Sunday, November 28, 2010

Shinsaku Takasugi, A Revolutionary Ideologist

There are people who appear as if God chose them. These are people who look to be sent by God for missions. These people come into this world suddenly as a thunder runs high in the sky. They disappear as soon as they complete their mission. It looks as if their God called them back. History tends to find these people in difficult changing periods.

Shinsaku Takasugi is his name. It was the middle of 19th century, Japan was in the period of change from Samurai Government to modern democracy. Shinsaku was born in feudal domain of Choshu (Yamaguchi Prefecture, now) in 1839. His parent was from ordinary Samurai class family. His parent and teachers gave him an opportunity to study Japanese sward art and politics. He studied in Edo (Tokyo, now) and North East region of Japan. He visited China also in 1862, whereas he observed colonialism in China.

He became an ardent patriot, thinking how to save Japan from being a colony of advanced countries of American and Europe. Shogun Government opened Japan as requested by USA, United Kingdom, France, and Holland. Under Shogun Government, Japan concluded treaties with these countries under unequal terms and conditions. Shinsaku's feudal domain of Choshu was anti-Shogun Government. They fought against England and utterly destroyed. When Shogun Government attacked Choshu domain, Choshu did not have enough armies to fight against Shogun force.

 Shinsaku formed a squadron to save his homeland, Choshu domain. In forming his squadron, he hired not only lower class Samurai people, but also young generation of farmers, merchants, and craftsmen, who are ambitious to fight for their homeland. This was Japanese first army consisted of both Samurai and non-Samurai people. They called it "Kihei-Tai".

Even in the end of Edo era, Japan was a class society. Samurai was still sitting on the top of the society. Farmers, craftsmen, and merchants needed to knee down and give their ways to Samurai when a Samurai came their way.

It is intriguing that one of Samurai, Shinsaku Takasugi, opened the door of equality for other class people than Samurai. Kihei-Tai was not private army. It was part of formal army of Choshu domain. Formation of Kihei-Tai, equal opportunity army, was not just Shinsaku's experiment. Choshu clan must have had an unusually flexible concept about social classes. It must have been the most updated idea and practice.

Kihei-Tai was not just a disorderly crowd. Shinsaku trained them in the way Samurai army trained their warriors. Fighting against Shogun army, they played a crucial role for Shogun decision makers to determine their army is not enough to fight effectively against the emerging power of the new government.

Legends show that Shinsaku did not wear armor in battles. He wore regular clothes in battlefields. He wore short hair to show that his life is dedicated for modern Japan. Right before the revolution is over in 1867, he died from tuberculosis in the same year. It was almost like his God called him back at his mission completed.

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