Kyoda, Miyagi & the Draft

In Tou’on-ryu lore, readers may be aware that during Miyagi Chojun’s absence on Okinawa while doing compulsory military service from 1910 t0 1912 in Miyakonojo, Kumamoto Prefecture, Kyoda Juhatsu reportedly learned the kata Sanseru. According to Kyoda (as told by Kanzaki Sensei) Miyagi was supposedly envious about this. Unfortunately, we don’t know what Miyagi’s thoughts were.

When I chatted to Kanzaki Sensei about this he had told me that the reason why Kyoda had learned Sanseru and Miyagi did not was because Kyoda did not do military service because he didn’t meet the minimum height requirement and so did not qualify for service. No disrespect to my late teacher, but I have always found this answer unsatisfying. I’m sure he was just repeating what Kyoda had told him, however, even a cursory look at the photos of Kyoda and Miyagi shows that although the two men definitely had different physiques, they were approximately the same height.

Digging around a bit I found that the minimum height requirement for military service was five shaku (approximately 151.5 cm) or taller. If Kyoda was shorter than Miyagi, then it was by a fraction of a centimetre. So, I don’t think height was the primary reason Kyoda did not complete his service. What I think is more likely the reason he did not do military service is because he attended the Okinawa Teachers’ College (i.e. Normal School).

If you look at the Japanese revised conscription ordinance of April 1, 1895 it states,

Those who are between seventeen (17) years of age and twenty-eight (28) years of age, possess a certificate of graduation from a governmental prefectural or county normal school, and are teaching at a governmental public elementary school shall serve six weeks of active duty in the army, and the cost of such service shall be paid by the government...

In 1910, Kyoda would have been 22 years old and already a graduate of the Teachers’ College and teaching at Tomari Elementary School, so he would have fallen under the category defined above. Therefore, he would not have been required to do military service like Miyagi did and instead be required to do a short six weeks of service and remain on Okinawa.

As a brief aside, Miyagi Chojun’s military service in Kumamoto is also a little confusing. In English, and even in Japanese, it states that he served two years in Kumamoto and then returned to Okinawa. Yet, when you look at the requirements for military service back then it’s four years. I will have to look into this more, but perhaps Miyagi was allowed to do two years in Kumamoto and then two years back on Okinawa. I’m not sure, but as I mentioned, I will have to investigate this point more, but that won’t be easy. Ideally if you could obtain Miyagi Chojun’s military records it would answer many interesting questions, but unlike US military service records, in Japan only family members can request access to them.

Coming back to Kyoda, it would seem that the reason he didn’t do military service was not because of his height (at least in my opinion) but more likely due to his exemption as a school teacher.