2015 Kyoto Bakumatsu Festival


2015 Bakumatsusai Poster

The Kyoto Bakumatsu Festival will be held again this year from September 14th-20th.

There will be a panel display held at ZEST Oike, the underground shopping mall near Oike Station from September 14th-19th.

The main event with stalls and entertainment will be held outside Kyoto City Hall on Saturday, September 19th.

Then on Sunday September 20th from 1pm there will be a talk (in Japanese only) on Bakumatsu History at Doshisha University of which I will again be a participant. I look forward to seeing you there if you can make it!

  • Eleanor

Another talk on the Nakai diaries coming up!


Nakai Hiromu's Kokai Shinsetsu

I have very kindly been given another opportunity to talk about translating Nakai Hiromu’s first travel diary, A Travel Sketch of the West – A New Account of Crossing the Seas.

This time the event is organised by JAT (Japan Association of Translators) and SWET (Society of Writers, Editors and Translators) and will be held in Osaka on Sunday, September 21st, 2014.

Please see the website below for details:


I look forward to seeing you there if you can make it!

– Eleanor

Lecture on Nakai Hiromu at Sokushu-in Temple


On May 20th, 2012, I had the great honour of giving a talk in Japanese about Nakai Hiromu at the temple where he is buried; Sokushu-in, within the Tofuku-ji Temple complex in the south-east of Kyoto city.

About 20 people came to listen to the talk and I received several questions and comments afterward. One of the listeners was kind enough to send me copies of some photographs he took, and he has given me kind permission to post them here.

Speaking about Nakai at Sokushu-in

Preparing to wash the grave

It was an excellent opportunity to give a talk in Japanese. Earlier in the year, I had been given the wonderful opportunity to talk 聽to fellow members of the Kyoto Ryoma-kai on the subject of Nakai Hiromu. I’m hoping there will be more such opportunities in the future to introduce the important role that Nakai played in Japanese history.

Sokushu-in itself is a beautiful temple. It is not usually open to the general public, except for a brief time each year during the red leaves season. The main complex of Tofuku-ji Temple is well-known for it’s red leaves and receives thousands of visitors each year.

Sokushu-in is the Shimazu clan (Feudal Lords of Satsuma) temple in Kyoto and it has seen many illustrious guests in its time. The great ‘Saigo-don’ (Saigo Takamori, 1828-1877) is known to have been here for secret meetings. Also, there are several monuments commemorating those who were lost in the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877. The grave of Narahara Kizaemon (1831-1865)聽(famous for attacking the British merchant, Charles Lennox Richardson, in the Namamugi Incident of 1862) is also here, near to the Nakai/Yokoyama family grave compound.

The grave of Narahara Kizaemon

I enjoyed this opportunity to again wear the kimono given to me for the occasion of my doctoral graduation ceremony. Here in Aichi, unfortunately I don’t see many people wearing kimono, so coming back from Kyoto on the Shinkansen, I probably stuck out like a sore thumb (even more than I do anyway, I mean). Still, it was all good fun!

Thank you to the organizers, and the most attentive audience, at Sokushu-in. I had a lovely day; albeit a very nervous one!

Latest news


It has been a long time coming, and I have nobody to blame for that but myself, but I have finally managed to obtain my doctorate. I have finally completed my thesis, entitled, “Nakai Hiromu: Meiji Statesman and Hero of Anglo-Japanese Relations”. My next mission is working toward the publication of a book on the subject; anybody know any good publishers? 馃檪

A great deal has happened since the last time I wrote a blog, which was quite a while ago. Now I live in Nagoya and have become a faculty member at Aichi Prefectural University in the Department of British and American Studies. This allows to me teach in my own field of Anglo-Japanese relations; it also means I get to talk a lot about Nakai Hiromu!

A new and exciting phase has begun…

Nakai in Biographical Portraits Series


I’m a little late in making this announcement:

It’s been some time since I wrote a blog having moved to another post, but before I digress further let me tell you about a new publication.

Britain & Japan Biographical Portraits,聽Volume VII, compiled and edited by Hugh Cortazzi (Global Oriental, 2010).

This, the seventh book in the series, has chapters on many characters who have played a role in Anglo-Japanese Relations. This particular tome includes chapters on Nakai Hiromu’s good friend Inoue Kaoru (written by Andrew Cobbing) and one of Josiah Conder’s (of Rokumeikan fame) students Tatsuno Kingo (written by Ian Ruxton) as well as British diplomat Francis O. Adams (written by Hugh Cortazzi) along with a plethora of other interesting and key persons.

It had long been a dream of mine to get a chapter on Nakai Hiromu in this excellent series and finally that dream has come true!

More about the publication can be seen here.

New Publication on Nakai Hiromu!


Mr. Yashiki Shigeo has published his long-awaited definitive work on his great ancestor, Nakai Hiromu. Self published through a Tokyo-based publishing company called Gentosha Rennaisance, this work goes into great detail about Nakai Hiromu’s life. Much new and previously unpublished information about Nakai’s life abounds in this truly excellent work.

I intend to write a fuller review in the near future, but for the time being, I would just like to get word out about the book. You can purchase a copy via Amazon.co.jp of course, as well as other online bookstores.

The author, Mr. Yashiki, came to Kyoto last weekend. I arranged to meet him at the Ryoma bar in Kiyamachi in order to express my congratulations on his publication. He was accompanied by several other members of the Yokoyama/Nakai clan. What a great honour it was for me to meet them all! History is really brought to life on such occassions. Nakai Hiromu is not just some old character from the history books. He was a real, living and breathing person, and meeting his descendents really reminded me of the fact.

Watch this space for my review of Mr. Yashiki’s book in future!

Updates – rough notes


Sunday, 27th September 2009

I attended another lecture聽 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聽his role in the聽famous Namamugi Incident, or as it is sometimes known, the Richardson Affair, in which the British merchant Richardson was murdered by Satsuma men.聽 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).聽 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 Sokush没-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聽members, but this year I went on my own.聽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 Sokush没-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聽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 Ry么tar么’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 Sh么gun, 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.聽Carpenter herself said however, Shiba is one of, if not the most influential authors in Japan. Some might even argue that to聽understand the聽Japanese mindset聽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聽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 Ry么ma ga Yuku; that too is eight volumes long, so if I am going to do it, I had better get started….