Thoughts on International Education
Musings on Japanese and Ryukyu Budo
Musings on Japanese and Ryukyu Budo
Translated by Aodhan and James M. Hatch
Sept. 12, 2020
Below is a translation of a newspaper article from the Kumamoto newspaper Kumamoto Daily News, first published in September 1973. In it, Chitose Sr talks about his life in karate and highlights some key events. The heavy lifting of the translation was done by my son Aodhan Hatch, with minor tweaks made by myself. Any mistakes will be a result of these tweaks and as such are my fault.
While every attempt has been made to translate the document the nature of working between Japanese, a high context language, and English often makes the intended subtly missing. In such places as where we have expanded beyond the written text, I have added italics.
A special thanks to my Norweigan colleague Dr Rune Ingebrigtsen for passing a copy of the original of this article to me.
68 years living with karate: Kumamoto City’s Chitose-san
The soft sounds of a jabisen (Okinawan musical instrument) float across the morning air in Shimizu-Cho, in Kumamoto city. The musician, still alert and healthy is a 68-year-old man who has lived with karate as a core of his life for 68 years. This is Chitose-san, a worldwide know exponent on the traditional Okinawan practice of karate. As he begins to speak his deep-seated passion for karate is evident.
A major turning point in Chitose's karate life took place shortly after the end of the war in downtown Kumamoto. In a local side street off the main thoroughfare, a large brawl broke out, involving approximately 30 people between returned Japanese troops and locally stationed American troops. The fight was causing a large commotion and there was a danger to bystanders. Annoyed with this disturbance Chitose entered the fray alone. Using only his fist and legs he sent the ruffians flying and peace returned. Having quelled the situation, he left silently.
The next day Chitose received a call to attend the local police station and they wanted to have a ‘chat’. Shocked and somewhat worried he was fearful he was going to be arrested for quelling the disturbance, despite it having been a good act for the public. Upon arrival at the station he was ushered into the Head of Police’s office where, to his utter surprise, he was presented with a letter of thanks form the police for his role in resolving the previous day’s altercation. Furthermore, the Head of the USA’s MPs came by the Chitose household and asked Chitose is he would be willing to teach all the MPs stationed locally, approximately 45 people. He agreed and life was to change dramatically.
Chitose was born in Kumioji, on the outskirts of Naha city, Okinawa. When he was 20 years old he joined the imperial guard (Konoe Shidan) but was ‘kicked out’ after 18 months as he had contracted typhoid. He returned to Okinawa where he worked for 18 months as a substitute teacher. However, he wanted to follow the path of medicine so he returned to Tokyo where he worked in a Tokyo hospital as a gynaecology doctor for about 20 years.
However, due to the war, Chitose decided to leave Tokyo and headed to Kumamoto where he worked as an assistant teacher in a kindergarten. The year following his move to Kumamoto, the war ended (i.e. 1945). He settled down near his wife’s (Makie-san) family home in Kikuchi city. Nevertheless, with the urging on a friend he decided to open the Chitose Hykaten, a department store. Sadly, the business was poor and he was forced to close the store after five years of operation. At this time he was also running a small dojo for locals.
Chitose’s karate history goes a long way back. He started karate while at elementary school (7 years old). He learned Shorin Ryu (i.e. Shuri no Te) and also the Shoreiryu (i.e. Naha no Te). While operating his dojo in Kikuchi city he combined both these styles into a new style called Chito Ryu. This style was based on Chitose’s long years of research into the physiology and anatomy of humans.
The kanji uses for wa (唐) is the same used for the traditional kanji of ‘kara’ used originally in Okinawa. Chitose expressly selected this kanji as he wanted to ensure the tradition of karate was passed on.
In 1953 he moved his dojo to Kumamoto city, Shimizu-Cho (area). From 1964 until the present (i.e. 1973) Shimizu-Cho in Kumamoto-city has served as the headquarters of the Chito Kai Association. Chitose is a 10th-degree blackbelt, the Saiko Shihan (leading instructor) and Soke (i.e. founder) of Chito Ryu. The Hombu dojo currently has approximately 150 members, aged between 8-60 training regularly. From this coming Spring (1974) Chitose’s only son, Yasuhiro (4th dan in karate) will graduate from Tokai Dai (Tokai University) and begin his preparation to inherit the Chito Ryu system. The young Chitose will continue to learn from his father and to teach the depths of Chito Ryu.
Chito Ryu is spreading rapidly across the globe with approximately 200,000 practitioners n japan, 15,000 in Canada and 4,000 in the USA. Currently, there are about 150 people in Austalia, 100 in France practising Chito Ryu and it is expected to see a branch open in Germany soon. In Canada Masami Tsuroka ( a second-generation Japanese) oversees the organisation. In the USA, a former MP and one of Chitose’s original groups of MP’s William Dometrich works to spread Chito Ryu. Chitose has now visited both Canada and the USA a number of times and is always lionized by the local media as the ‘Chitose, the Karate-Japan man’.
Last month he visited the USA with his favourite student Kugizaki Eido (Shihan Renshi 6th dan). He also took this opportunity to visit Canada during this trip. In all places, he is treated well and received a hearty welcome from the governor or mayor. visit Chitose and Kugizaki witnessed the Chito Ryu karate tournament. He shares that while on his recent trip to Canada he took an opportunity to have a medical check-up at a location where a Chito Ryu practitioner works. The result showed he had the body of a 35-year-old “They said that I will be guaranteed another 25 years of life, which means I will live to be 100 years old’ Chitose laughs.
The mentality of Chito Kai is summed up in the characters for wa (harmony) and nin (perseverance). The aim if for peace with others and also to have pateince in your life. The Chito Ryu logo personifies this central tenet. On the symbol two empty hands (written as kara and te) with the circle in the middle symbolising the whole world. The message is to unite the whole world with peace and perseverance. Chito-Ryu produces a monthly newsletter with the goal of deepening bonds between practitioners across the globe.
Returning to Japan a 10th Dan from Okinawa was the happiest day of my life
The devastation of Okinawa at the end of the pacific war deeply torubled Chitose. As a means of helping his homeland he set up a charity group in Kumamoto city which sent funds and relief supplies to Kumamoto. For Chitose, Okinawa remains his homeland and posses many fond memories. Thus, he continues to play his jabisen as the memory of his hometown floats before him and remains forever in his mind’s eye.
NB: Below is a copy of the original article.
Okinawan and Japanese Budo
James M. Hatch
International Educator who happens to be passionate about Chito Ryu Karate. Born in Ireland, educated in Canada, matured in Japan