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Escape to Mongolia

Aiki News #14 (November 1975)

The following article is the fourteenth in a series of seventeen articles dealing with the life of the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba.

At the end of November, 1923, Onisaburo, who at that time was publishing a newspaper called “Taisho Nichinichi Shinbun” in Osaka, returned to Ayabe and told Ueshiba that since he hadn’t got rid of that devil called Takeda, trouble awaited him. He suggested that they escape together.

“I will follow your advice, Reverend, but where on earth do you plan to go?”

“To Mongolia.”

Ueshiba was completely surprised to learn of Deguchi’s plan to escape to Mongolia. Moreover, no one but Matsumura and Nada, who served as the personal attendant of Onisaburo knew of this plan, Ueshiba was to go along as Deguchi’s bodyguard and also to free himself of his problem.

There are many stories about Deguchi’s flight to Mongolia, but without going into great detail I will summarize then with the following: On the 13th of February 1924, Onisaburo secretly left Ayabe with Masumi Matsumura. No one knew of their departure since they left aboard the 3:00 a.m. train. When this train arrived at Kameoka, Ueshiba and Nada joined them at 8:00 p.m. that evening they were already in Shimonoseki and boarded the ferry “Shokimaru” for Pusan. The next morning, the 14th, they landed at Pusan and went directly to Hoten and by 6:30 that evening were settled at the Sanya Trading Company situated on Heian Street in Hoten. (Manchuria).

Onisaburo told Ueshiba that they were going to Mongolia in order to escape Ueshiba’s problem and had come all the way to Hoten. However, Deguchi had received information that there would soon be a second wave of arrests because of the Omoto Incident. And this was the reason for his flight. However, to call his sudden trip “a flight out of the country” would be very much a journalistic view. Onisaburo’s major objective was to unify all the different religious sects and to establish a world-wide religion. Deguchi told Matsumura that he was coming to Manchuria in accordance with divine revelation, which declared Mongolia to be a sacred land. Matsumura had come along as an advisor for this undertaking. In my interpretation, it seems to me that Onisaburo’s action was motivated by his resistance to the Japanese government’s repression. If the Japanese government was indeed going to supress and prohibit the Omoto religion by enforcing the “Fukeisai” (failure to show proper respect to the Emperor) and “Chianiji” (threatening the stability of the government) laws, then Onisaburo wanted to move the Omoto Headquarters to Mongolia. From there he would proceed to pursue his mission of world salvation.

Upon their arrival in Hoten, Onisaburo met Ro Senkai who was Lt. General in the Tosansho area. He was formerly the head of “Enzoku” (bandits) and at that time was a guest of Chosakurin.

In his meeting with Ro Senkai, Deguchi plotted the independence of Mongolia (from China). The two hit it off very well. It was also decided that when the independence of Mongolia came about, the principles of the Omoto sect would be disseminated throughout Mongolia as the Omoto Lama Sect.

On the 3rd of March Onisaburo and his entourage left Hoten by automobile for Mongolia and arrived on Chonon on March 8th. On the 26th they arrived at Oyacho and proceeded further to Koyafu. While discussing the plan for independence with Ro Senkai, who joined the group later with his 200 soldiers, the situation changed. Onisaburo was captured in Paintara by the Army of Chosakurin and thrown into jail.

“Well, we all are going to hell with Deguchi Sensei,” thought Ueshiba. Ueshiba was also put into jail and thought that the end had come. Onisaburo, Ueshiba and company were chained hand and foot and treated as criminals to be put to death.