Article by Emanuel Giordano

After Sho Iku's death, his second son 尚 泰 Sho Tai (1843 - 1901), the last king of the Ryukyu, ascended the throne of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Sho Tai had already been appointed Prince Nakagusuku (中城 王子 Nakagusuku Oji), that is, the prince heir to the throne, on the death of his elder brother. The heir to the throne traditionally resided at the Nakagusuku Palace (中城御殿 Nakagusuku-udun), a building located in the vicinity of Shuri Castle (首里城 Shuri-jo), and ruled over a territory controlled by Nakagusuku Castle (中城城 Nakagusuku-jo). The Satsuma Domain recognized him as king the same year he took over from his father (1847), but due to his young age the Ryukyu Kingdom was led by Sessei Ozato Woji Chokyo (大里 王子 朝教; also known as Sho Ton 尚 惇) and from the Sanshikan, while the young Sho Tai received training from the 国師 Kokushi (royal tutor) Tsuhako Ueekata Seisei (津波古 親方 政正, 1816 - 1877; also known as To Kokuko 東 国興), and the member of the Sanshikan Ginowan Ueekata Choho (宜野湾 親方 朝保, 1823 - 1876; also known as Giwan Chouho 宜湾朝 保 or 向 有恒 Sho Yuko). He received the investiture by the Chinese Empire (Emperor Tongzi) in 1866, with the mission led by sapposhi 趙 新 Zhao Xin, assisted by his deputy 于 光甲 Yu Guangjia.
Sho Tai's reign experienced many upheavals, including the intensification of commercial relations with Western powers, the arrival of Christian missions, and the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853, who forced the Kingdom of the Ryukyu to sign a commercial treaty with the government of the United States of America (first step towards the opening of the Japanese Empire to the Western world, and the consequent fall of the shogunate which led to the Meiji Restoration). Upon reaching adulthood, the king also faced a scandal that invaded some officials of the kingdom (known as the Makishi-Onga incident, which affected Makishi Chocho, one of the students of the famous master, and the king's bodyguard, Matsumura Sokon), adopting new anti-corruption measures published with the 教条 六款 Kyojo rokkan edict. As if that were not enough, the king had to face a famine in 1870, buying food for the people and having it distributed for free. Finally, two years later, the 琉球 処分 Ryukyu shobun arrived, i.e. the dismantling of the Ryukyu Kingdom by the Meiji Emperor, as well as the annexation of the territories of the former kingdom to the Japanese Empire (of this very complex fact, however, we'll talk another time). Sho Tai thus lost the crown and was transferred to Tokyo with the title of 侯爵 koshaku (marquis), according to the new system of aristocratic titles adopted with the Meiji Restoration known as 華族 kazoku.
Zhao Xin [1809-1876 (字 又銘) letter youming, originally from (福建省 福州府 侯官縣) Fujian Province, Fuzhou Prefecture, Houguan County] left us several works, among which are two volumes of the work relating to the history of the Ryukyu: 續 琉球 國 志 略 Xu liuqiu guo zhi lue. Upon his return to China, he held various positions, including that of governor of Shaanxi province in 1867. According to Fujiwara Ryozo, it was this sapposhi who accompanied Aragaki Seisho sensei (新垣 世璋) to Beijing (Peking) in 1870, although this information is not confirmed by other sources.
There is not much information on Yu Guangjia [(字 慎卿) letter shenqing, originally from (直隸 滄州) Cangzhou]. We only know that, like the various sapposhi and their deputies, he came from the Hanlin Academy.
To commemorate the visit of the Chinese delegation, an exhibition was held on March 26, 1867 at Ochayagoten, an area where nobles and prominent people could gather to drink tea and chat, located in the oriental gardens of the Castle of Shuri. The performance was divided into three parts, the first concerned dance (Sanryuchu), the second martial arts (Bujutsu) and the third a concert of Okinawan drums (Uchina hazutsumi). As far as martial arts are concerned, this was the first Okinawan performance of which there is any documentation! Below is the program of the event:
    1. Demonstration of Timbe and Rochin (shield and harpoon), by Maeda Chiku Peichin.
    2. Demonstration of Bo-jutsu and Sai-jutsu (long stick against Sai), by Maeda Chiku Peichin and Aragaki Tsuji Peichin (Arakaki Seisho sensei).
    3. Demonstration of the kata Seisan, by Aragaki Tsuji Peichin.
    4. Demonstration of Bo-jutsu and Tode (long stick against Karate), by Maeda Chiku Peichin and Aragaki Tsuji Peichin.
    5. Demonstration of Chishaukiun (according to some sources it is a short stick, according to others, however, it is kata Shisochin), by Aragaki Tsuji Peichin.
    6. Demonstration of Timbe and Bo-jutsu (shield and, probably, harpoon against the long stick), by Tomura Chikudon Peichin and Aragaki Tsuji Peichin.
    7. Demonstration of the kata Teshaku (kata with Sai), by Maeda Chiku Peichin.
    8. Demonstration of chibu nigakiree (pressure points), by Maeda Chiku Peichin and Aragaki Tsuji Peichin.
    9. Demonstration of kata Shabo (Bo's kata), by Ikemiyagusuku Shusai.
    10. Demonstration of the Suparinpei kata, by Tomura Chikudon Peichin (student of Aragaki Tsuji Peichin).
It is interesting to note that the Toudi kata (Tode / Karate) performed during this performance, i.e. Seisan and Suparinpei, are two kata that were practiced in the Fujian Province, i.e. the native province of sapposhi Zhao Xin, as well as typical of the Toudi of Kume-mura. Aragaki sensei, in fact, although he was a native of the village of Wakasa (若狭 町), as a child he frequented the neighboring village, that is Kume, where he studied martial arts from 屋部 親雲上 Yabe (okinawan pronunciation of Yabu) Peichin (whose previous name was 外間 Gaima / Hokama ) of the 鄭氏 Tai / Zheng family, who was an officer of the Ryukyu Kingdom who looked after the village of Yabe 屋部 村 in Nago 名護 (This information comes from the article "Okinawa no bujutsu-ka Aragaki-sho to Higaon 'na ", published in Ryukyu Shinpo on 24/01/1914).
  • "Shorin-ryu Karate: kata 2" (here)
  • "Shorin-ryu Karate: kata" (here)
  • "Shorin-ryu Karate: The legacy of the bodyguards of the king of Okinawa" (here)
  • "The legend of the masters of Okinawan Karate: Biographies, curiosities and mysteries"  (here)