Nakai Hiromu and the Iguchi Albums

Again, it has been some time since I wrote last.

I have since updated my “About the Author” page, and if I am honest, lately I have been feeling the pinch of not having more published papers out by now.

My only excuses for not keeping up with this blog are that now I am working full-time as an administrator at Doshisha Business School where a new Global MBA Programme has starting this autumn.  My doctoral thesis is still not complete, and I have  been hit by health troubles.

I am also working on several other projects too. Although, I am beginning to wonder when any of them will be completed! “A woman’s work is never done”, and all that.

Amongst the chaos of everyday life, recently I attended a lecture at Campus Plaza Kyoto hosted by the Kyoto Ryoma-kai. Curator of the Kyoto National Museum and author of Ryoma wo Yomu Tanoshisa (Rinsen Sensho, 2003), Miyakawa Teiichi, gave a talk about the photographs of Sakamoto Ryoma’s wife, Oryo. It was a fascinating lecture. One of these photographs of Oryo in particular  is a relevant artifact for my own research because the photograph album of which it is a part is said to have been put together by none other than the star of my own thesis, Nakai Hiromu.

Unfortunately, there is no direct physical evidence that states the album, which is one of a set of two, was put together by Nakai Hiromu. There is no signature written by Nakai himself, for example. There is not even a photograph of Nakai included in the collection. The only evidence we have is word of mouth.

Collectively these two albums are known as the Iguchi Albums, as they were donated to the museum in Autumn 2000 by Iguchi Shinsuke, a descendant of the same Iguchi Shinsuke who ran a Soy sauce shop in Kawaramachi Street where Sakamoto Ryoma and Nakaoka Shintaro were assasinated in 1867. When Shinsuke, the younger, donated the albums to the museum, he informed them that they had been given to the Iguchi family by Nakai Hiromu. Iguchi Shinsuke, the elder, had been a good friend of Nakai Hiromu during the Bakumatsu/Meiji years as he had to many of the samurai heroes of the time.

How a soy sauce shop owner became friends with a prefectural governor is an interesting story…

According to the story by Miyakawa-sensei in his book Ryoma wo Yomu Tanoshisa (p.166), Nakai met Iguchi when the former had collapsed from hunger near the Takoyakushi Bridge over the Takasegawa river after having run away from his domain, Satsuma. Iguchi Shinsuke and his wife Sumi took Nakai in, fed him and looked after him until he regained his strength. Then some years later in 1884, Nakai Hiromu became the governor of Shiga prefecture and he called Iguchi to the prefectural office to thank him. Iguchi is said to have wondered what the governor of Shiga would want with him, until of course, he got there and realised who it was.

Another version I could have sworn I’d heard somewhere, but could well have confused it with something else, was that Nakai had collapsed near the bridge in Kiyamachi after a fairly hard night of drinking, and had been taken in by Iguchi. Some days after that Iguchi was called to the Shiga Prefectural government offices where he was surprised to find the governor Nakai wanting to thank him… Personally, I quite like this second story. It paints a picture of a typical scene that might be still seen in Kiyamachi today after a wild weekend of partying! 🙂

Upon the death of Nakai Hiromu, Iguchi Shinsuke was entrusted with several of Nakai’s items, including the two photograph albums. Also in the collection, which was given to the Kyoto National Museum, were a number of scrolls with letters to Nakai from several illustrious Bakumatsu and Meiji period notables as well as a medal given to Nakai by the Meiji government.

Along with the letters housed in the Kyoto National Museum and the Reimeikan Museum in Kagoshima, these two photograph albums give an excellent idea of the sort of connections and famous friends that Nakai had. Although throughout the recording of history thus far Nakai himself has been a background figure, there is evidence enough to show that through these many connections, he was able to make not the smallest amount of influence on the history of his time.

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One thought on “Nakai Hiromu and the Iguchi Albums

  1. Hello,Elly,

    I have just read the updated page of ‘about the author’. I didn’t know you have so many works already done on your field. Really impressive, really. Is it possible one can read any of your publication through this site? I must confess I knew nothing of Nakai, but when I read your blog, I did understand he was a real person living in the age when Japan was changing dramatically. I am looking forward to knowing how your research is progressing. It must be hard to do research while you are working full-time. But, Yes, we can! right? ‘Rinsen’ sensho may be right, by the way???

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