I posted the post below on the Aikido Journal website a week ago but could have posted it here as well. It concerns the research I have done/ am doing regarding the late Shirata Rinjiro Sensei.
Before continuing let me first state that I feel some reluctance in raising this topic because A) the research I've done is still very much incomplete, B) what I have been able to find out runs contrary to some people's beliefs and C) because it's very unlikely my research will be of any substantial meaning to anyone.
A bit of elaboration on point C: there are different parties involved who may or may not consider themselves as the "rightful" caretakers of Shirata Sensei's legacy. Rightfully or wrongfully so, they ought to feel emotionally strongly about the implications of this responsibility whether they where formally appointed that task or otherwise find themselves emotionally, morally or ethically bound. As for myself - someone who never met Shirata Sensei - my fascination for this man, in every aspect, grew from intrigue to obsessive and now I find myself ethically bound to share the total sum of my findings with others in due time.
I had, and still have, plans that my research, which resulted in a biography on Shirata Rinjiro, ends up as a book. As it stands it is just too short for a book, but quite long for an essay. I have to face the fact though that it may never finish to my satisfaction if I fail to do some most necessary research which, until now, I have failed to do, mostly due to recourses. I have spend several years focusing on the task of finding out information, any information, which, after carefully putting them in order, creates quite a different picture of the man as he is thus far portrayed.
I mean to cause no disrespect to any of Shirata Sensei's students by my work. Even more so to his family who I have never spoke or written to. I must imagine it to be quite odd at the very least to learn of a Western, non former student of Shirata Sensei, who never visited Japan, nor had any contact with his family, to be blurting out, what could potentially be perceived as wild fantasies at the least or straight our insulting at the very most. In fact, in light of Kobayashi Sensei's recently online published bio, I even have to re-examine a theory I thought I had successfully pinned down as fact. I can only sympathize with and bow down to the incredible perseverance Stan Pranin has shown over the last three decades to not give in to speculation but stay focused on the facts. Hats off big time…..
A point of consideration; the material I have ordered was and is mostly publicly available (though some stuff is explicitly not and for different reasons). All I've done is place them in chronological order and asked/ searched further to try to fill the gaps. If one does so, the picture itself becomes clear and all existing versions of ‘the truth' become shaky as a result. I do not claim to be the herault of truth then, nor do I imply that the current public version is deliberately ‘flawed' or ‘wrong.' I guess I call for a similar view on a man's legacy as Stan's work asks us to do, to examine with scrutiny whether what we are presented with is ‘correct', not whether it ‘works for me' or not. I do not care about that. If it does then that's fine but sheer faith forms shaky ground for any re-examination let alone discussion.
The material I have thus far collected then is a compilation of all known publicly available material: books, articles and online anecdotes. Privately published books, letters, poems, calligraphy, recordings of seminars, documentaries and interviews. And lastly, lots of personal correspondence with former students, acquaintances and even people who ‘merely' saw or met him once. All in all, an abudance of interesting, and many times opposing material.
Anyway, all of this is likely only to interest those who are in one way or another linked to Shirata Sensei. Any other parties may view this as either entertaining or straight out insignificant. C'est la vie.
This thread is in essence a plea for help from those who can and are willing to share what information they have.
To make it clear, I have no political agenda for I do not belong to any aikido organisation (Kodokan Aikido) in a conventional sense that is hoping to ‘spread out'. Ours is, what, a twenty people large ‘organisation.' (Hope I've put that okay Allen, you know what I mean). And I'm not out to ‘expose' anyone, nor convert the ‘heathens.' I am interested in getting the facts out there and pay my part in doing justice to a man's legacy, even though I am one of the least qualified persons in the world to do so.
I do have consideration for the fact that some material may carry a certain ‘load' and run counter to what people may WANT to see. On the other hand, even the sensitive stuff has not degenerated the immense admiration I continue to have for he whom I at one point called "The greatest man I never met."
So with that in mind, I have some pressing questions in general (but I have many more in specific) which I'd like to present this audience with. In the meantime hoping that those who are still reading this are able to see past the bluntness of the way I phrased these questions and can focus on the questions themselves:
Who may know more of Shirata Sensei starting teaching in Aomori through the prevailing of Takao Kobayashi around 1959? (Anyone know [of] Takao Kobayashi?)
Who may know more of Shirata Sensei's commitment to Tendai Buddhism via the Yamadera Temple Complex in Yamagata Prefecture?
Is there anyone who could provide further information on the Shirata family? In specific their former samurai status and Omoto-kyo (dis)connection is of major concern here. I have the names of Shirata Sensei's father and grandfather, some details of Onisaburo Deguchi's contact with the family and their pre-war house address for further assistance if needed.
The same goes for Shirata Sensei's war time experience. Rank and regiment (plus photograph) can be provided for further assistance.
Lastly: Can anyone provide an introduction to or contact with historian, author and martial artist Kouzo Kaku?
I'm in actuality also asking for a ‘man on the scene' through an impossibly blunt means; an online public request. I appreciate the implications of such a request so I apologize upfront. My personal effort is approaching it's limits and it's more then likely I will be forced to put all of this on hold until I can actually go to Japan for further research.
On a final note I feel I must add that I have not touched this topic for some years due to the fact that in the recent past (about four years back) I parted ways with the organisation of John Stevens not without some controversy. This was very much, if not completely, related to my research. I mean to make it clear that I have no other interest in ‘re-opening this case' other then further enhancing the Shirata Sensei ‘information data-base' and only add this piece of ‘gossip' for those considering assisting this project. I do not wish for anyone to ‘jeopardize' his or hers position if they feel that the above may indicate as much. I hold no grudges concerning my former affiliation with "Classical Aikido" and am thankful for the experience. Let's just say I "moved on" and, for my part, "grew up."
My apologies for this much too long thread which, after re-reading, doesn't seem to make much of anything rather then ask for assistance. In short: Help? Anyone?
Those wishing to contact me in private me do so at email@example.com
I forgot to mention that I am also in need of people who are able and willing to do (parts of) some translating out of Japanese sources. There is quite a bit of material I have not yet been able to ´use.´
I recall a certain agreement I made in the past with one of this boards members. Please PM me if you are still willing to translate what I then send you.
AND I also forgot to mention that I am ALWAYS very grateful for people who share what little information they have concerning Shirata Sensei. Be it anecdote, rumour or whatever, however insignificant it may seem, I'm all ears.
I'll shut up now....