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The Garden Party

Kawaraban No. 53


by Kenji Shimizu

Last year I received an invitation to the autumn garden party. To this party, which took place at the imperial palace in Akasaka / Tōkyō, about 1,800 people from various circles came together. The senior guests were the majority, and in this environment I appeared rather juvenescent. Furthermore most of the guests dressed in tuxedos, and I as a newcomer among them was wearing Hakama and Haori (formal Japanese coat) with an old Japanese family crest. This kimono, an heirloom from my father and grandfather, looks back on about 100 years of history. In this spirit I wanted to attend the event.

While circling the beautiful garden and pond, I was waiting for His Majesty the Emperor and His wife with the imperial family. Soon I could catch sight of his shape. I was surprised to see that he took his time for greeting every single person. It certainly is exhausting to approach more than 1,800 people. As we all had nameplates attached to our chests, he was able to study face and name discretely, while bowing slightly to each other. He stood facing me nearly in listening distance.

Then empress Michiko appeared, who slightly stayed behind the emperor, stopped in front of me and while reading my name plate ‚ Aikidō Tendōryu President Shimizu Kenji’, addressed me: „Ah, you are practicing aikidō?“ and continued: „Do you also teach abroad? Good luck for the future.“

Thereafter I was addressed by crown prince Hironomiya, his wife Masako, prince Akishinomiya and his wife Kiko one after the other.

When I reflect on this event now, I guess my traditional Japanese clothes attracted special attention. Nevertheless, I had the impression afresh that aikidō is well known to the imperial family. About 40 years ago, when I was uchideshi of the founder of aikidō Ueshiba Morihei, there were only a few people knowing at least the name ‚ Aikidō’, and I remember that explaining alone was quite difficult. Nowadays aikidō is also well known abroad, and it is reported that the number of aikidōka is increasing year by year.

Aikidō meets the feeling of the future.

By spreading aikidō, a facet of Japanese culture, I have been able to contribute to the international cultural exchange with various countries. For which this time I received a public award from the Foreign Ministry. Since my days as an uchideshi until today I dedicated my life to aikidō, what brought me in return unexpected meed, and that makes me very happy.

© translated by Birgit Lauenstein and Peter Nawrot 04/2003