Working Lives Kyoto
- 2 March 2012
- From the section World Radio and TV
Yoko Okamoto did not take up aikido until she was 22, but she has risen to be a 6th dan master and one of the most respected martial arts instructors in Japan.
She established her own dojo (martial arts school) three years ago, converting an old tapestry factory into a place to teach her students. Some of them are foreigners who come to Kyoto especially to study aikido for months at a time.
Before returning to Japan to build what she describes as a community of aikido, Ms Okamoto lived in Portland, Oregon for 14 years.
The job involves early starts. She gets up at 5am and likes to begin by sitting and meditating before leading several classes a day. Sunday is her day off.
As a female instructor Yoko Okamoto is unusual, but she says she does not think about it much. She does not differentiate between her male and female students; she says each individual has their own strengths and weaknesses.
She has two grown up sons and lives with her husband in a newly built house 10 minutes' walk from work. He practices aikido too - they met at a dojo in Tokyo.