View Full Version : The darkside, revisited.

18th November 2004, 05:38
So, in my limited but not so romanticized view of the place of bugei in Japanese history, I found myself asking one seemingly simple question:

Were there ever any ryuha that tended to lean a bit to the more negative side of things?

In all aspects of life and history, you have the good, the bad, and of course the ugly. All of the books and articles and posts and websites and on and on typically reflect upon the positive, if not battle-ready, aspects of Japanese bugei. The only time anything about any skeletons-in-the-closet or less-than-stellar histories ever surface are when one school/individual is bashing another. And, of course some of the ninja books keep us all awake at night with some of their bogeyman stories... But other than that, there is nothing that I have ever heard or read about any ryu being outright nasty--and I don't mean just tactics, I mean philosophy or even ritual.

Without getting too X-files (or Star Wars), could someone please help me to shed a bit of light on (what I see as) a pertinent historical/anthropological gap in the subject?

Could be that there was no example of a ryu or individual that walked such a dark path, but certainly in the long history of bugei in Japan (that's redundant, isn't it?) there has to be some example of this sort of turn... Some school or tradition possibly less concerned with all of the goody-goody values that we place on budo these days... Some notable individual who used his craft for greed, destruction and evil (to be read as EEveel).

I would tend to think that the pendulum swings in both directions in most cases, such as gov't, religion, philosophy, any sort of power system (and I think that bugei would qualify). Some of the older ole skools have some very definite spiritual ties that may or may not have some influence on a school or practitioner going bad.

For a further turn of the subject, any reference to any bugei or individuals actively seeking out negative (not politically rival) forces for confrontation would be greatly appreciated, as well.

Perhaps it's my Western societal upbrining, but I take it for granted that there are always dragons and black knights out there. (Pardon the analogy.)

Maybe I'm touching on a bad subject, but I have never really heard or read any discussions of this nature. Please let me reiterate that I am not a 15 year old newbie looking to romanticize and fantasize about some dark samurai carrying out the work of the devil (or religio-cultural equivalent). I am a scholar and a pratitioner who has a genuine interest in this sub-subject of MA history and anthropology.

Thus ends my rambling.

18th November 2004, 18:57
Ellis Amdur had an excellent essay (as are they all) in Old School about the history of Araki Ryu, based on the densho. In particular, an individual (name escapes, and the book is not at hand here at the office) was an extraordinary technician, but allowed his mind to become corrupt. Anyway, that is what springs to mind.

Be well,

20th November 2004, 12:08
You should also read more of Kano Jigoro, his experiences in schools of jujutsu he studied and others in which he saw/experienced the results. His reasons for the founding of Kodokan Judo do have something to do with the "dark side."

In his time, what was available was not always what was best, and at least in part, that was his reason for founding his own school of jujutsu, preferring to call it Ju-do instead. There were many things he wanted to eliminate, and much of it was to play in a safer mode, but not necessarily for the reasons most say he had in doing so.

Partly it was in the history of the first ryu called Judo, but that was only to differentiate it from some jujutsu schools of his day.

Things are not always what they seem to be.


Steven Malanosk
21st November 2004, 08:05
The KoBuDo of Matayoshi in Okinawa, was heavily influenced by the founder's experiences while travelling with Equestrian bandits in China.

While details are scetchy, one can only imagine what type of "hands on" experience was gleaned from these shenanigans.

Joseph Svinth
23rd November 2004, 04:01
Take a look at the yakuza and the right wing nationalists. One of the karate photos at Corbis, for example, shows one of the more notorious right wing nationalists teaching his class during the 1950s. Mishima, the novelist who committed seppuku at a JSDF headquarters after the troops refused to mutiny for him, was also into martial arts.

Some recommended readings:

* Kaplan, David E. and Alec Dubro. Yakuza: The Explosive Account of Japanís Criminal Underworld (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1986)

* Morris, Ivan I. Nationalism and the Right Wing in Japan: A Study of Post-War Trends (London: Oxford University Press, 1960)

23rd November 2004, 12:09
Holy smokes, Joe. Thanks for the info!

23rd November 2004, 12:18
Originally posted by Joseph Svinth
Take a look at the yakuza and the right wing nationalists. One of the karate photos at Corbis, for example, shows one of the more notorious right wing nationalists teaching his class during the 1950s. Mishima, the novelist who committed seppuku at a JSDF headquarters after the troops refused to mutiny for him, was also into martial arts.
Actually, Jope, could I just nitpick and say that Mishima didn't commit suicide at JSDF HQ; he did it in Ueno Park. (Yes, the same place where courting couples lose all shyness in the summer...)
Anyway, regards, and I apologise for diverting the thread. We now return you to your regular programming. :)

P Goldsbury
23rd November 2004, 13:03
Hello Mr Snowden,

The area that you mention has been well depicted in a novel by Christopher Bates entitled "The Wave Man" (ISBN 981-204-461-2). Have you come across this?

The names mentioned in the acknowledgements suggest to me that the novel is based on sound research and gives a fair picture of the relations between one aspect of the the martial arts in Japan and the 'dark side'.

I particularly liked the burakumin connection. I have occasionally encountered hints of this in my time in Japan, as also the yakuza connection, but to my knowledge these have never been set out in a monograph. Perhaps this is the book you will eventually write...

Joe's reference to Kaplan and Dubro is out of date, for a new edition was produced in 2003 by U of C Press at Berkeley ISBN 0-520-21652-1 (pbk). Actually the UK first edition of this book is quite rare, since the 'Godfather' of Japan, the late Ryoichi Sasakawa, arranged for the entire print run to be shredded, in collaboration with his friend the late Robert Maxwell.

I myself once had to meet Sasakawa as part of my duties as a newly elected official of the martial arts federation I belong to. I believe he was president of the WUKO for many years, but I never thought that his influence extended to aikido (the martial art I practise here in Japan). When I questioned this, there was a shrug and the usual "Shikata-ga-nai" response.

Best regards,

23rd November 2004, 13:39
Peter, just to add to what you wrote, Sasakawa also paid for the print run of the brochure that accompanied the Shorinji Kempo All-Japan Taikai in 1984, and was guest of honour/keynote speaker at that event. Fortunately, Shorinji Kempo subsequently severed all connections with him and his "foundation" soon after.

23rd November 2004, 16:43
Well, my head hurts now. Just popped in "ryoichi sasakawa" into google and spent a half hour sifting through the mess. Genial, kindly philanthropist who "teaches Japan to think about itself" or arch-co-conspirator spinning a web of propaganda and right-wing controlacross the globe? Down the rabbit hole...

The things I don't know.

23rd November 2004, 22:54
Sasakawa was certainly tothe right of the political spectrum, and hated Japan's reliance on the USA for such things as defence. (He was chafed by Japan's pacifist constitution, among other things.) I suspect that, like Ishihara, he felt that Japan should amend the constitution to give the Japanese the right to have a military again. This, however, would inevitably antagonise Japan's close neighbours, all of whom have suffered at the hands of Japanese militarism.
Japanese nationalist of right-wing loon? You decide.

Daniel Lee
24th November 2004, 00:21
Hi Matt,

This may be going off on a tangent somewhat, but some feudal jailing roles fell to the eta-hinin (untouchables) in the edo period. There were certain schools of torimono-jutsu (arresting arts) used and taught exclusively by this minority group, with aspects such as arresting with the mitsu dogu, jutte, hojo, and various means of interrogation/torture part and parcel of their curricula. This form of torimono-jutsu is distinct from that used by doshin/yoriki (feudal police).

One example of those extinct arts is Ganseki-ryu. Although this school does not appear in Watatani's "Bugei Ryuha Daijiten", it appears to be an Edo period school specialising in arresting and interrogation. Some pictures from their scrolls are below. More details on torture in Japan's history can be found in Nawa Yumio's books "Nihon no Goumon to Shokei-shi (A history of torture and punishment in Japan)" and "Goumon Keibatsu-shi".

Daniel Lee
24th November 2004, 00:24

Daniel Lee
24th November 2004, 00:35
Still figuring out these attachment settings :p

Daniel Lee
24th November 2004, 00:38
Last one.

24th November 2004, 05:36
You never cease to amaze, Daniel. Thanks you for the pics and thank you for the tangent--which is, in fact, not a tangent at all.

I was looking for anything from win-at-all-costs ethics to quasi-spiritual veneration of the not-so-positive. Your info fits perfectly into all of that. This is the kind of stuff that is never sung about in glorious histories, lauding mythical beginnings and divine-inspirations. It's firmly buried in the twilight world of half-truth and safely-closeted skeletons.

So far, everyone who has posted has some light-shedding information. I think that looking at this under the light of the Yakuza and the untouchables certainly takes this ride a bit closer to that world. No one is out writing tomes to praise the arts of grubby !!!!-dwellers or devil worshippers. What a treasure those attachments are!

Peter, your info is always very helpful, as well. I will try to get ahold of your reference for sure. As for any books written by me--as an Athropologist and former analyst with an expansive yet fickle interest in everything under the sun, this will most assuredly be added to my list of things to know more about. I could certainly use more of your insight, no doubt, if this were to be pursued in earnest.

I'll try to get ahold of as many of the mentioned references as possible. This seems to be a pretty interesting read to me, I hope others think so--if not, I guess I'll nerd this one alone.

Rabbit hole, indeed. Would it be as fun without one?...


Joseph Svinth
24th November 2004, 06:07
Hojo-jutsu takes you to porn sites almost instantly. For references, search archives here.

Ian Buruma's "Behind the Mask" is also worthwhile, as the Japan of salarymen using flashlights to check out strippers is easier to find than the Japan of venerated Zen masters. Just follow the Marines off the ship, and there you'll be.


Ueno Park is also the venue of a lot of prewar Japan's professional boxing. A lot of sleaze in boxing, no matter where you go, so that world is definitely worth checking.


I thought Mishima's suicide was at the JSDF base at Ichigaya. See, for example, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/japan/jda.htm , http://members.tripod.com/dennismichaeliannuzz/finalDay.html , and http://www.vill.yamanakako.yamanashi.jp/bungaku/mishima/index-e.html . From the latter site (QUOTES):

February 1967: Mishima is promoted to the rank of shodan (1st-dan) in iai (swordsmanship). At about this time, Mishima also begins studying karate at the Japan Karate Society (in Tokyo's Suidobashi district) under Chief Instructor Masatoshi Nakayama.

August 1968: Mishima is promoted to the rank of 5th-dan in kendo.

February 1969: At about this time, Mishima furthers his study of iai (swordsmanship) under Master Takayasau Saito and is promoted to the rank of shodan (1st dan) after only three months.

June 1970: Mishima participates, together with members of the Shield Society, in the 13th All-Japan Karate Championships at the Budoka in Tokyo's Kudan district. He is promoted to the rank of shodan (1st-dan) in karate.

November 1970: Early in the morning, Mishima addresses the envelope containing the final installment of "The Decay of the Angel" the final volume of his life-work "The Sea of Fertility" (which had taken him six years to write) to his publisher and places it on a table in his foyer. At 10 a.m. he phones a couple of reporter friends and asks them to come to Ichigaya. At 11 a.m. Mishima and his four cadets arrive at the Ichigaya Headquarters of the Eastern Army. He steps onto the balcony and reads his "Manifesto" trying to rouse the soldiers to take action and rise up to save Japan, but is mostly unheard and jeered. After shouting "Long Live His Majesty the Emperor!" three times, Mishima commits seppuku (ritual disembowelment) in the office of General Kanetoshi Mashita at 12:15 p.m. Morita tries three times to ritually behead Mishima but fails; the head is finally severed by Hiroyasu Koga. Morita (25 years old), then tries to follow Mishima in committing seppuku; although the cut is much too shallow to be fatal, he gives the signal, upon which Koga also ritually beheads Morita. The Mishima Incident is over.

24th November 2004, 06:21
I always thought Mishima committed seppuku in Ueno Park, Joe, with one of his JSDF supporters acting as his second.

25th November 2004, 18:19
Mishima killed himself in General Mashita's office, Eastern Army Headquarters according to THE LIFE AND DEATH OF YUKIO MISHIMA by Henry Scott Stokes (complete with photos).

I think that Joe is correct here Tony.