Oshu (Ogawa Kinnosuke)

Oshu (Ogawa Kinnosuke)

I've been a major Ogawa Kinnosuke fan for... well, since I really got in to the history of kendo, so for a pretty long time. In 2015 I released a translation of his 1932 book (revised in '37) Teikoku Kendo Kyohon (The Kendo Textbook of Imperial Japan), which I am sure you have already.

Anyway, when I was doing research for the book in around 2013 or 2014, a sempai of mine casually mentioned he remembered having been given a book that was written just after Ogawa's death. The book was a collection of reminisces by Ogawa's students. My sempai said he would dig it out and lend it to me, on condition that I wouldn't steal it!!! Promise given, I waited for the book. However, after much rummaging around, he couldn't find it (either that or he thought I would actually steal it!) so that was that. I put the book on my wish-list and searched for it online and in second-hand book shops on-and-off throughout the years, sadly to no avail.

Suddenly, and without warning, a copy popped up on an online auction site! Holy cow, I must have it, I thought. And a bidding war commenced. After a couple of days the other bidder finally gave up and the book was mine (at some cost I might add...)!

An example entry from the book, written by a hanshi kyudan sensei

The book was published privately in 1969 to commemorate the seventh anniversary of Ogawa's death by a group of his students (he died in on the 30th of March 1962). I am not sure how active this group actually were, or for how long it continued (I imagine that all the kendo students taught directly by Ogawa to no longer be around).

The book starts with some pictures (many of which I had never seen before), a timeline of his life, then just over 50 chapters of reminisces and anecdotes from various kendoka.

Some pics

If you look closely at the pictures above you will spot senior figures such as  Takano Sasaburo and Nakayama Hakudo, as well as his Bujutsu Kyoin Yoseijo peers: Shimatani Yasohachi, Mochida Moriji, Nakano Sosuke, and Saimura Goro.

The book portrays Ogawa as a strict authoritarian in the dojo, but often kind and relaxed outside. Of course, it is the nature of these types of books to do that. There are other things you learn though, for example, that his "son" (Masayuki, hanshi kyudan) was actually adopted into the Ogawa family through marriage to Ogawa's daughter (Setsuko). I had never seen this mentioned anywhere before and although it might not seem that important, it is these small details that excite the (independent) historian such as myself. Another detail that was revealing was that Ogawa suffered severe hip/joint pain in later life. Probably, it is surmised, due to all the fierce taiatari he did and received at Busen. Sometimes he couldn't even walk it was so bad. His very last days and hospitalisation, as well, are talked about as well, all adding to a better picture of the man for the reader.

My favourite anecdote in the book is one that I had actually come across before but it went in to a lot more detail (I'll abbreviate it here). In around 1918 Ogawa turned to his colleague Kondo Tomoyoshi (both young kendo instructors at Busen at the time) and said something like "Do you wanna head up to Kurama?" It was somewhere in this mountain, as anyone even casually interested in Japanese history can tell you, where the young Ushiwakamaru (Minamoto Yoshitsune) learned kenjutsu from a tengu. Kondo of course assented and, after picking up some fukuro-shinai at a bogu shop near the Botukuden, they walked up Kamogawa for a bit before heading into the hills. According to Google Maps, the distance between Jingu-Maruta-machi station to Kurama-dera is 12km and takes about 2hrs and 40mins to walk today in 2021. Anyway, after paying respects at the temple Ogawa and Kondo headed off the standard route and into the forest looking for tengu. After finding a likely place they waited. Of course, no tengu appeared so, they just did some keiko!! They had no bogu, so just went at each other with fukuro-shinai! After smacking each other around for a bit they went up to where they knew was a small cabin and stayed the night, eating what provisions they had with them. While they were cooking the pair had a right laugh over the situation they found themselves in. They had hoped a tengu would visit them during the night, but that didn't happen either so in the morning, after breakfast, they picked up their fukuro shinai, went down into the valley again, and did some more keiko. The pair decided that the reason the tengu didn't appear was because it was scared!!!!

Memorial for Kinnosuke at the Ogawa families grave plot (erected in 1964)

There is much more in the book, but I want to finish here by discussing it's title: OSHU (尾舟). The title is Ogawa's "gago" which is a sort of extra name that are used by people in art circles. A sort of non de plume if you like. Unfortunately the book doesn't mention why Ogawa chose (or was given) it, so I have to use my imagination. He came from Nagoya which was Owari-han (張藩) in the old domain system. The greatest swordsman of the past generation was Yamaoka Tesshu (鉄). It is my theory that OSHU is something like saying the "Yamaoka Tesshu of Owari domain." I guess that he was given the name rather than created it himself. Who by is a mystery, but my best guess is Butokukai senior figure Nishikubo Hiromichi (student of Yamaoka).

Anyway, I'll leave you with that today. This has been the first instalment in my bookshelf articles, I hope you enjoyed it!