Legends of Shurikenjutsu
Father of Modern-day, Post-War Shurikenjutsu
Saito Satoshi (1922~2014) was born in the Minato ward of downtown Tokyo. He had one younger, and two elder siblings. His father was a doctor, and a avid reader of German medical journals. At the age of eighteen he enrolled at the law faculty of Tokyo's Keio University. Whilst at Keio, he began the study of karate under Funakoshi Gichin, the attributed father of modern-day karate-do. Saito was especially fond of his elder brother, who was also enrolled at Keiko. It was this brother who had introduced him to Funakoshi, and they were often seen training together at the campus dojo. His younger brother was involved in kendo. In 1941, at the age of 19, Saito began his training in shurikenjutsu under the instruction of Naruse Kanji, headmaster of the Negishi Ryu tradition. His elder brother had written to Naruse in advance, and arranged the visit. In 1943, both Saito and his elder brother were drafted into the military. Naruse had grown increasingly fond of Saito, so when he heard the news, he summoned him to his home. Naruse had fitted the blade of his most treasured katana to the body of a military issued gunto, and he told young Saito to carry it bravely into battle. During his service, Saito attained the rank of second lieutenant, receiving training as both an artillery officer and an aircraft navigator. During his military service, he made regular visits to the dojo of Miyawaki Toru, master of Chuya-ha Itto Ryu and Shirai Ryu Shurikenjutsu. For many years, Naruse had been working toward the resurrection of Shirai-ryu, which many believed to have died-out. At Naruse's request, Saito made periodic visits to Miyawaki’s dojo and was able to compile valuable technical and historical information concerning the Shirai Ryu tradition. Eventually, however, both Miyawaki and his Shizuoka-based dojo fell victim to a strategic bombing campaign, in which the United States airforce had been targeting the armament factories and airfields in Hamamatsu. Saito's last face-to-face meeting with Miyawaki was in June of 1944. It was during this period that Naruse Kanji had written to Saito and expressed his wish for him to succeed him as headmaster of both the Negishi-ryu and Yamamoto-ryu traditions. After the war drew to a close in late 1945, Saito returned to studies at Keio University. Sadly, his elder brother was far less fortunate. Saito Satoshi supported himself and his family financially by working several part-time jobs, while completing his studies. With Nuruse’s health now deteriorating, Saito began paying him regular visits, leading up to his death. Saito married, but never had children. Professionally, he worked as a civil servant for the city of Tokyo. He served at various ministries, and specialized in the field of statistics. He also worked as Chief-of-Staff at Tokyo Metropolitan University and lectured at the Faculty of Economics. In addition, he was a senior adviser to the National Federation of Statistical Associations in Japan. In 1983, he received the Ouchi Prize, in honor of his contribution to the field of statistics. For seventy years, Saito Satoshi had been a devoted researcher and collector of all things related to Japan’s militaristic past. His personal collection of weapons, books, scrolls, historical documents and antiques was overwhelmingly extensive. In 1949, Saito became a friend and student of Fujita Seiko, commonly known as the last Koga Ninja. In 1954, Saito Satoshi brought Negishi Ryu back to the public eye when he demonstrated the art at the first postwar Japanese Martial Arts Exposition, held at the Tokyo Taikukan in Sendagaya ward. The aftermath of World War 2 and the subsequent banning of all martial arts by the Allied Occupation Forces meant that many classical martial arts were now facing possible extinction. This monumental event, which was sponsored by the Life Extension Society, is said to have attracted an audience of over 15,000. It was at this event that Saito first met and became friends with Gozo Shioda, founder of the Yoshinkan school of Aikido. Between the years of 1957 and 1994, Saito made regular TV appearances on NHK, TBS (Japan), TV Asahi, TV Tokyo and Tokai TV. He was also called upon to choreograph fight scenes for period dramas and films. During this time, Saito became friends with Nawa Yumio of the Masaki Ryu, and later instructed him in the art of shurikenjutsu. In 1992, Saito Satoshi was awarded the Imperial Order of the Sacred Treasure. After his retirement, Saito dedicated his life exclusively to the study and preservation of classical Japanese warrior traditions (koryu). From 1997 until his death in 2014, he served as President/Chairman of the Nihon Kobudo Shinkokai, Japan’s oldest and most illustrious kobudo organisation (est. 1935). He was also a permanent director of the Japan Kobudo Association.
Naruse Kanji (1888~1948) was the 3rd generation headmaster of Negishi Ryu Shurikenjutsu. Born in Tokyo on 10 November 1888, Kanji married into the Naruse family and adopted the family name. His father-in-law, Naruse Zenta Masashizu instructed him in Kuwana-han Yamamoto Ryu swordsmanship, an ancient samurai tradition, founded by Yamamoto Jikensai (brother of Kansuke), which had been hand down within the Naruse family for generations. Kanji and his wife had a daughter by the name of Eiko. By profession, they ran a small school for underprivilaged deaf and mute children in Tokyo. In April of 1927, Naruse met Tonegawa Magoroku, 2nd generation headmaster of Negishi Ryu. He was accepted as an apprentice and a decade later, went on to succeed Tonegawa as Soke of the tradition. At the age of 39, Naruse was drafted into the Second Sino-Japanese War and served as a Master Swordsmith. During his time on the front lines in China, he was called upon to repair thousands of swords. Later in life, he published numerous books on the subject. Titles included Traditional Swordsmithing and Japanese Swords in Battle. Naruse was a founding member of the Nihon Kobudo Shinkokai (Japan Kobudo Promotion Society) and was instrumental in preserving and promoting the art during Japan's turbulant post-Meiji era. He was recognized as Japan's leading authority on shurikenjutsu and in 1943, he went on to publish the first-ever book on shurikenjutsu, titled "Shuriken". It was hardbound and limited to 2000 copies. According to Saito Satoshi, Naruse spent his later years living on a farm in Akitsu, Musashino. Naruse had a fondness for Japanese shochu, and in winter, he would invite Saito over to drink with him, while warming their legs under a kotatsu.
Fujita Seiko (1899~1966) was a prominent and highly respected member of Japan’s martial arts community. An authority on kobudo, the classical martial arts of Japan & the Ryukyu Islands, Fujita inherited Koga Ryu Ninjutsu from his grandfather and Shingetsu Ryu Shurikenjutsu from Fujiwara Naritada. His life was riddled with interesting anecdotes and factual accounts of his unique and fascinating talents. As a boy, he was hard and unruly. At the age of 6, he was sent to reside at a temple for character rehabilitation, but was later expelled by the monks. According to reports, he banded with yamabushi (mountain ascetics) and followed them into the wilderness, where he undertook training in esoteric spiritualism and shamanistic practices. It was at this time he first developed an ability to mentally regulate bodily functions, which included being able to overcome intense pain. These skills were often demonstrated publicly later in life, when he would submit his body to extreme feats of physical torture. During his lifetime, he obtained mastery in numerous martial arts and published numerous books on ninjutsu, kobudo and spiritualism. To this day, his book, "Zukai Shurikenjutsu" remains the world’s leading publication on the subject. Academically, he had enrolled at Waseda, Chūō and Meiji universities, but only graduated from Nihon University in the department of Religious Studies. From 1922 onwards, Fujita was called upon to lecture at the military academies across the country. He also taught ninjutsu officially at Japan’s infamous wartime spy school, the Rikugun Nakano Gakkō. Fujita was both a martial arts researcher and an avid collector. After his death, his private collection was bequeathed to the Odawara City Library. At the library’s official bequeathal ceremony, headmaster Saito Satoshi gave the keynote address, speaking openly about his time with Fujita. Fujita’s family was in attendance, as well as luminaries from the world of kobudo, who had gathered to perform in his honor. Today, Fujita is remembered as the last Koga Ninja of Japan.
Shirakami Eizo (1921~2002), aka Ikkuken was born in Tokyo. From 1938 he began to study Negishi Ryu shurikenjutsu and Yamamoto Ryu iaijutsu under Naruse Kanji. In 1947, Shirakami graduated from Waseda University and went on to become a high school teacher in the Jiyugaoka district. He learned Hokushin Itto Ryu kenjutsu from his uncle, General Hayashi Senjuro. Another uncle, Miyamura Chizuka instructed him in the art of Heki ryu kyujutsu (archery) and uchinejutsu (arrow throwing). In 1948 he succeeded Naruse Kanji as the generation head of Naruse-den Shirai Ryu shurikenjutsu. In 1965, Shirakami announced the foundation of his own style of shurikenjutsu, known as Ikku Ryu. The style used square-bodied, double-pointed bo-shuriken. During his lifetime, Shirakami published several works on the subject of shurikenjutsu. Among them was Shuriken-no-sekai (World of Shuriken). Upon Shirakami-sensei's passing in 2001, the Shirai Ryu Sokeship passed to Saitō Satoshi.
Maeda Isamu (1902~1988) was born on the Kunisaki Peninsula, in Kyushu. He was proficient in many martial arts, holding senior dan grades in Kodokan judo, iaido and jodo, to name a few. His experimentation with shuriken began early in life and he studied various styles from different teachers. Proficient in short-range throwing, he became interested in learning the long-range techniques of Negishi Ryu, after reading Naruse Kanji's book on shuriken. Maeda was a fireman by profession, but he came from a wealthy family. Now living Yawata City, Kyushu, he made irregular visits to Naruse Kanji's home in Tokyo to aquire the skill. It is important to note that Maeda focussed on shurikenjutsu practice only. He did not receive instruction in Annaka-han Yamamoto Ryu Iaijutsu. During the war, he was dispatched to China as a non-commissioned infantry soldier. Rumors state that he had trained shurikenjutsu at the Shaolin Temple for a period, but that is highly unlikely. While in China, he was awarded for bravery, after reportedly throwing shuriken at a grenade wielding combatant. This made news back home in the Japanese tabloids and may have lead to the fanciful Shaolin Temple stories. After Naruse Kanji's death in 1948, Maeda succeeded him as Negishi Ryu Soke for a brief period. Perhaps due to his practice of other styles of shurikenjutsu, his technique is said to have differed from the norms of Negishi Ryu tradition. Maeda parted from school and created his own style, which he called the Shinei Ryu. Well known students of Maeda Isamu include Nawa Yumio and Kono Yoshinori. Maeda passed way in 1988.
Negishi Nobunori Shorei (1833~1897) was born into a samurai family in the Yasunaka feudal state of Joshu province. His birth name was Chuzo, but he later changed it to Shorei. He received the teachings of Oshima Ryu (jujutsu/sojutsu/kusarigama) from his uncle, Araki Ryu kenjutsu from his father, and Hokushin Itto Ryu (kenjutsu/iaijutsu/naginatajutsu) & Ganritsu Ryu shurikenjutsu from Kaiho Hanpei. In 1857, upon the passing of his father, he became the 4th generation headmaster of Annaka-han Araki Ryu kenjutsu and inherited the post of official sword instructor to the lord of the region. He also aquired the 3,000 men that were serving under his father. Shorei saw great potential in Ganritsu Ryu shurikenjutsu and decided to further develop the art. Maintaining the slender body and octagonal, bulbous head of the original Ganritsu Ryu shuriken, he increased the overall size and weight, allowing it travel longer distances and with greater impact. He also created methods of strategy and engagement, deploying shuriken in conjunction with cuts of the sword. Shorei became widely known as Joshu Kotengu, which translates as the small tengu from Joshu province. After the abolition of feudal domains and the establishment of prefectures, Shorei laid down his sword and devoted himself to farming. He was well versed in literature and poetry, which he had learned from Inoue Fumio. In his later years, he grew a flowing white beard and was admired by the people he associated with. His popularity continued to grow, and in 1882, he was elected as a member of the prefectural assembly. Negishi Shorei’s grave can be found at Myoukouin Temple, Annaka City, Gunma Prefecture. His posthumous name was Senkyo.
Lord Tokugawa Nariaki
Tokugawa Nariaki (1800~1860) was a prominent Japanese warlord (daimyo) that ruled the Mito Domain. His childhood name was Torasaburo, but later changed to Keisaburo. Nariaki was the 3rd son of Tokugawa Harutoshi, the seventh-generation Lord of Mito. The heir to the title was initially Harutoshi's eldest son Narinobu, but in 1829 the mantle passed to Nariaki. Nariaki was well-versed in various martial arts, including Hokushin Itto Ryu kenjutsu, Yamato Ryu archery (大和流弓術), Anazawa Ryu naginatajutsu (穴沢流薙刀術) and Ganritsu Ryu shurikenjutsu. In addition, he founded Jozan Ryu naginatajutsu (常山流薙刀術) and Kamihatsu Ryu artillery (神発流炮術). Nariaki’s daughter, Takako married Date Yoshikuni, lord of the Sendai domain. The Dates had received Ganritsu Ryu shurikenjutsu teachings from the Sendai region’s Katouno clan. Lord Tokugawa commisioned his daughter to teach the shuriken art to Kaiho Hanpei, who had become one of his retainers and served as an official sword instructor for the Mito region. Nariaki’s seventh son, Yoshinobu went on to become the last Shogun of Japan. Nariaki’s posthumous name was Rekko, and today he is often referred to as Mito Rekko.
Lord Date Yoshikuni
Date Yoshikuni (1825~1874) was born at Aoba Castle in Sendai, the second son of the 11th-generation daimyo, Lord Date Nariyoshi. His birthname was Jozaburo, but some years later it was changed to Tojiro. In 1837, he was adopted as Date Narikuni’s official successor, taking the name of Date Toshimura. At age 14, he celebrated his coming-of-age ceremony at Edo Castle, and was received in formal audience by Shogun Tokugawa Ieyoshi, who bestowed upon him the "yoshi" kanji from his name, thus becoming Date Yoshitoshi. In 1841 he succeeded Lord Date Narikuni, becoming the 13th daimyo of the Sendai Domain. At this time, his name changed once again to Date Yoshikuni. Over the generations, the Date clan studied various schools of martial arts, but the two prominent ones were Shinkage Ryu swordsmanship and Ganritsu Ryu shurikenjutsu. The shuriken used resembled a sewing needle used for leather saddle making and armor construction. The shuriken was known as Fusetsuken (不殺剣), meaning immortal sword, and could easily be concealed within ones hair. Lord Date Yoshikuni passed the shuriken art on to his wife Tokugawa Takako, and insisted that women in the castle be trained in it for self defense. The art of concealing things in ones hair, was known as zouhatsu-no-jutsu.
Kaiho Hanpei (1822~1863) grew up in the Annaka domain, and studied both Araki Ryu kenjutsu & Ono-ha Itto Ryu kenjutsu. At age 16, his father Shozaemon, was depolyed to Edo, and Kaiho was enrolled at the Genbukan dojo, run by Chiba Shusaku. There were around 6000 disciples at the school, many of them were samurai sent from domains such as Owari, Kaga, Satsuma and Yanagawa. Two years after his enrollment, he received the chu-mokuroku licence, and the following year, the dai-mokuroku. At age 19, he completed his study of Hokushin Itto Ryu and was granted menkyo-kaiden. Kaiho was appointed as shihan at the Kodokan, a branch school in the Mito domain. Fujita Toko, a governer within the domain, recommended that Lord Tokugawa Nariaki employ Kaiho as an official sword instructor for the region. Lord Tokugawa was familiar with the shuriken teachings of the Ganritsu Ryu, which were being taught within the Sendai and Tohoku regions. His daughter, now married to Lord Date of Sendai, had aquired a good level of skill in the art. Tokugawa ordered Kaiho to master the shuriken art and diseminate it within the Mito domain. Lord Nariaki granted Kaiho permission to establish the Kaiho Juku in Yumimachi. Negishi Shorei, son of Kaiho’s former Araki Ryu teacher, travelled to Mito and enrolled at the Kaiho Juku.
Shirai Toru (1783~1843) was born in Edo (Tokyo). His birth name was Daijiro. The surname Shirai is from his mother's side of the family. As there were no males to carry on the family name, Daijiro was adopted by his maternal grandfather, Shirai Hikobei and assumed the name Shirai Yoshikane. At the age of seven, his mother enrolled him as a student of Kijin Ryu, under the instruction of Yoda Hidetoshi Shimpachiro. At age 14, it was decided that he should further his studies at Nakanishi’s dojo of Itto-ryu. Toward the end of 1801, now aged 18, Shirai parted from the school and toured the Kanto and Koshinetsu regions. During his travels, he engaged in numerous matches with practitioners from other styles. He identified a weakness in his wrestling ability and undertook training with Sumo stable-master, Tamagaki. In addition, it is said that he studied Naganuma Ryu Heigaku (military science), Shin Muso Muraku Ryu iaijutsu (quick draw sword technique), Shin Muso Itto Ryu kenjutsu (swordsmanship), Shizuka Ryu naginatajutsu (glaive combat), Inagami Shinmyo Ryu jujutsu (grappling), Hozoin Ryu Takada sojutsu (spearmanship), kusarigamajutsu (chain & sickle) and harifukijutsu (blow gun). Shirai also created his own style of shurikenjutsu (throwing spikes) and teboujutsu (hand staff).
Matsubayashi Samanotsuke Nagayoshi (1593~1667), aka "Henyasai" (the bat) was born in Toujou village, Shinshu, Matsushiro (Nagano City). Son of Matsubayashi Eitsune, a retainer of the Uesugi clan. It is said that he had run away from home and embarked on a pilgrimage to learn martial arts at the age of 14. He studied several styles, such as Katori Shinkon Ryu and Muso Ryu. In addition to the sword, he had also mastered spearmanship and naginatajutsu. He was employed as a sword instructor in Musashi Province (an area that now comprises of Tokyo Metropolis, Saitama Prefecture and parts of Kanagawa Prefecture). In 1643, having heard of his prowess, Lord Date Tadamune of the Sendai Domain invited Nagayoshi to teach swordsmanship to his heir apparent, Date Mitsumune. It was Tadamune who encouraged him to establish his own school, which came to be known as Gan Ryu, aka Ganritsu Ryu. In March of 1651, Matsubayashi was given the opportunity to demonstrate Ganritsu Ryu in the presence of the Shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu at Edo Castle. Iemitsu praised his performance and likened his agility to that of a bat. From that time forward, he assumed the name Henyasai (the bat).