Historical photo: “Morihei Ueshiba captivates budo aficionados among Tokyo’s elite” by Stanley Pranin

morihei-ueshiba-c1927

“Here in a single image that tells a story with many threads, we see a 43-year-old martial arts phenomenon at the outset of his illustrious career.”

In 1927, Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba moved his family to Tokyo from Ayabe, near Kyoto. They had spent the previous seven years living among the community of followers of the Omoto religion under the guidance of religious leader Onisaburo Deguchi. During his stay in Ayabe, with Onisaburo’s encouragement, Morihei honed his martial skills and began teaching privately out of his home dojo dubbed the “Ueshiba Juku.”

What led to Morihei’s decision to leave Ayabe was the increasing recognition of his exceptional abilities as a martial artist along with his charismatic personality that amazed and charmed many of those who came into contact with him. Beginning in 1925, Morihei, then in his early 40s, was invited by various influential persons to give demonstrations and seminars in Tokyo. Though somewhat tainted by his association with the controversial Omoto religion, Morihei made a strong impression among many of Tokyo’s elite who were admirers of the martial arts. Invitations and inducements to relocate to Japan’s capitol and largest city began to flow in. After consulting with Onisaburo whom Morihei considered his spiritual advisor, Ueshiba made the decision to move his family and start his martial arts teaching career in earnest.

The photo below is one of only a few that survive from Morihei Ueshiba’s early years in Tokyo. Here in a single image that tells a story with many threads, we see a 43-year-old martial arts phenomenon at the outset of his illustrious career. Some names you will recognize, others are essentially lost to history, but several of the individuals appearing here played important roles in Morihei’s early success in Tokyo.

Here I identify the known figures in this photo and provide basic information about their roles in early aikido history.


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