III: Deguchi, Ueshiba and Omoto:
Part 1: The First Suppression
The last column focused on several aspects of prewar Japan that would have had some impact on Morihei Ueshiba's view of the martial arts in general and the art he was creating. Ueshiba's membership of Omoto was a major factor in the way he conceived his martial training and this topic deserves more detailed examination.
I begin, however, with more general discussion of an aspect of what one might call ‘aikido narrative history'. One advantage of Thomas Nadolski's thesis on the Omoto suppressions is that the author appears not to be a member of the religion and also appears not to practice aikido—and he has not written a biography. So his thesis might be thought to be an ‘objective' examination of the suppressions, which will give us a solid foundation, from which we can look at other aspects of Omoto. In fact, reading Nadolski's study side-by-side with Kyotaro Deguchi's biography of his grandfather and Kisshomaru Ueshiba's biography of his father is a very instructive exercise. All three rely on similar sources, though Nadolski seems to be more meticulous with them (in the sense that one is more conscious of him weighing the evidence and using footnotes, as might be expected in a PhD thesis). It is not that Kyotaro or Kisshomaru deliberately falsifiy—since there are no footnotes, there is no means of checking their sources to find out, more that Nadoslski adds a wealth of background information concerning two of the major crises in Omoto, crises which, in the biographies, arose as if by magic—they were cases of ‘kami-ex-machina'
The biographies of Onisaburo Deguchi and Morihei Ueshiba tend to be similar. They tend to be hagiographies, with only the occasional wart or blemish allowed to cloud the lives of total dedication to truth and virtue. They focus exclusively on their chosen subjects and introduce associates only as sakura
(cherry blossoms), which appear only in order to enhance the desired qualities of their subjects—and disappear immediately afterwards. With histories, the emphasis is different. Warts and blemishes are crucial to explaining what actually happened.
With regard to aikido, Nadolski's thesis is certainly noteworthy: the author never mentions martial arts training at all. The organization known as the Budo Senyokai, for example, is mentioned in rather grandiose terms in Kyotaro Deguchi's biography (as the All-Japan Society for the Promotion of the Martial Arts
), but is not mentioned in Nadolski's thesis. Since the organization was established during the period when Omoto established links with ultra-nationalists and the radical Right, Nadolski would have had good cause to discuss it. Moreover, it is in connection with the radical Right that Morihei Ueshiba makes his sole appearance in Nadolski's thesis (as Ueshiba kenshi
), but the appearance is actually part of a quotation from the memoirs of Lt. Col. Kingoro Hashimoto, a member of the Army General Staff, and of the Sakurakai
(Cherry Blossom Society).
Thus, one might wonder, if O Sensei was so prominent a member of Omoto and was so close to Onisaburo Deguchi, as Kisshomaru Ueshiba states that he was, why he completely escapes Nadolski's notice. One might also wonder, given the prominence given to the Omoto suppressions in Nadolski's thesis, why Omoto itself is not even mentioned in the magisterial work by Marius Jansen on the making of modern Japan (details at the end of this column).
In one sense, this is not so unusual. Jansen presents the flow of a very broad current, with only the most prominent events allowed to break the surface. The Omoto suppressions do not even cause a ripple. Nadolski's aim is different. He focuses exclusively on the politics of Omoto and how this caused successive governments to respond to the organization. Thus, for Nadolski, much of Jansen's broad current was actually a reaction to two major tidal waves, caused by Omoto and Deguchi. A general history of Omoto would have a wider scope than Nadolski's thesis and would also have a place for Ueshiba and Aiki-budo. Of course, a general history would not be a biography of Onisaburo Deguchi or Morihei Ueshiba. If we continue the marine metaphor, the biographies present their respective subjects as major land masses, around which everything else flows.
Nadolski's thesis was presented in 1975 and the bibliography is evidence of his extensive research, using Japanese and non-Japanese sources. The thesis is chronologically based, so Nadolski is able to chart the changing fortunes of Omoto, including the revisions of doctrine made by Deguchi to suit the changing political circumstances, and also to chart the varying degrees of control that Deguchi himself had over the organization of Omoto. Since the thesis has not been published and thus is not freely available, I will base this column and the next on a general summary and analysis of the thesis. The section headings below are the chapter headings from Nadolski's thesis. Nevertheless, each chapter is intended as a peg, on which to hang a more general discussion on Morihei Ueshiba's relations with the Omoto organization.
For reasons of length, this discussion of Nadalski's thesis is split into two parts. In this column we will examine the origins of Omoto and the events leading up to the First Suppression of the organization in 1921. The Mongolian Adventure and the events leading to the Second Suppression in 1935 will be considered in the next column.
1. Recent Research concerning Japanese ‘Newly Arisen Religions'
The first chapter starts from the general attitude to religion espoused by the Tokugawa shoguns: they emphasized centralization, order and control. As a result, later governments inherited a readiness to interfere with religion in a way that non-Japanese might find objectionable, given Meiji Japan's agreement with western powers to allow legal "freedom" of "religion" (The Japanese side had to find new kanji
compounds for both of these new and unusual concepts.) Given this background, Nadolski believes that his study of the government's suppression of Omoto is of great interest.
Nadolski himself gives four reasons why Omoto is worthy of detailed study. First, Omoto was a highly syncretistic religion, with an ebb and flow of doctrines drawing on established religious traditions and also political events. Secondly, like the postwar art of aikido (though, of course, Nadolski does not mention this), Omoto was created for the ‘masses', and acquired the wealth and means to spread information at grass-roots level. Thirdly, Omoto was thoroughly Japanese, in that it was a faction-ridden religion, spawning numerous offshoots. The theme of an Omoto Achilles withdrawing to his tent in high dudgeon at Agamemnon Deguchi's overbearing attitude—but also having one or two visions and satori
experiences, to safeguard the essential connection to the roots—after which he emerged once more in new armor, to lead his bands of Myrmidons into yet more yo-naoshi
battles, was often repeated. (Yo-naoshi
is world renewal.) Finally, the suppressions of Omoto illuminate the developing political attitudes of successive post-Meiji governments. As Nadolski puts it, "the second suppression set a tone and established legal precedents in the collapse of resistance to government control before the Pacific War". In other words, the way that the government suppressed Omoto, especially during the second suppression, was a very good indication of the way it intended to suppress any kind of resistance to its policies. It was writing on the wall, for all to see.
As a consequence of Omoto's character as a ‘mass' religion, effective in spreading information and thus keeping the attention of the government, Nadolski also cites the vast amount of source material available, critical, adulatory, reliable, and propaganda. He ends the first chapter with a brief analysis of the phenomenon of anomie
, a concept coined by Durkheim to characterize a state where individuals lack integration in a stable social framework, to an extent that threatens the stability of the framework. This is the negative phenomenon, but usually leads to a positive reaction from a number of individuals. These adopt a ‘code' that reforms their identity and provides a focus and sense of security for the people who gather round the individuals.
I am not enough of an anthropologist to know whether or not this model, the work of Durkheim, Talcott Parsons and Anthony F C Wallace, has been superseded. In the case of Meiji Japan, there were a number of instances of this type of response to anomie
. One was Omoto; another was the ‘restored emperor system' & kokutai
. The interest of Nadolski's thesis is that it is a study of the interplay between the two.
Myths and Doctrine
In his thesis, Nadolski gives a detailed explanation of how Nao Deguchi created Omoto doctrine and how Ueda Kisaburo (a.k.a. Deguchi Onisaburo) modified it. However, unless a preliminary sketch is given of the myths of the Kojiki
, the doctrine will be difficult to understand.
The myths of the Kojiki
are quite unlike anything in the Bible, though there are ‘western' parallels in Hesiod's Theognis
and, of course, in Homer. Ueda Kisaburo used these myths for his new doctrine of Omoto, but Morihei Ueshiba, also, used them as the basis for his explanations of aikido. However, we do not really know how
O Sensei studied these myths. To explain what I mean, I present an anecdote.
A few years ago, on the occasion of an IAF Congress, I was in the Kinokuniya bookstore in Times Square, which is part of an enormous shopping complex in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo. Foreign residents of Tokyo gravitate to Kinokuniya, as if drawn by a magnet. I was browsing, when who should I meet in the foreign books section of Kinokuniya but the late Sadateru Arikawa Shihan. I was with Christian Tissier and other members of the French Aikikai, but, on seeing Arikawa Sensei, Christian quickly disappeared behind the book stacks. So I had a 45-minute conversation with Arikawa Sensei in difficult Japanese.
Hiroshima is starved of scholarly books in English, so I had bought several books on Japanese culture—including the Kojiki
. Arikawa Sensei was very interested in what I had bought and questioned me closely about my interest in Japanese creation myths. So I explained that I was teaching a university course on creation myths and was comparing the Bible and the Kojiki
. I also casually mentioned that O Sensei had also studied the Kojiki
. Then followed one of those searching exchanges, similar to those conducted on Aikiweb about ‘internal' arts, wherein I was severely checked about how much I really knew. I must have passed the test to some degree, for Arikawa Sensei explained that many of O Sensei's training practices were actually based on his study of the Kojiki
and that if I studied what he said and what he did, I would come to understand. He added that O Sensei's studies of the Kojiki
were somewhat unorthodox and I have gradually found this to be true.
In The Art of Aikido: Principles and Essential Techniques
, Kisshomaru Ueshiba stated that in 1920, his father:
"came under the influence of the famous Shinto shaman Deguchi Onisaburo (1871-1948) and he developed a deep interest in ancient Shinto meditation techniques, especially kototama, as espoused by Motoori Norinaga (1730-1801), Kiyohara Michihisa, and other mystics." (p.74.)
The above is the translation by John Stevens. The Japanese original is given below:
「ところで、盛平が大正九年、三十七歳の折に出口王仁三郎との出会い（本文歴史之部の名章を参照）によって手ほどきされた以来、生涯ひたむきな関心を寄せつづけていたいわ ゆう「言霊学」は、記紀のころから言霊信仰として古神道の中心的課題であった「言霊」なる観念が、江戸期になって本居宣長（一七三○—一八○一）をはじめ清原道旧その他の 国学者、宗教家（神道家）たちによって学問的対象化されたものである。」
In this quotation from the original text of 『合気道真諦』 (Aikido Shintei
), the Kojiki
are mentioned explicitly, though this does not appear in the English translation. In many places Morihei Ueshiba states that aikido is kotodama
and Kisshomaru explicitly states that his father grounded this thinking in kotodama
practice and also kotodama
theory, which originated from the above collections of ancient myths. Motoori Norinaga devoted much of his life to the study of the Kojiki
and also to kotodama
"Furthermore, as the philologist par excellence of his age, Norinaga believed that words possessed more than simply literal or suggestive value. In particular, he was intrigued by special words called kotodama, spells or incantations which Norinaga and others believed capable of granting wishes and regarded as ‘bridges' between the ordinary world of human affairs and the supernatural realm of numinous phenomena. The word kotodama had its locus classicus in one of the verses of the Man'yoshu, where it was suggested that kotodama were linked to the maintenance of the national weal, and Norinaga believed that kotodama had the power to transport one, at least on a spiritual level, from the sullied present to the divine age." (Nosco, 219-220.)
Kisshomaru Ueshiba, also, mentions the provenance of kotodama
and explains at greater length a point that is more succinctly stated above by Peter Nosco, namely, that kotodama
were believed to yield shamanistic powers.
So, I will summarize the relevant sections of Kojiki
Book One. I should note that most deities have long, descriptive names. Accordingly, English equivalents are given in square brackets after each name. These names are italicized on their first appearance. (Those who have studied the Kojiki
will immediately recognize my debt to Donald Philippi's English edition.) The sequence of events in each section precedes brief notes, of relevance for Omoto and Morihei Ueshiba. There is so much material here that several columns could be devoted just to this topic.
Of course, the material presented here should be seen in conjunction with the actual discourses of Morihei Ueshiba—and there is an immediate problem. There are no editions of the Japanese text with close translations and scholarly notes. A recent work, entitled The Secret Teachings of Aikido
, is a translation of O Sensei's discourses published in the Aikikai's Aikido Shimbun
and collected in a Japanese work with the title, 合気神髄
, Quintessence/Soul of Aiki
). The translator John Stevens seems to me to have had the very difficult task of making Morihei Ueshiba understandable to postwar non-Japanese practitioners of aikido. Thus, Stevens has removed some of the direct references to the deities of the Kojiki
, substituted ‘aikido' for ‘aiki', and presented O Sensei as a gentle aikido moralist. Given these parameters, he has done a creditable job, but, to someone who can read the Japanese original, the translation has a ‘watered-down' feel to it and lacks the dramatic power of the former. Nevertheless, even a glance through The Secret Teachings of Aikido
yields hundreds of italicized references to kami
and allusions to the events and deities described below. The writings of Kisshomaru Ueshiba are strikingly relevant here, also, if only to draw attention to the total absence of such references and allusions.
Since the early creation myths of the Kojiki
concern 神 (kami
, deities), a working definition of these beings will be in order.
"Speaking in general, however, it may be said that the word kami signifies first the deities of heaven and earth who appear in the ancient records and the spirits of the shrines where they are worshipped. It is unnecessary to add that it includes birds and beasts, trees and plants, seas and mountains, and so forth. In ancient usage, anything whatsoever which was outside the ordinary, which possessed superior power or was awe-inspiring was called kami. Eminence here does not refer merely to the superiority of nobility, goodness, or meritorious deeds. Evil and mysterious things, if they are extraordinary and dreadful, are also called kami. Among human beings who are called kami, the successive generations of divine emperors are all included. The fact that emperors are also called totsu kami ("distant gods") is because, from the standpoint of common people, they are far-separated, majestic, and worthy of reverence. In lesser degree, we find in the present as well as in ancient times human beings who are kami. Although they may not be accepted as such throughout the country, yet in each province, village and family there are human beings who are kami, each one according to his own proper position. The kami of the divine age were for the most part human beings of that time, and, because the people of the time were all divine, it is called the divine age." (Motoori Norinaga, Kojiki-den, quoted in Nosco, Remembering Paradise, pp. 217-218; de Barry et al., Sources of Japanese Tradition, p. 18.) (A) The Early Creation Myths of the Kojiki
Sequence of Events
- In the Kojiki, creation of heaven and earth begins with the creation of deities, who simply ‘come into being'. The first three are: Ame-no-minaka-nushi-no-kami [Lord Deity of the Center of Heaven]; Taka-mi-musubi-no-kami [High Generative Force Deity], also known as Taka-ki-no-kami [High Tree Deity]; and Kami-musubi-no-kami [Divine Generative Force Deity]. These three deities were single deities (not pairs—see below) and lived in Takama-no-hara [Plain of High Heaven].
- The next two deities came into being from ‘reed-shoots', when the ‘young land' resembled floating oil and drifted like a jellyfish. These deities were: Umashi-ashi-kabi-hiko-ji-no-kami [Excellent Reed Shoots Male Deity]; and Ame-no-toko-tachi-no-kami [Heavenly Eternal Standing Deity].
- Two more single deities came into existence: Kuni-no-toko-tachi-no-kami [Earth Eternal Standing Deity], corresponding to Ame-no-toko-tachi-no-kami, above; and Toyo-kumo-no-no-kami [Abundant Clouds Field Deity]. These were followed by six pairs of deities, of whom the last pair were most important for the future of Japan. This last pair comprised Izanagi-no-kami [Inviting Male Deity—possibly] and his spouse, Izanami-no-kami [Inviting Female Deity].
1. Taka-mi-musubi-no-kami was quickly overtaken by Ama-terasu-o-mikami (see below) as the ruler of Takama-no-hara. In the sequences where the Imperial Grandchild descends to rule the land, the latter is commanded to do so by both deities.
2. The two deities in the second stage of creation, Ame-no-toko-tachi-no-kami and Kuni-no-toko-tachi-no-kami, play a crucial role in Omoto theology. According to Ueda Kisaburo, the rule of Kuni-no-toko-tachi had broken down and had to be restored, through Omoto, if yo-naoshi
was to succeed.
(B) Izanagi -- Izanami Sequences
Sequence of Events
- All the deities then commanded Izanagi-no-kami and Izanami-no-kami to "complete and solidify this drifting land," which they did in a way that matched their names. First, they were given a jeweled spear, called Ame-no-nu-boko [Heavenly Jeweled Spear], which they dipped into the brine (remember that the land resembled floating oil) and stirred it, while standing on the Ame-no-uki-hashi [Heavenly Floating Bridge]. They lifted up the spear and the brine dripping off the spear piled up and became an island. They descended from heaven to this island, called Onogoro-shima, and built a ‘heavenly pillar' and a palace. The main act of creation then began, with Izanagi and Izanami walking round the pillar, meeting and then having conjugal intercourse. The first time it did not work very well and they gave birth to a ‘leech-child' and an island called Awa-jima. At a hastily-called heavenly meeting, where the deities performed futo-mani [solemn divination], they were told to try again and this time were successful, giving birth to many islands and many of the deities who were to inhabit the islands. These deities ruled rivers, seas, winds, trees, mountains (O-yama-tsu-mi-no-kami [Great Mountain Ruler Deity]) and plains. There was even a bird boat deity, Ame-no-tori-fune-no-kami [Heavenly Bird Boat Deity—note the name of the training exercise in aikido], who conveyed the heavenly deities around. Finally Izanami created Hi-no-yagi-haya-wo-no-kami [Fire Burning Fast Male Deity].
- Creating the fire deity was much too much for Izanami-no-mikoto [mikoto means lord, prince or princess], for she fell ill and died, but producing several more deities in the process. Izanagi-no-mikoto was quite upset and cut off the head of the fire deity with a sword, ten hands long, that he happened to have at his side. Many more yama-tsu-mi deities (see above) came into existence from the blood of the fire deity that adhered to the sword and also from various parts of the fire deity. Izanagi-no-mikoto then descended to Yomi-no-kuni [Land of Yomi], to persuade his wife to come back and finish the work of creation. They had a discussion and Izanami told her husband to wait, while she consulted the deities of Yomi, but she especially emphasized that he should not look at her.
- Izanagi could not resist this classic temptation and saw his wife crawling with maggots. Izanami was still able to speak at this point and claimed that she had been ‘shamed'. Thereupon, all Yomi broke loose, literally. Izanagi turned and fled, pursued by the Yomo-tsu-shiko-me [Ugly Women of Yomi]. He succeeded in escaping from them by mean of grapes, then bamboo shoots. The Yomo-tsu-shiko-me were followed by the eight ikazuchi-gami [Thunder Deities] and the 1,500-strong Yomi warrior army. Izanagi reached Yomo-tsu-hira-saka [Gently Sloping Pass of Yomi] and found three peaches. He attacked his pursuers with the peaches, which must have been extremely powerful, for all his pursuers turned round and fled. Grateful for the narrow escape, Izanagi gave the peaches the name, O-kamu-zu-mi-no-mikoto [Great Divine Spirit Lords].
- However, Izanagi had not yet finally escaped. His decaying wife came after him and he blocked the Yomo-tsu-hira-saka with a huge boulder. They stood facing each other and made threats. Izanami threatened to strangle daily one thousand of his country's ‘human grass' and he responded by threatening to build one thousand five hundred ubuya [birth huts]. The outcome was inconclusive, but the visit to Yomi-no-kuni caused Izanagi to become polluted and he removed the 穢れ (kegare, pollution) caused, by performing a misogi ritual in a river. A vast number of deities were created from this ritual: twelve deities from Izanagi removing his clothes, from Tsuki-tatsu-funa-to-no-kami [Standing-erect Boat-door Deity] to He-tsu-kai-bera-no-kami [Shore Space Deity]; and fourteen more deities from his bathing of his body, three of whom had special importance. These deities were: Ama-terasu-o-mi-kami [Heaven Illuminating Great Deity]; Tsuku-yomi-no-mikoto [Moon Counting Lord]; and Take-haya-susa-no-o-no-mikoto [Valiant Intrepid Raging Male Lord].
- Having created these deities, Izanagi assigned them their respective functions. Removing the necklace he wore, he shook the beads and gave the string of beads to Ama-terasu, with the mission to rule over Takama-no-hara. No such objects were given to the other deities, but Tsuku-yomi was entrusted with rule over the realm of the night, while Susa-no-o was given rule over the ‘ocean plain'. Other versions of the myth give Susa-no-o the control of Ne-no-kata-su-kuni [Remote Subterranean Corner Land / Firm Ancestral Land]. The nature of this land is obscure. Some commentators believe it to be Yomi-no-kuni, but one scholar suggests that it is the ‘motherland', the dimly remembered original home of the Japanese.
- Whatever the nature of the place, Susa-no-o was not satisfied at all and fell into a howling rage, which caused ‘malevolent deities' to spread everywhere ‘like summer flies'. His father asked what the problem was and Susa-no-o replied that he wanted to go to the land of his mother (Izanami, who had died). On hearing this, Izanagi also fell into a rage and expelled his son from the land. At this point Izanagi-no-mikoto quietly disappears from the narrative.
1. Morihei Ueshiba constantly stated that he was standing on the Ame-no-uki-hashi, as the bridge between Heaven and Earth, and that aikido was meant to unite the two realms.
2. The short spear that Morihei Ueshiba used in the Kobukan was called ‘nu-boko'. In addition, Ueshiba often talked of the work of creation, mentioning Izunome (which I suspect is another name for the powers of the Izanami/Izanagi pair).
3. Morihei Ueshiba also stated that aikido was the ‘three peaches' used by Izanagi-no-mikoto to defeat the thunder deities and the Yomi warrior army. Peaches were ‘powerful weapons and protection from evil spirits'.
, or solemn divination, is also mentioned by Morihei Ueshiba in the Takamusu Aiki
discourses and elsewhere. The ritual consists of heating the shoulder blade of a deer, using bark from a papaka
tree, and then observing the cracks that appear.
5. The misogi
ritual performed by Izanagi-no-mikoto was of enormous significance for Morihei Ueshiba. Ueshiba regarded 修業 (shugyou
, ascetic training) in general as misogi
—a ritual that removed all physical and spiritual pollution. The point here is that he regarded the training and the ritual as one indistinguishable whole.
6. The misogi
ritual should not be regarded in any sense as absolution from personal sin and is not connected to any moral viewpoint. Some scholars have even attempted to equate parts of the early Kojiki
narratives with the biblical doctrine of Original Sin. However, as a ritual of purification, misogi
carries no intrinsic moral credentials whatsoever. Thus, misogi
purification was always undertaken by WWII kamikaze
suicide pilots, to make sure that their intentions in killing the maximum number of US sailors were absolutely pure, or by the soldiers of the Kwantung Army, in their invasion of Manchuria.
(C) Ama-terasu -- Susa-no-o Sequences
Sequence of Events
- Susa-no-o quickly recovered from his fit of howling, for he decided to take his leave of Ama-terasu before departing from the land. His ascent was not at all quiet, however, and Ama-terasu heard the roaring of the mountains and rivers and the shaking of the earth. She thought that Susa no o was coming to take possession of Takama-no-hara, so prepared for the meeting by putting on armor. Thus prepared, Ama-terasu asked him whether his intentions were pure. In response Susa-no-o suggested that they decide who was right, by means of an unusual method. They would both produce children and decide the result by the nature of the children.
- Ama-terasu started first and asked for the long sword that Susa no o carried. She broke it into three pieces, rinsed them in Ame-no-mana-i [Heavenly Well], chewed them to pieces and spat them out. Three deities were born from the spittle (misty spray): Takiri-bime-no-mikoto [Mist Princess Goddess], Ichiki-shima-hime-no-mikoto [Ichikishima (= Itsukushima) Princess Goddess], and Takitsu-hime-no-mikoto [Seething Waters Princess Goddess].
- Then it was the turn of Susa-no-o. He started by asking for the string of maga-tama beads in Ama-terasu's left hair bunch, rinsed them in Ame-no-mana-i, chewed them and spat them out. Five deities in all were produced from the beads in Ama-terasu's hair: Masa-katsu-a-katsu-kachi-haya-hi-Ame-no-oshi-ho-mimi-no-mikoto [Correct Victory I Am Victorious Victory Rapid Sun Heavenly Great Rice Ears Lord/Deity], Ame-no-ho-hi-no-mikoto [?], Ama-tsu-hikone-no-mikoto [Heavenly Prince-ling Lord—Ama Prince Lord], Iku-tsu-hikone-no-mikoto [Living Prince-ling Lord], and Kumano-kusubi-no-mikoto [Wondrous-working Kumano Deity].
- Ama-terasu then claimed possession of the five male children, since they came in being from her possessions, whereas the three female children were the children of Susa-no-o. Susa-no-o did not dispute this, but retorted that since he produced ‘graceful maidens', his intentions were obviously pure, so he had won the contest they were having.
- What Susa-no-o did next did not endear him at all to the heavenly community. He ‘raged with victory' and committed eight heavenly sins. He broke down the ridges between Ama-terasu's rice paddies and covered up the ditches. He defecated and threw the faeces around in the hall where the first fruits were tasted. He skinned a ‘heavenly piebald colt', but did it backwards, and then dropped the colt into the sacred weaving hall, where a maiden wove divine garments. The shock caused the maiden to strike the weaving shuttle against her genitalia—with fatal results.
- The behavior of Susa-no-o led to one of the most famous events in the whole mythology. Ama-terasu opened Ame-no-iwa-ya-to [Heavenly Rock Cave Door] and shut herself inside. This had a similar effect to that of the howling rage of Susa-no-o, mentioned above. ‘Myriad deities appeared like summer flies', it was constant night, and ‘all manner of calamities arose'. The deities (there were ya-ho-yorozu-no-kami [many myriads of deities—in modern Japanese, eight million] at this point) held a meeting in the riverbed of the Ame-no-yasu-gawa [Heavenly Tranquil River] and gathered the cocks of Toko-yo [eternal world]. (This land is thought to be the home of the earthly deities and corresponds to the Takama-no-hara, where the heavenly deities dwelt. The cocks were made to crow in order to summon the sun at dawn.) The deities called upon the counseling services of Omoi-kane-no-kami [Thought Combining Deity], to make a good decision, and then took decisive steps to deal with this unprecedented situation, which the Kojiki describes in exhaustive detail.
- The deities first took hard rock from the river Ame-no-yasu-gawa and iron from Ame-no-kana-yama [Heavenly Gold/Metal Mountain] and enlisted the services of Ama-tsu-mara [Heavenly Blacksmith] and a mirror maker, named Ishi-kori-dome-no-mikoto [Stone Cutting Noble Deity]. Another deity, Tama-no-ya-no-mikoto [Jewel Ancestor Deity], was commissioned to make a long string of maga-tama beads and two other deities were commissioned to perform futo-mani [solemn divination]. These deities were Ame-no-ko-yane-no-mikoto [Heavenly Baby/Little Roof Lord] and Futo-tama-no-mikoto [Solemn Jewel/Spirit Lord]. They removed the whole shoulder bone of a deer from Ame-no-kana-yama, produced some hahaka [cherry or birch] wood and performed this ritual (which was similar to the ritual performed when Izanagi and Izanami failed at their first attempts to produce children). The two deities then pulled out a sakaki tree by the roots. The strings of maga-tama beads were attached to the upper branches and the giant mirror was hung from the middle branches. White and blue cloth was hung from the lower branches. Finally, Futo-tama-no-mikoto somehow held these objects in his hands, while his colleague Ame-no-ko-yane-no-mikoto intoned futo-norito-goto [solemn chanting]. Another deity, Ame-no-Ta-jikara-o-no-kami [Heavenly Hand Strength Male Deity] stood behind the door, while Ame-no-uzume-no-mikoto [Heavenly Formidable Female Deity] became divinely possessed by turning over a bucket and stamping on it, with ma-saki vine in her hair and bundles of sasa leaves in her hands, and exposing her breasts and genitals. Then Takama-no-hara ‘shook', ‘as all the eight hundred myriad deities laughed at once.'
- This elaborate ceremony had the required effect, for Ama-terasu opened the door a tiny crack and wondered aloud why Ame-no-uzume was singing and dancing and all the deities were laughing. Ame-no-uzume responded that they had found a deity superior to Ama-terasu. At which point Ame-no-ko-yane and Futa-tama brought the mirror and showed it to Ama-terasu. As the latter approached the mirror, Ame-no-Ta-jikara pulled her out and Futa-tama extended a rope behind her, saying, "You can go back no further than this". Light was restored to the Takama-no-hara and to Ashi-hara-no-naka-tsu-kuni [Central Land of the Reed Plains—Japan].
- Susa-no-o was punished. He had to produce one thousand tables of gifts, had his beard cut off, his fingernails and toenails removed, was exorcized, and once again expelled. However, from then onwards, his rehabilitation began.
1. The contest between Ama-terasu and Susa-no-o at the beginning of this sequence is unusual in many respects. The Nihongi
has Susa-no-o producing male children and Ama-terasu producing female children. This seems more reasonable, in view of the name of the first offspring. Masa-katsu-a-katsu-kachi-haya-hi clearly reflects the claims of Susa-no-o to have won the contest and it is noteworthy that in the later sequences (see below) this part of the name is often omitted and only the latter part of the name used. So there is no question in the Kojiki
narratives of the name having any quasi-moral sense of victory over
self. This connotation seems to have been given by Morihei Ueshiba himself, or his later interpreters.
2. The unruly behavior of Susa-no-o seems entirely irrational, but is reflected in the Great Exorcism of the Last Day of the Sixth Month
. This is one of the norito
-style ritual prayers] collected in the Engi-shiki
, which is a set of regulations and customs compiled in the first two decades of the tenth century. This ritual prayer exorcises the sins of the entire kingdom. Though these sins are called罪 (tsumi
, sins), the norito
are really intended to purify the kingdom from 穢れ (kegare
, pollution). The various sins are divided into two categories. Heavenly sins include: breaking down the ridges; covering up the ditches; releasing the irrigation sluices; double planting; setting up stakes; skinning alive & skinning backwards; defecation. Earthly sins include: cutting living flesh & cutting dead flesh; white leprosy & skin excrescences; the sin of violating one's own mother; the sin of violating one's own child; the sin of violating a mother and her child; the sin of violating a child and her mother; the sin of transgression with animals; woes from creeping insects; woes from the deities of on high; woes from the birds of on high; killing animals & the sin of witchcraft.
3. The political dimension to these sequences can also be seen. Susa no o is violent only in the presence of Ama-terasu, which reflects some political tension between the Yamato clan, with Ama-terasu enshrined at Ise Jingu, and the Izumo clan, with Susa no o enshrined at Izumo Taisha. In the Kojiki
narratives, Ama-terasu is seen to be well intentioned and somewhat long suffering—and retreats into the rock cave only as a last resort. Her utter reasonableness is emphasized in the face of the irrational behavior of Susa-no-o. Of course, this is probably to be expected in what in fact is a political tract, aiming to demonstrate the claims of the Yamato clan to be the lawful descendants of Ama-terasu-o-mikami.
4. The ceremony through which Ama-terasu is enticed out of the cave bears clear signs of a complex ritual of shamanistic possession. The futo-norito-goto
chanted by Ame-no-ko-yane-no-mikoto is the preliminary to such possession and would be a classic example of kotodama
(D) Masa-katsu-a-katsu -- Ninigi Sequences
- The rehabilitation of Susa-no-o began, but not immediately, for the first thing he did was kill a deity. The deity he encountered was O-ge-tsu-hime-no-kami [Great Food Princess Deity]. The wandering Susa-no-o asked for food. The deity responded by taking food from the various orifices of her body and presented them to him. Since he thought that she was polluting the food before giving it to him, Susa-no-o slew her. Very important staples: silk worms, rice seeds, red beans, wheat and soy beans grew from her corpse. These were taken up by Kami-musubi-no-kami, here called Kami-musubi-mi-oya-no-kami [Divine Generative Force Parent Deity]
- Susa no o wandered as far as Izumo and encountered an elderly couple and their young daughter, named Kushi-nada-hime [Wondrous Inada Princess]. The old man said he was child of O-yama-tsu-no-kami, one of the kuni-tsu-kami (earthly deities) created by Izanagi & Izanami, before the latter died bearing the fire deity. The daughter was waiting to be devoured by an eight-tailed dragon, which had carried off his other seven daughters year by year. Susa-no-o made the dragon very drunk and then slew it with his sword, ten hands long, that he carried with him. The blade of this sword broke when Susa-no-o cut the dragon's middle tail, but another sword appeared. This was the kusa-nagi [Grass Mower / Pacifier], which Susa-no-o (unusually, considering that he had just previously been expelled by her) presented to Ama-terasu-o-mikami.
- Susa-no-o then built a palace and commenced procreation with Kushi-nada-hime, after the manner of Izanagi and Izanami, earlier. The result was an obscure deity named Ya-shima-jinumi-no-kami [Numerous Islands Deity]—and a generative precedent. Thus, this deity then took a wife and produced an offspring deity, which process was then repeated a number of times, culminating in the birth of O-kuni-nushi-no-kami [Great Land Ruler Deity]. In the Kojiki text, it is noted that this important and versatile deity had four other names: O-namuji-no-kami [Great Land Possessor / Great Revered One]; Asi-hara-shiko-o-no-kami [Ugly Male Deity of the Reed Plains]; Ya-chi-hoko-no-kami [Eight Thousand Spears Deity]; and Utsushi-kuni-tama-no-kami [Land Spirit Deity of the Visible Land].
- The Susa no o family was unusually prolific, for O Kuni nushi no kami had no less than eighty brothers, all deities. Nevertheless, all these brothers ceded their lands to O kuni nushi no kami in unexplained circumstances, which included killing the latter twice.
- Meanwhile, Ama-terasu at some point commanded Masa-katsu-a-katsu-kachi-haya-hi Ame-no-oshi-o-mimi-no-mikoto to descend from the heavens and rule Japan. The country is given its full name: Toyo-ashi-hara-no-mizu-ho-no-kuni [Land of the Plentiful Reed Plains and of the Fresh Rice Ears]. Ame-no-oshi-o-mimi-no-mikoto stood on the Ame-no-uki-hashi and saw that all was in uproar. He returned to Takama-no-hara and reported this. Ama-terasu and Taka-mi-musubi-no-kami then held another riverbed meeting of the eight hundred myriad deities, and Omoi-kane-no-kami again pondered the matter.
- The deities decided to send another of the five male deities borne by Ama-terasu in her contest with Susa-no-o. This was Ame-no-ho-hi-no-kami, but this deity was no more successful than Masa-katsu-a-katsu. In fact, he ‘curried favor' with O-kuni-nushi-no-kami and did not return immediately. At yet another meeting, Omoi-kane-no-kami suggested that this time, Ame-no-waka-hiko [Heavenly Young Lad], the child of Ama-tsu-kuni-tama-no-kami [Heavenly Land Spirit Deity], be sent. This deity, also, did not return. In fact, he married a daughter of O-kuni-nushi-no-kami and plotted to take the land for himself. After another divine consultation, the next messenger was a pheasant, named Naki-me [Weeping Woman], whose mission was to ask Ame-no-waka-hiko why he had not reported on his mission. Ame-no-waka-hiko promptly shot the bird with an arrow, which penetrated heaven and came to rest on the riverbed in Takama-no-hara, right beside Ama-terasu and Taka-musubi-no-kami. Their reaction was swift and devastating. Taka-musubi-no-kami thrust the arrow back through the hole (made in the heavens by the arrow, when it arrived) and sent it back down to earth, where it hit Ame-no-waka-hito in the chest and killed him.
- Clearly unruffled by the string of failures, Ama-terasu held yet another meeting and his time decided to dispatch Itsu-no-o-ha-bari-no-kami [Sacred Wide-pointed Blade Deity] / Ame-no-o-ha-bari-no-kami [Heavenly Wide-pointed Blade Deity], which was actually the sword used by Izanagi-no-mikoto to kill the fire deity. This deity presented his son instead, so Ama-terasu dispatched Take-mika-zuchi-no-kami [Valiant Lightning Male Deity], who was accompanied by the bird-boat deity, Ame-no-tori-fune-no-kami, previously mentioned.
- Take-mika-zuchi-no-kami was more successful and after a few tests of strength involving the sons of O-kuni-nushi-no-kami, the latter agreed to surrender the land to Ama-terasu and "conceal" himself. The one condition was that he received a shrine equal in splendor to the palace of the offspring of the heavenly deities. Once again, Ama-terasu and Taka-ki-no-kami jointly commanded Masa-katsu-a-katsu to descend from heaven and rule the Central Land of the Reed Plains. Ame-no-oshi-o-mimi-no-mikoto prepared to comply with the request, but suddenly produced a child as he was doing so. Following a precedent, he asked that the child should descend in his place. The child was given a complex name: Ame-nigishi-kuni-nigishi-ama-tsu-hiko Hiko-ho-no-ninigi-no-mikoto [Heavenly Abundant / Peaceful Earthly Abundant / Peaceful Heavenly Lad -- Lad of the Abundant / Peaceful Rice Ears Deity].
- Hiko-ho-no-ninigi-no-mikoto was about to descend when another deity suddenly appeared at the heavenly-cross roads. This was Saruta-hiko-no-kami [Saruta Lad Deity], an earthly deity who had come to guide the heavenly grandchild. At this point Ama-terasu assigned various roles to five heavenly deities who were to accompany the heavenly grandchild. These were the five deities who had performed the rites, described above, to lure Ama-terasu out of the rock cave. Ama-terasu then gave him three sacred objects: the ‘myriad' maga-tama beads and the mirror, to which she attached her spirit, as well as the kusa-nagi sword. The Imperial Grandchild then descended and began to rule the land.
1. After his expulsion, Susa-no-o becomes a more rational figure, the progenitor of the Izumo deities such as O-kuni-nushi-no-kami, who become negotiating partners in the process of giving up the visible world to the Heavenly Grandchild, the offspring of Ama-terasu.
2. Another political dimension is also noteworthy. These final sequences are critical to an understanding of the Omoto doctrine crafted by Ueda Kisaburo. The expulsion of Susa-no-o led to a major conflict between the heavenly realm and the earthly realm that could be solved only by Omoto. However, the restoration of the rule of Kuni-no-toko-tachi-no-kami and Susa-no-o implied that the rule by the descendants of Ama-terasu, namely the Meiji Emperor and his successors, was adding to the chaos.
It should be noted that Onisaburo Deguchi modified this doctrine in the 1930s, in order to bring Omoto into line with the ultra-nationalist thinking developing at the time. According to the new thinking, the legitimate ruler of the "Ocean Plain" was the Imperial Grandchild and his descendants. Thus, the restoration of the rule of Kuni-no-toko-tachi-no-kami was to be carried out by the Imperial descendants of Ama-terasu-o-mikami. Thus, Omoto doctrine was adapted to fit the demands of the Showa Restoration
and the organization worked to strengthen grass-roots support for the militant and rightist groups aiming to achieve this supposed restoration. Further discussion of this major change will appear in the next column.
3. Morihei Ueshiba was clearly a great fan of Susa no o. In one place he actually excuses Susa-no-o of killing the food deity O-ge-tsu-hime-no-kami, since "that was an example of a good god killing an evil god to make the world better" (Stevens, p. 72).
2. Formation of an Independent Omoto Doctrine
To return to Nadolski's thesis, there are several sections in his second chapter, the first of which deals with Nao Deguchi and the founding of the Omoto religion. This founding is very firmly placed in the context of the economics of the early Meiji Era, including the severe financial reforms of Masayoshi Matsutaka and the subsequent rise of anomie
. In passing, Nadolski notes the crucial importance of women in the Japanese shamanistic tradition: "It seems that the appearance of these shamanistic individuals is a type of throwback to the most fundamental and primordial stages of Japanese religious evolution." (Nadolski, p. 28). Nao Deguchi, born in the sleepy country town of Ayabe, renowned for silk production, had a shamanistic trance for several days and started to produce Ofudesaki
(prophecies), which she continued to do for the rest of her life. We should note here the crucial importance of farming in her prophecies. Her yo-naoshi
took the form of an "Arcadian paradise of farmers worshipping the Great Fundamental Deity in peace and harmony" (Nadolski, p. 31). Later, Morihei Ueshiba added the budo
element: some of these Omoto farmers would be enriching their contribution to paradise by additionally practicing budo
under Ueshiba's guidance. Of course, it hardly needs stating that the evils, from which the Arcadian paradise was an escape, came from the West, in the form of rampant industrialization that severely affected the silk industry, especially in Ayabe.
In the second section, Kisaburo Ueda comes on the scene. His entrance is like something out of a Wagner opera. For example, Nadolski notes that it was a Ueda family tradition that the firstborn male of every seventh generation of the family line was destined for greatness. ‘Siegfried' Ueda slotted into this role very easily.
Nadolski goes on to add that Ueda's grandmother was a member of a religion called Nihon Genrei Gaku
(言霊学) and trances / mystical experiences were part of ordinary family life. This assertion, on p.34, is unusual, for in the respective biographies of Kyotaro Deguchi (Ueda's grandson and someone most likely in a position to know) and Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Nihon Genrei Gaku
is Nihon Kotodama Gaku
and is the title of a book, written by one Kodo Nakamura. In a work such as a PhD thesis, this is a glaring mistake and leads one to wonder about Nadolski's Japanese language proficiency. Since the Japanese bibliography cited in Nadolski's thesis is quite extensive, it is hard to question this, or account for the mistakes.
Early in his life Ueda stayed for a week on Mount Takanuma and spent a whole week in a trance. The memories of the trance later became the massive Reikai Monogatari
, which Morihei Ueshiba studied constantly. Ueda then studied with Nagasawa Katsutate (Nadolski mistakes this name, also), who traced his lineage through Honda Chikaatsu, back to the Mito School and Hirata Atsutane's kokugaku
. From Nagasawa, Ueda studied the techniques of spirit possession known as chinkon kishin
Though the first meeting between Nao Deguchi and Kisaburo Ueda was not really successful, she eventually enlisted his help, in order to achieve independence from the local Konkokyo
religious faction in Ayabe. (Omoto was not recognized by the Japanese government and Nao, who had been a member of this other ‘new' religion, had stayed affiliated to the local branch.) However, the relationship was stormy and so together they developed a new Omoto doctrine. This was done amid a whole series of pilgrimages to the more ‘powerful' Shinto shrines, in order to symbolize the connection of Omoto with Shinto. One of the important aims of the pilgrimages was to identify the Great Foundation Deity, which was the focus of Omoto worship, and to associate Omoto with the worship of this deity especially at Ayabe. Thus they made a pilgrimage to Moto Ise, dedicated to the worship of Toyouke, claimed by the shrine to be another name for Kuni-toko-tachi and Ame-no-mi-naka nushi, two primary deities mentioned very early in the Kojiki
. Holy water was brought back to Ayabe from the Moto Ise shrine and poured into a well at Ayabe, named Ginmeisui
. Another pilgrimage was made to Izumo, the other stream of Japan's mythical tradition. Water, earth and fire were brought back from Izumo to Ayabe and added to the water from Ise in the Ginmeisui
. Thus, Ayabe was designated a ‘new' Izumo. Ueda formulated a new doctrine to match this new union, using the teachings of the National Learning School.
One central issue for these Kokugaku
scholars concerned the interpretation of Japan's ancient myths. As explained above, Masa-katsu-a-katsu-kachi-hayabi, the wimpish son of the Sun Goddess Ama-terasu—and one of O Sensei's favorite deities, had been designated to descend from Heaven to rule Japan. Masa-katsu-a-katsu declined the request—since producing his son demanded his full attention, and this newborn son, Ame-Nigishi-kuni-nigishi-Ama-tsu-hiko Hiko-ho-no-ninigi-no-mikoto (thankfully called the Heavenly Grandchild
, for short), was commissioned to go in his place. This deity had to wait a while, however, until the "unruly earthly deities" had been subdued. When this had been done, the Sun Goddess Ama-terasu dispatched various divine messengers to request O-kuni-nushi-no-kami to surrender the land. This deity eventually responded that, provided they built him a shrine "equal in splendor to the palace of the emperors", he would withdraw and "conceal myself and wait upon you…" The Nihongi
adds that the heavenly messenger told O-kuni-nushi that thereafter the latter would administer "kami
matters", or "concealed matters".
There was a major discussion over the meaning of these "concealed matters". Kokugaku doyen
Motoori Norinaga thought that the "kami
matters" referred to the Land of Yomi
, the land where people went after death. Motoori's disciple Hirata Atsutane disagreed and maintained that the kami
actually lived alongside humans, but were "concealed" from ordinary affairs. Since O-Kuni-nushi-no-kami was a deity from Izumo, Hirata argued that Ama-terasu's Imperial Shrine at Ise was the center of the rule of visible, worldly affairs (and therefore that Japan's emperors had a higher status than other rulers—Japan being the center of the visible world), whereas Izumo was the center of the rule for invisible kami
matters—Japan being the center of this world, also. The two worlds co-existed, but the influence of the "concealed" kami
world was felt everywhere in the visible world. Nadolski notes that Hirata's arguments about the kami
world and the Emperor's relationship to it became one of the ideological foundations of the restored emperor system.
Kisaburo Ueda borrowed Hirata's teachings and took them several steps further. He argued that the kami
world was actually in utter confusion, and for two reasons. One reason for the disorder stemmed from the collapse of the rule of Kuni-no-toko-tachi-no-kami, the primary deity created at the very beginning of the creative process, but who, after his brief mention at the beginning of the Kojiki
, is never referred to again. Kisaburo argued that this deity had actually been charged by the Buddha Miroku (Maitreya) with establishing ‘just rule' over the world. Using an interesting blend of Buddhism and Shinto, Ueda argued that Miroku was the ultimate deity of the universe and Kuni-no-toko-tachi-no-kami was the ruler of the divine world. Since Kuni-toko-tachi was pure spirit, Ueda maintained that his rule was too severe for ‘the eight hundred myriad deities' and they complained to Miroku. On hearing of the complaints, Kuni-toko-tachi went into voluntary retirement and Miroku allowed Bankojin
, a Chinese creation deity (a.k.a. P'an ku), to establish his rule over the land of the kami
. The rule of Bankojin represented the subjugation of the spirit to matter and, consequently, the world was thrown into a state of chaos, with wars, famines and plagues. According to Ueda, in 1892 Kuni-no-toko-tachi-no-kami decided to return to a particular part of the land of the kami
that touched the earthly world, namely, the center at Ayabe, and restore his true rule. He used Neo Deguchi as his mouthpiece and this return was the main focus of the revelations in Nao Deguchi's Ofudesaki
The second reason for the disorder related to Susa no o, the brother of Ama-terasu. Susa-no-o had been expelled from heaven for unruly behavior (which had caused Ama-terasu to retreat into a cave and perpetual night to fall). O-kuni-nushi-no-kami was a descendant of Susa-no-o, however, and when he retired in favor of the Heavenly Grandchild, this upset the original order of the universe. The reason for this was that Susa-no-o had originally been given command over the "Ocean Plain", which clearly included the visible world, and until his rule was restored, there would be continued chaos. Ever one for the eclectic, Kisaburo Ueda argued that it was Miroku who had sent Susa-no-o to earth, in order to help in the restoration of the reign of Kuni-toko-tachi. Together they would re-establish the dominance of spirit over matter and of order over chaos. Ueda himself was ordained to play a major role in this. Since Kisaburo had been told by his chinkon kishin
teacher, Katsutate Nagasawa, that Susa no o was his personal spirit, Kisaburo believed that he himself was the incarnation of this deity.
Accordingly, the mission of Omoto was to unite all visible earthly matters with "concealed things" and this was the base of the Omoto doctrine that called for yo-naoshi
: the restoration of a just order (which, incidentally, the Meiji Restoration clearly was not) and the destruction of all evil. It should be clear from this ‘mission statement' just why Omoto was considered such a threat by the government. In 1903, Kisaburo Ueda took the name Onisaburo (王仁三郎), with Chinese characters more appropriate to the name of an emperor, and in 1910, Ueda was adopted by Nao into the Deguchi family and finally became Onisaburo Deguchi.
In this connection, we need to consider Ueshiba's view of the disorder in the universe and the role of aikido in repairing this disorder. I think this will make clear the differences between his views and Deguchi's and also make clearer the vast gulf between Moriteru Ueshiba's and Kisshomaru Ueshiba's respective views of aikido.
Whereas for Deguchi the central question was why chaos, evil and disorder existed in this world, this sense of doom & evil is largely absent from the Ueshiba's discourses. Even a casual glance through some of the chapters in The Secret Teachings of Aikido
will show the general optimism in Ueshiba's thinking. In Chapter V ("Link Yourself with the Universe"), for example, Ueshiba begins by stating that
"Your body is the creation of the universe, housing the spirit; your being is miraculously linked to the essence of the universe—in fact you are one with the universe and that should be the guiding principle of your life. The gift of life that has been bestowed on human beings dictates that they should guard and purify the world. They need to first develop perseverance, and then polish and clarify their thoughts. This will allow them to single-mindedly concentrate on the essential task of unifying mind and body." (Stevens, p. 80.)
Later on, Ueshiba uses language more reminiscent of Deguchi's's preoccupations, sketched above. The ills alluded to by Deguchi are to be solved through aikido.
"Aikido can reveal the grand design of the universe. It can bring all things to perfection through love. It can harmonize the Visible World, the Concealed World and the Divine World." (Stevens, p. 83.)
Granted that these discourses were published well after World War II, and that we possess virtually nothing written by Morihei Ueshiba which we can date with certainty to the time he lived in Ayabe, from 1920 onwards, it is nevertheless clear that Morihei Ueshiba, like Deguchi, came to see himself as the bridge between heaven and earth and saw aikido as an art to unite three realms: heavenly, visible and ‘concealed'. The way he fulfilled his role as a bridge was a combination, a unity, of training and ritual—the latter especially important. Crucially, the ritual was never seen as a mere preliminary to the training that followed: the two were identical.
Like Deguchi, Morihei Ueshiba was a shaman, who believed that deities like Izanagi and Susa-no-o actually worked through him. He was not simply practicing with the jo, spear or sword: he was
Izanagi enacting the rituals of creation all over again; he was
Susa-no-o killing the eight-tailed dragon. With Kisshomaru Ueshiba, however, this crucial aspect of Morihei Ueshiba's sense of his own identity completely disappeared. Since Kisshomaru never saw himself as a bridge between heaven and earth, he never saw himself as someone needing to perform rituals to ensure that he was an effective bridge. So it is not entirely accurate to state that chinkon kishin
, for example, disappeared from Kisshomaru's training; it is unlikely that it was ever there in the first place.
3. The First Suppression
The third chapter of Nadolski's thesis starts with the economic changes that occurred after the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. The Japanese economy fell into a slump, which was to last until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. For seven of these nine years Morihei Ueshiba was living in Tanabe, sporadically training in the dojo his father had built for him. Political protests at the terms of the Portsmouth Treaty of 1905 developed into the Hibiya Riots and several Christian churches were burned to the ground. There was a rise of radicalism, which undermined the new emperor system. The Police Law of 1900 was intended to suppress these movements, but was ineffective, for in 1911 an anarchist plot was revealed to assassinate the Emperor. The Police Law was invoked to suppress any perceived threat to the emperor system, for the police saw themselves shielding ‘the people' from radical ideas. So there was no possibility of government recognition for a religion like Omoto. The outbreak of World War I was a spur to the economy, but led to rampant inflation, which in turn accelerated the trend to organized labor activity and radicalism.
In such a situation a yo-naoshi
movement like Omoto expanded rapidly. In 1912 Onisaburo Deguchi renamed Omoto as Omoto-kyo
(Omoto religion) and during the war he took advantage of the popular need to participate in a war that was being fought far way in Europe, by establishing a paramilitary group. The group was called Shinreigun
(Army of the Righteous Spirit), and the members wore uniforms, marched in columns and sang their anthems and battle songs. The army was the elite shock corps of Kuni-toko-tachi, pledged to study the Kodo
(Imperial Way). In 1916 Deguchi changed the name yet again, this time to Kodo Omoto
. The kyo
part was dropped, on the grounds that "government, education, business and also religion are contained in the idea of kodo." Kodo Omoto
was more inclusive than any religion, since its program aimed to restore the reign of Kuni-toko-tachi in all areas of life.
However, problems arose. The chinkon kishin
possession exercise proved very popular, but there was no guarantee that the revelations from or possessions by the personal deities supposedly induced would be orthodox. Since the police were very suspicious of the whole business, the practice of chinkon kishin
was restricted to sect headquarters. In 1916 Wasaburo Asano, a teacher at the Imperial Naval Academy, visited Ayabe and became a member of Omoto, seemingly on the basis of the chinkon kishin
technique. Asano was welcomed by Onisaburo, who wanted to attract intellectuals and thus, "widen the appeal of the organization to a public beyond the financially and emotionally distressed." (p.82).
With the end of World War I, the government was hard put to maintain its equilibrium. The business of governing had passed from the Genro
oligarchs to political parties and the traditional distinction between government (which was ‘good') and politics (which was ‘bad') was being muddied. The 1917 Russian Revolution, also, had an impact, for the military wanted to take advantage of the internal disorder in Russia and expand Japan's sphere of influence abroad, but the government also felt that Communists could become a powerful domestic menace. The Communist Party was in fact established in 1922, one year after an anarchist shot the Prime Minister. The war brought an end to the industrial expansion of Japan and the country fell into a severe economic depression. In 1918 violent rice riots broke out "in every part of the nation" (Nadolski, p. 84, presumably including the Kii Peninsula and Tanabe, where the Ueshiba family lived), for the price of rice had nearly tripled in the war years. Despite the extension of the suffrage to all adult males in 1925, there was an expansion of radicalism that the government found harder and harder to keep in check. In Takashi Hara, the government had a Prime Minister who was an ultra-conservative commoner. Hara believed that Japan's domestic problems were entirely caused by radical agitators. His legacy, along with universal male suffrage, was the 1925 Peace Preservation Law, aimed at the radicals who sought to overturn the kokutai
In these years the Omoto organization grew and by 1921 had from two to three hundred thousand members. The 567-mat Mirokuden
was built in Ayabe—the name is a pun on Miroku (Buddha) and the number 567—and festivals became increasingly elaborate. Wasaburo Asano had become the editor of a new monthly called Shinreikai
(World of Divine Spirit
), which specifically appealed to intellectuals. However, more than this, Omoto became increasingly known to the general public through the acquisition in 1919 of a daily mass-circulation newspaper, the Taisho Nichi-Nichi Shimbun
(Taisho Daily Newspaper
However, towards 1921, the Omoto mass media became the platform for the promulgation of an altered and strangely fanatical version of its traditional doctrine. In 1905, Nao had prophesied that:
"The ten years around 1921 shall see the true beginning of the restoration of the world… The third of March and the fifth of May 1921 are the decisive days. Till then, there will be trying times for Omoto." (Nadolski, p. 94.)
Nao had further predicted that gaikoku
(another pun, meaning ‘foreign' [= 外国] and ‘the world of evil deities' [= 邪神界]) would pour into Japan, but the prediction was interpreted to mean that the yo-naoshi
would begin with a world war aimed at Japan, the chief antagonist being the United States. Wasaburo Asano collected all these dire oracles that Nao had delivered and used 1921 as the point of reference. The Omoto media urged everyone to return to the fundamental expression of yamato-damashii
(Japanese spirit). Onisaburo wrote:
"A great war between Japan and the rest of the world will occur, and the kami will draw the warships and soldiers of the allied world near Japan. In the end the power of the kami will act and by such great upheavals as an eruption of Mt. Fujii and the vortex of a whirlpool of the Naruto Straits, all those forces will be utterly annihilated." (Nadolski, p. 95, quoted from Tokushige, Omoto Nanaju-nen-shi, I, p. 402.)
In this war, the Emperor would establish his capital at Ayabe, the spiritual center of the world, and the disorder that had stemmed from the displacement of Kuni-toko-tachi and Susa-no-o would then be corrected. The restoration of order in the "concealed matters" of the kami
would be reflected in the visible world through the reestablishment of the predominance of spirit over matter. This order would envelop the whole world and all nations would be brought under the august rule of the Emperor, whose government would everywhere be infused with divine light. Thereafter the entire universe would reflect this righteous order. Omoto members were called upon to work for the rebuilding of this cosmic system and thereby to participate in the reconstruction of the universe.
Now this last paragraph sounds very similar to the tone of Morihei Ueshiba's later discourses and we should briefly interrupt our discussion of Nadolski's thesis here and consider whether the Omoto predictions of disaster in 1921 had any effect on Morihei Ueshiba's decision to move to Ayabe. Morihei Ueshiba moved to Ayabe in 1920, at precisely the time when Onisaburo's call was going out to Omoto members. In his biography Kisshomaru tells us that his father had spent the First World War in Hokkaido, where he stayed until 1919, when he heard of his own father's illness. However, Ueshiba's nephew, Yoichiro Inoue, who was also in Hokkaido with Morihei Ueshiba, had actually heard of Omoto earlier than Ueshiba and had visited the Omoto headquarters. Morihei Ueshiba arrived back in Tanabe in January 1920, a few days after Yoroku had died, but was back in Ayabe with his family in the spring. Yoichiro Inoue was already a member of Omoto at this time and was in Kameoka. When Morihei Ueshiba opened his Ueshiba Juku
, a few months after his arrival in Ayabe, Inoue was one of his students.
In his biography Kisshomaru Ueshiba hardly mentions Yoichiro Inoue at all and presents the 1920 meeting between Morihei and Onisaburo as a meeting of kindred souls, with Ueshiba becoming the servant, bodyguard, and faithful friend of Onisaburo. The threatened 1921 apocalypse—and, indeed, the entire 1921 First Omoto Incident—hardly causes a ripple in the smooth flow of Kisshomaru's narrative. For Kisshomaru, the villain of the piece was Wasaburo Asano, who had contaminated Omoto with undesirable ‘politics'—and had also placed an undesirable emphasis on chinkon kishin
. It is certainly true that Morihei and Onisaburo were kindred souls, but, given the 1921 apocalyptic, it is easier to put Morihei Ueshiba's subsequent references to yamato-damashii
in a less strictly militaristic light. Perhaps he really did believe that the re-establishment of right order in the universe, sketched by Onisaburo and later discussed at great length in Reikai Monogatari
, entailed the ‘august rule by the Japanese emperor over all nations'. (A comforting thought for us foreigners is that if such rule had ever been established, at least we would all be doing aikido—or whatever Ueshiba thought it was in 1921—under the benevolent emperor. The comforting thought, however, must also be compared with the evidence of how the Japanese military subsequently treated those whom they had defeated in battle. Details in the next column.)
Nadolski records that one of the achievements of Wasaburo Asano was his influence on many of his acquaintances from his days as a teacher in the Naval Academy to join Omoto. Asano's younger brother, Seikyo Asano, became one of Ueshiba's students in Ayabe and he, in turn, talked of Ueshiba to the navy admiral Isamu Takeshita, who was probably the most important political influence on Morihei Ueshiba from then onwards. Nadolski examines in some detail why intellectuals and military men became so attracted to Omoto. He gives a few testimonials:
"Reverence for the Emperor and patriotism come from devotion to the deity, but this fact has become obscured in the minds of the ordinary citizens of our time. It must be restored as the foundation of our national life."
"We must quickly reform our souls according to the Ofudesaki and return to the true essence of yamatodamashii."
Others came to Omoto because of its study of the legends in the Kojiki
, while yet others were convinced of the coming disaster in 1921. The tendency of intellectuals to join Omoto for their own reasons, however, led to an increase in factionalism. Wasaburo Asano led one group particularly devoted to the chinkon kishin
technique, while another group, led by Dr Ishitaro Kishi, formed an ultra-imperialist faction. Fratricidal battles took place and the chinkon kishin
faction led by Asano at one point seemed to be taking over from Deguchi.
The explosive growth of Omoto caused a reaction and critical articles began to appear in liberal journals, which were especially concerned about the effect on the ‘masses' of the ‘hysterical' predictions of the 1921 apocalypse. Nadolski records that the police chief for Kyoto Prefecture, Shohei Fujinuma, dispatched the head of his security division to investigate Omoto. The subsequent report was presented to the Home Ministry and the Ministry of Education. The report seems to have been very even-handed. It discussed, in turn: Omoto and the Kodo
(Imperial Way); the ‘great apocalypse' of 1921; the choice of Ayabe as the new Imperial capital; the Omoto version of yo-naoshi
; chinkon kishin
and its resurrection by Asano. As a result Onisaburo and Asano were summoned for investigation, but there was still no major move against Omoto. However, Onisaburo and Asano were eventually prosecuted for offences under the Newspaper Law, for printing lese-majeste material. Omoto were also prosecuted because certain buildings resembled too closely the Imperial Shrine at Ise (which, of course, was the actual purpose).
For Kyotaru Deguchi, the suppression was evidence of government-directed persecution of Omoto, but Nadolski's analysis seems more measured. Nadolski considers that the Hara government badly misjudged Kodo Omoto
. If the Hara government had recognized Omoto, it could have brought it under government control without resorting to suppression. So the suppression was an attempt to mask the government's insecure control over the bureaucracy and the army (note the references in the previous column to Karel van Wolferen's view of government in Japan as a cluster of autonomous centers, each fighting for control) and was not an isolated event: it fitted into the pattern of brutal reaction against labor, farmers, rice rioters, Korean nationalists and socialists. The Peace Preservation Law (1925) has already been mentioned, but in 1923 the Special Police (= Thought Police) were also established.
The issue here is similar to the crisis precipitated in Japan a few years ago, with the arrest and trial of Asahara Shoko, the founder of Aum Shinri-kyo
. This quasi-religious movement dealt with yo-naoshi
in very practical terms—like killing those whom it judged needed to go to the next life very quickly, but also attracted many intellectuals and bright young students from Japan's major universities, resorting to brainwashing their adherents, in order to lead them to believe completely outrageous stories about the exploits of their founder (who is now in prison awaiting execution). I do not say that Omoto was anything like Aum Shinrikyo
in its methods. However, the claims made by the sect and the methods used by the police to suppress it—including some staggering mistakes, are strikingly similar to the case of Omoto. A point made by Nadolski (p. 113-114) about Omoto is also relevant to Aum Shinrikyo: Why did the intellectuals in the 1930s as a body fail to resist the rising militarism of that period of time. The very lack of conviction and strength demonstrated by those who joined the Kodo Omoto
movement at its floodtide and then deserted it in its ebb indicates an inability to make decisive commitment or to resist oppression. I think Nadolski's question is also very pertinent to those who see aikido as a ‘culture-free' art and see O Sensei as a champion of aikido (moral) training outside the dojo. I do not think this was ever the case, especially at this particular time.
Masaburo Asano and many intellectuals left Omoto and yet others left to start their own separate religious organizations. Morihei Ueshiba, however, did not leave. He and his nephew Yoichiro Inoue continued training and farming, but must have wondered what would happen to Onisaburo Deguchi.
To be continued.
The books listed in the two previous columns are also relevant here. (See especially Sources of Japanese Tradition, Second Edition, Volume One: From the Earliest Times to 1600
, Compiled by Wm. Theodore de Bary, Donald Keene, George Tanabe, and Paul Varley, 2001, Columbia U P; Marius Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan,
2000, Harvard U P.) Stanley Pranin has published an English translation of Kyotaro Deguchi's biography of Onisaburo Deguchi (出口京太郎, 巨人出口王仁三郎
, 講談社, 1967; The Great Onisaburo Deguchi
, 1998, Aiki News). There are two biographies of Morihei Ueshiba, by Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Kanemoto Sunadomari, respectively (植芝吉祥丸, 合気道開祖植芝盛平伝
,1998, 出版芸術社; 砂泊兼基, 合気道開祖植芝盛平伝「武の真人」
, 1981, 2007, たま出版). Nadolski's doctoral thesis has not been published (Thomas P Nadolski, The Socio-political Background of the 1921 and 1935 Omoto Suppressions in Japan
, 1975, U of Pennsylvania PhD Dissertation, University Microfilms). Nadolski cites the theories of Anthony F C Wallace (Religion: An Anthropological View
, 1966, Random House). The Japanese mythology has been published in many Japanese editions, usually giving the kambun
text, with a modern Japanese translation and scholarly notes. Translations into English have been made by Basil Hall Chamberlain (The Kojiki: Records of Ancient Matters
, 1882, Asiatic Society of Japan; 1981, Charles Tuttle—with occasional excursions into Latin, in order not to shock his Victorian readers) and Donald Philippi (Kojiki
, 1968, Tokyo University Press). Philippi has also translated the norito
prayers in the Engi-shiki (Norito: A Translation of Ancient Japanese Ritual Prayers
, 1990, Princeton U P). The difficulties in establishing the kambun
text of the Kojiki
can be gathered from the Appendix to Susan Burns' book on kokugaku
(Susan L Burns, Before the Nation: Kokugaku and the Imagining of Community in Early Modern Japan
, 2003, Duke U P). Kokugaku
is the name for the studies of the Kojiki
and much more by Motoori Norinaga and other scholars. There are one or two works in English on Motoori, including Peter Nosco, Remembering Paradise: Nativism and Nostalgia in Eighteenth Century Japan
, 1990, Harvard U P, from which a small section was quoted in the column. Quite different, and much more diffuse and ‘difficult', is a brilliant work by H D Harutoonian (Harutoonian, Things Seen and Unseen: Discourse and Ideology in Tokugawa Nativism
, 1988, Chicago U P). Morihei Ueshiba had an idiosyncratic view of the Kojiki
and constantly referred to events and deities in his discourses. 合気神髄
) actually contains much of the material found in the other collection of discourses, entitled 武産合気
). The former work has been translated by John Stevens as The Secret Teachings of Aikido
Peter Goldsbury (b. 28 April 1944). Aikido 6th dan Aikikai, Professor at Hiroshima University, teaching philosophy and comparative culture. B. in UK. Began aikido as a student and practiced at various dojo. Became a student of Mitsunari Kanai at the New England Aikikai in 1973. After moving back to the UK in 1975, trained in the Ryushinkan Dojo under Minoru Kanetsuka. Also trained with K Chiba on his frequent visits to the UK. Moved to Hiroshima, Japan, in 1980 and continued training with the resident Shihan, Mazakazu Kitahira, 7th dan Also trained regularly with Seigo Yamaguchi, Hiroshi Tada, Sadateru Arikawa and Masatake Fujita, both in Hiroshima and at the Aikikai Hombu. Was elected Chairman of the IAF in 1998. With two German colleagues, opened a small dojo in Higashi-Hiroshima City in 2001. Instructed at Aiki Expo 2002 in Las Vegas, Nevada.