The dojo is a symbolic structure that contains specific meanings. The north side of a dojo is called the Kamiza (上座); it is the most important place in a dojo. Another term used for the north end of a dojo is the Upper Seat. This area is reserved for honoured guests and high-ranking instructors.

The south side of a dojo is called the Shimoza and is also referred to as the Lower seat. This is where the students usually sit. In Japan, there is a saying: There is no teaching from the south. This means the students should not try to instruct or speak to one another during class. It is poor etiquette to speak to one another during training unless it is to instruct by a Sempai. There is no need to discuss what you did, could have done or should have done during class. The south or lower seat is the area identified for training purposes and learning.


The East Side of a dojo is referred to as the Joseki or Upper Side. This is where visitors usually sit and watch practice. This is also where the instructor sits if an honoured guest is sitting at the Kamiza. The east is also the direction of the rising sun and is associated with enlightenment. Some dojo in Japan, bow to the east before and after training to symbolize the recognition and honouring of enlightenment.

The West Side of the dojo is referred to as the Shimoseki, or Lower Side. It is usually just a space or area of a dojo without specific meaning other than the fact that the sun sets in the west and the west symbolizes darkness, or the direction the dead take in afterlife.

The above relates to the formality, beliefs, and customs regarding the four sides of a Japanese dojo. However, even in Japan, the Kamiza, and the other symbolism in a dojo are arranged in whatever manner provides the best use of training space.