Mitose and Aikido
Mitose and the Aikido Connection:
Notes on Masayoshi Mitose

There were claims made that Mitose Sensei (James Masayoshi Mitose) was a tenth dan in Aikido, and was promoted by O-sensei Ueshiba. Many myths surround James Mitose, let's put one to rest. Mr. Koichi Tohei, president of the Ki No Kenkyukai, offered these points to clear up the mystery. First of all, it was Mitose who approached O-sensei Ueshiba, and according to Mitose's own words, he was an authority on karate. When he met O-sensei Ueshiba, Mitose stated that he felt that Ueshiba was the last martial arts teacher who had taught the way of harmony for world peace. Mitose told him that he wanted to spread the art of Aikido all over the world. Mitose had a plan to build the American Aikido headquarters, and to raise funds for it he would ask for contributions from every Christian in the United States. He told O-sensei that he felt American Christians would be glad to help the plan for world peace through the teachings of Aikido.

In a 1987 letter describing the incident, Tohei noted that he could not easily trust him, but didn't think all his words were "random remarks." Tohei also noted that he (Mitose) wore the cloth of a clergyman, and presented himself as friendly with former president Eisenhower, bringing with him photos of the two shaking hands. After Mitose met with Tohei a few times, Mitose asked for an honorary 10th dan in Aikido to show his strong connection to Aikido. Mitose stated that the only reason donors would contribute to the American Aikido headquarters their belief in him. It seems that there was a con game at play, because Mitose had tried a similar scam on none other than Ed Parker with the premise of building a Kosho Ryu temple, but Mr. Parker declined his offer.

Mr. Tohei was against the idea of the certificate, because all dans of Aikido were issued solely by O-sensei Ueshiba. Further, Mr. Tohei could not give him any titles as Mitose had never trained in Aikido, and until their meetings, had no previous connection to Aikido. However, Mitose took a written pledge that the only purpose of the certificate was to show his close connection to Aikido for the sole purpose of raising money. Tohei stated further that Mitose requested the certificate in Tohei's name, knowing it was informal. He also brought a "letter of request".
The certificate and letter, translated by Kiko Ferreira, read as follows:
Certificate of Testimony and Appreciation
To: Dr. James M. Mitose
As you are the president of the Japanese-American (International) society for the
promotion of goodwill, friendship, and social welfare, you have contributed to the
happiness of mankind and world peace, and especially for the handicapped
people. You have rendered services for many years to develop the rightful ways
of the Japanese martial arts of Aikido. For your distinguished service, I hereby
bestow upon you an honorary tenth degree or Ju-dan. I respect and appreciate
your faithful and unselfish service.
March 22, 1970
Koichi Tohei, 10th degree, Ju-dan
Head instructor of Aikido
General Headquarters (signed and stamped with seal)

Letter of Request
Based on the will of the late Morihei Ueshiba, I request that you accept the
position of advisor (Remonstrant) for American Aikido,
Dated 1970 March, 22
Signed by Aikido Headquarters Shihan Bucho 10th Degree
To: Dr. James M. Mitose

The Certificate was signed not by O-Sensei, but by Tohei, and since permission had been granted by Ueshiba, Tohei felt that he had no choice. Tohei stated further that the only reason he had signed the certificate was "to meet the convenience of collecting money." After the certificate was given, that was the last Tohei saw of Mitose. When Tohei sensei came back to California from Japan, he heard from one of his students, a Mr. Kobayashi , that Mitose was sent to prison for attempted murder. Kobayashi was in trouble as well, as he had assisted Mitose in collecting the money, which had since disappeared, and Kobayashi was left "holding the bag."
After the fact, Tohei stated that the plan to build an American Aikido headquarters was only that - a plan, no more. He also then doubted that Mitose was a real clergyman, and that maybe others involved had also trusted him based on his pictures with the former president. Given the strange tale of deceit and lies, Tohei described the certificate as worthless. At the time of the letter, dated 12/22/87, Tohei stated that he had left the Aikikai, and had built the Ki No Kenkyukai.
It was a strange attempt at a con game for which Mitose was well suited. No money was ever recovered, and other similar schemes came to the surface during his career as a con man. These and more seem to be Mitose's legacy. Others seek to create confusion about Mitose's legacy for their own gain. Can every Kempo stylist realize the truth about the man, the myth and his legacy? Only time will tell.