[Here follows my translation of the newspaper article: Arakaki Ryōko: “Does the photo of Itosu Ankō show a different person?” In: Okinawa Times, March 2, 2019, Saturday, No. 25159 (daily issue). Many thanks to Motobu Naoki Shihan of the Motobu-ryu for proof-reading and corrections.]
Does the photo of Itosu Ankō show a different person?
Itosu created the prototype of modern karate. Inspection of photographic materials leads to “correction of facts”.
There is a photograph showing a man considered to be Itosu Ankō (1831-1915), who has been active since the Ryukyu Kingdom era and who has created the prototype of modern karate. As regards this photograph, it was found on March 1st that there is a high possibility that the photo shows a different person. That photo was found in 2006 among the karate-related documents in the possession of a man (now decased) who lived in Kanagawa prefecture at the time and who was a disciple of a disciple of Itosu. Since that time the photo spread widely and came to be considered to show Itosu himself.
Since the photograph is stored in the Okinawa Prefectural Library, and since it was also introduced in exhibits and images at the Okinawa Karate Kaikan in Tomigusuku City, a prefectural official says “We will share the new information in the karate world. If there is a mistake and things point to a person other than Itosu, we have to correct it!”
On March 1st, at a research meeting of the Prefectural Karate Promotion Division called “Okinawa Karate Academy” held at the prefectural government office, Nakamura Akira (45), who is a part-time staff member at the same department and who studies Ryukyu history, identified the person in the photo.
Characteristic of the elderly in the photograph is that he wears a hakama and has a white mustache. Nakamura san confirmed seven other photographs from the same time period showing the same man. Among these, on a graduation photo of 1910 published in the magazine of the Okinawa Prefectural Teachers College (from the possession of the Ryukyu University Library), aforementioned man is described as one “Miyake sensei“. In addition to this, the man was als found in a group photo of members of the prefectural police. As a result of investigating the prefectural police staff records and other materials of the time, it was concluded that the person in the photo is Miyake Sango (1847 – date of death unknown), who was born in Miyazaki Prefecture. After having taken part in the Satsuma Rebellion (an 1877 uprising in Satsuma led by Saigō Takamori), Miyake came to Okinawa and served as a teacher of Gekken (an original form of Kendo) at the Prefectural Teachers College (Shuri) and the Prefectural Middle School (Shuri) as well as at the prefectural police.
About Itosu, for a long time there was only a portrait of him in existence. The photo discovery of 2006, which seems to have been mainly identified based on oral tradition, was re-examined by Nakamura san.
Currently, in the “Encyclopedia of Okinawa Karate and Kobudō” as well as in various magazines, this photo is [still] introduced as showing Itosu Ankō. Because of this, Nakamura san shows his will to find a real photo of Itosu by searching for new historical materials and by interviewing people [of the karate world or relatives of Itosu].
Former president of the Prefectural Art University and teacher of Okinawa karate, Miyagi Tokumasa (79), said “I agree with the thorough verification. One cannot talk about the history of Okinawa Karate without talking about Itosu. It is necessary to correct the facts.” Tetsuo Yamakawa, section chief of the Prefectural Karate Promotion Division, positively said “As we aim to register Okinawa Karate as an UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, deepening such academic research will be an inspiration to the karate world.”
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