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Interview with Dr. Takahashi of ‘Shiono’ in Akasaka

Off Time No. 2

by Kenta Shimizu

We are in the happy position to receive an interview with Dr. Takahashi, owner of one of the best among the famous shops for sweets (wagashi) ‘Shiono’ in Tokyo. “In case of making sweets as well as in case of Aikido the center of the body is applied!” We actually were told much both about sweets and Aikido.

You are reported to have practiced Aikido, before you entered the Tendokan, and we would like to begin with the question, how you, Mr. Takahashi, made contact to Aikido for the first time?

Takahashi (abbreviated):

Quite naturally I was interested in Budo as I have a small figure. In the beginning I practiced only a little during my time as a student, and thereafter I went to a Dojo now and then, but as I did not understand too much after two years of continuous practice and the work occupied me more and more, I finally quit.

And how did you learn about the Tendokan?

In fact one of my employees went to the Aikido training, and when I learnt that there was a Dojo in Sangenjaya, I decided to have look at first. Because at my age I had the feeling that I should start with something again and because I should not have problems with Aikido, which I practiced before, I thought that this might be a good opportunity, isn’t it? I watched the class and after one week of consideration I asked for instruction. To my surprise as a result my daughter said: “I would like to do that”, when I showed my family the video of Shimizu Sensei. One month after I became a member my daughter was permitted to enter, too, and by now we talk about Aikido in the family quite frequently.

Is there anything, what you achieved or learnt by Aikido?

That is something, which I am able to evaluate very clearly in the meantime. I think one result is the fact that I got courage and moral strength in a positive meaning. In my business there are really often situations, in which I explicitly have to say if good things are well and if bad things are bad.

Well, now to a different issue. Why do you believe that you made progress on the way of making sweets?

Because I was able to prevent my business from danger, isn’t it? My father in the line of my predecessors was a very demanding man. He was someone, who quickly laid a hand on someone, if he was angry, and I learnt to make sweets under constant admonition that I did something wrongly. Although my strict father disapproved me, by this I had the strong feeling that I wanted to overcome it by one way or the other. Well, when my parents died, I was really sad, which can be said easily now, but it really was like that. Thinking back now I wish I could have learnt even more of my father’s devotion to his work.

And was there a second challenge of such kind?

The older employees, who are working in the shop since the time of my father, don’t mince matters. This is not possible, that won’t work. I get angry and fly into a passion, but because they are senior employees, of course I cannot say anything. And when I actually try it by myself, of course I am not able to do it. That does not work, I thought, and these events rather became a motivating factor. So I studied several things in private study, and I achieved the first degree of the license for making sweets, which is provided by the government. Since the death of my father I really went a thorny way. There were times of trouble as well if the management did not go smoothly. During such times I caused inconveniences to my family.

Do you always have specific objectives in your business, too?

I want to provide first-class work to keep our reputation in future as well. Shouldn’t we on top of this pay the same attention to every single customer? I am still gladdest if I can hear the words “That is very delicious!” Recently I could watch in my shop parents, who were accompanied by a little child. Apparently the boy was very interested in sweets, stared magnetized at the sweets, which were in glasses lined up on the rack, and his eyes glowed. I served him green tea and some sweets, and while he filled his mouth with both hands, I heart “That’s good, that’s good”. ”My lady, these are really very expensive sweets” I had to say regretfully (with a laugh). Furthermore, regarding normal sales in another meaning these were the sweets of our house, which Her Majesty, the Empress, and the lordship of the Imperial House liked best, and I felt extremely encouraged, when I heart these praising words.

That’s it after all! That must be quite stressful …

No, no. Actually errors occur often. Customers blame me, and goodness knows how often I had to provide a replacement.

What is the meaning of ‚first-class’, which became your guiding theme, in fact not only regarding making of sweets?

Isn’t it so that I feel fully responsible for my business?

How do you relax?

Well, when on December 31st the stressful work is finished, isn’t it the best thing entering the hot bath? Furthermore it is the Tendokan seminar at the hot springs. I like always very much spending happy hours together with students of the Tendokan. This year unfortunately I drunk a little too much (laughter).It is quite a normal thing sitting together with my family at dinnertime after daily work, and we are laughing a lot. And Aikido as well often is an issue.

Are there common things regarding making of sweets and Aikido?

Technically spoken of course you have to keep your center. I clearly point this out to my employees. And I tell them that they ought to make sweets without strength in their shoulders, in an upright position, and out of the center of their body.

That’s true. Aren’t we talking about Omanju (Japanese rice cookies with bean paste inside)? (Laughing)

Yes, that’s it, that’s it!

Well, Mr. Takahashi, could you finally tell us about your future plans in Aikido?

First of all I want to be a good example for the younger generation. Because now you may run into foreigners in the Tendokan often, I also want to adopt the features of the techniques and the features of the spiritual attitude thoroughly and safely as I do not want to be put in an awkward position as a Japanese.

Now in the end please give us a message to all those, who are considering to begin with Aikido soon.

If you want to find nice young people, I now after all can recommend Aikido, and if people want to learn to form an opinion, they should study Aikido. Do not stick to wrong things. Whoever wants to become a human with a lively self, he will find the strength for that in Aikido, I think.

(Head of ‚Shiono’)

© translated by Peter Nawrot 09/2006