When I think about the sensei that had the most influence over the development of modern kendo the three that immediately come to mind tower above all the rest: Naito Takaharu, Takano Sasaburo, and Ogawa Kinnosuke. As I’ve already done posts on the the first two, it’s time now for one on the last of the triumvirate.
Ogawa Kinnosuke was born in 1884 in Aiichi prefecture. He began kendo whilst in school, at around 13/15 years of age, under kendo hanshi Kato Kiichi and later under Kohori Yasutada. In his late teens and very early 20s he taught kendo at a middle school and joined the army (field gunnery position) before being employed by Nagoya police department. It was at thus juncture where his kendo life was to change.
The Dai-Nippon Butokukai had been founded a few years earlier in 1895, with the goal of promoting spiritual discipline through martial arts education. Upon completion of its HQ dojo – the Butokuden – a handful of prominent kenshi were selected to instruct there, one of whom was to have the greatest influence of the development of modern kendo: Naito Takaharu. In 1905 a school was formally opened to teach kendo instructors and Naito was selected as the senior teacher. At this time the school was known as the Bujutsu Kyoin Yoseijo, but eventually (after a few re-organisations and renames) it would be known to everyone as Busen (Budo Senmon Gakko). It was to this school that Ogawa was dispatched by the Nagoya police department in 1907.
Ogawa would spend 3 years studying kendo directly under Naito. Including Ogawa, students of the Yoseijo around this time who were to go on to have a massive impact on the future of kendo: Saimura Goro, Mochida Moriji, Nakano Sosuke, Oasa Yuji, Shimatani Yasohachi, Oshima Jikida, Ueda Heitaro, and Miyazaki Mosaburo amongst others. The first 4 people mentioned were, along with Ogawa, awarded 10th dan after the war.
After spending 3 years training under Naito (and surrounded by high quality kenshi) Ogawa was ordered back to Nagoya to take up his kendo teaching position within the police.
For the next 4 years Ogawa taught kendo within the Nagoya police department when – in 1914 – Naito got in touch and requested that he return to Kyoto to become a helper at the newly overhauled Busen. Obviously a favourite of Naito, his promotion was swift: he became an assistant Busen teacher in 1917 then, after being awarded his kyoshi in 1919, a fully fledged one.
1919 also saw the arrival of a new Busen principle, the influential politician Nishikubo Hiromichi. Ogawa was taken under Nishikubo’s wing and when Ogawa came to build his own dojo he used the kanji from Nishikubo’s first name (Hiromichi 弘道) for the name of the dojo he built in 1924: Kodokan 弘道館. Kodokan was originally built in the grounds of Chomyoji temple, not far from the Butokuden. This dojo would become one of the main dojo that Busen students would attend in the evenings.
From around 1926 the ageing Naito’s health began to worsen, and Ogawa was selected to take over the senior teaching role. During this time he was awarded hanshi by the Butokukai. When Naito passed away suddenly in 1929, Ogawa was appointed as Busen’s principle instructor. He would keep this job until 1944 when he himself petitioned for retirement (perhaps due to the over-arching control Japan’s military government was exercising on the Butokukai?).
The 1920s and 30s can rightly be seen as the period where kendo – it’s philosophy, ideology, as well as physical execution – began to finally take a consistent form. The driving force behind this was mainly the Butokukai and the teachers (and graduates) of Busen. It’s not too much to say that Ogawa was in key a position of authority and influence during the majority of this time.
Reading scores and scores of kendo books from the post-war period, Ogawa’s name comes up time and time again: it’s obvious that he was high respected and that many many Busen students regarded him as their teacher. Unfortunately, Ogawa himself was far from prolific when it came to written material: he only authored a single book in 1932 (revised in 1937) called Teikokuku Kendo Kyohon: The Kendo Textbook of Imperial Japan.
After the war ended, like all the senior pre-war guard, we don’t really hear or see much of Ogawa until he is awarded 10th dan from the newly formed Zen Nippon Kendo Renemei in 1957. (All the 10th dan recipients were Naito students and Bujutsu Kyoin Yoseijo graduates.)
Ogawa sensei passed away in 1962 at the age of 78.
Although the original/second generation of Kodokan that Ogawa ran and where Busen students practised no longer exists (between 1924-1934 Kodokan was located in Chomyoji, from 1934-1945 inside Ogawa’s private residence), the group continued after the war (at first run by Ogawa’s son, who was 9th dan) in various locations and still exists today.
If you want to visit something associated with Ogawa then you should attend keiko at the Butokuden and – before or after – take a short walk to Chomyoji and pay respects at his grave.
Saimura Goro (left) vs Ogawa Kinnosuke (right) at the 1940 Tenran-jiai: