Harada Sensei MBE
A Student at the Shotokan
When a young boy aged 15 entered the Shotokan dojo in Zoshigaya, Toshima Ward in 1943, Master Gichin Funakoshi was the undisputed leading light of the Shotokan movement. After his first lesson this teenager was hooked on Karate, his name was Mitsusuke Harada. This first class, was taught by, the formidable 4th Dan - Master Genshin Hironishi. Other notable Shotokan instructors during this period were Masters Wado Umeura and Yoshiaki Hayashi. Initially, training consisted of practise in kata, kihon, kumite and ten-no kata. The lessons were for 2 hours at a time.
The Shotokan, of course, was the first purpose built dojo in Japan. The money to build it had been raised by O’Sensei’s students and to manage this venture a group had been formed. They were called the Shotokai (Shoto’s group). At this time of course Japan was at war, in the evenings the black curtains were always kept drawn and the lights low in case of an imminent air raid.
It was whilst training at the Shotokan, Harada first saw the legendary Yoshitaka Funakoshi. The rumour that Waka (Young) Sensei was coming went before him as the buzz of expectancy spread.
Yoshitaka was Gichin Funakoshi’s third son, He had taken over as Chief Instructor the Shotokan and first assistant to his father after the sudden death of Master Takeshi Shimoda.
Yoshitaka had been awarded the rank of Renshi from the Butokukai. He lived next door to the dojo with his wife and family. Harada recollected that when Waka Sensei entered the room the atmosphere changed, becoming “charged with energy”. He had the reputation of having awesome ability. At this time Yoshitaka Funakoshi was 36 years old and stood 5ft 5ins, he was stockier than his father; had a crew cut, large eyes and a prominent Hara – Master Harada recalled. Yoshitaka would select black belts and accept any attack, standing in a deep fudo-dachi posture (his favourite) with an open handed kamae. He also welcomed forceful attacks with bokken and bo. Unfortunately, even though he looked fit and strong he was indeed very ill and in 1945 he died of gangrene of the lungs. This was a truly massive loss, not only to his father, but also a disaster to Shotokan Karate; as Yoshitaka was indeed a very special individual whom was always researching and developing his fathers Karate, he was innovative, dynamic and creative. He searched for and made much progress in the development of Shotokan Karate.
On the 29th April 1945 an air raid on Tokyo caused the famous Shotokan dojo, to be destroyed by fire, in the early hours of the morning. After the demise of the Shotokan, Harada wrote a letter to Gichin Funakoshi requesting, if it would be possible to continue training. O’Sensei, who was living with his eldest son Yoshihide in Koishikawa in Tokyo, replied to Harada welcoming him to train at his son’s house on a private basis.
On entering the prestigious Waseda University in 1948 (as his father had done) to study for a Bachelors degree in Commerce, Harada continued his training at the Waseda club. Once he had let slip that he had trained at the Shotokan, Harada said he was “a marked man” as every blackbelt wanted to test him. Whilst at Waseda he attended training camps and weeklong courses. Initially Master Toshio Kamata (Watanabe) would teach. In Harada’s year there was also another name that was to become well known – Tsutomu Ohshima.
Harada at this time would frequently collect master Funakoshi by taxi and escort him to the Waseda dojo, in order for O’Sensei to teach there.
On the 1st May 1949 when the Nippon Karate Kyokai (JKA) was formed, Harada was asked by dojo Captain Joji Takeda, to pick up Gichin Funakoshi and take him to the Iomiuri Shimbum Hall. Master Hironishi had been instrumental in bringing this meeting together as a way of uniting karateka after the disruption of the Pacific War. It had been Yoshitaka’s last request to Hironishi to try to keep “the way of Shoto” alive, if it was at all possible. At the demonstration that day, it was the first time Harada saw Master Funakoshi perform an individual kata – Kanku Dai. Harada subsequently saw O’Sensei demonstrate this form on other occasions and remembers one particular fine performance at the Japanese Budo Sai.