On the Second Itosu Photo

Yesterday, I wrote On the First Itosu Photo. Since the publication of that photo, a decade of further research passed and – not least due to corresponding activities by various stakeholders of Okinawan history and research on the internet – further material emerged from the archives. Literally.

Like this, just very recently and after considerable thought, leading international researcher and practitioner Patrick McCarthy, Hanshi, turned the public’s attention to a 2nd photo of a person he also considered to be Itosu Ankō. For good reason. It is the following photo provided in the Digital Museum of the Naha City Museum of History.

Photo A: 2nd photo pf Itosu Ankō: Patrick McCarthy, Hanshi, believes the elderly gentleman standing in the second row to the far right is Itosu Ankō. Source: Digital Museum of the Naha City Museum of History.

Photo A: 2nd photo of Itosu Ankō: Patrick McCarthy, Hanshi, believes the elderly gentleman standing in the second row to the far right is Itosu Ankō. Source: Digital Museum of the Naha City Museum of History.

I will refer to it s photo A. Photo A is entitled “Dai Ichi Ōsato Jinjō Kōtō Shōgakkō” and dated to the “Closing years of the Taishō Era”. As regards this kind of school, it was is a secondary school affiliated to an elementary school and meant for the graduates of that elementary school. The school was originally established in 1880 under the name of “Ōsato Shōgakkō” (大里小学校). After various renamings and transfer to its current site, in April 1907 the school was renamed and reorganized as the “Dai Ichi Ōsato Jinjō Kōtō Shōgakkō” (第一大里尋常高等小学校). That is the school name given I n the description of the photo. This name remained like this until 1941 (information provided by the educational department of Nanjō City).

As regards the era photo A has been dated to: the Taishō Era lasted from 1912–1926.

Therefore, so far there are no contradictions in the data. The narrative would be possible. But that is the exact problem in much of Karate research: possible is simply not good enough.

There is also an outline of further information for photo A. It states that it was taken in front of the principal’s office of that school and that the photo was originally published in the book “Dai Ryūkyū Shashin-chō” (1990).

Note: Anybody who has that book “Dai Ryūkyū Shashin-chō” (1990), please look for the corresponding page, scan it (300dpi or more), and send it to me, ok? Thanks.

Well, since photo A was dated to the “Closing years of the Taishō Era”, it would have been shot in the 1920s. This led some social networkers to the conclusion that the picture cannot possibly show Itosu Ankō. But even if the photo had been described and dated by the Naha City Museum of History, we always want to check the sources. Not from bad intention, just to get better. A scientific method is to asymptotically err towards a truth, isn’t it? And the strength of a scientific method is found not so much in its ability to detect a truth, but in its ability to detect error. Now, to do so, two questions need be answered:

  • Is this really the Dai Ichi Ōsato Jinjō Kōtō Shōgakkō?
  • Is photo A really from the “end of the Taishō Era”?

As Motobu Naoki Sensei of the Motobu-ryū has pointed out, the description of photo A is actually flawed. Because by cross comparison it becomes clear that it does not show an elementary school in Ōsato, but in fact the Okinawa-ken Shihan Gakkō 沖縄県師範学校, or Okinawa Prefecture Teacher College. This, of course, is the school were Itosu Ankō was responsible for Karate instruction since around 1906. This changes a lot as regards the authenticity of photo A, doesn’t it?  BTW, the school bore this name from 1898 to 1943.

In order to verify my claim, there is a commemoration photo of the track and field club championships of the Okinawa Prefecture Teacher College in Shuri. You can watch the photo here at the Digital Museum of the Naha City Museum of History. I will refer to this photo B.

In the background of both photos A and B we see the same building. Photo B is more recent which can be seen in the description as well as in the tree growing behind the flag. But, besides sliding doors in different position the building is the same.

 

Photos A and B: Excerpt of building.

Photos A and B: Excerpt of building.

In other words: Photo A appears to actually have been shot at the Okinawa Prefecture Teacher College in Shuri. Not in Ōsato.

As has been researched and pointed out by Larry Kientz, on another credible website called 琉文21, an excerpt of photo A has been dated to 1910 and placed at Okinawa Prefecture Teacher College in Shuri (referred to as photo C).

Photos A and C.

Photo C (below) and an adjusted excerpt of Photo A.

Photo C from the 琉文21 website provides the following description:

1910, commemoration of the graduation from Okinawa Prefecture Teacher College (in Shuri). Staff members of this school in the front row from right are: licensed teacher Mishima三島訓導, Sonoyama Minpei 園山民平, Yamaguchi Mizuame 山口瑞雨, Matsushita Nobumoto 松下之基、Koda Sensei 古田先生, Takahashi Seijirō 高橋清次郎. Behind the Koda is Shimabukuro Gen’ichirō.

Well, here the site of photo C (= excerpt of photo A) is also placed the Okinawa Prefecture Teacher College, were – as a reminder – Itosu Ankō was active. There can be little doubt left that this is the actual location of photo A, and not Ōsato.

Photo C is also dated to 1910, as opposed to the “Closing years of the Taishō Era” of photo A.

So I looked for another piece to solve the question of the date.

As has been described in photo C, this person is Sonoyama Minpei 園山民平 (1887–1955).

Photo C: Sonoyama Minpei 園山民平 (1887–1955).

Photo C: Sonoyama Minpei 園山民平 (1887–1955).

According to famous Japanese online dictionary “Kotobank”, Sonoyama graduated from Tōkyō Music School in 1910. Afterwards he served at the Okinawa Prefecture Teacher College and conducted research on Ryūkyū folk songs. And in 1913 he obviously has left Okinawa since he worked as a teacher at the Miyazaki Prefectural Higher Girls’ School.

In other words: Sonoyama was on Okinawa from 1910 and 1913.

Therefore, there is no contradiction with the date of 1910 as given for photo C on the 琉文21 website.

Résumé

By carefully investigating and checking the given sources, and by cross reference, it was shown in this article that the circumstances of photo A are different than it first seemed. In fact, there can now be little doubt that the site of photo A is actually the Okinawa Prefecture Teacher College — which is where Itosu Ankō was active — and 1910  — which is when Itosu Ankō was active — was the year it was shot. These details support the theory – maybe fact – that has very recently been put forward by Patrick McCarthy, Hanshi, i.e. that this is the 2nd photo that can be considered to show Itosu Ankō.

Photo A: Excerpt showing the person considered to be Itosu Ankō.

Photo A: Excerpt showing the person considered to be Itosu Ankō.

© 2017, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.

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