannot tell in the detail but the outline is as following.
General Do-dai Making process:
1. Peel the epidermis of a round bamboo and cut it to make all of uniform length.
2. Divide into small pieces with a fixed horizontal width and pass them through the machine to make all of vertical width and thickness.
3. Hold the pieces of bamboo over the fire to make them tender and fit them to molds. (primary molding)
4. Remove from the mold and dry them sufficiently.
5. Make a hole to pass a strap and fix the shape by curving the both sides of bamboo. (secondary molding)
These processes before assembling take about 3 weeks.
6. Assemble bamboos with strings.
7. Cover the surface of the assembled bamboo with bull leather and dry them.
8. Cut to make the shape of Do-dai.
9. Polish up the surface.
10. Keep the shape by a prop in order to prevent breakage due to the power of leather and bamboo returning to the original shape.
-Please tell me your ‘particular thing’ in the production of Do-dai.
Kyoto Shoryudo：I am pursuing the “beauty” in my own way.
As the word of “beautility” shows, I think the product made corresponding to the use have special beauty.
Though, I have to handle natural materials, so it is infrequent when I can completely satisfy with my work.
It is very rare but I feel great joy when I could make a satisfactory product.
The difference is subtle, but I am pursuing it and trying to improve techniques every day.
Do is protective equipment and the greatest purpose is to protect a body.
I’m making products with the responsibility on that point.
As well as to protect the body, originally, the role of dou is to enable to keep a stable center of gravity even in a vigorous movement.
I heard that there is recently much need for lightweight equipment under the name of “for the game” ,
But I think kendo equipment could have the beauty by having the original purpose.
As a craftsman, I have a view “Lightweight things is never strong, the toughness enables the beauty”.
I am engaging in the production of Do-dai, pursuing the “beauty” that integrates these.
(Recently producing lacquered works)
-Please tell me about your struggles at work so far.
Kyoto Shoryudo：The production of Do-dai includes various processes from processing bamboo to lacquering.
The physical burden is large on that point, and the production became no easy task for my age.
I was working sitting cross-legged on the floor before, but currently I work on a table.
I had surgeries on my shoulder and backache a few years ago. So, I’m keeping working within my comfort zone.
-Finally, tell me your goal from now on.
Kyoto Shoryudo：I would like to continue preserving added value of kendo equipment.
As a producer, I am aiming to make the products as the users can feel “body –friendly and easy to use”.
I think it is miracle in a sense that the production of Do-dai has been continuing in this dynamically changing time.
I believe it means that kendo equipment has “changeless value”.
I hope I could play a part of preserving it, and it would make me happy if I could produce even one Do-dai with sincere satisfaction someday.