Katsu Kaishu - Page 4

by Romulus Hillsborough

Katsu Kaishu - Page 4

democratize his own nation, were certain aspects of American democracy. ^(3)There is no distinction between soldier, peasant, artisan ormerchant. Any man can be engaged in commerce,^(2) he observed. ^(3)Even a high-ranking officer is free to set up business once he resigns or retires.^(2)Generally, the samurai, who received a stipend from their feudal lord, looked down upon the men of the merchant class, and considered business for monetary profit a base occupation. ^(3)Usually people walking through town do not wear swords, regardless of whether they are soldiers, merchants or government officials,^(2) while in Japan it was a samurai^(1)s strict obligation to be armed at all times. Kaishu also observed the peculiar relationship between men and women in American society. ^(3)A man accompanied by his wife will always hold her hand as he walks.^(2) The immense cultural and social gaps notwithstanding, Kaishu, the outsider among his countrymen, was pleased with theAmericans. ^(3)I had not expected the Americans to express such delight at our arrival to San Francisco, nor for all the people of the city, from the government officials on down, to make such great efforts to treat us so well.^(2)

In 1862, Kaishu was appointed vice-commissioner of the Tokugawa Navy. He established his naval academy in Kobe in 1863, with the help of his right-hand man, Sakamoto Ryoma.The following year Kaishu was promoted to the post of navy commissioner, and received the honorary title Awa-no-Kami, Protector of the Province of Awa. In October 1864, Kaishu,who had thus far enjoyed the ear of the shogun, was recalled to Edo, dismissed from hispost and placed under house arrest for harboring known enemies of the Tokugawa. His naval academy was closed down, and his generous stipend reduced to a bare minimum.In 1866 the shogun^(1)s forces suffered a series of humiliating defeats at the hands of the revolutionary Choshu Army. Kaishu was subsequently reinstated to his former post by Tokugawa Yoshinobu, Head of the House of Tokugawa, who in the following December would become the fifteenth and last Tokugawa Shogun. Lord Yoshinobu did not like Kaishu, just as Kaishu did not like Lord Yoshinobu. Kaishu was a maverick within the government, who had broken age-old tradition and even law by imparting his expertise to enemies of the shogunate; who openly criticized his less talented colleagues at Edo for their inability, if not blind refusal, to realize that the years, and perhaps even days, of Tokugawa rule were numbered; who in the Grand Hall at Edo Castle had bravedpunishment and even death by advising then-Shogun Tokugawa Iemochi to abdicate; and who was now recalled to service because Yoshinobu and his aides knew that Kaishu was the only man in all of Edo who wielded both the respect and trust of the revolutionaries. In August 1866, Navy Commissioner Katsu Kaishu was dispatched to Miyajima ? Island of the Shrine ? in the domain of Hiroshima to meet representatives of Choshu. Before departing he told Lord Yoshinobu, ^(3)I^(1)ll have things settled with the Choshu men within one month. If I^(1)m not back by then, you can assume that they^(1)ve cut off my head.^(2) Kaishu was aware of the grave danger to his life as an emissary of the Tokugawa, but nevertheless traveled alone, without a single bodyguard. Shortly after successfully negotiating a peace with Choshu, the outsider resigned his post, due to irreconcilable differences with the powers that were, and returned to his home in Edo.

In October 1867, Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu announced his abdication and the restoration of power to the emperor. But diehard oppositionists within the Tokugawa camp were determined to fight the forces of the new imperial government. The leaders of the new imperial government were equally determined to annihilate the remnants of the Tokugawa,to ensure that it would never rise again. Civil war broke out near Kyoto in January 1868.Although the imperial forces, led by Saigo Kichinosuke of Satsuma, were greatly outnumbered, they routed the army of the former shogun in

Click here to post comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Japan FAQ - Questions about Living & Working in Japan.