Interview with Swordmaster: Kiyoshi Nakakura (2) by Stanley Pranin

This is the second of a two-part interview with Kiyoshi Nakakura Sensei, 9th dan hanshi in both Kendo and Iaido and one of Japan’s top swordsmen. It was conducted on December 23, 1987 by Editor Stanley Pranin at the residence of Nakakura Sensei in Higashi Murayama City.

Kiyoshi Nakakura (1910-2000)

I believe Ueshiba Sensei taught at the Toyama School and the Military Police School?

Yes, he did teach at the Toyama School, the Military Police School and also the Naval Staff College sometimes but he did not receive a monthly salary from them. He received an honorarium every time he visited these places.

We understand that Admiral Isamu Takeshita studied under Ueshiba Sensei for a long time.

While I was at the Ueshiba Dojo, he was an adviser to the Kobukan or something of the sort. I met him many times and also visited his house. He was present at my wedding as well. He also practiced at the dojo. I understand that he left some 2,000 pages of notes of Ueshiba Sensei’s techniques.

Of course we now call the art “Aikido” but in those days a different name was used, I believe.

The art was called “Daito-ryu” because of the connection with Sokaku Takeda. Then a few years later it was changed to Aikido. It seems that while I was there, various names were used for the art. For example, “Aioi-ryu” or “Aiki Budo” and so on. I think that the name “Aikido” was used quite a bit later. The dojo was built before I enrolled but its name was changed to the Kobukan while I was there, probably around 1932 or 1933. The land used to be part of a mansion called the “Tsugaru” which was owned by a lord of Aomori Prefecture. The Ueshibas used to rent a section of about 100 tsubo (one tsubo = 3.954 sq. yds.). I think it was around the time I was leaving the dojo that they were asked to buy the land and they did.

How did Admiral Takeshita support Ueshiba Sensei?

When I was there Ueshiba Sensei never received money from him or anything like that. Sensei used to receive a gift during the traditional bon summer period and the end of the year from Admiral Takeshita and that was all. There was an association named the “Harada Sekizenkai” which contributed funds to places like the Ueshiba dojo and a man called Osumi who was an admiral was the president. Admiral Takeshita told Mr. Osumi about the Ueshiba dojo and the dojo used to receive 100 yen per month from this association. 100 yen at that time was quite a sum. I imagine that Admiral Takeshita was around 70 years old then.

I believe there were navy officers practicing at the dojo who had connections with the Omoto religion such as Admiral Seikyo Asano.

The Omoto religion did have a positive influence on Mr. Ueshiba as well as on Aikido. However, there were some negative aspects too. I think it is because Mr. Ueshiba was an Omoto believer that he created such divine techniques and also came to hold such a faith. So these are pluses. However, from our standpoint, a religion responsible for an inci-dent of lese-majeste is questionable. Actually, though, I don’t know now whether the activities of the religion were really disrespectful to the Emperor or not.

We understand that the second Omoto incident of 1935 (where the pre-war Japanese military suppressed the Omoto religion destroying much of its property) put Ueshiba Sensei in a very difficult situation. Do you know anything about the matter?

In the Omoto incident of 1935, Onisaburo Deguchi Sensei as well as his wife, the second successor of the religion, were arrested. Also, the Osaka police department was ordered to arrest Ueshiba by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. At that time he was instructing police officers including a Mr. Kenji Tomita who was then the chief of the Sonezaki Police Department and who later became the head of the Criminal Law Bureau. Mr. Tomita knew that Mr. Ueshiba was not the sort of person who would involve himself in a lese-majeste affair. Mr. Tomita insisted that if they were going to arrest Mr. Ueshiba, they would have to arrest him first. It was because of his efforts that Mr. Ueshiba was not detained.

Was Ueshiba Sensei in Osaka at that time?

That’s right. His wife, Hatsu, was also there. I was in Tokyo. Kisshomaru was here also. In the Ueshiba dojo there were shrines dedicated to Omoto deities and many framed calligraphic works by Reverend Onisaburo Deguchi hung on the wall. They were things which Mr. Ueshiba valued highly. However, I tore all of them down and burned them. The live-in students were surprised and asked me if it was all right for me to do so. However, it had nothing to do with being right or wrong. To hang up or display such things was a lese-majeste affair, you see. If Mr. Ueshiba’s wife was present then, I don’t think I could have done such a thing. I could only do it because nobody was there.

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