Ogawa Kinnosuke 小川金之助

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:



Teikokuku Kendo Kyohon

Click here or on the image below to see more information about Ogawa sensei’s book, Teikoku Kendo Kyohon (The Kendo Textbook of Imperial Japan), translated and published by yours truly!

Kitano Butokuden 大日本武徳会京都支部武徳殿 (北野武徳殿)

Every practitioner of Japanese budo has heard about the legendary Butokuden. Completed in 1899, it served as the HQ dojo for the Dai-Nippon Butokukai from then until the end of World War 2, after which it changed hands a few times, finally coming under the safe ownership and protection of Kyoto city. Despite undergoing a slightly tumultuous ride for a number of years, it remained the venue for kendo’s most important yearly event: the Kyoto Taikai.

Prior to WW2 there were branch Butokuden’s built throughout the country (plus a dozen in Japanese occupied Taiwan and one in China), some of which not only still exist today but are even used for keiko. However, what many people – including Japanese kenshi – don’t know is that there were actually two Butokuden’s in Kyoto: the main one (nicknamed the “Okazaki Butokuden”) and a branch one (nicknamed the “Kitano Butokuden”).


Background

Originally built in 1914 in the precincts of Kyoto’s Kitano Tenmangu shrine, the the Kyoto branch Butokuden (thus the “Kitano” Butokuden) served as a dojo for Kyoto’s numerous kenshi. Luckily the building survived the war undamaged and was in continuous use (rebranded as “Heian dojo“) as a budojo until 2000 when – due to age related wear and tear – keiko was ceased. The then current owners of the building (Kyoto police department) decided the building was too old to repair and planned to knock it down.

tenmangu-butokuden02

Fight for survival

At this point interested individuals got involved and tried to somehow save the building from being destroyed. A petition was signed by over 7000 people and presented to the Kyoto prefectural office in hope that they would somehow help.

At the same time the city and prefectural kendo, aikido, judo, and sport federations were approached and asked to help, but in the end none but the aikido federation were interested in contributing. Reasons cited was that it was too costly a project, that it was too much of a hassle, and even “we already have one Butokuden in Kyoto, why do we need another?” It was at this time that they realised that trying to save the building as a budo-jo was difficult, and that a change in tack may be required.

Success was finally had when they promoted the project as one to save an historic building, one that could be used as an exceptional example of traditional Japanese wooden building technique. That is, the building itself was talked about as a “cultural” space rather than for simply budo.

Kitano Butokuden was finally bought sometime in the mid-late 2000’s by Shoren-in temple with the aim of moving the entire structure from inside Kitano Tenmangu Shrine to the top of a large hill in the north overlooking the city.

* Please note that if I am being rather vague about the details in this section it’s because I am not 100% certain of the exact motivations of the parties involved nor the actual flow of events – I have little resources to work with. I will update this article with more information when/if I discover it.

Dismantling and conservation

The entire dismantling, reconstruction, and moving took a staggering 5 years, with the new structure finally opening to the public in autumn 2014.

The specialist carpenter who did the job has pictures on his website here. He also has a blog with more info and pics but it doesn’t look like it’s up to date. The following couple of pics are taken from there.

Currently – Seiryuden (青龍殿)

The building itself was completely renewed (it looks great!), renamed (“Seiryuden”), and is set on a kind of platform looking down over Kyoto (see below). A brand new front section was added onto one side which now houses the painting of the “Blue Cetaka” (a demon-like guardian deity) national treasure. But, truth be told, I had little interest in the location or the national treasure – I was here to see the dojo.

The building has been beautifully restored and – apart from the ugly extra part tacked onto the front to house the painting above – looks fantastic! What a gorgeous building! Inside the structure is pretty much identical to the Okazaki Butokuden, only smaller and without a Gyokuza. I planted a few fumikomi’s on the floor (ignoring the surprised looks of others!) and can confirm that it feels great. On the whole I was highly impressed.

However one thing was really annoying: in the literature they hand out (and online) there is almost nothing mentioned about the history of the building. By almost nothing, I mean it says “it was a dojo in the precincts of Kitano Tenmangu” and thats it. It doesn’t mention anything else. Sure the building itself has been preserved and kept for generations to visit, but I can’t help something has been lost at the same time. At any rate, please check out these iPhone snaps:


Getting there

The current structure was moved to an a part of the Shoren-in estate completely separate from the temple itself called “Shogun-zuka.” Due to the fact that the location is at the top of a hill the easiest way to get there is by taxi. From outside Heian-Jingu it probably takes 10-15 minutes and costs around 1,500 yen or a wee bit more/less.

Another alternative route is to walk up through Yasaka-jinja and Maruyama park but it’s very difficult for me to explain here. I suggest getting a taxi up to Shogun-zuka and then – after you’ve finished visiting Seiryuden – walking down through the woods into the park. The path isn’t great so it’s not suitable for fancy shoes and might be a bit treacherous in the rain.


Conclusion

For those budoka interested in the architecture of dojo I definitely recommend a visit to Seiryuden. Most of the other people visiting the structure will be doing so to see the painting mentioned above, to see any art instillations, and to check out the view down over the city – all of which you can enjoy too. As a kendoka, however, you know the real score!

Asagawa Haruo hanshi 浅川春男範士

This years All Japan Championships were won by 21 year old Takenouchi Yuya, a 3rd year student at Tsukuba university, one of the top kendo universities in the country (not to mention the direct descendant of one of the most famous kendo establishments that ever existed: Tokyo Shihan Gakko). It’s only the 2nd time in the competitions 60+ year history that a student has taken the title (it’s important to remember here that there were grade restrictions for part of that time) and the first time since 1988 (and before that 1980) that it hasn’t been won by a policeman. His road to success in the shiai – though a lot faster than most – follows a familiar pattern (YMMV):

  1. Start kendo very young.
  2. Attend a good kids (shonen) kendo club.
  3. Achieve (some) junior high school kendo success.
  4. Go to a well known kendo high school (possibly scouted).
  5. Achieve (some) high school kendo shiai success.
  6. Go to a well known kendo university (possibly scouted).
  7. Achieve (some) university kendo shiai success.
  8. Join a regional police dept. or Keishicho (recruited).
  9. Spend a few years training very hard and competing in police competition, perhaps even making it to the All Japan Champs themselves.
  10. Win the All Japan Championships (possibly after multiple attempts).

This is pretty much the usual route of most if not all modern All Japan Championship winners (male) for as long as I can remember (again, YMMV). Even if a particular competitor gets to step 9 success in the All Japans itself doesn’t come to everybody, especially when there is a some dominant competitors around making things awkward (e.g. Miyazaki Masahiro and Uchimura Ryoichi). Note that shiai success as a policeman is one of the most important keys to a possible professional kendo teaching position post-tokuren (mid 30s).

Takenouchi is in the unique position of achieving number 10 while still being on step 7. What this means for him personally I have no idea, but I can guess that recruitment offers will increase (which is awesome for him as most Japanese university students struggle to find a job after graduating).

But anyway, discussion of the All Japan championships is not really the point of this article and, honestly, I’m not too interested in who wins or who doesn’t anymore. Personally, I’m far more interested in the process that people went through to achieve “success” in their kendo lives, whether this be in shiai or what not. As such – and to serve as a counter to Takenouchi and the pattern described above – I’d like to introduce kenshi 24/7 readers to the story of Asagawa Haruo sensei, winner of the 4th All Japan Kendo Championships way back in 1956.


The following is a highly abridged and freely adapted version of an interview from the very late 70s (published in 1981, I’m not sure of the exact interview date).

Asagawa Haruo, kendo hanshi 8dan, iaido kyoshi 8dan

“My family were descendants of Heike warriors who fled defeat in the wars. Originally they worked the land selling many types of products. Eventually, however, the business collapsed and the family moved onto other work.

My father was a barber and had 5 kids. From 8-14yrs I learned kendo from a very unique school teacher called Taika sensei. Although we only had 12 kids in the kendo club he was a really good teacher and he helped me develop quickly.

However, my family were so poor at the time that I shouldn’t really have been spending my time doing kendo. When I got home I had to look after my younger brother. If I said I had been doing kendo my father would scold me.

There were times when I’d carry my baby brother on my back and take my other kindergarden-aged brother by the hand and lead them to school. Taika sensei would tell the girl students ‘Asagawa is going to do kendo, so look after the kids’ and off I would go to practise. When I returned home my father would scream at me.

I continued to practise secretly like this during my youth and was berated countless times by my father.

After doing this for about a year or so our school won a prefectural level school competition. News of it appeared in the newspaper, and the bicycle shop owner – whose shop was next to my fathers – walked round with the paper and showed my father: ‘Look, Haruo is in the paper!’ My father react as a pigeon does when hit by a peashooter, he was shocked: ‘When did this happen? Where?’

After winning this competition my father started to understand a little bit more and he allowed me to practice kendo as well as relieving me of having to look after my younger brothers. I went on to win many competitions at this time and my nickname became shobu-Asagawa.”

After graduating from elementary school (at 14) various junior high schools tried to recruit him.

“My family was too poor to think of continuing education even though I was being recruited. My father wanted me to continue the family business but I was dead-set against doing that.

There was a kendo/jukendo teacher called Yoshida (a military school instructor) at one of the schools who basically demanded that I attend his school. ‘You don’t need to pay a school entrance fee, you don’t need to pay tuition fees… in fact, we will give you some pocket money’ he said. Taika sensei went to my father and beseeched him ‘It’s such a waste for his kendo career to end before it started’ he said. Eventually my father relented and allowed me to go to junior high school. This was the start of my real kendo shugyo.

Yoshida sensei was a strong teacher and training was hard. I attended practice those 3 years whether it rained or shined, travelling 40 minutes by bicycle to school. We trained everyday until the sun set, even the long summer days. As he was from a military school, the training was regimental. Over the 3 years he gradually increased our skill so that we were able to win many tournaments including the prefectural tournament and becoming 2nd in All Japan Junior High School championship (editor: at this time the shiai were kachinuki style, Asagawa was the sempo and beat 4 teams – 20 people – himself).

After Yoshida sensei finished his 3 year position at the junior high school he became a kendo/jukendo teacher for the navy and eventually died during the war in Shanghai.”

At the age of 18, Asagawa graduated from the junior high school in 1937 and became a substitute primary school teacher, despite not having any qualifications nor knowing how to teach.

“I had no dream of becoming a teacher, all I wanted to do was earn money (because my family was poor) and, as such, I studied to get a proper teacher license and would take on extra kendo instruction duties here and there for money. Eventually I realised that being a teacher was never going to make me rich, so I started to think about quitting and going to Manchuria or something. Eventually, in 1939, I joined the army. I was 20 years old.

During army training I did really well and I aimed at becoming an Company Commander. My superiors saw that I had enough ability and were keen that I get promoted to that status. However when they looked at my school record they found that I didn’t study enough and had bad scores. Because of this I couldn’t receive a recommendation and so could not be promoted. This shocked me and I decided to re-think my attitude, which was to change the direction of my life completely.

Upon completion of my training I worked for a year as a leader of an army education division, after which I was ordered to take a teaching position at a newly created army reserve officer training school. This was around the time of the start of the pacific war. Here I taught military drills, jukenjutsu, and kendo. At the time I had the highest available rank of 5dan in both arts (editor: note that he was issued his 5dan both by Toyama Gakko and the Butokukai).

When the pacific war started I asked to be sent to the front lines but was denied the chance. Eventually, however, I was ordered to go to Singapore in February 1944. At that time it was said that something like 80-90% of the boats heading that way were sunk. Luckily I reached my destination safely and upon arrival I was attached to a special group that gathered people with special skills together. My job was to teach kendo and jukenjutsu to officers from various battalions. I was 25 at the time.

People who practised with me then came from Busen, or had graduated university, however, I never lost to any of them. The time I spent in this job was highly beneficial to my kendo shugyo.

As things worsened we built caves and stayed in them until the end of the war (editor: as you can imagine, there is little discussion about combat or anything in the interview). “

Asagawa returned to his hometown in 1946. It was a time of great hardship throughout Japan.

“After being demobilised I returned a different man to a country where the fields were burned, kendo was banned, and living an ordinary life was difficult. Even though life has become better since then, the mental scars of living through such a tough period are still with me today.

Ono sensei, who currently (at the time of the interview) is a director of the ZNKR and in the past was the director of both the imperial guards and national police, used to bring people together and secretly practice kendo in the local Butokuden. His (brave!) excuse was that even though it was banned in schools, there was nothing stopping people from privately practicing.

When shinai-kyogi came around I also practised that, and won the National Athletic Meet, after which my nickname became ‘shinai kyogi Asagawa.’ I didn’t like this at all so I decided to work hard at practising iaido (I already knew Toyama Gakko battojutsu). Although I started serious practise of iaido in order to clear my name, I kept going at it and am currently kyoshi 8dan. I believe that kendo and iaido are two sides of the same coin, and I know that Kamimoto Eiichi sensei (iaido hanshi 9dan, kendo hanshi 8dan) thought the same way. Whenever we did an iaido seminar we told everyone to bring their bogu, and we’d practise kendo no kata as well.

After this I was commissioned by Gifu city police dept. to teach kendo, but as I couldn’t earn enough to live, I also started a commercial industry side job as well. However, doing 2 jobs at once wasn’t working well, so I decided then to concentrate solely on kendo. I was working at police dept and teaching at a high school, but it still wasn’t enough. My wife then helped out by finding work in a traditional dance troupe. From the ages of 26-29 all I did was kendo and, my father getting sick of it, kicked me out. I ended up living in a primary school gym’s night guard station. There were only 2 rooms there, and it was when my son was about 6 or 7 years old.

Despite working multiple jobs (police kendo teacher, high school kendo teacher, and as the attendant at the primary school gym I was living in) plus my wife’s dancing, we still didn’t have enough money to live. At the time the police system was under reform and I wondered if I couldn’t get a proper full time job as a police kendo shihan. At this time the idea came to me that if I won the (recently begun) All Japan Kendo Championships then I’d get offered a full time position somewhere. With this in mind I took the money we had saved for my son’s school tuition, and embarked, in 1955 at the age of 36, on a musha-shugyo.

The first place I went to was Keishicho in Tokyo and after that I walked around Kanto for a month doing kendo here and there. The last place I arrived at was Mito Tobukan. I spent a week in the dojo practising multiple times a day. Kowaza sensei would ask me ‘Don’t you miss your wife?’ ‘Of course I do’ I said, ‘I am fighting hard to continue this hard shugyo.’ Kozawa sensei said ‘What you are doing is admirable, but you must look after body more carefully. It’s about time you went home.’ The next day, after a warm friendly handshake from Kozawa sensei, I headed home. I was resolved to use this experience in challenging the following years All Japan Championships.”

The following year Asagawa sensei qualified as the Gifu prefecture representative to the 4th All Japan Kendo Championships.

“When someone secured their position as a prefectural representative there would usually be gifts and celebratory parties. However, I refused all of these things and set off towards Tokyo secretly in a late night train one week before the shiai. Nobody saw me of at the station but my wife. I got off the train in Kanagawa and practised with the police department. I was in amazing form, as if the ‘shobu-Asagawa’ of old had come back! However, even though I was in great form I couldn’t relax. I played some pachinko and I couldn’t relax. I visited Hachimangu shrine in Kamakura and still couldn’t relax. Lastly I visited the Kamakura Daibutsu. There I sat facing him until the sun came up.

What I realised during that night was that I desired to win to much; I was trying too hard. I decided then to just give up, to stop thinking only of winning. Then, finally, I felt clear.

So I had thrown all thoughts of victory out. It was my first time in the competition after all, and there were famous competitors such as Nakakura Kiyoshi and Iho Kyotsugu taking part. Probably because of being known as ‘Shinai-kyogi Asugawa’ nobody thought I had a chance. At the party before the event when all the competitors were in attendance, one of the top sensei stood up and said ‘Good luck Nakakura, good luck Nakamura (Nakamura Taro was the previous years winner. He won the title twice and was runnier up a further twice)!’ but nothing to me. ‘What about me?’ I asked, to which he replied smoothly, half in jest ‘Oh yeah, good luck Asagawa!’ Thoughts of ‘I’m going to beat you all tomorrow’ started to swim in my head but I tried not to think about it and jinx my chances.

The next day I met last years winner Nakamura and his friends travelling to the venue. ‘Hey Asagawa’ said Nakamura ‘Please carry the winners flag for me’ he demanded in jest. I carried if for him from the station to the venue. Little did I think I’d meet him in the final of the competition later that same day.

The shiai

My first round fight was a no-show, but in the 2nd round I faced difficulty versus Takano from Kanagawa. This was the only difficulty I was to face that day until the final. After this fight I sailed smoothly through the rounds until I faced last years winner Nakamura in the finally.

Actually, a few days early when I practised at Kanagawa police dept. Nakamura was there. I asked him for a fight and – because I was on excellent form that day and he saw that – he refused. This decision of Nakamura’s, I believe, changed my life. Had he accepted that challenge that day and we keiko-ed together then perhaps there would have been no strange feeling during the final that day. Perhaps I might even have lost. However, he had refused due to fear, and now he must face it. He had too much pride and was scared to lose to someone such as me.

When the shiai started I thought I’d attempt a kote-dou, hoping that my kote strike would take the mind of his dou just enough so I could strike it. However, when I went for kote I raised my hands too much and he struck my dou immediately. Ippon. Nihon-me. I changed my tactic and started aggressively attacking his kote. His movement was fast so every time I’d attempt to get debanagote we’d do ai-uchi and end up in tsubazeria. This happened a number of times. However, when he tried kote-men I was able to strike his kote successfully. Ippon. Shobu. Nakamura was strong in shiai and would strike me the minute he saw any sort of opening. However I was ready for him and struck his dou. Shobu-ari. Everyone on the venue was clapping and so were the shinpan.

When I returned to Gifu there was a big reception awaiting me at the train station: my wife’s dancing students, policemen, members of the public, and even an open roofed car. I tried to avoid all the fuss by getting off at the other side of the train, but I was soon discovered and pointed towards the celebrations. At 37 years old, it was the first time I had ridden such a fancy car in my life.

However, even though I trained hard, devoted myself to getting a full time police kendo teaching post, and won the All Japan Championships, I wasn’t given such a job. ‘There is no quota for such a position in Gifu police department’ they said.

Although my economic situation didn’t change because of the win, I started to become known amongst the general public. Due to this some nefarious people would drop my name when trying to make deals to build gyms and such like. Tiring of all this, at 39 years old I decided to rid myself of kendo once and for all. I planned to rip up my All Japan Kendo Championships winners certificate and go into some sort of business to make money.

Just at that time a city council member said he had some land near where I live. He offered to rent it to me and suggested that I should build and run a dojo on it. However, I had no money at all. My friends and my wife’s students got together and worked out the details: ‘lets get together and build a dojo’ they said. The ‘Asagawa dojo support group was founded with 60 starting members. It was settled then, my destiny, my life, was to be kendo. We built a dojo called ‘SORYUKAN’ (雙柳館) to teach kendo and traditional Japanese dancing.”


Asagawa sensei would go onto run multiple dojo’s and be one of the starting members and serve on the executive committee of the All Japan Kendo Dojo Renmei (an association of childrens dojo that exists beneath the ZNKR). He was awarded 8dan in 1969 and hanshi in 1974. In 1979 he attained iaido 8dan.

Note that Soryukan still exists in Gifu today. It looks like it’s run by Asagawa sensei’s son and maybe grandson. It seems – at least to me – then that his kendo life was extremely successful.

I’ll end this article with a last quote from Asagawa sensei:

「私の教育の目標は、日本一になってもめしは食えない。剣道は駄目。剣道の精神で人間形成をして、社会生活に勝つための剣道を教えるとおいうこと。」

“The educational objective of kendo for me is this. Even if you become the best in Japan it won’t allow you to eat. Kendo itself is useless. The point is that the kendo spirit is the means to forging the self, and it’s through this that you can lead you to become successful in todays society.”


Sources

私の剣道の修行 (第2巻)。「剣道時代」編集部。
Pictures from 雙柳舘 淺川道場.

Kurai wa Momoi 位は桃井

Edo in panorama, 1865 or 66
Edo in panorama, 1865 or 66

Edo, December 1865. Momoi Junzo and 8 of his disciples were walking home in the fading evening light after finishing their end of year keiko. Despite the cold and the late hour, the city was still busy preparing for the upcoming end-of-year and new-year celebrations. Coming down the hill at Choenjizaka and tuning into Ichigaya they came face to face with a group of horsemen travelling in the opposite direction. As the street was narrow Momoi and his disciples moved to give the horsemen space. Suddenly, one of the horsemen shouted brusquely:

“This is the city patrol, get out of our way!”

Despite the rude manner, Momoi replied calmly:

“Please, pass by.”

“Get further out of the way!” one of the horsemen shouted. “We need more space, move! We are the Shinchogumi under command of the Sakai family from Shonai domain. We are charged with policing the city. Move!”

“We saw that you were patrolmen and moved to let you pass. As you can see, we cannot move further than we have. Surely you can squeeze past?” replied Momoi.

“What?! Are you disobeying our order!” barked one of the horsemen, at which Momoi’s top student Ueda Umanosuke lost it:

“What the hell !?! I can’t forgive such insolence!!!!”

Immediately a number of the Shinchogumi as well as Ueda drew their swords and moved towards each other. All hell had broken loose.

In that instant Momoi stepped in-between the drawn swords. He faced the man who seemed to be the Shinchogumi’s superior officer and said gently:

“Excuse me, but I think you can see that we moved aside for you. Do you have any intention to rein in your men? Or are you planning to allow them to cut us down?”

The calmness of Momoi’s question disarmed the superior officer and he made no reply. Momoi then stepped forward, grabbed the still-mounted officers hakama, and pulled him strongly:

“Now, get down of your horse, I want a word with you.”

The dismounted officer and Momoi stood face to face:

“My name is Momoi Junzo, and I am a Shogun-appointed kenjutsu teacher at the Kobusho. Even though you are a follower of the Sakai family from the Shonai domain and an officially appointed patrolman, I can’t forgive your outrageous actions. If it’s a fight you want then I won’t stop it.”

Motioning towards his top student:

“This here is Ueda Umanosuke. He has a reckless disposition and it looks like he didn’t use up all his energy at keiko today.”

The officer, immediately realising just who it was he had crossed, meekly apologised, followed by his red faced men, and the whole affair was settled.

Momoi never drew his sword.


The dignity of Momoi Junzo

位は桃井、技は千葉、力は斎藤
Momoi has dignity, Chiba skill, and Saito power

Known mostly nowadays as the 4th generation master of Kyoshin meichi-ryu, Momoi Junzo (1825-85) was a highly significant kenshi in the late Edo/early Meiji period. He first reached fame while teaching kenjutsu in central Edo in the 1850’s. His dojo, Shigakukan, was one of the most renowned dojo in the city, ranking with Chiba Shunsuke’s Genbukan and Saito Yakuro’s Renpeikan (collectively they were know as the “3 big dojo’s of Edo”).

His prowess was awarded with promotion in status and a teaching position at the highly prestigious Kobusho (Bakufu military training academy). From this position – and through his students – he would go onto to influence (directly and indirectly) on what would later become kendo.


 Konda hachimangu

Finding Junzo (field work)

Although I’ve known that Momoi moved to Osaka during the Bakumatsu period for a number of years now, I hadn’t really bothered rolling up my sleeves and poking around to see if I could find any remnants of the man… mainly because there was – as far as I knew – no physical structures left that I could go and visit. Recently, however, I accidentally discovered that in later life he had worked as a shinto priest just south of Osaka and that his grave was in the vicinity of the shrine. Using the excuse of a sore elbow, I decided to skip keiko one Saturday and go exploring.

The grave: Momoi’s grave is located in the far corner of a gravesite situated on the edge of a Kofun, a type of very old and, usually very large, key-shaped mound grave unique to Japan. The particular mound is called Hakayama Kofun and is located very near Furuichi station in Habikino, south Osaka. I guess nobody really visits the area much as there are almost no sign posts and very little information on Momoi save a very old and very faded bio of his life. Momoi’s wife Fumiko is also interred at the same site.

The shrine: A short 15 minute walk from the gravesite takes you to Konda Hachimangu (originally constructed in 1051), the large and spacious shinto shrine where Momoi spent his final years. Although there would’ve been a dojo in the grounds back in the day, there was no sign of one now.

Although there isn’t a lot of physical remnants of the Momoi left to wonder at, it’s nice to put the shinai and the books down now and then and actually get out and visit somewhere. It also served as a great impetus for revision.

If you are in Osaka and looking for something alternative to visit rather than the usual places, then I can recommend this as a nice afternoon out. Check out the gallery below for pictures of his grave and the shrine.


Keishicho kendo teachers - Naito is second row from the bottom, first on the right

Kyoshin meichi-ryu and keishicho

The marriage of keishicho (Tokyo metropolitan police force) and kendo dates back to 1879, when it’s first Superintendent-General – Kawaji Toshiyoshi – published the Gekken Saikoron, his thoughts about why kendo should be included in the police system. Kawaji’s arguments won the day and within 2 years of the Gekken Saikoron being published, it’s first kenjutsu instructors were employed.

The first batch of instructors were chosen by Sakakibara Kenkichi (perhaps with input from Momoi?) and included the following of Momoi’s students: Kajikawa Yoshimasa, Ueda Umanosuke, and Henmi Sosuke. More of Momoi’s students were also employed by keishicho later, for example Sakabe Daisuke.

It was these kenshi that would put together the Keishi-ryu gekken and battojutsu kata, both of which include a single Kyoshin meichi-ryu kata each.… all that is left of the school today. It’s important to note that this was the first ever attempt at trying to standardise a set of kata to be taught to swordsmen from differing backgrounds, and as such can be considered a forerunner to kendo kata.

In the years that followed, young keishicho kenjutsu teachers/students would go on to include Naito Takaharu, Takano Sasaburo, and Monna Tadashi amongst others… all of whom would receive instruction under Kyoshin meichi-ryu kenshi (i.e. Momoi’s disciples). They would all also be involved in the creation of kendo kata in the future.

Nowadays it’s hard to measure exactly what impact/influence Momoi had on keishicho and modern kendo (especially since Kyoshin meichi-ryu is now no longer extant), but we can probably surmise that it wasn’t insignificant.


The location of Shigakukan in Tokyo is marked with this sign

Timeline

1825: born in Suruga province, Numazu domain (present day Shizuoka prefecture) as the 2nd son of the samurai Tanaka Toyoaki. His childhood name was Tanaka Zinsuke and his adult name Naomasa.

1838: went to Edo (Tokyo) and began studying Kyoshin meichi-ryu at Shigakukan under the 3rd generation teacher of the school, Momoi Naokatsu.

1852: became the 4th generation master of the school, taking on the hereditary name of “Momoi Junzo” (by this time he had taken the current teachers daughter as a wife and was adopted into the family).

1856: The Tosa domain samurai Takechi Hanpeita comes to Edo and enters Shigakukan (already an accomplished swordsman, this shows Momoi’s fame). Spotting Takechi’s talent, Momoi makes him the chief student of the dojo.

1862: The shogunate promotes Momoi, making him a direct retainer of the shogun. He is then ordered to become a kenjutsu teacher at the shogunate’s military training facility for senior retainers, the Kobusho. Other instructors included Odani Seiichiro and Sakakibara Kenkichi (Yamaoka Tesshu entered as a student and became an assistant instructor).

1867: is made the head bodyguard of Tokugawa Yoshinobu when he goes to Kyoto after which he is appointed a kenjutsu instructor at the short-lived Kobusho in Osaka (at Tamatsukuri). Disagreeing with the Boshin war, Momoi and a few of his students withdraw to the south of Osaka.

1868: government forces expel the shogunate forces from the Kansai area and burn down Osaka castle. The shogunate attempt to recruit Momoi to their cause again but he refuses. Instead he takes up an offer from the loyalist government to teach kenjutsu to soldiers from Satsuma, Choshu, and Geishu who would be responsible for policing Osaka. A dojo was built for this purpose in a now no longer extant temple in Tenma.

1868-70: after the prefectural system was set up and “Osaka prefecture” came in to being, a more official policing structure was started called the Naniwa-tai (it began with 80 members). Momoi was 1 of the 4 leaders of this where he continued to teach kenjutsu. At its peak, there were over 600 peace keepers in the system. In 1870 the organisation was split up as the civil war was over (the modern police system would not begin until later). During this period a new Shigakukan based in central Osaka was built and he taught kenjutsu here as well.

1875: becomes head priest of Konda-hachimangu where he built a dojo and taught kenjutsu, and Chinese classics.

1884: becomes the official kendo instructor for Osaka prefecture

1885: dies of cholera.

2005: is awarded a posthumous citing from the All Japan Kendo Federation


Notes:
1. the terms kendo, kenjutsu gekken, gekiken, shinai uchikomi are often used synonymously in this article.
2. the kanji for “Momoi” is sometimes read “Momonoi”


Sources

This article is based more on “pulp” sources rather than academic or original sources. There is nothing online in English about Momoi at all, so please consider this simply a basic primer about the man, rather than something academically substantial. Note that I used some artistic licence in the introductory part of the article!!

日本武芸小伝。綿谷雪。国格書刑行会。
大江戸剣豪列伝。小学新書。館田澤拓也。
剣の達人111人データファイル。新人物住来社。
桃井春蔵
Shigagukan picture taken from this website.

Kyoto taikai over the years

With April almost over and May looming ahead, the entire kendo community here in Japan gets ready for the most important season / event of the kendo calendar: the Kyoto Taikai.

The first Kyoto Taikai was held in 1895 to celebrate the completion of Heian Jingu (itself a celebration and part copy of the foundation of the ancient imperial capital of Japan, Heian-kyo), and has been held every year since, excluding the period of upheaval during and after WW2 and a couple of years for Tenran-jiai purposes (1898 and 1914). This year (2014) is the 110th taikai.

The Butokukai’s HQ dojo – the original Butokuden – was built inside what was then the grounds of Heian-jingu in 1899 and has been the venue for the Kyoto taikai ever since.

Long term readers of kenshi 24/7 know all of this already of course, so I thought I’d tackle the usual Kyoto-taikai theme a bit different this year by investigating what – or what hasn’t – CHANGED about the taikai during this time.

Note that a lot of what’s written below is speculative in nature as – obviously – I can’t go back in time. My opinions are based on extensive reading about the matter, including some first hand accounts of the taikai and it’s changes over the years. Please keep this in mind when reading.

大日本武徳会本部正門

Pre-war Kyoto Taikai

First of all, the taikai’s main function back in the day was to bring together budo practitioners from around the country in one place for a few days (kendo of course was core discipline of the event, but it grew to encompass most of the other modern budo of the time). In the beginning, of course, there weren’t really any professional kendo teachers around, so it was a hodgepodge of various sensei from different traditions.

From the very first taikai the Butokukai started to award those that fought well – they were given a Seirensho (the forerunner to renshi). This would expand and develop over the years into the shogo system: renshi, kyoshi, and hanshi. Both status and job-wise it was very important, therefore, to go to the taikai, show your face, fight well, and get your shogo.

Back to the early 1900s. After years of political lobbying, kendo became a required school subject for boys in 1908. Due to this happening organisations emerged that helped produce kendo professionals (i.e. school teachers). The earliest and most important of these was Busen (led by Naito Takaharu) in 1905 (or rather it’s immediate antecedent Bujutsu Kyoiun Yoseijo), and we also cannot fail to mention the impact of Takano Sasaburo at Tokyo Shihan Kotogakko from 1908, nor Saimura Goro at Kokushikan from 1917. Of course, other kendo teacher-training facilities/programmes existed, but these 3 were to have the largest influence. After people graduated from these places they were sent to schools all over Japan (eventually including Korea, China, and Taiwan) to disseminate a newer, more structured, kendo (these same early graduates would also go on to begin programmes at different universities and influence Keishicho).

The taikai, then, became a place where these widely spread kendo teachers could get back together for a short time. This served not only as a place/time where they could do kendo with other people of their own level and above, but also as a chance to exchange information and disseminate ideas (for example Butokukai shinpan methodology). Since kendo as we know it was basically built/structured in the time between 1905-1940, I consider this is a very important point.

kyoto2014-2

Differences emerge post-war

Even today the Kyoto taikai keeps it’s main function as a place where people from all over the country get together, but some changes have emerged.

The change with the largest impact is – I believe – is the taikai’s role in senior grading decisions. Pre-war shogo were awarded after your tachiai was finished – your performance explicitly influencing the award decision. Post-war, the 8dan shinsa was held after the taikai and your tachiai performance was implicitly included in the decision making process. At some point (1980s?) the 8dan shinsa was moved to before the taikai. At this instant the meaning of the tachiai for 8dan challengers changed.

What spurred this change I wonder? Could it just be sheer volume of challengers? At some point as well, another 8dan shinsa was added into the yearly schedule (people in Kanto complained, as did people who wanted to take a holiday with their family during golden week) and the Kyoto taikai’s role in the senior grading process (i.e. tachiai performance) was essentially over. This year (2014) also saw the addition of a third 8dan shinsa (Okayama in March). Why we need another 8dan shinsai seems to baffle myself and my kendo colleagues. The only answer we could come up with is that its a monetary decision (i.e. the ZNKR want more of it). Needless to say, shogo awards are also now divorced from the taikai.

Concomitant with the change above is the fact that all the top sensei in the organisation (be that Butokukai pre-war or ZNKR post-war) used to watch the entire taikai. Obviously if the tachiai had an impact on senior grades then those making the decisions had to watch. Nowadays – since the tachiai means nothing grading-wise – the seats reserved for the top sensei are quite empty. Even if the tachiai has nothing to do with any sort of award, doing it in front of less senior sensei or even a 1/2 empty table has, I believe, a subtle – yet important – impact on the people doing the tachiai.

Post-war kendo became much more democratic and it underwent a boom in the 1960s and 70s. This produced a large number of senior teachers who of course take part in the taikai today. It’s hard exactly to measure – this is just my feeling – but I wonder if its the sheer volume of teachers that has forced the tachiai to be not only timed nowadays, but be very short? Pre-war tachiai (especially hanshi’s tachiai) would continue until both sensei decided the bout was finished – they were not ruled by the clock.

Another possible impact of the boom is that – even for many years in the post-war period – you would be called to your tachiai by your name and which dojo/group you were affiliated with whereas nowadays its by prefecture (or country for visitors). I guess this is because nowadays – because the community is much larger and less-centered around a handful of base institutions – we don’t know, haven’t heard of, or are just not interested in dojo from other prefectures.

One last point to note is that the taikai starts on the 2nd of May ever year…. not the 3rd. The 2nd hosts embu by various koryu, plus jodo and iaido. Nowadays this part of the taikai is the least well attended and seems to be treated by the ZNKR as an “extra” bit at the front. Proof of this is that there is two opening ceremonies – one on the 2nd and another (for kendo people) on the 3rd – and the fact that the ZNKR don’t even bother to make available a pdf of the participants on it’s website. This is very different from the taikai’s origins as for most of the early period of kendo existence every senior member had a kenjutsu background and there would be quite a lot of kata demonstration. Now the koryu embu are basically over in an hour, and the rest of the day is filled with jodo and iaido. A related point is that the ZNKR is built around the core discipline of kendo with iaido as adjunct art and jodo as something extra, whereas the Butokukai had – although kendo was still the core – a much wider remit regarding budo teaching and development as a whole. I think this is indicative of how much not only kendo practitioners have changed over the years, but of a large shift in the culture of kendo (and budo) itself. Needless to say, this change isn’t insignificant.

kyoto-taikai

A tentative conclusion

Basically, the kendo format of the taikai hasn’t changed that much in the past 120 years except perhaps the “grading” aspect of the tachiai plus the very short time limit. The lack of emphasis or interest in the koryu section plus the exclusion of other budo deserves note, as I believe it’s evidence of something fundamentally different in kendo nowadays compared to 100 years ago.

An interesting subject, I think it deserves a lot more research. Perhaps, in a few years, I’ll make a more concrete effort.

At any rate, I hope you found this post interesting. I will be in Kyoto for the entire taikai again this year – if you see me, please say hello!

kyoto2014-3