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Arikawa Sensei and the End of Showa
Arikawa Sensei and the End of Showa
by Niall Matthews
Arikawa Sensei and the End of Showa

photo: Streetcar in Tokyo near Shinbashi Station, circa 1955 by Rob Ketcherside
Ah, just like the waters of a river, countless bygone days,
one by one how gently, how slowly they go
Misora Hibari, Kawa no Nagare no you ni

Had to get the train
From Potsdamer Platz
You never knew that
That I could do that
Just walking the dead
David Bowie, Where Are We Now?
Sadateru Arikawa Sensei was a 9 dan aikido teacher. I trained with him for many years. Once I went with him to the Showakan in Tokyo. It is a museum about the Showa years. It has historical displays and appliances and clothes from the middle of the twentieth century.

Like many of the main post-war aikido teachers Arikawa Sensei was born near the beginning of the Showa era. The Showa era began on 25 December 1925 and ended on 7 January 1989 when the Emperor Showa died. The Heisei era began the next day. To get the western date from the Heisei date you add 1988. Now in 2013 CE it is Heisei 25 or H25. 25 + 1988 = 2013. To get the western date from the Showa date you add 1925.

The advantage of using a calendar system based on the names of the emperor is that you avoid religious or cultural bias. The disadvantage is that nobody else in the world understands what year you are talking about.

The six decades of the Showa period covered many of the major events of the twentieth century including WWII and the post-war rebirth of Japan. In January 2013 there were two deaths that perhaps finally signified the end of Showa. The first person who died in January was the sumo wrestler Taiho. He was the most famous yokozuna of the Showa era. The most powerful martial artist in Japan. He still holds the record of most tournaments won. There was a popular phrase about three of the things children liked at that time, Kyojin, Taiho, tamagoyaki - the Yomiuri Giants baseball team, Taiho and Japanese-style fried egg.

The other person who died in January 2013 was Nagisa Oshima. He was a popular film director. He usually wore kimono in public. His most famous film with western audiences was Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence. Looking back at the movie now it was the quintessential Showa movie. It was set in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during World War II - the archetypal Showa event. It is an anti-war movie but it is also shaped by bushido - the way of the warrior - and the way of the sword. The excellent actor Tom Conti was overshadowed by the amazing grouping of geniuses who were not primarily actors. David Bowie was in it. He is an influential British rock musician. Ryuichi Sakamoto was in it. He was also a rock musician. He only agreed to act in the movie if he could also write the score. The theme song of Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence is instantly recognizable. Ryuichi Sakamoto went on to write the music for many films. He won an Academy Award for the score of The Last Emperor. And Beat Takeshi or Takeshi Kitano was in it. Before he was a film director himself.

Two deaths. And - twenty-five years on - finally the end of Showa.

David Bowie has just released a new song about the past. It is called Where Are We Now?

Good question.

In my mind I can still see Arikawa Sensei at that museum looking thoughtfully at a reconstruction of a Showa living room with a black and white television.


I wrote about Arikawa Sensei here.

I wrote about sumo here.


Translation by Larry Kenny of Misora Hibari's song Kawa no nagare no you ni

photo: Streetcar in Tokyo near Shinbashi Station, circa 1955 by Rob Ketcherside

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niall matthews 2013
Niall Matthews lives with his family in Japan. He teaches aikibudo and community self-defence courses and has taught budo for twenty-five years. He was the senior deshi of Kinjo Asoh Sensei, 7 dan Aikikai. He was the exclusive uke of Sadateru Arikawa Sensei, 9 dan Aikikai, at the hombu dojo in Tokyo for thirteen years until Arikawa Sensei's death in 2003. He has trained in several other martial arts to complement his aikido training, including judo (he has 4 dan from the Kodokan in Tokyo), kenjutsu (for about ten years) and karate (for about three years). He originally went to Japan as a staff member of the EU almost thirty years ago. He received 5 dan from Arikawa Sensei in 1995. This 5 dan is the last aikido dan he will receive in his life. His dojo is called Aikibudo Kokkijuku 合気武道克輝塾. Arikawa Sensei personally gave him the character for ki in kokki. It is the same character as teru in Sadateru - not the normal spelling of kokki 克己. It means you make your life shining and clear yourself.
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Old 02-18-2013, 10:22 AM   #2
R.A. Robertson
Dojo: Still Point Aikido Center
Location: Austin, TX, USA
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 346
Re: Arikawa Sensei and the End of Showa

It's the columns like this that need no comment that most deserve comment.

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Old 03-07-2013, 09:10 PM   #3
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Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 394
Re: Arikawa Sensei and the End of Showa

Thank you Ross.

we can make our minds so like still water, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life
w b yeats

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