I have wondered about this, and tried to find any information on whether O Sensei may have kept horses, or worked with them. I thought maybe… I knew he was a farmer, but he could have farmed by hand, or with oxen. I had not found any mention of horses, until just now, in The Art of Peace, by Morihei Ueshiba & John Stevens. From Part One – Morihei Ueshiba, Prophet of the Art of Peace:
“Looking for new worlds to conquer, in 1912 Morihei led a group of settlers from Tanabe to the wilds of Hokkaikdo, Japan’s northernmost, largely undeveloped island. The group settled in remote Shirataki, and started to build a village from scratch. Morihei worked tirelessly to make the project a success. He put up buildings; cleared the land for the cultivation of potatoes, peppermint, and sesame; engaged in prudent logging of the great forests; raised horses; and eventually served as a local councilman. (Despite Morihei’s great efforts, the settlement never really succeeded. Crops failed the first few years, and there was a disastrous fire in 1916 that destroyed 80 percent of the village, including Morihei’s first home. Morihei did learn how to tame wild animals, though, becoming pals with several big Hokkaido bears.)”
O Sensei raised horses!!!
If anyone has more information, details, stories, references, anything, I’d love to know about it. Did he ride? Did he train them? Use them as draft animals? Did he raise them for sale? For meat? I’d love to add notes here with any links, book recommendations, etc. If you have anything to share.
And bears? I’d love to hear anything about that, too.
I have always seen animals as a great common thread across time and borders. When I see a worn black and white photo of someone many decades ago, in a very foreign land, with a cat in the doorway, I know their life must have been quite different from mine, now, but I also know their cat was a cat like any cat I might know. I’m sure it meowed around their feet while they cooked, scratched at the door to be let in, and left dead “gifts” on the doormat. I know a little about their life, and know they can’t have been so very different from me, really.
I’ve always wondered if O Sensei had a cat, too. I can see him after a long day regaling uchi deshi with stories of Shinto gods, and overseeing dojo activities, sneaking a purring kitty a bit of meat from his dinner. It makes him seem so human, and so timeless.
I’m adding a couple of comments here that I made when I posted this to Facebook, in case anyone has any info/thoughts on them. I don’t have commenting enabled here, but if you are on AikiWeb you are certainly invited to add your thoughts or information on resources to this post there: http://www.aikiweb.com/blogs/my-path-17246/o-sensei-raised-horses-4436/
– I’ve also thought there was a strong connection between farming and Aikido. Living with nature and learning to take what’s in front of you and use it seems like something anyone dealing with seasons, soils, insects, etc. would have to learn. You can’t push back against a storm, or take a stand against a swarm of bugs. You have to notice “OK, it’s pouring. I can’t plant today. How can I move forward from here?”
– Do you know where I can find information about the Settlement? (Or O Sensei’s other farming activities, before or after?) I’m curious about this aspect of his life because I find that training one’s body is not very different from training a horse (same learning patterns), and that working with nature and the land seems entirely compatible with Aikido principles. I’d love to know if/how that experience might have influenced his creation of the art, teaching, or view of how the world works.