Itosu Ankō – Re-examination of the photo
Today, March 1st, the Okinawa karate promotion division sponsored “Okinawa Karate Academy” was held within the Okinawa Prefectural Government building. Approximately 30 people from the karate world participated.
The theme of this event, which was the third edition, was the “Re-examination of the Itosu Ankō photo – On the importance of backing up with contemporary historical documents”. Mr. Nakamura Akira, assistant curator at the Okinawa karate promotion division, was in charge of the examination. Today he announced the results of his investigation. Below is a summary of the contents of the announcement. Later on this website, we will introduce a feature article of the presentation.
In 2006, an article titled “Discovery of a photography of a legendary karate master” was published in the Okinawa Times. It was an article reporting the discovery of a photograph of Itosu Ankō (1831-1915), a man who left a huge footprint in Okinawa karate history. Since then, this photograph has been used widely as the photograph of Itosu Ankō. Yet, an examination work has been underway due the recent uncovering of new historical materials.
In the 2006 photograph, Tokuda Antei is present. Mr. Tokuda graduated in 1910 from the Okinawa Prefecture Junior High School (which later became Okinawa Prefectural 1st junior high school). Since the junior high school at that time was a 5 years system, the photo was taken between 1905 and 1910.
Through research and examination of historical documents of this same period, Mr. Nakamura discovered 2 pictures belonging to the Shihan Gakkō (Normal School) magazine “Ryūtan” No. 9. Published in 1911, this document is preserved in the Library of the University of the Ryūkyūs.
Below is one of the two photograhs discovered. It is titled “Our school staff and some graduates of year 43 (1910)“. The material to the left is the picture with a tracing paper on which are listed the names of all persons in the photograph. The one to the right is the actual picture. These materials are property of the Library of the University of the Ryūkyūs.
In these photographs, standing to the right end of the second row, the person who was thought to be Itosu Ankō is introduced. However, on the other page’s list of names, he is introduced as “Miyake sensei”.
The man believed to be Itosu Ankō until now is actually a Shizoku (descendant of a samurai) from Miyazaki prefecture. Born in 1847, his name is Miyake Sango. He served as a fencing instructor of the Okinawa police while also teaching fencing at the Okinawa Prefecture Normal School and the Okinawa Prefecture Junior High School (later nicknamed Icchū).
Now, looking at the 2006 picture, it is clear that it is not the full version of a group photograph.
The 2006 photo was obtained from the album book of Tokuda Antei by Arasaki Seibin. Mr. Arasaki left a testimony saying “In this group is Ishiji (Itosu) no Tanmē (old man)”. Perhaps Itosu appears in the lost part of the picture…?
Undeniably, the search for solving this mystery will be the source of much passionate debate among karate enthusiasts.
Note: This article is being posted under the supervision of Okinawa karate promotion division.