I’m not getting obsessed about statues or anything honestly, but I want to write about the monument for the Satsuma students in Kagoshima today. I’m reading the novel by Hayashi Nozomu called Satsuma Students, Go West! (Kôbunsha, 2007) at the moment and enjoying it immensely. The Kagoshima dialect that comes across in the book was a little difficult for me to grasp at first, but I’m gradually getting used to it. The book is about the adventures of the 19 students who secretly travelled to Britain in 1865; secretly of course, because at the time it was still against the Bakufu government’s laws for any Japanese to leave Japan without government consent. The history has been well covered even in English thanks to the work of Dr. Andrew Cobbing and his publication entitled The Satsuma Students in Britain (Japan Library, 2000).
So, in Kagoshima city there is a monument dedicated to these Satsuma students, which controversially does not include two of the men, Takami Yaichi from Tosa (Kochi prefecture) and Hori Takayuki from Nagasaki because they were not born in Satsuma (Kagoshima). There had been efforts to amend this but unfortunately so far the city of Kagoshima has deemed it too difficult a task to carry out.
Monument of the Satsuma students in Kagoshima City
When I originally set out on my studies of Nakai Hiromu I wondered why a statue of Nakai Hiromu had not been included in this monument either. Nakai Hiromu was in Britain when the other Satsuma students were there and indeed, the Satsuma students get frequent mention in Nakai’s travel journal Kôkai Shinsetsu, however, Nakai had not travelled with the Satsuma students. In fact, he had gone to Britain with the support of the Tosa domain and he had gone with the Tosa samurai Yûki Yukiyasu. Nakai had already run away from and abandoned Satsuma several years before at the tender age of 16, so it perhaps makes sense that he would not be included in the Satsuma students’ Monument. Having said that, it amazes me that even now there is still no statue of Nakai Hiromu in his hometown of Kagoshima. When I went to Kagoshima in 2005, I spoke with one of the curators of the Reimeikan Museum and was told that because Nakai ran away from Satsuma he was, to all intent and purpose, considered to be a traitor! It was almost unbelievable for me to hear that. Nakai Hiromu put his life on the line doing his duty for his country when he saved the British ambassador, Harry Parkes, in 1868. He could perhaps be said to be one of the earliest cases of karôshi (death from overwork) because he died of a brain haemorrhage whilst working on several huge projects to help make Japan a “strong and wealthy nation” as Prefectural Governor of Kyoto. It makes no sense at all that he is not more respected in both his hometown of Kagoshima and indeed, in the whole of Japan.
I think the two lads who joined the other Satsuma students, Takami Yaichi and Hori Takayuki, need a place on the Satsuma Students’ Monument, but perhaps more than that, Nakai Hiromu needs a statue in Kagoshima. And, the statue of him in Kyoto needs to be better looked after.