Yamaji Aizan (山路愛山)

Aizan YAMAJI (January 23, 1865-March 15, 1917) was a critic and historian who played an active role from the Meiji to Taisho periods. His real name was Yakichi. Aizan was his appellation as a writer. He initially went by the appellation of Jozan, and started calling himself as Aizan, which came from Mt. Ashitaka in Shizuoka Prefecture, in or around 1887.


He was born to Ichiro YAMAJI, a shogun's retainer, in the Tenbun Yashiki, a facility used for astronomy observation in Tokyo's Asakusa district. For generations, members of the Yamaji family had been assigned to the post of tenmonkata, or the officer in charge of astronomy, by bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). Akitsune (Kinnojo) YAMAJI, one of the last tenmonkata officers, was his grandfather. The mother of Aizan's mother Keiko, who was the daughter of Tanetoshi OKUDOME, was Ichiro's great aunt. His mother died of sickness in 1867. The next year, his father joined the Shogitai (group of former Tokugawa retainers who opposed to the Meiji government and fought in the Battle of Ueno) to take the side of the Shogunate, and fight against Meiji government troops first in Ueno and later in Hakodate, while Aizan moved to Shizuoka with his grandparents. Although he was still young, he had no choice but to support his family, because of his father, who was depressed and being a bad drunk and selfish to neglect the household matters. He studied Shinology under 孚 OKUMURA in the beginning, then became a part-time worker at the Shizuoka Police Station, and reportedly was always academically oriented and never grew tired of learning. Under tutelage of Yoshiyasu HIRAIWA, a minister of a Methodist Church, and others, he studied English and became a Christian.
The "Kokumin no tomo" (Friends of the Nation) was launched in February 1888, which carried the famous essay penned by Soho, titled 'Alas, Thus Kokumin no Tomo Was Born.'
Later, he was quoted as saying: "I read it as I was going over the Mt. Asuwa in Fukui Domain of Echizen Province, and I was so absorbed in reading that I never took notice of the mountain views." He went to Tokyo in 1888 to enter Toyo Eiwa School, and after the graduation he served as a preacher back in Shizuoka for three years, during which he contributed to "Jogaku Zasshi" magazine using the name of Aizan for the first time.

Then he went back to Tokyo and received the cordial welcome of Soho TOKUTOMI to join Kokumin Shimbun newspaper at Minyu-sha publisher as a reporter, and wrote about politics and history. He mainly wrote for "Kokumin no Tomo" magazine and the "Kokumin Shimbun" newspaper, and served as the chief editor of the Christian magazine called "Gokyo."

In 1897, he joined an editorial studio in charge of compiling the Mori family's "Bocho Kaiten-shi," which was led by Kencho SUEMATSU, and served as the chief editor. Aizan was 34 years old. He started working with Toshihiko (Kosen) SAKAI, with whom he formed a long-term friendship.

On April 9, 1898, he was appointed as the chief editor of Shinano-Mainichi Shimbun at the request of the newspaper publisher. He deeply loved people in Shinshu for their open-minded nature, and shortly before his death, he recollected: "Living or visiting this Shinshu for a total of 19 years."

In 1903, he left his post at Shinano-Mainichi Shimbun and went back to Tokyo, and launched the first issue of "Dokuritsu Hyoron" (Independent Criticism) in January the same year. This issue carried an article titled 'Why Do I Have Faith in Imperialism,' which could be taken as an open letter addressed to Kanzo UCHIMURA.
In the "Seikyo Shimpo newspaper," Uchimura attempted to write a review on the first issue of "Dokuritsu Hyoron" and mentioned the article, branding Aizan, along with Soho, as the 'real-life example of an old proverb: a wise man changes his mind, a fool never.'

In February 1904, he launched a serial publication called "Nichiro Senso Jikki" (The Real Record of Russo-Japanese War) as soon as the war broke out, arguing the idea of 'Somoku Kaihei' (Suspicion will raise bogies), and he made efforts to promote patriotism. In April, he published another serial publication called "Senso ni Okeru Seinenkun" (Guidances for the youth at war).

In February 1905, he published "Koshi-ron" (On Confucius). After that, "Dokuritsu Hyoron" carried a series of his essays on the history of Chinese thought until 1908.

In August 1905, he founded 'Kokka Shakaito,' or the National Socialist Party, with Teikichi SHIBA, Daihachiro NAKAMURA and others, and in the party's manifesto, they said that the members of the Imperial Family in ancient times had virtually practiced socialism, and that "We must stop wasting government expenses using appropriate assistance from the Imperial family." The party, along with the Japan Socialist Party, led a protest against a proposal of the increase in Tokyo's city tram fares in March 1906, but it can be said that it was the party's only achievement after which it eventually became defunct. "Shakaishugi Kanken" (Personal views on socialism) was published in the same year, but it was banned. Ikki KITA severely criticized the publication, saying that it was merely an illicit combination of the national policy theory and socialism.

After 1908, he wrote commentaries for the person of the month section on "Taiyo" (Sun) magazine and served as the editor in chief for "Kokumin Zasshi" (National Magazine). In 1912, in the "Kokumin Zasshi," Yamaji and Toshihiko SAKAI became embroiled in dispute over historical materialism.

Around 1913, he began the preparations for writing "Nihon Jinmin-shi" (The history of Japanese people), which was left unfinished, and relaunched the "Dokuritsu Hyoron"; he actively continued his speech activities until his later years. When Shinano Nichinichi Shimbun newspaper was founded in the fall of 1916, he served as the editor in chief and offered so much aid. He died of sickness on March 15, 1917. He was 54 years old. His death haiku (Japanese poem) read: "It is hard to leave this world, but I should go to the land beyond my birth."

His political views and ideas

Aizan YAMAJI's views on literature can be found in a critical essay titled 'What Does It Mean to Benefit Mankind?' by Tokoku KITAMURA, which was carried in "Kokumin no tomo" magazine in 1893 and became the source of dispute between Yamaji and Kitamura. Yamaji claimed that "literature is a form of enterprise... and unless it closely relates to human life, it too is an emptiness within an emptiness... literature is fact and that is why we should respect it." Kitamura protested, saying "(Aizan) tried to expand the scope of purpose that needed to be destroyed with a hammer named 'historical discussion' and repeatedly tried to attack the realm of literature." He was in an attempt to defend literary people saying that they would not compose proses and verses to make their 'enterprises' successful like history essayists, and that they had no intention to make 'victory' as their final goal. This dispute indicated that Aizan regarded literature in the same light as politics, and showed that he thought no lines should be drawn between a person's purpose and the nation's, and that ideas were useless unless they were followed by actions.

Aizan's attitude toward Christianity was the same as those, and he was quoted as saying: "I am the one who believes that the last resort to plant the ideas of justice and human feelings in the world is rely on the use of force and nothing else." His religious mentor was Oliver CROMWELL, who led the ironsides. It was not the religion of peace and idleness, but the one that accompanied enterprises and actions and forced his ideas with the sword. Thus, for him, the imperialism and socialism were merely the means to bring people in unity and make the state to create businesses, and according to his theories, as Niccolo MACHIAVELLI put it, the will of a person would be absorbed for his or her homeland and the state itself would be the subject of worship.

Essays on history

Aizan, who regarded history as practical learning, had a belief that said 'just like the ancient times are still the same as the present ones, and the present times are similar to the ancient ones; life is controlled by the same principles and the country will rise and fall by circulating the same fate.'
Therefore, for him, the historical heroes were the ones who set examples and expressed their times, with the prime example being one who possessed absolute spirit, the idea asserted by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich HEGEL. His essays on history were regarded on a par with Sorai OGYU's "Seidan" (discussion of law cases) and later with political essays such as Machiavelli's "Discourses on Livy." He put more value in gaining insights on the essence of the times from historical characters than building extensive knowledge in history and checking historical background. His emotional involvement in the times and aspirations as a political analyst to win independence made Soho to say: "If you shall seek victory, you will be the best in the field of historical analysis." For Aizan, ideology and politics were "something nondetachable," and he considered history as the whole of those ideas; especially paying attention to the background of the economic society. In an essay titled 'Historical Science and Historians in Modern Japan,' which was carried in "Taiyo" magazine in 1909, he said he was looking forward to seeing the new tendency that viewed history from the standpoint of economy and said: "Such a research method can take a fresh look at the past, and I assume that historical science in the future could open a new era with the help of this tendency."

Literary works

List of main works except those mentioned above
Sorai OGYU (September 1893)
Hakuseki ARAI (December 1894)
Shina Shiso-shi (The History of Ideologies in China) (June 1907)
Gendai Kinken-shi (The History of Plutocracy in Modern Times) (May 1908)
Hotaiko (January 1909)'Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI' (the two-volume reprinted edition, published by Iwanami Shoten Publishers' Iwanami Bunko brand in 1996)
Takauji ASHIKAGA (January 1909), with the reprinted edition published by Iwanami Bunko in 1991. MINAMOTO no Yoritomo (July 1909), with the reprinted edition published by Heibonsha's Toyo Bunko brand in 1987, which later became larger in size.
Takamori SAIGO Vol. 1 (June 1910)
Buke Jidai-shi Ron (On Feudal Period) (October 1910)
Kaishu KATSU (April 1911)
Tametomo Ron fu Yoshitsune Ron (On Tametomo, with On Yoshitsune) (June 1913)
Ieyasu TOKUGAWA (1915), with the two-volume reprinted edition published by Iwanami Bunko in 1988.
Shina Ron (On China) (1916)