Mitsunari Kanai was one of the last personal students trained by the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba.
Sensei Kanai was born in 1939 in Manchuria, where his father was a military policeman for the Manchurian railroad; the family returned to Japan at the end of World War II. After graduating from high school, Kanai went to work for a typewriter company, but before long began to reflect seriously on what he really wanted to do with his life.
He chose Budo, Japan’s traditional martial way. Although he had studied judo since childhood, he was dissatisfied with it. As a result, he made the momentous choice to study the relatively new martial art of Aikido.
He knew of Aikido mainly from televised demonstrations, word of mouth, and an early book written by O-Sensei’s son, Kisshomaru Ueshiba. Nonetheless, Kanai quit his job and presented himself at the Ueshibas’ school in Tokyo, Hombu Dojo.
Eventually, he was formally accepted as a live-in apprentice or “uchi deshi”. He studied with O-Sensei for close to eight years.