Thursday, December 2, 2010

Takamori Saigo, the Existed Last Samurai

He was tall and muscular. Most of Japanese images him to stay with a dog. The imagination comes from his statue in downtown Tokyo. His statue is with his dog. He was the leader of a rebellion to new Meiji Imperial Government. Yet, most Japanese like him. Many of them respect him. Despite of all the hardships he had experienced in his life, he always had a warm heart and kind to the weak. He had never given up in his adversity. He was a man of noble character.

Takamori Saigo is his name. Using Takamori's hometown dialect, Japanese people call Takamori Saigo-don. It means Saigo-san in standard Japanese. In many feudal domains, in Japan, in Edo era, there were several classes even in Samurai society. These classes came from the difference between conqueror's subjects and Samurais' left from conquered. Samurai from conquered master kept in the lower level of Samurai society. Takamori Saigo was from the lower class Samurai family in Feudal Domain of Satsuma.

In Meiji restoration, many lower class Samurais became the driving force for newly emerging force for new government as rebellion leaders against Tokugawa Shogun Regime. Takamori was one of them. The lord of Feudal Domain of Satsuma picked him up from lower class of Samurai family and educated and trained him to be advisory staff directly to the lord. When the master died suddenly, he lost his position and exiled to an isolated island. He returned to Satsuma, but he could not change his opinion following his new master. His master exiled him again. In his life, he was exiled 4 times. All because he did not change his views, opinions, and positions. He was extremely useful advisory staff. He always recovered from adversity. He was one of central feature for forming Satsuma-Choshu alliance against Shogun Government.

After Meiji Government had started, all politicians were eager to embrace new, westernized policies, systems, ideas, and society. Takamori did not stand it. He believed that Japan had something that she should cherish and preserve. There are some things which western culture could not replace. All of his colleagues are busy adopting systems from America and Europe. They took position anything from old Japanese culture are something evil. He took a position that Japan had a lot of virtue. Bushido was one of them. His position for maintaining Japanese original virtue isolated him from his colleague politicians. He could not agree with others over some defense issue. He resigned his position. Then Meiji Government could not leave him alone, because he formed an emerging power with people who respected him.

Government decided to fight against him. He fought against then government and lost as he predicted. He killed himself when his army lost the war. It was 1877. He was 49 years old. His slogan was; "Respect God and Love People." Despite he was the leader of rebellion army, Meiji Emperor loved him and ordered the government to remove his criminal record. Many leaders in Japan loved him and decided to build his statue. Now there are 2 of his statues in Japan. One is in busy downtown, in Tokyo. The other is in his hometown, Kagoshima. He was the one who showed that Bushido is not just for Samurai in the ancient regime, but for all Japanese. He was the existed real last Samurai.

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