The Iaido Journal  Mar 2007
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Unbelievable Coincidences

copyright © 2007 Jeff Broderick, all rights reserved

It is a small, small world. The first example I have is of the "that's odd" variety. My fellow teacher at APU, Karen, was over in my apartment looking for a book to borrow. She took one book at random off my shelf (written in Japanese by Alex Bennett) and exclaimed, "Hey! I met this guy last week in Kyoto when I was there sightseeing! He was in a bar and we stopped and chatted a little bit! You know this guy?" Very, very strange ... two friends of mine run into each other totally at random, and the event very nearly went unnoticed except that she happened to find his picture on a book on my bookshelf. Six degrees of separation and all that ... these kinds of events are probably happening every single day but we're not aware of them.

The next example I have is waaaaaaay more interesting, in my opinion. Jeff Kiyooka is employed by the same company as me. He's from Vancouver, and came over to Japan on the JET program the same year as me, but ended up in a different part of the country. We met at our first training seminar in 2004, and I remembered his name (because it's the same as mine.) We met again the next semester, and again a third time. I even ran into him again (or heard his voice, anyway) as we were coincidentally interviewing for the same job. Anyway, he came into the office today, and we were joking about how we always seem to be coincidentally running into each other. We went out for lunch, and I asked him where his family was originally from in Japan. He replied, "My great-grandmother came to Canada from Kochi". My interest level went up a notch. (If you do iaido, you know why.) I've met people from Kochi before, and of course, they usually know nothing about iaido, and that's where it stops. But for no particular reason, I asked, "Where in Kochi?" and he said Tosa. My interest level went up a bit more. Now, the next question shows the value of asking stupid questions... you know, when you meet somebody from New York and tell them you're from Canada, and they ask, "Oh, do you know Bob Smith?" and you think, "What a stupid question!" That kind of stupid question. So anyway, I asked him, "What was your great-grandmother's maiden name?" He replies, "Oe." My interest level went up about 10 levels. "Do you know anything about that side of the family, by any chance?" He said, "Not much, but her father was a swordsman or something..." Interest level is through the roof now. I pressed him for more details, and he said, "Well, I've never seen it, but apparently there's a statue of him or something... I guess he was like, a sword teacher in Tosa..." So I proceed to tell him about Oe Masamichi, the 17th headmaster of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu, and how there are people all over the world who have Oe Sensei's picture hanging in their dojo or on their websites... He wasn't sure, but thought it might be the same person. After lunch, I immediately whipped up some pictures of Oe Sensei from the web, and he took one look and said, "Yeah, that's my great-great-grandfather."

Oe Sensei around age 50?

...age 60 or so...

Oe Masamichi later in life

Small friggin' world. As much as I don't believe in "fate" ... maybe this is a sign that I should get Jeff to start iaido. It couldn't hurt, right? Might score me some points with the old guy in the afterlife...

Anyway, it coincides remarkably well with some wondering I've been doing lately about the children/grandchildren/great-grandchildren of budo masters. Do their descendents know what their ancestors were up to? Or does it become some vague story about uncle so-and-so who did some kind of martial art or something? And, for example, is Oe Sensei's sword still in the family as an heirloom? Was it lost during the war? Did it end up in Canada somewhere? I think it's quite common that sons go in the opposite direction as their father, so perhaps the sword got sold, or lost... What about Nakayama Hakudo's famously long sword? That was only 50 or so years ago, so somebody must know where it is...

And now I'm wondering if Nobel-prize winning author Oe Kenzaburo (himself from Shikoku) could possibly be related to Jeff (and Masamichi Sensei) too ... any resemblance there?

Razor-sharp mind, this guy.

It turns out that Jeff's great uncle, Roy Kiyooka, wrote a book called "Mothertalk" where he interviews his mother (Oe Masamichi's daughter).  They have it on Amazon. 

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TIN Mar 2007