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Founder of Aikido (28): The Shirogane Saru-Cho and the Mita Tsuna-Cho Periods

by Kisshomaru Ueshiba

Aiki News #57 (August 1983)

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

Mitsujiro Ishii

In early 1927, less than half a year after he returned to Ayabe for his health, one of the founder’s Tokyo supporters was sent by Count Yamamoto, Admiral Takeshita and the others on a mission to bring the founder back “by force if necessary.” Inspired by their dedication, the founder decided to move back to the capital with all his family.

My mother and I actually came later, in September of 1927. We got off the train and I remember riding in a rickshaw to the house and feeling discouraged by the cramped surroundings I saw in Tokyo.

We first settled in a house in Shiba Shirogane Saru-cho, a cozy place with three rooms downstairs and two more on the second floor and renting for 55 yen.

The dojo was a remodeled billiard room in the nearby villa belonging to Duke Shimazu, a large 200 m2. Members of the old nobility, the army and the navy officers and financial figures who received their initial instruction during his two previous stays in Tokyo were the only regular trainees. However, ten or so of their daughters were also there and gave a congenial atmosphere to an otherwise severe dojo. Among them was Count Yamamoto’s granddaughter.

The daughter of Admiral Takeshita, who could be called most representative of the group was one day riding a train and a stranger tried to hold her hand. She instinctively applied an aiki technique and the man screamed and surrendered. This “heroic” story spread instantly and a number of noble daughters and young ladies from good families took the dramatic leap.

After a little less than one year, the founder was offered another house in Shiba Mita Tsuna-cho through Baron Katsuji Utsumi. It was while living in that house that I entered elementary school.

Baron Utsumi was closely associated with Keio Gijuku University and so a number of Keio people now joined the dojo. Previously, there had been many people from Keio’s big sports rival, Waseda University. Now both Waseda and Keio people were always around and the founder joked that every practice was like another “Big Game.” After the war, Baron Utsumi was an advisor to the Keio Aikikai until he passed away in late 1964.

I have a strangely unforgettable memory from the “Mita Tsuna-cho Period.” An American child picked a quarrel and he threw a stone at me which fell near the founder and a visitor. The founder turned in a flash and rushed angrily out of the house but slipped in a puddle and the child ran for his life. My mother looked relieved, “It was lucky. I was trembling to think how it would have ended if he had caught the child, he was so angry…” I was rather a weakly-built boy and it may well have been that my father’s anger showed his impatience with me for my weakness.

The Mita Tsuna-cho and the following Shiba Kuruma-cho periods were lively and could be called “The Dawn of Aikido.” A large number of able-bodied men crowded in, including more admirals and generals. Among them was famous Admiral Sankichi Takahashi, once President of the Naval Staff College, and many others. There was Isamu Fujita, a businessman who was respected as one of the wisest men of the times and who introduced a famous Kabuki actor. There were critics and authors. Others were up-and-coming university judo people and a sumo wrestler. Admiral Sankichi Takahashi trained for a long time and it was he who invited the founder to the Naval Staff College as a budo (aiki) instructor, a position that he was to hold for ten years.

Another well-known person was Mitsujiro Ishii who was active as a director of the Aiki Foundation. He was working for the Asahi Newspaper when he won the founder’s trust. (His long career included such posts as Speaker of the House of Representatives and Chairman of the Japan Amateur Sports Association.) Ishii recently published A Book of Reminiscences wherein we find the following description.

It has already been 50 years, but I understand that Ueshiba Sensei had said, “Please go to some military base and get a group of soldiers together, say about a platoon. I’ll throw them all and then people will understand.’… Sensei told them, ‘It’s all right for all of you to attack me at the same time, but if you do some will be hurt by bumping into each other. So it might be better if you attack one at a time.” The whole platoon, about 40 men in all, formed a circle around Sensei. They attacked one after another, but in a flash they were all thrown. (Hearing this story I said), “Sounds interesting, I’ll make a point to get over there.”

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