Discovery of a samurai's vision for Japan attracts interest(防衛省内に山本覚馬「建白書」)


 An opinion paper concerning the modernization of Japan written by a samurai of the Aizu domain, in what is now mainly part of Fukushima Prefecture, has been found at a Defense Ministry institute, it has been learned.
 Yamamoto Kakuma was the elder brother of Niijima Yae, whose life was turned into NHK's annual historical drama "Yae no Sakura" (Yae's Sakura) in 2013.
 The paper, titled "Kanken," is a long-sighted opinion piece about the future of Japan. It was discovered at the ministry's National Institute for Defense Studies in Tokyo.
 The common belief had been that this document was submitted either to the new Meiji government in Tokyo or to the Satsuma domain in what is now Kagoshima Prefecture, although there was no source material to directly back up the theory.
 "It's a precious piece of historical material that proves Kakuma's opinion reached the center of the government," said one researcher.


 It is believed that Kakuma, who was suffering from an eye disease, dictated "Kanken" at the Satsuma domain's residence in Kyoto where he was confined after the Battle of Toba-Fushimi in Kyoto in 1868. In the document, he discussed various issues that preempted how a modern state should be, such as separation of powers, the representative government system and improvement of girls' education.
 "He compiled his views on the modernization of Japan more concretely than the famous 'Senchu Hassaku' opinion paper written by Sakamoto Ryoma did," said Hirokazu Koeda, a researcher at the Kyoto-based Doshisha Archives Center for source material of Doshisha University's history, praising the statement.
  "It was a surprise that it was stored at the National Institute for Defense Studies, but then I don't feel that it's strange," he added.


 "Kanken" was discovered in January by Tetsuya Ito, 50, a Saitama-based historian specializing in the final years of the Tokugawa shogunate. He was searching for material regarding the Byakkotai, a group of young warriors of the Aizu domain, when he found it by chance as part of a collection of papers titled "Shokenpakuki" (A record of various opinions). "Kanken" was filed together with other military-related opinion papers submitted to the government from March to September 1868.
 "'Kanken' led to Kakuma connecting with the government authorities and became a starting point for his later performances. I hope this discovery helps shed light on his achievement," Ito said.


 Other researchers have shown great interest in the finding.
 "I hope it will be clarified how the newly discovered document came to be in the possession of the institute. Through comparative research on the original paper and its manuscript copies, the correct details about 'Kanken' will become clear," said Naoto Yoshikai, a professor at Doshisha Women's College of Liberal Arts, who authored "Niijima Yae: Ai to Tatakai no Shogai," a biography of Niijima Yae. 

 研究者も熱いまなざしを送る。「新島八重 愛と闘いの生涯」の著者、吉海直人同志社女子大特別任用教授は「見つかった文献が防衛研究所に収められるまでの経緯が解明されてほしい。写本との比較研究が進むことで、管見の正しい内容が明確になる」と期待する。

 【Yamamoto Kakuma】as born in 1828 as the first son of Yamamoto Gonpachi, an artillery instructor of the Aizu domain. Kakuma became a teacher at the school for foreign studies, which was newly established at the domain's Nisshinkan school. He also became involved in the westernization of the domain's weapons. He was insightful about modernization and so clear-sighted that he even earned respect from Saigo Takamori, who played a vital role in the Meiji government. During the Meiji era (1868-1912), Kakuma became involved in establishing the Doshisha Academy, the predecessor of Doshisha University. He held such key positions as the Kyoto prefectural government's adviser, the Kyoto prefectural assembly's first chairman and the head of the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He died in 1892 in Kyoto, at 64.

( Translated by The Japan News )

 【山本 覚馬】1828(文政11)年、会津藩砲術師範山本権八の長男として生まれた。藩校の日新館に新設された蘭学所の教授を務め、兵器の洋式化にも携わった。近代を見据え、先見性に富んだ覚馬に、新政府の中枢を担った西郷隆盛なども敬意を寄せたという。明治時代に覚馬は同志社大の前身「同志社英学校」設立に関わった。京都府の顧問や府議会初代議長、京都商工会議所会頭などを歴任。1892年に京都で64歳の生涯を閉じた。

 【 2019年9月24日付・福島民友新聞掲載 】