Viscount Shinagawa Yajirō and the Fujimichō Kōdōkan – The Kanō Chronicles®

Among the many locations of the Kodokan in its early days (1882-1900) was one that Kanō shihan (master) explains in some detail: the Fujimi-chō dōjō (literally, ‘place of the way’, originally a Buddhism term denoting a place of austere study, adopted by Japanese martial arts to indicate a place of practice and austere study).

In his early 20s, from the early to mid 1880s, Kanō became acquainted with key Chōshū han samurai who variously fought with or led Chōshū military units fighting in the Satsuma – Chōshū han led coup that seized control of Japan in what is termed the Meiji Restoration. This long series of events and their aftermath led to a young Chōshū samurai named Murata Genzō studying English under Kanō. (Satsuma and Chōshū were only two of the around 260 han domains of old Japan, but two of the most powerful and most in tension with the bakufu. Sited in today’s Kagoshima and Yamaguchi prefectures respectively, these powerful han existed about as far as you could get from Tokyo and still be in Japan, and were jealous and suspicious of the Tokugawa bakufu military dictatorship / administration and protective of their own prerogatives. In alliance with lesser allies the senior samurai of these two han led the battles and political struggles of the Restoration, the overthrow of the over 260 year old Tokugawa regime and the establishment of a new government with the Emperor as its titular leader, advised, of course, by his new Imperial supporters.)

Murata told Kanō that he wanted to travel and study overseas but could not afford to do so. Through Murata, Kanō met Viscount Shinagawa Yajirō (1843-1900), a senior Chōshū samurai colleague of Murata and one of the rising stars in the new Meiji government. Kanō consulted with Shinagawa and his senior colleague and patron, then Count (later Prince under the new Meiji peerage system) General Yamagata Aritomo about how they could support Murata. In the end, Yamagata asked the young Kanō, then in his twenties, to lead a private subscription drive to support Murata. Kanō agreed and eventually successfully collected enough money from other senior Chōshū samurai and his own merchant commoner friends to underwrite Murata’s subsequent overseas study trip. In doing so, Kanō met many of the Choshu former samurai warrior / scholars, assassins, and Imperial ideologues who formed the core of the Meiji government and Army for decades. Shinagawa Yajirō was one of the most notorious of these colorful and powerful men.

Viscount Shinagawa Yajirō (1843-1890) Wiki Commons pic
Arsonist, assassin, warrior, revolutionary hero, Meiji government minister
(Image Wiki Commons)

Shinagawa was born a low level samurai in the Hagi sub clan of the Chōshū han in today’s Hagi City, Yamagata Prefecture. As a young man Shinagawa and many of the other key Chōshū men of the future Meiji government studied at the Shōka Sonjuku (literally: Under the Pines / Village Academy) private academy of famed anti-bakufu samurai warrior-scholar Yoshida Shōin (1830-1859).

For inciting rebellion and participating in failed assassination plots, the firebrand Yoshida was one of many bakufu enemies rounded up, imprisoned, tried, convicted, and executed during the Ansei Purge, a last gasp attempt of the bakufu to control the rising tide of sedition fomented by Imperial extremists. Yoshida was condemned to death as a common criminal because he had intentionally defied his superiors by leaving his han without permission and was removed from the samurai class in punishment. As a commoner, much to the disgust of his students and supporters Yoshida was not allowed to commit seppuku, the traditional honorable self-disembowelment ritual suicide of the samurai class, but rather was beheaded by a samurai executioner after imprisonment of the Kodenmacho prison in Edō, the site of thousands of executions.

The story of Yoshida’s Meiji era rehabilitation from attempted assassin and executed common criminal to ultranationalist martyr is long and involves many of Kanō’s acquaintances and colleagues, but must wait for another time.

Yoshida Shōin (1830-1859)
Master of Shōka Sonjuku
Revolutionary Imperialist theorist, attempted assassin, teacher,
and beloved martyr of the Meiji ultranationalists
(Image Wiki Commons)

Shinagawa, along with many of his fellow students of Yoshida, became an active participant in the son’ō jōi (the Imperialist battle cry translated as ‘Revere the Emperor, Expel the Barbarians!’) movement which sought to replace the bakufu under the pretense of ‘restoring’ the Emperor to his rightful place of active command (of course, supported by the right advisors – themselves) and repelling all encroachments by foreign powers. He followed a typical path for many of his coup contemporaries, first as an activist discussing and arguing, then participating in covert operations as an arsonist cum assassin. In the start of the Restoration war, Shinagawa commanded a commoner militia unit during the historically significant yet tactically minor street battle of the Kinmon Incident in Kyoto. These armed band street clashes in the ancient Imperial capital between Imperialists intent to destroy the bakufu versus a mixed bag of bakufu loyalist han clan forces and cutthroat mercenaries lit a firestorm that led to pitched open battles between armies throughout Japan. In the conventional battles that followed, Shinagawa became a staff officer in the expanded Chōshū commoner military units drilled in modern fashion; these units far outperformed the traditional samurai battle formations of the more traditional Tokugawa loyalist han.

In 1870 after the Meiji Restoration Shinagawa was dispatched abroad as an observer of the Franco-Prussian War, one of the first involving many modern weapons, mass mobilizations, and professional armies. Then he remained in Europe, studying in London, France and Germany before returning to the newly designated capital of Tokyo, the former Edo, where he used his new knowledge in several positions of increasing responsibility in the Meiji government.

In 1886 he was appointed ambassador plenipotentiary to become the new nation of Japan’s envoy to the new nation of Germany. Before he left for his extended overseas assignment, knowing that the 25 year old bachelor Kanō’s juku private academy at Eishoji in Ueno was almost 7 kilometers away from his dōjō in nearby Kami Nibanchō, Shinagawa proposed that Kanō act as caretaker for his new house, a quasi-Western style structure in Fujimi-chō near Kami Nibanchō. As Shinagawa didn’t want to rent the prestigious house to a stranger, he offered its use to Kanō for free, even offering to let Kanō live there along with his resident jukusei private academy students. That move would bring Kanō’s extracurricular activities and residence much closer to his duty position at the Gakushūin Peer’s School than Eishoji Temple east of Ueno. But according to Kanō nearly 30 years later, he declined what he construed to be a gratuity.

After some discussion, the face saving solution was that Shinagawa agreed for Kanō to pay the same rent for Shinagawa’s entire spacious house and estate of over 4000 square meters (over 2400 tatami) that Kanō paid Eishoji Temple for a study room / dōjō of only 12 tatami (about 18.5 square meters), a transparently symbolic payment given the difference in the size and value of the house’s living quarters and grounds. In February 1886 Kanō moved to Fujimi-chō along with his live-in shusei houseboy students and jukusei private academy students.

According to his recollections, Kanō initially had reservations about the arrangement but apparently grew to appreciate his new accommodations. He soon made arrangements for the new 40 tatami mat Kodokan dōjō (incidentally the exact size of the author’s dōjō at the US Embassy Tokyo building he had built earlier in Kami Nibanchō about 2 kilometers away to be dismantled and reassembled in the garden of Shinagawa’s Fujimi-chō compound.

The house also boasted a modern kitchen (and we will see later that young master Kanō certainly liked to eat, so that was important!), and was in a far more prestigious location in central Tokyo than an ancient Buddhist temple sited with scores others on the fringes of Ueno. Finally, Fujimichō was also 4 kilometers closer than Eishoji Temple to the Gakushūin, the Peer’s School where Kanō,a member of the Imperial Household Agency, served as the Imperially appointed vice principal. These factors almost certainly contributed to the success of the Kanō juku and the Kodokan in its new location, along with Kanō’s hard work, as the number of students in both increased. Kanō later also claimed that during these three years at Fujimi-chō he and his key instructors resolved many of the technical fundamentals of judo; decades later Kanō would claim that by 1889 judo was fully established in its final form (we will examine this claim in other segments).

The Fujimi-chō Kōdōkan ©Kodokan (between 1886-1889)
• Kanō shihan in kimono seated on raised dias
• Keikōgi (practice ‘gi’) are still short sleeves and pants
• Many of the practitioners wear black belts, indicating yūdansha (dan grade holders), an innovation introduced around 1887
• Observers are seated either in anza (cross-legged) or seiza (formal kneeling)
• Primarily practicing standing techniques, the early focus of jūdō
• This was the first purpose built Kodokan dōjō, with an area of 40 mat training area and a raised dais, first built in Kami Nibanchō, then disassembled, moved to Fujimi-chō and reassembled

But beyond its convenience, this was an unusual neighborhood.

For one, Shinagawa’s mansion was next door to that of his primary patron, war colleague, fellow Chōshū samurai, and fellow Shōka Sonjuku student Count (later Prince) Yamagata Aritomo (1838-1922). Both men were born into low level samurai families – the older Yamagata was the son of an ashigaru foot soldier, the lowest rank of samurai – but rose in prominence during the war and through their bureaucratic capabilities afterward (and, particularly in the case of Yamagata, longevity as many of their elder Chōshū superiors in the new Meiji government died soon after the Restoration).

Both warriors knew Kanō before he moved to Fujimi-chō through mutual acquaintances like Murata, and some of the Chōshū former samurai were sending their children to the elite Gakushuin. Both men had trained in kenjutsu and jūjutsu as a matter of course as samurai, so they basically understand what Kanō’s jūdō practice entailed; in fact, Yamagata was a Kodokan supporter throughout his long life. Also, Yamagata’s wife was the eldest daughter of Dr. Kato Hiroyuki, President of Tokyo University and a close Kanō colleague from his earliest student days at Tokyo University; the two educators continued a close professional and personal relationship for decades as they became two of the most senior members of the Ministry of Education and provided key leadership for an array of educational organizations.

Field Marshall three time Prime Minister Prince Yamagata Aritomo (1838-1922)
in full formal court attire (Image Wiki Commons)

When Kanō moved to Fujimi-chō in 1886, his next door neighbor Count Yamagata was an active duty Imperial Army Lieutenant General in the early days of his long position as Home Minister from 1885 to 1890 (he also served again for several more years in a later cabinet). In the powerful position as Minister of the Naimushō Home Ministry he controlled the nation’s entire police operations and training (including martial arts), the assignment of metropolitan and prefectural governors, oversight of local administration, management of public works and government lands, organizing and executing elections, and the collection of information on and monitoring of the people through police and other intelligence networks. Through his personal connections in the government and the Imperial court Yamagata inserted himself in an even wider array of issues facing the new government, including ethics and moral education for students, an interest he shared with the young Kanō.

By outmaneuvering (and outliving) his political opponents, eventually Yamagata became undisputedly the most powerful man in the country for decades. He was an Imperial Army Field Marshal, would become the key Chōshū figure in the Satsuma-Chōshū alliance that for decades controlled the highest Imperial Army and Navy general officer assignments, served as Japan’s first three times Prime Minister, and headed the Emperor’s influential Privy Council for an unprecedented 17 years. Throughout he remained a deadly enemy of uncontrolled democracy and party politics. In a word, Yamagata became Japan’s kingmaker, the power broker behind the throne, particularly as the Imperial Army held much more influence over domestic affairs than did the Navy. Many parallels have been drawn between Yamagata and Germany’s Bismark.

Another unusual feature of the address was that both mansions were literally adjacent to the Imperial Palace. Shinagawa’s house was in Fujimi-chō 1chōme Ichibanchi, Kōjimachi-ku, which was then one of Tokyo’s only 15 ku wards. (After multiple reorganizations, today Tokyo has 23 wards; the old Kōjimachi-ku was eliminated and Fujimi-chō was absorbed into the new Chiyoda-ku. ‘Fujimi-chō’ means ‘Fuji view block’; even today there are other Tokyo hilltop neighborhoods with views of Mount Fuji with similar names.) Today the address of Yamagata’s house is Kudan Minami 2-chome 2-11 Chiyoda-ku, the Indian Embassy chancellery.

But what else made this neighborhood unique?

In 1657 a fire flamed out of control by the winds of an oncoming typhoon burned up to 60-70% of the entire city of Edo. The conflagration even jumped the moats to damage Edo castle itself, so in the aftermath the bakufu enacted new fire prevention rules. One effect was that the daimyo estates and other facilities built adjacent to the Palace moats were forced to retreat to provide protective fire breaks called hiyokechi 火除地 ‘fire prevention lands’ under direct bakufu control. These firebreaks were sometimes fenced off, usually bare parade grounds used for entertainment and ceremonies such as parades, fireworks and kite flying. Permanent structures or tall vegetation were strictly banned.

Hiyokechi ‘fire control land’ scene from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo,
a series of ukiyo-e prints begun and largely completed
by famous Japanese artist Hiroshige (1797–1858)
(Image Wiki Commons)

NOTE: While the term hiyokechi today is an anachronism, another fire fighting measure’s name survives in place names today. Hirokōji ‘wide streets’ were broad avenues carved through congested urban areas to link up vital points with strict easement rules to control encroachment on the avenue / fire break and to facilitate official and fire fighting traffic in an emergency.

The Fujimicho hiyokechi are the three purple areas aligned vertically west of the northwest Palace moat, which is called Chidorigafuchi.
(due north is straight up. blue is the castle moat, purple are bakufu lands)
The upper third became Shinagawa’s estate, the middle Yamagata’s,
the southernmost the young Prince Kan’in Kotohiro’s.
The wide yellow areas are hirokōji wide firebreak boulevards.
Incidentally, the top of the eastern / right hand white area inside the Palace grounds is the location of today’s Nihon Budokan martial arts exhibition and training center;
in the Edo era they were compounds for close Tokugawa relatives.
Statute of Viscount Shingawa Yajirō just west of 田安門 Tayasumon, the north Imperial Palace gate, about 200 meters from his former residence, on the grounds of the former hirokōji broad firebreak street
(see map above for Tayasumon; the statue stands just to the left).
The statue was built with subscriptions from Shinagawa’s friends and admirers, including Kanō Jigorō,
who once described Shinagawa as ‘the last true samurai‘.

Perhaps pulling strings with their comrades in their new government, as all bakufu and daimyō lands reverted to the new Imperial Meiji government after Restoration, including Tokyo’s hiyokechi and hirokōji, Shinagawa’s and Yamagata’s new estates were built on former hiyokechi fire break land along the Imperial Palace Chidorigafuchi moat, between Hanzon-mon (‘Hanzo’s gate’, named after the ninja master retainer of Tokugawa Ieyasu tasked to provide the guard force for that gate) and Tayasu-mon the northernmost palace gate near today’s Kita no Maru Park and Yasukuni Shrine. (Shinagawa’s house was where the Indian Embassy stands today. The large empty lot to the south was Shinagawa’s garden.) Yamagata died in 1922 and his residence burned in the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake. It was restored later, only to burn again in a War World II fire raid. Today only Yamagata’s garden remains; his house was replaced by a mixed modern and traditional style, multifunction government meeting hall.

The next estate south along the former hiyokechi on the grounds of today’s Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery 千鳥ヶ淵戦没者墓地 was that of Prince Kanin Haruhiro (1865 – 1945), eventually the highest ranking military member of the Imperial families. Then he was in his early twenties, 5 years younger than Kanō, Kanin lived in the large estate he would eventually will to his eldest son. Prince Kanin eventually rose through the officer ranks to become an Imperial Army Field Marshal and long serving Army Chief of Staff.

Kanō’s activities at Shinagawa’s house and the nearby Fujimi-chō dojo did not go unnoticed by neighbors and passersby. Viscount Shinagawa was a key member of the powerful Satsuma Chōshū alliance that essentially controlled the Meiji government and military. He himself was an up and coming political protege of the powerful Home Minister General Yamagata, who decided to make the move from military service to politics and depended upon the advice of the much more politically astute Shinagawa. The men were not only military heroes of the Restoration (and Yamagata the hero of the Seinan War, commander of the field forces that hunted down and destroyed Saigō Takamori’s rebel army), but both were also arch conservative Imperialists and staunch opponents of party politics when politics was often a full contact sport. Kanō’s odd practice of jūjutsu – as even Kanō termed jūdō at the time – was growing at a time when most martial arts in Japan were very sparsely attended. His jukusei private academy students numbered up to 60 during the Fujimi-chō period, and each was required to practice jūdō daily. At jūdō practice they were joined by non-resident students after their own school or work. These included the later famous Russo-Japanese War hero, sengami ‘war god’ Commander Hirose Takeō, who at the time was a cadet at the Naval Academy, which was then still in Tokyo at Tsukiji before its move to Etajima near Hiroshima. Coupled with the rough nature of some of Kanō’s shusei houseboy students and their extracurricular hobby of practicing their new jūjutsu skills against entertainment district thugs and drunks, Kanō’s jūjutsu / jūdō practice and these strange extracurricular antics caused some locals to wonder if he was in fact training political muscle or violence specialists for Shinagawa and the other Chōshū oligarchs, who were famously not adverse to extreme political violence.

After a year or so in Berlin, Ambassador Shinagawa fell ill. First he spent some time convalescing there but because he did not recover fully he was recalled to Japan in 1887. Arriving back in Tokyo, he was bemused to find the 27 year old Kanō living with around 30 student boarders in his house, with around another 30 boarding at a nearby rented house. These students ranged most of the new Japan’s society, from the sons of rich kazoku former Imperial court nobility and daimyō lords who wanted to provide the best possible preparation for their sons to pass the all-important entrance exams to the Gakushūin Peers’ School where Kanō was the vice principal, to street urchins, shusei live-in houseboy students who traded their labor and performed errands around the house and dōjō at Kanō’s bidding for room, board, education, and jūdō. Always jūdō. Jūdō for everyone.

For Kanō, the enrollments of students in his juku private ‘cram school’ and his Kodokan jūdō dōjō were separate. He very careful recorded the name, date of entry, and the social class of every single Kodokan student in notebooks on display in the Kodokan museum today. Two of the first five Kodokan students in 1882 were kazoku former nobility / diamyō brothers named Arima, while the other three were heimin, commoners like Kanō himself.

In fact, Kanō set up his juku specifically at the request of kazoku families to prepare their sons for the Gakushūin entrance exams; Kanō knew what to expect on the entrance exams, so he could prepare them. As a result many of the leading families of Japan entrusted Kanō with the education of the cream of Japanese society, the future leaders of the country, which further extended Kanō’s already broad social network. And enrolling in Kanō’s juku was not a casual undertaking; the students studied for 6 days a week, only allowed a few free hours on Sunday, for which Kanō distributed small allowances to allow the students to buy sweets. Student visits with family had to be specifically coordinated with and authorized by Kanō himself.

As the numbers of other schools expanded, so did other juku private ‘cram schools’. This method of preparation for school entrance tests became a practice that continues in Japan today. In commercial cram schools from southernmost Okinawa to the northernmost community of Hokkaido teachers, often public school teachers working part-time after school to prepare students for school graduation and entrance tests.

Shinagawa did not move back into his now crowded house with Kanō’s dōjō building in his garden. Instead, he continued to rent it all to Kanō while he had a new residence built on another large estate, the former Edo residence of a middle level daimyō in Dangōzaka, Sendagi, Bunkyō-ku, which he sold to a businessman named Sudō in 1889; later the Dangozaka estate was divided up over the intervening 120 years into numerous blocks of residential plots, but the Shinagawa estate garden remains today as Bunkyō-ku’s Sudō Park. (Apparently being on the winning side of the Restoration coup was good business for a young budding Chōshū oligarch, as that estate was over 3300 square meters, around 8 acres, of prime land. Today the park is covered by massive ancient camphor trees and a pond of crawfish angled out on spring days by locals.)

Sudo Park, Sendagi 3chome, Bunkyo-ku,
garden of former daimyo compound owned by Shinagawa.
Photo ©2020 Lance Gatling, The Kanō Chronicles®
In this excerpt of an Edo era map of the Dangozaka estate of
Shinagawa Yajirō overlaid on a modern Google map,
Sudō Park is in the green block at lower left. (Rotated for reading; north is to the right.)
Notation indicates the Edo era owner before Shinagawa acquired the land:
‘Kaga Taishōji han (Ishikawa) 10,000 tsubo
Matsudaira Hidanokuni Toshika (Maeda) 100,000 koku
(NOTE: the area is ~3300 square meters. 100,000 koku is a stipend of ~1.8 million liters of rice per year)

After convalescing for another year or so, Shinagawa recovered his health and began a series of assignments as an advisor to the Privy Council and to the Emperor. In 1891 he became the powerful Home Minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Matsukata Masayoshi, a Satsuma samurai and another Kanō acquaintance.

Around then Kanō found himself at odds with General Miura Gorō, the new president of the Gakushūin. Rather than be fired outright, Kanō managed to get himself assigned to study European educational systems for a year on behalf of the Emperor, which he managed to stretch into nearly a year and a half. We’ll explore that later.

Lance Gatling
Author / Lecturer
The Kanō Chronicles
Tokyo, Japan – please send a note to give us feedback, or subscribe for future updates below.
Thank you!

©Copyright 2020 Lance Gatling – The Kanō Chronicles

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