30 years with an English Kenshi (part 1) - by Ozawa Hiroshi sensei
Updated: Nov 15, 2020
The name of this Kenshi was Trevor Chapman.
It's past tense because he died on October 18, 2017, after been diagnosed with an
incurable disease and had battled the disease for two full years. He passed away before reaching 60 years old.
In early April 1990, I went to England for a long term stay for the first time. Until then, I
had been teaching Kendo in Germany and other countries with my brother-in-law, the late
Kozo Ando. We went to Germany about three times. At that time, Germany was still
divided into East and West, and I went to West Germany of course.
In the late 1980s, a situation occurred that could be called a turning point in my life. The
Tokyo University of Science, where I was working, announced a groundbreaking plan to
establish a new faculty and establish a campus in Chamanbu, Hokkaido, where students
would live in a dormitory for one year before returning to the Noda campus the following
year. First, a young faculty member was sent there for two years as a dormitory director
and faculty member. I was to be assigned to the dormitory for two years, as was my
predecessor, and I was to be involved in education and dormitory management.
As in any industry, young people are sacrificed when new projects like this are planned.
However, the Ministry of Education (at that time it was called the Ministry of Education,
not the Ministry of Education Science and Culture) issued a notice that teachers could not
be transferred during the year of completion, that is, for four years, so I did not have to
At first, I thought about going to Hokkaido on my own, but my children were at a
difficult age, so I persuaded my wife to let us all go. When summer was ending in 1989,
we had completed all administration papers for my children's school change. Then the
New Year arrived. We were just starting to talk about packing up our household goods,
dishes, and other necessities when a university director came to our house to tell us about
the Ministry of Education's announcement.
He apologetically said, "You don't have to go to Hokkaido anymore, so you are free to do
whatever you want for a year, or you can go abroad. I was so angry and said, "This is such
a major announcement of change. Why did it arrive so late?" but inside I was thrilled that
this was going to become something interesting.
The children's transfer papers were blanked out, and now I had to make my own plans.
I would get bored of doing nothing but research for a year, and the project seemed to
come out of nowhere, so I wasn't sure where to go, even if it was abroad. I remembered
that three years ago in November 1987, John Clarke, a kendo friend from Kodansha's
Noma Dojo in Tokyo, came to visit me with Dennis Smith, an Englishman. We talked
about many things at that time, and Dennis asked me, "If you were to go to England,
which would you prefer, London or the country?" I replied that I would prefer the
countryside because London is a city and I feel like Tokyo, where I live now. Maybe my
fate was decided then.
Wherever I go, I would probably only practise Kendo anyway. I imagined that America was too big, Europe was too much trouble because of the language barrier, Southeast Asia would be too hot, etc. Then I thought of Dennis and thought, "England!" And if it's England, it's the country! I decided to go to England.
The next day, I told the board member who came to inform me of the Ministry of
Education's notice that I would be going to England, and he readily agreed. He processed
the paperwork straight away and agreed that the stay would be three months and could
give permission right away because one year would be too long. The board of trustees is a
troublesome and final decision-making body that makes decisions on various university
issues. I wanted to ask for a longer period, but I decided not to as my life would be like a
yo-yo if they changed their mind again.
My wife told me that she wasn't going to go and that I would have to go alone because of
what happened last time.
After that, I kept in touch with Dennis and we settled on the University of Nottingham as
the place to stay. But at that time I still had no idea that Trevor existed. It was January
I met Trevor in April 1990, but I mentioned thirty years to show that my relationship with
Trevor was linked through Dennis since 1987. If Dennis had not come to Japan, if John
Clarke had not been there, if John Clarke had not been a member of Noma Dojo, if John
Clarke had not been close to me, etc., etc., there is no such thing as "what if it had been
like that time" in the history of the world, fate is a very mysterious thing.
This is the first in a series of eight articles written by Ozawa Hiroshi sensei (Kyoshi 8 Dan). Kindly translated by Matsuda Kazuyo sensei (Renshi 7 Dan).