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Yasuaki Deguchi: The Omoto Religion and Aikido (04)

by Yasuaki Deguchi

Aikido Journal #100 (1994)

Aiki News is pleased to present this exclusive series on the Omoto religion, One of Japan’s foremost “new religions,” the Omoto sect has had a turbulent and fascinating history. More Important to practitioners of aikido, its doctrine had a profound influence on Morihei Ueshiba, founder of aikido. Yasuaki Deguchi’s memories provide Insight into his grandfather Onisaburo’s character.

Although the Second Omoto Incident had not yet been completely resolved, some of the influential citizens of Ayabe decided that they wanted my grandparents to live there. The feelings of the local residents had changed to such an extent that they kindly provided a place for them. As a result, on March 15th, 1945 a two-story house in Ayabe Uematsu was purchased and christened the Sansuiso [Mountain Water Villa). I visited my grandparents there often. A large miniature treasure ship occupied one of the rooms on the second floor, perhaps a gift from someone. It was quite impressive.

At the same time, audiences with believers in Kameoka also became more frequent and the Kumano Yakata started to become too cramped. On April 16, 1945 construction was begun on two new rooms on the northeast side, to be occupied by my grandparents. Around the time this renovation was being completed, Aunt Naohi’s eldest daughter Naomi and Aunt Umeno’s eldest daughter Misao were married to Mr. Eiji Yaguchi and Mr. Kohei Tsunoda, respectively, in a double ceremony at the altar of the Kumano Yakata

I was never really happy about the marriages of my female cousins. At age seventeen Naomi and Misao were both a year older than me. Both were involved in the student mobilization at factories in the Kyoto-Osaka area, but they withdrew from school and returned home to get married. As a youth educated during the war I viewed this as unpatriotic and I remember opposing the marriages even to my grandparents, who were in favor of it.

A few days before the weddings I was teasing the two of them about it Their faces turned furious as they began hitting me I hadn’t expected such an angry reaction at what I felt had been said in jest Frightened, I ran for my life. At that time, the kitchens of the Kumano Yakata and the

Yuhikaku faced each other, so I escaped around both houses. Now I suspect that they, too, were distressed at their early marriages. I feel bad that I teased them.

Because of this it was difficult to be around on the wedding day. The adults were busy with the preparations and didn’t want the children to get underfoot, so I went out to the barn and began cutting feed straw with a cutting tool I suppose my mind was wandering, and before I knew it I had accidentally sliced off a piece of flesh just above my right ankle. With blood streaming down my leg I returned to Kumano Yakata and called to my mother from the porch. She was busy with the wedding reception and didn’t even glance at me. Knowing that I couldn’t interrupt, I gave up and packed earth from the field onto the wound. After a while the blood stopped and the pain lessened. I didn’t tell anyone what had happened. I still have a deep scar from it.

A separate building was completed, making the Kumano Yakata somewhat more spacious, and my whole family moved in. My grandparents took one of the newly built rooms on the western side, and to my surprise I was given the one next to it on the east My parents occupied the six-mat room right off the entryway, so this was special treatment for me. Because the wall was only one layer thick I could even hear my grandparents’ snoring. I remember how peaceful it was in those days.

In summer, life in the humid heat of the Kameoka basin was anything but elegant My grandfather’s “uniform” of choice was to go around stark naked except for a backless waistcoat like a stomach band called a “kintoki,” even in front of visitors. His habit was to give some sort of gift to people who had kindly come a long way to see him, and he would turn his back to go rummaging around in the top of the closet looking for something appropriate. Though he was covered when he was facing you, when he turned around you got a full view of his “temple bells” hanging there!

Onisaburo was so sensitive to heat that he would sweat even during the winter. During the war there weren’t any electric fans, so all he had was a hand-held fan. However, he had a unique way of beating the summer heat As he lay on his back he would damp the tip of his “thing” with a clothespin covered with cotton, suspend it from the ceiling by a string, and then he would fan it with his hand. Sometimes I would have to do the fanning. I imagine it did keep things pretty cool!

On the bank of Kago Pond, which I could see from my window, there was a lantern to attract moths and a wooden bench. My grandparents would go out dressed in yukata [a light cotton robe, usually blue and white] to take in the cool early evening air. Occasionally my parents and aunts and uncles joined them, and our beloved dog Shiro was always in faithful attendance, too. It was like a dream, staring at the insects that gathered in a cloud around the lantern, listening to the uproarious laughter at my grandparents’ wandering conversation. Sometimes one of my grandfather’s folk songs would come belting out Looking back I often think that those times were the closest thing to a family environment I had.

My grandfather was good at breaking wind. He had impeccable timing, and just when someone got their face near enough he’d let one go. He laughed uproariously at the screams of protest from his victim. Once he asked my Aunt Suminoe to check if there was some sort of swelling on his buttocks, and when she bent down to look, he let one fly. Unluckily for her she had her mouth wide open so it went right in. She exclaimed, “Well, that’s the first time I’ve ever eaten one of those. They are quite pungent Not very good at all!” But before the war a believer was subjected to such an attack and he came back later to offer thanks because it had cured his sinusitis!

There’s also a story that Onisaburo felt sorry for his anus because it had to look downwards all the time, and so he would point it up upwards to let it gaze at the moon. Aunt Naohi, with her genteel sensitivities, probably detested such vulgar behavior from my grandfather.

Onisaburo’s fondness for mischief never left him, even in his later years. At that time, there were always two or three women believers, who acted as servants, living in a room off the kitchen. Once, finding a hole in the shoji [sliding paper doors] of this room, my grandfather backed up to it and blasted one inside. With the shrieks from inside ringing at his back he escaped elated back to his room and reported what he had done to my grandmother. I could hear it all from the next room.

My grandmother, no less mischievous, said to him, ‘That’s really funny! You should go do it again.”

“OK, I will!” Egged on, my grandfather started down the hall again and I followed unnoticed, not wanting to miss any of the action. However, anticipating the hilarity of the mischief he was about to perpetrate, my grandfather could hardly contain himself and giggles kept escaping him.

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