This is a really fascinating discussion. Thank you, Peter and Ellis, for having it where I can read it. I don't speak or write Japanese, so my info comes via an interpreter, but I remember a conversation with my shihan. He was trying to explain his father to us, a man who was maybe 18 when O Sensei was in his late 30's and they were uchi deshi for Onisaburo Deguchi Sensei. Tanaka Shihan was talking about how strict and severe his father was, and how he had few openings either for attack or for human contact (I hope I am not overstating here.) Tanaka Shihan said most of us can't relate now, but folks who were in their 70's or 80's (this was 10 years ago) would remember and understand that generation of men.
Thank you for the comments.
Last week I gave a lecture to a group. Of course, it was about Japan and Japanese culture and the main theme was how the 'culture' was changed by the Meiji Restoration. My audience was composed entirely of relatively elderly Japanese, who, of course, remembered their parents and grandparents. In the ensuing discussion, nearly everyone commented on how truly severe the upbringing of samurai boys really was and this severity continued well after the Meiji Restoration: it did not really change.
The darker aspects of Japanese society hardly ever come out in the biographies of more senior Aikido teachers and I suspect that not revealing these darker aspects was also part of the code. Sometimes I overhear mothers talking about their sons' education (conversations in a restaurant, for example). The conversation is always about helping them to cope with all the challenges in store (examinations, groups, peer-pressure, bullying--by teachers as well as other pupils). It is never about lessening the challenges, which are regarded as a given and have to be accepted, in order to build the strength of character required for a Japanese.