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What the Japanese Have Lost

Kawaraban No. 62


by Kenji Shimizu

I assume there are only a few Japanese, who might be able to image something right away, when hearing the words Serbia-Montenegro. Originally this country was affiliated to the Yugoslavian Federation, and in February 2003 both countries Serbia and Montenegro merged into one nation. The Kosovo dispute at the time of the Yugoslavian Federation is still fresh in our minds, but generally said, Serbia-Montenegro is still a strange country to us. From this country somebody came to my dojo for one month of practice. I am talking about Ivo Jovovich, who is the local Tendoryu representative. He came to the Tendokan for the second time. Nearly 20 years have passed since I met him by chance. All started at the time when I was holding a seminar in Cologne/Germany, and he attended taking along with him other people. Thereafter seminars also took place frequently in the capital Beograd. I really admire that he came to Japan without his family only for practice despite the big economic disparity to Japan.

He does not distinguish between job and hobby, but rather aikido reflects in his daily life. It might sound a little like self-praise but he says, he is fascinated by my aikido. I would be very glad, if only one more person would gain good understanding of Japan by aikido. 

In the very summer, when Serbia-Montenegro was founded, I traveled in line with a seminar together with my son to an area called Tivat, which is located directly at the Baltic Sea. The economy might be in a sorry state, but I felt richness in humanity. On the restaurant promenade along the coastline you could hear music all night long, and the simple and amiable people enjoyed food and entertainment. Even if the living standard is low, there is not only a quest for money. In the days of the dispute information was coming only from the American side, and we were bound to receive a one-sided picture. But if you tried getting a picture directly on site, you could recognize, that information was coming only from one side.

Let’s this now compare to Japan. Japan is an economic power by name, but if you ask about our heart, you will find the Japanese are halfhearted. Why has the spiritual side degraded so much? What is it what we Japanese have lost? Japan has never been occupied by the great powers of the world. In the past we possessed a persevering and grand spirit. But compassion and courage got lost eventually. I am always thinking, that the Japanese spiritual side, which has become weak recently, might recover at least a little by aikido.

© translated by Birgit Lauenstein and Peter Nawrot 08/2005