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An Aikido Life (10)

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by Gozo Shioda

Aiki News #81 (July 1989)

The following translation from the Japanese-language autobiography entitled ‘Aikido Jinsei” (An Aikido Life) by Gozo Shioda Sensei of Yoshinkan Aikido is published with the kind permission of the author and the publisher, Takeuchi Shoten Shinsha. The series began with AIKI NEWS No. 72

Chapter 3: Days of Wandering

In April 1941, I finally graduated from Takushoku University. Due to my participation in the Kobe Incident as mentioned above, the Minister of War, Shunroku Hata probably thought it was not a good idea for me to stay in Tokyo. At that time, he held the important position of General Commander of the Expeditionary Force to China. Thus he issued an official announcement of my appointment as his private secretary at the same time I graduated from the university.

To China

Since it was my long-cherished dream to embark on a great venture abroad, I began preparations to leave for my new post considering it an opportunity to try my fortunes as a man. I went to China alone in early May 1941. As soon as I arrived in Nanking I went to the house of the General Commander. General Hata was very hospitable and ordered an army civilian employee uniform for me. At that time, army civilian employees were classified by a badge indicating their class. I had no insignia in particular and was a “lord steward” without a crown. In those days my monthly salary was 100 yen. The value of money was much different from now and 100 yen would go a long way in those days. All of my meals were provided by the headquarters and I lived in an official residence. I hardly had to pay for anything. I used to treat the soldiers and drink with my comrades. I lived in easy circumstances. Though I was a private secretary, I had nothing to do. As Adjutant N. did most of the work I idled my time away all day long.

As the old saying goes, “The idle mind is the devil’s playground” and nothing good results if a young man fritters away his time without working. I thought about many things as I passed away the time, and decided to visit Lieutenant Colonel Sakurai in Yusuichin where Jiang Jie-shi and Sou Birei are supposed to have kept their love nest in the old days. Yusuichin is a hot-spring resort about 40 kilometers from Nanking and is akin to places like Hakone or Atami in Japan. At that time it was a health resort for the sick and wounded soldiers of the army. Colonel Sakurai was a stout-hearted and straightforward man. He was recovering his health after a hara-kiri attempt. I wanted to see him very much. I asked General Hata for permission, but he rejected me flatly. It seems that the road to Yusuichin was a lawless area infested with bandits and very dangerous. I went to General Hata again to renew appeal. Due to my youthful ardor I wanted to take the risk and see Colonel Sakurai. The General again flatly refused. I got angry and said, “Then there is nothing for me to do but to go by myself.” As I left the room, the General spoke in a resigned voice and gave some order to Adjutant N.

A while later, General Hata said, “Preparations have been made now.” I said with a bow, “Thank you very much,’ and left. To my surprise, the license number of the car read “Soichi” - it belonged the General -, and there was a truck to the front and rear of the car, each with 20 soldiers with machine guns and side cars also with machine guns on the ten and right. I felt deeply embarrassed. I got in the car of the Commander General and set out. All of the soldiers on the road saluted me. It must have been the car rather than me.

Treating the Soldiers to a Great Feast

Nothing happened and we arrived at our destination after about an hour. I talked with Colonel Sakurai about many things and started on my way home. I felt sorry for the more than 40 soldiers whom I took with me out of my selfishness. I decided to treat them all to a cup of laochu sake at a pleasure resort in a suburb of Nanking on the way back home. At that time a system was in effect where employees of the general headquarters had tickets issued by the General Accounting Section and we could eat or obtain anything we needed if we signed and handed them in. At first, I intended to treat them only to a cup of sake. However, I became emboldened and next treated them to a large amount of food and drink because I had many tickets. Everyone was very happy and said to me, “Mr, Shioda, let’s go often to Yusuichin!” We returned home in an exultant mood. The bill for this outing was 3,000 yen, Nowadays, 3,000 yen is not very much, but at that time it was a great deal of money. Initial salaries at private companies for university graduates in those days were as follows: 75 yen for national universities, 70 yen for private universities, and 55 yen for special college (present junior college) graduates. This amounted to my salary for about two-and-a-half years. If you compare the amount with these figures you get an idea of what a large sum of money it was.

When I left I was in a good mood, but when I returned things were different- As soon as I arrived back, General Hata thoroughly scolded me. I was placed on my good behavior and after a few days the General called me in and said, “Why don’t you go to Beijing and work as a school teacher for a while.” Since I was bored I instantly consented to the idea.

He said to me, “I am going to write a letter of introduction to a certain person. Go to him.” Then he wrote me a letter to Mr. C. The next day, I left for Beijing in a military plane to my destination, the Hanazono Manor. It was a school where the Japanese language was taught to young Chinese. There I met Mr. C to report my arrival. He seemed to be a well-mannered and honorable person. Later I learned he was idolized as a loving father by the Chinese people. He treated me courteously perhaps because I had a letter of introduction and told me in detail about the nature of my work. My position at the school was as the director in charge of staff administrative affairs. The work was not difficult. I kept the roll-book of the staff that came to school at nine a.m. each morning and made a speech when the school opened and closed each school day. I had no other work to do. Since I was given a car I gladly drove around - I was able to drive since I had taken lessons. It was not necessary to go to the trouble of getting a driver’s license in the battlefield.

Receiving Gasoline in the Name of the General Headquarters

However, even in Beijing, as in Japan gasoline was rationed among the general public. Mr. C told me to use the car only for coming and going to school from my billet in the suburbs of Beijing.

One day I said to Mr. C, “Can I use the car for other purposes if I can get gasoline from the outside?” He answered that if I could get more gasoline I was free to use the car in any way. Then I had an idea.

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