Nov
24

Historical Photo: Morihei Ueshiba in front of Shimbuden Dojo in Manchuria, 1942, by Stanley Pranin

This photo was taken in 1942 in front of the Shimbuden Dojo, part of the campus of Kenkoku University in Japanese-occupied Manchuria. Seated in the center are Kenji Tomiki and Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. Standing in the back row second from the left are Hideo Oba, and second from the right, Shigenobu Okumura.

This photograph was taken in the summer of 1942 at the time of a demonstration given at the university’s martial arts hall, the Shimbuden. The occasion was the 10th anniversary of the founding of Manchukuo, the Japanese puppet government of Manchuria, whose titular head was Pu Yi, China’s “Last Emperor.”

Morihei Ueshiba demonstrating inside Shimbuden Dojo in Manchuria, summer 1942

This would be Morihei’s last visit to Manchuria where he was invited several times to teach and demonstrate between 1939-1942. In the photo, we see Morihei looking rather gaunt and obviously thin compared to his normal robust physique of the prewar days. Shortly after Morihei’s return to Japan from this trip, he quit Tokyo which had already been firebombed in April 1942 and retreated to Iwama. He is said to have been quite ill at this time and retired to Iwama to recuperate.

Kenji Tomiki relocated to Manchuria in March 1936 through an introduction provided by Ueshiba. He later became an instructor at Kenkoku University, which opened in the spring of 1938, and headed the Aiki Budo program, a regular part of the curriculum, with the assistance of Hideo Oba, his long-time assistant. After the war, Tomiki because a professor at Waseda University and created “Tomiki Aikido,” a form of aikido that includes competition.

Shigenobu Okumura was one of the main figures in the postwar Aikikai Hombu Dojo and was eventually awarded the rank of 9th dan.

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