Tokyobling's Blog

The House Were Yoshida Shoin Hid – Rendaiji

Posted in People, Places by tokyobling on April 21, 2015

Yesterday I mentioned one of the things that the little village of Rendaiji in Shimoda City was famous for – the hot springs. These hot spring were what ultimately led the village to attract its second great claim to fame: as the hiding place of the great Edo intellectual Yoshida Shoin (吉田松陰) on his grand adventure to hitch a ride with the US Navy for a study trip to North America.

Yoshida Shoin was born in 1830, the scion of a prestigious samurai family who traditionally occupied themselves with training of the Shogun military forces. He got an excellent education and soon developed quite a wanderlust. In 1851 he applied for permission to study in the north of Japan but committed the crime of leaving his post before his paperwork had been finished. For this he was stripped of his samurai rank and were forced to leave his family. For a few years he made a living teaching until by chance he learned of the US Navy headed by Matthew Perry having arrived in Japan. His petition to join the Americans and return with them to study the West was denied but this being Yoshida he was not going to take no for an answer. He traveled in haste to Shimoda where the American ships where anchored but due to a bad skin condition he was forced to make a short stop in the village of Rendaiji where at night he snuck into the therapeutic hot spring baths to ease his skin condition. A local doctor found him and put him up in an old inn. This blog post is about that inn, which still remains today exactly as Yoshida would have found it in 1853. Feeling better he snuck out again at night, and hid in a cave near the American ships until it was dark enough for him to row out to the ships. The American sailors caught him and forbade him to even deliver the letters he had painstakingly written in the old inn (the inkstone and table he used in his letter writing still remains). He had no choice but to return where he was swiftly captured by the local garrison. After spending a while in prison in Edo (soon to be Tokyo) he was let out to run a little school where he managed to attract some of the most brilliant scholars and revolutionaries of the time. The shogun sensing that there was trouble brewing began rounding up rebel thinkers and in 1859 Yoshida was one of the many executed. A little while later the shogunate was overthrown and power restored to the Emperor and the civilian government, ending over 250 years of Japanese isolation (and peace). But that is a different story.

The house (吉田松陰寓寄処) is an interesting visit, not least the bathroom, and the room where Yoshida hid, which is much tinier than it looks in the photo, the ceiling being so low you have to stay on your knees. Of course most of the information is in Japanese and I doubt they have staff at hand who speak English, especially off season.

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6 Responses

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  1. Mikku said, on April 23, 2015 at 12:33 am

    Interesting background story, and great pics, as always!

    Like

  2. romainboitier said, on April 26, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    truely fantastic story, that’s a great atmosphere we have here. All those pictures in the countryside you did recently smells summer

    Like

    • tokyobling said, on May 19, 2015 at 2:52 am

      It is a magic place, even on a poor weather cold spring week day afternoon like this! Thank you for the kind comment! (^-^)

      Like

  3. rudyhou said, on May 21, 2015 at 8:52 am

    very nicely and perfectly maintained old building. i enjoy looking at the wooden ceiling of the inn.

    Like


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