This project showcases student project work from Japan and the World, a modern Japanese history course offered at Kanda University of International Studies. It focuses on important themes and individuals from the Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-26) periods, when Japan was beginning to open to the world after centuries of government-enforced isolation.

All submissions are researched, whether in English or Japanese, and references provided. Comments responding to and exploring ideas, suggesting connections or further reading, are most welcome. As entries are written by non-native English speakers, please refrain from non-constructive comments about language use.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Yoshida Shoin

By Masato Takahashi
Yoshida Shoin
Yoshida Shoin

There were many people in Japan who were fascinated by foreign countries, and Yoshida Shoin was one of them. He was known as a samurai of Choshu domain, educator of Ito Hirobumi (the first prime minister of Japan and the philosophical leader of Japan in the Meiji restoration), plus as the one of the people who tried to change Japan. Compared to other people, he was quite unique and had only his way to think differently from ordinary people, which made him remarkable. Many people might wonder whether Yoshida Shoin was great or just crazy, thus in this paper, his story will be introduced in terms of his early life with a reason why he began to be interested in foreign countries, characteristic and actions.

Yoshida Shoin was born on September 20th, 1830 as second son of a modest-ranking samurai family in Choshu region. When he was 11 years old, his talent of military studies was improved in Shokason-zyuku cram school, and he was admired by Takachiika Mouri who was a leader of Choshu Domain at that time. However after First Anglo-Chinese war in 1850, he was overwhelmed by the strength of western countries and felt strongly that Japan needed to learn the military studies of western countries. For this, he started to be fascinated by western countries.

Yoshida Shoin was a quite extraordinary-thinking man because he was never afraid of any penalty and neither cared about it in order to achieve his purpose. Here are some examples of his story. In 1852, he and his friend, Teizou Miyabe, a samurai of Kumamoto domain planned to travel Tohoku area in the north east of Japan, but on this travel Shoin quit being a samurai of Choshu domain and abandoned his status not to be late for the travel day, and at last, after this travel which is called ‘Tohoku yu-gaku’, he was penalized. Moreover, in 1854 when Matthew Calbraith Perry came to Japan in second time in order to make a treaty with Japan, Yoshida tried to get in Perry’s ship to ask for passage overseas in secret, but his wish was denied and he was arrested. As these things show, he was quite crazy and did not think of the result after his action.

Yoshida Shoin tried to do many things which were quite crazy, for example as mentioned in the previous paragraph, his trip to Tohoku area or making contact with Matthew Perry. In addition to these actions, there were many other actions, for instance in 1853 he planned but failed to get in a Russian war ship of Jevfimij Vasil'jevich Putjatin to study abroad, because he had been very impressed with western countries’ power when Matthew Perry came to Japan for the first time. Moreover, in 1858, after USA and Japan made ‘Treaty of Amity and Commerce’ without permission from an emperor, he got furious, thought that the biggest obstacle of Japan was its own government and decided to beat Japanese government. However he was arrested again and ended up being executed when he was 30 years old.

In conclusion, seemingly Yoshida Shoin was just crazy and there might not be any specific purpose to do such crazy actions as introduced before, however it is also true that he cared about Japan more than anything and truly loved it. As an educator, he raised Ito Hirobumi and Takasugi Shinsaku who left great feats in Japan, as a revolutionary he dedicated himself to studying western countries and conducted crazy deeds and never was afraid of being punished to improve Japan. In history, there were many people who tried to make changes for their country by knowledge from western countries, and Yoshida Shoin was just one of them. When he died, he left this remark “吾れ今 国の為に死す 死して 君臣に背かず 悠々たり 天地の事 鑑照 明神にあり” which means “I’ll die for my country. Even after I die, I appreciate everything to my lord and my parents, plus I never betray myself and what I’ve done. The world is immortal and broad. Oh, God, please prove that what I’ve done was right” (Yoshida He always did his best to bring changes to Japan because of his love for Japan which might be little unique, therefore he was truly one of great patriots of Japan.


吉田 松陰.com (Yoshida Shoin. com). 
Retrieved from