As a staff member of AIKI NEWS, I recently made a tour of the Kinki and Kansai areas of Japan, a region intimately bound up with the life of Aikido Founder Ueshiba Morihei. During the course of the 10-day trip which began on the second of September and continued until the llth, I was able to visit Shingu and Tanabe cities in Wakayama Prefecture, Ayabe City (site of the headquarters of the Omoto Religion) in the Kyoto Metropolitan District, and finally Osaka in search of resource material relating to the life of 0-Sensei. Regular readers of the AIKI NEWS are well aware that the Founder traveled widely during his lifetime in his efforts to popularize Aikido, visiting almost every part of Japan. The places mentioned above were chosen on the assumption that there were probably many older deshi and acquaintances of 0-Sensei in these areas. I left with the hope of gathering valuable historic photographs and other records of the Founder as well as hearing firsthand the stories and memories of those people who were close to him at various times in his life but the results of the trip surpassed even our most optimistic expectations.
My first stop was Tanabe City, birthplace of 0-Sensei. There I was fortunate to meet with Gomita Sensei, of the Tanabe branch Dojo, and also to visit Mrs. Fukiko Suzuki of the nearby resort town of Shirahama, famous for its hot springs. I also stopped in at the Murata Photo Museum located in Tanabe. This museum at one time had been a repository of innumerable photos of the Founder and his life but, unfortunately, a flash fire destroyed all but one of these. This remaining picture appears on the cover of Aiki News No. 43. Mr. Murata proved to be a treasure house of stories about the Founder. One especially humorous event that he related guaranteed that the time spent at the museum was not wasted, despite the great loss of the photographic records in the fire.
Mr. Murata, the late husband of Mrs. Suzuki Shingoro and the Founder were tied by bonds of the closest friendship. In fact, the Founder spent many nights in the home of the Suzuki family. Even to this day many people who had known Shingoro are unanimous in their sense of loss at his death. It was clear that Mr. Suzuki was certainly one of the very few people who could count themselves among the intimate friends of the Founder and who could speak freely with him about any subject whatsoever, when I think about all the unexpected insights and other precious stories that I may possibly have heard had I known about such people earlier and been able to talk directly to them, I feel a very personal regret at the lost opportunities for understanding. However, I was able to find and copy a number of photographs of the Founder from his last years, from the late 1960’s, and we will be introducing those photos to you all in future issues of AIKI NEWS.
I was also given one extremely rare photo by Mr. Bansho Ashihara Sensei of the Omoto Kyo. As was mentioned in AIKI NEWS No. 40, the Omoto Religion had organized the Budo Enhancement Association under 0-Sensei’s leadership. This photo shows the opening ceremony for the Budo Senyo Kai Dojo attended by 0-Sensei in a western style suit complete with bow tie. Looking back I realized that it is rather uncommon to find a picture of the Founder in western garb.
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