2. History

奈良柳生街道
奈良柳生街道
撮影:森山雅智氏 写真提供:日興美術株式会社

The History of Yagyū Shinkage Ryū

2-1. The Birth of Shinkage-Ryū
In the Warring States Period, about 500 years ago, Kamiizumi Ise-no-kami Fujiwara Hidetsuna (later Nobutsuna) from Jōshu (currently Gunma Prefecture) was familiar with many schools of the sword and spear at a young age. Among them, he learned Kage Ryū (Shadow School) from its founder Aisu Ikosai, and then created Shinkage Ryū (New Kage Ryū) after discovering the principal which he called “marobashi”.

柳生石舟斎宗厳
柳生石舟斎宗厳 自筆(兵法百歌集)
Yagyū Sekishūsai Munetoshi was a famous swordsman in the Yamato region (currently Nara Prefecture). On the way to Kyoto, Ise-no-kami met with Yagyū Sekishūsai by introduction of Kitabatake Tomonori, the lord of Ise domain, at Hōzōin, a branch temple of Kōfukuji Temple, under the presence of Hōzōin Inei. After losing a match with Ise-no-kami, Sekishūsai became his disciple in order to thoroughly master Shinkage Ryū. Sekishūsai succeeded the founder as the second headmaster of Shinkage Ryū after obtaining approval of his own development, mutō -no-kurai (the concept of “no sword”.)

Sekishūsai and his fifth son, Munenori, demonstrated Shinkage Ryū before Lord Tokugawa Ieyasu. Due to that meeting, Munenori served Lord Ieyasu, 2nd Shōgun Lord Hidetada and 3rd Shōgun Lord Iemitsu as a teacher of heihō (swordsmanship). As a result, the name Shinkage Ryū became well known throughout the entire country. Munenori became the founder of the “Edo Yagyū”. However the “Edo Yagyū” lost the blood line of the Yagyū family descending from Sekishūsai in the time of Yoshikata, the great-grandson of Munenori.

柳生連也斎厳包
第五世 第五代 柳生連也斎厳包
尾張柳生開祖 兵庫助利厳
尾張柳生開祖 兵庫助利厳
From Toshitoshi, the 3rd headmaster of Shinkage Ryū, to Tokugawa Yoshinao the first lord of the Owari Tokugawa Domain, to Yagyū Toshikane, to Tokugawa Mitsutomo, the second lord of the Owari Tokugawa Domain, Shinkage Ryū lineage was passed down by eleven heads of Yagyū family and seven lords of Owari Domain (one of the seven lords died before ascending to the lordship) until the Meiji Restoration.

2-2. Yagyū Shinkage Ryū in Modern Era

柳生家親族写真(大正11年頃)
尾張柳生家の庭にて第十九世柳生三五郎厳周夫妻を囲んで喜寿を祝う一族の写真(大正十一年頃)
Even though Japanese swordsmanship had great difficulty continuing after the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the 19th headmaster, Yagyū Toshichika, and his assistants continued their activities with great effort through the Meiji Era to preserve the tradition of Shinkage Ryū. From 1913 to 1921, Toshichika and Toshinaga taught Yagyū Shinkage Ryū at the Saineikan Dōjō of the Imperial Household, in accordance with the Meiji Emperor’s will to permanently preserve Yagyū Shinkage Ryū. Unfortunately, the mission ended due to the reorganization of the Imperial Guards in 1921.

第二十世宗家 柳生金治 平 厳長
第二十世宗家 柳生金治 平 厳長
The 20th headmaster, Yagyū Toshinaga, based Yagyū Shinkage Ryū in Tokyo. At the Hekiyōkan, built by Yagyū Fusayoshi and his son Kazuyoshi, and at the Kongōkan built by the Owari Yagyū family after the closure of the Hekiyōkan, he made an effort to spread Shinkage Ryū further. He was the master instructor of the Imperial Guard Officers Organization and also taught seminars at the Butokukai (martial arts training academy) branch schools through Japan. The Hekiyōkan was donated to Enkaku-ji Temple in Kamakura and now it is used as Zen Dōjō Kojirin.

During WWII, the Nagoya Dōjō, which had existed since the days of the 3rd head master Hyōgonosuke Toshitoshi, burned down. Shinkage Ryū again faced difficulties in continuing its activities.

In 1955, Toshinaga established the Tokyo Yagyūkai with the support of Ishida Kazuto, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, among others, and resumed his activities to preserve Shinkage Ryū.
He wrote “Shōden Shinkage Ryū”“The correct transmission of Shinkage Ryū”(Published by Kodan Sha, later republished by Shimazu Shobō) to record the history and theories of Shinkage Ryū.

第二十一世宗家 柳生延春厳道
第二十一世宗家 柳生延春 平 厳道
The 21st head master, Nobuharu Toshimichi took over the leadership of the Yagyūkai in 1966. He began holding lectures at the Yagyūkai Tokyo Getsurei-kai (monthly meeting) in 1969 and spread the Yagyūkai to branches in Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka.

We began using the name Yagyū Shinkage Ryū Heihō instead of simply Shinkage Ryū in April 1988 to make clear that Shinkage Ryū has been passed down by the Yagyū family.

Nobuharu Toshimichi passed away in May 2007 and the 22nd headmaster, Kōichi Toshinobu became the 16th head of Yagyū family.

柳生新陰流兵法講道資料
柳生新陰流兵法講道資料
Currently, Yagyūkai continues its activities of maintaining Yagyū Shinkage Ryū under the supervision of the headmaster at regional Yagyūkai in Nagoya, Tokyo, Kansai, US and Hong Kong.