The Shoshikai (a think tank) (尚歯会)

The Shoshikai is the name of a salon or a group of intelligent people (a think tank) established by people gathered, such as a wide range of scholars or artisans, including those of Western studies or Confucianism, and government officials during the late Edo period. The organizer was Katsusuke ENDO.

It mainly consisted of the members such as the graduates of Narutakijuku, who learned from Philipp Franz Balthasar von SIEBOLD, or people who learned through Choshuku YOSHIDA, such as Choei TAKANO, Sanei KOSEKI, Kazan WATANABE, Hidetatsu EGAWA, and Toshiakira KAWAJI.

It was supposedly originally set up to take measures against a series of famine like the Tenpo Famine. According to the traditional prevailing view, it was considered as a group centered on Western learning, but it seems to have been actually a group based not only on the Dutch, but also on a wide range of varied learning as the promoter, Katsusuke was a Confucianist.

It was accepted to study Western learning to some extent during the national isolation period at that time, but there were some restrictions imposed by the bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). For this reason, they officially called themselves the Shoshikai by using a Japanese word "shoshi"(尚歯) meaning "to value dental care," to make them out to be a group of aged hermits, wisdoms, or people who were attached to those of them.

The topics discussed in the Shoshikai covered a wide range of fields, not only merely medical science which was a mainstream of Western learning then, language, mathematics, astronomy, but also politics, economics, and national defense. Tadakuni MIZUNO, who took up a post as a Roju (member of shogun's council of elders), paid attentions to this group and attempted to pick their brains in order to take measures against the West. However, this caused harm to them, got them broken up because they were falsely accused of a rebellion by Yozo TORII, who was a key figure of conservative factions deprecating Western learning within the bakufu.

Especially, Choei broke out of prison after he was imprisoned and then was killed after escaping by the capturers, Sanei committed suicide for fear of being arrested, and Kazan met his tragic end by committing suicide by disembowelment after he was sentenced to imprisonment (being confined to his house). The series of incidents is called Bansha no goku (Imprisonment of scholars of Western learning), which has been, until recent years, treated as an important event to crack down on thought during the Edo period, but in fact, it can be said that it was an incident of a false charge to exclude people regarded as political enemies, caused by Yozo TORII as mentioned above. The Bansha is known as a derogatory term of the Shoshikai. Nevertheless, Katsusuke who was an organizer was not punished.

Although Shoshikai itself lasted only for a short period of time, their thoughts and last wishes were taken over by the rest of the members, who survived fortunately such as Egawa or Kawaji, gave impacts on members of a reformist group including Kaishu KATSU or Shozan Sakuma.