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Old 10-21-2011, 10:56 AM   #7
Fred Little
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 21

Thank you very much Peter, both for the particulars, the larger model, and the specific frames that serve as the parti for the piece!

If I could make a couple of observations on several points, a number of which are key elements of the fourth chapter of the dissertation ("Political Translation -- Minakata Kumagusu, Sun Yat-sen, the Anti-Shrine Consolidation Movement, and Practical Ecology," which I happen to be working on today for a defense next month):

1. The first paraphrase from Minakata regarding Tanabe which you point out in K. Ueshiba's biography appears to be from a letter which appeared in the first edition of the Minakata Kumagusu Zenshu. If the source is the text I think it is, the letter was written about the time he came down from Nachi to settle in Tanabe in late 1904. I would be interested in seeing the full original quote in Japanese as K. Ueshiba presented it! Ueshiba's departure for Hokkaido in 1910 came during the most heated portion of the Anti-Shrine Consolidation Campaign in Wakayama, when the outcome was far from certain. This suggests that, while K. Ueshiba may be entirely correct regarding the depth of his father's engagement -- at least for a time -- he was not one of those who saw the matter through to the designation of Kashima Island as a nature preserve, the event now regarded as the turning point of the struggle.

One wonders whether the underwriting of the Hokkaido adventure may have been part of a family effort to get Ueshiba out of town and far away from trouble, and one notes there are grounds to suggest a lifelong pattern of early and passionate involvement in risky undertakings followed by strategic withdrawal at a critical phase; one further wonders if Inoue Yoichiro is the only individual who harbored some harsh feelings out of a sense of abandonment and betrayal. It may be that, just as Inoue is a ghostly figure in the history of aikido, aspects of Ueshiba's involvement in the history of Oomoto, the settlement of Hokkaido, the Anti-Shrine Consolidation Movement, or the colonization of Manchuria may have been similarly elided simply because those who remained engaged wrote the history and those who slipped away in mid-project were not included in the accounts.

2. Both Minakata and Ueshiba were sons of local merchant families whose religious association was Shingon, very likely the same temple. Additionally, Minakata's work on Kashima Island from 1904 forward brought him into direct contact with the same fishermen whose interests Ueshiba was advocating in 1901. It is a virtual certainty that Ueshiba would have known who Minakata was and likely that Minakata would have known who Ueshiba was, and it is within the realm of possibility that the two men met before Ueshiba's military service in the Russo-Japanese conflict.

3. That said, I have found no documentation, other than K. Ueshiba's writing, of the relationship between Minakata and M. Ueshiba.(The sections of the MKZ including Minakata's letters and editorials written in the period 1906-1910 would be the best textual resource for evidence of any mention of Ueshiba in MK's writings; I have not yet undertaken that particular text search.) However, I have found extensive documentation of the range of networks Minakata engaged in the course of the Anti-Shrine Consolidation Movement.If K. Ueshiba is taken at his word regarding the relationship between his father and MK, these are relevant to Ueshiba's later careers within Oomoto, as an instructor in Tokyo, and in Kisshomaru's post-war strategy for the growth of aikido. Due in part to the many contacts he made among expatriate elite Japanese who were studying and living abroad during the period of his own travels in the Americas and London, Minakata was able to engage directly with mid-level government bureaucrats and legislators in Tokyo and senior officials at the level of regional governance; his professional activities and publication record as a folklorist and botanist gave him access to elite academic circles at Todai, his position as second son of a prominent local merchant family with extensive interests in hardware sales, rice brokering, and sake brewing and distribution gave him access to extensive financial and social resources with a minimum of attendant responsibilities,contacts made during his botanical fieldwork in the Kii Peninsula gave him access to an astonishing range of local geographical and occupational networks, and he wrote weekly columns for the local New Buddhist/Socialist paper the Muro Shinpo. The family sake also seems to have been a favorite of Okuma Shigenobu, with whom the Minakata family had a close relationship. This pattern of simultaneously engaging business culture, government culture, academic culture, and popular culture is not insignificant with regard to developing mass movements of all kinds, and Ueshiba may have learned it from Minakata well before he learned it from Deguchi.

3a. In addition to his regional prominence, Minakata's association with Sun Yat-sen -- the two men had become friends in London in the 1890s -- and their reunion in Wakayama City in 1901 is a staple of local Minakata lore, and Minakata's early engagement with Sun prefigures M. Ueshiba's own exploits in service of what was often styled "the liberation of China from the yoke of Western interests."

4. These previous two points do not, I think, imply much alignment between Minakata's political and cultural views or those of Ueshiba, but do very much go to the possibility that Ueshiba wanted very much to be part of a milieu of power, influence, and political action. Far from the disinterested spiritual seeker he is often portrayed as, there is strong suggestive evidence that he was keenly interested in the tactics and strategy one used in such undertakings One of the reasons I distinguish clearly between the political and cultural alignments of MK and M. Ueshiba is K. Ueshiba's apparently profound misreading of the relationship between Minakata and Yanagita. The two men were never friends. (I am assuming that your use of the word "friendship" is an accurate summary of K. Ueshiba's description in Japanese. If I am incorrect, then perhaps there is some nuance in his description that was unavoidably lost in your effort to treat the matter briefly so as to move along to more immediately relevant points.)

Yanagita, whose work was having something of a boom at the time K. Ueshiba was writing his father's biography, and Minakata did have a professional association, but the truth seems to be that while MK found Yanagita a useful ally in the Anti-Shrine Consolidation Movement and a helpful contact as editor of Kodo Kenkyu (Local Place Studies), he never respected Yanagita, whose methods he found hopelessly unscientific, unsound, censorious, and prone to misuse for purposes of authoritarian propaganda. Yanagita's commitment to the Anti-Shrine Consolidation movement was, in essence, sentimental.. Minakata's commitment was sited in a considerably more complex nexus of beliefs in local human rights, the preservation of historical structures (both physical and social) for the purposes of scientific and historical inquiry, the preservation of natural ecological systems, the corrupt nature of central government officials, and a host of related constructs. Minakata rejected the kokutai construct then being promulgated, and proposed in its stead his own notion of hentai (the same kanji that now lead to NSFW anime images in a computer search).

Although Yanagita himself was not really a man of the right, MK correctly saw -- quite early -- the way in which Yanagita's work would be used by the right, and he rejected it: root, trunk, and branch. In short, Yanagita was raised by a kokugaku scholar and saw his own minzokugaku as a bulwark against Western comparative folklore and anthropological studies. Among the elements that MK rejected were Yanagita's mode of explicitly privileging literary treatments of contemporary oral culture (i.e.folktales) over any other sort of historical evidence -- archaeological, literary, historical, etcetera -- as a guide to the "real consciousness of the Japanese people," which Yanagita regarded as sedimentary. Alternately, Tsurumi Kazuko described it as the "icicle-theory." During the period of the Yanagita-boom, his work was taken up by a number of several social groups, including the Japanese equivalent of the "counter-culture" of that era, but his broadest popularity seems to have been among those you characterize above as "revisionist" and most inclined to privilege an imagined historical consciousness over verifiable historical facts.

In any case, I must beg your forgiveness for a reply of this length on a matter that is, perhaps, somewhat tangential. I do think that the ways in which the Minakata-Ueshiba and Minakata-Yanagita relationships have been shaded or simply name-checked through the years as somewhat open signifiers for a view which one or another author has wished to assign to one of these figures are relevant to the sorts of questions you raise about the methods used by various types of historians and the care readers need to bring to their works, and hope that this digression is useful in some small measure

Best regards,

Fred Littloe

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