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Morihei Ueshiba, Founder of Aikido (10)

by Kanemoto Sunadomari

Aiki News #81 (July 1989)

The author, Mr. Kanemoto Sunadomari, first met Morihei Ueshiba in 1928. A devout follower of the Omoto religion, he delves deeply into the influence of this religion on the art of aikido. This, the first biography of the Founder of Aikido, was published in February 1969 and is reprinted with the permission of the Sunadomari family.

“Conversion To The Omoto Religion”

First Omoto Incident

Morihei’s attitude during worship in the Omoto shrine in the morning and evening was so sincere and devout that all who lived with him at that time were surprised. Worship continued for many hours with the name of each kami (deity) being called out respectfully and he continues this practice today. The main aim of his study was to explain to his satisfaction the many miracles revealed by the kami that he experienced. He prayed to the kami to grant his wishes. He desired to look into and be convinced of the validity of the kotodama (system which holds that sounds have an intrinsic value capable of affecting physical reality) he was taught by Reverend Onisaburo while at work, the holy method of chinkon-kishin (a breathing and meditative practice) and other practices he learned after coming to Omoto and introduce them into the world of martial arts. He was able to experience things he had never imagined before coming to Omoto and was making progress day by day. However, he found the teachings very deep and infinite. He would challenge the inertia of traditional martial arts, seek and experience with his own body, the divine realm, the unknown world which no one had ever explored.

It was in his nature to study everything completely once he set himself to the task. He felt that he must grasp the teachings of aiki here in Ayabe, and spread them throughout the length and breadth of Japan and the countries of the world. Moreover, he had to play a role in the establishment of peace among peoples.

Two years had passed since he had come to Ayabe. During that time he had lost his mother whom he had taken along with him when he moved to Ayabe and his first and second sons who were but infants. In spite of these family misfortunes, he persevered with stronger belief.

At this point I will relate a major, unexpected which occurred at that time. According to “The Great Onisaburo Deguchi” written by Kyotaro Deguchi:

In the gray of the morning of February 12, 1921, police troops intruded into the headquarters of the Omoto religion in Ayabe and began conducting a house search maintaining all the buildings and important points of the sacred garden under close guard. They shouted “Lese majeste, lese majeste,” and continued their forced house search. The police then seized many articles which filled up a wagon. Most of the items were Omoto household wares and publications of the Founder and Onisaburo. Nothing dangerous was found to the contrary of what was reported later in large, fabricated newspaper stories which indicated things such as “one hundred bamboo swords, arms and ammunition” had been uncovered.

Onisaburo Deguchi was ordered to appear in Sonezaki Police Station by the Taisho Daily Newspaper in Osaka which he supervised at that time. Then he was sent from Osaka to the headquarters of the Kyoto Police Station in a prison train and then to the Kyoto District Court under guard. At 8 p.m. in the evening of February 12 he was taken to a detention house in Kyoto prison.

Both Wasaburo Asano who was a high Omoto official and Hirosada Yoshida who was head of publications were questioned at the public prosecutor’s office. They too were taken to the detention house at Kyoto prison on February 13.

More than 80 other people including Sumi Deguchi were summoned as concerned parties and questioned. This lasted until the beginning of May. Then on May 10, the prohibition against the publication of any article concerning the Omoto religion in newspapers and magazines was suspended in the name of the chief public prosecutor of the Osaka District Court.

After this, newspapers and magazines all over Japan rushed to publish articles consisting mostly of fabrication, stinging criticisms, malicious gossip, and deception. Writers alleged that Omoto believers were guilty of misdeeds such as conspiracy, concealing of bombs, construction of secret basement rooms, burying people alive, murder, rape, etc. The general public who were ignorant of the facts blindly believed the articles. They devoured all of these stories in the major newspapers which they considered authoritative and never questioned their content. There were a few papers which reported the facts, however, most publications including major newspapers such as the Asahi and Mainichi wrote fabricated stories in ignorance of the truth with entirely predictable results. All of these were later revealed to have been totally contrary to fact. In short, the authorities of the time considered the Omoto religion to be an obstacle and suppressed the religion. It is possible to find numerous cases of unwarranted oppression by the authorities of that period in historical records. Justice had become powerless without any realizing it.

Onisaburo Deguchi was released from prison and returned to Ayabe on June 17 of the same year after 126 days in prison on the condition that his family and relatives assume responsibility for him. Onisaburo was sentenced in a trial to five years in prison for lese majeste and Wasaburo Asano to ten months. The Omoto side immediately appealed the decision to an intermediate appellate court. Before the first trial in the appellate court, Onisaburo said, “We were surprised to have been indicated for lese majeste because we feel reverence toward the kami and are patriotic.” This was the truth and there was nothing wrong with the Omoto religion.

On October 20, 1921, the authorities began to destroy Omoto buildings of all sizes which were extremely beautiful, solemn and magnificent including the Hongusan Shrine. While these actions were being carried out, the police surrounded the buildings. The newspapers reported, “… it was as if Kira’s mansion was being raided, however, the spectacle turned out to be rather disastrous…,” and, “The Hongusan Shrine, the copper-plating of whose fence was first removed…,” etc. The Asahi Newspaper of Osaka wrote about the incident for a week and reported that three armed companies were called up in addition to the police and 3,500 former soldiers during the acts of destruction.

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