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He saved the lives of many of his fellow villagers of Hiro, Kii Province (current Hirogawa, Wakayama), when a massive tsunami struck the Kii Peninsula in 1854. He set fire to stacks of rice sheaves as landmarks to guide villagers to safety. Lafcadio Hearn wrote a story about him in Gleanings in Buddha-Fields: Studies of Hand and Soul in the Far East (1897), called "Inamura no Hi: The burning rice fields". The story chronicled Goryo's heroism and accounts of his efforts were introduced into Japanese textbooks.
Hamaguchi participated in recovery efforts in Hiro, including the construction of a seawall more than 600 meters long, 20 meters wide and 5 meters high, which minimized damage from tsunamis in later years. He spent his own money on the project (the equivalent of 1,572 ryō (gold coins)) and hired 56,736 villagers to work on it.
In the field of education, Hamaguchi established a private academy for learning kendo (Japanese fencing) and Chinese classics with Hamaguguchi Toko and Iwasaki Meigaku at the end of the Edo period. This private academy was later called "Taikyu-Sha" and became the current Taikyu Junior High School after a few changes.
Hamaguchi became the Minister of Post and Telecommunications at the behest of Ōkubo Toshimichi in 1871 before he was elected the first chairman of the Wakayama Prefecture Assembly in 1879. After resigning as chairman, he founded the Kinokuni Doyukai (Association) and developed activities that encouraged democracy.
|1820||Bunsei 3||Born on June 15 in Hiro-mura. Childhood name, Shichita|
|1831||Tenpō 2||Adopted into the head family in September and renamed Gita|
|1839||Tenpō 10||Married to Matsu in November|
|1851||Kaei 4||Founded Sugidan (Self Defense Group) in Hiro-Mura|
|1852||Kaei 5||Established a private academy (later called "Taikyu-sha") in Ta-machi|
|1853||Kaei 6||Succeeded the head family to become Gihei VII in March|
|1854||Ansei 1||The tsunami caused by the Ansei earthquake struck the village in November|
|1855||Ansei 2||Commenced building the Hiro-mura Seawall in February|
|1858||Ansei 5||Completion of the Hiro-mura Seawall in December|
|1859||Ansei 6||Contributed 300 Ryo (gold piece) for the reconstruction of the Vaccination Center|
|1868||Meiji 1||Selected as Commissioner of Finance in Kishu-Han (Wakayama) in January|
|1869||Meiji 2||Appointed the president of Gakushu-kan for Ohiroma-seki (a feudal position) in February|
|1870||Meiji 1||Appointed Gondai-Sanji (Counselor) of Kishu-Han in December|
|1871||Meiji 4||Appointed Ekitei-no-kami (Minister of Post and Telecommunications) in August|
|1879||Meiji 12||Elected the first chairman of the Wakayama Prefectural Assembly|
|1882||Meiji 15||Organized the Kinokuni Doyukai (Association)|
|1884||Meiji 17||Left Yokohama in May and arrived in the United States|
|1885||Meiji 18||Died on April 21 in New York, the United States of America|
Note: In July 1871, the abolition of the han system (feudal clan system) and establishment of the prefecture system was an act to replace the traditional han system and introduce new local government.
Family history (from "A Short Story of Goryo Hamaguchi")
"The northwestern part of Hiro-Mura (current Hirogawa-cho) is facing the ocean and Miya-zaki (part of current Arida City) is located about 12 kilometers away right across of the bay. Kiri-saki and Ta-saki are parts of Tamura and Suhara (districts in current Yuasa-cho) along the jugged coastline between Hiro-Mura and Miya-zaki. Shira-saki (part of current Yura-cho) is located about 12 kilometer away from Hiro-Mura in the other direction. Nabae-saki and Medo-saki can be found near the area. The distance between Miya-zaki and Shira-saki is about 16 kilometer and there are Ashika-shima, Tsuru-shima and Kuro-shima in the Hidaka county side of the triangle area in the bay. Taka-shima, Karumo and Kenashi Islands are scattered in the east of those three islands like stars in night sky."
As Goryo Hamaguchi described, he appreciated the beauty of his hometown in those islands and colors of waves that he could see from the village by the bay. Even though it would change the natural beauty of the village, he decided to spend a significant amount of money to build a seawall along the coastline of the village (more than 650 meters). He planted rows of adult pine trees behind the seawall to prevent damage to the village from such a natural disaster as a tsunami.
The seawall and pines trees are the symbol of the acts by this great man and the eternal message to the villagers of what life is all about. Hamaguchi set an example of overcoming any hardship with dignity and wisdom. This is how he lived in the period of Meiji Restoration when Japan was searching for a leader can bring a country to right direction.
The Hamaguchis were known as a ruling family of Hiro-Mura in Arida country over the years. They are the descendants of Yasutada of Taira who served the Lord Shiba in Owari (now called Aichi Prefecture) and later renounced his regular daily life to practice at the Hodoin Temple in Mt. Koya. During the Meio period (1492–1500), he moved to Hiro-Mura and became a believer of the ninth priest of Jitsunyo (Shonin) in the Honganji Temple sect. During the Eisho period (1504–1520), he became a Buddhist monk called Seiryo and opened his own center of practice in Hiro-Mura.
His youngest son, Masaayoshi, took over his position to represent current Anraku-ji Temple in Hirogawa-cho. Yajiro Sanekage, another son of Yasutada, started a new family and it marked the beginning of the Hagaguchi family. The family engaged in soy sauce manufacturing business at the port of Choshi in Kamifusa (currently the northern part of Chiba Prefecture) during the Genroku period (1688–1703) under Tomonao's watch. It was the foundation of Yamasa Corporation. The family tradition of using Gihei for the head of Hamagichi family started after Tomonao’s tenure.
Thanks to the geographical advantage of Chiba and other attributes related to soy sauce manufacturing, as well as dedicated efforts by the members of Hamagichi family over the generations after the first Gehei, Yamasa’s business flourished during the periods of Kyoho (1716–1735) and Houreki (1751–1763). Yamasa products were gaining popularity and in a huge demand by people in Edo (now called Tokyo) because of its premier quality.
During the Bunsei period (1818–1829), the feudal government of Japan enforced its price control for almost all products. However, Yamasa products were exempted from governmental pricing control since its product quality was superior to others; the government even gave its highest honor to Yamasa as a soy sauce manufacture.
Shichiemon, a younger brother of the fourth Gihei and the first to carry that name, started a branch family under the Hamagichi’s name. Since the second Shichiemon had no child, the younger brother of the fifth Gihei became the next Shichiemon. The sixth Gihei had no child either and the first son of the third Shichiemon became a successor of the original Hamaguchi family. He was Goryo Hamaguchi. Although he was adopted to the original Hamaguchi from its branch family, the fifth Gihei was his grandfather and his stepfather was a real uncle of his. Therefore, the bloodline is intact.
The fifth Gihei, grandfather of Goryo with a great personality, was truly polite and showed his interest in variety of things. He found time to study and enjoyed fine arts when he could get away from his work. He mastered the painting style of southern Chinese school under Kaiseki Noro and used "Kampo" as his signature. Goryo admired and respected him and was well taken care of by him. In that regard, Goryo was very much influenced by his grandfather in developing his own personality.
Goryo Hamaguchi was born on June 15, 1820 in Hiro-mura. He was raised by his biological mother Shin after his father, the third Shichiemon, died at the age of 22 when he was 2 years old. In September 1831, he was adopted to the original Hamaguchi family as a successor and renamed his name to "Gita". He soon left Hiro-mura for Choshi where he started learning the family business. The Hamaguchi family (Kichiemon) had a house in Koami-cho, a Nihon-bashi district of Edo, where he stayed for a while before coming to Choshi because it was an important place for its business geographically (on the way to Choshi from Kishu). According to the Hamaguchi creed, family members were treated equally with other employees and were not allowed to fool around. One of the reasons was to learn how to handle lots of problems and to learn how to deal with people. He was not an exception and slept in the same room and ate the same dishes as other employees.
Overcoming many hardships in his early ages, he dedicated himself to the family business. At the age of 15, he celebrated his "Genko", a ceremony to be recognized as an adult, and renamed himself "Gitaro". He put lots of efforts in practicing swordsmanship and studying the I Ching, as his grandfather Kampo encouraged him. Kampo died in the autumn when he turned 18.
In October 1839, Goryo married a daughter of Umetaro Ikenaga in Yuasa at the age of 20. After staying in Hiro-mura for another six months, he came back to Choshi via Edo in the following spring. By the time, he already mastered techniques of martial arts, especially swordsmanship. In addition, he was very good at composing and writing poems.
He met Gonsai Miyake, who became his mentor and friend for life, in his academic quest and physical training. Gonsai was originally from Shimabara in Hizen (current Nagasaki Prefecture) and devoted himself in medical study since his birth in 1817 (Bunka 14). He studied science introduced to Japan by Dutch in Nagasaki and later moved to Edo. At that time, people were debating Chinese medicine and Western medicine, until the feudal government ruled in favor of Chinese medicine because of its similar environment to Japanese. Western medicine was prohibited until the following March.
On April 21, 1885, Hamaguchi died in New York during his tour of Europe and the United States, which had been a long-cherished desire of his.
His funeral was held on June 15, 1885, in Hiro-Mura and more than 4,000 people gathered to pay their final respects.
- First published in 1897 by Houghton, Mifflin (Boston). Later published in the U.S. by Sara Cone Bryant in 1963.
- Hearn, Lafcadio Gleanings in Buddha-Fields: Studies of Hand and Soul in the Far East (1897)
- Ladd, George Trumbull Rare Days in Japan (1910)
- Ladd, George Trumbull In Korea with Marquis Ito (1908)
- Bryant, Sara Cone The Burnining Rice Fields (1963)
- Hodges, Margaret Moore The Wave (1964)