Kendo has a long history in Tacoma, with some the earliest reminisces by kendo practitioners dating back to the early 1930’s. Tacoma Kendo & Iaido Club formally laid its roots in 1967 when the Tacoma Buddhist Temple sponsored the first kendo kai. Rod Omoto Sensei serviced as its first head instructor, assisted by Mas Tanabe and Yosh Tanabe.
Tacoma Kendo Club held its first tournament in 1970. The Kendo Club separated from Tacoma Buddhist Temple in 1987 to become the Tacoma Kendo and Iaido Club.Today, the Tacoma Kendo and Iaido Club has around 30 members active in kendo and another 10 in iaido.
The Tacoma Kendo & Iaido Club is a member of the All US Kendo Federation and the Pacific NW Kendo Federation. The club regularly competes in taikai throughout the Pacific Northwest. Moki Yoshikawa is the Head Sensei of TKIC and Rod Omoto is Senior Advisor. Read an article from Furyu.com about Omoto Sensei.
Rod Nobuto Omoto passed away on June 1, 2013. He was born on September 9, 1918 in Wahiawa, Hawaii to Shinichi and Tameno Omoto, second of seven children. He began to learn kendo at the age of 14 and achieved the rank of 2 dan by the time he graduated from Leilehua High School in 1938. He was sent to learn kendo at Budo Senmon Gakko, known as Busen, the premier martial arts college in Kyoto, Japan and lived at the home of 10 dan Ogawa sensei. However, his preparation was not sufficient for him to be admitted to Busen so he attended Japanese high school for 2 years before being admitted to Busen. He learned more than kendo at Busen including modern and classic Japanese and calligraphy.
Before his graduation from Busen, he was drafted into the Japanese military in 1942. His training at Busen helped him survive boot camp relatively easily. Because of his fluency in English, being born in Hawaii and having relatives there, unlike other college students who were sent to officer training school, he was made a sergeant and confined to the Japanese mainland assigned to the Transportation Corps. Thus his Hawaiian background likely saved his life.
Upon the end of WWII, he served as translator for various Occupation Force organizations. He married Mutsuko (Mildred) Kawakami. They and their two daughters, Miyuki (Norma) and Kazumi (Charlotte), moved throughout Japan as his translation job required.
Kendo was his life, so although Occupation Forces technically forbade kendo, he managed to get permission to practice kendo. He had missed it so much that it was like being alive again to practice kendo. In 1960, they moved to US where he received his Bachelor’s degree in engineering at Oregon State University in 1966. Upon graduation he and his family moved to Tacoma, WA. He initially taught kendo to Boy Scouts out of the Tacoma Buddhist Temple. He enjoyed teaching kendo throughout the Northwest. He was the founding Charter President of the Washington State Kendo Federation, now known as the Pacific Northwest Kendo Federation and he was one of the founding members of the University of Washington Kendo Club.
Rod was preceded in death by his sisters, Judy O’Connor, Jean Kessel, and Ruth Rhodes; and brother, Brian Omoto. He was also preceded in death by his wife whom he lovingly cared for the last 5 years of her life. He is survived by his daughters, Charlotte Omoto and Norma Wakatsuki; grandson, Ryan Wakatsuki; and by many nieces and nephews including Louise and Bruce Kessel, Eesha and Swasti Bhattacharrya, Sandy Keepers, Evan, Eric and Lydia Rhodes.