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Morihei Ueshiba, Founder Of Aikido (15)

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by Kanemoto Sunadomari

Aiki News #86 (Fall 1990)

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

Onisaburo Deguchi, leader of the Omoto religion, Morihei Ueshiba, and their small group venture on a hazardous journey into Mongolia where Deguchi is hailed as a saint and a savior, and performs miraculous cures.

Entering Mongolia

At about 4 o’clock on March 3, Onisaburo, Okazaki, Ueshiba and Ogenki [Japanese reading of Chinese name] got into separate cars belonging to O-juto and left Hoten (Feng T’ien) for Teikaton. They were supposed to wait for two or three days to receive a safe conduct from Ro Sen Kai, but Tesshu Okazaki insisted such a pass was unnecessary and they set off without it. They went through mountainous terrain which would have been much easier to traverse by train, crossed the Liao River, and advanced into dangerous bandit territory. Their cars broke down, they were exposed to freezing cold winds, and there were even times when they nearly fell into ravines. They had to turn off their lights at night as a precaution against attack by bandits and to stop every hour to check the cars. They repaired them if they found anything wrong and then set off again, continuing their quick advance northwards, over roads only horses had ever used before, across rivers and fields.

They finally arrived at the castle of Kaigen on March 4 where, while repairing their cars, they found themselves surrounded by wide-eyed inhabitants, who had never seen cars before, watching in astonishment. One-horse carts or carriages pulled by four or five horses went back and forth in clouds of yellow dust. Eventually they finished the repairs and set off again, forcing their way through the crowd. At about 1 o’clock they were approaching Shoto-fu when one of their cars completely broke down. They had no other choice but to stay in a cheap lodging house and send someone to Hoten for parts and tools, even though staying in one place was extremely risky. Two Chinese policemen came to investigate, and later in the night a Chinese sergeant accompanied by four soldiers came into the room shared by Onisaburo and Ueshiba. Somehow Okazaki managed to send them away. Then a Japanese consular official came, with the two policemen who had first found them, to look into their family backgrounds. When they explained their circumstances to this official he gave them a suspicious look and left. Since they did not want to be bothered by more visits of this kind they agreed that Okazaki and Onisaburo would leave early next morning, while Ueshiba and Ogenki would follow after fixing the car.

Onisaburo and Okazaki arrived safely at the house of Oshoshin, a member of the Onishi family, in the north of Shoto and waited for Ueshiba and the others to arrive. There was something noble about Oshoshin, and he had a family of more than 10, all of whom received Onisaburo and the others warmly, saying the “Japanese Savior” had come. They prepared a feast of gruel made from Chinese rice and eggs, and when Ueshiba’s group arrived everyone was delighted to be safely back together. They left the Oshoshin family and raced over a great expanse of desert. Although they met about 200 Chinese soldiers on the way, O-juto ignored them and drove right through their lines. Half an hour later the car broke down again and they were forced to waste an hour fixing it.

When they entered the town of Old Shiheigai, people and horses ran in fear of the unfamiliar sight of the car, which promptly broke down again, this time so completely it could not be repaired. They were compelled to hire a wagon to travel to the home of merchant Mikizo Okumura in New Shiheigai, where they arrived at 5 p.m., three days after leaving Hoten. They were served Japanese food here and felt much relieved; they had driven non-stop with only small amounts of food, but were in high spirits. They stayed at Okumura’s that night and the following day headed for Teikaton by train from Shiheigai station, escorted by Shintaro Hirama, head of the Japanese Residents’ Association. At 6:50 p.m., they arrived at Teikaton and stayed at the residence of Kumayuki* Yamamoto. In this area there were many Japanese and even a Japanese restaurant, called Azumaya*, where they improved their spirits by having a party. At 6:30 the following morning they left by train for Tonan, their final destination.

The Tonan Railway had only made its maiden run the previous January, all the trains were second-hand ones from the Southern Manchurian Railway, and they were sometimes delayed with various problems. Okazaki eloquently spewed forth high-flown fantasy to the four or five Chinese officials traveling in the same coach, as if he were Chohakkai, the monster in the Chinese novel Saiyuki, who accompanied the priest Sanzo-Hosshi. When the train made an emergency stop, Mongolian people of all ages came out of curiosity from the surrounding villages, many of them slowly smoking long pipes. To the travelers they seemed to resemble Japanese from mythical ages.

Onisaburo’s group arrived at Tonan station, and entered the Tonan Inn on the evening of March 8. They met with a party that had boarded the train from Hoten for Ch’ang-ch’un in advance of Onisaburo’s group and had also arrived safely at the inn.

Eastern Savior

Tonan Prefecture was a Chinese outpost, surrounded by high castle walls, intended as defence against the Mongolians. Japanese authorities had no power there and even consular officials had to have passes to enter the area. The sound of Chinese soldiers’ gunfire was heard all night long. There were over ten bandit groups in the area, with a total strength of more than 2,000. The defenses against them were not very promising and there was always a danger of being suddenly attacked. It was a troubled area.

Meanwhile, a letter arrived from Hosen,* Yamada and Sasaki in Hoten with the good news that the leader of the Kikajo area “Karokai” (“First Sons and Elders’ Organization”) would participate, bringing about 12,000 soldiers. Onisaburo’s group decided to stay for a while in a rented house in Sakuhoku, a remote region, with dust in the air, where things looked dark and the public mood was tumultuous.

Before dawn on March 11 the sound of machineguns and rifles was heard constantly and a charged atmosphere pervaded the area; a garrison of 4,000 soldiers was fending off a dawn attack by bandits. Onisaburo’s group got off this time without being exposed to any danger, but on March 16 one of the employees of the Southern Manchurian Railway secretly informed the Japanese Military Police about Onisaburo’s group, and the Chinese authorities took action against them. Onisaburo and his group felt as if they were treading on thin ice. Onisaburo had experienced suppression in Japan, and it seemed he was under guard, even in this remote foreign country. He believed that he was working for Japan and world peace, but he was treated as a traitor by those in power. He also heard that, ever since he had entered Mongolia, there had been a 1000-yen reward offered for his discovery. Onisaburo accepted all this as a divine test and gave himself up to deep emotions in a small room in a foreign country.

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