Part 3 – The Early Years in Britain No.3

Nothing is working …

As the days crawled by, I became increasingly more agitated and angry with my situation: There had been no change, no news from Mr. Logan regarding the progress of a dojo for me and no contact from any Aikido schools or other dojos in the country. I felt I was being deliberately isolated, and there was nothing I could do but sit tight and wait. I could not help but turn my anger toward the senior Aikido teachers who had betrayed the will of Abbe Sensei by leaving the BAC and by taking the entire membership to form a new organization in Abbe Sensei’s absence just because they had not been informed of my coming from Japan to take charge of teaching for the BAC.

My anger at them was not because of what I saw as my political victimization, but more out of sympathy for Abbe Sensei. I recalled how bitterly he had talked about the whole affair when I visited him in Kyoto just before my departure from Sasebo, and I was saddened by how depressed and tired he seemed – it was as though he was quietly chewing on something that he could not bear to swallow. As I prepared to take my leave of him, he stood up and saw me to the door, at which time he said to me, “Chiba-San, be aware that there are not many people out there who have common sense.” I understood his words to be not only a warning to me that I must prepare myself to face many hardships in the days ahead, but a reminder that he also had endured much throughout his 10 long years in a sometimes hostile foreign country. War leaves deep scars in the psyche of a people, and Abbe Sensei’s arrival in Britain shortly after the end of the Pacific War must have left him subject to many distressing experiences of resentment, discrimination
and hatred in his encounters with the British people. All of this he would have had to chew and swallow without rendering harsh personal judgment – after all, everyone had been either a direct or indirect victim of the war, including him.

(When I look back at my own 10 years in Britain, I am able to sense the magnitude of his experience as compared to my own, and it is no wonder to me that he had appeared to be so exhausted and burned out. The anger that I had felt toward the former senior teachers of the BAC was for what I saw as a violation of martial arts ethics and the teacher/student relationship. That anger within me grew into a quiet but vital force that kept me going for the entire 10 years of my life in Britain, during which time I had established the first national British Aikido organization.)

While external events continued without change or progress, my relationship with Mr. Logan remained unhealthy. This was largely due to my persistent emotional stress and unhappiness despite Mr. Logan’s numerous and varied attempts at providing for my comfort. He would invite me for walks at the beach with his two dogs, and introduced me to golf at a nearby field.

He even went so far as to present me with two Japanese swords (daisho) in shirasaya (resting scabbards) as a gift. The long sword was supposed to have been signed by Suishinshi Masahide, a first-class swordsmith of the Shinshinto Era; however, I later found it was a false signature. The short sword was signed by Bizen Sukemitsu, a well-known smith of the Kozori School of the Bizen Koto Era (c. mid-16th century), but it was a bit tired from over-polishing – a state common for an old blade. Mr. Logan wished to temporarily keep the short blade for his own enjoyment, so I ended up with the long sword. (I was not very impressed by all this, but I did not tell him of my feelings. When our relationship deteriorated further, I later returned the long sword to him.)

A pair of daisho

Despite Mr. Logan’s efforts, my mood remained unchanged, and in a desperate attempt to lift my spirits, he came up with the idea to immediately transport my wife, Mitsuko, to Britain in spite of our contractual agreement to bring her over after I had established a foundation for myself. When told of this plan, I disagreed with it entirely and reasserted my desire to follow the terms of the contract as written.
Mr. Logan refused to let go of his idea, and brought it up over and over again to no avail, until finally he came to me and told me he had already booked a flight to London for Mitsuko sometime in September. Realizing I could no longer stop him, I gave up and left things as they were. I began to hope that somehow, despite the problems associated with Mitsuko’s untimely arrival, perhaps her coming would help open up the stagnated situation and begin a shift in a more positive direction.

At the height of all this drama one night at Mr. Logan’s house, he and I became embroiled in a nasty and destructive argument over some political issue in which I regret to say I had gotten myself involved. As the argument heated up I became so frustrated over the language barrier that I used foul language and shouted at him to “Get OUT of here!” Quite logically enough, he insisted that I leave HIS house. Within a few short days, I was out of his home. Fortunately, Mr. Logan was kind enough to procure an apartment for me with a living-room window facing the North Sea that was only two miles away from his home in Whitley Bay. This all happened only one week away from Mitsuko’s planned arrival in London, so at the first opportunity I ran to the local post office and sent a telegram telling her that no matter what, she should not come and must wait for a letter from me.

For the next few days I sat in the large living room of my apartment watching the ships at sea go by one after another into the horizon. The apartment was cold and damp, with the smell of moss and old furniture… One day suddenly I was struck with a longing for the city: the crowds, the activity, the energy, the cacophony of sounds echoing off the buildings and streets. I decided to go to London the next day. The vice president of the BJC, Mr. Otani, kindly put me up in his home in Acton in the western part of London, in the room once occupied by Abbe Sensei.

While in London I visited the museums, art galleries and antique stores, endlessly wandering wherever my feet took me. For a few days I rested at corner cafés watching the people as they walked by, ate meals at Chinese restaurants and enjoyed a wonderful sense that I was getting back to my usual self. When I returned to my lodging late one afternoon, I received a telephone message from Otani Sensei that the Japanese Airlines office at London Heathrow had called to say that Mitsuko had arrived and was waiting in the JAL office for someone to come pick her up. I had completely forgotten that today was the day she was originally scheduled to arrive.

Considering the fact that I had sent a telegram telling her not to come, and knowing that Mr. Logan had cancelled her flight after our earlier dispute, I had certainly not expected her. I rushed to Heathrow and found Mitsuko demurely sitting in the JAL lounge with a big smile on her face. I asked her if she had received the telegram I had posted and if she had encountered any problems boarding the flight to London – she replied, “No” to both questions. Hard as I tried, I could not figure out what had happened, but there was no way of knowing at the time, and doing so would not change the fact that she was there whether or not I could provide her with a secure and stable living situation. I had to face the consequences of my actions and decisions.

Mitsuko’s unexpected arrival further strained my already fragile relationship with Mr. Logan, as he (for many years thereafter) believed that someone acting on my behalf had secreted Mitsuko onto the flight to London behind his back. I was dismayed by his doubts of me until I pondered the numerous factors that supported his thinking, and I had to admit that his suspicions carried some weight.

First, Mitsuko’s father, Mr. Sekiya, worked for JAL as a testing engineer, and second, Mr. Komami, who was a close friend and combat-mate of Mr. Sekiya’s in a Japanese Army fighting squadron during the last war, also happened to be a JAL representative in the London office. There was a very strong possibility that Mr. Logan knew of these relationships. He was utterly furious over the incident (which was understandable considering he had to pay for my wife’s airfare out of his own pocket), and threatened possible court action.

Within a week or so of Mitsuko and I settling into our apartment in Whitley Bay, Mr. Logan had documents delivered to our home containing news that dealt me a huge blow: my three-year renewable contract with the BJC had been cancelled. At the time I did not know if it had anything directly to do with Mitsuko’s arrival, but it was not unexpected … I just didn’t think it would come so soon. The timing was terrible, as then I had a life other than my own for which I was responsible, and I knew I had to move quickly to ensure our survival even though I had no idea what to do or where to go. It was already late September, and the days were getting shorter, darker and colder…

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