Updates – rough notes

Sunday, 27th September 2009

I attended another lecture  hosted by the Kyoto Ryoma Club. This time the speaker was Machida Akihiro of Meiji Gakuin University. He spoke about Shimazu Hisamitsu, younger brother to one of the great lords of Satsuma, Shimazu Nariakira, and the father of that lord’s successor, Shimazu Shigehisa.

Although Machida-sensei did not really touch upon the subject in his talk, what interests me about Hisamitsu is his role in the famous Namamugi Incident, or as it is sometimes known, the Richardson Affair, in which the British merchant Richardson was murdered by Satsuma men.  The incident led to the Anglo-Satsuma War, which in turn led to much cooperation between Britain and Satsuma and to the sending of Satsuma students to Britain in 1865 (a subject I have touched upon in a previous post).  The British residents in Yokohama were in uproar over the Namamugi Incident and were initially baying for the swift arrest of Shimazu Hisamitsu, however he managed to get away and was not pursued further. I’d like to delve into this topic further in a future blog; will keep you posted.

Saturday, 10th October 2009

Today was the 115th anniversary of Nakai Hiromu’s death. In the morning I visited his grave at Sokushû-in within the precincts of Tofukuji Temple.

This was the second time for me to visit on the anniversary of his death. Last year I was joined by two Kyoto Ryoma Club members, but this year I went on my own. I washed the grave, placed flowers and lit incense as an offering before paying my respects with a prayer. I felt somewhat guilty about not having my completed my doctoral thesis yet, and could only report that I am STILL working on it. My only excuse is not having the time as I currently work a full-time job now. There was a young priest cleaning up the temple gardens after the recent typhoon. There were leaves and twigs all over the place so he really had his work cut out for him; still he had some time to chat to me briefly. I spoke to the mother of the house too. She told me how Hiromu’s descendent, Nakai Hiroko used to often come and visit the grave all the way from her home at the foot of Mt. Fuji. Nakai Hiroko is one of the ladies who established the Nakai Hiromu statue that now stands in Kyoto’s Maruyama Park in 1964. According to the mother at Sokushû-in, Hiroko is an elderly lady now who can’t really get to visit the grave these days. I gave her a copy of one of my papers and she said she would pass it on to Hiroko-san. The first time I met one of Nakai Hiromu’s descendents, I felt the reality for the first time. Until that point, Hiromu had just been an historical figure from dusty history books. On meeting one of his descendents the realism hit me. I’ll never forget that feeling. Hiromu is somebody’s grandfather, great-grandfather…

Saturday, 17th October 2009

I attended Day One of the Japan Writers Conference (JWC) at Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts (DWCLA). It had been my intention to go and listen to Juliet Winters Carpenter speak about the translation project she is now involved in, that of Shiba Ryôtarô’s Saka no ue no Kumo. There are eight books in the series and Prof. Carpenter will be team translating them. She informed us she will be doing three of the books over the next two years!

Whn I lived in Aomori (1999-2002) I bought a copy of her translation of Shiba’s Saigo no Shôgun, or The Last Shogun. It was from this publication that I first learned of Prof. Carpenter. Shiba’s books are well-known as fairly difficult to read and with all the historical references his books must be terribly difficult to translate. As Prof. Carpenter herself said however, Shiba is one of, if not the most influential authors in Japan. Some might even argue that to understand the Japanese mindset it is essential to know Shiba’s work. However, to my knowledge, despite the tremendous amount of works that he has written, only The Last Shogun, translated by Prof Carpenter, The Tatar Whirlwind: A Novel of Seventeenth Century East Asia translated by Joshua A Vogel, and Kukai the Universal: Scenes from His Life, translated by Akiko Takemoto have been translated and published in English. It has always been one of my dreams to translate Ryôma ga Yuku; that too is eight volumes long, so if I am going to do it, I had better get started….

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3 thoughts on “Updates – rough notes

  1. Interesting stuff. I should have liked to hear that lecture.

    As someone quite interested in Ryukyuan history, it’s hard to avoid being interested in Shimazu matters as well. While nothing comes to mind immediately off the top of my head regarding Hisamitsu’s involvement with Ryukyu, on the other hand, it’s interesting to me since I’ve been to Namamugi, where there’s a nice memorial and plaque describing the jiken.

    • toranosuke-dono,
      Thank you for your comment. Have you ever been to the Reimeikan Historical Museum in Kagoshima City? There was a lot of information on Satsuma and her relations with the Ryukyus. It was very fascinating stuff. I definitely recommend a visit if you haven’t been there already.
      As for myself, I’m embarrased to say that I haven’t been to see Namamugi yet; I’ve only seen photographs. I will have to get there soon!
      Machida-sensei’s talk was very interesting. His book, “Shimazu Hisamitsu – Bakumatsu Seiji no Shoten” (Kodansha Sensho Metier, 2009) is very interesting.

  2. Alas, I have yet to make it to Kagoshima. But thanks for the suggestion… I’ll have to keep it in mind for when I do eventually make it down there.

    -Travis

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