In the past, judo, 1 along with other oriental martial arts, has not been thought worthy of investigation by scholars in the field of Japanese studies. 2 When thinking about processes of cross-cultural dissemination and about representations of "Japan outside Japan," however, we need to reevaluate Japanese martial arts for their role as culture brokers. Approximately 15,000 Austrians - or 0.2 percent of tiny Austria's total population - along with 2.5 million other Europeans are regularly exposed to ideological, material, and social aspects of Japanese culture when they dress in Japanese-style judogi, practice at the local dôjô, take part in training sessions framed by the rituals of o-rei and zazen, and communicate in a jargon abundant with Japanese terms such as hantei, soto, maitta, hikiwake, tori, kata, shiai, and the like. The numbers above indicate only the surface of a much larger phenomenon: these 15,000 jûdôka are officially registered members of the Austrian Judo Federation (AJF), whose general secretary estimates that there are another 15,000 practitioners who are less interested in membership and the concomitant rights of taking part in official competitions or obtaining kyû/dan grades. Furthermore, other Japanese martial arts, such as karate, kendô, kyûdô, aikidô, and jujutsu, have many adherents of their own but draw on similar systems of meanings.
Why judo? We decided to focus our analysis on this particular subculture because of its dimensions in terms of size and time span: compared with other combat systems, judo attracts the largest following in Austria as well as everywhere else in the world. In historical perspective, judo is of major importance because the development of oriental martial arts in Austria began with the introduction of technical systems closely related to the now dominant style of kodokan judo. In addition, Kano Jigoro's kodokan judo, developed during the late 1880s, exerted tremendous influence on the codification and interpretation of other major martial arts during the twentieth century.
The success of kodokan judo validated Kano's system. Of course, Kano's personality and the various offices he held - among others, he acted as director of the First High School and of the Tokyo Teacher Seminar (Tôkyô kôtô shihan gakkô), as a high-ranking official of the Ministry of Education, as a member of the Upper House, and as Japan's first member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) - furthered the system's prosperous development. In