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Founder of Aikido (10): From Nothing to Something

by Kisshomaru Ueshiba

Aiki News #39 (August 1981)

We would like to thank Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba for his kind permission to publish these chapter summaries.

Shirataki village, in Monbetsu County, Hokkaido, was founded in 1912 when independent settlers and a group of 54 families from Wakayama Prefecture (under O-Sensei’s leadership) settled the area along the Central Highway from Shirataki Horokasawa to Kami-Shirataki. The group, which was a conglomeration of farmers and fishermen, left Wakayama on March 29, 1912, and traveled by train to Hokkaido where they were met by Mr. Iwai, a successful dairy farmer in Aibetsu, who was also from Wakayama. They arrived at the village site on the 20th of May. During the trip they had great difficulty when crossing the Kitami Ridge because of the deep snow at that time of the year. Traveling was so difficult it took the group more than a month to cross this one ridge. Because it took so long to reach the Shirataki area, that year they had no crops except for potatoes.

O-Sensei had been restless and irritable since his return from the army, but here in Hokkaido he found a new life for himself. Nothing that he had done previously had appealed to him for a total commitment of his efforts, and his main motivation for moving to Hokkaido seems to have been that he was looking for a goal or purpose for his life.

When Mr. Kurahashi Denzaburo had returned from Hokkaido, he had inspired O-Sensei with tales of the great potential which this undeveloped northern island held. The government of Hokkaido was offering attractive incentives in order to encourage people to move to that area. Immigrants could buy 25 acre parcels at very liberal mortgage rates and various subsidies were also available. These incentives appealed to those second and third sons of farmers and fishermen who had no chance of receiving an inheritance. Even without these incentives, many people at that time wanted to immigrate to a more attractive area. Land in the Tanabe area was not the best for farming and the newly instituted fishing control law that had set off the Iso Affair restricted people in that line of work. Later O-Sensei would explain his own motives by saying, “Old Minakata had predicted that the future of Japan’s food supply was not bright and I myself had seen many unable to feed themselves after the war, so I was determined to help the people, my country and the world.”

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