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Chicago Shimpo
BTC Natsumatsuri
and Iaido Jerry Morishige

The Buddhist Temple of Chicago’s annual festival “Natsumatsuri” was held on June 18 and a nostalgic atmosphere welcomed the visitors.

Inside the temple, Japanese taiko drumming by Kokyo Taiko, demonstration of Iaido by BTC Iaido Dojo, storytelling by a Native American, and demonstration of Kyudo were presented. The attendees enjoyed Bon Odori dancing in the early evening.

Antiques and collectibles such as samurai armors and hats were exhibited, and handmade accessories, crafts, old ceramics and glasses, and a variety of wrist juzu were sold.

A huge grill was set up in the parking of the temple, and volunteers grilled more than 800 pieces of teriyaki chicken, so the visitors could buy juicy teriyaki chickens without reservations if they were hungry. Packs of chirashi sushi, inari sushi, bowls of udon noodles, and baked goods were also sold.

It happened to be a birthday of Rev. Patti Nakai, so the visitors together sang “Happy Birthday” for her.

Interview with Jerry Morishige

Jerry Morishige and his students demonstrated Iaido, a Japanese martial art that emphasizes being aware and capable of quickly drawing the sword and responding to a sudden attack, according to Wikipedia.

Morishige is Renshi 6th Dan, and his team belongs to the Nihon Iaido Renmei.

Q: How did you start iaido?

Morishige: It was about 35 years ago. A person from the Consulate General of Japan visited Natsumatsuri, and he had the 6th Dan of iaido. We were practicing kendo, so he decided to teach us iaido. His term of the office was two years, so he gave us lessons two to three times a week for two years.

Q: Where were you born?

Morishige: I was born in a camp at Rohwer, Arkansas in 1944.

Q: How did you keep iaido practice after he returned to Japan?

Morishige: We were doing it by ourselves, but one day, an iaido sensei (teacher) from Kagoshima heard of us, and a sensei from Kokura, Fukuoka Prefecture, came to see us. Since then, sensei have visited us every two years for 14 years. They give us lessons and shinsa (evaluations).

Q: Have you been to Japan?

Morishige: Yes. The students in Chicago have visited Soke (Grand Master) in Kokura. I’ve been there three times and met Soke. The Soke and sensei always treat us with a great hospitality, so we take care of them when they visit Chicago for two weeks. We have very close relationships.

I went to Kokura last year and visited a friend of my grandmother in Yanagawa City in the same prefecture. In the previous visit, my wife and I went to see a cave where Musashi Miyamoto once resided.

We felt comfortable in Japan and forgot that we were foreigners. Japanese people were so kind to us, and the transportation system was terrific. You don’t have to worry about if you were lost. You can go everywhere. The trains were safe and clean.

Q: How many students do you have in Chicago?

Morishige: Eight to fourteen including three ladies. Almost everybody had studied some kind of Japanese martial arts, so it’s easy to teach iaido. They’ve already known about “seiza (sitting straight)”, disciplines, and other Japanese words we usually use in our dojo. Sensei from Japan give us lessons, then we practice by ourselves for two years until sensei come again.

We don’t wear any belt or gear, and there is no tournament. It’s just like Buddhism that is a human life.

Human life is very important, but it also kills you. You have to be aware of the present. We sit straight, so that you can see a bad guy’s feet and move quickly. When you are going into a room, you should look at everything, and if a situation is not good, you should avoid the situation. You always need to be a little bit bent, so you can move.

We have kata (patterns of movement), but many of our people are older, so they have arthritis. They understand the kata and try hard to follow the kata, but I have to change it because of the enthusiasm that I want. Either they learn from me or I learn from them.

Q: You brought the antiques and collectible exhibit here.

Morishige: I have a very understanding wife. I have four armor sets, two in the living room, another two in the dining room. I also have swords, sake cups and many more things. A Japanese-stamp collection is one of them because my uncle in Osaka worked in the post office and sent me a set of stamps every Christmas time. So I have kept them since 1964, the year of Tokyo Olympics.

Q: Could you tell us your profession?

Morishige: I worked in textile industry, sewing business. You can see my works in pockets or collars in men’s coat, pants, jeans, golf pants, and others.

Once we had a relationship with a Japanese company in Osaka. They were very quality oriented, and everything had to be perfect. They were very tough people.

Q: Thank you very much.

Jerry Morishige and his collections