Natsume Soseki’s Kokoro, published in 1914 shortly after the end of the Meiji era (1868-1912), is one of my favorite novels. An underlying theme, of course, is the final stamp of modernity with the death of Emperor Meiji, under whose rule, which actually began with the overthrow of the Tokugawa Bakufu in 1868, Japan was modernized. The reading of Kokoro is enhanced, I think, by Shiba Ryotaro’s wonderful historical novel Junshi (below), about Nogi Maresuke (Nogi Taisho), the famed hero of the Russo-Japan War whose seppuku in the wake of the death of Meiji Emperor shocked the country.
Yamakawa Hiroshi’s Kyoto Shugoshoku Shimatsu (京都守護職始末), a history of the office of the protector of Kyoto (Kyoto shugoshoku), was published in 1911.
The office of the protector of Kyoto, which lasted for more than five years, was held by Matsudaira Katamori, daimyo of Aizu. As the protector of Kyoto, he was the master of the Shinsengumi. Yamakawa was a minister to Katamori.
I am very happy that this invaluable source has been republished, in two volumes, complete with annotations, by Heibonsha, a wonderful publisher of books on Japanese history.
The above is from an article I wrote for Tokyo Journal in 2003. The “to think while on the run” description is from a biography by Furukawa Kaoru, published in 1971 (below).
Takasugi of course was a friend and political ally of Sakamoto Ryoma. In the 1980s, while researching Ryoma: Life of a Renaissance Samurai, I visited Hagi, Takasugi’s hometown in Yamaguchi Prefecture. In front of Takasugi’s house I met an old woman selling copies of Furukawa’s biography, which featured a special stamp stating, “Birthplace of Takasugi Shinsaku (高杉晋作誕生地)” She must have been in her eighties – and so Takasugi was most likely of her grandfather’s generation. It is entirely possible that her family lived in Hagi for many generations. If so, it is likely that she grew up hearing stories of Takasugi. When I bought a copy of this book, she smiled and told me that Shinsaku would be “tickled pink” to know that an American was buying his biography!
It was twenty years ago this month that I began the process of publishing this book. It was a long and tedious ordeal but well worth it, I think. (I hope readers agree.) The book was finally published in February 1999.
Here is a photo of the original hardcover edition, which is out of print.
Tsutomu Ohshima’s monumental English translation of the Master Text by Gichin Funakochi was published in 1973. I started practicing under Ohshima-sensei (Shotokan Karate of America) as a kid in Los Angeles in September 1970. I have cherished this signed copy for 45 years.