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Old 07-02-2010, 05:33 AM   #72
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 18

I think it would be foolish to deny that Morihei Ueshiba was happy tilling the soil. After all, he helped to 'colonize' a Hokkaido 'wilderness' from 1912 onwards, he tilled the land in Ayabe in the 1920s, and he moved to a smallholding in Iwama in 1942.

It is the absolutes that are alleged to flow from this that are in question.

The evidence is to be found, not in the discourses of Morihei Ueshiba himself, but in the writings of his son. Kisshomaru states very clearly in his biography that Morihei Ueshiba adapted a phrase that was first coined as a slogan by the new Meiji government. The phrase is heino-ichinyo (兵農一如) and was a slogan to popularize a movement known as tonden-hei-seido (屯田兵制度), the creation of settlements in Hokkaido for samurai who were left without a livelihood after the abolition of feudal domains. Kisshomaru is in no doubt that his father's decision to go to Hokkaido was influenced by one Denzaburo Kurahashi, who lived in such a settlement. He is also in no doubt at all that the ideal of buno-ichinyo (武農一如), which was Morihei Ueshiba's own version of the ideal for Iwama, was based on these earlier settlements.

Kisshomaru adds that "after the Battle of Hakodate Goryokaku, when the shogunate army led by Takeaki Enomoto surrendered to the new Meiji government, many such settlements were organized for the erstwhile samurai class and their followers. Between 1874 and 1899, twenty-four military villages, incorporating 7,337 families and a total of 39,911 people, were formed on this model. The reports by Denzaburo Kurahashi about the Hokkaido settlement where he lived must have captured O Sensei's imagination. He was on fire with the "frontier spirit." (A Life in Aikido, pp. 83-84; Japanese original: pp. 82-83.)

Two items can be added to to Kisshomaru's statement. One is that Enomoto's army included Saigo Tanomu (aka Chikanori Hoshina, Sokaku Takeda's aiki teacher), who had fled to Sendai (with Takeda Sokaku's father) after the siege of Aizu, and then went to join Enomoto in Hakodate. Saigo was imprisoned for a few years in Hokkaido and stayed there for a time after he was released.

The second is that one of the defeated samurai families of Aizu who went to Hokkaido was the Shiba family. Like the Saigo family, many members chose suicide rather than surrender to the Choshu/Satsuma army, but the Shiba family chose to follow their pardoned daimyo to Hokkaido. Those who question my use of the term 'romantic' might like to read Shiba Goro's memoir, Remembering Aizu, where he gives an account of their life in Hokkaido on pp. 83-112.

Finally, I think it is very important to place Morihei Ueshiba in a correct contemporary context. It was Onisaburo Deguchi who encouraged Ueshiba to till the soil in Ayabe. Deguchi made extensive use of the teachings of the nativist Hirata Atsutane, who sanctified the triangle of worship, work, and the soil into a coherent recipe for returning Japan to her ancient roots and for avoiding a repetition of the popular disturbances that gripped Japan during the Tempo famine. When I have the time, I will spell it all out.

Best wishes,

P A Goldsbury
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