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Jigoro Kano Autobiography (7)

Aiki News #86 (Fall 1990)

The following article was prepared with the kind assistance of Alex Fisher.

Jigoro Kano recounts his continuing search for hefty young judo recruits, recalls his father and describes the Kodokan’s rivalry with the Totsuka school of jujutsu in this episode of his autobiography.


Afterwards, I continued to try to locate a strong boy to take on as a student. But it was not easy to find such a youth. One day when I went to Gojo in Yamato (present- day Nara Prefecture), however, I heard about a huge giant of a boy who was about 15 or 16 years old. It was said that he could eat one sho meshi, or 1.8 liters [1.6 quarts] of rice, at one time for lunch when he went fishing or on some other outing. So I immediately sent for him to come to my lodging and met him. He was really large. Then I met his parents and negotiated with them. With their approval, I brought the boy to Tokyo as my live-in student. But when he began his judo training, I found that he did not have any talent for judo, and what was worse, he was timid. He was always crying, wanting to go home. It may have been to a certain extent due to his youth, but I could have no expectations for his future, so I finally let him go home.

A little later, when I went to the Otsu district, I saw a big boy standing at the station where I got off my train. I asked him where he came from, and he told me that he lived in the neighborhood. I took him to a place called the Kobayashi Inn which was in front of the station to talk to him. His name was Masusaburo Ueno, and he was a relative of Kobayashi, the owner of the inn. I said to him, “I would like to take you to Tokyo. Would you be willing to learn judo?” He answered that he would. Then I asked to meet his parents, and he brought them to me right away. We discussed my proposal, and it was decided that I would take him to Tokyo. At that time, however, I was on a school-inspection tour of the Tohoku district, in my role as a head teacher for Gakushuin, so I could not take him to Tokyo immediately. We promised to meet again at Nagahama station on my return. After we had arranged the date and time, I departed.

When I had finished my inspection tour, I returned to Nagahama Station and met the boy, Ueno. Taking him with me, I met Mr. Yoshiteru Daito, whom I had promised to meet at Rakuraku Park in Hikone and travel together from there. The three of us boarded the Tokaido Line. Mr. Daito was from Hikone, and was at that time a Dietman. He later became the Minister of Justice. Then, Daito was known as the Saigo [Saigo Takamori] of the Omi district.

In those days, the trains of the Tokaido Line did not run along the entire length of the line. The track was laid up to Mishima, so we used a truck instead of the train on the sections where the trains did not run. We got on the truck, and loaded on our baggage, and had carriers push our cart to Mishima. Beyond Mishima the tracks were not yet laid, so I parted from Mr. Daito, and Ueno and I crossed Hakone Mountain on foot, and reached Yumoto.

Ueno, who grew into a giant man of 27 or 28 kan [222 to 231 Ibs.], was already at nineteen a big boy of 20 kan (165 Ibs.]. It was quite difficult for him to climb up Hakone. I pitied him, but there was nothing to do but walk. I took care of him, encouraging him all the way, and at last we arrived at Yumoto. We checked into a hot-spring inn called Fukuzumi, and for the first time he could rest by relaxing in the bath.

Later, Ueno used to often speak of the feeling of contentment gained through perseverance. I took him to Tokyo and let him train in judo. At that time, the Kodokan students were joined by the students of the Kano Private School, so there were many people practicing there. Not only the judo professionals but also the amateurs trained eagerly. The Kodokan was full of high spirits. In such an atmosphere, Ueno advanced quickly in executing techniques, and learned to make his giant body move lightly. But I thought he was not by nature suited to be a judo specialist, and that he should instead become a merchant, so I decided to let him stay at the Kano Private School until 1893, and then to send him as an apprentice to Mr. Shirafuji in Kobe, who was a coal dealer. Later he worked for a foreign company, then began his own business and anticipated a successful future. Unfortunately, he died before he could realize his dreams. Ueno was a student from 1889 to 1893, so he was at the Kano Private School for a total of four years.


Returning to an earlier era than described above, the Kodokan was moved to Fujimi-cho from Kami-Niban-cho in 1886. I will come back to this move later. However, I have more to write about the Kami-Niban-cho era, and above all I must make special mention of my father and his death.

My father was born in Sakamoto, Goshu (present-day Shiga Prefecture), the second son of Lord Maretake Shogenji, a Shinto priest at the Hiyoshi Shrine who held the rank of Shosanmi [an official rank used prior to World War II]. From his youth he had been taught the Chinese classics and drawing at his home. When he was young, he traveled to various districts, and on this journey he stayed at the house of Mr. Jisaku Kano, a sake- brewer from the Nada district (present-day Hyogo Prefecture), where he gave his host lessons on the Analects of Confucius. As a result of this visit, and at Jisaku’s request, he married his eldest daughter, Sada. At that time, Jisaku had one son. But since the boy was just a child, Jisaku wanted my father to succeed him as head of the household. But, my father strongly rejected this suggestion, and persuaded Jisaku to let this boy, his brother-in-

law, succeed, offering to act as the boy’s guardian.Then my father set up his own independent household. Jisaku had three daughters and one son, and this son took Jisaku’s name. He is now one of the Directors of the Kodokan. Mr. Tokusaburo Kano, formerly the director of the Monopoly Bureau and a vice-president of the Korea Bank, is the third son of Jisaku, Jr.

Although my father resided in Mikage, Hyogo Prefecture, he would often go to Edo [Tokyo], Osaka and other places. Sometimes he supplied goods to the Bakufu [Tokugawa Shogunate], and sometimes he built gun batteries at Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, under the direction of Katsu Awanokami. When he began to own his own ships, he also took charge of the Bakufu’s ships, and concentrated his efforts on marine transportation. During this time, my mother continued the brewing business in Mikage. My father had conducted his business very successfully, but after the Meiji Restoration, he entered the Navy and served as a civil officer until reaching old age. He died at the age of 74, and it is said that he was one of the oldest officers at that time. He died in September of 1885, and his death was the most significant event of the Kami-Niban-cho era.

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