Sakuma Shōzan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Sakuma Shōzan
Native name
佐久間 象山
Sakuma Kunitada

(1811-03-22)March 22, 1811
DiedAugust 12, 1864(1864-08-12) (aged 53)
Cause of deathassassination
Occupationpolitician, scholar
Katsu Junko (m. 1853–1864)
ChildrenMiura Keinosuke (son), with Ochō
Parent(s)Sakuma Ichigaku (father)
Arai Mann (mother)
Academic background
Alma materNirayama Juku
Academic work
EraEdo period
Notable studentsYoshida Shōin
Katsu Kaishū
Sakamoto Ryōma
Nakaoka Shintarō
Hashimoto Sanai
Katō Hiroyuki
Nishimura Shigeki
Yamamoto Kakuma
Main interestsrangaku
Notable worksKaibō hachi-saku (海防八策, Eight policies for the defense of the sea)

Sakuma Shōzan (佐久間 象山, March 22, 1811 – August 12, 1864) sometimes called Sakuma Zōzan, was a Japanese politician and scholar of the Edo period.


Born Sakuma Kunitada, he was the son of a samurai and scholar Sakuma Ichigaku (佐久間 一学) and his wife Arai Mann (荒井 まん), and a native of Shinshū (信州) (or Shinano Province) in present day's Nagano Prefecture. At the age of 23, he went to Edo and for 10 years studied Chinese learning (漢学).

He then started to study Western sciences ("rangaku") at the age of 33, with the help of the rangaku scholar Kurokawa Ryōan (黒川良安). In 1844, he obtained the "Huishoudelyk Woordboek", a Dutch translation of Nöel Chomel's encyclopedia, from which Sakuma learned how to make glass, and then magnets, thermometers, cameras and telescopes. The encyclopedia was later translated into Japanese by Utagawa Genshin (宇田川玄真) under the title 『厚生新編』.

In 1849, he learned about electricity, through the book of the Dutch scientist Van den Bergh, and created Japan's first telegraph, five years before the gift of such a telegraph by Commodore Perry in 1854. He also invented electric machines derived from the Elekiter.

From 1842, following an analysis of the defeat of China against Great Britain in the First Opium War and the spread of Western influence in Asia, Sakuma actively proposed the introduction of Western military methods to the Bakufu and the establishment of maritime defense, through his book "Eight policies for the defense of the sea" (海防八策). After the Bakufu ordered Japanese translations of the Military History of the Qing dynasty (聖武記, Shèngwu Ji) and the Illustrated Treatise on the Maritime Kingdoms written by Chinese scholar Wei Yuan (1794–1857), Sakuma was struck by the similarities in their ideas in defending against the west.[1] His writing brought some fame, and he became the teacher of several future leaders of modernization (Yoshida Shōin, Katsu Kaishū, Sakamoto Ryōma, Nakaoka Shintarō, Hashimoto Sanai, Katō Hiroyuki, Nishimura Shigeki, Yamamoto Kakuma).

In 1853, when Yoshida Shōin was convicted for attempting to stow away on one of Perry's ships, Sakuma was also sentenced by association to house arrest (蟄居), which he endured for 9 years. During the arrest, he continued to study Western sciences, and developed various electric machines based on the elekiter and the Daniell battery, Japan's first seismometer, as well as improvements to guns. After his release, Sakuma Shozan emphasized that the only solution to the country's conflicts was to move the Imperial court from Kyoto to Hikone Castle, and continued to advocate opening Japanese ports to foreign traders, as well as reinforcing the Bakufu through collaboration with the Imperial administration (Kōbu gattai).


In July 1864, Shōzan, followed by a few of his retainers, were on their way to Kyoto on horseback. Shōzan's horse was mounted with a European saddle, and he possessed a copy of the imperial decree about the opening of the country's ports to foreign trade. He was on a mission to meet with a member of the imperial family to explain his ideas and to seek the permission of Emperor Kōmei to legally open Japanese ports to foreign trade. He was unable to meet with the member of the imperial family and decided to return from his failed visit.

On August 12, 1864, as he reached the Sanyo-kiya-cho district, his retainers, a considerable distance behind and making no effort to catch up with him, failed to notice that two mysterious men were following him on foot. Soon Shōzan was ambushed and attacked by a small group of assassins from the Higo and Oki clans in broad daylight. Shōzan fell from his horse and bled profusely from the attack, with the assassins approaching him with swords drawn. Shōzan was killed by one of the assassins, a hitokiri named Kawakami Gensai, who landed a death blow on him. Upon his death, the assassins immediately fled from the scene before his retainers arrived. Shōzan was later found to have thirteen wounds inflicted on him by the assassins.[2]

Shortly after the incident, at Tenryu-ji, Kyoto, Kawakami Gensai told his confederates, "It was the first time I actually felt I'd killed someone; the hair on my head stood on end because he was the greatest man of all time."

On the day following Shōzan's death, a sign was put up at the main gate of Gion Shrine explaining the reason for the killing:

Shōzan advocated European studies and maneuvered for the opening of ports to trade. That alone could not be ignored. Further, in conspiracy with the vile Aizu and Hikone clans, he tried to move the emperor to Hikone. Since he was an evil and heinous traitor, we inflicted just punishment upon him.

— Imperial Loyalists


Shōzan kept at least two mistresses, with one whose name was Ochō bore his only son in 6 December 1848. Later at the age of 42, He married Katsu Kaishū's 16-year-old younger sister Katsu Junko in 1853.

His son Miura Keinosuke (三浦啓之助), real name Sakuma Kakujirō, was a member of the Shinsengumi, which he joined in September 1864 to avenge his father's death.[3]


Zozan Memorial Hall
University of Nagano, Gochō Campus, with Zozan Dormitory indicated on the sign, and to the left

Sakuma Shōzan coined the phrase "Eastern ethics, Western technical learning" (tōyō dōtoku, seiyō gakugei, 東洋道徳西洋学芸) which was later further abbreviated as "Japanese spirit, Western technique" (wakon yōsai, 和魂洋才). This latter slogan is still in use as a description of the way that Japan ought to handle modernization.[4]

The Shōzan Shrine was established in 1938 at Matsushiromachi Matsushiro, Nagano, with the 2 storey Shōzan Memorial Hall (象山記念館) which was later built nearby.

A memorial bearing his likeness was erected near his assassination site, along Kiyamachi Road along the banks of the Takasegawa River at Kyoto.

A bronze statue of Sakuma Shōzan named Mr Sakuma Shōzan (佐久間 象山 先生) was erected at Kawanakajima, Nagano and unveiled in June 2, 1959 to commemorate the 100th year anniversary of the opening of the Port of Yokohama.[5]

Another statue of Sakuma Shōzan mounted on the horse, also named Mr Sakuma Shōzan (佐久間 象山 先生) was erected at the Shōzan Shrine to commemorate the 200th anniversary of his birth.[6]

The University of Nagano[edit]

The University of Nagano (長野県立大学, Nagano Kenritsu Daigaku), a public university located in Nagano, Nagano, which opened in 2018, named its dormitory, Zozan Dormitory (Zōzan Ryō, 象山寮) at its Gochō Campus (後町キャンパス) after Sakuma Shōzan.

Sakuma Zozan, a scholar of Western learning in the last days of the Tokugawa Shogunate, was born in Shinshu. The young people who learned at his private school became a driving force in pioneering a new age. The University of Nagano aims to act as a source for regional revitalization and reinvigoration and as a base for knowledge that will activate industry, culture, and lifestyles in Nagano. [7]

In addition, Sakuma is the name of the student-made, student resource guide at the University of Nagano; and Zōzangaku is a required course for first-year students in the Global Management Department at the university in which students hear from entrepreneurs, government officials, and others, about special innovations and initiatives [8].


  1. ^ Narsimhan, Sushila (1999). Japanese Perceptions of China in the Nineteenth Century: Influence of Fukuzawa Yukichi. Phoenix Publishing House. p. 26. ISBN 978-8174-8401-72.
  2. ^ "The Daito Ryu Aiki Bujutsu Web Site - Shozan Sakuma". Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  3. ^ 人名録
  4. ^ Josephson, Jason Ānanda (2012), The Invention of Religion in Japan. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, p.108.
  5. ^ "Yokohama's Nogeyama Park & Zoo - Kanagawa - Japan Travel - Japan Tourism Guide and Travel Map". JapanTravel. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  6. ^ Bureau, NAGANO Tourism & Visitor's. "Zozan Shrine | NAGANO CITY OFFICIAL TRAVEL GUIDE". Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  7. ^ "教養教育". Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  8. ^ "The University of Nagano Web Site - Toward regional revitalization as the education hub of Nagano". Retrieved 2019-03-28.

External links[edit]

This article incorporates text from OpenHistory.