Recent events might have generated some interest in the history of the ‘Osada’ component of Osada Steve’s name. He has not always worked under this name. Some of the veterans of the shibari scene might recall his original pseudonym, Dr D Vice. So how and when did he come to be known as Osada Steve?
When he first came to Japan some 30 years ago, he plied his trade as a photographer. By chance, one of his jobs involved photographing Eikichi Osada, who was pivotal in bringing kinbaku into the public eye with live performances.
Through his close involvement with Eikichi, emerged the seed of Steve’s career in rope. Although at this time, he had no dreams of what he might become saying “All I ever wanted was tie up women”. It soon became apparent that rope was his vocation, not photography. Nawapedia has Steve’s official lessons with Eikechi down as starting in 1999 but you can be sure that he was following the age old martial arts tradition of ‘stealing knowledge’ by observation well before.
Over the years, Steve has grown into not only a well-respected member of Japan’s premier league kinbakushi performing constantly and sharing the stage with many top names, most notably with Akechi Denki. He has been taught by grandmasters such as Akechi Denki, Nawashi Kanna and even become a licensed Yukimura-ryu instructor. In addition, he is the undisputed ambassador of kinbaku in the west. With his integration into the local scene and excellent English, he single-handedly has done more to enhance our knowledge than anyone and made the local scene accessible to visitors.
Back to how the name was perpetuated after Eikichi passed away. There was certainly no unseemly squabbling; being Japan, everything was settled in a very civilised manner. Before his death, a meeting was called to agree the process. Kazumi, his model, enlisted a couple of influential people to advise on the naming matter. In the end, Oda Hisashi did most of the talking. The outcome was that both Kazumi and Steve got permission to use the Osada name. Tokyobound says (full article):
“Oda Hisashi took a leading role as emissary and advisor on keeping the Osada lineage alive by promoting Steve (at that time going by the name of Dr D Vice) to become the officially designated successor to the Osada empire. Asked why he had staked his reputation on routing for Steve he replied that Steve had “heart”. “Heart is something rare and special in shibari. You can’t be taught it, you can’t buy it, you can’t beg for it. Either you have it or you don’t; and Steve had it.” He also said that Steve struck him as the most likely person to keep the Osada name alive. “Steve is a guy who knows the spirit of budo – that’s very rare to find among Japanese these days. Just look at the ever-increasing number of sport riggers.”
Kazumi and Steve also got to continue to run Osada Seminars (English version) together. Kazumi became Kazumi Osada. I use this form, rather than Osada Kazumi, as that’s how she renders it on her website. There are some interesting links there including what appears to be a chronology of Eikichi’s life and some photos of Eikichi at work. Very, very different from today’s Osada-ryu but like, any art, one must view it as it was at the time, revolutionary. I understand his strength lay more in energy and speed than the technical, so still photos are not the best medium through which to express this.
Osada Eikichi died September 12, 2001 and on November 23 there was a memorial ceremony at Roppongi Jail attended by Kazumi Osada, Steve Osada, Mary Aoi, Mai Ito, Yoshikazu Hayakawa, Doji Nekura, Hiroo Minowa, Miki Mori amongst others.
Not long after, Kazumi and Steve ceased to work together. According to Nawapedia, in 2002, Osada Steve began teaching at Studio SIX. Meanwhile, Kazumi Osada continued to run her SM Circle, Osada Seminar and even produced an instructional DVD according to her site. In fact, Osada Kazumi still has a unit on the first floor in the same building as Steve in Ikebukuro. He believes she is still running Osada Seminar. I’m not sure about her current activities as her site doesn’t seem to have any recent links but I’m only working via Google translate.
I hope this answers the questions raised and establishes that there are two rightful bearers of the Osada name, although the second might be a new name to some western shibari enthusiasts: Steve and Kazumi.