The Untold History of Modern Japan and Japanese Martial Arts 知らない近代日本史及武道史
Author: Lance Gatling ガトリング•ランス
Author / lecturer The Kanō Chronicles® 嘉納クロニクルの作者及講義者 www.kanochronicles.com
Resident in Japan >35 years. 35年間日本住人
40 years Asian studies. 40年間アジア研究
Japanese speaker and reader. 日本語話者°読者
Former US Army political-military affairs officer and US State Department Foreign Service officer. 元米軍東アジア地域担当官軍事政治事及米国務省外交官
Certified jūdō instructor, All Japan Judo Federation. 全日本柔道連盟指導者
Member of the Board, Tokyo Judo Federation 東京柔道連盟役員
Director, US Embassy Jūdō and Jūjutsu 米大使館柔道場長 www.facebook.com/usejc
Nihon Jujutsu® instructor 日本柔術指導者
Director, Tokyo Judo Federation, the largest in Japan. 東京都柔道連盟役員
Advisor, Int'l Martial Arts Federation www.imaf.com 国際武道院国際顧問
Ranked in Kodokan Jūdō, Nihon Jūjutsu, Shintō Musō ryū jōdō, Hapkidō, Takeuchi ryū jūjutsu. Studied other arts. 神道無双流杖道及韓国合気道有段者°備中伝竹内流柔術等武術者
For the October 2022 Kanō Society Bulletin, the editors chose three essays of mine.
• The Twelve Precepts of Jūdō • Sen, Go no Sen, Sen no Sen, and Sen Sen no Sen – What are they? • Fine Art at the Kodokan
The Twelve Precepts of Jūdō is an updated version of a shorter essay I posted a couple of years ago.
Sen is ‘initiative’ in Japanese. Certain martial arts cultivate the understanding of reading your opponents’ body language, movement, eye focus and other details to understand their intent and to steal the initiative from them – sometimes before their very thought is fully formed!
Finally, although Kanō shihan did not write or speak much about art, he was taken with a certain artist’s heroic and massive depiction of ‘Wildly Galloping Horses’, and had a large, two piece screen set commissioned that were apparently kept in his office most days but displayed in the Kodokan on special, ceremonial or formal occasions. The screens survived Kanō shihan’s death in 1938 only to be burned in one of the final air raids of Tokyo in 1945, when the Kodokan nearly burned down. (see the story of the 1945 Firebombing of the Kodokan here:
Lance Gatling Author / Lecturer, The Kanō Chronicles Tokyo, Japan Please provide feedback in the comments section or via email to Contact@KanoChronicles.com Please sign up to get updates of new material.
Examples of the calligraphy of Kanō shihan are abundant. Beyond a number of apparent fakes available (some pretty accurate simulations of a number of his different writing styles), Kanō offered to and did brush any number of calligraphy 掛け軸 kakejiku hanging scrolls and other materials for jūdō dōjō opening ceremonies, decorations for established dōjō and individuals (most often when overseas), and for other occasions. The overseas calligraphies of Kanō are notable in that most lack the red-inked seals he normally used while creating calligraphy at home in Japan.
I find one in particular very striking. In it Kanō shihan speaks of the importance of education and its ability to affect a “thousand far generations”.
The difficulty of roughly dating Kanō’s calligraphy, as they are seldom dated, is considerably eased by his use of pen names, names he changed over time at significant ages. On this calligraphy, Kanō shihan’s pen name is written by the three small vertical characters on the far left of the scroll, 進乎斎 followed below by two seals stamped in read ink.
The three pen names Kanō shihan used were: 「甲南」・「進乎斎」・「帰一斎」. This is marked with the second, which is a reference to a tale 2500 years old……
(to continue reading, click on the READ MORE link below)
As a bit of a change from our normal content, please see the attached presentation with my interpretation of 宮本武蔵 の 枯木鳴鵙図 Miyamoto Musashi`s Koboku Meigeki Zu “Shrike on a Withered Tree”.
In the philosophy of Kanō Jigorō, a well-rounded human pursues the study of 文武両道 bunbu ryōdō “the martial and the arts, both Ways”. This concept, that the study of both martial Ways and the Way of the arts is vital to balanced humanity is widely spread in the Far East; years ago I visited an ancient Buddhist temple in Vietnam and leaned my shoulder against a huge pillar to steady myself to take a long-exposure photo inside in the dim light. After I took some shots, I put my palm on the vermillion pillar to push myself upright, and only then noticed that my hand fell next to an intricate pattern carefully carved into the huge pillar and painted in black to stand out – 文武両道.
Although a miserable artist and calligrapher myself, I’ve always been fascinated by the ability of true artists to create a separate reality on canvas, and, for me, the fewer strokes, the better.
In Japan a genre called 墨絵 sumie, ink painting (sometimes ink wash painting) has a tremendous history. Classically written Japanese and Chinese are written with a brush dipped in ink. Traditionally the ink is made by rubbing soot ink from a 墨 sumi inkstick, a dried block like a soot crayon stabilized in glue, on the 硯 suzuri inkstone, and mixing it with water and adjusting for darkness. Practiced by hundreds of millions around the world for thousands of years, such calligraphy also provides a basis in the techniques of sumie ink wash painting, using the same basic simple tools.
One of the best known proponents of 文武両道 studying both the martial and the arts is the famous swordsman 宮本武蔵 Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645). Swordsman, strategist, philosopher, author, ronin masterless samurai and sumie artist, Musashi, as he is commonly known today, was never bested in 61 recorded duels. In his first duel at age 13, he wielded a wooden staff to best a grown man armed with a sword, stunned him with a blow between his eyes, then beat him to death….. (continued at “READ MORE” link below, including a PowerPoint presentation that can be downloaded.)
Recently I provided an essay to the Asiatic Society of Japan, the “oldest learned society in Japan” of which I am a member. See https://www.asjapan.org for an introduction to the Society.
It was founded in Yokohama in 1872, when Kanō Jigorō was only 12 years old and had just moved to the new Japanese capital ofTokyo with his family. By 1888 Kanō was one of the first Japanese members, and became a member of the first Japanese board of advisors. The Society membership was like a Who’s Who of a wide range of Japanese and Asias diplomacy, science, natural history, languages, cultures, and more.
The essay was provided to the Society’s Transactions 134 years after Kanō and a colleague at the Gakushin where Kanō was the vice-principal gave a lecture in 1888 then a demonstration of his new jūdō, making it one of if not the first known demonstration of jūdō to a foreign audience.
Later I made this presentation based on the essay, and gave it to an informal group of Japan-centric academics called Informasia.
Please enjoy, and let me know if you have questions or comments.
Lance Gatling Author / Lecturer The Kanō Chronicles Tokyo, Japan Contact@kanochronicles.com – please send a note to give us feedback. Thank you!
The paper linked herein was published in December 2021 in the International Judo Federation’s Arts and Science of Judo online ‘zine, Vol. 1, No. 2.
The Origins and Development of Kanō Jigorō’s Jūdō Philosophies By Lance Gatling. Pages 50-64.
Kanō’s jūdō philosophies – Seiryoku zenyō Jita kyōei – adorn tens of thousands of judo dojo across the world, but what exactly do these phrases mean? They are typically translated as ‘Best use of energy / mutual benefit’, even this does not clarify the origins and precise meaning of the phrases.
Despite many searches, I can’t find anything else like this paper. It details what Kanō proposed as the true philosophy of jūdō and how he adopted Western Utilitarian philosophy taught in his youth, blending in elements of traditional Eastern philosophies of Confucianism and Daoism. …….. (to continue reading, click on the READ MORE link below)
Just as national defense is necessary for a country, individuals must know how to defend themselves.
If another person comes at you wrongly with violence, you must know how to defend yourself; if you give up without even a thought, or without even a second thought, you will lose face.
Also, even as a people, when the time of need arises, you must be prepared to fight for the country.
In order to do this, in this day and age we must unceasingly learn jūjutsu, as a martial art the most valuable of all, and as individuals and as a nation we must be prepared with the necessary qualifications.
– Kanō Jigorō, Jūdō Kyōhon , 1931
NOTE: ‘losing face‘ is losing one’s honor and prestige because of an improper act or failure to act
Lance Gatling Author / Lecturer The Kanō Chronicles Tokyo, Japan Contact@kanochronicles.com – please send a note to give us feedback.
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Efforts to ascribe philosophical meaning to various martial arts seem perennial, but documents supporting origin claims are often transparently contrived or unsupported. Notable exceptions are China’s Shaolin kung fu, developed centuries ago and still taught at the Chan (Japanese: Zen) Buddhist Shaolin temple in China, and Japan’s Shorinji Kempō, developed to popularize the school’s Zen practice. Many koryū (ancient Japanese martial arts) claim unique philosophies but cite tales of inspiration by intense, training-inspired visions or even visitations by tengu (long-nosed goblins). But the genuine philosophical roots of one modern Japanese martial art practiced worldwide were misunderstood, overlooked, then finally lost to history. That art is jūdō, a modernized version of jūjutsu, the ancient samurai martial art of fighting barehanded.
Although Kanō spoke about his jūdō philosophies frequently in Japanese and occasionally in English for decades, he never disclosed their origins, and their exact meaning escaped jūdōka for nearly 100 years. While his writings were clearly influenced by ancient Eastern philosophy more than 2,200 years old, this paper, adopted from the forthcoming manuscript The Kanō Chronicles: The Untold History of Modern Japan,® will show how the core of his philosophy came from 19th century English philosophers.
The evolution of the jūdō keikogi (practice clothing) is one of the many minor mysteries of the history of judo. Many details in jūdō history of interest to some today simply were not recorded in any evident form available today, surely for a variety of reasons, including the likelihood that no one thought that many events were actually noteworthy. The evolution of the keikogi is simply another detail of history that changed, evolving over time, and at the times it changed, no one thought it important enough to record those changes in detail.
When Kanō shihan (master) started his jūjutsu practice (yes, jūjutsu, not jūdō) we know everyone wore street clothes. Over 30 years later he said that he noticed great differences in the quality of the clothes, as his students included very wealthy aristocratic children, the scions of noble Imperial court members, former samurai of various means, as well as poor street urchin / houseboys, a number of which he alone supported with room, board and an education. He wrote that he took note of the large differences in quality and condition of the clothing of the commoners versus the aristocrats. In order to ‘level the playing field’ so to speak, he had everyone change into early versions of the keikogi – the date was unspecified, but was apparently in the early to mid 1880s, as he wrote about it in the late 1880s.
The origin of those earliest keikogi is almost certainly a type of kimono undergarment – likely the 襦袢 juban or 半襦袢 han juban. Today the various types juban are typically made of very light, fine material, particularly for summer use, as they are under layers of heavier cloth. Fine silk or cotton / synthetic blend cloth juban worn under kimono could never stand up long in jūdōkeiko practice, but in the 1880s, daily use juban, particularly of commoners of modest means, were simple, sturdy cotton. Some 20 years later in the last days of the 19th century, Kanō shihan describes the final, premodern keikogi jacket as 白木綿 筒袖 袷襦袢 – white cotton, tight sleeved, lined juban – modified with triple layers of cloth above the waist, sleeves extending so far beyond elbows, longer coat tail to reach mid thigh, gathered in the front and held by an obi like a standard juban, etc., etc. He describes the pants as 白木綿 下穿 – white cotton ‘underpants’ – a term used more widely today to include exercise pants, etc.
Many such clothes were probably at least semi-custom made in the day, anyhow, so buying something incorporating the triple layer fabric and narrow, long sleeves Kanō specified was likely pretty simple. But some time early on, it seems likely that some enterprising tailor realized that thick, woven white cotton material was more suitable for tough outer wear and would be easier to assemble than three layers of standard material (and his customers would stop complaining about getting their keikogi ripped apart). Such thick, woven or even padded cotton material is commonly used in happi 半纏 short outer coats, famously used in matsuri festivals today, and winter hanten 法被 long outer coats. (This would seem to be a natural evolution for any half clever tailor, but the vague similarity between a modern keikogi top and a happi coat has made speculation about a relationship between them a popular pass time over the years. Kanō, a noted clotheshorse given to wearing rather fancy Western and Japanese clothes, certainly knew the difference between a juban and a happi, so I’m happy to accept his description of a modified juban as the basis of the keikogi.)
(Some Westerners call this ‘kimono underwear’, which it is, in a way, but I’d point out that casual seminudity was an aspect of life in the lower Japanese social classes, public baths and manual occupations that scandalized Western visitors well into the 20th century. So, I prefer ‘foundation garment’ as there was no apparent shame in men being seen dressed in such indoors, while at practice, while porters, laborers and jinrikisha ‘rickshaw men’ of the day might wear nothing but fundoshi loincloths or even less. Women and their modesty are a very different matter, and really didn’t become an issue until the 20th century when Kanō ended his secret lessons for women and began teaching them openly.)
After nearly two decades of experience he (mostly like both Kanō and his teaching staff) realized that longer sleeves and pants legs would better protect practitioners’ knees and elbows from abrasion from the rush straw tatatmi (mats) they had standardized as a floor covering. The longer sleeves and pants legs were probably being used experimentally starting in the 1890s; their use became mandatory around 1906. The change was probably enacted over time as students wore out their old ones, which also helps make the precise date of the adoption of the change vague. In 1909 Kanō wrote at length about the development of his notions of the keikogi, noting that in the old days of jūjutsu that competitors sometimes fought near naked, but that modern modesty and health, along with practical safety considerations, made traditional clothing and even the wide varieties of modern Western clothing less practical for instruction of jūdō.
Also there was always a lot of variation in keikogi until recent competition driven detailed rules – as late as the 1930s jūdō instruction books often included patterns for homemade keikogi, and even instruction methods that did not require keikogi.
Frankly, what’s always been more interesting to me than the keikogi is the origin of the modern obi – as the original belts were thin, single layer cloth strips tied in a bowtie – look closely at photos of Kanō shihan and Mifune sensei. And I can’t find any evidence, but think it was an invention of clothing makers postwar, upselling judoka with fancy, thick and even embroidered belts.
Ads for keikogi appear in Kodokan publications pretty early on and carry on today.
Lance Gatling Author / Lecturer The Kanō Chronicles Tokyo, Japan Contact@kanochronicles.com – please send a note to give us feedback, and type your email then click the “Subscribe” link below to subscribe to get notifications of new material posted. Thank you!
(updated 10.6.2022) This rare text by Kanō shihan (master) is very indirect and complex. The below is simply a truncated paraphrasing of that list in an obscure early Showa era book.
The ‘practice’ mentioned is 修行 shugyō, which the excellent www.jisho.org defines as:
1. ascetic practices (Buddhist term) 2. training; practice; discipline; study 3. Wiki: Shugyo – Sādhanā (Sanskrit साधन, Tibetan སྒྲུབ་ཐབས་, druptap; Wylie sgrub thabs), literally “a means of accomplishing something” is ego-transcending spiritual practice. It includes a variety of disciplines in Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Muslim traditions that are followed in order to achieve various spiritual or ritual objectives.
Seiryoku zenyō Jita kyōei are the two phrases of Kanō shihan’s jūdō philosophy, typically translated as “Best use of energy / Mutual benefit” (see postscript)
柔道十二訓 Jūdō‘s 12 Precepts – Kanō Jigorō, 1930
Jūdō practice as Budō
1. Practice kata and randori as carefully as if your opponent is armed with a live sword.
2. Do not forget that the objective of jūdō study is to improve every day, not to win or lose.
3. Jūdō practice is not limited to the dōjō.
Jūdō practice as Physical Exercise
4. Avoid dangerous techniques and optimize your exercise to train your body.
5. Do not neglect proper food, sleep and rest.
6. Exercise correctly, not carelessly, in accordance with proper principles.
Jūdō practice as Spiritual Training
7. Conduct kata and randori with your best effort.
8. Endeavor to practice not only with your powers of judgement, but also with your powers of intuition.
9. It is necessary to consider others’ reactions to you in your self reflection.
Jūdō principles applied to Daily Life
10. In the basics of your daily life, bear in mind the principle of ‘Seiryoku Zenyō Jita Kyōei’ .
11. When faced with occasional inconsistencies in your teachings, keep in mind the principle of ‘Seiryoku Zenyō Jita Kyōei’.
12. When faced with many pressures, even the daily necessities of life, consider your problems one by one, keeping in mind the principle of ‘Seiryoku Zenyō Jita Kyōei’.
Postscript: For a full explanation of精力善用自他共栄Seiryoku Zenyō Jita Kyōei Best Use of Energy / Mutual Benefit, the jūdō philosophies of Kanō shihan, please refer to The Origins and Development of Kanō Jigorō’s Jūdō Philosophies by Lance Gatling, International Judo Federation Arts and Science of Judo , Vol. 1, No. 2, December 2021, pages 50-64. http://tinyurl.com/yxxtvvbu
One episode of the life of Kanō shihan (master) not generally appreciated by jūdōka is his extended effort to educate Chinese students. This effort saw him undertake a Meiji government sponsored months’ long, thousands of kilometers official trip through Q’ing dynasty China in which he met mandarins, had secret conversations with overlords, visited the tomb of the founder of orthodox neo-Confucianism, contacted future revolutionaries, and dodged pirates.
Beginning with a small private juku in a rented facility Kanō developed a purpose built school that inducted almost 8,000 Chinese over years, hundreds enrolled at any given time. He first named it 亦楽書院 Jiraku Shoin, a name derived from an ancient Confucian classic text, then again changed the kanji for the new name after being informed by some of his students that such a name violated an obscure ancient naming taboo by using the name of a Chinese Emperor, an affront to traditional Chinese. Today in Japanese we know it as the 弘文学院 Kōbun Gakuin, in Chinese history it is known as the Hongwen Academy.
It was essentially a preparatory school, primarily intended to bring the diverse group of polyglot Chinese students to an acceptable level of comprehension and communications in spoken and written Japanese and a foundation in other topics so the students could later enroll in regular advanced education in Japanese higher education institutes, including Kanō’s own 東京高等師範学校 Tōkyō Kōtō Shihan Gakkō Tokyo Higher Normal School, Japan’s highest teacher training academy. There they would study to become the new teaching cadre that backwards China so desperately needed to modernize its education system. They were joined by a number that went on to study at military or police training facilities until the Japanese government banned the practice.
In teaching Japanese to so many foreigners at once, almost inadvertently the school became one of the foremost working laboratories of teaching the Japanese language, which Kanō himself helped to codify. In mid-Meiji, the school developed a Japanese language training program which it published; the book, Nihongo Kyōkasho, A Japanese Textbook and its training program was so well regarded that it stayed in print for over thirty years.
The school remained in operation for years until political propaganda fostered by Europeans and Americans fueled anti-Japanese sentiment to the point that enrollment fell off sharply. Kanō, who lived on the school compound bought for the project in a large house he had built, acquired the huge plot of land years after the school closed and lived there until his death in 1938, when his eldest surviving son and future Kodokan president Kanō Risei inherited the compound.
In the years of the Kōbun Gakuin, Kanō met many men and women who would become key figures in the future of China. Some became founders and political leaders of all three rival Chinese governments vying for power in World War II and its subsequent Civil War, contributing to the deaths of tens of millions of Chinese, as well as teachers and businessmen desperately trying to bolster the faltering China. Some stayed in touch with Kanō for decades afterwards.
The students included future Communists, Nationalists, collaborators with the invading Japanese, soldiers, artists, authors, and even Mao’s father in law. They included: 陈天华、黄兴、李待琛、杨度、胡汉民、牛保才、杨昌济、张澜、朱剑凡、胡元倓、李琴湘、方鼎英、许寿裳、鲁迅、沈心工、陈幼云、陈师曾、陈寅恪、劉勳麟、鲍贵藻, 李四光、侯鸿鉴、郑菊如、李书城、林伯渠、邓以蛰、趙戴文、and 程鴻書.
Kanō wrote a forward to the Japanese Textbook in classic Chinese that would be understandable by the Chinese despite their different spoken dialects and varying levels of Japanese skills. It reads:
Recently there is a Chinese cultural movement.
These new scholars.
Skilled in our Japanese language and grammar.
And Japanese is actually getting more and more important every day for Chinese scholars。
However, educational books.
I have not seen good ones.
I regard that as regrettable.
The study of speech and writing.
As easily as possible.
But what else?
Our Kōbun Gakuin.
Educated Chinese students for many years.
Our national language professors.
Studied how for a long time.
Men of considerable achievements.
As a result, Professor Matsumoto* compiled this Japanese language book.
Various professors supported it.
Its colloquial use cases are established first.
And is published with.
Grammar and a reader, etc.
It is complete.
Finally the day of its release!
We welcome this book!
And its teaching material for Japanese and Japanese literature.
* Matsumoto was the Kōbun Gakuin vice principal and a principal Japanese instructor.
** The first name of the school was 弘文学院 Kōbun Gakuin later changed to 宏文学院 which is also pronounced Kōbun Gakuin in Japanese; not accidentally both are pronounced Hongwen Xuéyuàn in Mandarin, usually rendered as Hongwen Academy in English. We will explore the naming taboo that the original name violated.
Hat tip to Geoff Newman for his translation suggestions! 谢谢！
Among the many locations of the Kodokan in its early days (1882-1900) was one that Kanō shihan (master) explains in some detail: the Fujimi-chō dōjō (literally, ‘place of the way’, originally a Buddhism term denoting a place of austere study, adopted by Japanese martial arts to indicate a place of practice and austere study).
In his early 20s, from the early to mid 1880s, Kanō became acquainted with key Chōshū han samurai who variously fought with or led Chōshū military units fighting in the Satsuma – Chōshū han led coup that seized control of Japan in what is termed the Meiji Restoration. This long series of events and their aftermath led to a young Chōshū samurai named Murata Genzō studying English under Kanō. (Satsuma and Chōshū were only two of the around 260 han domains of old Japan, but two of the most powerful and most in tension with the bakufu. Sited in today’s Kagoshima and Yamaguchi prefectures respectively, these powerful han existed about as far as you could get from Tokyo and still be in Japan, and were jealous and suspicious of the Tokugawa bakufu military dictatorship / administration and protective of their own prerogatives. In alliance with lesser allies the senior samurai of these two han led the battles and political struggles of the Restoration, the overthrow of the over 260 year old Tokugawa regime and the establishment of a new government with the Emperor as its titular leader, advised, of course, by his new Imperial supporters.)
Murata told Kanō that he wanted to travel and study overseas but could not afford to do so. Through Murata, Kanō met Viscount Shinagawa Yajirō (1843-1900), a senior Chōshū samurai colleague of Murata and one of the rising stars in the new Meiji government. Kanō consulted with Shinagawa and his senior colleague and patron, then Count (later Prince under the new Meiji peerage system) General Yamagata Aritomo about how they could support Murata. In the end, Yamagata asked the young Kanō, then in his twenties, to lead a private subscription drive to support Murata. Kanō agreed and eventually successfully collected enough money from other senior Chōshū samurai and his own merchant commoner friends to underwrite Murata’s subsequent overseas study trip. In doing so, Kanō met many of the Choshu former samurai warrior / scholars, assassins, and Imperial ideologues who formed the core of the Meiji government and Army for decades. Shinagawa Yajirō was one of the most notorious of these colorful and powerful men.
Kanō shihan was not described as an aficionado of the arts, but he owned one piece of art that seems to have captured his imagination: a large pair of traditional Japanese byobu screens depicting five madly galloping, runaway horses. These screens can be seen in years of photographs of the Kodokan, displayed to either side of his ever present (and still displayed) seat and desk at the front of the Dai Dōjō, where they are still displayed today in the new Kodokan Great Dojo.
In 1906 Kanō saw an exhibit by young artist Konoshima Okoku and tried to buy one of his screens on display. Okoku responded that those works on display were not for sale, so Kanō commissioned him to make a remarkable painting—a huge two eight-panel screen set showing five madly galloping horses. The massive 奔馬 Honba ‘Runaway Horses’ screen set became a fixture in the Kōdōkan, displayed in the Dai Dōjō during important events but normally displayed in Kano’s kanchō institute head’s office in the Kodokan.
They can be seen here, in the Dai Dojo of the old Kodokan, during a kagamibiraki New Year ceremony, a tradition still followed today.
Other points of interest in the photo are the name boards and the hanging scroll in the alcove. The box formats correspond to the margin notes.
The set is huge; note how they tower over the seated Kano in the photo above.
Below is a photo of the two screens stacked, fully open flat (they were normally displayed separated left and right, in a partial fold, the normal display method for free standing screens). The top two-horse screen is shown to the left above.
(Image courtesy Oukoku Bunko, Kyoto, Japan, the NPO that owns the museum housing Okoku’s works, former home and workshop.)
The screens were both lost when the Kodokan was partially destroyed during a 1945 firebomb raid (see The Firebombing of the Kodokan 1945 for details) and part of the Dai Dojo and the kancho office burned. A napalm bomblet landed on the Kodokan roof just above the far wall in the photo above and burned through the rood and into the Dai Dojo below.
In a final bit of irony, Kano shihan was noted as a less than expert horseman, apparently having fallen off horses with some regularity, at least once while riding to the Kodokan. While his personal interviews apparently do not mention it, a number of contemporary accounts refer to his mishaps.
Athough he kept an English diary for decades that has been carefully kept from the public, Kano shihan apparently never wrote an autobiography. What he did provide was a long series of interviews with frequent Sakkô contributor / journalist / judoka Ochiai Torahei covering his personal life, his career as an educator and experience as a judoka. This material has been available in Japanese for many years – first published in a series of twenty-four long articles from Jan 1927 to May 1929 in the Kodokan Culture Council monthly magazine Sakkô (‘Arousal’), there have been various extracts and versions reprinted in several postwar collections of Kanō shihan’s writings.
There is an English version of the Sakkô serialized interviews that covers around 200 pages of dense text and is the single best book available in English to date on Kanō shihan’s life. The meticulously translated Judo Memoirs of Jigoro Kano by judoka and long term Japan resident Brian N. Watson is a unique contribution to make judo history accessible in English. Brian’s book is an indispensable reference for any serious judoka and a fascinating read that took years of knowledgeable effort to complete; I recommend it unreservedly.
In the Sakkô memoirs Kanō shihan describes his life, career, and judo in his own words, in his late 60s, after his retirement from the Ministry of Education, and after his Imperial nomination to the Japan’s Upper House, where he won election in 1922 and then sat as the equivalent of a member of the UK House of Lords or as a US Senator until his death in 1938. (Spoiler alert: Kanō shihan’s version of events in certain places is biased towards him, with all that entails. Some very serious judo history researchers have noted there are no independent supporting contemporaneous accountants of some episodes that have since become core to the legends of judo. Cf. the legendary ‘Police judo matches’ of the 1890s, EN1.)
In addition, there are scores if not hundreds of contemporary and later Japanese and foreign language profiles and mini-biographies of Kanō, starting in the late 1890s in magazines, newspapers, academic journals and books.
But unknown to most folks are the works of fiction in which Kano appears.
Perhaps the most intriguing is the novel “The Tale of Meiji Dracula: The Apparition Appears in the Imperial Capital” 『明治ドラキュラ伝: 妖魔, 帝都に現る』 by Kikuchi Hideyuki, published in 2004. Kikuchi was the author of numerous Japanese vampire novels. In this one, set in the 1880s in Meiji Tokyo, a twenty-something Kano teams with his (real world) favorite judo deshi Saigo Shiro and the fictional 17 year old swordmaster Minazuki Daigo to battle Dracula, who appears in Japan to complete a centuries old mission that I leave for the reader to discover.
Interestingly, this novel was translated into English as Dark Wars: The Tale of Meiji Dracula in 2008. (I don’t have a copy; if anyone reads it, I’d welcome more information.)
Next, we’ll look at the fictional version of young Kano Jigoro when he fights not just Dracula but nearly everyone.
EN1: An anonymous scholar acquaintance spent hours looking for evidence of the famous ‘police jujutsu competitions’ and told me he came up empty-handed, which in turn spurred me to look, too. Neither of us uncovered any contemporaneous articles in newspapers of the day, which we thought very strange; such activities by the police were normally very carefully covered by the press. Only 20-30 years later do the tales appear of the great police jujutsu tournament in which the Kodokan judoka were victorious and were hired as police jujutsu its allies, but only from Kano shihan and his supporters.. While it is entirely possible there was such an event, it seems more likely that if it did exist, it was a relatively small affair. Certainly some Kodokan judoka were hired as Tokyo Metropolitan Police jujutsu instructors around that time, but so were instructors from a number of other, different jujutsu schools; the public records of this are clear. The entire affair may be a combination of some (ahem…..) exaggeration on the part of Kanō shihan and his hagiographers and most definitely misunderstanding of the complex relationship of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police with martial arts, particularly kenjutsu (sword) and jujutsu (grappling).
Probably less than 10% of Kanō shihan’s numerous writings have been translated into any Western language, or even extracted or summarized.
His first known articles, on philosophy, were published in the mid-1880s while Kanō shihan was in his 20s. Over 50 years he contributed scores of articles to multiple publications on topics ranging from physical education, ethics, education, the Olympics, international geopolitics, China, politics, physical and moral courage, death, his incessant theme of 精力善用自他共栄 Seiryoku Zen’yô Jita Kyôei, even a commentary on a poem by the Meiji Emperor, who granted Kanō multiple audiences. Kanō shihan also contributed scores of forwards for the books of friends and acquaintances on topics from kobudô 古武道 to 武士道 bushidô to 神道 Shintô to ethics and morality; in one he admitted he hadn’t even read the book, but supported the author, his personal student.
He lectured widely and at great length – he loved to talk. While many of his impromptu lectures went unrecorded, some key lectures were prepared or transcribed. A number of his transcribed speeches must run over 30 minutes. A single question on education policy during an early 1930s Diet Upper House 貴族院 interpellation he posed to the Minister of Education took around 20 minutes; thankfully the Minister’s answer was mercifully terse.
In one private school New Year’s celebration as one of a small number of dignitaries given three minutes to provide short greetings, he ended by apologizing for talking nearly 20 instead, providing a long allegory criticizing the Second Sino-Japanese War. At one formal group dinner in Tokyo he talked for nearly 45 minutes nonstop after drinks and dinner then apologized – he had gone so far over the allotted time he had to leave immediately, and had no time for questions or comments, but instead asked a member of the head table to provide his car so he could depart from Tokyo Station.
The tale of the dinner address made me wonder how many people it put to sleep, as the recollections of his high school students sometimes commented on how long and boring his lectures could be. One European account detailing his address of an International Olympic Committee working dinner leaves no doubt; he started by extolling the advantages of Tokyo as an Olympic Games venue at length then departed on a tangent on judo that went on and on and on. The description of the result is not vague – many of the attending IOC members, many from far lands, late at night, well fed, some tipsy, and most probably at a loss to understand the importance or pertinence of judo, some not understanding English well, simply fell sleep.
And certainly he wrote on judo. He produced stacks of judo lectures, articles, essays, interviews, etc. Often repetitive and nearly formulaic, some include gems of new information and insights.
While traveling, he wrote newsy, factual and analytical letters and sent telegrams on important topics. He gave interviews to print media and live radio programs around the world to support his personal and policy objectives, primarily in English, but apparently a few times in less than fluent French and German.
A member of the International Olympic Committee from 1909 until his death, he corresponded with the leadership and staff in English. Kano shihan primarily wrote in Japanese and English, but occasionally in French and not infrequently in early Meiji in 漢文 kanbun, the ancient Sino-Japanese script of pre-Meiji Japan. His later writing in modern Japanese evolved in style over the decades for multiple reasons, but he was seldom concise and direct in his explorations of anything, much less complex topics.
Kanō most often wrote alone, but he did collaborate with others. One of his frequent collaborators was Watari Shôsaburô, an ethics instructor and kendoka at the Tokyo Higher Normal School where Kano was the principal.
For over 20 years I’ve collected his writings and transcriptions of his addresses, an uncounted total but surely hundreds to date. I suspect there are at least scores more. In the search I’ve found many surprises in the development of his thoughts, the range of his acquaintances, his plans for education, the Olympics (the current topic in Japan), and his true plan for judo. Only infrequently does his own character emerge; he wrote briefly, poignantly of the loss of family members in the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 but then noted his gratitude, as his own home was not severely damaged, while so many others had lost so much, some losing everything.
His most striking writing is arguably is one of his last messages, unknown until very recently. It was recently discovered in a friend’s private library, actually delivered after Kanō shihan departed for the 1938 Cairo IOC meeting in February 1938; the missive provides striking new, private insight into the mind of a man obsessed with accomplishing his last critical mission for Japan, securing the 1940 Olympics Games for Tokyo. He departed for Cairo when he was almost 78 and in marginal health from decades of chronic disease. It was a long, arduous trip encircling the planet, one he insisted on taking alone, one that sapped his strength and one from which he would not return alive.
Two major questions regarding his writings remain today –
Did he publish articles under one penname or another? There are a number of articles to topics dear to him that were clearly written under assumed names or clear pennames that read like the work of Kano shihan.
Where are his lost texts? There are at least two instances where Kano shihan very specifically mentions important extended texts he prepared but they were apparently never printed.
1915 Japan Year Book describing judo, ‘fencing’ as well as female physical education in English.
B. Physical Culture
Military and gymnastic exercises constitute the regular method of
physical culture as it is conducted in Japanese schools. The culture extends from the primary schools to the University preparatory schools. In the former pupils begin their military drill without arms after the 4th year. The including lately of the national arts of “judo” and fencing as regular tasks for middle school boys is a notable feature.
“Judo” or “ Jujitsu ”
This manly art of self-defence which has become so popular recently in both hemispheres owes its development to the reform effected by Mr. J. Kano (see Who’s Who) who established for this purpose in 1880 a special training hall styled Kodokwan, now at Koishikawa, Tokyo. The reform consisted in eliminating the dangerous features from the various styles formerly in vogue and developing a new system suited both for the
purpose of mental discipline and physical culture. At first the innovation was even ridiculed at by experts of old schools. It had only a very few pupils, but they included several men who have lately achieved distinction in military and naval services, as the late Commander Hirose of the Port Arthur blockade fame. By 1894 Mr. Kano’s persevering efforts began to bear fruit, and branch halls were skirted at several provinces, as at Nirayama, Etajima (seat of the Naval Cadet School), and Kumamoto. It was about this period that most of the noted experts of the present clay received training and that the new system had been carried to a state of matured perfection. Very often self-styled masters of old school came to the Kodokwan to challenge its founder and his pupils, but each time they went away humiliated, musing over the ignominious defeats. The fame of the new style began to spread not only in Japan but even to foreign countries, especially after the recent War, and a number of Mr. Kano’s pupils who went over to America and Europe for teaching the manly art to foreigners was not few. Everybody may remember that it was about this period that at the request of Mr. Roosevelt, Mr. Yamashita, one of Mr. Kano’s best pupils, proceeded to America and taught the then President at the While House. The Military Academy at West Point also
intended to include this Japanese martial art in its programme, but after some investigations and trials it was decided to disapprove of the scheme. At present in almost all Japanese schools of secondary grade and above the exercise is practised as a method of physical culture. Private clubs and schools for the practice of jujitsu are to be found in all cities and graduates roll numbered about 20,000.
The Kodokwan has lately been converted into a foundation, with Mr. lwao, Mr. Wakatsuki, now Minister of Finance, and Mr. Yahagi as Directors and Baron Shibusawa and another as Trustees.
In former days fencing and swordsmanship occupied the foremost place in the physical and mental training of the gentry classes. As practised today at schools, the art is merely a faint memory of the passed greatness and importance. The practice sword is made of split bamboo, about four feet in length, with a twelve inches hilt in length for the double grasp. The points counted as collective hits are the head, both sides, the right hand
and throat. The traditional method of the two-handed use of the sword is still preferred by the Japanese to the single grasp popular in Western countries. It is among policemen that the training is more actual and realistic than at schools, for these guardians of pea<e arc required, from the nature of their duty, to practice fencing as a regular lesson and for
actual purposes. A fencing custom, now growing rather rare, is the so-called “Cold practice” adopted in some schools to encourage hardihood and endurance. It consists in the meeting of the fencing class at three o’clock in the morning through the coldest month. Active contests are continued until daybreak, without food or intermission for rest. These students enduring this strenuous test for the whole month receive special
recognition as hardy champions.
Physical Culture for Girls
Physical culture is no easy business for girls attending the secondary grade schools, not merely because active exercises by girls are still regarded with disfavor by some conservative mothers, but chiefly because Japanese female garment, though very attractive to look at, is not well adapted for active movement. Nevertheless, physical culture is steadily gaining ground, and in the girls’ higher schools the subject of gymnastics, 8 hours a week, is included, and girls are made to go through training in fancy steps and figure movements, some calisthenics, and so on. In the Female Higher
Normal School the Swedish system and some other exercises are given. In the Japan Womens’ University a hybrid system is in force, it partaking of the halberd training which daughter of samurai had to acquire in former days and some forms of calisthenics.
Author / Lecturer The Kanō Chronicles
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On the night of Apr 13, 1945*, 550 B-29s struck Tokyo in the biggest fire bombing of the war to date.
About 1145pm on that spring Friday night, an incendiary bomblet struck the roof of the Kodokan just to the east of the seat of Kano shihan in the Dai Dōjō (‘Great Dōjō’, the largest of several in the building). It was probably an M65, a 6 pound (2.7 kg) napalm bomblet released from a 500 pound (228 kg) cluster bomb, one of scores dropped by a B29 Superfortress heavy bomber from about 2500 ft altitude, and the bomblet probably penetrated partway through the roof.
The previous high altitude, conventional bombing campaign against Japan had been considered ineffective, and the bombers were ordered to fly at very low altitudes to dispense their new fire bombs, despite much heavier losses to Japanese antiaircraft fire and interceptor fighter attacks than the previous high altitude attacks.
1 to 3 seconds after impact with the roof, the bomblet fuzed a phosphorous bursting charge that splattered flaming jellied gasoline napalm over the Kodokan roof.
Some of the burning jellied gasoline napalm burned through the roof, setting fire to the large, elaborate 神棚 kamidana Shintō ‘god shelf’ that Kano shihan had installed on the front wall of the Dai Dōjō. Fire reached the tatami below, burning around 70 mats; soon the fire outside the building burned together with the fire inside to threaten the entire structure.
A fire truck team arrived but low water pressure hampered their efforts. Then, the night watch and local couples cheered on the local tonari gumi neighborhood association, which used Kodokan hoses and buckets to assist the fire truck, putting the Kodokan fire out, but much of the neighborhood was destroyed. Almost 3500 people died and over 170,000 buildings were destroyed that single night raid.
Kodokan head Rear Admiral Nangō Jirō, Kano shihan’s nephew, was determined to renew training. He housed local refugees whose homes had been burned down in the undamaged portion of the Dai Dōjō, but had the walls of the rooms near the third floor research dōjō knocked down to enlarge it; regular practice resumed on the 16th.
The Dai Dōjō was repaired by the end of 1945 and was used for the training 寒稽古 kangeiko ‘cold weather training’ traditional in the new year of 1946.
* 全日本柔道連盟 Zen Nihon Jūdō Renmei All Japan Judo Federation history cites a date that does not match US Army Air Corps records of the raid dates; this history uses US military record dates when available. http://www.judo.or.jp )
Lance Gatling Author / Lecturer Email at Contact@kanochronicles.com to comment or sign up below to get updates via email.
The Kanō Chronicles: The Untold History of Modern Japan® (嘉納歴代史:知らず近代日本史®) is the result of over 15 years of research into the life and times of Kanō Jigorō, 嘉納治五郎 (1860-1938), the founder of jûdô 柔道. In traditional jūdō texts and by today’s jūdōka 柔道家 (judo practitioners) he is normally addressed as ‘Kano shihan’ 師範 (Master Kano).*
No English or Japanese language biographies of Kano shihan capture the complexity of the man and his times. Even the best Japanese biographies are often narrow, typically focused on Kano’s jūdō, education, sports, or Olympic activities, or some combination thereof. There are exceptions, but they are rare and difficult to digest, even for native Japanese, and have escaped the attention of Western researchers.
Context is important, and detailed historical context is not part of Western biographies of Kano. One example can be seen below, in a rare English explanation by Kano shihan of the ‘True Spirit of Judo’.
When I was still young, I learned various types of “jujitsu”.** However, I found it difficult to discover the fundamental principles that decide as to which is the correct method because the teaching of each type was different. Thereupon, in order that I might find out the fundamental principle somehow or other, I began to study seriously. And, in the course of time, I was able to succeed in discovering it. What is this fundamental principle? It is to let our spirit and bodies work most effectively in order to accomplish our purpose, whenever we wish to throw others down, or cut, push, or kick others.
— Kano Jigoro, ‘True Spirit of Judo’, 1938
Rather than the ‘true spirit of jūdō’, a more complete context of the article reveals this to be only the lowest, simplest definition of jūdō espoused by Kanō shihan, meant only as the beginning of a much more complex discussion. As the rest of his discussion is thought not pertinent to today’s sports judo, it is typically discarded, thus lost to generations of judoka who are left with the notion that the epitome of his philosophy is physically controlling your opponent effectively.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Kanō Chronicles™ provides the history of Kanō shihan in the context of his times. He lived in a unique period of history, namely the development of Japan from an isolated, feudal backwater to one of the largest empires in history. His patrons, peers, and pupils included princes, prime ministers, politicians, philosophers, prophets, priests, political puppet masters, puppeteers, paupers, oligarchs, generals, admirals, academics, assassins, the assassinated, mandarins, revolutionaries, counterrevolutionaries, reactionaries, samurai, spies, spy masters, sumotori, strike breakers, chancellors, commoners, Christians, Chinese, Confucianists, Communists, women and Class A war criminals.
Kanō shihan personally participated in the initial formation and subsequent reforms of Japan’s education, language, sports, ethics, teacher and moral training, indeed the development and dissemination of its very culture. He thus left an indelible mark on the nation, indeed much of the Empire through the education of thousands of teachers, judoka and their millions of students.
* In keeping with the tradition, Japanese names are given in the order LastName FirstName. Note that in the era under study, Japanese often changed their first / given names in recognition of phases or changes in their lives; becoming an adult, reaching 60 years of age, or at any age to designate some eventful political or personal event. Sometimes, frequently; sometimes, in accordance with the stages of life, or simply whimsically. Some phases were chronological: 50, 60, 70, or 80 years old. Nicknames or pen names if known are given in single quotes, ala ‘Konan’, Kano shihan’s penname for calligraphy until his 60th birthday.
** The transliteration of Japanese into Western characters has changed over more than 100 years of use to settle on the current system. This site and associated works use older, nonstandard terms such as jujitsu, jiujutsu, jiudo, Kodokwan, etc. only in direct quotations. Today the rendering of these Japanese terms in Roman letters is unequivocal and universal; judo, jujutsu, Kodokan, etc.
Lance Gatling Author / Lecturer The Kanō Chronicles Tokyo, Japan Contact@kanochronicles.com – please send a note to give us feedback. Thank you!