Miyako Tanaka Price, the highest-ranking practitioner of naginata (the Japanese spear) outside of Japan, passed away May 27, 2014 in El Cerrito, Calif.
According to the family, Price was born in April 30, 1942 in Osaka Japan during the height of World War II. While the U.S. government initially banned Japanese martial arts in her youth, Price started practicing naginata as part of her physical education at Kansai University in 1961. While she studied law, one of six or seven women among the 800 students in her class, she would graduate to instead teach naginata.
No longer considered a martial art, she practiced the spear as a sport under Chiyoko Tokunaga, one of the founders of the modern art of atarashii naginata at the university. She started the Kansai University Naginata Club in 1963 and was later sent to teach in Southern California by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Science and Culture in 1979.
While in California she met her future husband, Steven Price, and married him in 1984. They moved to El Cerrito in 1984 and she started teaching naginata out of the city’s community center in 1989.
In California, Price is credited as the co-founder of the Northern California Naginata Federation in 1990 and as a former president of the United States Naginata Federation. She also is known for teaching the older traditional martial art of Tendo Ryu naginata. Outside of the United States, Price taught and helped set up dojo in Canada, Netherland, Sweden and Brazil and has trained a number of national and international champions. She attained the rank of hanshi, the highest rank for naginata practitioners, in 2012 — the only person to do so outside of Japan and one of less than 200 in the world.
Price also was a middle school math teacher at the San Francisco Japanese Language School and a member of the San Francisco Urasenke Tankokai, most recently serving as its treasurer. She is survived by her husband, her mother and two brothers in Osaka and countless number of students friends and extended family.
A memorial service was held at the El Cerrito Community Center where she had taught for close to 25 years July 20. The family asks that contributions be made to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.