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Yasuaki Deguchi: The Omoto Religion and Aikido (05)

by Stanley Pranin

Aikido Journal #101 (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’it’s doctrine had a profound influence on Morihei Ueshiba, founder of aikido.

On December 8th, 1945, ten years to the day after the Incident, a ceremony was held to celebrate the decision on the Omoto Incident in the ruins of an Ayabe totally transformed by the oppression The news spread to believers all over the country. So eager were they to attend that they gathered provisions and made long, circuitous journeys by train to join the celebration. All together an overwhelming one thousand five hundred people came. My grandfather led them in the Amatsu Norito, a Shinto prayer which had been banned for ten years. My grandmother led a memorial service for the victims of the Incident Everyone was in tears. I, too, melted into the throng and raised my face to the bright winter sun.

When the ceremony was over my father took over for my grandfather and delivered an address in which he announced the future policy. “With nearby Kameoka as a base, we have decided to establish a organization called the Aizen En, a movement for the love and good of people with the goal of world peace for all humankind.”

A mountain of ashes remained after cleaning up and burning the remains of the destroyed Hongu-san Shrine. These were given to the worshipping believers in commemoration of the Incident My grandfather went around jesting, “I’m the Hana-saka Jijisan.” However, his words and deed—he gave ashes to the believers —implied that he would restore Japan, which had been destroyed by World War II, like Hanasaka Jijii used ashes to make dead cherry trees blossom.

In the days that followed, from December 10th to January 6th of 1946, my grandfather went to stay at Yoshioka hot spring in Tottori Prefecture to recuperate from a slight case of neuralgia. I went to visit him there as soon as my winter vacation began. Cars couldn’t get through the deep snow, so I walked from the train station, with the snow piled up high on either side of me like two walls. I fundamental mistake. However, the Yamato race ultimately shall not perish.

“The suffering resulting from Japan’s defeat is still to come and will worsen every year until 1950, the Year of the Tiger. Japan has been completely disarmed, and in this is contained our mission as a leader in world peace. True world peace will begin to be realized when all military preparations are abolished, and that age is now approaching.”

The police often tormented believers with the question, “Is the Emperor great? Is God great?,” but “the root of Japan’s mistake was the worship of a mere man,” asserted Onisaburo, an arrow leveled directly spent several enjoyable days going to the baths with my grandfather and listening to his witticisms.

A reporter from the Asahi newspaper came to interview my grandfather there, and the resulting piece was published in the December 30th issue of the Osaka Asahi newspaper. This is the well-known “Yoshioka Speech” in which a number of important issues were raised. A few of the important points my grandfather discussed were as follows:

“No matter how the government powers destroy shrines and facilities, the faith remains, and as long as the believers maintain that faith it is impossible to destroy a religion. Though we are making no efforts to rebuild Omoto, it is already rebuilding itself. We do not plan to build a temple larger than the one we have had until now.

“I hope only for universal unity and peace.

“Shinto has become problematic as the national religion, but nonetheless the gods do not change under democracy. The government’s mistake was to forget their true existence and to idolize them and force people to worship at shrines only in service of its own ends. Japan’s deity of the higher-ranked shrines [the Emperor Hirohito] was not a true god, and the object of worship was a mere man. This was a

at the living god, the Emperor. Surprisingly, just two days later, on New Year’s Day 1946, the Emperor denied his own divinity, in the so-called “Declaration of Humanity.” I don’t know how many people lost their lives in the name of the divine emperor. Since I was only fifteen years old, I had believed that the emperor was the highest god, and because of that I was suspicious of my grandfather and denied even my own humanity. What in the world had my life been? At last, however, the National Shinto system of the Great Yamato Empire with the Emperor wielding ultimate authority had collapsed.

Onisaburo’s Ascent to Heaven

According to my grandfather, the Aizen En was not to be an attempt to rebuild Omoto, but was instead a complete shucking of the old husk for a brand new start. It really was, as the saying goes, “putting new wine in a new wine skin”, and except for the most important matters, my grandfather passed full administrative responsibility over to my father and the leading believers. With the Ten’onkyo still in a state of devastation, the Kumano Yakata became the base of operations. The zeal shown by the believers during that time still evokes powerful memories in me. In the wake of defeat all the old easy ideals had collapsed to their very roots. Though Japan had lost its overall guiding principles, the Aizen En would have done well to have confidence in and base itself on the doctrines Onisaburo expressed before the war. The courage of the believers was such that they were ready to take the building of a new Japan onto their own shoulders.

Day after day, meetings were held in the drawing room, my father at the center. I was so keen to know how things were progressing that I often eavesdropped from beside the artificial hill in the garden. In due course, a bulletin, “Aizen En,” was published. Those involved worked in the altar room of Kumano Yakata, and I happily helped out From time to time my grandfather would look in to offer encouragement, and this raised my spirits even higher.

The lands in Ayabe and Kameoka were unconditionally returned and restoration began quickly. Beginning in the spring of 1946 and into the following summer my grandfather rode his bicycle-pulled cart nearly every day around the Ten’onkyo to oversee the construction of the Zuishokan and the Tsukinowadai [two of the Omoto buildings] personally. The work progressed through the volunteer efforts of believers from all over the country, who had come also with food supplies. Sometimes there were well over one hundred of them working. They were very happy just being able to work under my grandfather.

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