New Year's card by Edo period intellectual Shoin Yoshida found in Yamaguchi
YAMAGUCHI -- A document believed to be a long-lost New Year's card by Edo period intellectual Shoin Yoshida (1830-1859) has turned up in the possession of a Yamaguchi Prefecture resident.
The card, dated Jan. 1, 1855, was apparently written by Yoshida from a detention facility. It is addressed to his brother Umetaro Sugi, and contains Chinese poems, one of which reads: "I've had my fill of rice-cake soup, and thunder is rumbling in my stomach."
A representative of Shoin Shrine in Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture, which holds a collection of documents relating to Yoshida, said there is no doubt that the card was written by the intellectual.
"From its characteristics, there's no doubt that it's genuine. It shows the strong bonds between Shoin, who stayed cheerful even when he was in prison, and his family," the representative said.
The 23.4 cm by 33.5 cm card, which is believed to have been lost around the beginning of the 1940s, was bought by 53-year-old Kanji Nagaoka, a collector of old books, during a Tokyo department store book sale about 10 years ago, and the collector had kept it at his home in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture.
The card begins with a New Year's greeting, and in it Yoshida goes on to say he had rice-cake soup for breakfast -- just like at his old home, and that he had had his first laugh of the year.
Shoin Shrine officials said that a copy of the card and the text appeared in the works "Yoshida Shoin Sensei Ibokucho," published in 1926, and "Yoshida Shoin Zenshu," published in 1935), and the fraying of the paper and the stains matched those of the original.
Yoshida, a prominent intellectual during the closing days of the Tokugawa Shogunate, tried to sneak onboard an American ship at Shimoda Port in Shizuoka Prefecture in 1854, but failed. The place where he was subsequently jailed was said to be a type of isolation facility where he could freely send and receive letters and provisions.
After he was released from the detention facility, he raised up a large number of loyalists including Shinsaku Takasugi (1839-1867), providing a driving force in the Meiji Restoration, but he was executed in 1859 over a plot to assassinate a member of the shogun's council of elders.
Takahiko Kondo, a curator at Shoin Shrine's Shiseikan treasure house, said the New Year's card showed that Yoshida was supported by his brother and his parents, while noting that it abounded in expressions of kindness and humor.
Nagaoka commented: "I think there is a lot we can learn from it in terms of staying positive in spite of difficulties."
Kaoru Furukawa, an 86-year-old resident of Shimonoseki and a Naoki Prize winner whose written works include "Noyama Gokuso Monsho," which depicts Yoshida's love life, said the discovery of the card was precious.
"For Shoin, his life in jail was a period of spiritual stability during which he could quietly read. About 620 of his letters remain, but there is only one from New Year's Day. This is a precious find."
(Mainichi Japan) January 3, 2012