Thank you for your comments.
One of the best textbooks for looking at the issues discussed in TIE 20 and 21 is Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War
. The issues are all there: weighing the evidence, deciding what to include and what to leave out, and telling a good story. Herodotus, Thucydides' predecessor, could tell a good story, but was less successful in handling the other two issues.
When I was in the States, I picked up Kisshomaru Ueshiba's biography of his father in the Harvard Coop. I already had Westbrook & Ratti and Tohei Sensei's earlier technical manuals, and they all gave a potted history of aikido and the life of its founder. I was training at Mitsunari Kanai's dojo in Central Sq., Cambridge, and had already experienced the aikido of K Chiba. My idea of Morihei Ueshiba, his life and activities, was largely determined by these two sources.
Coming to Japan was like entering a different intellectual world. You know the trio of distinctions: omote
. (There is in
also, but they do not come across as specifically and exclusively Japanese.) Well I experienced all these in concentrated form, but not initially in an aikido context. When I say 'concentrated', I mean that these distinctions are encountered in any culture, but they are conceptualized and handled differently here. In Japan, with its long history of warfare, a rigidly vertical social structure, and a pseudo-democracy that was not achieved by popular action, these distinctions, and activities based on and in conformity with these distinctions, really flourish.
I believe that people seriously underestimate the extent to which Japanese history in general—and the history of aikido in particular—has been influenced, or conditioned, by factors not strictly relevant to the serious research and writing of history.
I think that most people in the U.S. never saw Kisshomaru Ueshiba's biography of his father in the context you presented. To add to that, I doubt most people in the U.S. knew that John Stevens was not writing with complete accuracy but rather writing what he thought they wanted to hear.
After several decades of this, we have a relatively uninformed public with regards to the founder of their art. Entrenched as it is, it will be an uphill battle to get them to understand these things. And when they do, there might be some backlash. U.S. = America = Truth, Justice, and the American Way (Well, except for politicians, lawyers, and CEOs). I think we've seen a bit of it already. In some people's eyes, while spinning a tale might be culturally accepted, it isn't something you do when presenting facts or writing biographies.
If you look to the Michael A. Bellesiles's "Arming America" scandal, you will find that quite a few Americans do not take kindly to these kinds of things. Please note, too, that it was not the professors nor the Universities that brought truth to the masses. Here in the U.S., unfortunately, the higher education system is sometimes not among those wanting truth, but rather publication.
It will be no surprise if the truth comes out about Morihei Ueshiba and people in the U.S. become angry at being deceived. Although, I think that process has started. They will not have the cultural understanding of Japan to know that what Kisshomaru Ueshiba did was acceptable. Your columns will help provide an education where none is currently available. You really didn't retire, you know. You just shifted your students from one University to the world.