Koizumi Cabinet E-mail Magazine No. 246 (August 10, 2006)
* Next issue will be delivered on August 31, 2006.
[Lion Heart -- Message from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi]
Last week, I visited Yamaguchi Prefecture and observed the historic places tracing back to Yoshida Shoin and Takasugi Shinsaku, two remarkable reformers from the last years of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
I have been greatly moved by the attitudes toward life, ambitions, and words of Yoshida Shoin and Takasugi Shinsaku, and I have profound interest in as well as respect for them.
I often quote the words of Yoshida Shoin in my speeches and other remarks. Still, I had never visited his grave or the historic places that trace back to him and I always felt regretful about this. On this trip to Yamaguchi Prefecture, I was able to visit various sites despite it being a whirlwind tour, and I was once again moved by his accomplishments.
Each and every place that I visited was beautifully kept and meticulously cared for, like Shoka Sonjuku, a private school where Yoshida Shoin imparted his teachings. I also visited Noyamagoku jail where he was imprisoned for attempting to stow away on an American warship to go abroad to broaden his knowledge about the West, along with his birthplace and gravesite. I could see how dearly Yoshida Shoin is still respected by the people there.
Takasugi Shinsaku organized a volunteer militia unit called the Kiheitai in which social classes had no role. At Kouzan-ji Temple, he raised a militia of merely 80 or so people. The size quickly grew to pave the way for the overthrow of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the onset of the Meiji Restoration. Takasugi Shinsaku died of illness when he was 29 years old by kazoedoshi, or the traditional system of age reckoning (according to the traditional system, a newborn is considered one year old and his/her age is counted by each passing of a New Year rather than the birthday). Ouno, his lover, mourned him at a hermitage named Tougyouan. He is buried in Shimizuyama Hill behind the hermitage.
Near the grave a tombstone is found in honor of Takasugi Shinsaku. Inscribed is an epitaph by Ito Hirobumi reading, "His moves are like a bolt of lightning, his actions are like a storm." Takasugi Shinsaku's life was one battle after another: a battle between the dominant and dissident factions of the same Choshu domain, followed by a battle between the Choshu domain and the Tokugawa Shogunate. I believe it was not a given that they would win the battles. And it was just as the Tokugawa Shogunate was about to be overthrown that Takasugi Shinsaku fell ill.
In his last poem Takasugi Shinsaku left the following words, "Let us make an uninteresting world interesting." He was 29 years old by kazoedoshi, or 27 years old by the modern age system, when he died. I imagine his ideas and views were both praised and censured by people of that period, that he led a life in which he was not readily understood or accepted. I am deeply impressed by how much he was able to accomplish in his short lifetime.
"Even if my life ends on the Musashi Plain, the Japanese spirit will still remain." This poem was written by Yoshida Shoin before his execution while in prison in Denmacho in Edo. He taught at Shoka Sonjuku for only a little over a year. This small private school about the size of an eight tatami mat room produced many leading players from the last years of the Tokugawa Shogunate through the Meiji Restoration, such as Kusaka Genzui, Takasugi Shinsaku, Ito Hirobumi, Yamagata Aritomo, Yamada Akiyoshi, and Shinagawa Yajiro.
At the time of his passing Yoshida Shoin was as young as 30 years old by kazoedoshi, or 29 years old by the modern age system. While their lives were short, the reformers of the time carried with them a burning determination that exceeded our imagination and they indeed endured many hardships.
I also visited other sites in addition to those I have already mentioned. Among them were Joei-ji Temple in Yamaguchi City, which boasts a splendid garden that Sesshu, a master of ink painting, is said to have designed over 500 years ago. The tour also included Rurikou-ji Temple famous for its five-storied pagoda, Akiyoshidai where rows of rugged limestone rocks cover a large hilly terrain, and the fantastic and mystic limestone cave of Akiyoshidou. These were two days in which I further discovered the many charms of Japan.
I attended the annual Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony on August 6 and the annual Nagasaki Peace Ceremony yesterday, August 9. I offered my condolences to the victims and my prayers for peace.
I received many opinions regarding my thoughts on peace which I shared with you in last week's e-mail magazine. I will never forget that the present peace and prosperity of Japan are built on the precious sacrifices made by those who unwillingly lost their lives to the Second World War.
Early in the morning today I will leave for Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia. This year the country marks the 800th anniversary of the enthronement of Genghis Khan.
Currently, 35 Mongolia-born wrestlers are doing remarkably in Japanese sumo, including Yokozuna Asashoryu and Ozeki Hakuho. I hear Japanese sumo is very popular in Mongolia, such that all matches in the top two divisions of sumo are broadcast live on TV every day.
In an opinion poll conducted in Mongolia, Japan ranked highly in all of the following categories: "country I like," "country I wish to visit," and "country with which friendship should be enhanced." According to the poll, over 70 percent of the people in Mongolia feel an affinity with Japan.
A Japanese elementary school textbook carries the Mongolian folktale, "Suho's White Horse." When I met Prime Minister Miyeegombyn Enkhbold in Tokyo in March of this year, the Prime Minister shared with me his wish for a Mongolian elementary school textbook to also carry a Japanese folktale and asked if I could advise him on what sort of folktale should run in a textbook. On my visit to Mongolia, I intend to recommend "Kasako Jizo (Kasako Guardian Deity)" and "Tsuru no Ongaeshi (The Grateful Crane)."
It will be a short one-night/two-day visit during which I will express Japan's congratulations to Prime Minister Enkhbold and President Nambaryn Enkhbayar on the 800th anniversary of Mongolian Statehood. I also hope to have talks on further developing the friendly and cooperative relations between Japan and Mongolia.
* The title of this column "Lion Heart" is a reference to the Prime Minister's lion-like hairstyle and his unbending determination to advance structural reform.
- Prime Minister Attends Nagasaki Peace Ceremony (August 9, 2006)
- Funeral for Former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto Jointly Held by the Cabinet and the Liberal Democratic Party (August 8, 2006)
- Prime Minister Attends Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony (August 6, 2006)
- Prime Minister Visits Yamaguchi Prefecture (August 4 to 5, 2006)
- Prime Minister Visits Kanagawa Prefecture (August 2, 2006)
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