Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 20
IX: Morihei Ueshiba, Aikido and History:
What Case for Revision or Revisionism?
Part 1: Japanese History and World War II
(NOTES. 1. For Japanese names of individuals, I have followed the traditional Japanese order [surname first], except with the names of famous individuals, like Morihei Ueshiba, who are well known to non-Japanese members of AikiWeb, or with names of Japanese authors who have published in English. 2. With respect to dates, I have used B.C. and A.D. in preference to the more politically correct B.C.E. and C.E. There is no deep significance to this, only a preference based on age & upbringing and a general distaste for political correctness.)
This column continues the discussion of some very general background topics relating to Morihei Ueshiba and aikido before and after Japan's defeat in World War II. They are all concerned with the ways in which Japan and the Japanese can be regarded as somehow ‘unique', both in the way they think about life in general and, as a consequence, in the way they practice martial arts. The topics were listed in the previous column, but bear repeating here.
Part 2 (Column 21), which should really be read together with Part 1, will continue this examination with a discussion of Japan's wartime history, as this affects postwar Japanese, including Morihei Ueshiba's postwar students. In Japan particularly, this is a very important subject and is still being debated, over sixty years since the end of the war. The subject includes the general public awareness of Japan's role in World War II and the content of the history textbooks used in schools. This is a springboard for dealing more specifically with Morihei Ueshiba and Japanese history. The main focus will be the general assumptions evident in the biographies of Morihei Ueshiba that have so far appeared, and especially the ‘standard' biography written by his son Kisshomaru. Kisshomaru has been criticized for changing the (very good) aiki training methods created and practiced by Morihei Ueshiba into something else—a kind of (very bad) ‘aikido-lite', which is a martial art devoid of its earlier power, since it has been dumbed down to attract many participants. One starting place to look for evidence of this alleged change is his own biography of his father.
I apologize beforehand that this column, like the previous column, is rather diffuse and wide-ranging in scope. However, I believe that if we are to consider Kisshomaru Ueshiba's place in aikido adequately, this involves the prior examination of many questions relating to Japanese society generally, especially during the century from 1880 until 1980. Thus with respect to aikido, the general aim in this series of columns is to construct more elements of an authentic political and social background against which one can compare the prewar worldview of Morihei Ueshiba with the postwar worldview of his son Kisshomaru.
Kisshomaru Ueshiba was born in 1921 and entered his teens just at the time when Japan had embarked on the military conquests that would eventually lead to the atomic bombing and her defeat. Since it was Kisshomaru who inherited the art (given a certain view of aikido history: see below passim), it is very important to make a serious attempt to see the world, especially the world of aikido, as he saw it. More specifically with respect to aikido history and history writing, the aim, therefore, is to create a background against which the accounts of the life of Morihei Ueshiba, especially Kisshomaru's biography of Ueshiba, can be judged. In considering this important biography, which profoundly influenced, even determined, the general public knowledge of his father and his art, we can ask about the influences and constraints under which that Kisshomaru was operating when he wrote it. I think that this entails considering the following questions:
A. To what extent do narratives of both prewar / wartime aiki-budo and also postwar aikido rest on a particular interpretation of Japanese history?
B. To what extent is the historical presentation of Morihei Ueshiba influenced by a particular view of Japanese identity, itself based on this view of history?
The general issues raised here can be depicted more sharply in the form of more specific questions:
C. Should we believe all that we read (and hear) about Morihei Ueshiba?
D. Whose version of the life and work of Ueshiba is the truest one, the one that comes closest to affording us access to the man as he actually was?
E. Does the fact that Ueshiba's later disciples viewed him through postwar lenses influence how they interpreted his aikido?
F. Does this matter for our own training?
Do We Need History in Aikido?
Of course, it is quite possible for someone to undergo physical, mental, spiritual training (separately or in combination) in a way totally unconnected with history. On the analogy of the adverts promoting Charles Atlas or the Bullworker body-building machine, one can train by oneself in the garden or back yard, in order to acquire a variety of skills that could be used for a martial purpose, such as protecting oneself—or attacking someone else—in the street. One might also go to a boxing gym or find a real-life equivalent of Fight Club. Usually, such training involves finding a teacher or mentor, one who actually possesses the sought-after skills and who is willing to pass them on.
Alternatively, one could go one step beyond the boxing gym and find a dojo offering one or many martial arts, train with a teacher—or teachers, and simply focus on the efficacy of the training, always being completely unconcerned with history: how the teachers actually came to acquire the knowledge and skills possessed. In many cases, however, a teacher will state an awareness of being part of something larger, which usually involves a lineage: the passing on of a transmission or tradition of knowledge and skills acquired from someone else. Or—and this is also very important in the martial arts—the teacher is conscious of reacting to a tradition, of swimming against the current. There are various reasons for this, which might include the fact that earlier traditions have been lost, or somehow corrupted, or have not adapted to changing weapons and ways of fighting.
Whether there is the passing on of a tradition or a reaction to a tradition, in these situations history can become particularly relevant. Lineage is especially important where the teacher is practicing an art, which can loosely be defined as a coherent body of knowledge and skills, possessing its own internal structure and principles, and which has become independent from its own creator or from those who practice it. The relationship of the creator of the art to the art itself, especially the crucial aspect of transmission, varies from creator to creator and from art to art and the Japanese iemoto (家元) system is one example.
In fact, the main purpose of these columns is to chart the process by which creation and transmission occurred in one of the Japanese arts known as aikido. This process is actually profoundly unclear and the main reason is lack of reliable information. The problem is that in a real sense Morihei Ueshiba was like Sokaku Takeda. They were both ‘loners', who, as far as the evidence suggests, did not see themselves as part of an iemoto tradition. Initially at least, they were reacting to traditions and their own exhaustive training in the martial arts became an evolution, even an extension, of their own personalities.
It has been alleged that Sokaku Takeda could not read or write and that he had other people do this for him when necessary. Whether this is true or not, it seems that he himself left no diaries, or written records of his activities. Of course, there are eimeiroku (英名録), lists of those who took part in his training seminars and shareiroku (謝礼録), payment books, in which the entries would have been made by the participants themselves or by others if it is true that Takeda himself was unable to write.
Morihei Ueshiba, on the other hand, kept diaries, annotated Reikai Monogatari (霊界物語), the 81-volume work dictated by Onisaburo Deguchi, and composed douka (道歌), and but of these, only the douka have been published. However, even here there is a question whether Ueshiba actually composed the douka in their present form:
"What was published in the ‘Aikido Shimbun' as ‘Doka' (Songs of the Way) were actually culled from heavily edited transcriptions of tape-recorded talks and lectures given by O-Sensei inside the dojo and elsewhere." (Stanley Pranin, ‘O Sensei's Spiritual Writings: Where did they really come from?' Aikido Journal, published online. Accessed August 26, 2011.
One version of the presented ‘facts' places Sokaku Takeda in a real iemoto line that allegedly goes back to the Emperor Seiwa (believed to have ruled from 858 to 876 AD and to be the 58th emperor after the Emperor Jimmu—see below). An analogous version places Morihei Ueshiba firmly in the orbit of Daito-ryu as a disciple of Takeda. According to this version, Ueshiba practiced Daito-ryu all his life and this, it has been alleged, is most clearly shown from his years in Hokkaido, in Ayabe (where Takeda visited him and taught him new skills), and in the Kobukan. The two privately published manuals produced during this period, Budo Renshu (1933) and Budo (1938), are usually cited as evidence. The conclusion is that aikido is really Daito-ryu and that Ueshiba was one of its principal players. Somewhere along the road aikido branched off and the art became adorned with spiritual accouterments to appear as a new martial way, but fundamentally it is really a pale imitation of the same art as the art originally taught to Ueshiba by Takeda.
Another version of the ‘facts' locates the prime focus of Morihei Ueshiba's training in his years in Iwama, which has been popularly acclaimed as the one dojo where Ueshiba's training was most ‘authentic'. According to this interpretation, present-day aikido training in Iwama is considered to be the closest to the training that Ueshiba himself actually undertook (since there are now two separate dojos, which of the two dojos is a moot and delicate question). With this version, the later years at the Kobukan and the years spent in Iwama from 1942 onwards are emphasized (with the 1938 Budo training manual also cited as evidence), at the expense of Ueshiba's period as a disciple of Onisaburo Deguchi and his membership of the Omoto religion and, of course, his postwar role as the first Doshu of Aikido. (There is even a mistaken belief that Kisshomaru Ueshiba was the first Doshu, running a completely different operation in Tokyo.)
Yet another version of the ‘facts' places Morihei Ueshiba at the fountainhead of a new and wholly original martial art, but one that he transmitted via patrilineal successors in the Ueshiba family. According to this version, the years in Hokkaido and at the Kobukan, together with the Omoto years and the years in Iwama, receive varying degrees of emphasis as different phases of one unified ‘crucible' process: that of creating a new martial Way, which culminated in the aikido practiced at the resurrected Kobukan (the present Aikikai Hombu in Tokyo) and which was to continue through the generations.
There is another version of the ‘facts', this time based on a particular segment of aikido history, which also needs to be considered. This is based on the strictly correct view that the term aikido denotes an art that is not the sole property of Morihei Ueshiba and his patrilineal successors. The name was actually coined as a general name for a martial art that did not have the features of other, better-known, arts like judo. (It is not often stressed at this point that Morihei Ueshiba was actually consulted during this entire naming process, such that he could claim afterwards that he himself called the martial art that he had created ‘aikido'. This claim is not one that can simply be dismissed as fictional, but needs to be placed in context.) According to this view, aikido was established by the Japanese military government in 1942 and was intended to be used as a general category for arts that were not already included in other categories. Given the fact of this general category, aikido can be called an art that was created by Morihei Ueshiba, but which was also practiced by those who owed no technical or spiritual allegiance to Ueshiba. Accordingly, when Minoru Hirai, who had been instrumental in achieving the recognition of the name ‘aikido' by the Ministry of Education in 1942, established Korindo in 1959, this art was called Korindo Aikido, but was actually alleged to be based on arts that Hirai had practiced long before meeting Morihei Ueshiba.
Thus the way in which aikido is viewed as a historical process has enormous influence on the way in which it is defined, or in which certain aspects or constituents of the definition are emphasized at the expense of others.
Did you say ‘History'?
The presentation of the past in such a way that those in the present will understand it is the main reason why historical research takes place, why the research is presented as an ordered narrative, and also why history keeps being rewritten. In fact, none of these innocuous-sounding statements is as simple as they appear, as we shall see. Daniel Little (see Further Reading) gives a succinct summary of the issues.
"What is history? Most prosaically, it is the human past and our organized representations of that past. … The key issues in the philosophy of history arise in our representations of the human past. … History is fascinating for us, because, in Marx's words, "Men make their own history, but not in circumstances of their own choosing" (1852). That is to say: history reflects agency—the choices by individuals and groups; and it reflects constraining structures and circumstances. So historical outcomes are neither causally determined nor entirely plastic and accidental. Therefore it is open to the historian to attempt to discover the historical circumstances that induced and constrained historical agents to act in one way rather than another—thus bringing about a historical outcome of interest. … History is a temporally ordered sequence of events and processes involving human doings, within which there are interconnections of causality, structure, and action, within which there is the play of accident, contingency and outside forces." (Daniel Little, "Philosophy of History.")Little goes on to make two major points. The first (1) is that, there is no such thing as "history in general," and that
"the impression of there being a comprehensible collection of historical processes that might be characterized as a ‘total' human history: population growth, urbanization, technological innovation, economic differentiation, the growth of knowledge and culture etc. is highly misleading. It suggests a degree of order and structure that history does not possess. There are only specific histories: histories of various conditions or circumstances of interest to us. Historical space is dense: at any given time there are countless human actions and social processes underway in the world. So to single out the history of something specific—the American War of Independence, World War II, the life of Morihei Ueshiba—is unavoidably to select, from the full complexity of events and actions, a limited set of related historical features that will be traced through a process of development. And this in turn raises the point that ‘history' depends partly on ‘what occurred' and partly on ‘what we are interested in'." (Little, ibid., punctuation altered, original examples changed.)This first point, however, rests on another, very basic, assumption, namely, that it must be possible to establish with a high degree of practical certainty, or a relative absence of reasonable doubt—the degree of certainty or of the absence of doubt can vary significantly—that events and actions did indeed occur in the past and also that these events and actions are quite separate from our own interest in them. Nevertheless, organizing these events into a coherent narrative places them inside an interpretative framework that is conceived by the observer. Thus police investigations take place and juries make decisions about innocence or guilt, based on the evidence presented to them. At several steps further removed, the historian combines both functions, establishing what took place or is likely to have taken place, and presenting this as an ordered narrative.
"Events and actions happened in the past, separate from our interest in them. But organizing them into a narrative about ‘religious awakening' or ‘formation of the absolutist state' imposes an interpretive structure on them that depends inherently on the observer's interests. There is no such thing as ‘perspective-free history.' So there is a very clear sense in which we can assert that history is constituted by historical interpretation and traditions of historical interest—even though the underlying happenings themselves are not." (Little, ibid., punctuation altered.)Objectivity/Subjectivity
The second point (2) made by Daniel Little is a counterpoint to the first point. The fact that there is no perspective-free history does not cancel out the fact that judgments about the past do have a degree of objectivity. In view of the distinctions that Little draws later, we need to examine the notion of objectivity here. The comments of John Searle provide a useful peg on which to hang a preliminary discussion.
"There is so much confusion surrounding the notions of objectivity and subjectivity that I need to say a few words to clarify them. In one sense, the objective/subjective distinction is about claims to knowledge. I call this the epistemic sense. A claim is said to be objective if its truth or falsity can be settled as a matter of fact independently of anybody's attitudes, feelings or evaluations; it is subjective if it cannot. For example, the claim that Van Gogh died in France is epistemically objective. But the claim that Van Gogh was a better painter than Gaughin is, as they say, a matter of subjective opinion. It is epistemically subjective.Searle is a philosopher of language and his epistemic distinction raises the question to what extent subjective claims to knowledge can be regarded as true.
"In another sense, the objective/subjective distinction is about modes of existence. I call this the ontological sense. An entity has an objective ontology if its existence does not depend on being experienced by a human or animal subject; otherwise it is subjective. For example, mountains, molecules and tectonic plates are ontologically objective. Their existence does not depend on being experienced by anybody. But pains, tickles and itches only exist when experienced by a human or animal subject. They are ontologically subjective.
"I emphasize these two senses of the distinction because a common misconception is to suppose that because science is objective and consciousness is subjective, there cannot be a science of consciousness. Science is indeed epistemically objective, because scientific claims are supposed to be verifiable independently of anybody's feelings and attitudes. But the ontological subjectivity of the domain of consciousness does not preclude an objective science of that domain. You can have an (epistemically) objective science of an (ontologically) subjective consciousness. Much confusion has been created by the failure to see this point." (John Searle, New York Review of Books, Vol. LVIII, Number 10, p. 50.)Searle is reviewing the latest book by Antonio Damasio on consciousness and the brain and his comments are highly relevant to the whole vocabulary, metaphorical structure and conceptual assumptions of ki (気, 氣), aiki (合気, 會氣), and the inner experiences relating to the martial arts that are thought to occur in the mind and the body—or in the two considered together as one unit, where these are understood as subjective experiences. The point to emphasize here, however, is that what Searle terms epistemically / ontologically objective / subjective are all potential objects of historical study and the historian must consequently be aware of any problems this might cause.
This is an important issue, as can be seen from a recent interview with Prof. John Stevens.
"I am aware that some have criticized my book INVINCIBLE WARRIOR as hagiography rather than objective biography—as if there can be such a thing as an objective standpoint—but in fact all that I am doing is to present the Founder in the best possible light. All of us want to be remembered at our best." (From an interview with Cheryl Matrasko, Aikido World Web Journal. Published online:
http://www.aikido-world.com/articles...interview2.htm.I will discuss Invincible Warrior in Column 21, but I believe that Prof Stevens is entirely correct in stating that one's standpoint cannot be entirely objective. However, the evidence produced by Prof. Stevens for his biography of Morihei Ueshiba cannot be entirely subjective—and this point, also, needs to be given due emphasis. For the vast mass of humanity, the distinction between the objective facts of their lives and the subjective judgments made about them are of concern only to their families—or, for those who believe in the Last Judgment, to the Recording Angel. However, for some individuals who stand out among the mass of humanity, such as Morihei Ueshiba, whose life is a kind of guide to many others, it is very important for these others to distinguish as clearly as possible the ‘facts' about his life, which, in Searle's terms, are objective and would hold true "independently of anybody's attitudes, feelings or evaluations," and the subjective judgments supposedly based on these facts. It will not do at all to deny the subjective/objective distinction in this case.
Little distinguishes three issues about the objectivity of judgments about the past and relates these issues to a prior conceptual distinction between facts and values. The first (a) is that actions, especially the social actions that are the object of the historian's research, are never purely ‘fact', but are also ‘value' laden. However, this does not necessarily falsify them. The second (b) is that the interpretations and judgments of the historian are also quite probably ‘value' laden. The third (c) is that the historical circumstances themselves may be ‘constructed' and lack objective reality apart from the ways in which they are constructed. We will discuss these in turn.
Actions and Values
(a) With respect to the first issue, Little argues that there is no intrinsic difficulty, for example, with research on the religious values of a particular historical character being carried out by a researcher who happens to have another set of values.
"There is no fundamental difficulty in reconciling the idea of a researcher with one set of religious values, who nonetheless carefully traces out the religious values of a historical actor possessing radically different values. This research can be done badly, of course; but there is no inherent epistemic barrier that makes it impossible for the researcher to examine the body of statements, behaviors, and contemporary cultural institutions corresponding to the other, and to come to a justified representation of the other. One need not share the values or worldview of a sans-culotte, in order to arrive at a justified appraisal of those values and worldview." (Little, ibid.)Little's point is that the historian of religion, when discussing the beliefs and actions of someone like St Francis Xavier, for example, does not have to be a Jesuit or a Catholic, in order to understand his actions. So it is quite possible for Xavier's reports of his so-called mystical experiences to be a major factor in his activities in Japan and thus to be the object of critical research by historians. Equally, it is quite possible for Morihei Ueshiba's practice of chinkon kishin or his beliefs in kotodama, for example, and his actions based on such beliefs, to be the object of research by those who do not have any such beliefs. Such research might be difficult to carry out and the results might be of dubious quality, but there is no intrinsic epistemological obstacle that prevents one from examining the statements, rituals, and cultural background of chinkon, kishin and kotodama and their adherents without oneself having to believe in spirit possession or kotodama.
History as Science
(b) Concerning Little's second issue, the importance of intellectual discipline and the readiness to test hypotheses in the face of uncomfortable facts are as necessary for historians as they are for avowed scientists. It is this respect for intellectual discipline and for factual accuracy that underlies the claim of history to be a science. Such intellectual discipline clearly has value, as can be seen from a review of the history of science and historical writing. There are many examples of scientists and historians whose conclusions are guided by their interrogation of the evidence rather than their ideological presuppositions—and that these conclusions can indeed change, as a result of both the impact of new discoveries and also of the ability of historians themselves to question their own methods. Objectivity in pursuit of truth is itself a value, and one that can be followed.
As E J Hobsbawm has noted,
"It has become fashionable in recent decades … to deny that objective reality is accessible, since what we call ‘facts' exist only as a function of prior concepts and problems formulated in terms of these. The past we study is only a construct of our minds. … I strongly defend the view that what historians investigate is real. The point from which historians must start … is the fundamental and, for them, absolutely central distinction between establishable fact and fiction, between historical statements based on evidence and subject to evidence and those which are not."Hobsbawm restates this in different terms:
"We have a responsibility to historical facts in general, and for criticizing the politico-ideological abuse of history in particular. … The rise of ‘postmodernist' intellectual fashions in Western universities … implies that all ‘facts' claiming objective existence are simply intellectual constructions—in short, that there is no clear difference between fact and fiction. But … we cannot invent our facts. Either Elvis Presley is dead or he isn't. The question can be answered unambiguously on the basis of evidence, insofar as reliable evidence is available." (E J Hobsbawm, On History, quoted by Sven Saaler, Politics, Memory and Public Opinion, p. 48.)Hobsbawm's quest for facts has its counterpart in Japan, in the tradition of establishing facts as the basis for historical study. This method was practiced by Japanese historians who were taught by Ludwig Reiss, a disciple of Leopold von Ranke, who taught history at Tokyo Imperial University from 1887 to 1902 and who established a tradition of ‘positivist' history. However, they refrained from presenting these facts as coherent history, leaving the actual storytelling to others. As we shall see, they had good reasons for doing this.
The distinctions made by Hobsbawm are also somewhat blurred in Japan by another feature of Japanese history and history writing, which long predates the rise of postmodernism. This is the tradition of historical fiction, largely created by writers like Shiba Ryotaro, Shimazaki Toson, and, especially in respect of Miyamoto Musashi, by Eiji Yoshikawa. In Japan, this tradition is maintained and celebrated every Sunday evening in the taiga dorama, a year-long series produced annually by the public broadcasting corporation, NHK, which deals with a particular historical character, such as Sakamoto Ryoma, or a group, like the Shinsengumi that assassinated him. Gaps in the evidence are filled by highly ‘scientific', but actually fictional, reconstructions based on ‘imaginative sympathy' and this is not considered at all odd or ‘unhistorical'. We will return to this important topic later.
Historical Events as Abstract Constructions
(c) Finally, the third issue discussed by Daniel Little involves the objectivity of the larger historical constructions of events or circumstances that historians refer to (the Japanese Empire, the Meiji Restoration, the creation of aikido, and, more controversially, the Rape of Nanking). Little argues that we need to make important distinctions here between (i) the objectivity of past events, actions and circumstances, (ii) the objectivity of the contemporary facts that resulted from these past events, and (iii) the objectivity and fixity of large historical entities.
"The past occurred in precisely the way that it did—agents acted, droughts occurred, armies were defeated, new technologies were invented. These occurrences left traces of varying degrees of information richness; and these traces give us a rational basis for arriving at beliefs about the occurrences of the past. So we can offer a non-controversial interpretation of the ‘objectivity of the past.' However, this objectivity of events and occurrences does not extend very far upward as we consider more abstract historical events: the creation of Yamato Japan, the invention of Enlightenment rationality, the Meiji Restoration. In each of these instances the noun's referent is an interpretive construction by historical actors and historians, and one that may be undone by future historians. To refer to the ‘Meiji Restoration' requires an act of synthesis of a large number of historical facts, along with an interpretive story that draws these facts together in this way rather than that way. The underlying facts of behavior, and their historical traces, remain; but the knitting-together of these facts into a large historical event does not constitute an objective historical entity." (Little, ibid., punctuation altered, original examples changed.)Little offers an example, that of the so-called Industrial Revolution in Europe. Recent research questions the existence of the ‘Industrial Revolution'. In this debate, the same set of historical facts were first constructed into an intense episode of abrupt qualitative change in technology and output in Western Europe, but according to more recent interpretations, these changes were more gradual and less correctly characterized as a ‘revolution'. (There is some discussion of this particular issue in Boyd Hilton's A Mad, Bad & Dangerous People? England 1783-1846, a volume in The New Oxford History of England. See below.) In Japan, similar examples can be found. Japan's own ‘industrial revolution' is one and the ‘Shinto religion' is another. It is commonly believed that the term ‘Shinto' refers to something called ‘the indigenous religion of Japan', with the assumption added that this has had a continuous existence from the very beginning of Japanese history. However, more recent research led by Kuroda Toshio suggests that ‘Shinto' is actually a recent construction of a whole cluster of disparate beliefs and intellectual / spiritual attitudes and that it is a serious mistake to assume that the name refers to the same entity throughout Japanese history, or, indeed, to any entity at all. This is not simply a gentle debate about terms, for, as we shall see, a group of conservative Japanese historians have applied the same revisionist treatment to the so-called ‘Rape of Nanking', which actually happened, to the great irritation of the Chinese government and the deep anger of the Chinese descendants of those who allegedly perished in the massacre.
There will be little general discussion in this column of the broader theories of ‘universal' history, espoused by philosophers like Vico, Herder and Hegel, or of theories about ‘laws' of history and the distinction between ‘explanations', ‘causes', and ‘reasons'. Of more relevance to this column is the application of these theories to the smaller clusters of historical data, such as nations, revolutions, martial arts and the lives of the people who created them.
‘National' History: ‘National' Stories
History is commonly considered at a ‘national' level and it is also assumed that the concept of a nation includes having a past, which has to be described in such a way that nationhood is seen either as a given, or as a desirable, if not inevitable, goal. However, there is a major element of creation and manipulation here.
"The codification of edifying national histories, which often involves outright invention and almost always the manipulation of the past, is a defining feature of modern nation states. The state plays a substantial role in the construction, maintenance and popularization of national history everywhere." (Kenneth J Ruoff, Imperial Japan at its Zenith, p. 54.)The researching and presentation of Japan's distant past was taken very seriously indeed, even though there was no general popular awareness of ‘Japan' as a country until a very late stage in the process. The later parts of the Japanese Kiki chronicles (Kiki [記紀] is short for Kojiki [古事記] and Nihon Shoki [日本書紀]) bear comparison with some early English works like The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People. (King Arthur, incidentally, is not mentioned in either work; he first appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth's much later History of the Kings of Britain.) If the comparison is made for a later period, in the late Tokugawa period Japan embarked on a major enterprise in the Dai Nippon Shi [Great Japan History], of which the English counterparts are probably the very detailed volumes in the enormous series known as the Victoria History of the Counties of England, begun in 1899 and still in progress. We will discuss the case of Japan in more detail later.
Britain has a long tradition of individual scholars writing history, or editing the writing of history, as part of a large collective endeavor. Beginning with Lord Acton's Cambridge Modern History, published between 1902 and 1912 and based on German models, the series of histories published by Cambridge University over the years established this tradition. Oxford University has also published similar multi-volume histories, but with each volume being the work of one scholar. The Oxford History of the United States, now in progress, is one example and the New Oxford History of England is another. The latter is ‘new' because it is a re-writing of the history that was told in the original Oxford History of England, published over 50 years ago. Of course, more information has come to light, but, as the Editor explains in his Preface, the aims of the History have also changed. There is less emphasis on political history and more on social history, but the change is alleged to go much deeper then this.
"Of course he [the General Editor of the Oxford History of England] and his readers shared a broad sense of the purpose and direction of such books [the individual volumes of the Oxford History]. His successor [the General Editor of the New Oxford History of England] can no longer be sure of doing that. The building blocks of the story, its reasonable and meaningful demarcations and divisions, the continuities and discontinuities, the priorities of different varieties of history, the place of narrative—all these things are now much harder to agree on. We now know much more about many things, and think we know what we know in different ways. It is not surprising that historians now sometimes seem unsure about the audience to which their scholarship and writing are addressed." (J M Roberts, General Editor's Preface, in Langford, A Polite and Commercial People: England 1727-1783, p. vii.)However, in the rest of his Preface, Roberts sets out a ‘broad sense of purpose and direction' for the new volumes that is very similar to that of the older volumes, which suggests that the problem of presenting historical data in such a way that the storyteller does not influence the story has not been solved with the new series. The Cambridge histories have been ‘renewed' in the same way, but the practice of writing such large-scale histories has been severely criticized, on the grounds that, given the lapse of time between the original conception and the final publication, the historical data are obsolete, long before the books appear.
The Importance of Telling a Good Story
Case Study 1: England, America and the War of Independence
The Oxford histories, as I suggested earlier, are ‘flagship' national histories, intended for the educated general reader, which give an accurate and balanced narrative based on the latest available research. Though supported by detailed bibliographical recommendations, the Oxford histories are intended to strike a fine balance between being comprehensive, in the sense that all the important events of the period are dealt with, and being readable, in the sense that educated general readers can see the outlines of the forest and can identify the principal trees, but without becoming entangled in thickets of detail and losing their way through it. Thus they could read one of the Oxford histories with very good grounds for believing that the narrative they are reading presents a true and balanced account of all major historical events of the period.
As an example of a ‘story' that is told in different ways, I will briefly consider the American War of Independence. Of course, there is a vast amount of literature on this subject and this is why I have confined the discussion solely to the narrative presented in the Oxford histories. Clearly, in an essay on history and modern aikido there is no space for an extended discussion about the historiography of an event that took place in eighteenth-century America, epoch-making though it was. However, there is scope for briefly considering three different treatments of the same major ‘event', which is regarded by Daniel Little as an abstract construction, and then compare these with three different ‘flagship' treatments of another major event. This is the life of Morihei Ueshiba, which is more sharply defined than a revolution, but which, according to Little, shares the same property, namely, that of being a complex agglomeration of many discrete ‘facts', woven together by someone else into a ‘story'.
Oxford History of England (OHE)
The volume of the OHE that is relevant for the American revolution is J Steven Watson's The Reign of George III 1760-1815 (published in 1960). The work is intended to provide a smooth general history of England in the century from 1760 to 1815, giving due weight to history as it was conceived at the time: a record of political changes, with kings and prime ministers occupying the center of the stage, which is followed by all the rest of the history, with topics like local government, social changes, economic changes, the colonies (meaning, the American colonies), India (not thought of as a colony), education, and religion each receiving dedicated chapters. In Watson's narrative, the problems in the American colonies constitute the dark background, always behind the center stage where the domestic activities of King George III, the Marquess of Bute, George Grenville and Lord North are played out. When Watson was writing his volume, the ‘Whig interpretation of history' was a major issue. George III was cast by earlier historians such as W E H Lecky and G M Trevelyan as the arch-villain, who was largely responsible for losing the American colonies by his vain attempt to turn back the tide of progress by ignoring enlightened party government and returning to the kind of arbitrary rule that doomed his Stuart predecessors. In his volume, Watson aimed to attack this view of George III and, by implication, this interpretation of history. As a consequence, he tells the story very firmly from the British point of view.
Locke, Grenville, and the Stamp Act
Watson's account of the American War of Independence covers two chapters, one dealing with the origins [‘The Origins of the American Revolt': Watson never calls it a ‘revolution'] and the other dealing with the war itself. Watson begins his discussion of the origins—more the causes or factors involved, with two contrasting interpretations of the Whig bible: John Locke's Two Treatises on Civil Government. He regards the differing interpretations of Locke as the final cause or factor. Along with Leviathan, by Thomas Hobbes, Locke's work was regarded as the ideological basis for the Glorious Revolution of 1688, but the British interpreted the work in a very conservative fashion, with the guarantee of freedom from arbitrary power resting with the local gentry, rather than with Parliament or the lower orders, the latter considered by the gentry to be in need of care and protection. Unsurprisingly, the Americans came to interpret Locke's Treatise quite differently and the interpretation became increasingly radical as the dispute progressed.
Watson approaches the American view of Locke by way of a discussion of the second factor: the transformation of colonial dissension into a fragile unity. The disunity was somewhat upsetting to England, for it prevented adequate payment for the war that had been fought with France and Spain, partly on their behalf. There was an individualism in the colonies, which in England was submerged in a much more rigid class structure. Watson provides a brief survey of the issues—and focuses the crucial area of agreement.
"A farmer and a merchant could agree on two points. They believed in the virtues of their free enterprise: they knew that decisions in this New World had necessarily to be made by men on the spot who took the consequences. It was unthinkable to regulate their adventurous lives by a decision taken 3,000 miles away across the Atlantic. To send a question to London and wait for a reply might easily take six months. Indian raids could not be dealt with, nor sowings decided, nor ships loaded, with such delay for each decision, especially when those at a distance were ignorant of the detailed facts." (Watson, The Reign of George III, p. 179.)As for the French:
"When the French were tamed, the American had only the Indians, the elements, and other Americans to face, all of them enemies he could tackle without English aid." (Watson, op.cit., p. 178.)Watson concludes that
"In short, where Englishmen saw, and despised, the disunity and lawlessness of America, the colonists were filled with pride in making a new life for themselves. They congratulated themselves on the vigour of their minds and bodies, on the superiority of their birthrate, and on their natural common sense. But the meanest Englishmen, said the radical Richard Price, took for granted his superior understanding and his power to regulate colonial affairs." (Watson, op.cit., pp. 178-179, citing Price, Observations on the Nature of Civil Liberty, 1776, p. 19.)However, the difference in habits and situations was such that any irritant could be the occasion for a temporary unity and for ‘animating' the differences: one irritant was the regulation of imperial trade and for Watson this was the third factor. The mercantilist principles that regulated trade within the British Empire were designed to maintain a strong navy and mercantile marine and George Grenville's Stamp Act and Sugar Act were designed to make this trade more effective and more ‘reasonable'. The novelty of the Stamp Act and the opposition it provoked led to the American interpretation of Locke:
"The revolution of 1688 was not one decisive event, but one illustration of the principle on which society was regulated. All governments and legislatures were the agents of the people and could be dismissed if they failed to perform the services for which they were appointed. Principal among such services was the protection of property. So valuable was this service that no government might use power to take property away. Consent was therefore essential to taxation. The consent of the British parliament was not sufficient. For on this vital matter Americans had their own assemblies to represent their wishes. In a sense this was to beg the question. It implied that Americans were already a separate and distinct society, a contention which was contradicted by the admission of parliamentary sovereignty over the rest of the field." (Watson, op.cit., pp. 185-186.)Another irritant was the general intransigence of Grenville himself in applying his Acts, since this tended to hinder the lucrative smuggling that went on. The British were shocked by the riotous reaction to the Stamp Acts and eventually they were repealed. However, determined to demonstrate the importance of principle, by a large majority parliament passed in their place a bill declaring its right to tax the colonies. This, too, incurred the wrath of the colonists, who saw a new Stamp Act in another guise. The system of duties devised by Charles Townshend also caused a similar reaction, which by this time Watson considers, "might have been foreseen." He concludes his account of the origins of the war by noting the general failure of the various non-importation agreements made by the colonists. Lord North had repealed the Townshend duties in 1770 and the general collapse of American resistance was aided by the reactions to the ‘Boston Massacre', when a company of soldiers were set upon by a Boston mob and fired into the mob. Despite the burning of the Gaspée in 1772, "it may be said that the British control had become a sort of bogy: the colonists had more real and immediate difficulties to occupy most of their time." (Watson, op.cit., p. 195.)
Tea, War, and the Empire Unclothed
Watson places the start of the actual war in 1773, with the unloading of 298 crates of tea into Boston harbor. Parliament, perhaps more so than Lord North, believed that a short, sharp, shock would end the trouble, but both were certain that such lawlessness could not be condoned. In the rest of the chapter, Watson charts England's dawning realization that one stern punishment would not work at all, and that she was not strategically equipped, nor did she have the determination, to deal with the consequences.
Watson's account of the war can be summarized under several basic headings, though he moves from one to another during the narrative. First is the misplaced belief held by the English that the other colonists would not support the rebels. As Watson put it:
"No greater mistake—and there were many mistakes—was made by English ministers in their conduct of the war than their excessive reliance upon a split in American ranks and upon active large-scale aid from the loyalists. It might be true that many did not approve of the extreme course steered by the leaders: but they were never prepared to strain every nerve to aid Britain." (Watson, op.cit., p. 206.)The second was the constant wavering between conciliation and resolution that affected North's administration. According to Watson, North himself seemed bemused by the whole affair and on the whole favored conciliation, a thinking which was generally based on a failure to grasp the underlying issues.
"In 1774 Americans were convinced that Lord North intended to enslave them by inches. He, on the other hand, thought he only had to restore order in Massachusetts and the inexplicable effervescence would subside." (Watson, op.cit., p. 199.)The third, a consequence on the general lack of resolution, was the general inadequacy of the English military operations, because they were sometimes tactically dubious and rarely went far enough. There were one or two occasions in 1779 and 1780 when Clinton and Cornwallis thought they might win, especially in the southern states. However, these occasions were overshadowed by the spectacular defeats, especially at Saratoga and Yorktown. In any case, those victories that did occur could not be called conquests.
"Above all these military consideration was the political one, that every Englishmen knew that victory left unsolved the problem of how to govern estranged and remote colonists, even if their armies laid down their arms." (Watson, op.cit., p. 216.)The fourth was the fact that England was in Europe and needed to look backwards at what France and Spain were planning, as the war developed. When peace negotiations were contemplated in 1776, this was because any clash with these two countries would reduce the amount of troops and ships that she could deploy across the Atlantic.
An apt analogy to Watson's account of the American war might be a combine harvester working its way round a cornfield. Every part of the field is covered and in much the same level of detail. Watson views himself as the disinterested observer of a happening that took place two hundred years before: a happening that he believes was inevitable, but—contrary to the Whig view, that was not at all a sure indication of progress. He does not particularly censure those whose actions he is recording, though he assumes that the English are more worthy of censure than the Americans, whose deeper motivations he does not attempt to explain, other than that they were individualistic and quarreled a lot—but not when it mattered—and basically looked westwards, across the continent, rather than eastwards, across the Atlantic. The English, certainly, were devoid of the lateral thinking necessary for dealing with an insoluble problem.
Watson's volume of the OHE contains lengthy bibliographies. These are not mere lists of books, but rather critical essays, in which the reader is pointed to the most important eighteenth-century primary sources, which are followed by detailed discussions of secondary works. However, in the OHE, these primary sources and secondary authorities are nearly all English. This might be deemed appropriate for a history of England, but it is hard to avoid the impression that his treatment of the American war is one-sided. It is as if Watson were writing a history of the war between the US and Japan without having consulted any Japanese primary sources. In view of the arguments advanced by Daniel Little, however, which were discussed earlier, it is much harder to remain on the sidelines and simply watch the events unfold as a neutral spectator.
New Oxford History of England (NOHE)
In the NOHE the political changes in England are relegated to occasional chapters and the American war does not warrant any dedicated chapters at all. One of the reasons that Paul Langford gives for this in the preface to his volume (A Polite and Commercial People: England 1727-1783, published in 1989) is the shift of emphasis, over the years, from political history to social history. The result is that the American War of Independence appears in the chapters on domestic political history.
By comparison with Watson's efforts to be cautious, soberly even-handed and fair to both sides, Langford's approach is frank and lighter in touch. He believes that Britain's overall policy towards the American colonists was eminently reasonable, but based on a narrow view of what was reasonable. Langford omits any discussion of Locke and begins his treatment of the war with Grenville and the Stamp Act.
"Bute's successor George Grenville will forever be remembered as the author of the American Stamp Act and thereby the initiator of that fateful train of events which led to the dismemberment of the first British Empire. Yet the stamp act was only a part of a coherent body of legislation for the colonies, most of it expressing conventional wisdom about the principles on which the empire enlarged in the Seven Years War was to be governed." (Langford, p. 359.)Langford then outlines the legislation and explains why it seemed so utterly reasonable to the legislators. He notes that it is debatable whether Grenville should have foreseen the unfortunate consequences of his legislation. He is also aware of the wider implications of the consequences.
"It provoked one of the great debates in the history of political thought, which began as a discussion of parliamentary representation and eventually turned into a controversy about the basis of civil association and sovereignty. … In his speech announcing [the Stamp Act] on 6 February 1765 he [Grenville] claimed that Parliament had unlimited powers of legislation and taxation and that arguments about representation were irrelevant. ‘The Parliament of Great Britain virtually represents the whole Kingdom.' Here was a claim that was have widespread repercussions, not merely in America, where few even of Britain's friends were much impressed by the notion that in some mysterious way the colonists were comprehended in the constituent body which Parliament represented, but in Britain itself, where, as Grenville candidly admitted in the same speech, ‘not a twentieth part of the people are actually represented'." (Langford, p. 360.)The Stamp Act, of course, was revoked and the implications of the repeal led to a local controversy that later historians could not and cannot resolve. Watson simply sets out the boundaries of the controversy and refrains from making any judgment, as he believed it was the historian's task to do. Langford, on the other hand, goes further and makes a judgment about the limitations of this task.
"It was subsequently argued in England that the repeal of the Stamp Act had represented a fatal step towards imperial downfall, creating in America the impression that Britain would never stand up to blackmail and intimidation by the colonies. Rockingham and Burke, on the contrary, always maintained that it had offered a sensible and enduring solution to the American problem, but for the folly of their successors in meddling with further schemes of taxation. On both sides the argument was hypothetical; it will never be resolved by any historical evidence." (Langford, p. 368.)Langford's remarks have some relevance in other spheres. The Oxford histories under discussion are based on a vast amount of contemporary evidence and of reflections on that evidence by generations of later historians. Even so, there are controversies that will never be resolved one way or the other. This is a comparatively rare situation, however, and does not apply to aikido. One of the problems for the historian of aikido is the lack of contemporary evidence, either because no one at the time thought to record their observations, or because those observations that were recorded have not been made public. Aikido history has not yet reached the stage where we have the luxury of controversies that are based on the amount and variety of evidence that was available to the Oxford historians.
Langford is also quite clear about the cherished status of some historical myths, despite the abundance of evidence. One myth he attempts to nail is the myth that the Declaration of Independence took the British by surprise:
"Such is the importance of the Declaration in history and myth that it is easy to forget that Britain had moved first. The Proclamation of Rebellion was issued on 23 August 1775. In a sense it was less painful for Englishmen than the Declaration was for Americans. Partly this was a matter of the respective stakes. For Americans independence was truly awesome. If it failed, it made its advocates traitors, whose lives and properties counted for nothing; even if it succeeded, the old certainties of political life were gone. By contrast, no class of Englishmen faced unavoidable risk to person or property." (Langford, op.cit., p. 538.)The War
Langford narrates the main events of the war hand in hand with a summary of domestic issues. There was major public indignation in England at the ‘Boston Tea Party' and North's 1774 Coercive Acts sailed through both houses of parliament. "There is no evidence that they were opposed by a substantial body of opinion outside it." (Langford, op.cit., p. 535.) The Quebec Act, passed in the same year, provided North's opponents with little leverage and the American crisis hardly figured in the 1774 general election. There was talk of conciliation and Burke proposed repeal of all the offending statutes. He made a speech that
"had a profound influence on nineteenth-century students, but none at all on the conduct of policy at the time. Nor did Chatham's idea of a permanent American legislature which would exercise the powers of taxation claimed by Parliament. It was not clear that either of these projects would have appealed to the colonists themselves." (Langford, op.cit., p. 537.)Despite the Declaration of Independence, North still had strong support of the Church, of Whig politicians, who stood by the authority of Parliament, of business interests, and of businessmen who stood to profit from the war. All these interests, however, assumed that the conflict would be short and North's support substantially diminished when the implications of the defeat at Saratoga were realized.
"In the increasingly heated atmosphere which came to prevail after Saratoga, the management of the war was bound to prove contentious. There was a perceptible sense by 1799 that unless the war situation improved rapidly, the great dam of North's political security would break under pressure of public anxiety and political animus." (Langford, op.cit., p. 544.)The Peace
So it turned out. When the news of Cornwallis's surrender at Yorktown reached London, North was out of office within a few months. It was left to Lord Shelburne to obtain the best possible terms at the Treaty of Paris in 1783. King George III was furious, but there was nothing he could do about it.
In the following volume of the NOHE, A Mad, Bad & Dangerous People? England 1783-1846, by Boyd Hilton (published in 2006), there is no entry at all for America in the index and discussion of ‘colonial' issues is confined to Ireland and France.
Hilton's volume is an example of ‘revisionist' history writing on a grand scale. He starts with an ominous quotation from Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
"The taxes were multiplied with the public distress; economy was neglected in proportion as it became necessary; and the injustice of the rich shifted the unequal burden from themselves to the people…Imperial ministers pursued with proscriptive laws, and ineffectual arms, the rebels whom they had made…and if Rome still survived, she survived the loss of freedom, of virtue and of honour."Gibbon published this in 1781 and Hilton draws the obvious conclusion.
"None of Gibbon's readers could have failed to draw the message. Since 1763 Britain had been the world's most powerful nation, with a dominion stretching from the eastern seaboard of India to the Great Lakes of North America. But now a large part of its western empire was in revolt, leaving the imperial state traumatized. In 1783 the Treaty of Paris formally ceded independence to the thirteen rebel colonies of the new United States of America. Some attributed the disaster to divine chastisement; others like Gibbon blamed internal decay."Hilton actually spends no time at all in his volume describing either the trauma or the disaster; He gently shrugs it off.
"Yet the forebodings proved false. Over the following decades Britain established a second, more dispersed, mainly maritime, and (in their eyes) moral empire, blessed by providence and devoted to peace, freedom and Christian mission. In 1850, by which date about one quarter of the world's population was governed from London, a Foreign Secretary [Lord Palmerston] could boast that the Britons were like ancient Romans before the fall, world citizens able to call on the protection of Her Britannic Majesty's Government wherever they might be." (Quotations from Hilton, A Mad, Bad & Dangerous People? England 1783-1846, p. 1.)Langford vs. Watson?
The two accounts of the same events reflect wide differences in emphasis. Langford sees no need to deal with the Whig interpretation of history or the defense of George III and does not discuss Locke and liberty at all. As a result, he is rather more even-handed with George III than Watson is, especially in 1782, when the king did all he could to prevent peace negotiations. With Langford's account, we are more aware of the very limited degree to which war impinged on the lives of English people. In addition, with Langford there is less of a sense of shock at the actions of the colonists and less conviction that the policies of Lord North were mistaken. In one sense they were mistaken, since they did not bring about the collapse of the revolt, but this is not really emphasized in Langford's narrative. Finally, Langford's bibliographical essay is less extensive than Watson's, but primary sources are excluded. Although it is still a history of England, for further information and discussion of the American war, Langford gives a balance of British and American sources.
Oxford History of the United States (OHUS)
In the calm and staid OHE the American war of independence warranted just two core chapters, but in the OHUS, which is Oxford's general history of the USA, it warrants an entire volume and the story told is much more dramatic. In The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789, Robert Middlekauff sees his mission in quite different terms from the authors of the OHE and NOHE. This is quite apart from the fact that in the one case, it is the history of England being discussed and in the other, the history of the USA. As the title suggests—and even more, the concluding ‘Epilogue' on pp. 686-687, Middlekauff's aim is to present, not an unfortunate set of events happening on the other side of the world, from which Britain quickly recovered, but a new beginning and, for Middlekauff, a glorious new beginning. The book was originally published in 1982, but Middlekauff revised his history in 2005 and added new material. Some of this new material is about the state of England at the time of the American war and Middlekauff has much praise for Paul Langford's treatment of this in the NOHE volume discussed above.
There is also a vast difference in scale between Middlekauff's treatment of the American crisis and war and that of Watson and especially Langford. Middlekauff devotes 26 chapters to a set of events lasting (coincidentally) 26 years that was summarized by Langford in 26 pages. Of course, one cannot immediately conclude that the longer version offers an automatic improvement in quality and the two accounts are best read together. Middlekauff writes very well and the reader has a greater sense of being directly involved in the stirring events recorded than with either Watson or Langford. In view of the length of the book, I will confine the discussion here to a few important points that Middlekauff emphasizes, but Watson and Langford to not.
Stamps and Mobs
First, the scale of treatment allows Middlekauff to discuss in great detail the attitudes underlying American resentment of the Stamp Acts. Watson notes the resentment and Langford notes the important constitutional arguments this led to, but neither explains either of them in any detail. In Chapter 6 of The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789, entitled, "Selden's Penny" (pp. 122-141), Middlekauff discusses the reasons behind the opposition to the Act, which he has described in detail in previous chapters. He begins by relating Locke's conception of liberty to the possession of property, with which, he argued, it was essentially connected. As he puts it,
"Their [the colonists'] understanding of property, in fact, was profoundly embedded in their thinking not only about the nature and purposes of political society, but also about the character and meaning of liberty itself." (Middlekauff, op.cit., p. 122.)Middlekauff cites Locke's Two Essays on Civil Government and goes on to argue that because their understanding of Locke was based on property and their sense of political rights and obligations was expressed in terms of property, the unease of the colonists at the stamp act was understandable. Middlekauff explains the American viewpoint in more detail that Watson and Langford, but it is still one viewpoint and needs to be considered along with the counter arguments, which he does not give (one such argument being that English views on the importance of property were not so different). Parliament responded by separating the two halves of the argument: the Stamp Act was repealed, but the Declaratory Act reasserted the right of Parliament to tax the colonies. This was met by a gradual evolution of a constitutional position based on the idea of a fundamental law that marked civil society from a state of nature, to which Parliament was also subject.
Middlekauff then poses the question why the Americans were so fearful about the two Acts.
"What accounts for the elaboration of these fears into almost paranoid delusions of covert designs and evil conspiracies against colonial liberty? Only recently have historians begun to take these charges seriously, though not as descriptive of the realities of English politics and government, but as indicative of a genuine—and pervasive—belief in America about English intentions. As rhetorically extravagant as the colonists' reactions may appear, they were not contrived; they were not what we call propaganda. Rather, they were deeply felt and honest reactions." (Middlekauff, op.cit., p. 132.)Middlekauff then summarizes the reasons: (1) the economic costs; (2) the Acts were something new and unprecedented; (3) the alleged defense of the colonies was actually unnecessary; (4) the opposition was an expression of ‘private' rage that had no accepted public release; (5) there was a powerful belief in a conspiracy that had no basis in fact; this belief was nurtured (6) by a suspicion of governors and other who were out of reach of popular control, which had its roots in the ideas of the seventeenth century commonwealth-men and the eighteenth century radicals, who regretted the continuing ‘loss of liberty', and also (7) by the character of their Puritan Protestantism: the fear that purity and simplicity, work, thrift and frugality would give way effeminacy, sloth, a love of luxury, and moral decay.
The mobs that demonstrated against the Stamp Act were considered menacing and unacceptable by the English authorities, but Middlekauff goes into some detail about how the Boston mobs actually operated, who their targets were, and how selective and sophisticated they were in their activities. Again, he explains the background in much lucid detail and comments that:
"Violence and economic coercion observed limits; they were not resorted to indiscriminately. Nor, when mobs flexed their muscles, did they go off on a mad rampage. Their self-control proved remarkable—and quite effective. British officials dismissed them as rabble, a mistaken judgment by those who could not see what stood before their eyes: American opposition that bit deeply into society and suggested how powerful the revulsion was against imperial authority." (Middlekauff, op.cit., p. 140.)Filling the War Chest
Secondly, Middlekauff pays great attention to what he calls the English ‘fiscal-military state' and its growth in the eighteenth century. Basing his discussion on the work of P G M Dickson, which was unavailable to Watson, and of John Brewer, which was unavailable to Langford, he shows how wars and the financing of these established this. Some idea of the argument is conveyed by an Amazon review of Brewer's book.
"In the 17th Century England was a minor power which steered clear of European Wars. From the 1690's on England became one of the strongest military powers in Europe. It developed a strong navy and acquired an empire outside Europe. It however was able to keep its European enemies of balance by the use of subsidies to allies such as Prussia.
So successful was England that it not only conquered one empire. It actually lost its American colonies, its first empire, and then replaced it by conquests in India and Africa.However, Middlekauff leaves unclear the actual connection he wishes to make between this ‘fiscal-military state' and the American War of Independence. Of course, it was a war and, like the other wars fought in the eighteenth century, had to be financed in a similar way, but in this case Britain lost. What is very clear, however, from the secondary authorities that Middlekauff cites, is that the existence and strength of this ‘fiscal-military state' enabled Britain to recover from the loss of the American colonies surprisingly quickly and establish another empire in its place, as Hilton observed above.
Ancient and Modern Wars
Thirdly, having delineated Britain's superb capacity for waging war, Middlekauff proceeds to give another explanation why she lost this one (in addition to his detailed description of each military encounter).
"The British faced problems in the war unlike any they had ever faced, and just as rich as their past was, it furnished only limited guidance. The war was not just another struggle in the wilderness of the New World. The army and navy knew America: they had fought there before, and had fought well. The war was in fact a civil war against a people in thirteen colonies who gained determination as they fought and sacrificed. The military problems of dealing with these people were baffling; not only were they at a great distance and scattered from Maine to Florida, they were full of surprises. Few in Britain had imagined that the Americans could pull themselves together and create a central government and an army—and then fight year after year. Fewer still sensed their ‘political enthusiasm' as Burke had styled their near-fanaticism for self-government." (Middlekauff, op.cit., p. 595.)Middlekauff follows other historians in distinguishing two types of war. The British believed they were fighting a conventional war, similar to those that they had fought before and would fight again. The Americans fought a different kind of war, which Watson and Langford depicted in modern terms as closer to a guerilla war. Middlekauff's view is quite different:
"The British fought one war—of the old kind—and the Americans fought another, one that looked towards the massive conscripted armies of the next century. Their conception of war differed from the British one, just as their politics, with its emphasis on rights and freedom, was different from that of the ancien régime. These differences were all part of the reasons for American victory." (Middlekauff, op.cit., p. 597.)I will postpone further comments about Middlekauff's very sharp—and accurate—analysis until we discuss the Second World War and America's perceived role in this war.
America and the March of Liberty
Finally, Middlekauff's treatment is somewhat ‘Whiggish' in tone. Perhaps this term is a misnomer (it is not intended in the sense it had with the opponents of Andrew Jackson), but the fundamental concept sees history in terms of progress towards liberty, in part by means of the removal of arbitrary power, coupled with a general confidence that liberty would somehow be achieved and continue to flourish. Of course, one way of aiming to achieving this is by a revolution, but the outcome is not at all guaranteed—and the colonists were aware of this. As Daniel Little argued earlier, it is the historian who discerns revolutions, on the basis of the facts assembled. Some idea of Middlekauff's assumptions: the ‘frame', through which he sees the American war, can be seen from the opening and closing paragraphs of his ‘Epilogue'. The opening paragraph suggests that the colonists were aware of—for they were surprised at—the revolutionary nature of their activities.
"Whatever revolutions are, they often make clear what on one has noticed before. They usually appear as either inevitable or as surprises. The American Revolution … falls into a special category. It surprised men and women on both sides of the Atlantic when it began and yet ever since has seemed inevitable." (Middlekauff, op.cit., p. 686.)The closing paragraph suggests that they were not and includes a quotation from Alexander Hamilton:
"The men and women who made the Revolution were not fully aware of the implications of their actions when the crisis began in the 1760s. How could they be? But as the crisis grew, so did they. At its ending, an ending that opened up so much of the American life that followed, they recognized how important the course they had set for their country really was. Alexander Hamilton put it compellingly: …
‘It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not, of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend, for their political constitutions, on accident and force.'It would be an interesting exercise to see if this approach is maintained in the other volumes of the OHUS that have so far appeared. We will also find this ‘Optimism of a New Beginning' in American-based accounts of postwar Japan, but with democracy sharing space with liberty. In recent years this approach has come in for severe criticism. An important issue for Morihei Ueshiba and aikido is the extent to which Kisshomaru Ueshiba was led to use this trope of ‘Optimism of a New Beginning', with respect to the art his father created.
Middlekauff vs. Watson & Langford?
Middlekauff's treatment of the America war is closer in structure to Watson's than to Langford's. Whereas Langford firmly places the war in the context of a general portrait of England at the time, with the political events seen as just one element of the much broader canvas of social history, Middlekauff places his very detailed picture of American social history as one important element in the political events that unfold. He does this with rather more skill than Watson, who presents all the various elements in separate chapters. Middlekauff also interweaves his social history with the political events just as closely as Langford does with his, but Langford is hampered in dealing with the American war by the fact that the events happening across the Atlantic simply did not impinge very much on the lives of ordinary English people.
I remember well the time when I bought my copy of J Steven Watson's The Reign of George III 1760-1815, in 1961. I was at school taking my A-Levels and needed the best, most up to date, treatment available. The book is still in print, but a re-reading in 2011, fifty years after it was published, showed its age. It is well past its shelf life and, unlike good wine, has not matured over the years. So, rather than revise it, Oxford chose to publish a completely new series, of which Langford's volume covers part of the same period (1727-1763). Langford saw his main aim as producing a solid and reliable social history, but still told as a good story. The 26 pages he devotes to the American war are really peripheral to this purpose: perhaps the small number of pages matches Langford's idea of the true significance of the American war for English social history. With Middlekauff's book, on the other hand, there is a sparkling narrative brilliance that is unmatched by the other two volumes. I think Middlekauff achieves this partly because of his rhetorical skills and partly because he really believes that a genuine revolution took place between 1763 and 1782. Were I to take my A-Levels again, Middlekauff's book would be where I would start—and the aim would be to prove him wrong!
As I suggested above, I have presented this sketch of English and American history writing for several reasons. First, history, biography and fiction all share a common feature: there is a narrator who actually tells the story. With fiction, it is always an important and interesting question to what extent the narrator is assumed by the reader to know about the events being narrated. The skill of the author often lies in convincing the reader to see the world of the novel through the eyes of the narrator, who might—or might not—have the same view as the hero or heroine, and who might—or might not—be ‘omniscient' with respect to the events of the novel, or at least know enough that the reader can feel confident in accepting the narrator's world view. Jane Austen is famous for displaying this skill and her imitators include J K Rowling and her series of Harry Potter novels. With history and biography, however, the narrator is assumed by the reader to be ‘omniscient' about the events being described/narrated and sometimes the same reader needs to be reminded that this is not, in fact, the case. This is seen clearly, but to varying degrees, in the case of Watson, Langford and Middlekauff. I do not believe that Kisshomaru Ueshiba had J K Rowling's narrative skills, or Middlekauff's mastery of fine detail, but when we come to consider his biography of his father, the degree of his ‘omniscience' as a narrator and historian will need to be examined very closely.
Secondly, I wish to emphasize that the Oxford histories are intended to set a gold standard in the scientific research and writing of history. However, even in an academic environment, where there is more or less complete freedom to let the facts speak for themselves, it was considered of special importance, even in such ‘objective', ‘neutral' and ‘reliable' accounts as those of the Oxford histories, that the facts be allowed to speak for themselves in a certain way, and be presented as a good story—but always told from a certain viewpoint, as Daniel Little has argued above. In my opinion, the treatment of the American war in the Oxford histories is one of the clearest examples of well-documented historical data being used to tell the same story from radically different viewpoints. The bias is obvious and unmistakable, but this does not necessarily detract from the quality either of the research or of the story telling. We need to see whether the same is true of biographies of Morihei Ueshiba. Another way of putting this point is to ask to what extent we can expect to see in the biographies the same major differences of viewpoint, content and emphasis as were evident in the Oxford histories—and whether this is equally acceptable.
Thirdly, we need to prepare the ground for examining the additional factors involved in Japanese history writing. The fact that such a defining event as the American war is recounted from opposite viewpoints in Britain and the USA has never, to my knowledge, been a major obstacle in the postwar relations between the two countries. There are no serious issues concerning historical revisionism and historical consciousness that figure so prominently with the equally defining event of World War II in East Asia. These issues are especially important in Japan with regard to the history of the country in the 1930s and 1940s, when Japan was fighting a war on two fronts. In this war, history writing was seen as part and parcel of the war effort, with the consequence that there was not complete freedom to let the facts speak for themselves. Japanese historians are alleged to have accepted this limitation without protest and thereby surrendered any attempt at objectivity and neutrality. The effects of this were felt long after the end of the Second World War, along with another factor, still a matter of major controversy. This factor was the question precisely how the events of World War II, and especially Japan's incursions in South Asia and subsequent defeat, were to be dealt afterwards, especially taught in schools. Here, too, there is not merely a lack of freedom to let the facts speak for themselves, but a positive and controversial view on what the facts actually were and how the story should be told. I will return to this issue below.
Finally, and more importantly, Morihei Ueshiba was fashioning his art in the 1930s and 1940s and we need to examine the degree to which the facts of his life and activities are allowed to speak for themselves. The ‘official' biographies of Morihei Ueshiba are similar in generally accepted status to the Oxford histories. Though they are not general ‘history', in the sense of being a narrative of what happened during a specific time period, Kanemoto Sunadomari, Kisshomaru Ueshiba and John Stevens aim to present the same kind of ‘neutral' and ‘reliable' account as the authors of the Oxford histories—and this is what readers of such biographies are entitled to expect. Whether their expectations are met, of course, is a matter for further discussion.
Writing Japanese History
Among the Cambridge histories is the six-volume series entitled The Cambridge History of Japan [CHJ], which is comprehensive in the sense that its coverage extends from the very beginning of Japanese history up till the end of World War II. In this particular series there is also much discussion of the general state of Japanese history writing and it is remarkable that with one exception, the editor of each volume feels the need to justify the general approach to historiography taken in that volume. Such a general preoccupation is conspicuously absent from the Oxford histories we gave considered. Accordingly, Delmer Brown (CHJ, Vol. 1) discusses the influence of nihonjinron and ultra-nationalism in the interpretation of the Kiki myths and we will also discuss this further below; Kozo Yamamura (CHJ, Vol. 3) discusses the differences in Japanese and Western historiography for the medieval period; John Whitney Hall (CHJ, Vol. 4) discusses similar historiographical differences in the treatment of the Edo period; and Marius Jansen (CHJ, Vol. 5) gives a similar explanation for historiography of the nineteenth century. Peter Duus (CHJ, Vol. 6) has a different worry: whether it is even possible to write contemporary history, so soon after the events have taken place. Great attention is paid to what the writing of history is meant to achieve and all the authors attempt to steer a course in Japanese history writing between the Scylla of sloppiness and lack of intellectual rigor and the Charybdis of ideology, usually ultra-nationalism or Marxism.
There is a reason for this preoccupation, as I have stated, which looms in the background of history writing in and on Japan. During the 1930s in Japan, the history of the country included rather more than dispassionate research about Japan's past and the presentation of this research as a compelling narrative. The investigation and writing of history was regarded as part of Japan's efforts at total war on the Asian continent and beyond. As such it was carefully monitored and those historians who did not toe a certain line were punished by being stripped of their university positions or even prosecuted for crimes against the state. In Japan, therefore, the telling of a good, uplifting story overrode other considerations.
A case in point is the major celebration in 1940 of 2,600 years of the Japanese Empire. In Kisshomaru Ueshiba's biography of his father, this anniversary is mentioned in an appendix (omitted from the English translation), which gives a year-by-year account of the main events in Morihei Ueshiba's life. Morihei Ueshiba, then, played a part in these celebrations with a demonstration of aiki-budo at Kenkoku University in Manchuria, where he was a professor. Kisshomaru states nothing about the demonstration itself, but one can assume that this demonstration in 1940 was similar to the one in 1942, in which Ueshiba was said to have displayed power like high-voltage electricity, that has gone down in aikido history as classic. The actual occasion for the 1940 demonstration was not emphasized by Kisshomaru and in fact has largely been forgotten. The demonstration commemorated the establishment of the Japanese Empire by the Emperor Jimmu 2,600 years previously, specifically on February 11, 660 BC. Jimmu, whose name in the Kiki chronicles is Kamu Yamato I Ha Re Hi Ko No Mikoto, was the grandson of Ame Nigishi Kuni Nigishi Ama Tsu Hiko Ho No Ninigi No Mikoto [= Ninigi], the deity who had been charged by none other than Amaterasu O Mikami, the Sun Goddess, via her son Masa Katsu A Katsu Katsu Hayabi, with extending the realm of the Yamato clan (written as 倭, later 大和) over Japan. The important point to make here is that at the time of the demonstration in 1940, the possibility that the Emperor Jimmu never existed at all was not seriously considered by the vast majority of Japanese historians or the population as a whole, including Morihei Ueshiba. If it was, it was quickly dismissed as a matter that it was prudent not to pursue too far.
With Japan's defeat, however, a reaction set in and the pendulum swung distinctly leftwards. The history of Japan was depicted in Marxist terms and this, too, became something of a straitjacket, from which it took a few more decades to escape. Nevertheless, it is curious that February 11 is still a national holiday in Japan. The day is 建国記念の日, or National Foundation Day, and there is no mistaking the significance of the date.
In the following sections we will examine in more detail how Japanese historians handled the matter of the Emperor Jimmu. We begin with the Kiki chronicles themselves.
Writing Japanese History
2. The Quest for Japan's Founding Emperor:
Jimmu / Kamu in the Kiki Chronicles
The anniversary of 2,600 years of the Japanese empire, mentioned above, commemorated the exploits of the first Emperor, named Jimmu [神武天皇], who supposedly ‘pacified' a large part of the Japanese archipelago during his ‘eastward' march. The details can be found in the Kojiki (古事記, 712 AD) and the slightly later Nihongi or Nihon Shoki (日本紀 or 日本書紀, 720 AD). The Kojiki gives the bare essentials of the story, whereas the Nihongi version is much more detailed. As Jimmu makes the journey, he passes through many places and incidents are recorded which led to the particular choice of place names and their etymology. This proved to be a major factor in the arguments for and against the authenticity of the stories. What follows is a combined summary of Jimmu's eastward march, the aim being to give some background to the intellectual contortions suffered by those who were required to believe against their better judgment that Jimmu actually existed.
The Kojiki starts off by simply recording that Kamu Yamato I Ha Re Hi Ko No Mikoto [神倭伊波礼毘古命 = Emperor Jimmu 神武天皇], who lived in a palace in Taka chi ho [高千穂宮] with his elder brother Itsu Seno Mikoto [五瀬命], once asked his brother a serious question. The problem he posed to his brother was where to live, "in order to carry on the government of the kingdom peacefully." Without waiting for an answer, Kamu declared that he was considering moving to the east—and off they both went.
The Nihongi adds a great deal more detail. It notes that the equivalent of Emperor [Ten-no 天皇] is Sumera Mikoto (which, incidentally, is the name used by M Nakazono in his studies on kotodama). It gives exhaustive details of Kamu's parents (both were deities) and notes that he consulted not only his brother, but also his two other elder brothers and his children, and did this when he reached the age of forty-five. Kamu noted that Ninigi, the Heavenly Grandchild, had descended from Heaven exactly 1,792,470 years before, but that "the world of darkness and disorder" had confined his rule for all this time to "this western border". However, Kamu had also heard that there was "a fair land in the east, encircled by blue mountains", which was clearly the "center of the world". It was also clear that this land should be the "capital". To unanimous agreement, he set out with a naval expedition.
Jimmu Heads East in the Imperial Boat
In the Kojiki, it is simply assumed that Kamu is travelling eastwards on a boat and he interrupts his journey several by building palaces and dwelling in them for a number of years each time. He moved through Aki [安芸] and Kibi [吉備, thought to be present-day Hiroshima and Okayama, respectively] and then met a person riding on the back of a tortoise, fishing and flapping his wings at the same time. This person was apparently an earthly deity, but agreed to become Kamu's attendant. Somewhere between Kibi and Yamato [倭], which was his final destination, Kamu encountered opposition, in the form of an army led by Naga-sune-hiko, who killed Kamu's brother with an arrow. Before he died, Itsu Se No Mikoto declared that it was inappropriate for a child of the sun deity to fight facing the sun, hence his defeat.
Again, the Nihongi adds much more detail and also changes the locations. Kamu is at the head of a large force and the deity whom he meets is a fisherman, named Utsu-hiko, who had heard that the "son of the Heavenly Deity" was coming and went to welcome him. The meeting occurs long before Kamu moves through Aki and Kibi. In both narratives, Utsu-hiko, now renamed Shihi-ne-tsu-hiko, was brought on board Kamu's boat by means of a pole. The incident with the arrow is also quite different. Itsu Se No Mikoto was shot and as a consequence the army was unable to advance. Thereupon, it was Kamu, not his brother, who decided on advancing with the sun behind them, in order to rout the enemy. He succeeded brilliantly.
Dreams, a Black Bird and some Trickery
Kamu and his army arrived in the Kumano region and in the Kojiki narrative everybody suddenly became faint and fell asleep. Kamu woke up to find a man with a sword in front of him. The man's name was Taka-kuraji and he had had a dream. In the dream, the sun goddess Amaterasu O Mikami and Taka Ki No Kami [= the creation deity, Taka Mi Musubi No Kami] had heard that Kamu was in difficulties and they commanded Take Mika Zuchi No Kami, who had pacified the Central Land of the Reed Plains previously, to descend again and assist Kamu. The deity declined the request, but sent down the sword that he had used. It made a hole in the roof of Taka-kuraji's storehouse and Taka-kuraji was ordered to take the sword to Kamu when he woke up, which he did.
Armed with the sword, Kamu was about to advance, when Taka-ki-no-kami ordered him to wait, while they dispatched yata-garasu 八咫烏, a giant crow with three legs, to lead the way. Following the crow's lead, they arrived at the Yesino [= Yoshino] river, not far from their final destination. At the river they encountered a man catching fish, who was the first of three deities. As they proceeded, two other local deities appeared, both men with tails. One emerged from a well and the other pushed aside boulders to appear. With the assistance of sword, crow and local deities, Kamu arrived in Ukashi, a village in Uda, which was in the mountains close to Yamato.
In Uda, Kamu encountered two brothers, Ye-ukashi and Oto-ukashi. He had sent ahead the yata-garasu crow, which could also talk, to enquire whether they were willing to serve him. Ye-ukashi responded by shooting at the crow and planning an ambush, which took the form of building a large reception hall and giving a false promise to serve Kamu. Ye-ukashi was undone, however, by his brother, who went to Kamu and revealed all. Two ministers of Kamu forced Ye-ukashi into the hall he had built and he fell into his own trap. He did not survive and Kamu sang a bloodthirsty victory song.
In the Nihongi, the cause of the general fainting was a poisonous vapor, which had been caused to erupt by some local deities, and the Taka-kuraji dream episode is presented in much greater detail. The sword is named and precise details are given of where and how it landed in the storehouse after its descent from heaven. Kamu set off with the sword, but became hopelessly lost in the mountains. Again, a dream solved the problem. Ama-terasu herself instructed Kamu that she would send the yata-garasu and the crow ensured their safe arrival at Ukashi in Uda. There, Kamu met the elder of the two brothers and heard about the ambush being planned by Ye-ukashi. The ministers went off to tackle Ye-ukashi and the Nihongi goes into gory detail about how he met his end. Kamu's victory song is also reproduced and the Nihongi adds that, "it is still performed by the Department of Music." After this episode, Kamu went to inspect the land around Yoshino and came across the three local deities mentioned in the Kojiki, but in a different order.
The Kojiki version of Kamu's final arrival in Yamato is very brief, with everything happening in one chapter. In the Nihongi, by contrast, this final part of the story takes up more than half the entire biography of the Emperor Jimmu. The Kojiki story ends with Kamu outwitting eighty pit dwellers of Osaka by serving a banquet and having his food servers slay the men when a song was sung at the banquet. This song is reproduced in great detail. The story ends on a successful note: "Having thus subdued and pacified the unruly deities and having swept away the defiant people, he dwelt in the palace of Kashihara at Unebi and ruled the kingdom." (Philippi, Kojiki, p. 177.)
The Nihongi embarks on a long and complex account of the defeat of the eighty warriors, again with treacherous older brothers and faithful younger brothers involved. In fact, there are several bands of eighty warriors involved (eighty, meaning very numerous) and the Nihongi account also goes into great detail about Kamu's dealings with his henchmen, who are clearly descendants of the earliest families, Nagatomi and Mononobe, supporters of the early Yamato clan. There is also a contrived and rhetorical explanation of why Kamu found it necessary to move eastwards:
"During the six years that our expedition against the East has lasted, owing to my reliance on the Majesty of Imperial Heaven, the wicked bands have met death. It is true that the frontier lands are still unpurified, and that a remnant of evil is still refractory. But in the region of the Central Land there is no more wind and dust. Truly we should make a vast and spacious capital and plan it great and strong."The translator, W G Aston, adds a footnote to the Emperor's speech, quoted above:
"This whole speech is thoroughly Chinese in every respect, and it is preposterous to put it in the mouth of an Emperor who is supposed to have lived more than a thousand years before the introduction of Chinese learning into Japan. The strange thing is that it is necessary to make this remark. Yet there are still writers who regard this part of the Nihongi as historical." (Aston, Nihongi, p. 131.)Aston had been living in Japan since 1864. Along with Ernest Satow and Basil Hall Chamberlain, he was one of the very few resident Westerners who could write and speak Japanese with some fluency. He was instrumental in "bringing Japan closer to the West in the Meji era." (Terence Barrow, in his Introduction to the Tuttle edition of Aston's translation, p. vii.)
Aston's scathing comments were made in 1896, when Morihei Ueshiba was thirteen years old. On the other hand, the latest Kogakkan Japanese-language editions of the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki both have detailed maps showing the route taken by the Emperor Jimmu. The starting point is near Miyazaki in southern Kyushu and from there the sea journey follows a route close to the eastern coast of Kyushu, then through the Seto Inland Sea, again keeping close to the mainland of Honshu, with the land journey commencing at a point near Kumano, in present-day Mie Prefecture. The land journey winds through the mountains of Kumano to Yoshino, then to Kashihara in the Yamato plain. Much later, the land journey in reverse was a favored pilgrimage route from Kyoto, first to Yoshino and then to Koya-san and Kumano Hongu. As Aston suggests, if Jimmu made the journey in 660 BC, this would have been over 1,000 years before Kukai returned from China and established his Shingon Buddhist temple on Koya-san.
The story of the Emperor Jimmu can be found in any version of the Kiki chronicles, even the illustrated versions and the manga cartoon versions intended for children and students. Had the Monty Python team been aware of the story, a Jimmu version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail might well have been a distinct possibility—except that it would have probably landed them in grave trouble: the Japanese simply do not mock their emperors. As to being fact or fiction, there are several possibilities in respect of the Jimmu narratives (and many of these have been accepted by Japanese historians at some time or other):
1. They are true as stated in all the details.
2. They are true as stated in all the details except for the date, 40 BC being the date preferred by many Japanese historians.
3. They are true in essentials, in that the first emperor was actually called Jimmu and he did make a journey eastwards to the Kinai region.
4. Some parts of the story are factual and some parts are not; the historian has to research and find out which parts are which.
5. At some point before the Kiki chronicles were written, there was some general military movement from Kyushu eastwards, involving immigrants from China or Korea, and spread over a lengthy period.
6. The Kiki chronicles were actually written by Yamato court bureaucrats, who could not have been sure whether what they were recording was true or not.
7. They are not entirely true, but not entirely false, being allegorical accounts of other activities going on during some time period before they were written down.
8. They are false: no one called Jimmu really existed, there were no massive military campaigns from Kyushu to the Kinai region, and there were no other similar activities going on at the time, certainly not in 660 BC.
A few examples follow, arranged chronologically, of historians who triumphantly proclaimed the literal historical truth of the Emperor Jimmu and historians who did not—and what happened to the latter. The account largely follows that of John S Brownlee, who has been able to combine meticulous research with a story that in some places reads like a thriller. (Eiji Oguma covers some of the same ground, but his focus is not specifically on the Emperor Jimmu. For bibliographical details, see below.)
Historians Rowing the Imperial Boat
1. Hayashi Razan and Neo-Confucianism
The Tokugawa shoguns espoused Neo-Confucianism and this was also applied to the writing of history. This was taken very seriously and the writers tended to rely heavily on Chinese models. This had been the case with the early history of Japan, as given in the Kiki chronicles, and was also the case with the later ‘positivistic' history, written in the Tokugawa period by Hayashi Razan (1583-1657) and other Neo-Confucian scholars. Hayashi went through all the data and discovered that, according to all the assumptions of his ‘positivistic' (考証学: koshogaku) history, based on Chinese intellectual models, the Emperor Jimmu and his exploits were clearly mythical. Hayashi could not, however, bring himself to state this publicly.
In an essay entitled 神武天皇論 [Essay on Emperor Jimmu], Hayashi considered an earlier theory, that the Emperor Jimmu was actually related to Wu Taibo [Go Taihaku, in Japanese], a Chinese, who renounced his right of succession to the Chinese throne, left his own country and lived among barbarians, who made him their king. The story is contained in the Chinese Shiji [Records of the Grand Historian, c. 110 BC] and had been denied on various occasions before the Tokugawa era. The point here is that Hayashi clearly rejected the Age of the Gods, and the descent of the first Japanese emperor from the gods, in favor of a Japanese history that began with a human emperor. That the first emperor came from China was also a clear advantage.
"It is clear that Razan did not believe in the Age of the Gods and the divine antecedents of the Emperor Jimmu, and it would have made considerable difference to subsequent Japanese thought if he, the leading scholar of his day, had said so. He did not." (Brownlee, Japanese Historians and the National Myths, pp. 25-26.)In his Honcho Tsugan [General Mirror of Japan], Hayashi gives a preliminary narrative of the Age of the Gods and then records the exploits of the emperors, beginning with the Emperor Jimmu and going as far as the 107th emperor, named Go Yozei. He mentions the Wu Taibo story, only to dismiss it. Hayashi uses a curious argument from Confucius that is analogous to the later arguments used by Japanese historians after the Meiji Restoration. According to Hayashi, Confucius favored unorthodox views concerning the origin of the Chinese Xia dynasty, but when he wrote the Spring and Autumn Annals, he used the official orthodox sources. Confucius, therefore, distinguished between public and private matters and this was the model for Hayashi's treatment of the Age of the Gods and the Emperor Jimmu. So his preliminary narrative of the Age of the Gods follows the Kiki chronicles exactly. As Brownlee puts it,
"Hayashi Razan presented two versions of the … origins of the imperial house and suppressed the version that seemed more congenial to his Confucian rationalist thinking. Why? Although the position [stated in the Honcho Tsugan] is nonsensical, no one thinks that he was merely confused." (Brownlee, op.cit, p. 27.)Brownlee agrees with the explanation that in Hayashi's time the Tokugawa Bakufu did not have any ideology of possessing autonomous power, but had to borrow its legitimacy from the sovereign imperial house, which had originated from the Sun Goddess, and had delegated its power to the Bakufu. Hayashi had to accept this, also, and his Confucian distinction between public and private was a way round this dilemma. Accordingly, in private, the imperial house had human and Chinese origins, but in public, these origins were divine and Japanese, as the Kiki chronicles record. So Hayashi began a tradition of suppressing private beliefs for the sake of the public interest.
Historians Rowing the Imperial Boat
2. National Learning: Motoori Norinaga
The nativist scholar Motoori Norinaga had little time for the Neo-Confucianists and he wished to purge the Kiki chronicles of Chinese accretions. As for their historical truth, Motoori's view was very simple: the chronicles were true in every detail, but they told of divine happenings. Hence the perception of this truth was way beyond the frail capacity of the human intellect. It was something in which human beings had to believe blindly. Motoori Norinaga and his nativist predecessors were thus responsible for diverting (—or subverting, or perverting, depending on one's viewpoint) the focus of Japanese history ever since, from objective research for the truth, wherever this might lead, to telling a story that always conformed to certain parameters: revealing the ‘essence' of Japan and its original culture, submerged beneath Chinese cultural accretions; and locating this ‘essence' within a line of sacerdotal emperors/empresses, who could trace their origins back, via the Emperor Jimmu, of course, to Izanagi/Izanami no Mikoto and the Sun Goddess Amaterasu O Mikami. Congruently with the rise in popularity of nativism and its official adoption, this tendency became a required characteristic of Japanese history writing after the Meiji Restoration.
Historians Rocking the Imperial Boat
1. Hoshino Hisashi and Kume Kunitake
Hoshino Hisashi (1839-1917) was a professor at Tokyo Imperial University. Hoshino believed that Japan's founding myths were historically true, but in an article published in 1890, he added a controversial variant of this thesis. According to this article, one of the deities mentioned in the Kiki chronicles was actually Korean. This deity was none other than Masa Katsu A Katsu Katsu Hayabi, the deity beloved of Morihei Ueshiba, whose name Ueshiba often wrote as calligraphy and cited as a slogan. Hoshino generally used the rest of his name, Ame No Oshi Mimi No Mikoto (Deity of Heavenly Rice Ears), and argued that after Susa-No-O-No-Mikoto was expelled from the Plain of High Heaven, he went to Korea, which was not a separate country in ancient times. Unhappy there, he later returned to Izumo, on the Japan Sea coast, and entered the Japanese pantheon. Brownlee explains the context.
"This type of story was not uncommon in other Japanese records besides Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, especially those of the seventh and eighth centuries. That was a time of heavy immigration from Korea to Japan, and by the eighth century the Korean immigrants discovered that the Japanese government was prepared to admit them to full citizenship upon their adoption of Japanese names. Many of them presented documents to the Japanese government for certification, showing how they had come by their Japanese names. One method was to claim that their distant ancestors were originally Japanese, but had gone to Korea, and that it some point members of the family had returned to Japan, just like Susano-O, to reclaim their names. His story may have been a model. Thus the immigrants added to the rich Japanese store of records, legends, distortions, fabrications, and lies about genealogy." (Brownlee, op.cit, p. 97.)Japan annexed Korea in 1910. The arguments that Korea was not a separate country were very convenient at this time, being used to justify the need for Korea to benefit from the superior culture of her Japanese ‘other half'. Incidentally, Morihei Ueshiba first encountered Takeda Sokaku in 1914. There are stories of a Korean student being taught Daito-ryu by Takeda Sokaku in Hokkaido, recounted by Morihei Ueshiba to his son Kisshomaru. Given the time scale, this could be quite likely and the doctrine of ‘one country: two systems' affords a relevant cultural context.
However, when Hoshino published his work it was much earlier and people in 1890 were not ready to accept the possibility that Japan's Imperial line had any Korean elements. Political Shintoists and nativist scholars strongly attacked the article, on the grounds that Korea was not and never had been part of the divine nation of Japan, in which only Japanese could share.
Hoshino used the work of Kume Kunitake, who was also a professor at Tokyo Imperial University, but he still believed that the deities actually existed. Kume, on the other hand, in an article published in 1891, wrote that Shinto was basically primitive nature-worship and was not a developed religion in the western sense. The myths of the Age of the Gods arose out of the social and economic conditions of people. Belief in the existence of spirit and the belief that spirit can survive the death of the body came later, with the development of technical skills and material improvements. The myth of Izanagi and Izanami, who, uniquely for such deities, went to the underworld, was evidence of this belief. With the growth of agriculture and material prosperity, the distinction between humans and gods developed further, to the extent that men believed that the gods were responsible for their protection. Government became a religious activity and so developed the myth of a priestly warrior-emperor, as can be seen from the name 神武天皇: Jimmu Tenno [= Deity Warrior Heaven Emperor], given to the first one.
The unmistakable implication was that the relationship between Shinto and the Emperor was of little importance. Again, there were severe attacks from Shintoists and nativist scholars, some of whom went to Kume's home uninvited and harangued him for several hours. An official from the Imperial Household Ministry wrote that Kume had,
"proclaimed that the great shrines and holy edifices of the empire did not worship the imperial ancestors, that the three sacred regalia of the imperial house were mere altar decorations, that the imperial Great Feast of Accession worshipped a mere Heaven of Kume's imagining."He also alleged that Kume had claimed that,
"the imperial ancestor Oshimimi [aka Masakatsu Agatsu Katsu Hayabi] came from Korea to prosper and that the descent of the heavenly founder of the imperial line occurred about 100 years before Emperor Jimmu [and not the figure of 1,792,470 years, stated in the Nihongi]."Kume, in effect, had a responsibility "as a teacher of the nation", based on his position at Tokyo Imperial University, "to make clear the right relations between the emperor and his subjects."
Brownlee counts 340 items published on the matter in newspapers and journals between October 1891 and June 1893 and adds that,
"It is difficult to summarize the intellectual position of the opposition since much of it resonates like cries of pain personally suffered from a great wound inflicted on the sacred nation by a traitor within." (Quotations from Brownlee, op.cit, p. 99.)Nevertheless, the ‘traitor' was forced to resign from his post on 30 March, 1892 and Kume published a retraction in the same month. After this, Kume steadfastly argued that Jimmu was a historical figure and that his eastern expedition actually took place. Virtually none of Kume's historian colleagues came to his defense and he was not regarded as a victim or martyr until after World War II.
Historians and the 2,600th Anniversary Celebrations in 1940:
Scholarship vs. Education
The anniversary of the founding of the Japanese Empire, which took place in 1940, has been mentioned before. Morihei Ueshiba gave a demonstration in Manchuria in conjunction with these celebrations, which were clearly an occasion for a massive outpouring of national and local patriotism. The celebrations were also supposed to include the Olympic Games, to be held in Tokyo, but these did not take place. In his book on the subject, Kenneth Ruoff describes the preparations made by the Japanese government and the frenzied activities of local communities lying along the route of the Emperor Jimmu's eastward march to outdo each other in proving that the landmarks in their area were authentic. The government adopted a typically Japanese way of dealing with both the celebrations in general and all the competing claims: it established committees. Among the tasks identified by the 2,600th Anniversary Celebration Committee were the investigation, identification and preservation of ‘sacred vestiges (or even relics) of Emperor Jimmu.' This task was assigned to the Education Ministry, which, in turn, asked the governors of the ten prefectures where sites relating to Emperor Jimmu were thought to exist to submit reports of sites that had been recognized at local level. Competition was especially intense in Miyazaki and Kagoshima in Kyushu, where Mt. Takachiho was located. Mt. Takachiho was thought to be the place where the Imperial Grandchild Ninigi descended to rule over the earthly land below and Takachiho Palace was considered to be the actual departure point for Jimmu's eastward expedition. Nara Prefecture, with various sites all thought to be Jimmu's actual entry point into Yamato, also experienced intense competition.
The list of sites was then considered by a vast committee of sixty members, called the 神武天皇聖跡調査委員会, Commission of Inquiry Related to Emperor Jimmu. Many historians from the top imperial universities were invited to join this committee, which was headed by the Minister of Education himself. The committee considered the list of sites recommended by the governors and narrowed down the 150 sites submitted to just twenty-three. At these sites granite markers were erected, with statements like: ‘In 663 BC, the Emperor Jimmu led the imperial army through X on his way to Y. The site is in this area.' Brownlee comes to a rather gloomy conclusion about the work of the committee.
"Thus in 1940, the leading historians of Japan participated in a government project to commemorate a date in which they could not believe. … All the historians believed without second thought that the Emperor Jimmu had existed, but none of them accepted 660 BC as the date of his founding the empire at Kashihara. … Now, in 1940 all the leading historians accepted 660 BC as the date to which they gave formal scholarly recognition. The distinction between education and scholarship had been erased in favor of the date used by the Ministry of Education." (Brownlee, op.cit., pp. 184-185.)Brownlee makes a crucial point in the last sentence and there is an important context: most of historians involved with the work of the committee were professors at Japan's imperial universities. These institutions were directly controlled by the Ministry of Education and the professors were therefore classed as government officials. As such, their main responsibility was to use their historical knowledge and scholarship in support of the Japanese Empire. If there was any conflict, the latter took precedence. The decisions reached by the Commission of Inquiry Related to Emperor Jimmu are stark evidence of how this conflict was resolved, but Brownlee's point relates to another consequence: a distinction reminiscent of the Confucian distinction between public and private, invoked by Hayashi Razan, that determined how the Age of the Gods, the Emperor Jimmu and the imperial line were to be treated in school textbooks. A suitable entry into this issue would be to consider another professor of Tokyo Imperial University, Mikami Sanji (1865-1939).
Mikami had been trained by Reiss, Hoshino and Kume. He took note of the fact that Kume had been dismissed from his post for researching subjects that the government wanted to be left untouched. However, he insisted that it was the duty of historians, even those at Imperial universities who were also government employees, to pursue proper research. Teaching this, however, was another matter and so he came to believe that the potentially dangerous ideas discussed at university should not go beyond the study or lecture hall. (He even closed the windows and shut the doors tightly when sensitive topics were discussed.) Thus, even though the Emperor Jimmu really existed, though not in 660 BC—which was 600 years too early, Mikami told his students that they should never teach this. The reason?
"The idea that there are no national boundaries in scholarship, and that the scholarly research must be absolutely free, comes from the natural sciences. In the spiritual sciences [seishin kagaku 精神科学], a clear distinction must be made between research and the teaching of students … Now if the 2,600th anniversary is studied by scientific history, its doubtfulness is apparent to anyone. However, when it comes to teaching, I would like to have a firm distinction drawn, under which we refrain from discussing this doubtfulness." (Quoted by Brownlee, op.cit., pp. 142-143.)This is not quite the same as the doubtful distinction drawn by Aristotle in his Analytics, to the effect that research-in-progress should not be taught because it had not passed all the tests for counting as knowledge. It is more like the distinction between treating the Bible as a sourcebook of middle-eastern history and treating it as a source of religious truth. Academic historians were free to argue about the historical truth of the Kiki chronicles in their ivory towers, but outside they had the status of sacred texts and had to be treated as such. Brownlee continues:
"Nobody was startled by the spectacle of Japan's leading historian arguing that historical truth should not be taught to the nation. Such were the times that people were more likely to be offended by the statement that, in the view of scholars, the 2,600th anniversary of the empire was doubtful." (Brownlee, ibid.)Thus, Mikami made use of Hayashi Razan's distinction between public and private and applied it to education and scholarship. A little later, in 1942, a school textbook that dealt with the history of Japan was updated and reissued. In previous editions the preface had contained a discussion of history as science and art. In the new edition, the discussion was about history as training [kunren 訓練] and history was clearly seen as part of the war effort. (As was aikido, which received its name in 1942, when the Kobukan was affiliated to the Dai Nippon Butokukai.)
Historians Rocking the Imperial Boat
2. Tsuda Sokichi
Tsuda Sokichi was a professor at Waseda University, a private institution that lacked the official prestige of the imperial universities. He was not invited to join the Commission of Inquiry Related to Emperor Jimmu and in 1940, when Japan was celebrating 2,600 years of empire, Tsuda was being interviewed by the prosecutors on suspicion of lese-majesty. His alleged crime was to argue that the early chronicles were unhistorical.
"It is not difficult to summarize Tsuda's ideas. The Tokyo Imperial University scholars approached history by rigorously examining pieces of evidence one by one and trying to build up a detailed record of events, without questioning the imperial framework of history. Tsuda cast his eye over the whole process of ancient history and asked when and how the imperial framework came into being. The answer was not far to seek: the main sources for ancient history were Japan's first histories, Kojiki and Nihon Shoki. Because both were written by bureaucrats and intellectuals, at the command of the emperor, and given the content and organization of the two works, it was not hard to reason that they were written to legitimize the imperial state. Their historical reliability was compromised." (Brownlee, op.cit., pp. 189-190.)In 1940, this position was highly offensive. Tsuda was the only historian in prewar Japan to question the existence of the early emperors, but his argument that the Kiki chronicles were written by Yamato court bureaucrats, on the basis of varied and inherently untrustworthy legends, undermined the reliability of the entire foundations of the national essence (see below). However, it is important to note his position precisely. He argued that the Kiki chronicles were unhistorical, but this really meant that they could not be used to prove that Jimmu and the early emperors really existed: they did not prove that Jimmu and the early emperors did not exist.
Tsuda's book containing the offending arguments was banned on February 10, 1940, the day before the 2,600th anniversary celebrations officially began. The following month, Tsuda and his publisher, Iwanami Shigeo, were charged and formal proceedings began on November 1, 1941 and both were convicted in 1942. They were sentenced to prison terms of three and two months, respectively, but suspended for two years. The prosecutors appealed, but too late to overturn the verdict. Unlike the dismissal of Kume, many years earlier, many people supported Tsuda and spoke up in his support. After the war, both Tsuda and Iwanami received the Order of Culture. Tsuda continued to teach at Waseda University, but became a leading exponent of Nihonjinron. Iwanami Shigeo continued to publish books. The publishing house he established still exists: http://www.iwanami.co.jp/.
Historians Rowing the Imperial Boat
3. The Kokutai 國體 and Hiraizumi Kiyoshi
One could argue that the prosecution of Tsuda and the conflict between education and scholarship were less fortunate indirect consequences of the Meiji constitution, promulgated in 1889. However, both depended on a prior doctrine, concerning the Emperor and the Kokutai [國體 国体, Nation Body, usually translated as National Essence, or Polity], which needs more explanation.
At the time of the Meiji Restoration, the restorers had to deal with the problem of the status of the emperor, who was both (1) ‘sacred' and ‘inviolable', but also (2) sovereign, since he was descended from the Sun Goddess via the Emperor Jimmu. However, the connection between the two was controversial. One view directly connected the two; since the emperor was ‘sacred' and ‘inviolable', he could never be held responsible for his decisions as sovereign: responsibility always lay with the ministers who ‘assisted' him. Another view separated the sacredness from the sovereignty, with the result that the two were kept quite distinct. A commentary by Ito Hirobumi (1841-1909), who was the main author of the 1889 constitution, gives some of the consequences of this second view.
"The Emperor is Heaven-descended, divine, and sacred; he is pre-eminent above all his subjects. He must be reverenced and is inviolable. He has indeed to pay due respect to the law but the law has no power to hold him accountable to it. Not only shall there be no irreverence for the Emperor's person, but also shall He neither be made a topic of derogatory comment nor one of discussion." (Quoted in Brownlee, op.cit., p. 95.)This was a very narrow interpretation of the emperor's sacredness and inviolability, but seems to have become the prevailing one. Critical discussion of the emperor was not allowed and, by extension, critical discussion of the imperial institution and its history.
(Actually, there are some uncomfortable parallels here with the position of Doshu in aikido. If we start from the bottom, so to speak, Doshu is the senior teacher of the Hombu Dojo, the presently overcrowded building that replaced Morihei Ueshiba's Kobukan in 1968. As such he leads the aikido training conducted there. If we go one step higher, Doshu is also the elected Chairman of the Aikikai Foundation, the legal entity composed of directors and trustees, which operates the Hombu Dojo. Finally, Doshu is the third iemoto 家元 aikido, the art founded by Morihei Ueshiba, and as such he is ‘sacred' and ‘inviolable'. He could occupy this position without ever setting foot in a dojo. The discomfort consists in the general taboo against any critical discussion about the institution at all, not merely about its history.)
The doctrine of the kokutai had been discussed during the Tokugawa period, but it flourished at the hands of the nativists, especially from the 1850s onwards. The kokutai was the national essence, composed of the Emperor and his subjects, united as one body in the Imperial Nation [皇國 koukoku]. The doctrine assumed a new importance and its believers reached new heights of intensity in the 1930s. Here is one statement of the doctrine.
"Our country alone is the imperial nation. Since its founding, the positions of ruler and subjects have been settled. The sovereign governs our country in a line unbroken for ages eternal, coeval with Heaven and Earth. In this is manifested our national essence, which has no parallel in other countries." (Kuroita Katsumi, Kokutai Shinron, quoted in Brownlee, op.cit., p. 150.)An idealistic view of Japan can be drawn from this:
"The social reality of the myths [relating to the Age of the Gods and the Emperor Jimmu] persists -- the land, the emperor, and the people of Japan, three in one and one in three. The myths express the love of the emperor for the people -- a love that is real and is the basis for the absolutism of the emperor, which [is] a positive value. Absolutism is not despotism. In the myths the gods gather to discuss and decide matters, and this preference for discussion reflects the reality that the Japanese emperor has never been a despot. … Speech is free and everyone's view is considered." (ibid., p. 150-151.)Anyone who has studied the history of Japan will see at once how idealistic this view really is. In fact, the early part of Morihei Ueshiba's life (1883-1969) almost exactly paralleled the rise of Japan to the status of dominant power in Asia, as a result of victory in wars with Russia and China between 1894 and 1905, the annexation of Korea in 1910, and World War I. The constitution of 1899 had been bestowed by the Emperor, but the democratic developments to which it gave rise were not foreseen by its creators. A series of international agreements caused much domestic discontent and the government responded by crushing this, whether it was inspired by communism, or by burgeoning parliamentary democracy and party politics. The Peace Preservation Law of 1925 made it a crime to discuss the national essence and a system of thought-control police and thought-control courts was established. Despite these measures, belief in the kokutai was not clearly strong enough and in 1937, a Movement to Clarify the National Essence [kokutai meichou undou 國体明澄運動] resulted in the publication of a tract entitled Kokutai no Hongi [國體の本義, translated as Cardinal Principles of the National Entity of Japan]. The first printing of 300,000 copies was distributed to public and private schools from elementary to university level and Kisshomaru Ueshiba, who was sixteen years old at the time, would certainly have read and studied the work. Of course, the Age of Gods and the Emperor Jimmu were presented as fact.
Keeping the Faith with Hiraizumi Kiyoshi
Hiraizumi Kiyoshi (1895-1984) was a historian who clearly accepted that history was kunren. In fact he took a step further and argued that history, as a seishin kagaku, was a matter of faith. The following reads like a manifesto, or the ‘good news' of an evangelist.
"The scholarly style since Meiji has been mainly to work at searching out the facts. This is called scientific research. The research method is called analytical. Analysis is autopsy. Autopsies are for the dead. (By coincidence, in a pun reminiscent of Morihei Ueshiba's ‘Aiki [合 matching + 気] is Aiki [愛 love + 気]', an anonymous article called Tokyo Imperial University professors of ‘history' [shi 史] professors of ‘death' [shi 死].) The opposite, searching for truth, is unifying. Unifying is life. But it is not science; rather, it is art, and taken to its end, it is faith. In truth history has many aspects. It goes without saying that a cool scientific approach and meticulous research are necessary. But if history is analyzed by that alone, it dies. What makes history live, and continue, is the mysterious spiritual power of living people who believe in it. By this spiritual power, fact becomes truth. Such truth is what the historian must search for. Thus, the historian will become the priest for the past, present and future and will assist in the development of Heaven and Earth." (Hiraizumi Kiyoshi, ‘Rekishi ni okeru Jitsu no Shin' [Fact and Truth in History], 1925, Shigaku Zasshi, 36. 5, p. 371. Quoted in Brownlee, op.cit., pp. 170-171. Insertion in square brackets mine.)Hiraizumi was a historian who did not believe in keeping his head below the parapet. For him, there was no distinction between the private and the public, or between research and education. Of all the historians discussed here, Hiraizumi proclaimed most loudly the historical truth of the Age of the Gods and the Emperor Jimmu. He taught his students that having faith in the chronicles that tell of the Age of the Gods was a condition for becoming true Japanese. Such faith, in fact, was necessary for Japan to survive. Hiraizumi's response to the Movement to Clarify the National Essence was to suggest a chair in Shinto studies, which would teach among other things kokutai consciousness. Another proposed chair, in Studies of the National Essence [kokutaigaku], which actually became a chair in the History of Japanese Thought [shisoushi], had Hiraizumi as its first occupant. He taught the clarification of ancient thought, the development of Confucianism, and the development of Bushido, the Way of the Warrior.
"[i]n order to set the world on its correct path once more, Asia must first become Asian. In order for Asia to become Asian, Japan must first become Japanese. In order for Japan to become Japanese, it must stop following the meaningless models of foreign civilization and revive the true spirit of Japan. To do this positively, we must pay no heed to considerations of life or death, gain or loss, and with united hearts we must awaken the spirit of Bushido that has slumbered so long in our breasts." (Hiraizumi Kiyoshi, ‘Bushido no Fukkatsu' [The Revival of Bushido], 1933. Quoted by Brownlee, op.cit., p. 178.)With opinions like the above, Hiraizumi showed that he took a different approach to academic history. Not surprisingly, the works of Tsuda Sokichi were banned and students forbidden to read them. Brownlee notes that Hiraizumi often exhorted his students to show patriotism and military spirit by offering their lives for their country at a time of national emergency, though he stopped short of actually urging them to enlist. Hiraizumi also lectured before the imperial family, and also before Puyi, the ruler of Manchukuo. He gave lectures at various military schools and was consulted by senior military officers and politicians, including Tojo Hideki and Konoe Fumimaro. There are some obvious parallels here with Morihei Ueshiba, but the parallels are simply parallels and it is unknown whether Morihei Ueshiba included Hiraizumi in his circle of friends and acquaintances. Ueshiba's friendship with Konoe Fumimaro and Okawa Shumei, who wrote a triumphalist and best-selling history of Japan 『日本二千六百年史』[The 2,600-year History of Japan], beginning of course with the Age of the Gods and the Emperor Jimmu, suggests a possibility, but that is all. After Japan's defeat Hiraizumi resigned his position at the university and retired to a shrine, where he became a Shino priest.
Writing Japanese History
3. World War II: Japan Seen Through American Eyes
When I was a student and studied history, the Pacific part of the Second World War was seen in fairly clear historical and moral terms, usually in accordance with the following very general—but very selective—‘frame'.
(0) Japan had launched a war of aggression in China and South Asia and this had to be stopped by the US, Britain and their allies. The war and its aftermath can be divided into several phases. (1) During the 1930s, Japan became a military dictatorship, with all decisions taken by officers imbued with a belief and ethical system known as Bushido. However, the Japanese people as a whole accepted this belief system, which was embodied by the earlier samurai, and fully supported the war in China and later in South Asia.
(2) Initially, Japan was very successful and from the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 until the Battle of Midway in 1942, extended her empire over much of Asia. Later, this was called the Great East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere, but was really colonial exploitation.
(3) From 1942 onwards, the allies fought back and the tide turned. In order to end the war and avoid a bloody invasion, the US dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and, when this did not bring about Japan's surrender, dropped another bomb on Nagasaki, which did.
(4) General MacArthur and SCAP troops occupied Japan and, with the wholesale support of the Japanese, re-crafted Japanese society and institutions on the western model, to make Japan fully free and democratic. During the war itself, Japan committed many atrocities against allied troops and civilians and also against their own people and the ringleaders were punished at the Tokyo Trials.
(5) Henceforward Japan became a highly valued ally in the Korean War and also an ally in the Cold War, such that her earlier transgressions were largely forgotten, if not forgiven.
In this ‘frame', praise and blame are apportioned to certain historical figures, with the Japanese Emperor Hirohito coming in for much of the latter. David Bergamini (in 1971) and Herbert Bix (in 2000) have both published books about Hirohito's war responsibility, which was a major problem in 1945.
The creation and development of aikido, of course, straddles this period and so aikido, also, can be fitted into this ‘frame'. This is not difficult to do. Aikido as such starts in Phase (3), with Morihei Ueshiba retreating to Iwama in 1942. Before this, in Phases (1) and (2), Ueshiba is undergoing his own personal training in Tanabe, Hokkaido and Ayabe, and finally opens a dojo in Tokyo in 1931. There are some delicate problems here, since Ueshiba was very close to the Japanese military and actually taught in all the military schools, but this came to an end in 1942, so one perhaps need not worry too much about this earlier period. Aikido practice in Tokyo stopped during Phase (4), but Ueshiba was quietly doing his own training in Iwama with Morihiro Saito and Kisshomaru Ueshiba was working to support the few disciples. The real new beginning took place in Phase (5), from around 1955 onwards, when Kisshomaru really took over the Aikikai and Morihei Ueshiba began discoursing about aikido as love; the art was propagated and popularized as a new budo dedicated to health and world peace, a budo that anyone could practice with benefit. The dissemination of aikido outside Japan was an important element in this new beginning. In other words, the transformation of Japanese society as a whole was almost exactly matched by the creation and dissemination of this new and revolutionary martial art and we shall see in Column 21 that Kisshomaru tells the story of his father and the early development of aikido almost exactly in these terms.
The ‘frame' outlined above is also relevant in another way to the writing of Japanese history. For reasons sketched out in the previous section and discussed in detail by John S Brownlee, Japanese historians were not taken very seriously immediately after the war and, due to the efforts of American scholars like Edwin O Reischauer, who did their military service with the SCAP occupying forces, much of the history of Japan written in English was the work of non-Japanese scholars, such as Reischauer himself, Donald Keene, E H Norman, and R P Dore, who tended to follow the ‘frame' outlined above.
Of course, the ‘frame' itself has been subjected to sustained attack in recent years and the individual contents and phases subject to severe critical scrutiny. This ‘revisionism' is important for the view of World War II held by postwar Japanese, including Doshu and the members of the Aikikai, and taught in Japanese schools.
(0) Since the late 1960s, my very first aikido teacher has always argued that Japan's incursions into Asia were actually defensive in intent. Others have argued that the incursions were a war of liberation—of Asian nations from western imperialism, and the so-called countermeasures taken by the US can also be seen as aggression, even as empire-building.
(1) Japan's ethical / spiritual system of Bushido, supposedly at the root of her expansionist activities and the way they were conducted, has to be compared with America's own general ethical / spiritual system. There is a clear expression of what America's intentions were supposed to be in an editorial in Life magazine written by Henry R Luce.
"Luce advocated entering World War II on the side of Great Britain for the triumphal purpose of defending democracy and advancing freedom. It was the sacred vision of a global calling consistent with Woodrow Wilson's previous entreaty of making the world safe for democracy and, even earlier, with William McKinley's imperialistic epiphany of keeping the Philippine Islands so that America might ‘uplift and civilize and Christianize them, and by God's grace do the very best by them, as our fellow-men for whom Christ also died' (quoted in Charles S Olcott, The Life of William McKinley, 1916, Houghton Mifflin, pp. 110-111)."
"Cast in the image of becoming the world's ‘Good Samaritan', Luce's prophetic vision of Christian sacrifice expressed the transformative power of ‘American principles' on an international scale (Luce, 1941.) As ‘the inheritors of all the great principles of western civilization,' America was the ‘powerhouse' now charged with spreading these ideals throughout the world and ‘lifting the life of mankind from the level of beasts to what the Psalmist called a little lower than the angels' (Luce, 1941). It was America's ‘duty' and ‘opportunity as the most vital and powerful nation of the world' to exert the full impact of its influence consistent with its own means and ends (Luce, 1941)." (Quoted by Robert L Ivie, "Depolarizing the Discourse of American Security: Constitutive Properties of Positive Peace in Barack Obama's Rhetoric of Change," in Edmund Demenchonok (ed.) Philosophy After Hiroshima, 2010, pp. 234-235. Henry R Luce's essay is available online:Ivie mentions William McKinley making the world safe for Christianity, but one might ask when this ‘frame', with its general ethical / spiritual system, is supposed to have originated. Jefferson hoped to create an ‘Empire of Liberty' and one may assume that the ground of his metaphor was the existing British Empire. However, the way Middlekauff described the ‘glorious cause' of the American Revolution, suggests that the ‘frame' originated here.
(2) The atrocities allegedly performed by the advancing Japanese in South Asia were well matched by atrocities wrought by the Allies. The former were punished, but not the latter.
(3) There is a vast and growing literature on the decision to drop the atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which explores F D Roosevelt's advance knowledge of the attack on Pearl Harbor and also the question whether Japan would have surrendered in any case. The bombing is usually compared with the incendiary attacks on Dresden by the British and on Tokyo and other cities by the US. The attack on this ‘frame' usually argues that the atomic bombs caused a ‘unique' kind of damage, which makes their use morally indefensible, regardless of one's ethical system. (As a long-term resident of Hiroshima, I have heard these arguments first hand, directly from surviving A-bomb victims.)
(4) The War Crimes Trials were really an example of ‘victor's justice' and in any case were based on an ethical system that Japan was forced to accept.
(5) Japan's postwar support of the US should be seen as a sincere effort to turn her back on the ‘dark shadow' of the 1930s and her activities during this period should not be emphasized unduly. (I have also heard these arguments first hand.)
The question of ‘framing' past events relates directly to the point made earlier by Daniel Little, concerning historical events viewed as abstract logical constructions. Clearly there are degrees of abstractness here. A revolution or a war is more abstract than the life of person, in the sense that it can be proved that the person was born and died at some specific time. However, what he or she did in between depends on similar factors to those that delineate a revolution. Thus, a biography, especially of a famous person like Morihei Ueshiba, is on the same spectrum of abstraction as a revolution, but far towards the smaller end of the scale. It is a selection of all the possible facts about one particular person and that person's relations with other persons, but selected because it is to be told as a story, with all the selected facts arranged according to a certain ‘frame'. Given Little's views about abstract logical constructions, the ‘frame' and the selection of the facts in accordance with the ‘frame' might well be a major issue, as the next sections will show.
To be continued in Column 21.
For history and history-writing in general, a good place to start would be the article by Daniel Little on the philosophy of history in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/history/. The article covers all the main movements and players, including Vico, Herder and Hegel. For history-writing in Japan, a good place to start is another article: "Historiography", in Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, 1993, Kodansha, pp. 543-544.) This book is a heavy and cumbersome update of the original nine-volume edition, which appeared in 1983.
The relevant volumes of the Oxford histories dealing with the War of American Independence are: Basil Williams, The Whig Supremacy 1715-1760, Revised by C H Stuart, 1960; J Steven-Watson, The Reign of George III 1760-1815, 1960, Oxford History of England; Paul Langford, A Polite and Commercial People England 1727-1783, 1989; Boyd Hilton, A Mad, Bad, Dangerous People? England 1783-1846, 2006, New Oxford History of England; Robert Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789, 1982, 2005; Gordon S Wood, Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815, 2009, Oxford History of the United States. There is some discussion of early American foreign policy in George C Herring, From Colony to Superpower: US Foreign Relations since 1776, 2008, Oxford History of the United States. I have looked at some related works mentioned in the column: P G M Dickson, The Financial Revolution in England: A Study of the Development of Public Credit 1688-1756, 1967, 1993, Gregg; John Brewer, The Sinews of Power: War, Money and the English State, 1688-1783, 1990, Harvard. In addition, there are two works cited by Middlekauff: Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, Enlarged Edition, 1992, Harvard Belknap; Edmund S Morgan & Helen M Morgan, The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution, Third Deition, 1995, U of North Carolina P. Having seen the Amazon.com reviews of Middlekauff's book, I consulted a volume by Gordon S Wood that shows a similar bias: Gordon S Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution, 1991, Vintage.
The classic ‘Whig' history of England is W E H Lecky, A History of England in the Eighteenth Century (1878, some volumes accessible online), with the research of Sir Lewis Namier as the main response (Namier, The Structure of Politics at the Accession of George III, 1929, 1965, Macmillan; England in the Age of the American Revolution, 1930, 1963, Macmillan). The whole issue is discussed by Sir Herbert Butterfield in his Whig Interpretation of History (1963, Norton reprint) and George III and the Historians (1988, Cassell).
The best books for beginning a study of the narrative history of Japan are two works: (1) The three volumes of G B Sansom's history of Japan, despite being dated, provide a good basic narrative survey of Japanese history from prehistoric times till 1867: G B Sansom, A History of Japan to 1334, 1958, Stanford U P; A History of Japan, 1334-1615, 1961, Stanford U P; A History of Japan, 1615-1867, 1963, Stanford U P; (2) The period covered in the final volume of Sansom's trilogy has been extended until the postwar years by M Jansen: Marius B Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan, 2000, Harvard U P.
The six volumes of the Cambridge History of Japan [CHJ] need to be consulted for more depth on specific issues: Delmer Brown (ed.), Ancient Japan, CHJ Vol. 1, 1993; Donald H Shively & William H McCullough (eds.), Heian Japan, CHJ Vol. 2, 1999; Kozo Yamamura (ed.), Medieval Japan, CHJ Vol. 3, 1990; John Whitney Hall (ed.), Early Modern Japan, CHJ Vol. 4, 1991; Marius B Jansen (ed.), The Nineteenth Century, CHJ, Vol. 5, 1989; Peter Duus (ed.), The Twentieth Century, CHJ Vol. 6, 1988, Cambridge U P. The entire series represents the application to Japan of the kind of traditionalist history-writing exemplified by the Oxford History of England.
The biography of the Emperor Jimmu (神武天皇) can be found the two main chronicles: the Kojiki and the Nihongi or Nihon Shoki. The best English translation of the Kojiki is by Philippi: Donald Philippi (tr.), Kojiki, 1968, Tokyo U P, pp. 163-177. The sole translation of the Nihongi is by W G Aston: W G Aston (tr.), Nihongi: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to AD 697, 1896, 1972, Tuttle, pp. 109-137. The Japanese text can be found in various scholarly editions, the ones I have used being part of Kogakkan's Nihon Koten Bungaku Zenshu: 山口佳紀, 神野志隆光 (trs.), 『古事記』, 1997, 小学館, 日本古典文学全集 1, pp. 141-165; 小島憲之, 直木孝次郎, 西宮一民, 蔵中進, 毛利正守 (trs.), 『日本書紀❶』, 1994, 小学館, 日本古典文学全集 2, pp. 192-237. An interesting way of reading the Kojiki is through manga comic books, which draw on Japan's long tradition of this genre. One recent example is by Fumio Hisamatsu, whose three volumes deal, respectively, (1) with the origins until Take Haya Susano O delivers the ame-no-mura-kumo-tsurugi (sword) to Ama-terasu, (2) the story of O-kuni-nushi and his surrender of the country to the imperial grandchild, and (3) the eastward expedition of the Emperor Jimmu, complete with maps. (久松文雄, 『マンガで読む古事記』: 1 (2009), 2 (2010), 3 (2011), 青林堂.)
In the bibliography appended to The Making of Modern Japan, cited above, Jansen has given a thorough, but orthodox, survey of recent writing on Japanese history. L M Cullen has also written a perceptive essay entitled "An Introduction to Bibliography" in his history of Japan. More than simply an introduction to bibliography, the essay is an introduction to the biases of much Japanese history writing in English and Japanese: L M Cullen, A History of Japan, 1582-1941: Internal and External Worlds, 2003, Cambridge U P.
With respect to the Emperor Hirohito's alleged war responsibility, two books mentioned in the text are: David Bergamini, Japan's Imperial Conspiracy, 1971, William Morrow; Herbert P Bix, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, 2000, HarperCollins. The works of Edward Herbert Norman are required reading for anyone who desires to know how Japanese history can be Marxist and scholarly at the same time. There is an edition of his essays edited by John Dower: Origins of the Modern Japanese State: Selected Writings of E. H. Norman, 1975, Pantheon Books. An important ‘fellow-traveler' here is Masao Maruyama, whose works have been extremely influential. Maruyama attended the lectures given by Tsuda Sokichi that led to the latter's arrest and trial. Maruyama has received his own critical analysis: Rikki Kersten, Democracy in Postwar Japan: Masao Maruyama and the search for autonomy, 1996, Routledge.
The ways in which Japanese history has been reinterpreted to suit prevailing currents of thought is a vast and complex subject. For the way in which scholars interpreted their history, a work on the interpretation of the Kiki myths is fundamental and his research is the basis of much of the discussion in this column: John S Brownlee, Japanese Historians and the National Myths, 1600-1945: The Age of the Gods and the Emperor Jinmu, 1997, UBC Press. This topic is also discussed by Kenneth J Ruoff and James Ketelaar, but in respect of different events: Kenneth J Ruoff, Imperial Japan at its Zenith: The Wartime Celebration of the Emperor's 2,600th Anniversary, 2010, Cornell U P; James Edward Ketelaar, Of Heretics and Martyrs in Meiji Japan: Buddhism and its Persecution, 1990, Princeton U P. The Japanese annexation of Korea is discussed by Peter Duus in The Abacus and the Sword: The Japanese Penetration of Korea, 1895-1910, 1995, U of California Press.
Okawa Shumei's history of Japan has not been translated into English and is out of print in Japanese. My own Japanese copy is of a limited 2008 reprint: 小川周明,『日本二千六百年史』, 1939, 2008, 毎日ワンズ. There is some discussion of Okawa Shumei in the only book in English on the anniversary of the Japanese Empire: Kenneth J Ruoff's, Imperial Japan at its Zenith, cited above. Okawa and Yanagita Kunio are discussed by Tetsuo Najita & H D Harootunian, in, "Japanese revolt against the West: political and cultural criticism in the twentieth century," (CHJ, Vol. 6, 1988, pp. 711-774). This essay is the target of a scathing attack by David Williams in his book on the Kyoto School: David Williams, Defending Japan's Pacific War: The Kyoto School philosophers and post-white power, 2004, Routledge-Curzon. Williams also attacks the ‘orthodox' view of the Kyoto School: James W Heisig & John C Maraldo (eds.), Rude Awakenings: Zen, the Kyoto School and the Question of Nationalism, 1994, ‘Hawai‘i U P.
Rather closer to home and harder hitting is a work by a journalist, explaining how the nations that fought in World War II, specifically the US, France, and Japan, have systematically falsified their history: Erna Paris, Long Shadows: Truth, Lies and History, 2000, Bloomsbury.
Eiji Oguma discusses the evolution of the Japanese doctrine of a homogeneous culture, which involved a selective approach to historical data: 小熊英二単, 『一民族神話の起源』, 1995, 新曜社, translated into English as, Eiji Oguma, A Genealogy of ‘Japanese' Self-Images, 2002, Trans Pacific Press; 小熊英二単, 『〈日本人〉の境界』, 1998, 新曜社. Oguma discusses many of the historians discussed by Brownlee, but from a different standpoint.
Important issues relating to ‘cultural memory' are raised in a number of books concerned with more specific of topics: Stefan Tanaka, Japan's Orient: Rendering Pasts into History, 1993, U Cal P; Ian Buruma, The Wages of Guilt: Memories of War in Germany and Japan, 1994, Farrar Strauss Girouz; Sven Saaler, Politics, Memory and Public Opinion: The History Textbook Controversy and Japanese Society, 2005, Iudicium; John Breen (ed.), Yasukuni, the War Dead and the Struggle for Japan's Past, 2008, Columbia U P; Franziska Seraphim, War Memory and Social Politics in Japan, 1945 -- 2005, 2006, Harvard U P. There is more specific discussion of various issues relating to Hiroshima and the alleged ‘hegemonism' of the US in a large number of recent books. Those I have consulted for this column include: Kai Bird & Lawrence Lifschultz (eds.), Hiroshima's Shadow: Writings on the Denial of History and the Smithsonian Controversy, 1998, Pamphleteer's Press; Edward Demenchonok (ed.), Philosophy After Hiroshima, 2010, Cambridge Scholars Publishing; John Dower, Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor / Hiroshima / 9-11 / Iraq, 2010, Norton.
Peter Goldsbury (b. 28 April 1944). Aikido 6th dan Aikikai, Emeritus Professor at Hiroshima University, teaching philosophy and comparative culture. B. in UK. Began aikido as a student and practiced at various dojo. Became a student of Mitsunari Kanai at the New England Aikikai in 1973. After moving back to the UK in 1975, trained in the Ryushinkan Dojo under Minoru Kanetsuka. Also trained with K Chiba on his frequent visits to the UK. Moved to Hiroshima, Japan, in 1980 and continued training with the resident Shihan, Mazakazu Kitahira, 7th dan Also trained regularly with Seigo Yamaguchi, Hiroshi Tada, Sadateru Arikawa and Masatake Fujita, both in Hiroshima and at the Aikikai Hombu. Was elected Chairman of the IAF in 1998. With two German colleagues, opened a small dojo in Higashi-Hiroshima City in 2001. Instructed at Aiki Expo 2002 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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Hi Peter. Wow. Very detailed and impressive article. I will have to take some time to assimiIate all the layers of information. For now a passing comment. Iwanami Shoten published Kokoro by Natsume Soseki but I saw many European movies at Iwanami Hall in Jimbocho in Tokyo without knowing its history.
I hope you will forgive a reference to Alan Bennett's irreverent definition of history from the play and movie The History Boys.
And wow again. Thank you for sharing the depth and breadth of your knowlege.
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Thank you for your comments. Yes, I liked The History Boys as well and have the DVD somewhere. This column really needs to be read in conjunction with Column 21, the bulk of which I have completed. (I have another week to finish it!)
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Thank you Peter. Eagerly awaiting part 2.
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Thank you. There is one relatively minor error towards the end. Truman was President when the US dropped the atomic bomb, but Roosevelt was President when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. However, this does not alter the content of the 'frame' or the attacks on the same.
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Another comment on one part of your earlier post.
In the early days of this forum, when the late Ubaldo Alcantara was a contributor, there was some discussion about the content of threads and posts here. Some people thought that the posts had to accommodate the (seemingly, very short) attention span of the average Aikiweb reader, but Ubaldo disagreed--and I disagree also.
I think a forum like Aikiweb stands or falls on the quality of the threads and posts and not on the authority / eminence or otherwise of the posters. There is scope for enormous variety here and some of the posts I have read have a verbal brilliance that I quietly envy. (Of course, there is all the other stuff, as well, but this is unavoidable in a general forum like Aikiweb and Jun has provided ways for readers to be very selective in what they want to read.)
So I apologize, but only a little, for the demands I make on the readers of these columns. I live in Hiroshima and am quite active in local affairs. Some people here still believe that the atomic bomb literally fell from the sky on August 15, 1945, and that its appearance was entirely unrelated to any of the events that took place from 1931 onwards. Last Tuesday there was a rijikai meeting of the A-Bomb Museum and questions were asked about the content of the exhibition in the Museum. The director argued quite strongly that the museum should not include any exhibits or evidence about any of the events before 8.15 on August 6, 1945. The director is an American, by the way, and an ardent peace activist. He wanted a dramatic focus, that would get attention, rather than detailed, but pedestrian, evidence about the war in the China and the Pacific and Hiroshima's role as a military city.
Similarly, some people seem to believe that Morihei Ueshiba and aikido suddenly appeared, like one of the very early deities in the Kojiki, and in Japanese English! I was astonished to see Masakatsu Akatsu Katsu Hayabi, quoted as an answer to another post. That was all there was: no explanation. It was as if the meaning was intuitively obvious to anyone who could read the words. There really is an omote and ura about knowledge of Morihei Ueshiba and aikido and I believe that it is time that these two poles came closer together.
Of course, you live in Japan, so I believe you know what I mean.
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Thanks and kind regards,
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I also wish to say it is wonderful to have your scholarly writing made so freely accessible here ... Even if my first response is always, oh boy, the printer will be chugging away for a while tonigt so I can take this away to read at leisure!
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Just to say how great it is to have all your material here of Transmission, Inheritance and Emulation to refer to. I became interested in Japan way back in the sixties at Cornell because our Anthropology professor used "The Water Trades" (including sumo) as an example of related cultural groups. He was also an art historian, married to a Japanese lady.
At the time, the modern dance teacher suggested I study "something else" . I did, but didn't give up modern dance, and the next year's teacher was a bit less picky.
Judo was a great way to have fun and exercise, as winter lasts quite a while in Upstate NY! Our last term, the teacher's cousin introduced us to Aikido. He was French but seems to have been Japanese influenced, he loved to throw us a lot, so maybe it was for our own good after all,,,, i couldn't remember one technique but it seemed amazing all that flying through the air....
Later at Columbia, I audited some courses on Japanese literature, I think by Donald Keene, a noted translator ....
So thanks so much Prof Goldsbury, for helping me to continue my studies years later, and to learn about things I have always wondered about. My readings in the columns are a bit random, but that's the way I learn best anyway. Eventually I'll absorb the learning!
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Very interesting article, thank you again Dr. Goldsbury.
The article gave me a vivid flashback to my undergrad philosophy days. My advisor was deeply interested in Habermas and we had many a late night conversation about how to go about understanding history. The intersection of epistemology, communications, sociology, cultural norms, etc.
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You writings here and your hard research work are greatly appreciated. However I personally feel that in this essay you somehow lost focus. Your approach is way too broad and not helping to realize the initial goals. May be in Japan some subjects are very important and still debated, but for us they are – how to say in polite way –obvious and trivial matters. I was actually very surprised you give them so much space in your writings. It looks like you are targeting Japanese audience…
Also, are you trying to convince other historians in this essay in favor of your theory? After reading all, it is still not clear to me, what your intentions are….. Even if in the beginning you clearly specified your goals, I feel like a ship in the middle of ocean without a captain…
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Thank you for your comments. You are not the first to have complained about the diffuseness of these columns and I am sure you will not be the last.
Thanks to Jun, I am able to do in these columns what I would never be able to do in a published book or a journal article. In a book, the material would be subject to the pencil of a ruthless and commercially oriented editor. In an article, much of the material would be relegated to footnotes. There is an automatic footnote function in MS Word, but the last time I checked with Jun (which was a long time ago, admittedly), I seem to remember that he could not handle footnotes. In the last long essay I published in Aikido Journal, the footnotes disappeared: they were not printed. The value of a journal article lies in the critical review by peers, who have also read all the material and probably more.
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Thanks for that supplementary comment, Peter. And just to add that I like the style of your articles very much. The broad sweep and unassailable structure let them stand alone. It is very kind to your readers. I'm looking forward to the next one.
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Dear Professor Goldsbury,
Thank you for the intellectual rigour you bring to your columns. As a Filipino, I cannot but help react to President McKinley's oft-quoted justification for the annexation of the Philippines, to wit,
2) was there A need to "Christianize" when the majority of the Filipinos were already Roman Catholics due to 300 years of Spanish Colonialism? 3) was there a need to "civilize" the Filipinos as they already produced several intellectuals and artists of note such as Jose Rizal, Juan Luna and Felix Hidalgo? 4) By "uplift" did McKinley mean such acts as the invention of water boarding and the water cure, hamletting, and the order of General Jacob Smith to "kill all Filipinos capable of bearing arms, including males over the age of ten".
Ivie states that Mckinley used his rhetorical genius to mask a complex blend of moral and political motives:
Indeed, the "frame" for American expansionism may have equipotent drivers in commercialism and nationalism and not just religious-ethical motives, as stated in this article about America's Manifest Destiny:
The expansionist drive was continued by McKinley's successor, Theodore Roosevelt, whose policies, according to James Bradley's The Imperial Cruise were to bring about Japan's own expansionist ambitions which culminated in the conflict that was to give so much trouble for Teddy Roosevelt's nephew, Franklin Roosevelt, in the 1940s.
All the best,
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Have you come across the collection of essays I referred to in the bibliography? The book is called Philosophy After Hiroshima and the quotation about McKinley comes from Robert Ivie's essay, entitled "Depolarizing the Discourse of American Security: Constitutive Properties of Positive Peace in Barack Obama's Rhetoric of Change." It is part of a section entitled 'Nuclear Amnesia and the Metaphysics of New Warfare' The editor is Edward Demenchonok.
I am currently reviewing the book for the International Journal of Peace Education. I should have finished it, but writing this column and the next have delayed it.
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I haven't been able to read the above-mentioned book yet. Thank you for the heads-up.
Theodore Roosevelt practised judo, as I am sure you are well aware. His instructor was Yamashita Yoshiaki (later Judo 10th Dan, Kodokan). The person who introduced Yamashita shihan to President Roosevelt was none other than Admiral Takeshita Isamu, who would become an important figure later in Ueshiba Kaiso's career. 
All the best,
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Again... thanks for your continuing efforts to share your views. As my friend, Janet, wrote above, "Even if my first response is always, oh boy, the printer will be chugging away for a while tonigt so I can take this away to read at leisure!" I enjoy repeated visits to your gifts to us. Thanks again with appreciation for your hard work.
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Thank you for your comments.
Actually, the spur to writing this column was a discussion with the English translator of Kisshomaru Ueshiba's biography, who is a good friend of mine. I was approached about doing the translation, but my university responsibilities left no time for other activities. A lengthy discussion of Kisshomaru's biography will appear in Column 21, but I needed to compare Kisshomaru's book with the two versions of the biography written by John Stevens and the biography written by Kanemoto Sunadomari, which has not been translated into English.
These biographies are all very different and this led me to think about general questions of biography and 'straight' history. Kisshomaru Ueshiba's biography has been severely attacked, and I can see why, but it conforms to a certain tradition in Japanese writing, exemplified by the historical fiction of writers like Shiba Ryotaro. John Stevens admits that he is writing hagiography, but the present Doshu believes that Kisshomaru was presenting solid and reliable historical evidence.
We do not know whether Kisshomaru was writing fact or fiction and the absence of sources or footnotes prevents any judgment. However, the novels of Shiba Ryotaro are part of a literary tradition in Japan that sees no distinction between historical fact and historical fiction, so long as the fiction supplements a plausible interpretation of the known 'facts' and I think that this explains to some extent why Kisshomaru was not worried so much about specifying his sources.
As you might have gathered, the discussion of the three accounts of the American War of Independence was an attempt to outline the biases and selectivity that one could expect to find in lives of Ueshiba. However, I am somewhat surprised that no one has questioned (as yet) my treatment of this war.
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It's kind of funny, but I had planned on doing something very similar in the book I am writing. Sort of a short historical fiction story based loosely upon sporadic facts. While, hopefully, it makes for interesting reading, it isn't something that can be completely verified.
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I sent TIE Column 21 off to Jun today. However, I think this might be too late for it to appear as an October column.
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As always, a very detailed and researched article (but I really like TIE 21! Please more to come.)
History, historians, and interested parties are always revising past events with new knowledge (like the release of the Ultra decoding program of WW II that was kept secret for 29 years), new interpretations, and a chance to see the results of actions taken (will today's actions in the Middle East result in peace? Not. No matter who did or does what.)
Regarding your bringing in different views regarding the American Revolutionary War, it was very interesting but left out several points underlying the ‘revolt' which has similarities to Japan and Ueshiba's Aikido.
On England, there are two areas that I think tend to be left out of the reason for the American uprising -- crony mercantilism and slavery.
Edward Reidell put it neatly with the quote regarding England's business model as setting up "monopolistic trade rights for certain parts of the world to individual companies" such as the British East Indian Company, the North West Company, and others. This crony mercantilism resolved around the new products (spice, sugar, fur, tea, etc.) from the New and Ancient world flowing at unbelievable profit margins back to England.
Combined with difficulties in banking and representation in the Colonies, inhabitants of America had to do currency exchanges thru London with the resulting delay and ‘finance fees' eating up profits in both areas. This is one of the reasons so many of the Founders were lawyers and had firsthand knowledge of dealings (pro and con) with the Empire.
On the slavery issue, with the transformation of slavery to a racial issue and indentured servants passing away as a work force (shades of Ben Franklin) slowly occurring, it nevertheless began in England proper.
In 1702, Lord Chief Justice Holt is quoted as saying "as soon as a Negro comes to England he is a free man, he may be a villain in England, but not a slave." Of course, this was legally danced around for many years but the 1772 Somersett's Case was the writing on the wall for all of the agribusinesses in the southern colonies that the British Empire would eventually disband slavery (which it valiantly did after having made much money.) The recent great movie "Amazing Grace" shows the difficulties and victories in the abolitionist campaign.
Of course, the United States was left with the problem, going thru the same political difficulties but unfortunately resulting in war; one needs to remember that the slavery industry in the southern states surpassed the northern manufacturing states in total dollar value as seen by the 1860 census.
With new political thoughts on freedom and government, the money involved in home management rule vs. absentee plundering, southerners scared of losing a valuable and productive workforce, it is no wonder the Colonies defected. While tariffs are bandied about, it must be remembered that taxes were increased in England also to pay for the French & Indian War costs and resulted in near uprisings by the homeland citizens.
Historians, never ones to venture over to Business Administration in college, forget it is money (and gravity) that make the world go round. This same motive with the beginning of the 20th century drove the new player Japan entering the world market stage as they could plainly see the ledger sheet and notice they were extremely raw materials short.
With the shift from crony mercantilism to this new fledged (and seemingly successful) crony fascism sweeping the world hand in hand with colonialism, of course they wanted their part of the pie with Korea, Manchuria, China and a leering eye on Vietnam, Philippines, Burma, and so on. Rubber, oil, foodstuff, and cheap work force were there for the taking and take they did.
The problem wasn't so much in the taking but the way they took (war crimes such that even one of Ueshiba's students was hanged.)
And the players who set this up such as the Black Dragon Society and Ryohei Uchida (and other names and others) as mentioned by Ellis Amdur were instigators and subverters. Ueshiba's Aikibudo and Kano's Judo (there's an important subject that needs to be looked at with his connection to Uchida) fit in to those looking for power, these instructors' arts a kind of a Muscular Shinto (a takeoff on Roosevelt's Muscular Christianity when he was not practicing jujutsu).
Is Japan's self deception singular? Far from it. I remember seeing in Harper's Ferry, sight of John Brown's failed uprising to overcome slavery, a historical marker praising the south's "peculiar institution." It is still there today.
As Ueshiba went from teaching at the Nakano Spy School in the 30's to teaching High School students in the 50's one can guess which side the history was slanted by both his son, students, and a whole country.
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Hello Mr Harrington,
A few comments.
As for radical Shinto ultranationalism, please wait for TIE 22. It's on its way.
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