Gamo Kunpei (蒲生君平)

Kunpei GAMO (1768 - July 31, 1813) was a Confucian scholar in the late Edo period. He was an advocate of sonno-ron (an idea of advocating reverence for the Emperor) and kaibo-ron (an idea of advocating expansion of armaments to protect the country against foreign countries). He is counted as one of 'Three Bizarre Characters of Kansei Era,' listed together with his contemporaries, Shihei HAYASHI in Sendai and Hikokuro TAKAYAMA in Joshu. He carried out the spirits of loyalty and a strong sense of justice throughout his checkered life filled with extreme poverty. He changed his family name to Gamo in 1788 (when he was 17) according to a story handed down in his family that his ancestor was the lord of the Aizu clan, Uzisato GAMO (when the son of Ujisato, Tatewaki Masayuki GAMO, relocated from Utsunomiya to Aizu, he left the pregnant daughter of Hukuda family in Utsunomiya and his father, Masae, was the fourth-generation descendant). Kunpei was his by-name and his real name was Hidezane. His pseudonym was Shuseian.

The childhood when he was inspired by his family line

He was born in Shinkoku-cho, Utsunomiya, Shimotsuke Province (now 1-chome, Obata, Utsunomiya City, Tochigi Prefecture). His father was a chonin (townspeople), Mataemon Masae FUKUDA, who did farming and ran an oil store.
When he was told that his ancestor was an admirable samurai (Uzisato GAMO) by his grandmother, 'his young heart beat and he could not sleep at night with deep emotion, but the fact was that he was just a son of a townsman and there was no way to change it, so he decided to study hard to establish himself so that he could make himself deserving to have a great ancestor.'
At the age of around six, he started to study reading, calligraphy, sodoku (reading aloud without comprehension) of shishogokyo (the Four Books and Five Classics of Confucianism, the Nine Chinese Classics) under a chief priest, Priest Ryokai, at Enmei-in Temple (in Utsunomiya City) in a neighbor town, Izumi-cho, and 'Ihoki' (the narrative of changing the territory) transcribed by Gamo in those days has been passed down to today. His fondness for reading is described in the anecdote that when a fire occurred in his neighborhood, he climbed onto the roof to read a book by the right coming from the fire. It is said that Priest Ryokai died when Kunpei was 9 but he continue to study at Enmei-in Temple after that.

Learning under a Confucian scholar, Sekkyo SUZUKI

He entered Reitakusha School run by a Confucian scholar, Sekkyo SUZUKI (who was 29), in Kanuma, who had learned at Shoheiko School (a school run by the Tokugawa shogunate) (when he was 15). He walked for about 12 kilometers to and from Kanuma everyday. Even when a flood of Kuro-kawa River washed away the bridge, he took off his clothes and crossed the river, and then walked to school in Kanumashuku without putting them on, wearing only a loincloth with all other clothes and getas (Japanese wooden sandals) on his head, and so he was laughed and called a crazy; like this case he showed his inborn eccentric behavior, but his teacher, Sekkyo, was very fond of Kunpei's personality. He read "Taiheiki" (The Record of the Great Peace) at school and was deeply moved. Around this time he learned under a retainer of the Kurobane clan, Ichoken SUZUKI.

Meeting Yukoku FUJITA in Edo: The influence of Mitogaku (the scholarship and academic traditions that arose in the Mito Domain)

He was influenced by a loyalist to the Emperor in the Mito clan, Yukoku FUJITA. He became acquainted with many people, such as Bakin KYOKUTEI and Norinaga MOTOORI. At the age of 23, he traveled to Mutsu out of the respect to Hikokuro TAKAYAMA, and on the way back, paid a call on Shihei HAYASHI (who was 53) (there are both theories that he could actually meet him and that not).
On this occasion, although Shihei had known his name, when he looked at Kunpei's way too shabby clothing, he misread that Kunpei came to beg money, and laughed and said, 'what is your terrible guise, a down-and-out Confucian?'
Then Kunpei yelled indignantly, 'do not be arrogant, this old humbug. You even do not know courtesy,' and came back, which is a famous anecdote about an encounter between two of bizarre characters in Kansei era.

The investigation trip for kaibo (the protection of the country against foreign countries): Advocacy of shusen ron (jingoism)

Having heard of the infestation of Russian warships, in 1795, he traveled to Mutsu again (on the way back, he visited the graves of his ancestors, Ujisato GAMO and Tatewaki GAMO in Aizu and prostrated himself in front of them). In 1807, he wrote "Fujutsui" which urged the necessity of protection of the northern areas, and presented it to the cabinet official of the shogunate (Wakadoshiyori [a post to support senior councils] Tadaakira MIZUNO), but as a result he was put under watch of the Tokugawa shogunate, summoned and was forced to shut himself in the house.

Resolving to repair the Imperial tombs: A godfather of zenpokoen-hun (keyhole-shaped tomb mounds)

In Kyoto, he stayed at the house of a poet, Roan OZAWA, and studied the Imperial mausoleums (tumulus). At the age of 32, after the period of mourning his father, Masae, was over, he departed for the travel to investigate all the Imperial mausoleums (December 24, 1799 - July 15, 1800). He visited the successive Emperors' mausoleums to that of the Emperor Juntoku in Sadoga-shima Island. He called on Norinaga MOTOORI in Matsuzaka, Ise Province, and was greatly encouraged by him. It is a famous anecdote that he took with him the cremains of his friend, the Priest Ryoju, to Ama-no-Hashidate in this trip, and dispersed it in the Sea of Japan. It is said that when he called on his teacher, Sekkyo SUZUKI, on the way back to show his respect, his clothing was shabby and he was utterly exhausted.

After returning from the investigation trip, he opened a private school in Komagome, Edo, and in 1801, while giving lessons to some students to struggle with poverty, he finally completed "Sanryoshi." In the book, he wrote 'Zenpo Koen' (keyhole-shaped) to describe the shape of the tumulus, from which the word Zenpo Koen mound (keyhole-shaped tomb mounds) originated. He lived in Edo afterward and gave his opinion about the necessity of promoting education to Daigaku no kami (the director of Shoheiko School) Jussai HAYASHI. He published two of nine books, "Sanryoshi" and "Shokkanshi," that had been planning to write by borrowing money, but in June 1813, he became ill and dysentery was developed, and he died from the disease at the age of 46. Other books written by him are 'Fujutsui,' etc.

After his death his great achievement was honored, and in December 1869, monuments were built by the mayor of Utsunomiya Domain, Tadatomo TODA, under the Emperor Meiji's command (in 3-chome, Hanafusa, Utsunomiya City and Rinko-ji Temple in Yanaka, Tokyo). Also, in May 1881, the title of Shoshii (Senior Fourth Rank) was given. He is enshrined as a deity in Gamo-jinja Shrine (which was founded in 1926) in Utsunomiya City. "The complete works of Kunpei GAMO" (Tokyo Shuppan-sha [a publishing company], 1911) has been published.