Jan 7, 2011

Shoin Yoshida as Robinson Crusoe in the end of Edo Era

I read Ryutaro Iwase's “Robinson of the End of Edo Era; Drafts in Pacific Oceans Before and After Opening Japan”. This book is a sequal of the same author's "Robinson in Edo Era; Stories of Seven Drafts" by the same author.

In this book he wrote about drifters at the end of the Edo era when western countries forced Japan to have diplomacy with them in this book. In the previous book he wrote about the stories of drifters from Japan, and some of them could return to Japan and some of them couldn't. In this book he wrote about the stories not of accidental drifters from Japan, but drifters from foreign countries to Japan and "intentional" drifters to foreign countries.

Every story in this book is as interested as ones in the previous book, and I am especially interested in the story of Shoin Yoshida's smuggling.

Recently I have read books about the time when Japan was becoming a nation state between the Edo era and Meiji era. Shoin Yoshida is a person who represents contradictions of that time, and I am going to read books about him carefully.

Shoin Yoshida grew up with conservative Confucianism and traditional Japanese military science "Yamaga-ryu". But once he knew the strong armed forces of Western countries, he became an apprentice for Shozan Sakuma, who was a Confucian but very interested in Western military science. Shoin tried to smuggle by Perry's fleet and to learn Western knowledge on Shozan's suggestion. But on the other hand he had thoughts of an antiforeigner royalist "Sonno joi", and he brought most of the main members in the Choshu Domain who overthrew of the Tokugawa government. Although they had been antiforeigner royalists, they changed their attitude and tried to learn Western knowledge like Shoin after the overthrowing of the Tokugawa government.

I am very interested in his admiration and repulsive Western countries, beginning of nationalism, his energy and eccentric behavior.

"Robinson of the End of Edo Era" focuses on his smuggling by Perry's fleet. I thought of his smuggling an eccentric and impossible trial, and I wondered why he thought of such a thing and did it.

But I can understand that although his trial was reckless and unplanned, it was not eccentric throughout this book. At that time many drifters were rescued by American whale catcher boats, and some of them, for example John Mung, returned to Japan. There were people who tried to smuggle into foreign countries, and some of them succeeded it. When international interactions between Japan and Western countries began, his trial was not isolated; even so his choice to use Perry's fleet was a big mistake.

In an afterword of this book there is a suppressing story of the author Ryutaro Iwase himself, and I will not write about it. It makes this book more impressive.

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