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Thread: Yoshida Kotaro & Yoshida Kenji (Yanagi-ryu)

  1. #16
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    Joseph,

    Thanks for the clarification. I had heard that an American citizen who traveled to Japan after hostilities started were subject to losing their citizenship....or worse! Obviously this situation is much more complicated than I was led to believe. Thanks

    Toby

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    Yoshida Kenji's transmission of the Yoshida family martial arts to Don Angier is a most fascinating story, the most complete treatment of which I found in an Aikido Journal article by Soke Angier last year. One question that was not answered in much detail by either Soke Angier's article or Stanley Pranin's background material is: why did Yoshida Kenji come to the United States in the first place?

    I understand that there may have been very personal reasons that Yoshida Kenji would never have communicated to Mr. Angier or anyone else, even if there had not been linguistic and cultural barriers. The Aikido Journal material seems to hint at tensions between Yoshida Kenji and his father, Yoshida Kotaro. I confess it's this kind of personal detail that brings historical characters alive for me, and that's really why I'm asking. However, I only want to know about what is credibly known, from letters or recollections of family friends or that kind of source.

    In addition to being a highly-skilled martial artist, Yoshida Kotaro was a member of an old and respected samurai family, who cultivated high-level "right-wing" political connections through his association with the Genyosha and Kokubyukai. Yoshida Kenji was his son, the inheritor of the family fighting arts and school of strategy, in so many ways the person that a traditional samurai father would expect and demand carry on family tradition.

    Was Yoshida Kenji running from that pressure of tradition? Did he disagree with his father's politics, enough so that he left his native country in an ominous time? If he did not fear his father or disagree with him in some substantive way, what would have driven Yoshida Kenji out of Japan? Would he have moved to the United States purely for fun and adventure? Would he have moved here to assess conditions in a potential enemy of Japan and report back to his father?

    It's significant to me that both father and son survived World War 2 (the son not by many years), but nothing is reported of any postwar contact between them. That suggests personal strain between them, perhaps the motivation for Yoshida Kenji to have left Japan in the first place.

    Any considered opinion and information would be much appreciated. Thank you.

    Tom Douglas
    Tom Douglas

  3. #18
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    Tom,

    You stated:

    "I understand that there may have been very personal reasons that Yoshida Kenji would never have communicated to Mr. Angier or anyone else, even if there had not been linguistic and cultural barriers"

    You mean't Kotaro, right? Don Angier was provided erroneous information of Kotaro's death by a karate instructor who supposeably knew Kotaro. Later Don learned from Katsuyuki Kondo that Kotaro had not died when told, but survived until 1966. Had Don known this he would have tried to contact Kotaro directly. The outcome of such an effort is pure speculation.

    ____________________

    and

    "In addition to being a highly-skilled martial artist, Yoshida Kotaro was a member of an old and respected samurai family, who cultivated high-level "right-wing" political connections through his association with the Genyosha and Kokuryukai. Yoshida Kenji was his son, the inheritor of the family fighting arts and school of strategy, in so many ways the person that a traditional samurai father would expect and demand carry on family tradition."

    Was Yoshida Kenji running from that pressure of tradition? Did he disagree with his father's politics, enough so that he left his native country in an ominous time?"

    The answer to the above is yes.

    ______________________

    A virtual underground railroad was run by the Japanese fishing fleets operating on the west coast prior to WW2. Yoshida Kenji fled Japan in fear of his life as he received information that his name was on hit list distributed by the Kokuryukai. He felt his father would not intercede in this as they were in heated disagreement over the political pursuits of Japan. He first fled to Costa Rica. There he made contact with a fishing fleet that helped him illegally immigrate by (it is believed) assuming the identity of a deceased Japanese immigrant. He was picked up and incarcerated at Camp Topaz in Utah after the beginning of hostilities.

    I believe Joe Svinth and Neil Yamamoto have been researching internment camp files in an attempt to gather more information on Yoshida Kenji during his years at Camp Topaz.

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    Hi all,

    Don just asked me if I had gotten anywhere on the Yoshida stuff.

    Joe gave me a lot of lead ideas to work on but I keep running into dead ends. Do you know how hard it is to find a single Japanese man under an assumed alias, who kept to himself, out of a huge number of Japanese.

    No joke guys, after I spend a day looking at photos and stuff, we do all look alike.

    Joe and I have talked about going down to the stacks of all the camp newspapers on microfiche but have yet to have a full day to do this. This is a long term project and I don't know when it will bear any fruit.

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    Two problems here. One is the mythology of the model minority. (Surely you don't mean to suggest that there was reason for the FBI to detain people in December 1941?) The other is the pseudonym, as without it, Yoshida can't be easily tracked.

    But, as Yoshida himself mentioned the Topaz kendo club, a future project involves reading the Topaz newspapers on microfilm to see if somewhere there is a list of members. If so, then perhaps somebody remembers something. Or not: Sixty years is a long time to remember details about one older man in your kendo class who at the time was doing his best to hide in plain sight.
    Last edited by Joseph Svinth; 29th April 2001 at 01:38.

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    Default More Questions

    Greetings,

    As a student of Daito-ryu, I've also found the story of Yoshida Kenji quite interesting. Mr. Douglas's inquiries above raise further questions regarding the father, Yoshida Kotaro, and his family in Japan. Most of the research I am familiar with concerning Yoshida Kotaro centers on his connection with Daito-ryu. What has been discovered in Japan about his family art? Some specific questions are:

    1. Are there any relatives of Yoshida Kotaro alive in Japan? Have these people been interviewed about their family art?

    2. The rift between the father and son appears to be great. Were there any correspondences between them after Yoshida Kenji left Japan?

    3. My teacher, Kondo Katsuyuki, was a student of Yoshida Kotaro; however, he does not recall Yoshida Kotaro ever mentioning a family art, Yanagi-ryu. Did the break between the father and son create such a sore spot with the father that it caused him to forsake his family art? (I realize this question is difficult to answer because Mr. Angier did not learn much about Yoshida Kenji's family background while his teacher was alive. Nonetheless, it is interesting to ask why the father embraced Daito-ryu to such an extent publicly, yet did not publicly reveal his own family art.)

    3. Maybe there are people with whom Yoshida Kotaro discussed his family art. Yoshida Kotaro had other students such as Mr. Yoshimi Tomabechi, a senior in Daito-ryu. Has anyone interviewed Mr. Tomabechi or others about this subject?

    4. What information has been discovered from Japan as a result of recent research by Stanley Pranin? (Or do we have to wait for the next issue of Aikido Journal?)

    5. If the Yoshida family art came from Kyushu, perhaps there is some nexus between extant Satsuma based ryu and the weapons waza in Yanagi-ryu. Has any comparative research been done in this area?

    6. Finally, I wonder what happened to the calligraphy, "Yanagi-ryu aiki-bugei?" Something of value to the family, like that calligraphy, probably would have been safeguarded. Has it been located?

    Thanks in advance to any of you researchers who can shed some light on these questions.

    Sincerely,

    Scott Vogeley
    vogeley@colorado.edu

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    Scott,

    Many of your questions are probably never going to be answered. Even though Kondo sensei was a student of Yoshida sensei it would have been absolutely improper for him to ask any personal questions of Yoshida. Don, Kondo, and Stan have tried to find out more information however it is extremely difficult. A personal family art would have been kept secret especially by someone like Yoshida Kotaro. These were very old school guys, Black Dragon Society etc. there is much that they would not have revealed even to close friends.

    There was information that was destroyed that some of us, including Stan, are aware of however the circumstances are personal and not for the public. Fortunately some pictures etc. that Kenji had given Don were stored in Don's sister's attic for over 40 years. Don had forgotten about them until his sister called and asked if he still wanted the box of old photos of these Japanese people. Stan also is in possession of a copy of a book written by Yoshida Kotaro. Yoshida Kenji was unaware that his father was still alive and no contact was made.
    James Willliams
    Kaicho
    Nami ryu

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    A thought. In the National Archives at College Park, Maryland, are literally hundreds of boxes of SCAP-era documents relating to the Amur River Society, kendo, and related topics. I would guess that most have English-language summaries attached, as many senior US Army intelligence officers wouldn't have read Japanese. Now, to my knowledge, no one has ever seriously gone through this material with an eye toward publishing MA-related articles or books. So, if you live in the DC/Maryland area and are serious about learning your early 20th century budo history, begin your search at http://www.nara.gov/nara/nail.html , using the keywords "kendo" and "judo," and then prepare to spend a few years with pencil and notebook in the stacks.

    It would make a great dissertation topic.

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    Thanks to everyone for their contributions here, and for asking great additional questions!

    Mr. Threadgill, I meant Yoshida Kenji (Kotaro's son, and Don Angier's teacher) when I said that he might have had very personal reasons for not telling Don Angier his specific motivation(s) for having left Japan. You very clearly described Yoshida Kenji's reasons for leaving Japan. They seem very valid and urgent to me . . .

    Let me also say (off-topic), congratulations on the awarding of your Menkyo Kaiden. That is extremely impressive . . . and it sounds like the whole occasion was a great time for everyone.

    Mr. Svinth: if I only had the time . . . but you know, I am curious about this issue . . . and I do have training for this kind of research. If I ever find anything that seems to even remotely bear on this topic, I'll run it up to you.

    Frankly, I just asked the question originally because it is such a fascinating story to me.

    Thanks again, everyone.

    Tom Douglas
    Tom Douglas

  10. #25
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    Hi Guys,

    Scott Vogley posted:

    "My teacher, Kondo Katsuyuki, was a student of Yoshida Kotaro; however, he does not recall Yoshida Kotaro ever mentioning a family art, Yanagi-ryu."

    That statement is technically true but not the whole story.

    I visited Katsuyuki Kondo with Don Angier in 1994, both at the dojo and at his home. During translated conversation there Don and Kondo discussed Yanagi ryu and Kotaro at length. Kondo told Don that he did see scrolls in Kotaros possession related to a martial tradition. He specifically mentioned a scroll containing tessen jutsu techniques. Don and Kondo both procceeded to demonstrate iron fan techniques to one another using two fans, one that belonged to Kotaro and one that belonged to Sokaku Takeda. Kondo said that these he learned from Kotaro. They were basically identical to those being demonstrated by Don as Yanagi ryu. Kondo mentioned that he never specifically heard Kotaro mention the name "Yanagi ryu" but he also stated that Yoshida was very proficient in a sophisticated weapons system of some sort. He certainly gave me the impression that he accepted Don as the inheritor of this system, whatever the name.

    Another significant detail is that my Shindo Yoshin ryu sensei, Takamura Yukiyoshi's grandfather knew Yoshida Kotaro quite well. In documents he mentions Yoshida Kotaro's family art specifically but calls it Yoshida ha bujutsu instead of Yanagi ryu. I don't know why. He also called Daito ryu, Daido ryu.

    Toby Threadgill

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    Default Angier article online

    You can read the article described at http://ejmas.com/jcs/jcsart_angier_0501.htm (It just got posted, otherwise I would have mentioned it sooner.)

  12. #27
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    Interesting stuff.

    So here we are seeing, the real deal perhaps?An American Aiki jujitsu tradiition that Can be documented and is confirmed as being real by Kondo Katsuyuki?

    The exception that proves the rule.

    It can happen.

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    [Post deleted by user]
    Last edited by Nathan Scott; 12th June 2014 at 03:57.
    Nathan Scott
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    "Put strength into your practice, and avoid conceit. It is easy enough to understand a strategy and guard against it after the matter has already been settled, but the reason an opponent becomes defeated is because they didn't learn of it ahead of time. This is the nature of secret matters. That which is kept hidden is what we call the Flower."

    - Zeami Motokiyo, 1418 (Fūshikaden)

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    ***********************

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    Sorry, that was me as John, I hadn't realized that the computer was logged in under his name.
    -----------------------------------------
    Cool stuff Nathan, thanks for posting it.

    I had never heard of Bobby Lowe until now.
    I have seen some of this material in Oyama's book ("This is Karate" I think, not sure though) and some of it from other sources, websites. It fits in with much of what we do know.

    Not sure about the Yanagi name reference. In the one I'd seen before Yanagi was not specifically mentioned, just Yoshida's "family art". Yanagi may have been added later after finding out about Don and whatnot. In most of the stuff I've found that Yoshida was known to have a family system but rarely spoke of it and never shared it with anyone, only Daito ryu.

    Do you know if this book is available and where I could get a copy?
    Richard Elias
    Takamura-ha Shindo Yoshin ryu
    Yanagi Ryu

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