The following article appeared in the January 10, 1975 issue of “Aikido”, a monthly newspaper published by Aikido Hombu Dojo in Tokyo. It was translated form the Japanese by Stanley A. Pranin and Katsuaki Terasawa.
Some time ago in Japan, the average life expectancy was 50 years. Even today, when one speaks of a 50 year old person, we think of someone in the beginning of old age. Considering that we have now reached the 50th year of the Showa Era and all that has happened during this period, I am deeply affected.
If one considers that this is nothing but the flow of time and that everything repeats itself, that there is nothing new, then nothing more need be said. Yet, the end of a given period and the beginning of another can play an unexpectedly important role in an individual’s lifetime. Furthermore, in spiritual terms, the realization of the joy we feel at being able to greet another New Year and build for tomorrow will be of great significance in our ability to live life fully.
This is the Year of the Rabbit according to the sexagenary cycle. This animal has long appeared in didactic fables in roles which bely his lovable appearance. Two stories that immediately come to mind when I recall the fables told to me in my childhood are, “The Race Between the Rabbit and the Turtle” and “The White Rabbit of Inaba.” There are a number of points worthy of reconsideration when we read these two stories. For example, in the fable of the Rabbit and the Turtle, the speedy Rabbit was overtaken by the slow turtle while the former was asleep, the moral of the story is the importance of hard work. However, it seems that many of the younger generation hearing this fable conclude: “We should always be fair,” that is, “the Turtle should have woken up the Rabbit.” Consequently, the Turtle is seen as shrewd and devious. As can be seen from this example, I don’t think I am the only one who would be surprised by the breadth of the generation gap. One of the characteristics of the modern generation is the tendency to judge good and evil with logic such as this. In the same way that a poorly lubricated machine about to break down is a cause for concern, this tendency to view things in black and white terms is disturbing. If life could be successfully dealt with in that fashion, then the traditional New Year’s dishes would lose their meaning and “wabi” and “sabi”, delicacies meant only for man, would lose their significance. At the mere thought of such a world, life becomes shrouded in darkness.
1974 was quite a difficult year as reflected in the coining of certain new words to describe the economy. If the present trend of distrust among men continues, then society itself will become a cause for great concern much like the poorly lubricated machine.
In greeting the Year of the Rabbit, the soft-coated creature whose mischievous conduct we can’t help but forgive, I would like to pledge to do my part in changing the trends of the times in order to lessen tension in society. In order to accomplish this, I believe that the best and easiest way is through daily training in Aikido. This year, too, I would like to train hard in this spirit in order to bring about a brighter and richer society.