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Edo to Meiji
A time of Samurai, A time of fun
Takasugi's Women (edit: Plus son) 
10th-Apr-2006 08:31 pm
Takasugi was known for being quite fond of sake and women. :) The two main women in his life, however, appear to have been his wife and his geisha lover. This is actually an issue that bothered me for the longest time -- when I first began researching Takasugi, I couldn't find any references to Uno (who had been mentioned in passing in the the RK OVA Tsuiokuhen), and it was a while before I even came upon a mention that he was married. This is in contrast to say, Ryoma and Oryo, or Katsura and Ikumatsu -- couples pretty much everyone knows about. (The significance of these two women's names also amuses me in that 'Ryo'='ryo'=dragon and 'matsu'=pine=a prefectural symbol of Yamaguchi, as well as a recurring symbol in Choshu matters: Shoin's school under the pines, 'Sho'=same kanji as matsu, etc.)

Anyway, I'm blabbing. The following is what I've managed to dig up on Uno and Masako.

O-Uno and Masako

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O-Uno (1843-1909), a shamisen-playing Shimonoseki geisha, was Takasugi's lover. Her geisha name was Konoito ("This thread"), and she was known for her gentle and obedient nature. After the Meiji era, her name was listed as Tani Baisho in the family register; Tani being one of Takasugi's main aliases, and plum blossoms being his favorite flowers (bai=ume=plum).

Uno's personal history is not clear. One theory is that she was an oil merchant's daughter in the Hagi castletown, and became a prostitute after her parents' business collapsed. Others believe she was born in Osaka. Yet another theory states that her father was a (former) retainer of the Mito han, and her mother some woman from Kyoto.

Takasugi first encountered her around June 1863, about the same time he founded the Kiheitai, in the backstreets of the red-light district in Akamaseki (part of present-day Shimonoseki), in the brothel Sakaiya. The story goes that Takasugi, hiding from assassins, was posing as an Osakan gambler. Kusanagi Enseki was watching over him when he ran away and happened upon Uno, clutching a shamisen in her arms. Following that incident, they were separated for a while, during which Takasugi entrusted her to the wealthy merchant Shiraishi Shouichirou. Takasugi, worried and deeply in love with Uno's quiet ways, even sent her a letter warning her to be careful, sometime during this period of separation.

So deep was the love between Takasugi and Uno that when Takasugi went into (temporary) exile to Shikoku, escaping pursuit from the bakufu, he took her with him. Later, when Takasugi's condition from his ongoing tuberculosis worsened in October 1866 while in Shimonoseki, Uno stayed at his side, nursing him, but removed herself from the way when his offical wife Masako and their two year old son came from Hagi to visit. Eventually, she did meet Masako with Takasugi (around February 1867), after which Uno shaved her head and became a nun (renamed Baisho-ni), despite there apparently having been talk of recommending marriage (between Takasugi and Uno)*, presumably because she did not wish to sully Takasugi's name. In March 1867, Takasugi worsened yet again despite Uno's care, and Masako was summoned back to Hagi. Uno stayed with him until his death in April, and performed the memorial service for him.

Uno and Masako continued their correspondence after Takasugi's death, with Uno apparently providing various assistance and support to Masako and her son during this time. Uno herself dwelled by Takasugi's grave (see Tougyouan below) for the rest of her life, supported by several of Takasugi's former comrades and friends, including Kido Takayoshi, Itou Hirobumi, and Inoue Kaoru. When she died, at the age of 66, she was buried there together with Takasugi.
(http://www.fan.hi-ho.ne.jp/gary/jinbutu1.htm, http://www13.ocn.ne.jp/~dawn/p_women.html, http://t-susa.cool.ne.jp/sinsaku/takasugizinmei.html#ouno, http://bakusin.jp/eiketu/uno.html)
(A letter addressed to Uno from Takasugi, sent from Nagasaki in 1866, dated April 5th: http://www.cocolee-jp.com/togyo/t/syo/ouno.html)

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Masako, born in 1845, was a well-known beauty in Hagi and the second daughter of high-ranking Choshu retainer Inoue Heiuemon, a "co-worker" and friend of Takasugi's father. She married Takasugi in January 1860 (lunar calendar) -- a marriage arranged by Takasugi's parents presumably in hopes that it would take his mind off of Yoshida Shoin's recent death in 1859 and let him settle down -- and gave birth to their son Umenoshin (Touichi, also known under various other names) in October (lunar calendar) of 1864. In the first three years of their marriage they spent only about one year together; the total time they spent together in the seven years they were married barely amounted to two. Masako ultimately outlived her son, who appears to have passed away from disease in 1915.
(http://www.fan.hi-ho.ne.jp/gary/jinbutu1.htm, reminiscences of 71 year old Masako** at http://www.cocolee-jp.com/togyo/t/syo/masako.html, http://ponpoko.hiho.jp/takasugi/001.htm)
(A letter addressed to Masako from Takasugi, sent sometime in 1864/5, dated February 18th: http://www.cocolee-jp.com/togyo/t/syo/masakoate.html)


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Katsura/Kido Takayoshi took him under his wing, presumably, from various diary entries. (red-bird.org) I have yet to get more detailed information on him (there seem to be some things of interest in Masako's Reminiscences).

Tougyou-an (Tougyou Hermitage/Shrine)

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The area around Mt. Kiyomizu, located in the outskirts of Shimonoseki, was known as the base of the Kiheitai during the time of the last days of the shogunate. Yamagata Kyousuke (Aritomo) had a thatched hut named Murin-an built at the foot of the mountain. Takasugi was buried there according to his will, near the headquarters of the Kiheitai. In 1869 Yamagata presented the place to Uno, now Baisho-ni the nun, before leaving on a trip to Europe. The present day hermitage, called Tougyou-an after Takasugi's favorite pseudonym, was built by contributions from several well-known personages, including Yamagata, Ito Hirobumi, Inoue Kaoru, and others. Uno lived there until her death in 1909. A great stone monument was erected there within the year.

* Takasugi in fact wrote a comic tanka afterwards that I wish I could translate commenting on his dilemma in having both a wife and a lover:


In reality, he was not so flippant about the situation -- he appears to have also written a letter to Katsura Kogoro in which he described his conflicted feelings and tumultuous state of mind.

** This appears to be an interview/article conducted and written in 1916 (Taisho 5), entitled "Reminiscences of the Lady Takasugi Masako". I cannot make much sense of it, unfortunately.

Random: Why on earth is a Takasugi/Yoshida Shoin/Sakamoto Ryoma/misc bakumatsu stuff site hosted on a Coco Lee fansite? *scratches head*

http://www.cocolee-jp.com/togyo/t/phot/index.html -- Takasugi photos like whoa (click the links on the left)
http://www.cocolee-jp.com/togyo/t/kazoku/index.html -- more photos like whoa (father Kochuuta, mother Michi, little sister Mitsu, Masako, Touichi, Uno)

http://www.cocolee-jp.com/togyo/s/phot/index.html -- Yoshida Shoin photos like whoa
http://www.cocolee-jp.com/togyo/s/kazoku/index.html -- Shoin family like whoa (mother Taki, big bro Sugi Umetarou, little sister Chiyo, little brother Sugi Toshisaburou)

http://www.cocolee-jp.com/togyo/s/monkasei/index.html -- Sonjuku students

http://www.cocolee-jp.com/togyo/ryoma/index.html -- Oryo
11th-Apr-2006 04:24 am (UTC)
*proposes new entry for Takasugi at red-bird* devoted to
"Guns, Geisha and Good Times"

Seriously... I don't have a place for his funny gun stories and the gun he received from Sakamoto.

Let me know when it's ready and send it along.
11th-Apr-2006 05:09 am (UTC)
rofl. I want to try to squeeze out a bit more Masako info first, but sure.
11th-Apr-2006 06:48 am (UTC)
And gah, I'm dying of curiosity re: his son now too. Can't believe I found those photos of him.
11th-Apr-2006 08:25 am (UTC) - On sons & dying of curiousity...
I know exactly how you feel!!!

Kawajirou, Sagara's only child by his wife Teruko. They weren't together much either... married in 1864, the year before Kawajirou was born, then he left for Kyoto in spring 1866 and started on his course towards disaster. Kawajirou also died young... in 1903 at the age of 39... but the biography doesn't say of what (one tantalizing detail is that the family lost its wealth around the time he died). He at least lived long enough to have 3 children. The eldest of them (Kametarou) wrote a book about his experiences trying to get the record straight on what happened with his grandfather, but I haven't seen any indication of a copy of it anywhere (which means I'll probably never know what he had to say and if he related what was said in his talks with those (like Itagaki) who lived through it O_o!!!) I'd love to know more about this kid... his parents dead (Teruko committed suicide right after the execution) by the time he was 3, his adoptive father (Kimura, the rangakusha) dead within 5 years, and no other men in the house but Sagara's very old (and probably bitter) father. His eyes in that photo are haunting, too haunted for one that young.

BTW, anyone have a guess at how old he might be in the pic? I'm terrible at trying to guess the age of Japanese kids. It's from a larger pic of him with his aunt (adoptive mother), a cousin, and the grandfather, and I expect it was taken after Kimura had died (he would've been 8 then).
11th-Apr-2006 01:42 pm (UTC) - Re: On sons & dying of curiousity...
I think he's around 6 years old, but that could be an underestimate since Japanese nutrtion and growth were abysmal at the time.
11th-Apr-2006 02:12 pm (UTC) - Re: On sons & dying of curiousity...
If he were most anyone but a Kojima, I'd agree about nutrition as a contributing factor for an underestimate. It's doubtful, though, he had much of a nutritional issue (even with the typical diet then) given the family remained very wealthy and continued to live well on the Kojima estate in Akasaka long after the debacle with his father. And even today, the reason I have such difficulty guessing the age of Japanese kids is that they remain so young-looking for so long. Child actors in dramas are constantly surprising me. ^_^

But maybe it is possible that Kimura was still alive and he just didn't sit for the photo for whatever reason. Sagara's mother was also still alive and she's not in the photo either. (Anyone know if there was something women did to their appearance or dress that signaled they were a widow? Customs were so slow to change, it's possible Sagara's sister's appearance could give me a clue.)

I'm envious of those researching other figures who've found adult photos of the children. I should count my blessings that this one exists, but I'd still love to know what Kawajirou looked like as an adult. Nothing's ever quite enough, ne?
11th-Apr-2006 02:15 pm (UTC) - Re: On sons & dying of curiousity...
Maybe I should do an entry of the entire photo in case someone does detect something in the photo that could date it?
11th-Apr-2006 03:21 pm (UTC) - Re: On sons & dying of curiousity...
As an aside to those who wonder why we're talking about nutrition:

The kinds of malnourishment present in Asians (even today) have to do with eating primarily a rice diet, where protein and some vitamins were not standard parts of the diet.

BeriBeri is common even today in Vietnam and southeast asian countries, where children fail to thrive while on mainly a rice diet. Failure to thrive tends to show up as smaller stature (although with none of the kind of malnutrition shown in Africa).

(This type of malnutrition I think if one really looks for it was rampant in Japan and Korea until really industrialization. Starting from the 80s, Korea and Japan have started to catch up to the rst of the world in height and achieving height potential. This is all anecdotal, although I think if one digs into the nutrition literature or walks around Korea and Japan, you'll notice the disparity in heights between those born before the 70s/80s and afterwards.)

ANYHOO (stops the aside on malnutrition in Asia) - I still think the child is under ten, but over five :). Of course this is based on my experience with kids of Japanese/Korean descent here in the U.S., where protein and vitamins are available in abundance.

I'm wondering if you have the rest of the photo? The kimono patterns, even the hair on the other figures might inform you more specifically to year.

As for adult pictures -- perhaps it'll turn up one day.

Feel free to post hte photo as a separate entry with a link to this thread. If anything, it makes tagging easier for future reference :)
11th-Apr-2006 08:30 am (UTC)
Duh! I love the pic of Touichi as a little kid! It's also touching that Kido took interest in him.
11th-Apr-2006 03:22 pm (UTC)
Kido felt responsible for tending to the welfare of the widows and children of fallen comrades. Still curious as to why though he obscured the name of the child in his entries as "Tani" over "Takasugi."

He also was documented visiting "the mistress of Takasugi" on at least once occassion.
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