The origin and meaning of our dojo name “Obukan”: the “O” refers to Oregon; Oregon was called “O-shu” or O-state by Japanese immigrants. “Bu” means martial training. “Kan” means building or training hall. Dr. Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo, visited Oregon while touring the United States after the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. The Portland Judo Club hosted a shiai (tournament) in his honor. At a meeting afterward Kano shihan officially changed the name of Portland Judo Club to Obukan Judo Dojo.In 1926 members of the Japanese-American community approached Mr. Bunazaemon Nii, an instructor of Kito Ryu Jujutsu about forming a Judo club for the benefit of the young people of the community. Mr. Nii and a partner had given a demonstration of Kito Ryu Jujutsu at the Lewis & Clark Exhibition of 1905. The dojo was then known as The Portland Judo club.
The club continued training through the 1930’s and hosted two visits by Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo in 1932 and 1938. On his second visit, upon the request of the dojo, Kano shihan devised a Japanese name for the club. He chose the characters “O” to represent Oregon (this is a phonetic reading the literal meaning is “central”), “bu” which means martial arts or training, and “kan” which means training hall. Kano shihan then presented the dojo with his calligraphy of the name and Portland Judo Club became Obukan.
With the tragic internment of Japanese-Americans during the second world war, Judo training at Obukan stopped. Then in the early 1950’s, Judo again started being practiced in Portland. There were clubs at the YMCA and Reed College. Members of these clubs joined together with former Obukan members and the Japanese-American community to revive Obukan Judo dojo. Judo training at Obukan has continued uninterrupted from 1953 to this day.
A brief chronology of Obukan’s History:
1905: Mr. Nii and a partner had given a demonstration of Kito Ryu Jujutsu at the Lewis & Clark Exhibition of 1905. The dojo was then known as The Portland Judo club.
1926: Portland Judo Club is formed. Nii Sensei is hired as head instructor.
1932: First visit of Jigoro Kano, founder of judo.
1936: Nii Sensei returns to Japan, Goro Mochizuki Sensei, a sandan, becomes new head instructor
1938: Second visit of Jigoro Kano, Club is visited by Professor Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo. Kano officiallyrenames the club to Obukan.
1942: World War II forces Obukan to close it’s doors.
1953: Planning to reopen the Obukan dojo begin
1954: First official post war dojo meeting. Ryusho Honma sensei becomes first full time instructor.
1955: Obukan’s first post war tournament. Jim Onchi sensei becomes Obukan’s head sensei.
1957: Onchi sensei is injured. Mr Tsuyoshi Miyazaki from the Kodokan arrives to work with the club for 2 years
1957: Professor Ichinoe sensei’s first annual visit to Obukan
1965: Joe Shiraishi and Dorthy Lee become Obukan head instructors
1969: Professor Ichinoe’s son, Sensei Toshio Ichinoe, arrives from Japan to assist Obukan’s head instructor, Jim Onchi