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Interview with Noriaki Inoue (4)

by Stanley Pranin

Aiki News #77 (April 1988)

The interview below with Noriaki (Yoichiro) Inoue, nephew of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba, was conducted by Stanley Pranin in 1988. Inoue Sensei’s testimony on the early days of aikido is an extremely valuable reference for understanding the process of the development of aikido.

Noriaki (Yoichiro) Inoue

Inoue Sensei: I was able to finish the manuscript this soon because Unagami Sensei took great pains to help me. I didn’t know how to organize my ideas in manuscript form. Fortunately, Mrs. Unagami’s husband is my friend and she does editing work. She was a great help. Without her assistance maybe I would not have submitted this manuscript to you. I might have said I don’t want to. (Laughter) I did not speak out because I wanted my words to be published in a magazine.

Unagami Sensei: You have lived such a long life and are still active, Sensei, and I wanted to introduce you to people.

That’s why I wrote this. I don’t like to criticize the dead. There are no witnesses. If there were any, then I wouldn’t hesitate to write about any subject. I would debate with any great master. I don’t want to embarrass anyone who has died even my uncle [Morihei Ueshiba]. When he was alive I used to quarrel with him. I would say: “What should I do about him. He used the name “Kobu” [meaning “Imperial Martial Art]”. I mean it would have been all right with the emperor’s permission but he didn’t have it. So I was actually mad at him and said, “You will fail sooner or later and come back to Aiki.” As a matter of fact, he did change the name back to “Aikido”. I continued to teach under the name of “Aiki Budo”. As I lived with Ueshiba for a long time I know him even better than his children.

You mean from the days of Tanabe (in the early 1900s)?

Yes, I knew him during the Tanabe and Hokkaido days. I was always with him.

When did you go to Hokkaido?

It was when I was in the 6th grade (about 1914).

Did you go there by yourself?

I was accompanied by his parents. The other day while I was talking to Unagami Sensei, she told me that I had a lot of things to talk about. Actually, I can talk forever.

As I remember everything, one day is not enough to finish my story. I remember these things because I had to learn the study of affinity and military tactics. When I was a child I studied them all day long at school. Therefore I know myself, even my shortcomings. I remember everything from the age of 5. I’m ashamed to say so, but I was a weak-minded child. I thought I had to improve my condition and remember everything to try to change myself.

We understand that Morihei Ueshiba Sensei first met Sokaku Takeda Sensei in Engaru in February 1915. Were you present at the Hisada Inn at their first meeting?

My uncle, Takeda Sensei, myself and several others met in the reception room of the Hisada Inn. It was there I first came to know about the existence of Daito-ryu Jujutsu. It was when I was 13. As I was little I just watched the training. Usually they didn’t allow other people to observe their practice. You had to pay even if you were only watching. That’s how secretive Takeda Sensei was in his teaching. He never showed his techniques. If someone came to see, he would take him and throw him [out]; therefore, there were absolutely no peak holes [in the sliding doors] in the dojo. Is the person living in Abashiri his oldest son or the second son? I am sure his oldest was named Soichiro.

That is his second son.

Is that right? What is his oldest son doing?

Around 1930, his wife and one of his children died during a fire [in Shirataki].

I know that but that was a baby. Maybe that’s him. It seems to me that when Takeda Sensei came to Osaka he brought along a boy as his secretary. Since Takeda Sensei could not write we would prepare scrolls for him. We wrote, for example, the contents of the first technique (ikkajo), the second, the third and so on. However, I became angry at Sokaku Sensei for dividing the techniques into first, second and the third techniques. The first one should be the basic, don’t you think? Without number one you can’t go to one hundred, one thousand or ten thousand. I told him the “nth number” is not necessary. Takeda Sensei said: “Oh, I see. You’re saying that again”.

I don’t know why but it seems that we got along very well. Takeda Sensei never got angry with me. I also liked him very much. I always took him out to eat. (Laughter) If he were with someone else he would be taken to nicer restaurants, but I took him to cheap places only. There was a tempura restuarant called the “Daikokuya” in Asakusa which stills serves tempura on top of rice in the bowl and I took him there. He said, “It’s delicious, kid! You’ll take me here again, won’t you?” I always took him fpr cheap meals. (Laughter) An old man like that probably preferred that kind of food. In those days everything tasted good. While I talk about Takeda Sensei like this, I have this feeling he might show up and say, “Are you speaking ill of me?”

I believe I was the only one who told him in front of many great people: “It’s not worthwhile practicing with you!” However, he didn’t get angry with me probably because I was small. He said, “I see. Have it your own way!” (Laughter). If an adult told him this he would have been angry with him.

I understand that Kotaro Yoshida introduced Sokaku Takeda to Ueshiba Sensei.

I don’t know because there was more than one person there and I didn’t know who Mr. Yoshida was. I don’t think Sokaku Sensei could have made a living without having at least ten students. One was not allowed to observe sitting cross-legged. I am now sitting cross-legged in front of you but in those days I would sit in seiza (formal position) wearing a hakama. I thought while observing the [Daito-ryu] lesson that this martial art school was different. So I didn’t want to be taught.

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