Suneya Ryosuke (強矢良輔武行斎) & Suneya Satō (強矢佐登夫)

Toda-ha Bukō-ryu was probably created in its present form by Suneya Ryosuke Takeyuki Bukōsai (1795- 1877) and Suneya Satō, the 13th and 14th generation headmasters of Toda-ha Bukō-ryu.  Ryosuke is referred to as a chukō no so, the “initiator of a Renaissance” of the ryu.  This can have a variety of nuances, including the reworking of an older tradition or, in some cases, the real creator of the ryu.  We do know that the Suneya family, for generations, were well-known for their skill with both sword and naginata – however, we have no documents of any Toda-ryu within the Suneya family before Ryosuke and Satō.   Barring further information, it is best to consider the Suneya family as practicing Suneya-kei bujutsu, the martial tradition of the Suneya family, with several generations also training in Kogen Ittō-ryu as well.

Suneya Ryosuke Takeyuki Bukōsai (強矢良輔武行武甲斎)

To the best of our knowledge, the name, Toda-ha Bukō-ryu, was first used by Suneya Ryosuke, indicating the Toda faction of the Bukō-ryu.  Bukō is the dominant mountain of the Chichibu area.  One might assume, based on standard usage that the ryu be named Bukō-ha Toda-ryu.  Ryosuke’s selection of the name Toda-ha Bukō-ryu, along with his creation of another ryu, the Tenshin Bukō-ryu kenjutsu, and finally, his choice of the appellation Bukōsai, all suggest that Ryosuke was indicating that, in fact, the ryu was his creation from older family traditions.  In other words, it is not merely the proximity of the mountain that is the subject of the name of the ryu, indicating a mere local variation.  Instead, this is the ryu of Suneya Ryosuke, created from what was probably an amalgam of a far less organized family tradition along with other influences that Ryosuke acquired during his many years of training.

Suneya Ryosuke was a shihan of Kogen Ittō-ryu, Toda-ha Bukō-ryu Tenshin Bukō-ryu kenjutsu and Tenshin Shintō-ryu (NOTE: the two latter schools are otherwise unknown and may be personal or administrative variants on Kogen Ittō-ryu).  He was born in Kansei 7, (1795).  He studied bujutsu with his father, Minzaemon, and at the age of 18, he went to Ozawaguchi and studied Kogen Ittō-ryu with Henmi Tashiro, the son of the founder.  After receiving his menkyo kaiden, he embarked on a nine year musha shugyo, traveling as far as the islands of Shikoku and Kyushu.  He and his wife, Suneya Satō, were bujutsu instructors in area of Joshu, in Kiryu (Ashikaga area). This was a prominent farming and silk-producing area (therefore well-to-do and able to afford to hire bujutsu teachers). He and his wife, Satō eventually became bujutsu instructors (kenjutsu shinanyaku) of Mizuno Ooi no kami, a  prominent retainer of the Kishu domain of the Kii peninsula (present day Wakayama prefecture), in 1854. This province was ruled by the Kishu Tokugawa, one of the three main branches of the Tokugawa.  The Suneya’s were stationed in Edo. They taught in that capacity for some time, but eventually quit and opened up their own dōjō in the Yotsuya, district   (Tenmacho 1-29)

The dōjō was very popular. Bukōsai mostly taught Kogen Ittō-ryu,  while his wife, Satō, mostly taught Toda-ha Bukō-ryu naginatajutsu. She was the 8th generation shihan of the school. The dōjō had about one hundred fifty to two hundred students who came to train everyday. All classes were a mix of men and women.

The Suneya’s had one son named Suneya Takenosuke, whom he intended to make the ninth generation shihan of the school. However,  he died young.

The Suneyas returned to their ancestral home in Fujikura-mura when the Tokugawa bafuku fell.  Because of his age, he did not join the Shōgitai (彰義隊, lit. “League to Demonstrate Righteousness”), the Tokugawa’s elite force during the Bakamatsu period.  He continued to teach in the Chichibu area, and died at the age of 82, in the 9th year (1877) of the Meiji period. The Suneyas bequeathed a set of naginata kata to the Kogen Ittō-ryu, derived from Toda-ha Bukō-ryu bōjutsu. [1] Toda-ha Bukō-ryu was passed down in the  Chichibu area into the early years of the Showa period.

Grave of Suneya Ryosuke

Suneya Satō  (強矢佐登夫)

Suneya Satō was the wife of Ryosuke.  She was renowned for her skill with the naginata,  and specialized in teaching this weapon.

Suneya Ryoemon Minamoto no Tomotake

In one kishomon, dated Ansei 4, to Yamada Tatsuzō, there is a lineage which goes from Suneya Ryosuke to Suneya Ryoemon (also a shihan of Kishu Shingu castle) to Kasai Benji Minamoto no Hisashige.  It is very likely that Ryoemon is another name for Takenosuke, the deceased son mentioned above.

[1] The Suneyas could easily have grafted on the five most basic naginatajutsu kata of Toda-ha Bukō-ryu. However, this could easily have lead to acrimony, as Kogen Ittō-ryu, with somewhat different essential qualities would surely have interpreted these kata differently. What the Suneyas did was rework five bōjutsu kata into naginata kata, thereby short-circuiting any potential disputes regarding which naginata kata were correct, as there was no overlap in sequences between the five Kogen Ittō-ryu naginata kata and any naginata kata of  Toda-ha Bukō-ryu. I have discussed this in detail in Keiko Shokon: Classical Warrior Traditions of Japan, Volume 3 by Diane and Meik Skoss, ed. in my essay “Renovation and Innovation in Tradition”