About the estimated new photo of Itosu Ankō
On September 12, the Okinawa Prefecture Karate promotion division unveiled a new special exhibition inside the Okinawa Karate Kaikan’s special exhibit room. It is titled “To pass down, and spread karate!”
On the commemoration of the opening, a lecture titled “A new hypothesis on the Itosu Ankō photo” was given by part-time staff and karate researcher at the Karate promotion division, Nakamura Akira. We are hereby introducing the content of the lecture based on documents produced during the lecture.
After an announcement at the Okinawa Karate Academy held in March this year (See: Itosu Ankō – Re-examination of the photo), Mr. Nakamura continued to collect and verify photographic materials. End of March, he noticed that there were many Okinawa-related historical materials in the Nakajō Bunko collection preserved in Kochi City’s Library (also known as Otepia Kochi Library).
The Nakajō Bunko is a collection made of old documents property of the Nakajō Family, an old family of Kochi Prefecture. Nakajō Naomasa (1868-1925) was a teacher at the Okinawa Prefecture Middle School. According to Mr. Nakamura’s research, he might be the first non-Okinawa to have learn karate (1).
As the investigation went on, it came out that there were 45 Okinawa related photographs in the collection. Among them, five school-related photographs titled “Okinawa Prefectural Middle School Teachers and Students” were found.
From there, Mr. Nakamura conducted a detailed investigation based on the persons present in the pictures and revealed the year each photograph was taken.
The result of his studies shows that the five photos are from the 15th up to the 19th graduation ceremonies of the school from March 1903 to March 1907. It appears that the presence of Henry Amoore (2), a professor of English for three years from 1905, was the hint that allowed the establishing of the chronology of the photographs.
According to the history of Okinawa Prefectural Middle School, karate instruction with Itosu as karate professor started from January 1905. There is thus a possibility that he appears in a graduation photo after the 17th graduation ceremony of March 1905. Therefore, 3 of the 5 found photos found are subject photos. In two of them, a person who could be estimated as being Itosu is nowhere to be found.
Born in 1831, Itosu Ankō was 74 years old in 1905, and there is only one person who can be viewed as a person of such age. Looking at the 17th graduation photo dated of 1905, Nakamura determined that the person standing at the right end of the second row using a cane on the right hand is this man, i.e. Itosu Ankō.
However, no such person has been confirmed in graduation photo after 1908.
In his memoirs, Kamimura Kōtarō who graduated in 1907 recalls that Itosu was a “80-year-old venerable old man with a bow shape back who walked with a stick”. As far as one can see, there is no other man that matches this description. This recollection of Kamimura further enhances the probability of the comment “this is the man known as Itosu Ankō”.
Itosu Noboru (76), the great-grandson of Itosu Ankō came to the lecture venue. Although not a karateka, he commented, “I heard that my great-grandfather was a person who hated conflict. I’m glad that the photo was found and hope it will be confirmed soon”.
(1) According to Nakamura’s research, Mr. Nakajō resided in Okinawa from 1902 to 1907. Nakayoshi Yoshimitsu wrote an article titled “The founder of karate gymnastics, pride of the middle school – Our member’s motivation – In honor of our classmate Mr. Matsuda” (‘Yoshu’ No. 35 of 1934). In it he recalls: “First of all, when karate was included in the school under the teaching of modern karate master the venerable Itosu, the staff were first trained. The enthusiastic training shown by the vice principal at that time Nakajō sensei became famous among all students”. In addition, Yamauchi Seihin stated in “Karate Zuisō – essays” (‘Gekkan Karatedō’ Vol. 1, No. 3 of 1956) “A small and clumsy person, Nakajō was the vice principal. Although he was not particularly gifted in karate, his zeal was impressing.”
(2) According to the information sign raised in the Tomari International Cemetery by Naha City Cultural Property Division, Englishman Henry Amoore was an English teacher at the Okinawa Prefectural Middle School in 1908. On his grave is engraved in English “Born on June 20, 1840 – Died on February 16, 1908 – Teacher at Okinawa Prefectural Middle School”.
Note: The graduation photo of 1905 is the property of the Kochi City Library and we do not have the authorization yet to publish it. We will do so once we receive the proper authorization.