The Japanese Culture Center was established in 1978 by Fumio Toyoda Shihan (teacher of teachers). Toyoda Shihan was a student of the martial arts since childhood. He lived as an uchideshi (live-in student) at Ichiku kai dojo – famously known for its severe misogi training – as well as the Aikido World Headquarters (Aikikai Hombu Dojo) under the second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba. During these years, Toyoda Shihan was the primarily uke for Kisshomaru Doshu. Toyoda Shihan would eventually achieved a 6th degree black belt (rokudan) in the art of Aikido. At the time, Toyoda Shihan was the youngest person to ever achieve that rank and the record still stands to this day.

Toyoda Shihan would go on to establish the Aikido Association of America, Aikido Association International, and Aikido International Foundation. Under Toyoda Shihan’s guidance, the Aikido Association of America grew to be the largest organization under a single Shihan-level instructor in the United States.

In 1997, Toyoda Shihan was named as a dharma successor to Tanouye Roshi from Chozen-ji, the first Rinzai headquarters temple established outside of Japan according to Rinzai canon law. The philosophy of Chozen-ji is Zen, Ken (sword/martial arts) and Sho (calligraphy/cultural arts) master Omori Sogen). His Zen name was Tenzan Gensei Rokoji (Zen master).

Although he obtained a law degree in Japan, Toyoda Shihan elected to make martial arts instruction his life’s work. After arriving in Chicago, he envisioned a facility where various disciplines devoted to “The Way” might be united under one roof. The Japanese Culture Center is the result of that dream.

Toyoda Shihan passed away unexpectedly on July 4th, 2001 at the age of 53, but his legacy is continued by family and dedicated students.

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