Stories from Dr. Yukari, Story 31, Spirit of Naginata

[ Stories from Dr. Yukari ]

Guided by the hope of St. Nichiren, we continue to work towards a peaceful society. Honolulu Myohoji Mission collaborates with Psychologist Dr. Yukari Kunisue, a trained and experienced therapeutic life coach, to offer a safe online space: Stories from Dr. Yukari



For 50 years, Master Hanae Miura taught a traditional martial arts form called Naginata to American students in Hawaii. She never once charged her students ranging from young to old, for the knowledge and skills of Naginata. Her decision to not charge her students came from her belief that disciplines of the feudal martial arts cultivates Japanese spirits for generations and did not come from a wealthy background or the help of sponsors. In Hawaii, a traditional female only form of martial arts is taught to both genders.

Master Hanae Miura was born in Yokohama as the second of the youngest child of many siblings and was sent to a rural town once her father passed away. She was adopted by a childless couple in Mito which was a several hour train ride away from her birthplace. The dialect used in Mito was so heavy that she often had a hard time understanding what people were saying. Feeling homesick missing her mother, she cried many days and nights with no one coming back to bring her back to her mother.

One day, her adopted father took her to a nearby dojo of Naginata. Hanae was so small that he had to cut a long spear short for her to practice Naginata. And this is how she met her life’s work, quickly becoming devoted to the practice and making it a mission to spread the ancient art form that is Naginata.

By the time she was 15, she left the house of her adopted parents. She never married or had any children. The closest she had to family was her students. When she returned to the Tokyo area, her birth brother tried to help her but her mother held back insisting that the Mito parents were now her parents.

After learning about Hanae who was even selected to be a member of the post Tokyo Olympic convoy to Europe, a Japanese cultural group in Hawaii invited her to come to Honolulu to teach. Soon after, Senator Spark Matsunaga sponsored her green card so that she could stay and teach in Hawaii.

Hanae worked multiple jobs as a caterer, dishwasher, store clerk, cleaner, teacher, and amongst other odd jobs in order to pay for the Naginata Federation she founded in 1972 here in Hawaii. She needed to work both day and night in order to have enough money to pay for kimono uniforms, travel expenses to Japan for the annual competition, rental fees for the dojo, along with other expenses.

When I visited her small but tidy apartment near Kalakaua a few years ago, she showed me her closet in which the clothing was kept individually labeled. She would put a student’s name on each item so that they would know which one to take once she passes away. She got rid of most of her belongings and was slowly preparing to leave this world without burdening anyone.

She did not avoid the topic of death and spoke on it very candidly. She was carrying advanced health care directives with her at all times. She also purchased a space at a local temple and even paid for her funeral in full. Her gaze continues to stay focused, right on the tip of the Naginata spear.

“For more than 80 years, Naginata protected and guided me to the right course,” the 88-year-old master elegantly said with a smile. “I have been the luckiest person thanks to so many people who supported me!” The Naginata tradition was carried on by the Samurai women for hundreds of years. The ancient spirits of Naginata was present around her happily protecting Master Hanae.