September 4th is Saito Sata sama’s 85th birthday. It is customary for many cultures to forget about the work of the women, and of the women behind great men. Very often the behavior is like as if they were ashamed of women
Okusama served O’Sensei more than anyone. She also served his wife, her husband, took care of her family and served all the thousands of uchideshi and guests that passed through Iwama from O’Sensei’s time to Morihiro Saito Sensei’s.
ABOUT HER RELATIONSHIP WITH O’SENSEI:
“In the old days the groom would come to the bride’s house and take her back to his home, where the wedding would take place. Our wedding was held before the Shinto altar (shinzen) in O-Sensei’s old house, so from that day I entered directly into the Ueshiba family. People like Koichi Tohei, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, and other prominent members of the Aikikai attended the ceremony.” (O’Sensei old house was to the right of Aikijinja).
ABOUT LIVING WITH O’SENSEI:
“We were married so soon after the war that food rationing was still in effect. O-Sensei had his own land, so the household didn’t receive any rice rations; we had to grow enough to feed ourselves. If we didn’t work the fields we’d have nothing to eat.”
ABOUT O’SENSEI TALKING TO HER:
“Sata, I’ve told all the deshi to respect Saito. I told them he’s so respectable they’d benefit even by drinking tea made from the dirt under his fingernail.”
ABOUT HOW HER LIFE WAS SO DIFFICULT:
“Because my husband was learning something he really liked from O-Sensei, I felt I should give him all the support and cooperation I could; otherwise I felt I didn’t really have a place there. That’s why I devoted myself to serving O-Sensei and his wife to the best of my ability. On the other hand, I also had four children of my own to raise, and there was nobody around to look after them for me. Sometimes I took them with me when I was helping O-Sensei and his wife. I was always running everywhere trying to attend to everything and get things done. I was so busy! O-Sensei could be very whimsical, so things to do were always popping up unexpectedly.
Nowadays for the Taisai we just order boxed lunches from a place in Tokyo, but that’s a relatively new thing. We used to make them all by hand. We had to make 300 lunch boxes of sekihan (rice boiled with red beans) by 10:00 a.m., so I had the helpers come at 4:00 a.m., and I was up the whole night making preparations.
I spent most of my time working the fields, pulling weeds around the house, and serving O-Sensei and his wife. Since getting married hardly a day has gone by when there haven’t been people going in and out. The only time I’ve ever had to myself has been after 11:00 at night. I don’t think I’ve ever sat down to all three meals in a day with my family. I can’t imagine how difficult this has been on my children.
To help make ends meet, after my eldest son was born I took a side-job shelling chestnuts, which I did when I got home at night. Sometimes I could shell as many as 20 kilograms of them by myself. My husband only came home from work every other day. Unlike him, I couldn’t unwind by having a drink. Occasionally, I just couldn’t help myself and would complain to him and make him upset. In my position I had very few options for relaxing or taking a rest from it all.”
It is often said that these below are some of the qualities of samurai:
Gi – Rectitude
Yū – Courage
Jin – Benevolence
Rei – Respect
Meiyo – Honor
Chū – Loyalty
Kō – Filial piety
Chi – Wisdom
Tei – Care for the aged
Well, Okusama has all of these! Indeed! Despite her suffering and long life work, Okusama maintained a pure frame of mind. In 2001, at the farewell of uchideshi Ian Brand from Holland, okusama brushed several calligraphies for him and for the uchideshi. One of them said: “Deeply thankful for Aikido”. After a life of hardship, it is indeed fantastic that such a person could right this.
We now have the project of building a statue for the great Morihiro Saito Shihan. In reality, there should be two statues, one of Morihiro Saito Shihan and one of Sata Saito Sama. It was their work together that preserved the Founder’s Aikido! It was their work together that attracted thousands of people to Iwama.
Sata Saito, wife of Morihiro Saito Shihan, is indeed a LIVING TREASURE OF AIKIDO!
Published with the permission of Portugal Aikishuren Dojo