history kendo kenshi

Mei-shobu: Oshima Jikita vs Nakayama Hakudo

It was a relaxing Sunday autumn morning in Kyoto when the school dormitory’s door was flung open:

“Everyone! Nakayama Hakudo and Kawasaki Zenzaburo are practising at the Gojo police station!!!!”

The Butokukai’s bujutsu kyoin yoseijo (martial arts training school) was established in 1905 and was the direct forerunner to the legendary Busen. All five of the future kendo 10th dans came from the initial bunch of students who trained here directly under the father of modern kendo, the very strict but gentlemanly Naito Takaharu sensei. In these early days there was no keiko on Sundays, so the students had free time.

Hearing the news, a young 19 year old student immediately sprung to his feet. Quickly changing into his keikogi and hakama, he stuffed his bogu into a bag and grabbed a shinai:

“I’m off!” he declared.

Nakayama needs no introduction here. Kawasaki, however, is less well known in kendo circles today. Born to a kenjutsu instructor of the Tosa domain in 1860, Kawasaki was a highly skilled swordsman 12 years senior to Nakayama (slightly older than both Naito Takaharu and Takano Sasaburo).

When the out of breath student arrived at the dojo he was out of luck: keiko was already over. Both sensei had removed their bogu and were sitting down relaxing with a cup of tea. This didn’t stop the zealous young man! Sitting in seiza in front of Nakayama he bowed deeply:

“Sensei, onegaishimasu!”

Nakayama eyed the youngster carefully.

“Keiko is already finished. Maybe some other time.”

“Sensei! My name is Oshima Jikita and I’m a kendo student at the bujutsu kyoin yoseijo. I heard that you were here and came running. Please, even if it’s only for one ippon, please, keiko onegaishimasu!”

Oshima’s ardour was apparent on his face.

“Ha ha ha, ok! Your youthful zeal has beaten me! C’mon then, let’s do 5-hon shobu!”

The year was Meiji 41 (1908), and the 36 year old Nakayama was at his physical peak.

Both kenshi put their bogu on, picked up their shinai and faced each other in the middle of the dojo. The people that participated in the earlier keiko session sat down in a line and watched with anticipation.



Standing up from sonkyo both kenshi immediately let out a loud kiai. Slowly and carefully the distance was closed. Ai-seigan. Nakayama’s kensaki moved just a little and suddenly Oshima flew in…


“Oh!” said one of the spectators, “Nakayama sensei has been struck!”

Everyone was surprised. In the earlier keiko session nobody had managed to strike Nakayama anywhere, and yet here was this young lad who managed to do so without much fuss. And it didn’t stop there: Oshima next delivered a strong thrust and then a kote. Oshima beat Nakayama 3-0.

“Eh…. ?!?! Nobody can hit Nakayama sensei three times!?”

“It’s a miracle!”

The spectators were shocked.

Kawasaki stood up from where he had been watching the bout, and moved towards where his bogu was lying. Starting to put on his tare and dou he suddenly said:

“How about me next then? 3-bon shobu.”

“Sensei, onegaishimasu!” replied Oshima.

The result was the same: Oshima struck men, then delivered another thrust to win the bout.

Taking off his men, Kawasaki turned to Nakayama:

“This one has got something.”

Even if it’s highly probable that both sensei were humouring the enthusiastic youngster by only lightly sparring with him, the fact is that Oshima was skilled enough to land strikes and thrusts on them, a difficult task for even the most seasoned of kenshi. A month earlier, in what was one of the first country-wide competitions for youths (under 25s / kachinuki style), Oshima defeated 23 people in a row taking his team to victory. He was still only 19 years old at the time.

Oshima (white) vs Ueda Heitaro in 1934
Oshima (white) vs Ueda Heitaro in 1934

A brief bio

Oshima Jikita (kendo hanshi, iaijutsu and jukenjutsu kyoshi) is one of the early giants of the kendo community. His untimely death at the early age of 51 is probably why he is mostly forgotten today. Had he lived through the war, however, it is probably that he would have been awarded 10th dan at the same time as his long-time kendo friends and fellow bujutsu kyoin yoseijo students: Saimura, Mochida, Nakano, and Ogawa (and later, Oasa).

Along with his teaching duties at bujutsu kyoin yoseijo/Busen he also taught kendo at various places around the country, e.g. Kokushikan, Keishicho, the imperial guards, Toyama military school, etc etc.

He practised keiko right up until the day of his untimely death.



1889: Born in Saga prefecture.
1906: Graduated school.
1907: Attends the bujutsu kyoin yoseijo and studies directly under Naito Takaharu. Other students there at the time include Saimura Goro, Mochida Moriji, Nakano Sosuke, Hori Shohei, Miyazaki Mosaburo and Ogawa Kinnosuke.
1908: Graduates bujutsu kyoin yoseijo (November).
1909: Appointed an assistant at the bujutsu kyoin yoseijo.
1913: Awarded seirensho
1916: Becomes an assistant instructor at the bujutsu kyoin yoseijo.
1919: Awarded kendo kyoshi and becomes a full instructor at the bujutsu kyoin yoseijo.
1925: Awarded jukendo kyoshi.
1929: Takes part in the first of the Showa tenran-jiai. He was defeated by Mochida in the preliminary matches. Mochida goes on to win the competition. Awarded iaijutsu kyoshi.
1932: Awarded kendo hanshi.
1934: Faced Ueda Heitaro at a demonstration match of the tenran budo taikai (pictured above).
1939: Died of a cerebral apoplexy (51 years old).



By George

George is the founder and chief editor of
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4 replies on “Mei-shobu: Oshima Jikita vs Nakayama Hakudo”

Many thanks for this – fascinating!

Just a few more words about Kawazaki Zensaburo. As mentioned above he was a kenshi coming out of a long line of Kochi swordsmen. His style was Mugai Ryu, which was widely spread throughout Japan as a result of founder Tsuji Gettan’s fame and kenjutsu teachings to many daimyo in the early 1700’s. Tsuji Gettan’s adopted son, Tsuji Kimata Sukehide, became the teacher to the Yamanouchi family in Kochi. It is this line which Kawazaki Zensaburo belonged to. Three generations of ‘Hijikata’ family succeeded Tsuji Kimata and then it transferred Kawazaki family, of which Zensaburo was the third. He is the one who maintained Mugai Ryu in the Yamanouchi Kochi clan until the end. Kawasaki was born in Man-en 1st year and one year younger than Takahashi Kyutaro – another famous Mugai Ryu (of the Sakai clan Himeji-line) kenshi of the pre-WWII kendo era. He entered into the services in the police department around Meiji 20th year.

Kawasaki Zanzaburo, Takahashi Kyutaro and Takano Sasaburo of Ono ha Itto Ryu were the three Hanshi and very famous to be called ‘Sanro Sanketsu’ – ‘The Three Crows’. Takano Hanshi was born in Bunkyu 2nd year and the youngest among these three and three years different from Takahashi Hanshi and two years from Kawasaki Hanshi. When they were in police department, they were all in their 20’s and they trained very hard. They would often train all through the night. They did Tachikiri keiko at Shunpukan of Yamaoka Tesshu for Taryujiai match and more training at Bishindo of Watanabe Noboru and etc.. They trained so hard that they often had bloody urine.
An interesting story is that Takahashi Hanshi liked to drink Sake all day, Takano Hanshi would not drink any other alcohol than beer, and Kawasaki Hanshi had a sweet tooth and never drink alcohol. They enjoyed their companionship until their later years and all of them lived a long life. Takahashi Hanshi died the age of 82, Kawasaki Hanshi died at the age of 85 and Takano Hanshi died at the age of 90.

I have a great picture of the three together, but I seem to be unable to include that in the post.

Flemming Madsen

Flemming, thanks for your comment. It’s longer than my original post!!

I think you are mistaking the term “Sanro Sanketsu” with “Sanba karasu,” the first meaning something like “the three great ROs” (SasabuRO, KyutaRO, and ZenzabuRO” whilst the second equals the “three crows.” But, it’s true, in texts about the three kenshi both terms are used.

Also, you should be carefully when using the traditional “official history” of some ryu-ha, as there is sometimes more wishful thinking that historical accuracy included therein. An example above would be the (extremely tenuous) Yamaoka Tesshu connection.

The story above (slightly re-imagined by me) is an example of oral history – I have no idea if it actually occurred or not, at least not in the way I’ve described above. Glad you enjoyed it though!

Thanks for this additonal insight. “The three great ROs” – I completely missed that….! Yes, I agree we should always be critical when it comes to these great stories about past (and sometimes present…) masters. The info comes from Nakagawa Shinichi Soke’s book, who was a direct student of Takahashi Kyutaro, but this could of course be his memory, anecdotes and fond memories of his teacher.

Al ltheb best – and keep it coming!

We must not also forget deliberate construction or re-construction of memory and events to suit needs as well. It’s happens even in the budo community today (though nowadays people have more information available at hand so claims can be disproven or cast doubt on easily).

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