Ryokan was a Soto Zen Buddhist monk in the late Edo period (1603-1868). He is also known as a calligrapher and poet, who wrote both Japanese waka poems and Chinese classic poems.
He was born in in the village of Izumozaki in Echigo Province (now Niigata Prefecture) in 1758. He was much influenced by his father, who was a Nanushi (village officer) and poet. Ryokan studied under Omori Shiyo, a scholar of Chinese classics and became his father’s assistant.
Later he visited and stayed at Entsuji Temple (in present-day Okayama Prefecture), where he was ordained priest by the Zen master Kokusen. It was around this time that Ryokan also took interested in writing poems and deepened exchanges with many poets of the time.
Ryokan attained enlightment and was presented with an Inka (a formal acknowledgement of a student’s completion of Zen training) by Kokusen at the age of 33. He left Entsuji Temple to set for a long pilgrimage and necer returned to the monastery life. He lived the rest of his life as a hermit and taught Buddhism to common people in easy words instead of difficult sermons.
He disclosed his own humble life, for which people felt sympathy, and placed their confidence in him. A lot of artists and scholars also visited his small hut, Gogo-an, where he talked with them over a drink of Hannya-yu (enlightening hot water, namely Japanese hot sake). He died in 1831. His only disciple, Teishin-ni published a collection of Ryokan’s poems titled “Hasu no Tsuyu (Dewdrops on a lotus leaf).”
Shoin Shrine was founded in 1890 to enshrine Yoshida Shoin, who had devoted to developing many Sonno Shishi warriors until he was executed at age 29. His discoples include Takasugi Shinsaku, Kusaka Genzui, Maebara Issei, Yamagata Aritomo and Ito Hirofumi, who respectively made an outstanding contribution to the Meiji Restoration.
In 1955, the shrine was removed to the present location, where the shrine building was newly constructed. The old shrine building also exists in the north of the precinct as an attached shrine Shomon Shrine, where Shoin’s disciples are enshrined.
There area many historic ruins remaining in the precinct, which include the old house where Shoin was sentenced to house arrest and ran Shokasonjuku Academy to teach the youth. It is now open to the public.
As the deity of study, Shoin Shrine is the most respected shrine in the city of Hagi and visited by a lot of people especially on New Year’s Day.
Morihei Ueshiba was the founder of the Japanese martial art of Aikido. He was born in Wakayama Prefecture in 1883. As a boy, he was good at mathematics and physics, and was interested in heroic legends and miraculous stories. Once he worked in a local tax office and later set up a small stationery business while practicing martial arts and swordsmanship.
When he served in Japanese-Russo War, his skill in bayonet was the best in the regiment. After the war, he returned to his hometown and was engaged in farming. Then in 1912, at the age of 29, he and his family moved to Hokkaido as a groundbreaker. He taught farming and learned Aiki Jujutsu there.
After Ueshiba left Hokkaido, he came under the influence of Onisaburo Deguchi, the spiritual leader of the Omoto-kyo religion in Kyoto, and mastered the method of Chinkon Kishin (to settle down and calm the spirit and to return to the divine). He himself moved to Kyoto and founded his own dojo of Ueshiba-juku, where he established a new way of martial art, Aiki Budo, in which mind, body and “ki (inner power)” should be united into one power.
Ueshiba became more and more famous and was extremely busy teaching at the major military and police academies. He also founded a dojo in Tokyo and Aiki-en in Ibaraki Prefecture, where a dojo and Aiki Shrine are located. During all this time he traveled all over Japan and Mannchuria, dedicating himself to instruct his Aiki-Budo, which was renamed to Aikido in 1948. Morihei Ueshiba died in 1969.
Shokasonjuku Academy is where Yoshida Shoin, a distinguished intellectual in the Choshu domain, ran a private academy in the last days of the Tokugawa Shogunate. It is designated as a National Historic Site.
It is a one-storied small wooden house with an area of only 50 sq m. Originally, it only had an 8-mat lecture room. With the increase in the number of disciples, a 4.4-mat room, two 3-mat rooms, the doma (earth-floored space) and a mezzanine floor were added by the hands of Shoin and his disciples.
In 1842, Bunnoshin Tamaki, Shoin’s uncle, founded a small academy in his house. Later it was discontinued for a while but Gorozaemon Kubo, Shoin’s another uncle, repaired the barn into a lecture room and resumed the academy. Then in 1857, Shoin took it over and developed many youths.
He treated his disciples equally regardless of the social status. Most of his disciples were sons of low-ranked warriors. Though he taught at the academy for less than three years, his disciples absorbed his ideas and played key roles in bringing about the Meiji Restoration. His disciples include Takasugi Shinsaku, Kusaka Genzui, Yamagata Aritomo, Ito Hirofumi and Shinagawa Yajiro.
Tekijuku was a private school founded by Ogata Koan , a doctor and scholar of Dutch studies (Rangaku) in Senba Osaka, in 1838 during the Tenpo era of the late Edo period. The school produced a lot of notable alumni includeFukuzawa Yukichi , Omura Masujiro and Takamatsu Ryoun, who pioneered Japan’s modern era from the end of Edo Period through Meiji Restoration. Tezuka Ryosen, a grand-grand father of Japan’s famous cartoonist, Tezuka Osamu, was also a student of this school. After Meiji Restoration, when Osaka Medical School was opened, the professors and the students transferred to the new school and Tekijuku endedits long history. As Faculty of Medicine at Osaka University, it stillconveys the tradition of Japan’s oldest medical school. The building ofTekijuku still has been preserved by Osaka University Steering Committee forTekijuku Conservation. Next to the building on the right is the bronze statue of Ogata Koan. Upstairs are students’ rooms, where you can seenumerous sword cuts on the surface of the pillars. These sword cuts are said to have been made during excited debates among the students, from which you can infer what people and the social background were like in those days. The building was designated as Important Intangible Cultural Heritage in 1964.
Kaimei School is a quasi-Western style building built in Seiyo City, Ehime Pref. in 1882. This “up-to-date” building has arch windows with German glass panes that were very rare in those days. However, the building itself was built in the traditional Japanese style, in which, for example, Kara-hafu (an undulating bargeboard) style was used for the entrance roof. The exterior of the school building looks like a small kura (warehouse) with the old fashioned shirakabe (white clay) walls. It was designated as National Important Cultural Properties in 1997. Today it is a museum where 6,000 precious documents are stored and displayed including school textbooks in the Edo period through the early Showa period and documents on school administration. You can experience the one-day class named “All Work and All Play at Meiji School.” Next to this building in the right stands Shingi-do, the previous institute of this school. It was a private school in the Meiji period and Siebold and his disciples including Keisaku Ninomiya got together there. Siebold’s daughter, Oine studied medicine under Ninomiya’s tutelage and became the first woman doctor in Japan.