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Nafudakake (名札掛け, lit. "name-plate-rack") is a Japanese method of displaying all the names of the members in a group by collecting the names on individual plaques called nafuda (名札, "nametag") and hanging them together in a specialized case called kake (掛け, "rack"). Nafudakake can be found in traditional art forms such as chadō, in modern art forms such as judo, at Shinto shrines (where they are used to display the names of benefactors) and in some modern organizations such as volunteer fire departments.[1][2][3][4] In English, the term is most commonly associated with Japanese martial arts, and nafudakake are commonly considered an element of a traditional martial arts dojo.[5]


Nafuda are thin, rectangular wooden plaques on which individuals’ names are written vertically in kanji or kana or horizontally in Latin script. The plaques are usually made from a light wood such as pine and hand-painted. The back of the plaque may contain information about the person's history in the dojo.[6]

The term "nafuda" should not be confused with the identification worn on the tare of kendo armor, for which the same word can be used.

Purpose and use of nafuda[edit]

Nafuda are used for different purposes in different dojos. In some dojos, nafuda are arranged according to rank, and a person's nafuda is moved upon attaining a higher rank, although other dojos display only the nafuda of yudansha but not those of mudansha.[7][8] In some dojos, nafuda are used to track attendance and in others a member's nafuda is removed for failure to pay dojo fees on time.[9][10] In some dojos, only the nafuda of currently active members are displayed, while in others the nafuda of past members who have moved away or died are displayed as a kind of memorial.[11][12] Some dojos display the nafuda of foreign affiliates of the dojo, but do so separately from active members of the dojo.[13] Some dojos display the adult and child nafuda separately.[14] In yet other dojos, everyone who has received a dan grade from the dojo is listed as yudansha on the nafudakake.[15] The nafudakake can be used to display the names of the dojo's lineage and style's founders.[16][17][18] In the Seattle Dojo, which is the oldest judo dojo in the United States,[19] displayed nafuda from early members help maintain the historical memory of the dojo.[20]

Design and placement of nafudakake[edit]

There is no standardized design for nafudakake. The nafuda may be hung from small hooks on the kake or held in place by wooden trusses.[21][22] The nafudakake may be placed in the shimoza (cosmological "south"—often the actual south wall) of a dojo, although it may also be located in other places such as the shimoseki (cosmological "west"), which in Daoist thought is representative of rectitude, or the proper relationship between members of the dojo.[23][24] The joseki (cosmological "east") may also be used, and if the arts of more than one ryū () are taught in the same dojo, separate nafudakake for both schools may be displayed.[25]

The arrangement of the nafuda on the kake may be very different from one dojo to another. Although Chinese characters are traditionally read vertically and in columns from right to left, some dojos place their senior member in the upper left portion of their nafudakake.[26][27]

The following example of a nafudakake is hanging on the west wall (shimoseki) of a Japanese aikido dojo. The dojo displays one nafudakake for instructors and a separate one for yudansha. In this example, the nafuda should be read right-to-left as follows:

nafudakake at a Japanese aikido dojo
(unlabeled version in Wikimedia Commons)
instructors’ nafudakake
(read L-R)
合気道無限塾 Aikido Mugenjuku name of the dojo
代表 daihyo
categorizes all the nafuda that follow as
representatives of the dojo
師範 shihan
categorizes the nafuda that follows as
chief instructor of the dojo
ジャックパイエ "Jacques Payet" name of chief instructor
指導員 shidoin
categorizes the nafuda that follow as
instructors at the dojo
  name name of instructor
  name name of instructor
指導補助員 shidohojoin
categorizes the nafuda that follow as
assistant instructors
  names 6 names of assistants
yudansha nafudakake
nafuda kanji
(read L-R)
四段 yondan
"4th degree"
categorizes the nafuda that follows as
ranked 4th-dan in the dojo
  name name of 4th-dan holder
二段 nidan
"2nd degree"
categorizes the nafuda that follow as
ranked 2nd-dan in the dojo
  name name of 2nd-dan holder
  name name of 2nd-dan holder
初段 shodan
"1st degree"
categorizes the nafuda that follow as
ranked 1st-dan in the dojo
  names 11 names of 1st-dan holders

In addition to the terminology presented in this example, nafudakake may designate sensei (teacher), senpai (senior student), or any of a number of other positions recognized in martial arts dojos.

External links[edit]

images of nafudakake

virtual nafudakake Some martial arts dojos have begun putting "virtual nafudakake" on their websites. In some cases, a simple list of dojo members is called a "nafudakake", but some dojos have used CGI for their nafudakake. The following is a list of examples of "virtual nafudakake":


  1. ^ List of flowers at a Japanese tea ceremony dojo
  2. ^ Draeger, D. Judo Training Methods: A Sourcebook Tuttle Publishing, 2011. See also Dalien, J. "Judo Etiquette"
  3. ^ Images of a Shinto shrine
  4. ^ Hill, C. reports seeing nafudakake in a Japanese fire house. Forum, 2003.
  5. ^ "Dōjō: The place of the Way" Shin Ki Tai Karate website glossary.
  6. ^ Herndon, J. A Dojo Guide; cited in Nafudakake Name board Shin Ki Tai Karate website glossary.
  7. ^ Bateman, B. reports that they are arranged in grade order in his dojo and moved Forum, 2003.
  8. ^ Re no mudansha, see example nafudakake of Mugenjuku Dojo in Kyoto mentioned in this article
  9. ^ Bateman,C reports: "he takes his plate down and puts it into a basket, and the name is subsequently recorded and the plate put back" Forum, 2005
  10. ^ Bronson@2:48AM reports that his iaido instructor takes down nafuda rather than asking for payments Forum, 2008
  11. ^ Clark, C. reports that nafuda stay on the rack if a "connection" has been made with other members of the dojo Forum, 2003.
  12. ^ Rehse,P. reports that nafuda are not removed after death Forum, 2003
  13. ^ Rehse, P. reports that his dojo has a separate nafudakake for foreign affiliates, 2003.
  14. ^ Herndon, J. reports having 2 for adults and 1 for children in the 1980s Forum, 2007
  15. ^ Hackett,M@10:38AM reports that all yudansha have permanent nafuda, while mudansha nafuda can be removed Forum, 2008
  16. ^ lbb@1:14AM reports that his style's founder is in the top row to the left Forum, 2008
  17. ^ "Nafudakake" Aikido Center of Jacksonville blog
  18. ^ Harvard Aikikai displays nafuda for Morihei Ueshiba, Moriteru Ueshiba, and Mitsunari Kanai in addition to their club members Harvard Aikikai, 2001-2005.
  19. ^ "About Seattle Dojo"
  20. ^ Svinth & Yamamoto have a nostalgic exchange in this forum discussion Forum, 2006
  21. ^ Nafuda hanging on hooks at National Engei Hall Archived 2011-07-22 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Nafuda held in place by wooden trusses at a karate dojo
  23. ^ "Dōjō: The place of the Way" Shin Ki Tai Karate website glossary
  24. ^ Lowry, D. In the Dojo, reprinted with permission as "What Puts the Tao in the Dojo? Part 2" in
  25. ^ Rodríguez Valero, D. "La distribución de un Dojo" Aikido Alicante
  26. ^ lbb@1:14AM reports that his style's founder is in the top row to the left Forum, 2008
  27. ^ "Nafudakake" Aikido Center of Jacksonville blog