Shirata Rinjiro was born in 1912 in the northern prefecture of Yamagata. Descendant of the famous ninth-century scholar, Sugawara Michizano (later deified by the name of Temma Tenjin, patron saint of teachers), his ancestors were almost all high government officials and samurai, but due to the abolition of the feudal system in 1871, the Shirata family devoted themselves to agriculture.
However, Shirata Sensei’s father retained a strong interest in the samurai tradition and built a gym for kendo training on his property. Shirata Sensei therefore began practicing kendo but in middle school he directed his preferences to judo, quickly achieving the degree of ni-dan (2nd dan).
His father met Ueshiba Morihei through the Omoto-kyo, and decided that that particularly gifted son (he was able to easily lift a sack of over 60 kilos of rice with one hand) had to continue studying with the great teacher.