Photo of Karate Practitioners

Larry Kientz just posted a photo on Facebook of what looks like karate practitioners. The photo is from the digital archives of the Naha City Museum of History. It is simply titled “Men,” dated “pre-war days” and categorized under “Manners and folk customs.”

The description says:

Material by Kabira Chōshin / Photo storage box 189 (album number 002). The material was provided from Kanaseki Takeo to Kabira Chōshin.

According to the description, the photo was from the belongings of a person called Kanaseki Takeo.

Kanaseki Takeo (1897-1983) was a Japanese anatomist and anthropologist. Born in Enai Village, Nakatado District, Kagawa Prefecture (the current Kotohira Town). He graduated from the Kyoto Imperial University School of Medicine. He received his PhD in medicine from Kyoto Imperial University in 1930 for his treatise “Anthropological Studies of Ryukyu.”

In 1934, he became a professor at Taipei Medical College (in 1936 reorganized into Taipei Imperial University School of Medicine). In 1950, he was a professor at Kyushu University School of Medicine. After retiring in 1960, he was a professor at Tottori University and a professor at Tezukayama Gakuin University.

He discovered human bones of the Yayoi period and announced that the Japanese are a mixed race. In 1979, he received the Asahi Cultural Award for his achievements in “Development of Anthropological Research on the Southern Islands and Yayoi Human Bone Research.”

Kanaseki on Okinawa

Kanaseki visited Okinawa for the first time in 1916. In 1926 he visited northern Okinawa for a survey of human bones at the “Tomb of the 100 Aji.”

In 1928, Kaneseki toured the northern part of Okinawa under the guidance of the chief of the Okinawa prefectural school affairs division and collected human bones from the “Tomb of the 100 Aji.” He did so with the cooperation of Shimabukuro Genichirō (1885-1942), an educator and Okinawa researcher and the number one tourist to Okinawa in the pre-war days. Kaneseki also collected human bones from Senaga Island and Nakagusuku Castle.

During that 1928 visit, Kanesaki also visited Shuri where he collected the palm prints of students of the Girls’ Normal School and the Okinawa Prefectural 1st Middle School. On this occasion, he also investigated the students’ body odor.

Therefore, the karate people in the photo might be students of the Okinawa Prefectural 1st Middle School in Shuri in 1928. Since he studied the body odor of students, it would have been advantegous to him to collect sweat samples, which he probably could collect best in physical education class.

There is no proof for this, but it is possible. If so, the photo might be from 1928. Kanesaki visited Okinawa again from December 1929 to January 1930 for a second survey of human bones at the “Tomb of the 100 Aji,” so the photo might also have been made during this visit. In any case, the photo most likely is from 1928, and maybe from 1929/30.

© 2020, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.

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