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The Great Onisaburo Deguchi ($29.95)

  • Kyotaro Deguchi
  • Aiki News (1998)
  • ISBN 4-900586-54-4
  • 7” x 10”, 336 pages
  • Paperback

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Onisaburo Deguchi, although little known in the West, was a giant among religious leaders of twentieth century Japan. The Omoto faith, of which he was the driving force, is the most important of the “new religions” of Japan. At its zenith, the Omoto counted among its ranks some two million adherents and exerted a major impact on the political and religious affairs of prewar Japan. The scope of Onisaburo’s life and achievements is truly superhuman. A prolific writer, poet, calligrapher, sculptor, and ceramist, Onisaburo left a vast cultural and artistic legacy that is truly awe-inspiring. Also, noteworthy is the fact that Onisaburo was the spiritual master of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. The latter drew heavily from Onisaburo’s teachings in the creation of his ethically-based Aikido, a martial art practiced by hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts worldwide.

Author’s Preface

Kameoka near Kyoto is the administrative center of the Omoto religion. Kameoka is important in the history of Omoto because my granfather, Onisaburo Deguchi, was born and grew up there.

In Kameoka there is a mountain called Takakuma and a cave at the top of the mountain is one of the most sacred sites for all believers. Sitting alone in that cave in 1898, Onisaburo, then twenty-seven, underwent received ascetic instruction and attained enlightenment. This experience formed the basis for much of his thought. 1998 marks the centennial of this important event.

My grandfather was born in 1871 and passed away in 1948 at the age of seventy-seven. Fifty years have now passed since his death.

In Omoto, decades, fifty-year spans, centennials, and the like are considered significant and propitious. We are therefore highly gratified that in such an auspicious year Aiki News has consented to publish this revised biography of my grandfather.

As is well-known, Onisaburo Deguchi was closely associated with Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of aikido. Ueshiba had a profound admiration for Onisaburo and sought him out in Ayabe for spiritual training. Consequently, Ueshiba joined Onisaburo’s entourage and accompanied him to Mongolia. Later, Ueshiba became the President of Onisaburo’s All-Japan Society for the Promotion of the Martial Arts.

It is my understanding that Onisaburo gave Ueshiba’s son the name Kisshomaru, and Kisshomaru Ueshiba is present leader of aikido which has now spread worldwide. My name was also given by Onisaburo, and I too was born in Ayabe, so I feel a certain connection with Ueshiba’s son.

From October 1972 to December 1975, an art exhibition entitled “Onisaburo and His School” was held in six countries (13 cities) in Europe and North America. This exhibition was made possible through the support of Professor Vadime Elisseeff, a well-known authority on Eastern arts and studies. We were fortunate to have the backing of Dr. Frederick Franck and Professor Jan Fontein who who lent assistance to the exhibition in North America. The last showing of Onisaburo’s art took place in San Francisco at the Grace Cathedral and was attended by Stanley Pranin, a young man who would eventually become editor-in-chief of Aiki News.

Later on Mr. Pranin came to Japan and devoted himself to the study of aikido with the intention of spreading the martial art worldwide. With this aim, he established Aiki News. In 1995 he came to the Omoto headquarters in Kameoka in search of a biography of Onisaburo Deguchi in English. Fortunately, Dr. Charles Rowe was in the process of completing such a translation and Aiki News expressed their willingness to publish the book.

Looking back, it seems fortuitous that Omoto, Onisaburo, aikido, Ueshiba, Pranin and I have all come together linked by some mysterious tie.

It is also interesting that Dr. Rowe, the translator, first came into contact with Omoto at the age of seven when I visited his family on an Esperanto tour. After that, he remained a member of the Omoto family assisting at the exhibitions in Europe and the United States at the age of eighteen.

On the basis of these coincidences and timely contact with many people, this biography in English of Onisaburo Deguchi will make its appearance in the world. I can only be grateful to the will of Heaven and the favor of so many people. And so I commend to the reader of the future this account of the life and times of my grandfather.

About the Author

Kyotaro Deguchi was born in August 1936 in Ayabe City, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. He is the only son of Hidemaru Deguchi, and grandson and direct descendant of Onisaburo Deguchi. The author attended Waseda University and his interests include linguistics, Esperanto, meditation, walking, reading, writing, and travel. For many years, he has worked for the interfaith movement, environmental protection, and for the exchange of culture and art in Japan and overseas.

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