The Assumption of a Yoshida Lineage
Assuming a Yoshida lineage for James Mitose and the Kenpo arts, it is the required that we must explore not only the Yoshida influence in Japan, but also its viability in the region of Kumamoto as this is the major cultural center in association with the development of James Mitose. The Yoshida family line was responsible for a dominant variation of Shinto-the national Japanese religion from which the Emperors of Japan were direct descendents of Sun Gods. The family line would act as executors of Shinto as well as advisors to the Emperors until the Meiji Restoration. Most of the internet sites regarding Kenpo history state the importance of the Yoshida clan, their teachings and arts as well as the importance of Kumamoto Castle to the lineage.
Shinto is an indigenous, polytheistic religion to Japan based upon "the way of the divine or deities" known as "kama". It is a religion with no known founder, no known exacting founding doctrine and no known exacting founding text. It is, however, a religion that preserved, in its offerings, a system of guiding principles to Japan and its people through many of the ages as it offered the means to understand the heavens, the human plane of existence and the underworld.
As a religion, Shinto is summarized as a series of ceremonies lead by a clan or family head in worship of the clan's guardian deity (kami). A family would have their own deity as well as those adopted from other clans and from the known world of higher order guardians. These guardians would be seen throughout all of nature and would include guardians for the seas, heavens, sun, moon, mountains, etc. as well as the inclusion of guardians based upon prominent societal figures. Prayers and ceremonial festivals would be offered for planting in spring as well as for harvest in fall. Further, rituals would develop to formalize most aspects of society and culture, eventually leading to the building of formal shrines to the guardian deities. While Shinto was not necessarily structured like other organized religions, it governed and operated in the daily lives of the Japanese for many generations.
The influence of Confucianism during the 5th to 7th centuries resulted in formalization of Shinto and Japanese mythology. The origin mythology would describe the world being born from the kami and how the descendents of the sun god Amaterasu Omikami, the imperial family and Emperor, would come to unify Japan and its people. The Emperor would rule using the Three Sacred Treasures gifted by the sun god: the mirror, the sword and the jewels. The kami of the imperial house would be adopted as the national guardians and Shinto would thrive in the creation of over 3000 temples throughout Japan.
By the 10th century the favoring of Shintoism would decline due to Buddhist influence. Its resurgence would not again achieve significant prominence until the Meiji Restoration in 1868 under which the Emperor would regain mandates of national control.
Effects of Buddhism on Shinto Beliefs
The prevalence of the Buddhist migration after the 5th century would result in a fusion of Shintoism and Buddhism. The fusion would take place with the understanding that the Kami were reincarnations of the Buddhist deities. The Kami themselves were trapped in the endless cycle of struggle. Buddhist temples would exist within often dominating existing Shinto shrines. Many of the Kami would be renamed in accordance to their Buddhist reincarnates. The prominent forms of Buddhism in Japan would be Shingon Buddhism based upon the dual natures of the universe planes-suffering and enlightenment as well as Tendai Buddhism based upon an universal truth or knowledge. Tendai Buddhism would be the equivalent to Shinto as it centers the world around the importance of the sun god Ameratsu.
Beliefs Within Shintoism
There are various rituals and ceremonies in association with Shinto. The common denomination of its belief system include the following concepts:
Concept of the Sacred
The concept of the sacred refers to the importance of the guardians in the creation and harmony of nature. Life is considered to be in balance and activities that destruct that balance may result in failing of the world.
Precepts of Truth and Purification
This concepts refers to the honest and truthful intent of the gods to believe in man. It also provides the correlative motive for one to apply good hearted endeavors to their work, relationships and society. Essentially this concept envelops a level of moral and ethical code.
Nature of Man
Shinto considers man to be of divine ancestry as descendents of the kami. As such it relates to the importance of its members and the necessity of its practitioners to fulfill their duties in order to continue the eternal chain of existence.
Yoshida Shinto or Yui-itsu Shinto
Yoshida Shinto emerged in Kyoto at the Yoshida Shrine during the 15th century due to the doctrines of Yoshida Kanetomo (1435-1511). These doctrines would follow lineages that would react out against Buddhism essentially denying the Buddhist associations in order to produce a more pure Shinto religion. Many of these anti-Buddhism lines of Shinto would invoke greater importance on the acts of purification and to deeper spiritual meaning within the world.
The Yoshida Shrine was originally founded in 859 by the Fujiwara clan. It was then included in 991 by Emperor Ichijo to the list of important Shrines that must be contacted to relate information to the guardian kamis of Japan. The Yoshida clan at this site would take on roles as advisors to the Emperors through the generations until Yoshida Kanetomo would develop his ideology in regard to Shinto beliefs.
Yoshida Shinto, as it would rise in the 15th century, is based on a fundamental guardian, Taigen Sonjin, considered to be the "Great Exalted One". In accordance to this version of Shinto, if one is truly purified, then his vessel can be fused to the guardian. Each individual is then said to be inhabited by a guardian that lives in their heart, thus terms like kokoro "true heart" would expound upon the importance of purification to achieve the highest levels of self and nationalism. This understanding would establish the relationship between the kami, man and the human heart.
Kanetomo's founding doctrine was a fusion of Shingon, Tendai, Taoism, Confucianism and other rituals in the cultural populous, but more importantly he secured the Yoshida clan's right to regulate priests and rituals, rank the guardian deities, and to influence through advisory roles the imperial family and Emperor of Japan. Objection and controversy would be established as the Yoshida clan invokes the necessity to worship the important kami including the sun god Ameratsu specifically at the Yoshida Shrine.
By the 19th century, the Yoshida line would gain influence over national education and Shinto restoration. Installment of the Meiji Restoration in 1868 would establish a national ranking system reducing the influence of the Yoshida family. However, it was decreed that the Yoshida were to be considered the second most valued institution-the first being the imperial government.
Kumamoto, Kyushu and Kumamoto Castle
Kyushu, Japan is a site of conflict throughout Japanese history as it is the lower island of Japan. It would serve as the path of invasion during many of the wars and conflicts between China and Korean. Kumamoto, itself, being on the westward side of the Kyushu would be a region besieged during times of conflict. It is a region in which many cultural submissions would be brought due to its geographic position. This region is known for its ancient foundings of lines leading to Shinto, Buddhist dissemination as well as line of Christianity from the Korean conflicts. Thus while this region is not the heart of Japan, it has served as a primary battle ground.
Kumamoto Castle is one of three major castles in Japan and is considered the symbol of Kumamoto. The castle was first constructed by Ideta Hidenobu in 467 and served as a region of protection. In 1585, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the imperial regent to the area, was awarded the kampaku "chief advisor to the emperor" and installed Kato Kiyomasa as providential leader to Kumamoto. Kato had served in Hideoyoshi's army, enlisting at the age of 14 in 1576, and had become well known for his outstanding and distinguished conduct during the battles at Yamazaki and Shizugatake. He would be come one of the seven important generals and become one of the high commanders during the Korean conflicts, known as the Seven Year War (1592-1598).
Kato Kiyomasa would expand Kumamoto Castle establishing three layers in its wall and building the main tower to six stories in height. Construction began in 1588 and was completed in 1607. The additions and increased fortification would serve to support the strength of this region for attack and defense in its relationship to Korea and China, but most especially Korea.
After Kato's death in 1611 leadership was transferred to his son, Kato Torihito. In 1632, leadership was transferred from the Kato clan to the Hosokawa clan, who governed until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. During the time of the Hosokawa rule, the castle would include guests like Miyamoto Musashi-master swordsman and author of the "Book of Five Rings". The cave where he wrote the book is located near one of the many mountain temples in the region.
Kumamoto Castle would see its destruction during the Seinan War in 1877, where it was burned to the ground with exception of a few remaining outer towers. The existing Kumamoto Castle is predominantly a reconstruction that had taken place in the 1960s.
General Functions of a Japanese Monastery
The Japanese monasteries provided a number of services for the general population. These services governed by the monks and temple residents would be considered essential human infrastructure in support of the general population as they related to religious, social, educational, hospitality and medical services.
Religious services would include acting as sites of spiritual devotion, worship and counseling. Social services would include rendering basic community support including child welfare, life counseling, providing basic mediation to resolve disputes, as welll as acting as orphanages to support community children. Hospitality services would be rendered to support travellers and community guests by opening the temple doors as an inn. Lastly, the temple would be the centers for basic medical services to the general population-to include basic trauma treatment as well as herbal medicine.
The temples would have temple guards or sohei to protect the temple itself, but in general the temple guards were not considered to service as protection to the local community as this would often directly compete with the Imperial and/or war loard governship depending on the local and time period.
James Masayohsi Mitose
James, in record, departs to Japan on October 22, 1920. He resides and is educated in the Kumamoto Prefecture. There are a number of temples in this region including Suizenji Temple and its famous garden as well as the Reigando "spirit rock cave" where Musashi would write his book. The religions in this region at this time would include Buddhism in various forms, Christianity, Shinto now mandated as a state form of social structure, and Confucianism remnants incorporated into the Japanese society.
Realistically, we must consider James a child for most of his years in Japan. He is four years old on his departure and will not achieve sixteen years of age until 1932. I have focused on sixteen as this is when most human societies consider a passage towards adult thought and overall adulthood. Socially we consider sixteen the starting point for adult accountability and often eighteen in terms of its completion.
James would grow up with many of these religious and cultural influences. He would have understood Buddhism, Shintoism, elements of Christianity, Japanese nationalism and the Japanese national education system. The important historical variant is his Yoshida or Kosho/Komatsu lineage. While Yoshida Shinto was important in Japan and prevalent in influence in the region it would have been distant members of this family that would have been the parental figures of James Mitose. The presence of a last name does not necessarily imply direct access to resources of a prominent family. This would be akin to saying that any John Ford or John Disney can draw a check from Ford Motor Company or The Walt Disney Company. It is highly unlikely that James Mitose was to be a prominent national member, since if such was the case it would have happened and would have been documented in multiple independent record sources. Information on James is generally obscure as he is only at best locally meaningful in his time era of influence.
We must also consider that James himself notes a temple called Shaka-In many times in his life. The existence of this temple in the Kumamoto Prefecture has been critical to the foundations of James Mitose. The fact that this temple does exist off highway 443 in Misato is important as it also indicates that while James could have been a distant Yoshida family member through his mother, he most likely was raised Kosho or Komatsu. This would imply that James' mother was mostly likely of Kosho heritage as there are no other major reasons or motives for James' educational processes to take place at Shaka-In. Shaka-In records further describe the residing of a small, obscure religious sect in addition to that of Tendai, Shingon and Shinto religious sects.
In any event, James would return to the US on February 25, 1937 at the age of twenty-one. He is not matured nor stabilized in terms of his existence. This is a critical problem in the formation of his future and that of the Kenpo lineage.