2002 and Saito Sensei


2002-Saito Sensei is 74. In late April (date?) he falls over and can't get up. After some six years, his cancer has returned and is in the spine. Over the next two months, friends fly in from all over the world. He hangs on until April's taisai ceremony and leaves this world May 13th around 3 a.m., surrounded by family and friends. June 22-23rd his public ceremony is held in nearby Tomobe. Hitohiro begins the task of negotiating the next phase of Iwama aikido. From this point on, it is not history any longer. We all will contribute our share to the ongoing events of Iwama and aikido.

Saito Sensei's family includes three girls and a boy. The oldest daughter is Motomi, married to Irie-san, the owner of "Hajime Sushi", the dojo sushi shop. Their son Kazunari is a family man now, with one child and another on the way. Harumi is married to Umezawa-san, the zen monk and acupuncturist who's office is next door to Hitohiro's home. They have a son, Masaki, who now works in the new yakuba (town hall) The youngest daughter is Morimi who lives elsewhere. The son, of course, is Hitohiro.

Following Buddhist traditions, Morihiro Saito takes on his Buddhist name of "Zui-shi-nin-sho-utetsu-shitoku-koudou-koji".

Taisai 2002. Sempai and Saito Sensei.

2002, April. Taisai. Saito Sensei and sempai. Left to right: Hidaka Hiroshi (trained at Iwama during O'sensei's era and continues to teach in Morioka, Iwate-ken) Namai, Saito Sensei, Nakamura, unidentified person, Akiyama (in back) and dojo-cho Nemoto (with open collar).

Photo: Gaku Homma

2002, April Taisai. Saito Sensei and Hitohiro and the Shinto officials. This was to be the last event for our Sensei.

Photo: Gaku Homma

2002. Taisai. Saito Sensei and Hitohiro and Shinto officials.

2002, April. Taisai. Saito Sensei is speaking with Gaku Homma (in front). Kawabe and Narita (with glasses) looks on. Uchideshi in back are (behind post)? from Poland, Tom from England and Stefen Miller from Scotland.

Photo: Gaku Homma

2002. Taisai.

June 22, 2002. Saito Sensei's public funeral and photo. His son-in-law, Umezawa-san, a Buddhist monk, looks on. Who is the man in the framed photograph in front of the flowers, I wonder?

Photo: Patricia Yarrow

2002. June 22. Saito Sensei's public funeral. Umezawa-san.

June 22-23, 2002. Saito Sensei's public funeral. His gi and hakama. Hitohiro's magnificent artwork-the shishi-gashira or "lion-faced mask".

Photo: Patricia Yarrow

2002. Gi and Dragon's head.

2002. Saito Sensei's urn (silver box) and the public funeral shomen. The urn stood in the dojo for several days before this ceremony.

Photo: Patricia Yarrow

2002. Saito Sensei's public funeral shomen.

June 23, 2002. Some of Saito Sensei's dedicated students. From Turkey, Germany, USA, England,and France, they left their various dojo and flew to Japan to take part in the funeral services, reminisce, consider the future, and, we must admit, watch the Soccer World Cup 2002 together.

Photo: Patricia Yarrow

Massive talent in suits by the shokudo.

June 21, 2002. The Aiki Jinja tori looks towards the Saito residence and dojo.

Saito Sensei's legacy of hard, technically astute training, a welcoming heart, and a firm connection with Iwama continues to inspire us. How fortunate we were to have shared the aiki-michi with him.

Photo: Patricia Yarrow

2002. Aiki Jinja tori.