Takasugi Shinsaku, the military leader of Choshu’s revolutionary forces in the war against the Bakufu in 1866, resented the coerced foreign trade treaties unilaterally concluded by the Bakufu in the summer of 1858. A favorite student of Yoshida Shoin, Takasugi had been a staunch advocate of “expel the barbarians” until he realized that it would be impossible to do so without first overthrowing the Bakufu, which he blamed for letting the foreigners in. The realization came during a trip to Shanghai in 1862, briefly recounted in my essay posted on this website and in more detail in Samurai Revolution.
Given Takasugi’s natural resentment of the foreign intruders, I was at once amused and moved by a comment from an old woman in his hometown of Hagi. It was during one of my trips to that historic city in Yamaguchi Prefecture, in August of either 1986 or 1987 (I can’t remember which). At that time I visited the historic houses of both Takasugi and Katsura Kogoro, the political leader of the Choshu revolutionaries. The old woman was selling copies of Takasugi’s biography (by Furukawa Kaoru, published in 1971) in front of his house. She must have been in her eighties – which means Takasugi would have been 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 the book, she smiled and told me that Shinsaku would be tickled pink to know that an American was buying his biography!
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