Screencast: “Morihei Ueshiba’s Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Teaching Certification,” by Stanley Pranin

“How Morihei became certified as a Daito-ryu instructor”

This is the first of a series of screencasts titled “Focus on History” by Aikido Journal Editor Stanley Pranin. This video provides detailed information on the “kyoju dairi,” or teaching certification, awarded to Morihei Ueshiba by Sokaku Takeda in Ayabe in 1922. This award was made during a six-month long visit of Sokaku to Morihei’s “Ueshiba Juku” located near the headquarters of the Omoto religion.

Click here to view the screencast about Morihei Ueshiba’s Daito-ryu technical certification

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  1. Thank you, Pranin Sensei, for yet another glimpse of O Sensei’s personal history with Takeda Sokaku. This major document clearly reveals the integral connection to events that finally led O Sensei to make his own monumental decision to break from Takeda, Thank you once again. Your 3 yen is in the mail.

  2. Ellis Amdur says:

    How much did Ueshiba Morihei really owe Takeda Sokaku?

    According to “Great Earthquakes, Exchange Rate Volatility and Government Interventions” – Mariko Hatasey, Mototsugu Shintanizand Tomoyoshi Yabu –, the value of yen compared to dollars was stable at 2 yen equaling one dollar in 1922.

    The question, then, is how much one dollar was worth, and this is surprisingly difficult. According to “Measuring Worth,”, that value varies from $13.40 to $206, depending on what metric we use. $13.40 is the “historical standard of living,” which is the relative cost, fixed over time, of household necessities. $29.60 is the “contemporary standard of living,” calculates things based on our contemporary standard of living. In other words, we, today, wouldn’t be happy with what they, in those days, had – we want, proportionately more. That is an abstract that imagines what it would take to lead a life we hypothesize as equally happy to what $1 would buy.
    “Economic status” is a higher number: $72.50 – that indicates what status one would have in the respective societies. In other words, $72.50 is required to buy the social status of $1 in 1922. Finally, “economic power” is $206. This calculation is the most abstract yet. It is a calculation of what proportion that $1 is to the total economy of the period. Things like inflation, total wealth of the country, etc., are taken in.

    So then, how much did Ueshiba really owe Takeda Sokaku? Logically speaking, Takeda Sokaku would not have had any conception of “economic power” – this is an abstract metric, based on the economy as a whole. Similarly, social status was not, as far as I can see, Sokaku’s concern – the idea that he needed a certain amount of money to be accepted by a certain class. A man who sits with his back to the wall and demands that people taste the tea and cakes they offer him lest he be poisoned, is not that concerned about social image.

    In my opinion, “contemporary standard of living,” is not the relevant question either. That category simply helps us modern people conceive of what it must have been like to live in earlier periods. Rather, Takeda was simply concerned about raw income – cash – that he’d use and also that he’d support his family, to the degree he did. Therefore, the fixed cost – the “historical standard of living” – what one could buy with one’s money, is the relevant figure.

    So, 2 yen equaled one 1922 dollar. Three yen equaled $1.50. $13.40 x $1.50 = $20.10

    This puts a somewhat different reading on the vows that Ueshiba made. To emphasize, Ueshiba Morihei, by my calculations, owed $20.10 enrollment fee for each student, not $300. Perhaps this, too, was out of the question for Morihei in his group instruction. But the distinction is less sharp – and conversely, perhaps, Takeda’s grievance more justifiably sharp.

    • Editor says:

      My question to you would be how much $20.10 is in 2012 US dollars according to your calculations.

      • Ellis Amdur says:

        That’s the answer. It IS $20.10 in 2012-dollars. Three 1922-yen = One and one half 1922 dollars. And $1.50 1922 dollars = $20.10 2012-dollars, based on actual purchasing power of necessities.

        For example, let us say I had three 1922-yen. That would buy me, at 2012-dollars, four pumpkin lattes. If I had 30 1922-yen, I could purchase in 2012, $201 worth of goods. If I had 300 1922-yen, I could purchase $2010 worth of goods.

        And just to be clear, the only “calculation” on my part is to choose a common sense metric of value, rather than an abstract based on gross national product or social status that “money can buy.”

        My impetus to research this was reading the book, Banzai Babe Ruth, by Robert Fitts, in which the 2 yen = 1 dollar figure was repeated regarding the calculations the Japanese made to bring over an American ball team in the 1930′s (the figure was the same from the 1920′s through the mid-thirties. Therefore, the only question was to find out how much a 1920 period dollar was worth, and as I believe I show, double it to get the value of the yen of the period.

        • Editor says:

          Sorry, Ellis! My research yields vastly different results:

          From the Minoru Mochizuki interview:

          “The starting salary for a university graduate at that time was 35 Yen. The monthly fee at the Ueshiba dojo was 30 Yen. This was around 1933. The monthly fee at the Kodokan in those days was 3 Yen. There were only rich students at the dojo. Those who were poor could not come. Although Ueshiba Sensei, of course, wasn’t poorly off, he wasn’t leading a rich life either. He had to feed people like we uchideshi.”

          From Gozo Shioda’s “An Aikido Life”

          “Since it was my long-cherished dream to embark on a great venture abroad, I began preparations to leave for my new post considering it an opportunity to try my fortunes as a man. I went to China alone in early May 1941. As soon as I arrived in Nanking I went to the house of the General Commander. General Hata was very hospitable and ordered an army civilian employee uniform for me. At that time, army civilian employees were classified by a badge indicating their class. I had no insignia in particular and was a “lord steward” without a crown. In those days my monthly salary was 100 yen. The value of money was much different from now and 100 yen would go a long way in those days. All of my meals were provided by the headquarters and I lived in an official residence. I hardly had to pay for anything. I used to treat the soldiers and drink with my comrades. I lived in easy circumstances. Though I was a private secretary, I had nothing to do. As Adjutant N. did most of the work I idled my time away all day long.”

          Comments to article:

          Robin Karlsson says:
          August 3, 2011 at 3:02 am

          Some quick research gave me the following information.

          The gold standard was adopted in Japan in 1871 with “The new currency act”. By the turn of the century it was fully implemented. []

          Several sources indicates a fixed rate of 50 cents per 100 Yen both 1912 and 1920. The provided source agrees with these rates but also states that the Yen started to float in 1917.[]

          But a fair assumption seems to be that:
          10 000 Y = 5000 USD (1912 & 1920)

          As for inflation that’s more tricky (and I’m no economist). However Measuring Worth [] provides the following data using CPI (Consumer Price Index) which might not be the best measure (I refer to the Babe Ruth’s salary example provided on the site).

          10 000 Y (1912) = 10 600 000 Y (2009)
          10 000 Y (1920) = 60 000 Y (2009)

          5000 USD (1912) = 114 000 USD (2009)
          5000 USD (1920) = 53 500 USD (2009)

          And now I hope that an economist will peer-review this for me

          With Delight!

          Roberto says:
          August 3, 2011 at 4:42 am
          Hi Stan!
          I found this page:
          The 5th link can be used to calculate the value of JPY from 1912 to 2009.

          1. JPY 10,000 (1912) -> JPY 10,600,000 (today, actually 2009)
          Conversion JPY 1 = USD 0.01296 (03.08.2011)
          So, JPY 10,000 (1912) -> JPY 10,600,000 (2009) = USD 137,376 (today)

          2. PY 10,000 (1920) -> JPY 4,760,000 (today, actually 2009)
          Conversion JPY 1 = USD 0.01296 (03.08.2011)
          So, JPY 10,000 (1912) -> JPY 4,760,000 (2009) = USD 61,689 (today)

          I did not check how the calculation from 1912 (1920) -> 2009 is actually done and parameters used for that. I just used the link calculator, so I don’t know if that is really correct. I also used today’s JPY – USD conversion rate instead of 2009. In order to check the calculation I would need more time.

          But according to this conversion, JPY 10,000 in 1912 would be quite a sum today!


          François T. says:
          August 3, 2011 at 6:01 am

          I find also something around $110,000 for 1912.
          I used the Inflation calculator on and and in 1912, Japan was still under the gold exchange standart (1 yen = $0.5 wikipedia)

          I didn’t do anything for 1920 because, after the World War, currencies are a mess. The gold exchange standart crashed. So I didn’t find any value. And even if you have a definition of 1 yen =$0.5, it doesn’t mean that in reality it was $0.5 in 1912 for instance. You never do twice the same iriminage and it’s still an iriminage.

          I have two remarks: first Inflation is computed likely through an price average of several goods. Each good has its own price evolution. It may deviate a lot from $110,000.

          The second one is I am not sure I can compare Japan at that time and United States. It’s one thing to exchange money, it’s an other thing to buy things with it. If I exchange $20 in yen in 1912, I won’t buy the same things if in Japan or United States. You try to compare an Asian country that have a different economy, society or even culture. Can you compare, for instance, the way of life of modern American and 19th century American with a single dollar price? So it may be a source of uncertainty.

          So even if I give you a number, I really don’t know if it has a concrete value. Of course, 10,000 yen is still a good amount of money.


          charles warren says:
          August 3, 2011 at 7:34 am
          not just an exchange rate, but a purchasing-power-parity problem. when i was teaching at Istanbul Tech the exchange rate was around 1.5 million T Lira/$US. yet i could buy a little package of cookies for half a million lira, say $.33. in the pharmacy downstairs in the clinic where i had blood tests on return a little package of cookies was $3…

          then, as i’m basically a practicing land economist, there’s the question of relative land values. somebody recently mentioned that the Japanese bubble popped when the estimated value of the Imperial Palace grounds in Tokyo exceeded the gross value of the state of California. given the undeveloped nature of Hokkaido in the day, it might be appropriate to look at similar endeavors in, say, Finland, Canada, Argentina, Chile…

          of course there’s the question of gold yen. if a yen in the day was worth $.50, that meant it was half an ounce of gold. with gold at even $1500 US, that makes 10000 yen 5000 ounces or about $7.5 million US.

          François T. says:
          August 3, 2011 at 12:26 pm
          You have a good point. I had completely forgotten about the fact we are talking about land and not cars.

          I don’t know in America or in Japan, but, in France, inflation computations do not include real estate. Real estate is in the investment box and inflation is in the consumption box. The price of the land in Shirataki, Hokkaido may have had a completly different evolution when compared to inflation.

          So to have an accurate value, we would have to know how much of the 10,000 yen went to buy the land and how much went to buy food, wood… If much of it went to the land the $110,000 I gave early may be completely off.

          Am I understanding you correctly?


          Editor says:
          August 3, 2011 at 1:05 pm
          I think what we are talking about here is Yoroku Ueshiba, Morihei’s father, giving a fairly large sum of money to the various poorer families who decided to relocate to Hokkaido. Kisshomaru does not speak of Yoroku loaning the money, so it appears to have been a gift. Remember that Yoroku was supporting Morihei’s grand adventure and he himself and his wife also moved to Hokkaido shortly after Morihei. Unfortunately, we have few details and no real way of independently verifying what the author has written.

          Robin Karlsson says:
          August 3, 2011 at 2:55 pm
          That’s the thing: “There is no single “correct” measure, and economic historians use one or more different indicators depending on the context of the question.”

          Quoted from the site I referred to in my first comment, ,which gives a good basic understanding of the problems we’re dealing with here.

          So in my opinion, to get an idea of how much 10 000 Y was really worth we should try to find out what one could do with that sum back in 1912 and 1920. I.E. how many pigs and cows, acres of land in a certain area, etc would one be able to buy and then also compare the amount to the total amount of resources belonging to Ueshiba Yoroku; and from that we’ll then be able to say if it was a generous donation, a mighty generous donation or an implausible donation.

          Also consider this:
          My paternal grandmother owns an apartment and has 40 000 money in savings. She gives me 30 000 money as a gift for which I’ll be able to pay my rent for 3 months, or buy 3 suits, or a plane ticket to the U.S. However I live in B-town but would like to live in A-town: rent for a comparable apartment there would cost me 30 000 a month.

          My maternal grandmother owns a similar apartment to my pat. grandmother but has 10 500 000 money in savings. She gives me 600 000 money as a gift for which I’ll be able to buy a small house in B-town, or a really good apartment in A-town. The gift could also buy me 60 months worth of rent for my flat in B-town and 20 months worth of rent in A-town.

          So who’s more generous? My pat. nana who gave me less money but 75% of her savings or my mat. nana who gave me loads more money but less than 6% of her savings. Is it even possible to measure their generosity? This is more philosophical than a matter of numbers if you ask me.

          Editor says:
          August 3, 2011 at 3:46 pm
          Robin, very thought-provoking reply! I learned a lot from reading it.


  3. Ellis Amdur says:

    Stanley – I don’t rely on the anecdotal accounts of Shioda or Mochizuchi. The problem I’ve always had with the $300 figure is illustrated by Mochizuchi’s monthly fee at the Kodokan being 3 yen – ($300). C’mon – only RICH guys, paying $300 per month? I’ve read too many stories about not-rich guys at the Kodokan at that period. Going to Shioda, given that he describes Ueshiba dodging bullets from a firing squad, I regard him as a story teller.

    And calculating how much an ounce of gold would be worth now is irrelevant, anymore than considering the price of tulips during the tulip boom in Holland, or that aluminum was once more valuable than gold.

    According to the website that I linked above, the assertion for one dollar then equally $13.40 simply means that that is what would cost to acquire the equivalent basics of life. Staples. If we say, “well, how much would a washing machine cost?” or the like, it gets impossible. But what would it take to feed one’s family, house oneself in roughly equivalent circumstances. Takeda needed food, travel, and lodging, and if he deigned to do so, send money home for the same. And given that Takeda lived a bare-bones life, we should, I believe focus on bare-bones figures, not some speculation on the effect of a certain amount of money’s effect on social status, for example.

    Inflation isn’t an exact answer either. That one yen then is worth 10,000 today, based on inflation numbers. Does that mean that one yen would buy what 1 MAN buys now? That very possibly is a very different calculation. How much money did it cost to live a basic life, then and now, is the best measurement. You can’t use land – remember jiage, where a square inch of Ginza was worth more than many cities in America? You can even use pigs, because they, too, can change radically in price. Gold? – I’ve got some investments in gold, and over the last five years, the “value” has changed dramatically. The only real “standard” is survival, in my view.

    Most of the notes you include above are anything but definitive. They are people mentioning one or another number and drawing far extrapolations from this.

    There is no argument whatsoever about 2 yen equalling one dollar. The real question is what a 1922 dollar in 2012 money would be worth (and hence, what 2 1922 yen would equal-buy).

    Here’s my thought: I would assume that there would be the same stipulations on other DR teachers. Did Horikawa Kodo charge 3 yen? Given that most of the folks in Hokkaido were NOT well to do, if he did, that would suggest that the value was lower than $300

    To conclude – given that the site that I looked at gave, as I pointed out a range between $13.40 to well over $200 equalling one 1922 dollar, I suppose one can pick whatever one likes, based on one’s assumptions/speculations/prejudices. Just logically, $300 seems to be such an inflated amount that it’s hard to imagine Takeda asking for it, or Ueshiba agreeing. That is so prohibitively expensive, that Ueshiba, who intended to be a professional teacher, would not, I believe, have signed on to this.

    I think we both merely have opinions. In a way, we are talking about “text.” If the number is $300, then that figure is so outlandish, one can only have the bulk of one’s sympathy for Ueshiba. If the number is closer to $20, one ends up having more sympathy for Takeda, which I do.

    • Editor says:

      Sorry, Ellis. We’re going to have to agree to disagree. I spoke to so many people about this subject of the comparatively high value of a yen when viewed in terms of today’s money. I’ve got a book somewhere in Japanese that gives a breakdown of the costs of common goods in the various eras. One yen was worth a lot in the Taisho period.

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