IV: Iemoto and Iwama
An earlier column (Column 5) finished with O Sensei retreating to his Aiki-en
(Aiki Farm) in Iwama, leaving his son Kisshomaru in charge of the Tokyo dojo. There are a number of problems relating to Morihei Ueshiba's move to Iwama and one way of putting these problems into focus is to consider Morihei Ueshiba's words and actions in relation to the war that was fought by Japan from 1937 till 1945.
On the one hand, in the previous column (Column 9), we saw that from around 1930 onwards, Morihei Ueshiba had very close links with ultra-nationalists like Okawa Shumei and showed no sign of distress at allowing the members of the Sakura-kai
(Cherry Blossom Society
) to meet in the Kobukan dojo and plan their revolts and assassinations for yo-naoshi
(renewing the world
: a constant theme in Japan from the late Tokugawa period right up until the closing years of the Pacific War). After the second suppression of Omoto in 1935, Ueshiba continued his association with a wide spectrum of Japanese military leaders and taught at various military schools. There is evidence that he taught a very rough and ready form of jujutsu
: the kind that would allow Japanese soldiers to finish off an enemy at close quarters, when the weapons had failed to do so. These actions strongly suggest that Morihei Ueshiba supported both the war itself and also the way it was being fought by the Japanese military. However, all this changed in 1942 and the published writings suggest that this change was extremely abrupt.
On the other hand, in Kisshomaru Ueshiba's biography and in his own discourses, Morihei Ueshiba appears to show serious concerns about the war, even going so far as to assert that there was a serious mismatch between aikido and killing—especially killing in the kind of war being fought by the Japanese military. As evidence of his father's general unhappiness with the course of the war and his intense desire for peace, Kisshomaru writes of a secret mission undertaken by Ueshiba to China in 1941, on behalf of Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe. Ueshiba's statements about killing would also suggest that he had become a secret pacifist, but Kisshomaru Ueshiba always denied quite strongly that his father was ever a pacifist. In any case, Morihei Ueshiba hedged his bets about the war and ordered Kisshomaru, then a university student, to stay in the Tokyo battle zone and run the Kobukan dojo. He could have closed the Tokyo dojo entirely and removed the entire Ueshiba / Kobukai operation to Iwama. (Of course, had Ueshiba done this, the future history of aikido would certainly have been much more straightforward, if considerably less interesting.)
It should also be noticed in passing that what Morihei Ueshiba was teaching in the military schools up till 1942 was somewhat different to what he was teaching in the Kobukan. In the Kobukan he was training and teaching ‘pure' Daito-ryu: ‘pure' in the sense that it was the art he had learned from Sokaku Takeda. In 1942 the art received the official name of aikido
, but the substance did not change from being Daito-ryu merely because of the name change.
However, it is clear that by 1936 Ueshiba had distanced himself from Sokaku Takeda, just as he had gradually separated from Onisaburo Deguchi. At the risk of over-simplification, it is plausible to suggest that the gradual change in Ueshiba's political views about the war was matched by another gradual evolution of his own training and the art he was developing. Equally at the risk of some over-simplification, it is important to emphasize that up until 1942 and for a considerable time afterwards, Father and Son were training in the same art. There is evidence that Morihei Ueshiba moved to Iwama because he wanted to focus on certain aspects of his own training. Of course, he had been focusing on his own training more or less consistently ever since the move to Ayabe in 1920, if not before, but the evidence suggests that he wanted to focus on new aspects that he had not considered before. However, one cannot make any inference from the move to Iwama that in 1942 Morihei Ueshiba and Kisshomaru had a different focus and were already pursuing different goals. (I plan to discuss the very interesting but difficult question of the technical differences between Ueshiba Senior and Ueshiba Junior in a later column.)
In this column I would like first to examine the 家元 (iemoto
: family head) model of transmission / inheritance—and its competitors—and then look at how, in the case of aikido, the family succession was complicated by the de facto
creation of two
major centers of aikido, not one. Another way of putting this is to ask why, in 1942, O Sensei chose to abandon the Kobukan Dojo and retreat to Iwama, but nevertheless ordered his son to stay in Tokyo as head of the Kobukan and maintain the dojo—at risk of his life, if necessary. Note that I am not really concerned in this column with Morihei Ueshiba's training after the move to Iwama. The issue for me here is why he moved at the time he did, and also to what extent the move can be seen as a ‘family transmission' to Kisshomaru Ueshiba.
To focus on the matter of inheritance in aikido, I would like to look at iemoto
in two other spheres. One is chanoyu
(the Tea Ceremony / the Way of Tea), which is a ‘traditional' art like aikido. The other is not an art at all, but a powerful intellectual movement or ideology. This is Kokugaku
or National Learning, which flourished from the mid-Tokugawa period until it was snuffed out with Japan's defeat in World War II. (Wistful traces of this ideology still linger in the form of 日本人論, Nihonjinron
: Studies of Japanese Uniqueness.) Transmission, inheritance and the designation of disciples and successors were often very controversial issues here. As usual with these columns, we are looking at aikido as a modern budo
and attempting to place it in a broader Japanese cultural tradition, whether ‘invented' or more authentic.
This concept is highly relevant to aikido because aikido seems to be a clear example of the practice. A glance at the massive 武芸流派大辞典 (Bugei Ryuha Daijiten
) will show a list of Morihei Ueshiba's students, grouped chronologically (starting with Yoichiro Inoue from the Aioi-Ryu
period). Note that the Daijiten
entry is listed under ‘Ueshiba' and not under ‘Aikido'. However, the very first entry in the list is a direct vertical line to Kisshomaru Ueshiba, who is listed as 二代目道主 (Second Doshu
). Thus, the editors of the Daijiten
did not explicitly give Morihei Ueshiba the title of first ‘Aikido Doshu
'. His son Kisshomaru assumed the title of Doshu
—and his father also has this title in Kisshomaru's postwar books on Aikido.
With the title of Doshu
, Kisshomaru Ueshiba asumed the spiritual/technical leadership of the art—and after his death, his son Moriteru took his place. Moriteru's son, Mitsuteru, in turn, is now sometimes called Waka Sensei
and is being groomed to succeed his father. So, with the Aikikai the established pattern is that the son inherits on the death of the father. It is also an example prima facie
of the working of the rule of primogeniture that was a legacy of the Meiji Restoration. However, there are some complications. The present Doshu, Moriteru Ueshiba, once told me that he did not think that the transition from father to son in the Aikikai was a genuine example of iemoto
. I suspect that Doshu was pointing to the fact that (1) some important aspects of iemoto
were lacking in the Aikikai and (2) there were other traditional ways of ensuring the succession of a new generation besides iemoto
As Paul Varley notes in Tea in Japan
(for details, see the reading list at the end of this column) there is some difference between having a family head, whatever the name used, and iemoto
as a system. In their practice of the arts, in religion and other pursuits, Japanese have commonly been organized into schools or lines (流派). These lines have sometimes been based on blood relations, more often on fictional kinship relations among unrelated members. The development of feudal institutions in the medieval age greatly strengthened this custom. The members of a school (家 ie
) greatly honored its founder (元 moto
) and devoted great care to the transmission of the founder's philosophy and practice. Typically, the transmission was made from master to disciple by means of 秘伝 (hiden
, secret writings) and口伝 (kuden
, oral instruction). The true disciple inherited the full tradition (完全相伝, kanzen soden
) and thus the status of master in his own right.
The proliferation of interest in the yugei
(遊芸) ‘elegant leisure arts' in the Genroku Period of the Tokugawa Era (ca.1672-1725) led to the rise of iemoto
as a system. It was response to the emergence of a ‘culture of play', especially among the wealthy merchant class. Varley states that the oldest reference to iemoto
is 1757, about a quarter-century after the Genroku epoch in which the system began to take form. Varley's source is a Japanese scholar, Nishiyama Matsunosuke, who argues in 家元の研究
(Iemoto no Kenkyu
) that iemoto
as a system in general hinges on the type of transmission. According to Nishiyama, transmission could be complete (完全, kanzen
) or partial (不完全, fukanzen
) the iemoto
having the absolute right to decide which. The right was usually exercised by means of 名取 natori
, name-taking, a ceremony in which the student received a professional name from the iemoto
and became a teacher. Varley also notes that the iemoto
system was "an attempt to harness—and profit from—the large new clientele for these elegant pastimes. The iemoto
, once established, strictly controlled the revenue that came into his school and … became a capitalist in an age of impressive capital accumulation." (Varley, Tea in Japan
, 1989, p. 173.)
If we maintain the distinction between iemoto
and the iemoto
system and apply this distinction to aikido, what do we find? For a start, the distinction between kanzen soden
and fukanzen soden
, which, according to Nishiyama, is characteristic of the iemoto
system, does not really apply. There is no evidence that Morihei Ueshiba intentionally and publicly withheld specific items of hiden
teachings from any of his early uchi-deshi. (I mention early
uchi-deshi here, not to exclude the later deshi, but to focus specifically on the Kobukan up until 1942.) In at least one 道歌douka
, Ueshiba denies that there are any such teachings.
Certainly, if we consider Morihei Ueshiba as a single iemoto
, there is evidence that he attempted to find someone to marry into the family and succeed him. Thus Kiyoshi Nakakura became Morihiro Ueshiba in 1932, on his marriage to Morihei's daughter Matsuko. However, there was no formal transfer of kanzen soden,
(at least, none that we know of), for this was not how Morihei Ueshiba worked. It is also odd that Ueshiba had no problems with an expert in kendo, but not in jujutsu, becoming the head of what was still a Daito-ryu school. The marriage was dissolved a few years later and Nakakura returned to kendo. Morihei Ueshiba made no further moves about a successor until he appointed Kisshomaru as head of the Tokyo dojo in 1942 and retired to Iwama. By that time, at the urging of Ueshiba's political students and supporters, the Kobukan had become a foundation, called the Zaidan Hojin Kobukai
, and followed the usual pattern with such bodies in having a constitution and office-holders, such as Dojo-cho
(Head of the Dojo).
as a system, however, is much more relevant to his own major students than to Morihei Ueshiba himself. After listing Kisshomaru Ueshiba as Second Doshu, the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten
lists all the main students of Morihei Ueshiba, with the schools they created and their own successors. Like Takeda Sokaku, Ueshiba was a ‘loner' and spent a long time developing and refining his own skill before thinking of transmitting it to a successor and even this he did in a rather haphazard fashion. However, with few exceptions his students created their own independent schools and organized these on the iemoto
Chanoyu: Reading the Tea Leaves
Both aikido and chado are arts and seem to bear important similarities—as can be seen from the following questions. Both are arts
, fashioned from the most mundane activities: tea-drinking and fighting. Why did this happen, or rather, why should this have happened? They are similar in two other important respects: both have attracted a vast expenditure of thought concerning the utilitarian aspects of the respective art, but what could be utilitarian about such a mundane activity as drinking tea, or fighting? Note that the utilitarian aspects of chado
or aikido are not primarily concerned with performing the activity in a better fashion. Rather, they are concerned with the ‘benefits' of the activity. For zen monks, drinking tea was an effective device for fending off sleep during meditation. The utilitarian aspect of the arts leads to another aspect: both arts were practiced for reasons we may term ‘spiritual' or ‘philosophical' and it is this spiritual or philosophical ‘secret' knowledge that was at the heart of the transmission in chado
as an art with iemoto
can be seen most clearly from the career of Sen no Rikyu and his successors. Like Zeami in Noh, Sen no Rikyu thought about the art of chanoyu
and provided a satisfactory intellectual foundation for it. He was the counterpart of Morihei Ueshiba in aikido: he transformed something that had existed before into a new art that captured the imagination. Rikyu, however, was forced by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1591 to commit seppuku
(a special form of suicide that involves revealing one's hara
) and his family went into exile. The Sen family was restored to favor fairly quickly, but the family learned from this experience, especially Rikyu's grandson Sotan, who became the family's iemoto
from 1614 until his death in 1658. The lesson they learned was not to put all their eggs into the same basket and tie their fortunes to the whim of a single daimyo. So Sotan established family links to several local daimyo and his sons established three separate family schools which still exist today in Japan: Urasenke, Omotesenke, and Mushanokojisenke. Thus, Sen Soshitsu XV is the fifteenth iemoto
of Urasenke, succeeding his father Tantansai in 1964.
as an art has been severely criticized and part of these criticisms relate to the iemoto
system. Such criticisms are of some relevance to aikido, especially its postwar development, so they should be considered here. John Whitney Hall states the following in his essay, "On the Future History of Tea":
"The other important feature of chanoyu, and other domestic art form in Japan, is that it is kept alive and rooted in a tradition through the iemoto system—the mechanism whereby a school of activity is perpetuated through the head of a family that has the hereditary right to teach the tradition of a particular style of performance. The iemoto system had been criticized on the grounds that it gives rise to inordinate formalism, that it fails to encourage creative innovation, that is susceptible to abuse, commercialization and the like. The system can give rise to all of these problems…" (Varley, 1989, p. 253.)
Whitney Hall defends the Urasenke iemoto
against such criticisms, but it is easy to see how they can arise about an individualistic art like aikido (which is rooted in intense individual training, done under the guidance of someone who has more skill and experience than the student), when the art is practiced within a hereditary "tradition of a particular style of performance", to use Whitney Hall's term.
Severe criticism of chanoyu
as an art arose as early as the Genroku epoch, when the tea ceremony became popular. Dazai Shundai (1680-1747) was a Confucian scholar and a disciple of Ogyu Sorai. He gave the following description of a tea gathering:
"The host prepares the tea himself and presents it to his guests. Taking the single bowl in which tea has been prepared, the guest of honor drinks some and passes the bowl to the next guest in the line. If there are three guests or five guests, all drink from the same bowl and the last guest finishes the tea. The empty bowl is then returned to the guest of honor, who takes it, examines it carefully, and praises it as a rare article (chinki). He gives it to the nest guest, who examines it and in turn passes it on until it reaches the last guest. After the last guest examines the bowl, he returns it to the host. The guests all bow and express thanks to the host for showing them the bowl. Next, the bag for the bowl is examined, then the caddy, then the caddy's bag, and then the scoop. Even though none of these articles may be sufficiently unusual to warrant examination, it is proper etiquette to request to see them. And because much attention is given to preparing the charcoal in the hearth, the guests draw near and observe the host fixing the charcoal, praising what he does. They also praise the flowers in the flower vase. In short, the guests express admiration for everything they see the host do. It is flattery of the most blatant kind."
This is criticism of the tea ceremony itself, but Shundai has equally scathing remarks on the articles of chanoyu
, which participants bought on the recommendation of the iemoto
"Today's tea men take filthy and damaged old bowls, whose ages they cannot know, repair them with laquer and other materials, and then use them. It is an unspeakably disgusting custom. … People today who amuse themselves with chanoyu spend vast sums of money on ordinary ceramic objects that have nothing unusual about them and no distinctive merits—and regard them as priceless treasures! Insignificant bamboo tubes are purchased for a hundred pieces of gold and are thought to be extraordinary objects. It is all quite baffling."
Shundai was a Confucian and his criticisms of chanoyu
are related to the concept of 下剋上 (gekokujo
, overthrow of those above by those below). For Shundai, the world of tea threatened the very order of Tokugawa society. As Varley notes, the atmosphere of classlessness at tea gatherings was particularly appealing to townsmen, who were officially consigned to a status of inferiority vis-à-vis the other classes of Tokugawa society. Another criticism made by a contemporary of Shundai was that the iemoto
system had led to the proliferation of schools since Rikyu's death (including the three Senke branches), such that the tea world in Genroku was like a boat, "lost in a sea of fog without a compass".
as a system, applied to an art like chado
, there is the issue of the extent of the transmission of a body of public and secret knowledge (which, though secret, is a ‘known known', in the immortal words of Donald Rumsfeld). The issue of the relationship of master to student is a different and separate issue and it was this issue that coloured the controversy within Kokugaku
of Hirata Atsutane's relationship to the Norinaga School. This issue is relevant to aikido because of the haphazard and informal way in which Morihei Ueshiba ‘designated' successors. Thus, the question of the ‘closeness' of x-deshi or y-deshi to Morihei Ueshiba has always coloured the issue of succession and some have argued that Kisshomaru should never have become the Second Doshu, on the grounds that there were other deshi who knew more and were ‘closer' to Morihei Ueshiba than he was.
Maintaining the Way, or, Japanese National Road-works
One reason why iemoto
was relevant to kokugaku
, or Japanese nativism, was that its main exponents established their own networks of private schools and more or less followed the iemoto
pattern in doing so. First, a note on kokugaku
is in order.
"Kokugaku was one of the most important intellectual movements of the Tokugawa and early Meiji periods. Put simply, it represented an attempt to study Japanese antiquity and to apply its lessons in the rectification of an epoch that many believed was mired in decline…"
These are the opening words of Mark McNally's new study of Hirata Atsutane (for details, see the reading list at the end of this column) and it is not difficult to see that the ‘rectification' of the ‘epoch' was none other than yo-naoshi
, once more. The leading scholars of kokugaku
were: Keichu (1640-1701), Kada no Azumamaro (1669-1736), Kamo no Mabuchi (1697-1769), Motoori Norinaga (1730-1801), and Hirata Atsutane (1776-1843). The last three, especially, all followed a similar pattern of establishing their own private academies and founding a School.
Motoori Norinaga established a private academy known as the Suzunoya
. The first generation of students was contemporary with the first and second generations of Kamo no Mabuchi's school in Edo. Many students of Motoori's academy established their own branch academies and so the Norinaga School comprised several hundred students. According to McNally, the Norinaga School used the iemoto
system of transmission.
"Despite the dominance of doto (道統) lineages in schools of Neo-Confucianism in the Tokugawa period, the iemoto system was prevalent in most of the other schools of cultural production, including nativism. It was for this reason that Motoori Norinaga chose his adopted son Ohira to succeed him as head of the Motoori household in the Suzunoya academy." (McNally, Proving the Way, p. 138.)
Like Paul Varley with chanoyu
, McNally uses Nishiyama Matsunosuke, Iemoto no kenkyu
, as a main source and cites Nishiyama as the basis for including nativism in the schools using the iemoto
system instead of the doto
lineage. McNally continues:
"Since Atsutane was left out of Norinaga's iemoto system of succession, the discourse of the doto better suited his efforts to lay a claim to the leadership of nativism." (ibid.)
McNally gives an account of the "origins of Japanese discourses of succession" and locates them in "the Chinese master-student genealogies formulated during the Tang and Song dynasties." "Unlike the Buddhists, Confucians had to overcome centuries of history when asserting that the daotong
(the transmission of the dao
; Jp. doto
), which began with the sages and early kings, was repossessed by Confucius and Mencius; subsequently, the propagation of the dao
was lost from the end of the Warring States period to the Song dynasty, a span of more than twelve centuries."
The transmission was achieved differently for Chan Buddhists of the Tang & Song from the Confucians in these dynasties. The former "used the concept of ‘mind-to-mind' transfer of the dharma in the formation of their lineages, predicated on a close master-disciple relationships characterized by face-to-face contact", whereas Neo-Confucians had to rely on the "textual nature of the dao
, in order to overcome the centuries of its non-transmission. However, this is where problems could arise. Song Confucians argued that "Mencius had actually left his wisdom concerning the dao
in the Mencius
for future generations", but that Han and Tang had misinterpreted his words and misappropriated the Mencius for their own subjective agendas.
"It was only through careful study conducted within a framework of self-rectification that a scholar could apprehend the dao and revive the daotong. Careful internal disciple and rigorous scholarship were the keys to the recovery of the transmission of the dao lost since Mencius. In the twelfth century, Zhu Xi believed that his predecessor Zhou Dunyi (1017-1073) had accomplished this feat. Zhou then transmitted this knowledge to the Chen brothers, Hao (1032-1085) and Yi (1033-1107); eventually Zhu Xi himself received the wisdom of the dao, along with the moral authority that accompanied it, either through his teacher Li Tong (1093-1163) or through the study of the writings of the Chen brothers.
"Atsutane's discussion of the nativist doto closely followed Zhu Xi's account. Just as the wisdom of the dao was lost for a number of centuries after Mencius in the third century BC, so, too, was knowledge of Japan's ancient Way lost after Sugawara no Michizane (845-903)." (Above and earlier quotations from McNally, pp. 132-133.)
A detailed discussion of the scholarly arguments surrounding the lineage of the five leading scholars of kokugaku
, listed above, would take us far beyond the issues being discussed in this column. However, the fifth chapter of McNally's book ("On a Dream and a Prayer") gives a vivid account of how Hirata Atsutane managed to establish himself as the successor of the Norinaga School. He did so by changing the rules of orthodoxy and by inserting himself into the new rules. McNally makes a distinction between "L-orthodoxy", which was the "philological investigations into classical literature in order to recover the ancient Way" and for which the de-facto rules of succession were those of the iemoto
system, and "O-orthodoxy", which was symbolized by the doto
, "in which succession was not determined by the iemoto
system, but by the spiritual relationship of master and apprentice".
Since Atsutane was denied any succession in the Norinaga School through the iemoto
system, he had several choices. (1) He could either reorient the direction of his scholarship to accommodate this declared orthodoxy, would might have given him a peripheral place on the margins of the Norinaga School. (2) He could simply leave the Norinaga School entirely and adopt a new scholarly identity. (3) What he actually chose to do was create a new leadership post to occupy. He focused on the ancient Way and argued that literary scholarship & textual study revealed only the minor aspects and that the Norinaga School was part of a much grander scholarly tradition of nativism. Atsutane claimed the sole leadership of this, broader, tradition, but he did so by using "O-orthodoxy", by arguing that he had inherited his wisdom from his eighteenth century predecessors (Azumamaro, Mabuchi, and Motoori Norinaga), and also from antiquity.
What was more important is Atsutane's efforts were successful. He was indeed recognized as the successor of the Norinaga School and his views of succession
"transformed nativism from the narrow preservation of an iemoto lineage, as was the case with the Norinaga School, into a full-fledged tradition that transcended it. The drive to broaden the scope of nativism began during Atsutane's lifetime and was completed in the decade following his death. Norinaga had explicitly shunned attempts to expand his academy. Motoori Ohira, however, oversaw the expansion of the Suzunoya academy into the Norinaga School, despite Norinaga's reservations. Atsutane, girded by the support of a national following, claimed the leadership of nativism following Ohira's death. Thus the nativism of the Norinaga School was finally transformed into Kokugaku." (McNally, p. 178.)
Some instances of the consequences of this transformation have been noticed in the three previous columns (the expression of rural nativism in Shimazaki Toson's Before the Dawn
; the use made by Deguchi Onisaburo in devising his own early Omoto doctrines; the use of Atsutane's nativist doctrines in the gradual formulation of state totalitarianism).
I think that more perceptive readers will not have failed to draw some very interesting parallels between the two examples discussed above, of chanoyu
and nativism, and aikido. However, the present focus is on the network of Kobukan Dojo & branches up until 1942. I do not know whether the present Doshu has studied chanoyu
or nativism, but I believe the discussion has shown that there is some substance to his opinion that the iemoto
is somewhat limited in explaining transmission in aikido.
It is possible to see Morihei Ueshiba in the Kobukan period as an iemoto
, especially since he fitted the narrow confines of this way of transmission, in searching for someone whom he could adopt into his own family. I hope it is clear that, had Kiyoshi Nakakura (a.k.a. Morihiro Ueshiba) successfully persevered in his marriage to Ueshiba's daughter, Kisshomaru would very likely have been left to pursue his own interests—and the rest, as they might say, would have been history of quite another kind.
As evidence of some kind of system, there was the spread of Kobukan branch schools, especially after the creation of the Budo Senyokai
in 1932, and some of these continued after the second suppression of Omoto in 1935, but there is no evidence of any limited or unlimited transmission of a complete body of knowledge to any successor. Of course, this issue is further complicated by the question of Ueshiba's relationship with his Takeda Sokaku, but I think that the ranks that Ueshiba awarded were acknowledgments of skills and teaching ability, rather than evidence of an iemoto
system. I think that it is safe to assert that none of the features of an iemoto system
, as seen in the analyses of Nishiyama Matsunosuke, were put in place at least before 1948, when the Kobukai
was resurrected as the Zaidan Hojin Aikikai
In fact, this famous place is no longer officially known as Iwama. The Japanese government has been pursuing a policy of merging local municipalities and the location of the dojo is now a city called Kasama. Since the passing of Morihiro Saito, the name of the dojo has also changed. The dojo where Morihei Ueshiba trained is now called the Ibaragi Branch Dojo of the Aikikai Hombu and is run by Hiroshi Isoyama. The tradition created by Morihiro Sensei is now carried on by his son Hitohiro Saito—in a separate dojo—and this illustrates another classic feature of iemoto
: those who cannot accept the general framework of iemoto
have no choice but to vote with their feet—to separate from the ‘main' line and start a new tradition.
The origins of the Iwama dojo go back a long way before 1942. Ten years before, the Omoto-affiliated Dai Nippon Budo Senyokai
was inaugurated and a branch established in Iwama. It is known that Morihei Ueshiba had quietly been buying land in Iwama for many years before he actually moved there. One of his uchi-deshi, who came from a family of Omoto believers in Iwama, had connections there established by the Budo Senyokai and this was how O Sensei had been able to acquire the land.
In an essay in Aikido Journal
, entitled "Aikido in the Postwar years, 1946-56", Stanley Pranin gives an explanation for Morihei Ueshiba's move to Iwama in 1942.
"Kisshomaru assumed leadership of the Kobukan Dojo in 1942 while still a student at Waseda University. The founder had retired to Iwama this same year at a time when operation of the dojo became very difficult due to the negative progression of the war and, especially, the fire bombing of Tokyo."
In another article, entitled the "The Kobukan Era, Part II", something similar is stated:
"The Kobukan Dojo era actually comes to an end with the withdrawal of Morihei to Iwama, Ibaragi Prefecture late in 1942. This was a particularly difficult time, not only for the founder, but for all of Japan as the major cities were undergoing frequent air attacks that made carrying out any semblance of a normal life an impossible task."
Mr Pranin is a formidable historian of aikido, but there is something odd about the chronology here. (In Stan's defence, however, I have to admit that he is not the only one to have the idea that the war reached a serious stage in 1941. Kisshomaru Ueshiba also makes the same statement on p.255 of his biography of the Founder and he actually mentions B-29s in the next sentence.) Obviously, the B-29 bomber loomed very large in the popular imagination of the Japanese who lived in the mainland during the war and from the chronological chart, given below, it is not difficult to see why. The aircraft was the terrifying instrument of fire and destruction on Japanese cities that were bereft of any effective air defences.
However, it has to be stated that the first major fire bombings of Tokyo occurred in February/March 1945
, almost three years after
the move to Iwama, so they could not have been a reason for the difficulties in the operation of the Kobukan or the move to Iwama (unless Morihei Ueshiba was miraculously prescient—see below). Until the construction of the B-29 heavy bomber, the US did not have the means to subject Tokyo to heavy bomb attacks. The year 1942 was indeed the year that the B-29 made its maiden flight, but by January 1944 only one hundred planes had been made (though one thousand
had been manufactured by December of the same year). However, in the early days the planes had to operate from India and China and it was not until the successful invasion of Pacific islands closer to the Japanese mainland, like Saipan and Tinian in the Marianas—which were not secured until the middle of 1944, that B-29s could fly to Japan and back with a full bomb load (eight tons of incendiary bombs).
The year that Morihei Ueshiba moved to Iwama saw the Battles of Coral Sea and Midway—and the beginning of the end for the Japanese empire, but it would have been anathema for any Japanese to utter such sentiments, including O Sensei. Thus, perhaps we should begin this discussion with a very brief chronology of the Second World War and aikido, with special reference to Morihei Ueshiba and the bombing of Japanese cities.
- 1940 August - Konoe Fumimaro proclaims 八紘一宇 (Hakko Ichiu)
- This means ‘eight cords, one roof' or ‘all the world under one roof'. Used by the radical Kita Ikki to justify Japan's destiny to bring peace to the world, by force, if necessary, the phrase was also used by Konoe to proclaim that the basic aim of Japan's national policy was "the establishment of world peace in conformity with the very spirit in which our nation was founded."
- 1940 August - Launch of Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere
- 1940 December - O Sensei's First Series of ‘Visions'
- 1941 Between March & October - Prince Konoe secretly sends Morihei Ueshiba to China
- 1941 December - Bombing of Pearl Harbor
- 1941 December - 大東亜戦争 : Great Pacific War begins
- 1942 April - Demonstration to mark 10th anniversary of Manchukuo
- Kisshomaru Ueshiba mentions this demonstration in his biography. This was the demonstration where Hiroshi Tada heard about Ueshiba's ‘high-voltage' waza.
- 1942 April - B-25 Doolittle raids on Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Kobe
- These raids caused negligible damage, but had a pronounced psychological effect, for the Japanese air defenses did not shoot down a single American plane. The humiliation caused by this violation of ‘sacred airspace over the imperial capital' led to the planning of further offensive operations, all unsuccessful.
- 1942 May - Battle of Coral Sea
- 1942 June - Battle of Midway
- 1942 ? - Dai Nippon Butokukai approves ‘Aikido' as the official name
- 1942 December - O Sensei's Second Series of ‘Visions'
- 1942 ‘Late' - Morihei Ueshiba moves to Iwama
- 1943 March - Japanese retreat from Guadalcanal
- 1943 April - Admiral Yamamoto, who planned Pearl Harbor, shot down
- 1943 November - Various islands in the Central Pacific overrun by US
- 1944 July onwards - Saipan, Tinian overrun by the US
- 1944 July - Loss of Saipan leads to resignation of Gen. Tojo
- 1944 November - US decides to use incendiary (napalm) bombs
- 1945 January - Curtis LeMay takes over 21st Bomber Command
- 1945 February - US forces land on Iwojima
- 1945 February 25 - First fire bombing of Tokyo by B-29 bombers
- 1945 March 10 - 334 B-29s bomb Tokyo
- 1945 April - Okinawa captured by US
- 1945 May - Japanese army defeated in Burma
- 1945 May 23 - 520 B-29s bomb Tokyo
- 1945 May 25 - 524 B-29s bomb Tokyo
- 1945 May 29 - 450 B-29s bomb Yokohama
- 1945 July 8 - 497 B-29s bomb Sendai etc
- 1945 July 12 - 506 B-29s bomb Utsunomiya etc
- 1945 July 24 - 599 B-29s bomb Osaka & Nagoya
- 1945 July 28 - 562 B-29s bomb Tsu
- 1945 August 1 - 766 B-29s bomb Nagaoka
- In all, B-29s destroyed a total of 66 Japanese cities and the bombings killed almost as many civilians as the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. I think this accounts very adequately for the image of the B-29 aircraft in the popular imagination of older Japanese. Thomas R Havens, in his book Valley of Darkness, gives a very clear and poignant account of the effects of the bombings in Chapter 10, which is entitled, "Enduring".
- 1945 August 6, 9 - Atomic-bombing of Hiroshima & Nagasaki
- 1945 August 9 - Soviet Union invades Manchuria
- As a result of this invasion, Kenji Tomiki and Shigenobu Okumura were imprisoned as POWs and were not repatriated till a few years later.
- 1945 August 15 - Japan surrenders
Kisshomaru Ueshiba and a friend go to the Imperial Palace and see distraught Japanese prostrate and unable to comprehend what has happened. It is at this point that Kisshomaru, aged 25, has the dream of taking aikido to the victor nations, to show that, despite the war, there is still something ‘good' in Japanese culture, namely, the art that his father created.
The later pages of Alvin D Coox's summary of the Pacific War (see Reading, below) give a clear picture of ‘Japan in extremis'. One paragraph is worth quoting in full.
"Public pessimism was taboo, but privately Japanese military leaders were far from sanguine. Despite boasts for a successful defence of the home islands, they had no real confidence of defeating second and third waves launched continuously, even if the American initial landing could be frustrated. When they appraised conditions objectively and concretely, the high command officers sensed that it would be impossible to defeat the invasion because Japan lacked ammunition, weapons and foodstuffs. Increasingly they realized that only one battle, the struggle for Kyushu, could ever be waged in practice. Lt. Col. Fujiwara Iwaichi summed up the army's outlook in the summer of 1945:
‘Relying for the most part on the suicidal bravery, ardent patriotism and fierce loyalty of the people, Japan prepared to wage the final decisive battle against an enemy far superior in both technical resources and manpower. In spite of the odds building against them, the Japanese people well knew that if their leaders were determined to carry out decisive combat on the sacred soil of the homeland, there was no alternative but to fight to the bitter end.'
Added an Imperial General Headquarters staff officer: ‘We merely prepared for the final operations with the philosophy that we must fight in order to glorify our national and military traditions, that it was an engagement that transcended victory or defeat." (Coox, in the Cambridge History of Japan, Vol. 6, p.372.)
The sentiments of the GHQ staff officer are what caught my attention in this passage. The phrase, ‘an engagement that transcended victory or defeat', is precisely how Morihei Ueshiba characterized his aikido. For Ueshiba, any martial encounter was ‘transcendental', in the sense implied by the staff officer, but for different reasons. We do not know to what extent he was prepared to use this ‘transcendental' budo expertise, which he had been developing in Iwama from 1942 onwards, "for the final decisive battle": to destroy any American invaders who strayed as far as his dojo. Actually, the tradition of tragic failure as something noble goes a long way back in Japanese culture (for reading, see below).
Eventually Kisshomaru had to give up the struggle in Tokyo, in large part due to his great efforts to keep the dojo free of fire damage, for it eventually came to be used as a place of refuge for those whose houses had been burnt down. So Kisshomaru joined his father in Iwama and quietly continued training until conditions were right for a return to Tokyo.
So the question remains. Why did Morihei Ueshiba move to Iwama in 1942? I think the first place to look for an answer is Ueshiba's own discourses and in the accounts written by his son. We will examine these in order. The reason for the order should become clear, as we proceed.
Morihei Ueshiba's Discourses:
In a new book entitled, The Secret Teachings of Aikido
, there appear the following two paragraphs, which are worth quoting at length. I begin with the translation by John Stevens because this is what most non-Japanese will encounter. The passage appears on pp.95 & 96.
"Heretofore, budo was concerned with training in physical forms, but now training in spiritual forms is more important. If you lack a mind set on love, you can never accomplish any great techniques. The stance of love is that stance of seigan[triangular posture used in the martial arts]. In Japanese budo we do not try to force an opponent to move. Budo is based on the principle of non-resistance, a principle of the spiritual world—this is nenpi kannonriki. The secret of bu is that it has no forms. The heart must be free and ki must be fully charged.
All this was imparted to me by the deity Sarutahiko on December 16, 1942, between 2.00 and 3.00 in the morning. All the gods of Japan gathered and brought aiki truly into life, fostering universal spirit and sho chiku bai swordsmanship. The double-edged sword of heaven and earth was manifest; that sword symbolizes the spiritual movement that works to purge the world of filth and corruption. To accomplish this, first that terrible war had to end. I was entrusted with a tremendous task: the gods instructed me to construct a 36-mat aiki jinja in Iwama. Then the atomic bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the emperor called an end to the war. Since then Japan has been tied together by aiki. The true budo of the gods has been restored. Within the powerful name of Ame no murakumo kuki samuhara ryu-o all the techniques are contained. It is in your blood. As for me, I am an incarnation of Izunome no mikoto[the spirit of reformation and renewal]."
For those who would like to study the Japanese, I present the text that Mr Stevens has translated. The text is to be found in 合気神髄
), pp.129-130. The same sentences as those above are highlighted in bold type (by me, of course, not by Mr Stevens).
今までは形と形の物すれ合いが武道でありましたが、それを土台としてすべてを忘れ、その上に自分の魂をのせる。自分に愛 の心が無かったら万有愛護の大業は 成りがたく、愛のかまえこそ正眼の構えであります。無形の真理、日本の武道は相手をこしられてはいかぬ。無抵抗主義、こ れこそ霊界の処理法であり、念彼観 音力と申します。武の極意は形はない。心自在に生ず。気は一切を支配する源・本であります。Aiki Shinzui
このことはすべて猿田毘古の大神お導きにして、昭和十七年十二月十六日、午前二時より三時の間、日本中神々現れて 合気の出現を寿ぎたまり。大和魂の錬成、松竹梅の剣法、天地合体して両刃の剣、精神の発動によって世の濁りを洗う。それには第一にこの大東亜戦争を止めさせねばなりません 。あまりにいうことが大きいのではじめお受けしかねましたが、各地からいうて来るので、御神意により、岩間に三十六畳敷の合気神社を建てました。や がて広島、長崎に原爆落ち、いよいよ決意を固めた時、陛下より宣言があって戦争終了。それ以来、日本のことはみな合気を 結んであります。神ながらの道と興 武を行って復興すべし。天の村雲九鬼さむはら竜王、この御名の中に合気の技ことごとく含まれ、汝は血緑結んでおるぞよ。 すなわち私が伊豆能売命になったわ けであります。伊豆能売とは経魂たる荒、和、二魂の主宰する神魂を厳の御魂といい、厳瑞合一したる至霊魂を伊豆能売の御 魂というのです。
is a collection of articles written by Morihei Ueshiba and published well after the war in the Aikikai's newspaper Aikido Shimbun
. The question about this remarkable passage—in which Morihei Ueshiba recounts some kind of vision that took place around 2 am on December 16, 1942, wherein he was commanded by the deities to build a 36-mat Aiki shrine in Iwama—is to what extent it has been altered by those who edited the discourses for publication. The fact that there is a similar passage, from a different source, but recounting much the same episode, suggests that any editing did not affect the general truth of the original—that Ueshiba correctly recounted a vision or visions that he had experienced.
The similar passage is in the volume entitled Takemusu Aiki
, edited by Hideo Takahashi for the Byakko Shinko-kai. Actually, this passage is much longer and follows on from the passage in the same discourse quoted in an earlier column (see Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 7
). Both passages are from the lengthy discourse entitled「私の合気修業方法」 ("Watashi no Aiki Shugyo Hoho": "My Method of Ascetic Training in Aiki"). Here, Morihei Ueshiba recounts almost precisely the same experience as that recounted above. However, in this account the vision took place on his birthday, December 14, 1940 (November 16, in the "old way of reckoning"). What follows below is the continuation of the passage quoted in the earlier column. I give the Japanese text (pp.127-132) and then an English translation, in numbered paragraphs. I have also added some notes, where relevant. When in doubt, I have chosen accuracy, rather than elegance. To my knowledge, this text has never been translated before, but I think it is of some importance for understanding why O Sensei moved to Iwama. The section quoted here is in three main parts: (a) general discussion of aikido; (b) discussion of the war; (c) description of the ‘visions'. Of course, it will be clear from the contents that Ueshiba made these statements long after the events he describes took place.
A - General Discussion of Aikido
1. つまり自己に与えられた天命を行うことであります。自分の使命を行っているということが、国のためになっていれば結構なことだと思う。自分の使命の遂行よりな い。国のため世のためと言葉に出した折りには汚れる。自分のつとめを完うすればよいのです。つとめが神になっていれば、これは幸いである。
In other words, (the purpose of aikido) is to carry out the will of heaven that has been assigned to oneself. As for the having of one's own personal mission, if this is for the sake of the country, I think this is a good thing. There is nothing that comes before the execution of one's personal mission. (Alternative: There is nothing that one can do except execute one's personal mission.) However, on the occasion of this being put into words, uttered for the sake of the country or society, this is impure. If one can accomplish one's own mission, this is good. If the execution of one's own mission becomes a ‘kami', then this is happiness/good fortune.
(a) This paragraph seems to me to be a general statement about the goals of aikido, as O Sensei saw this when he lectured to the Byakko Shinko-kai.
(b) The Japanese sentence in bold, above, is different from that quoted in Kisshomaru Ueshiba's biography. In his biography (p. 38), Kisshomaru wrote:「国のため世のためと言葉に出した祈
(to pray) and「折り」=
(occasion) are quite different in meaning. In Kisshomaru Doshu's version, the translation would be something like:
However, if this is put into words, uttered as a prayer for the sake of the country or society, this is impure.
Readers can judge for themselves about the context, but I have to emphasize that Kisshomaru Doshu changed the original text.
(c) Much time was spent pondering over the final sentence, about 「つとめが神になり」. I eventually decided that O Sensei probably had in mind the state of enlightenment that comes from a training regime such as the one that he followed, where the kami
‘takes over' and ‘consumes' one. An analogous phrase occurs below [B 11, (b)].
2. 一国を侵略して一人を殺すことではなく、みなそれぞれに処を得させて生かし、世界大家族として集いとなって、一元の営み の分身分業として働 けるようにするのが、合気道の目標であり、宇宙建国の大精神であります。これが明治御大帝の大み心であったと、今日なお 仰いでおります。
The goal of aikido is not invading a country and killing someone. Rather, it is to enable everyone to go forward in life, with each person having his own place, so that there may be a gathering together of a ‘one-world family', so that all may be able to work as specialized branches of the unitary operation (of the universe), leading to the ‘Great Spirit that Builds the Universe Nation'. This was the august wish of His Majesty the Meiji Emperor and it is still to be respected today.
(a) The paragraph begins with a negative statement that parallels the positive statement that began the previous paragraph (the subject is understood from previous paragraphs). The negative statement is quite remarkable, coming as it does from somewhat who has spent a number of years teaching soldiers to do precisely the opposite of this.
(b) This is followed by a much more all-encompassing view of aikido, which is directly related to the aims of the Byakko Shinko-kai, a religion which, like Omoto (from which it is an offshoot), has the aim of revealing and fostering the ‘unitary operation' of the universe.
(c) The reference to the Meiji Emperor is unusual. 宇宙健国 (宇宙 = universe; 健 = constructing; 国 = country or nation). It is an early and very general expression of yo-naoshi
(renewing or reconstructing the world), that was a key feature of thinking in Japan from late Tokugawa onwards. The whole creation of Omoto is based on one expression of this thinking.
3. 絶えずこの祈りによって争いをさせんようにする。だから合気道は試合を厳禁している。がその実は大なる愛の攻撃精神、和合、平和への精神で ある。
Without ceasing we must stop violence in conformity with this prayer. Accordingly, aikido strictly forbids competitive matches. In fact (= that reality is that) aikido embodies the ‘attacking spirit' of Great Love; it embodies the spirit that seeks harmony and peace.
(a) The ‘prayer' is clearly the content of the previous paragraph, about the gathering together of the ‘one-world family'.
(b) It is striking that Ueshiba immediately equates the strict prohibition of sporting contests in aikido with the strict prohibition of invasions and killing in aikido.
(c) The connecting thought is also unusual. Is a ‘metaphysical conceit'—"two heterogeneous ideas yoked by violence together", of the kind favored by 17th century English poets like John Donne and George Herbert. 攻撃 (ko-geki
) really is an attack: it is the kind of thing that the Japanese Navy did at Pearl Harbor. The 精神 of the attack—the spirit that drives the attack / attackers—was also considered crucial to the success of the attack. However this attacking spirit is of 大なる愛: love that is great.
Because of this, we intertwine and tie ourselves together with the opponent in every respect with the spiritual power of our love (nenpi kannonriki: concentrate yourself on the power of Kannon: Goddess of Mercy). Because it is love, the encounter can purify the partner.
(a) The explanation continues with the consequence, drawn from the ‘conceit' in the previous paragraph. The alleged power is similar to the power of the Kannon Bodhisattva, invoked in the sutra. The entwining and tying can result in the purification of the partner (相手 being a very general term that can mean opponent, partner, companion etc.).
(b) The phrase念彼観音力 (nen-pi-kan'-on-riki
) is a refrain in the sutra to the Kannon (Avalokitesvara) Bodhisattva, one of the Jusan Butsu
: Thirteen Buddhas of the Shingon School.
5. 合気は自由を束縛するのではない。すべての悪い心を祓い浄めて、すべての縛つまり因縁の縛、自分の行いの上よりきた縛、 すべての精神よりき た縛を悉く解くのです。即ち自己の使命をつとめ上げることです。これは五井先生のみ心そって祈りの実を結ぶ事です。
Aiki is not intended to shackle freedom. By purifying all bad spirit(s), aikido unties completely all bonds, including the bonds of fate, the bonds that derive from one's deeds, the bonds that derive from everyone's spirit. In other words, it is something that achieves and completes one's personal mission. This achieving and completing of one's personal mission is the fruition of the prayer that is married to Goi Sensei's spirit.
(a) These discourses were delivered to the Byakko Shinko-kai, so it is appropriate that the final statements in this general explanation of aikido ascetic training should mention Masahisa Goi, who was thought by O Sensei especially to understand his ideas.
(b) Goi believed in the spiritual power of prayer, specifically a particular prayer for world peace. Goi believed that the prayer was effective in purifying the "atmospheric air surrounding us", itself creating an "area overflowing with peaceful energies".
"What we refer to the thoughts of each individual become vibrations and circulate around the universe. These thoughts gather together to form the destiny of mankind. Therefore, the thoughts of each and everyone of us, without a doubt influence the destiny of the human world, in a greater or lesser way.
Since Goi's specific prayer for world peace "vibrated in harmony" with the divine world from which it originated, it was "thought to be especially powerful in counteracting the disharmony brought about by evil intentions". (Quotations from Robert Kinsala, Prophets of Peace
, p. 66.)
(c) Goi's prayer would bear fruit in the "achieving and completing of one's personal mission", which was actually aikido, which "purified all bad spirits" and "completely untied all the bonds" which shackled one's freedom.
6. 今迄の私の武の奥意は一剣に生殺与奪の力を集め、相手を自己の想うままにして、栄えの道と喜びの道の案内をすることで あった。合気道には時 間も空間もない。日本の神代からの歴史は悉く自己一身のつとめの中にあるのであす。
Until now the secret principle of my martial training was to accumulate the power to give or take away life or death by the sword. It was the arbitrary control of opponents and the creation of a roadmap for my path to brilliance and to joy. Aikido is beyond time and space. Its history from the age of the gods in Japan is found completely in the personal mission of each and every individual. (Alternative: Within the personal mission of each and every individual is to be found, complete, its history from the age of the gods in Japan.)
(a) Ueshiba now contrasts his thoughts on aikido at the time he had these thoughts with his previous martial training.
(b) Ueshiba places great emphasis here on aikido as being outside time or space. It seems to me that this rather bald statement is intended to contrast with the first statements about the specific (and narrow) circumstances in which Ueshiba originally conceived of his budo training, purely understood in terms of personal brilliance and prowess.
(c) This emphasis changes. Rather like all the individual thoughts and prayers of Masahisa Goi, aikido is seen by Ueshiba to be the summation of all individual aikido ‘lives': the fulfillment of the personal missions of each individual who ever lived.
7. 又この世は国の各機関の命令によって行っていました。もとはいつか斬ることを教えて自己の攻防のみとなり、攻が主となっ てしまった。これは 魄が主であったからであり、時の勢いでもあり、人類に与えられた大きな修業の道でもあった。
In addition, at this time I acted in accordance with the demands of various bodies/organizations in the nation. At first, I was teaching ways of killing and offence and defence solely in relation to oneself, and attacking became one's principle aim. This was mainly because the focus was the body (carnal part of the soul). This was the trend of the times and this fact (the fact that it had this focus) also constituted a major challenge to the mass of humanity. (Alternative: This was the trend of the times and this fact [the fact that it had this focus] also had a major appeal for the mass of humanity.)
(a) The first statement expands Ueshiba's early ideas of martial training and specifically alludes to his teaching of killing techniques to the military.
(b) Ueshiba alludes once more to a distinction summed up in two different ways of writing a certain Chinese character, 魄 and 魂, both with the meaning of ‘soul'. (This was briefly discussed in Column 7.) Of course, this distinction was brilliantly ambiguous, based as it is on two different ways of writing a Chinese character, that is read the same way anyway, but which have connected—but opposite, meanings.
(c) The last two sentences are unusual and I have translated them as above, on the advice of a Japanese native speaker. Either interpretation indicates that Ueshiba saw a major problem in the attitudes and martial activities of the Japanese military establishment, and that these attitudes and activities either constituted a major problem (for Ueshiba himself), or had a wide popular appeal (for the mass of humanity). The second interpretation, of course, does not remove the personal problem for Ueshiba. Again, this is another example of Morihei Ueshiba's ambiguity in Japanese, this time, from the sentence content and structure.
8. 戦争が終って、人々に平和への望みが満ちてきた。原子力も平和産業に利用されるようになり、そして合気道も、政府上司の 命令で ″進め″と いうことになった。それは私が愛を常に説明していたから、それを記した私の手帳も方々に落ちていただろうから、調べたの でしょう。だから、″今度は愛の競 争に立った″と笑ったことがある。
With the ending of the war, people have devoted their energies to the pursuit of peace. The peaceful use of nuclear power came to be accepted and Aikido also came to "flourish" at the demands of government bodies. To which I continuously gave explanations about love. These were recorded in my notebook and this also fell into the hands of many others, who probably investigated the matter. So, I laughed, with the words, "From now the striving of love has arisen."
(a) It is obvious that Ueshiba did not have these thoughts in 1940, when he had the visions described below. He is reflecting on the postwar growth of aikido, but also insisting on his own vast vision of aikido as love. The last few sentences indicate to me that his explanations fell on somewhat deaf ears.
(b) It is curious that the said notebook has never come to light and one wonders who carried out the "investigations".
(c) Notice the contrast with Ueshiba's earlier injunction against competitive matches in aikido. The term here is 競争, best translated as ‘striving' or ‘rivalry', which he never condemned.
B - Discussion of the War
If we go back to the war, the Great Pacific War was becoming progressively more severe and Japan seemed likely to lose. The deities gave me a divine command, in order to make me stop this war.
(a) It is also very unlikely that Ueshiba had these thoughts in 1940, when he had the visions recounted below. The Great Pacific War
is the name for the contest between Japan, the US and her allies, that was declared in 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbor. There were military commanders like Yamamoto Isoroku, who believed that the contest between Japan and the United States was an unequal contest right from the very beginning. However, these thoughts were always expressed within a tatemae
(approved political and conceptual framework), which held that the United States lacked the will (‘fighting spirit') for a major world war and that Japan really had the power to force the US to a quick bilateral peace, after which it could easily deal with Britain. As I have suggested from the chronology given above (earlier in this column), the major turning point was 1942, with the battles of Coral Sea and Midway, but in Japan, it was anathema
to give even the slightest hint of a suggestion that Japan would probably lose the war. So Ueshiba could never have made these thoughts public, even if he actually had them in 1940. Valley of Darkness
, by Thomas R H Havens, gives a vivid picture of what the war meant for the average Japanese at home, as also does Kiyosawa Kiyoshi in his secret wartime diary. Kiyosawa's diary extends from December 9 1942 until 5 May 1945. Thus it starts around the time of Ueshiba's departure for Iwama. The whole point of Kiyosawa's diary is that it is a diary: a collection of private thoughts that he would never dare to make public.
(b) The final sentence is breathtaking for its audacity, until we remember Ellis Amdur's (convincing) arguments that Morihei Ueshiba thought of himself as an avatar, a sole warrior fighting for the Budo of Love, but on the Floating Bridge of Heaven, and so quite divorced from the ordinary rank and file ‘infantry' in the average dojo.
I would like to take this opportunity of explaining more detail.
11. 「世界の同胞はみな困っている。若い者は次々に死んでゆく。この戦争を止めさせるのは只一つある。つまり国土の因縁罪障 の処理が出来ず今日 に及んでいる。その時に神は汝に神つけるから、汝の一身によって果し、戦争を止めるように進め」と神示が現れた。しかし そんな大きなことは出来ないと信じ なかった。
The command was, "Everyone in the human brotherhood of the world is suffering. Young people are dying one after another. There is only one way to stop the war. Up till today not all karma of cause & effect in Japan have been managed properly. For this to happen we (the deities) give you divine power. Thus you yourself have to work to stop the war." In fact, I didn't believe that I could not perform such a great task.
(a) More statements follow, equally breathtaking for their audacity. As a remedy for the ‘improper management' of some of the ‘karma of cause and effect', Ueshiba himself has to assume the powers of a deity and do what has proved impossible so far. [Compare A 1 (c).]
(b) When I first translated the final sentence, I erred on the side of ‘rationality' and thought that Ueshiba believed he was not capable of performing such a task. My Japanese student corrected me about Ueshiba's double negative. Like a deified Superman, Ueshiba believed he could do it.
12. 丁度広島長崎に原爆の危険があることをすでに神様からきいて前知していた。しかしそんなことをみなにいったとてしょうが ない。自分の身を亡 ぼすもとであるので、ただ黙って行いだけをしようと思った。
Since I had also heard from the deity that there was a danger of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I knew (this) before it happened. However, I thought there was no way of telling everybody about such an event. I thought I would play my role in silence, so that I could protect myself.
(a) This is a remarkable statement. Ueshiba notes that he was made aware in advance of the "danger" of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but that he had no way of telling anyone. The only recourse was to keep silent and carry out the deity's instructions (of building the dojo / shrine in Iwama).
(b) The question inevitably arises about Ueshiba's prescience of the atomic bombings. The evidence presented earlier in this column suggests that the mass aerial bombing of Japan's major cities did not take place until1945, almost five years after this 1940 vision was alleged to have taken place. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were spared the fire-bombings, but there is no way (short of divine intervention, of course) that Ueshiba could have known in 1940 about American intentions concerning the atomic bombing of these cities. So we have no indication of what kind of "danger" Ueshiba had in mind.
Of course, if divine intervention is to be taken seriously, this leads to a serious moral issue (for westerners like myself). If Ueshiba had such knowledge, why did he protect himself by not making it public? Where was his sense of responsibility to the prospective victims? Of course, there is the problem of publicly speaking out in a society that was becoming progressively totalitarian and fascist, but it seems from this discourse that he dismissed this possibility.
13. 猿田毘古大神は「速やかに宮と武産合気の道場（三十六畳の浄めの道場）を建てよ」といってこられた。そのご教示によって 自分の疎開した土地 （茨城県岩間町）にほんの小屋であったが建てた。
The deity Saru-ta-hi-ko-o-kami appeared and spoke to me. "Without delay build a shrine and dojo for Takemusu Aiki (a 36-mat sacred dojo)." In accordance with the instruction I built (the shrine and dojo) on land to which I (had) retreated in the town of Iwama, Ibaragi Prefecture, where I had just a small house.
(a) As stated elsewhere in this column, Ueshiba had been buying land in Iwama and paid frequent visits there. There was a dojo (that had formed part of Onisaburo Deguchi's Dai Nippon Budo Senyokai
until Omoto was suppressed in 1935). In many places aiki-budo training continued in some of these dojos, even after the suppression had severed the links with Omoto. There is no reason to suppose that training stopped here.
(b) The divine command was to build a shrine and a 36-mat ‘sacred' dojo on the land Ueshiba had acquired. This in itself is sufficient to explain why Iwama was so special for Morihei Ueshiba.
14. こういう目に見えないことであるので人には話せない。今もその心で進んでいる。只猿田毘古大神に建てさせられたのであ る。その折には猿田毘 古大神は「皇大御神の命もちて」と神示にいわれました。
I could not speak to people who (because they) could not see with these eyes (sc. the things that I saw). Even now I still have the same attitude (about not speaking to people about this). The fact is that Saru-ta-hi-ko-o-kami had required me to build (the shrine). On this occasion Saru-ta-hi-ko-o-kami instructed me, ‘The command I have given you is the command I received from the Great Deity of Ise.'
(a) In actual fact, the command of Saruta hiko o kami to build the shrine and dojo was actually a command received from a much more eminent deity: Amaterasu o mikami, the Sun Goddess herself.
(b) It should be remembered that Ueshiba is addressing a group of Byakko Shinko-kai believers, who were followers of Masahisa Goi. Goi's beliefs about the vibratory powers of prayer have been mentioned earlier.
15. 私は誰れに語らず私の胸の内に秘めて、ただ神様にいわれたことだけをやろうと思った。それをやれば、戦が止るということ だったからである。 それで黙って建てた。そしたら大東亜戦争は止めということになった。
I have kept this secret deep in my heart and never told anybody. I thought I should do it simply because I had been told to do so by the deity. The deity told me that if I did it, then the war would stop. Thus, I kept silent and built (the dojo). This having been done, the Great Pacific War came to an end.
(a) The logic here is again simple, but breathtaking. If the shrine was built, the war would stop. The shrine was built—and the war stopped.
(b) Masahisa Goi believed that his peace prayer actually had a physical effect on the minds of other people, such as generals and politicians. Morihei Ueshiba clearly had the same belief about the powers of his deities—and of himself, since he possessed analogous powers.
C - Accounts of the ‘Visions'
From then onwards my ascetic training began.
During the night, at around 2 o'clock, I had gone down to the garden and was standing holding a sword. Then something mysterious happened. Another person suddenly appeared, a ghostly body/being (in fact, it was another version of myself). The being was white and had a sword. It faced me. In this way, training with the sword began.
(a) By mentioning the beginning of his "ascetic training", Ueshiba signals a break in his narrative.
(b) The account of the vision in the garden should be compared with the shorter account, quoted above from The Secret Teachings of Aikido.
There, the date is given as 1942, two years later, but the contents of the vision are very similar.
17. そしてターッと打ってゆこうとすると、その瞬間にパッと相手が入ってくる。相手の剣が自分の腹に胸先にパッと入ってく る。少しも油断は出来 ない。はじめは私の動作はおそかったが、修業しているうちに、幽体の相手が入ってくる瞬間に、相手の木剣を下へ切り落と した。すると白い相手は消えてし まった。
Then, with a kiai shout I tried to strike. In that instant my partner suddenly entered. My partner's sword was suddenly right at my chest. I could not show the slightest lack of vigilance. In the beginning my own movements were slow, but as the training progressed, in the instant that my partner with the ghostly body entered, I cut his wooden sword downwards. As soon as I did this, my partner disappeared.
(a) Ueshiba explains here how he was eventually able to deal with his phantom partner.
(b) The final sentence underlines the importance that sword training had for Ueshiba, but there is an important additional factor that should be made clear—which is of some importance, considering that for a brief time he was father-in-law to one of the foremost kendo experts in Japan: the training would not be like the earlier sword training he had engaged in.
This continued for about three days, but as it continued and I stared fixedly at my partner (kept control of the partner), the sword disappeared.
(a) The training developed such that Ueshiba was able to control his alter ego sufficiently to make the sword he wielded disappear.
19. その時自分を眺めると姿がない。ただ霊身だろうと思うが一つの光の姿がある。あたりは光の雲でいっぱいである。といって 自分の意識はあるの です。木剣を持っている気持もある、が木剣はない。ただ一つの呼吸のみがあるのです。これが二週間つづいた。
At this time, there was no shape of myself that I had seen before. However, there was the appearance of a light—which I thought was a ghostly body. Around me there were many clouds of light. But I was conscious of myself at the time. I had the feeling of holding a wooden sword, but there was no sword. There was simply one breath. This continued for two weeks. On some later days when I resumed training there was no wooden sword, no self, no clouds of light, but I felt that what remained was myself filling the entire universe. At that time there was no hint of white light, and by means of my breath, all the poles of the universe were controlled and the universe had entered my heart.
(a) Ueshiba notes a progression in his training here. He was no longer training with his alter ego, seen as a separate partner.
(b) The latter part of the paragraph underlines the extreme importance for Ueshiba of kokyu
training and I think this is relevant to some of the discussions on internal training. Clearly he had done this and continued to do it, but one notes the earlier account of how he used to train—and how he changed this.
Conclusion to the Discourse
I have given the Japanese text, in order that students of Japanese who are more proficient than I am can check and amend, if necessary. The translation is intended to be as intelligently literal as possible, so that the reader can make his/her own judgments about the contents. As I have indicated in the notes, there are some fairly breathtaking assertions in the above paragraphs. One important point, which is relevant to the present discussion on Iwama and needs to be stressed, is that Ueshiba tied the account of his vision in the garden to training with a sword and I think this was this was an important motivation for his decision to move there.
Note once more that the subject of the discourse is Ueshiba's own ascetic training and note also that the treatment is not at all haphazard. We are given Ueshiba's view of the purpose of aikido and how his ‘new' ascetic training differed from what he did previously. His previous training is then closely connected with wartime training and this leads to an earnest discussion on the evils of the war. The way of ending the war was to build a dojo in Iwama and it is clear that the deities who were responsible for this injunction were also responsible for the ‘new' ascetic training (involving the riai
of sword training) that followed.
The discussion is thus very clear, but it is conducted entirely on Morihei Ueshiba's own terms. So we need to make a mental leap and endeavor to enter the world with which he was familiar from his early education in Shingon Buddhism and his studies of kokugaku and Japan's ancient myths. (I must confess, however, that I cannot really imagine Morihei Ueshiba coming to Hiroshima and announcing that his deities had already warned him of the dangers of the atomic bombing before it actually happened. There would be uproar, for Ueshiba would be destroying one of Hiroshima City's most cherished beliefs: that the atomic-bombing was a ‘timeless' and unpredictable act on the part of the United States, of immense moral significance. Clearly, another ‘mental leap' is in order here.)
Kisshomaru Ueshiba's Books
1. 合気道改組植芝盛平伝: Aikido Taiso Morihei Ueshiba Den
This book is the ‘official' biography of Morihei Ueshiba and the main discussion on Iwama can be found in Chapter 6 (pp. 229-263), entitled: (不屈気魂の火は消えず , The fire of
[Ueshiba's] indomitable ki spirit is unquenchable
). Alongside this chapter heading is a sub-heading: 「（武産）の身魂気魂ますます光彩を発した戦時下の求道」(The search for truth in the war years,
[when Ueshiba's] the ‘body-spirit' / ‘ki-spirit' of
takemusu gradually manifested its brilliance
Trip to China in 1941
The section on Iwama (pp. 252-263) curiously starts with the episode of Morihei Ueshiba's abortive trip to China in 1941. The trip is sometimes cited as evidence of a general desire for peace on Ueshiba's part. However, I think this episode has to be discounted as evidence of any such desire. For example, in his revised biography of Ueshiba, which appeared after Kisshomaru's biography and made use of it, John Stevens has a tantalizing comment.
"It has recently come to light that Morihei had valiantly worked behind the scenes in attempts to prevent war with the United States and to make peace with China—alas, to no avail." (Stevens, Invincible Warrior, pp. 65-66.)
This comment comes at the end of a long section wherein Stevens describes Ueshiba's "distress" at the outbreak of war with China in 1973 and with the United States in 1941. The quoted comment is tantalizing because Stevens produces no evidence about what has "recently come to light" about these attempts and we are left with either trusting Stevens the Biographer at his word (which no serious historian should ever do), or believing that the "distress" suffered by Ueshiba was ‘emotion recollected in postwar
tranquility' (to misquote William Wordsworth), at a time when he had the chance to organize his thoughts about the war and review his own part in it.
Kissomaru Ueshiba's biography has not yet been translated, so those who cannot read the Japanese text have to rely on the English summaries, published by Stanley Pranin in Aikido Journal
. At the beginning of Section 38, we find this paragraph:
"On December 8, 1941 the progression of world events finally led Japan into the entanglements of the Second World War against the United States and Great Britain. The expanding flames of war on the Asian continent made this inevitable despite the fact that Japan would be facing a crisis in which she would have enemies to the front and rear."
Kisshomaru is being blissfully non-historical here and readers will need to consult some of the works listed below, in order to see more precisely how "the progression of world events" led to the "entanglements" of Japan in World War II and especially how this "progression" occurred on December 8, 1941. To offer Aikiweb
readers some help here, December 8, 1941, was the day that Japanese aircraft bombed the US fleet at Pearl Harbor and Japan then declared war on the United States and Great Britain. "This" (either the "progression" or the "entanglement") became "inevitable" because of the "expanding flames of war on the Asian continent", despite the fact that Japan "would be facing a crisis" (war on two fronts) that she herself had caused by her incursions into China in 1937 and into South Asia in 1941. Kisshomaru Ueshiba is concerned to portray his father as a figure of influence, and also moderation, in the general political scene. However, we are in full ‘Japan-as-hapless-victim-at-the-mercy-of-world-events' mode here. Kisshomaru continues in a new section:
"Peace Negotiations in China
About that time the Founder secretly traveled to the continent accompanied by his student Mr. Tsutomu Yukawa in compliance with the wishes of Lord Fumimaro Konoe and others. They were to be part of the process of laying the groundwork for peace negotiations with China. The reason for this attempt at peacemaking was that Japan was going to be forced to divide its war potential due to the entry of the United States into the war. The military suddenly decided to seek to conclude a peace with Chiang Kai-shek in order to withdraw from the fighting on the continent. … The Founder took part in these efforts and journeyed to China. Those in power were hoping to use his broad range of friends and acquaintances towards this end.
It seems that the Founder left Japan in secret to contact General Shunroku Hata who was the supreme commander of the South China Army for preliminary consultations."
Again, there is a certain lack of historical perspective here. "About that time" is sufficiently vague to suggest that the "entry of the United States into the war" was the cause
of Ueshiba's visit to China. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is never mentioned and readers are left with the impression that Morihei Ueshiba's visit to China was part of a response to America's proactive entry into the war (though this, of course, was itself a response to the unmentioned Japanese attack). However, the references to Fumimaro Konoe and Shunroku Hata provide a clue to significance of the visit, for the problem with Ueshiba's trip to China, seen as an earnest desire for peace in general, is the timing.
Shunroku Hata assumed command of the China Expeditionary Army on 1 March 1941 and remained in office until 23 November 1944, when he was recalled to Japan, in order to prepare Japan's defences against invasion. Konoe Fumimaro was Prime Minister from June 1937 until 16 October 1941, when he was forced out of office by Hideki Tojo. Thus, Ueshiba's visit to China must have taken place between March and October 1941, well before
the attack on Pearl Harbor. Konoe Fumimaro is better known for his efforts to prevent war with the United States than for efforts to bring peace with China. As Prime Minister, he tried to rein in the impulsively belligerent activities of the Japanese Army, but usually fully approved of these same activities when he realized that he had been out-manoeuvred. His efforts to arrange a meeting with President Roosevelt were undermined by Japan's invasion of Indochina on 28 July 1941, for this led to an unexpected oil embargo on Japan by the United States. Hideki Tojo, who was Minister for the Army, supported the invasion. Tojo was a member of the Tosei faction in the Imperial Japanese Army (see the previous column for discussion of the Kodo and Tosei factions within the Japanese military) and was the main architect of Japan's war plans in South Asia. He believed in the superior (but mythical) ‘fighting spirit' of the Japanese army and did not flinch at the prospect of war on all fronts: against China, against Russia, against the United States, and in all parts of South Asia.
Morihei Ueshiba's general desire for peace might well have been genuine, but the timing and the destination suggests that on this occasion he was a pawn in the hands of politicians, for the more cynical might discern motives of expediency, at least on the part of Prince Konoe: better an immediate peace with China, in order to end the Japanese entanglements there, in order to concentrate more fully on dealing with the United States.
The Shrine in Iwama
In his biography, Kisshomaru Ueshiba gives two reasons for the move to Iwama. The first is that Morihei Ueshiba was at heart a ‘country boy' and believed in the importance of self-sufficiency and the combination of budo
and farming. The second is that he wanted to take steps to assure the future of aikido, especially "when the war reached a serious stage in 1941." (The Japanese text reads, 戦局が剣悪化の一路をたどりはじめてからであったand the statement about B-29s immediately follows.)
According to Kisshomaru, it was the move to Iwama that led Ueshiba to leave the issue of the name of the art to Minoru Hirai. The generic name for the art that Ueshiba practiced at the time was Aiki-budo
, but Ueshiba-ryu
, and Kobu-Aiki
were also used. The Dai Nippon Butokukai wished to have one name—and some measure of harmony about the name. According to Kisshomaru, Morihei Ueshiba was happy with the name aikido
, though Kisshomaru's actual statement is: そのさい開祖は正式に、「合気道」の呼称に統一するむねを宣した, and adds that: すなわち、「武徳会＝合気道部」となったのである。そして終戦まで他の武道と同様、師士、教士、練士の称号がつけられる ことになった。 Though Kisshomaru does not assign cause and effect specifically, the result was that: 率直にいって、この時点で開祖は明確に岩間への転住に踏み切ったもののようである。So Ueshiba was happy with the name, even announcing that it was the preferred name, but escaped to Iwama during the negotiation process, in order to avoid having to deal with the consequence: the Butokukai control and designation of titles, teaching and training methods etc.
At this point Kisshomaru states that he was appointed Dojo-cho of the dojo in Ushigome Wakamatsu-cho. He adds in the Japanese text that: 師範部の大澤喜三郎氏らの協力を得て、夜ごと空襲警報のサイレンが鳴りひびく東京で、必死に孤塁を守りつづけた。 The picture that Kisshomaru sketches here—of him working to preserve the ‘orphan fort' of the Tokyo dojo, with the help of Chief Instructor Kisaburo Osawa and others, amid the melancholy wail of the air-raid sirens piercing the night as a back drop—was almost certainly accurate around 1945, but not in 1942. This is very clear from Kiyosawa Kiyoshi's wartime diary. Kiyosawa occasionally talks of air-raid practices
—with reports of ludicrous discussions about the correct dress codes for such practices, but there is no mention of air-raids them selves, with B-29s, until well into 1945. I think that both Morihei Ueshiba and his Kisshomaru, no doubt with the best of intentions, allowed their thoughts & feelings about the later, disastrous, stages of the war to cloud their recollections of and reactions to events that took place at an earlier time.
One final point needs to be stated about Kisshomaru Ueshiba's account of the move to Iwama in his biography. He states that the shrine was completed in the fall of 1944, but there is no mention of the instructions of the deity Saru-ta-hi-ko-o-kami, of the ending of the war, or of the visions of 1940 and 1942, with the phantom swordsmen. In the original Japanese text of his biography, however, Kisshomaru does discuss the 43 守護神 (shugoshin
, tutelary deities) of the Iwama shrine, and recounts that Morihei stated that he built the shrine as an expression of thanks to them. The discussion is on p. 258 and I reproduce it here with a rough explanation / translation, for the way Kisshomaru discusses this matter is quite indicative of what he thinks about the content. He gives as sympathetic and dispassionate an account as he can—of something of which he appears, at least, to have had no experience whatever.
Kisshomaru grounds this account in the context of his father's studies of the Kojiki
. Apparently he came into contact with one Nakanishi Koun, who was one of the "top scholars" researching the Kojiki
at the time. (The case of Tsuda Sokichi, however, who was stripped from his post at Tokyo University in 1942 for suggesting that the early parts of the Kojiki
were myth, does not suggest that 1942 was a particularly good year for dispassionate scholarship of the Kojiki
.) According to Kisshomaru, it was this encounter with the Kojiki
via Nakanishi Koun that led to Ueshiba's notion of 武産合気 (takemusu aiki
). He goes on to mention a修祓の巻物 (shufutsu-no-makimono:
a kind of scroll) from his father that he has in his possession. (In a note, Kisshomaru explains what this is: 禊祓いして守護神の降霊を感得する神道の最重要なる儀式のひとつ: it is a scroll of one of the most important Shinto ceremonies for the realizing [becoming aware] of the descent of tutelary deities in misogi
なお、この修祓に記載されているところの四十三の守護神は猿田彦大神、国津竜王、九頭竜大権現、多ちからの命（手力御 命）、天村雲九鬼さむはら竜王その 他、名種の竜王をはじめ大権現、大天狗、大菩薩の神名があげられている。The names of the 43 deities are inscribed in the scroll, beginning with Saruta-hiko-okami.
At a glance, and seen simply as string of names, it seemed to lack any coherence, but on further investigation, it became clear that it was connected to various occasions and episodes of the Founder's lifelong experience of ascetic training.
It was not a string of names put together for his amusement, but (showed) the reality—the truth of his spiritual awakening, through his own persistent budo training, that he had been made aware of / had come to know, as well as the decisive factors (of this ‘budo spiritual awakening'), which for him were seen in a personified fashion as "deities".
Put another way, we could also state that this was the record, the memory, of a mental state, showing occasional flashes of enlightenment, at the boundary /threshold of the unity of deity and man, that exceeded (the bounds of) the Founder's self in his existing body.
At any rate, concerning Iwama the Founder above all else made a vow for himself to create the Iwama Shrine there.
It is curious that the discussion about Nakanishi and the Kojiki
made its way into the English summary published in English by Stanley Pranin (including a consequent change of name from Ueshiba Moritaka
to Ueshiba Tsunemori
), but not this paragraph, which immediately followed. I gather that ‘copyright reasons' determined that Stan was able to publish only a summary, but presumably Kisshomaru decided what would go into the summary and what would not. Anyway, this is as far in the biography as we get of any discussion of the role of the deities in the move to Iwama.
2. 合気道一路: Aikido Ichiro
This book is subtitled 戦後合気道の発展への風と雲: Sengo aikido no hatten e no kaze to kumo
: Winds and Clouds
(Squalls?) Marking the Beginning of Postwar Aikido
. It contains Kisshomaru Ueshiba's narrative accounts, anecdotes, reflections, observations, explanations etc surrounding the rise of aikido after the war. The quality varies from the riveting to the simply readable, but it is written in a more relaxed and readable fashion than the rather stilted style of the biography. It is unfortunate that it has not been translated into English.
In his discussion of the move to Iwama, Kisshomaru starts by suggesting that Morihei Ueshiba had the remarkable prescience to hatch plans for the survival of aikido, should the Kobukan Dojo be destroyed by fire. He states that from around 1935 Morihei had been acquiring forest and farmland in Iwama, amounting to some 20,000 tsubo
is around 3.3 square meters). Morihei planned to retire there, but later he had the "earnest wish" to build an ‘Aiki shrine' and also create an ‘Aikido no ubuya
' (a birth hut
for aikido—for the significance of this term, see my summary of the early part of the Kojiki
, in Column 7). However, the war caused him to change his plans. For those who do not have access to the Japanese text, here is Kisshomaru in his own words (pp. 24-25: as usual, the text is followed by a rough translation and—this time—a brief commentary).
A Strict Order from the Founder
I will not forget that (the sudden move to Iwama). It happened in 1942.
NOTE: It is as if the event took place without any forewarning.
Dad left me in charge of the Kobukan Dojo in Tokyo, of which he had appointed me the Head, and of his own accord he moved to Iwama with Mother.
NOTE: Of course, Kisshomaru would never have dared to address his father as ‘Dad'. However, this casual Japanese form of address is so different from the formal ‘開祖' -- ‘Founder' in the biography, that I have used the term here.
Dad's actions were always performed in a flash (on the basis of a sudden decision).
) means ‘in a flash'. ‘Flashes' or ‘sparks' of genius are written with the same character. I have added the explanation in brackets, though Kisshomaru might sometimes have felt that even this was lacking. This comment is one basis for the thesis that Morihei Ueshiba's decision to move to Iwama was extremely abrupt. The reasons for the move have been considered quite thoroughly above (and see also the rest of Ueshiba's explanation below), but the way this is stated here also fits the statement in the biography, that he suddenly announced the move in the midst of negotiations over the future name of the art.
At this time also the place they moved to was suddenly decided. The location was not the place occupied by the present Iwama dojo and shrine. It was a little closer to the station. A farming family had a place for storing farm implements and, after hurriedly making some alterations, they moved there.
NOTE: The decision to move was clearly sudden, but it appears from Kisshomaru's comment that the location was also decided in haste.
The words that Dad left me with on this occasion I have never forgotten, even after over 50 years have passed.
NOTE: Kisshomaru clearly took his father's strict order very seriously indeed.
「このたびはどうやら、祖国苦難の戦になりそうじゃ。不幸にして万一の実態ともなうならば、当然、合気道の命運もまた危 うかろう。だが、たとえ戦に敗れた としても、祖国の山河は残る。合気道もまた、後代に遺し伝えなければならん。
"Now things could become difficult. Our beleaguered homeland is at war. If by some misfortune, it should chance that actual conditions should turn out for the worst, of course, the survival of aikido will also be in danger. However, even if the war ends in defeat, the mountains and rivers of our homeland will remain. Of course, we must bequeath and transmit aikido to future generations.
NOTE: Morihei Ueshiba's own words start here. Note that there is nothing whatever stated about commands from the deities here or the questionable conduct of the war, only an unlikely hypothesis about the possible outcome. The mention of mountains and rivers remaining was a reference to an old Chinese proverb. If the move to Iwama occurred late in 1942, the defeats at Coral Sea and Midway would already have become known, at least to those in a position to find out. However, Ueshiba is being fairly gung ho here.
祖国再建、復興の時に備え、東京だけに固執せず、拠点を他にも確保しておくことが必要じゃろう。わしは岩間に ‹合気苑›を造っておくつもりじゃ。吉祥丸、 おまえは最後まで東京の本部道場に踏みとどまって、ここを死守せよ。
"In making preparations for the time when our beloved country will flourish once more, it will not be enough to hold on to Tokyo only. It will be necessary to secure positions elsewhere. I intend to build an ‘Aiki Farm' in Iwama. Kishomaru, you must hold your own to the end in the Hombu Dojo in Tokyo and defend it to the last (to the death).
NOTE: Ueshiba was hedging his bets here, possibly because of the network of aiki-budo
dojos that still remained from the time of the old Budo Senyokai
(including a dojo in Iwama). Nevertheless, it is quite clear that Ueshiba included the Hombu Dojo in Tokyo as part of the revival after the war ended. There is an ambiguity here, however, but it seems clear that Ueshiba envisaged two centers of aikido, not only the Iwama dojo. Thus, as I have suggested in this column, Ueshiba quite clearly turned over the Tokyo Hombu Dojo to Kisshomaru. In ordering him to maintain the dojo to the end (with his life, if necessary), he could not at the same time revoke the order and take it back. However, Ueshiba did not go so far as giving him control of the art as a whole.
"Even if Tokyo is burned to a desert, I will be (at home) in Iwama keeping the home fires of aikido burning (maintaining aikido). No need to worry."
NOTE: There is certainly a lack of tact displayed here. Morihei Ueshiba has just ordered Kisshomaru to maintain the Tokyo dojo, with his life if necessary. However, even if Kisshomaru perished in the attempt to keep the Tokyo dojo going, aikido would still be maintained in Iwama, so there were no grounds for Kisshomaru to worry.
As may be expected of someone like Dad (This was just the sort of thing that a great man like Dad would say). He was no ordinary budoka.
NOTE: It seems that Kisshomaru happily accepted his father's dire scenario.
ただ、「東京を死守せよ」を厳命された私の方は、ズシリと重い荷を背負わされるになったわけで、以来、父が亡くなるまで の二十五年間、道場長としての重責 を担うことになりました。正直なところ、ずいぶんと筆舌に尽くし難い苦労をなめさせられたものである。
However, the strict order that I was given, to ‘Defend Tokyo to the last (to the death)', became a heavy burden which weighed me down, but, from then on for 25 years, right up until Dad's death, I have discharged the heavy responsibility as Head of the Dojo. To be honest, I have undergone hardships that (to describe which) would exhaust both the pen and the tongue.
NOTE: Kisshomaru's final comments relate to Morihei Ueshiba's decision to move to Iwama only indirectly. However, they do relate to the question of Ueshiba's transmission of the art to Kisshomaru. Whether Morihei Ueshiba expected Kisshomaru to maintain the Tokyo Dojo to the end and whether he was surprised at Kisshomaru's eventual success, is something we can never know. However, the Kobukan Hombu Dojo was the central dojo within a group; it was the ‘face' of the Kobukai. Thus, this handing over can certainly be seen as a handover of authority. Certainly, when the Aikikai Foundation was re-created in 1948, largely due to the efforts of Kisshomaru, Morihei Ueshiba received the title of Doshu
and Kisshomaru remained as Hombu Dojo Head. However, Morihei Ueshiba stayed in Iwama and continued his own training. Of course, he visited the Hombu Dojo more and more after 1955 and had a house there, but the fact remains that Kisshomaru was in charge at this dojo and his father played little part in running the postwar training regime that spread from the revived Ushigome Wakamatsu-cho Aikikai Hombu Dojo.
I have examined much of the published data relating to the move to Iwama. The order in which I have discussed these items shows (I believe) the extent to which Kisshomaru Ueshiba appears to have distanced himself from the raw detail of his father's experiences in 1940 and 1942. Thus, the expansive discourse of Takemusu Aiki
was summarized and adapted in the Aikido Shimbun
(see The Secret Teachings of Aikido
) for presentation to a more general audience—of aikido practitioners who did not necessarily share the assumptions of Byakko Shinkokai believers. Whether this summarizing and adapting was done by Morihei Ueshiba himself or others, it is not possible to determine. In his ‘official' biography, Kisshomaru Ueshiba explains how the role of the deities in the move to Iwama was an expression of his father's private studies of the Kojiki
. In Kisshomaru's own autobiography, however, there is no mention of any deities and his father's move to Iwama is stated as a decision taken at very short notice and apparently determined solely by the desire to preserve aikido, in the event that Japan's military situation should deteriorate.
However, there is one item that I have not managed to see. Tada Hiroshi Shihan once told me of a published tract, in which Morihei Ueshiba set out his very strong views about the inadequacies of the budo
training being pursued by the Japanese army in the early 1940s. Thus it might be necessary to modify the account I have given above and give as much weight to these inadequacies as to the instructions of Saruta-hiko-okami
As for the move to Iwama in the context of an iemoto
-style transmission, it is not possible to draw any clear conclusions. It is true that Morihei Ueshiba promoted his son Kisshomaru to the most senior position in an ‘aikido iemoto
system', short of himself relinquishing the position as iemoto
, but it is clear that he did not do the latter. As I suggested at the beginning of this column, he complicated all the issues by creating a second center of aikido training, which turned out to be a major center, and I think he had no idea at the time he did this about what would happen to the first center. In future columns, I will examine more closely the resurrection of aikido after the war.
Conrad Totman gives a good survey of the Genroku
culture that gave rise to iemoto
. (Conrad Totman, Early Modern Japan
, 1993, California U P.) Iemoto
as a system is discussed by Paul Varley in a collection of essays he edited. (Paul Varley, "Chanoyu
: from the Genroku Epoch to Modern Times," in Tea in Japan: Essays in the History of
Chanoyu, Edited by Paul Varley and Kumakura Isao, 1989, University of Hawaii.) There are three other essays in this volume that are required reading. They are: Murai Yasuhiko, "The Development of Chanoyu
Before Rikyu," (pp. 3-32); Kumakura Isao, "Sen no Rikyu: Enquiries into his Life and Tea," (pp. 33-70); John Whitney Hall, "On the Future History of Tea," (pp. 243-254). Further background can be found in, Sen Soshitsu XV, The Japanese Way of Tea
, Translated by V Dixon Morris, 1998, Hawaii U P. In his discussion of iemoto
, Varley relies heavily on the research of Nishiyama Matsunosuke, whose collected works were published in 1962. The first two volumes specifically are concerned with iemoto
and the iemoto
system of transmission, and Nishiyama's extensive treatment also involves iemoto
in the martial arts. (西山松之著作集, 第一巻: 家元の研究; 第二巻: 家元制の展開, 1962, 吉川弘文館.)
There are a few works on Kokugaku
in English: Shigeru Matsumoto, Motori Norinaga 1730-1801
, 1970, Harvard U P; H D Harootunian, Things Seen and Unseen: Discourse and Ideology in Tokugawa Nativism
, 1988, Chicago U P; Peter Nosco, Remembering Paradise: Nativism and Nostalgia in Eighteenth Century Japan
, 1990, Harvard U P; Motoori Norinaga, Kojiki-den, Book 1
, Translated by Anne Wehmeyer, 1997, Cornell U East Asian Studies Program; Susan L Burns, Before the Nation: Kokugaku and the Imagining of Community in Early Modern Japan
, 2003, Duke U P; Mark McNally, Proving the Way: Conflict and Practice in the History of Japanese Nativism
, 2005, Harvard U P.
Stanley Pranin has published detailed summaries of Kisshomaru Ueshiba's life of the Founder. The Japanese version of the biography is植芝吉祥丸, 合気道開祖植芝盛平伝
,1998, 出版芸術社. The fullest biography in English is by John Stevens (Invincible Warrior: A Pictorial Biography of Morihei Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido
, 1998, Shambala.) Though rare—and highly controversial at the time they were published, the early set of volumes written by the late Morihiro Saito are indispensable for an understanding of what "Iwama" meant, both to Saito Sensei himself and also to the Aikikai. (Morihiro Saito, Traditional Aikido
, Vols 1-5, 1973-1976, Japan Publications Trading Company.) The autobiography of Kisshomaru Ueshiba, from which I have quoted some sections is: 植芝吉祥丸, 合気道一路
, 1995, 出版芸術社.
There is a masterly summary of the Pacific War in the Cambridge History of Japan
. (Alvin D Coox, "The Pacific War", The Cambridge History of Japan
, Vol. 6, 1988, Cambridge U P, pp. 315-384.) David M Kennedy tells the same story at greater length and more from the American viewpoint. (David M Kennedy, Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945
, Oxford History of the United States, Vol. IX, 1999, Oxford U P.) Max Hastings also tells the same story, but of the closing years of the war and more from the point of view of those who fought in it. (Max Hastings, Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45, 2008
, Alfred A Knopf.) Thomas R Havens tells yet again the same story, but from the point of view of the ordinary Japanese who lived through the war and coped with the defeat. (Thomas R Havens, Valley of Darkness: The Japanese People and World War Two
, 1986, University Press of America.) The work of Havens can be corroborated from the diaries of a journalist who lived through the war: Eugene Soviak (Editor), A Diary of Darkness: The Wartime Diary of Kiyosawa Kiyoshi
, Edited and with an introduction by Eugene Soviak, Translated by Eugene Soviak and Kamiyama Tamie, 1980, Princeton U P.
The tradition of tragic failure as something noble is thought of as having a long history in Japanese culture. Ivan Morris has a seminal book on the subject (Ivan Morris, The Nobility of Failure: Tragic Heroes in the History of Japan
, 1975, Charles Tuttle) and Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney has given the subject an interesting and necessary twist in two works (Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney, Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and Nationalisms: The Militarization of Aesthetics in Japanese History
, 2002, Chicago U P; Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Student Soldiers
, 2006, Chicago U P). Yuki Tanaka examines another ‘tragic failure' of a completely different kind, but one that is important for understanding the later attitudes of the Japanese military to surrender, suicide, and death by other means. (Yuki Tanaka, Hidden Horrors: Japanese War Crimes in World War II
, 1996, Westview Press.) Tanaka's account may be supplemented by that of Gavan Daws, who, like Tanaka, draws on research done in Australia. (Gavan Daws, Prisoners of the Japanese: POWs of the Second World War in the Pacific
, 1994, Simon & Schuster.)
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