The event cannot be considered in isolation, but it fits into a a notable series of likely eye-opening events leading to the retreat to Iwama. In 1940 he attends a Manchurian demonstration in honor of the 2600th anniversary of the Empire. That gave him a glimpse of the state of the Empire on the mainland and the demoralized military there after the Nomonhan disaster in 1939 (30% casualties) led to having the humiliation of having to seek terms with the Soviets over Manchuria/Mongolia (the reverse of the plan they intended against the British in Southeast Asia).
The Doolittle raid is in April 1942. Also in April of 1942 the Honkeiko mine disaster brings to light the working conditions of Chinese slave labor in Manchuria, under "enlightened" Japanese rule, in an event far too large to escape notice to anyone who actually visited Manchuria. In August 1942 he attends another Manchuria demonstration, and sees the further effects of Nomonhan, which by then is realized in treaty terms finalized with the Soviets in October of '41.
On one or the other of his Manchuria trips given his long Kempeitai connections, it is conceivable that he heard of aspects of Unit 731 and its associated labs. The headquarters and at least one other lab were in Manchuria and one in Inner Mongolia). These labs were using live human subjects testing biological and chemical weapons and reputedly also engaged in human vivisection. e.g. --http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...Depravity.html
This possibility brings a certain characteristically Japanese depth of understatement to the quote: "Up till today not all karma of cause & effect in Japan have been managed properly."
The sequence also suggests that he may have been privy to rumors of Unit 731 in the 1940 visit that troubled him so deeply (he had his second vision that year, remember upon his return), that he made efforts during his 1942 visit to find out if the rumors had any basis in truth. Reputedly, 1942 was the year that Gen. Ishii tested largescale dispersants for biological weapons on live subjects. That kind of thing is hard to completely hide. There was at least one medical journal article in the States reporting the rumor of this test in the latter part of 1942.
On his return home from Manchuria in 1942 he suddenly moves to Iwama -- essentially into someone's unprepared garden shed. If he did discover anything reliable about Unit 731 in August 1942 a sudden abandonment of his tattered tatemae -- and unexpected retreat from the social reality that produced such a horror is completely understandable. It is the kind of thing he would likely have had difficulty sharing, even with his son. To whom does he reach for aid? A deep transformative recourse to divine salvation from such evil is the rule rather than the exception in human experience. Paul on the Damascus Road comes to mind. Former personal associations with those perhaps involved in it certainly call for far more than mere abjuration.
This is much supposition but the repeated chronology of "Manchuria = powerful vision" has some explanatory force to suggest that something deeply troubling was disclosed to him in Manchuria.and its nature more strongly felt the second time. The nature of the thing that propels an otherwise stable person into having divine visions is usually very traumatic. Something on the scale of progressive disillusionment that this history suggests, culminating in a revelation of any of the activities of Unit 731 would certainly fit the bill for anyone of even modest moral sensibilities.
In this context, the consuming fire he feared and remarks to his son about may be a concern about the just retribution of karma for the entire nation. And, yes, I rather doubt that possibility would sit too well with the Hiroshima town council.
Yours is a very interesting line of thinking. I understand well that you yourself do not see the events in isolation, but the extent to which this can be said of Morihei Ueshiba is open to question. I do not think it is clear to what extent the operations of Unit 731 were common knowledge in the Army, or to what extent Ueshiba knew about these—and whether it would have mattered to him. You simply assume that it would—in the light of what he later states about aikido and killing. Certainly they were not common knowledge among the general population and even now the Japanese government is very loath to admit publicly that anything like that actually happened.
I do not give the vision of conflagration in Tokyo the same value as you do. From the evidence I have read, it was common knowledge that the war had entered a serious phase in 1941, but it is not at all clear that it was common knowledge that the war was going badly at this point. Given his links with the Navy, it is possible that Ueshiba understood that war with the USA was not such a good move, but even Yamamoto Isoroku was prepared to fight to the death, against what he saw were increasingly difficult odds. Given his links with the Army, it is also possible that Ueshiba understood the issues being debated of whether to strike north, or south. And we know that it was Hideki Tojo who wanted to hold out to the bitter end in 1945. Air raid practices in Tokyo and Osaka had been held ever since 1928 and the practice was extended in 1937, but the effects of the Doolittle raids were discounted in Japan. The point was more that they had entered Japan’s sacred space than that they had done any damage. So I do not think that the threat of a conflagration of Tokyo, and by extension Hiroshima, was the prime motivation for the move. In the Takemusu Aiki
volume Ueshiba contrasts the budo training in the Army with his own—and finds both wanting, as of 1940.
The issue is how you analyze and connect the evidence and it is clear to me that you and I think differently.