Sakuma Shozan (佐久間象山)

Shozan (also known as Zozan) SAKUMA (March 22, 1811 - August 12, 1864) was a Japanese warrior, military strategist, and thinker. He was one of the Matsushiro Sanzan (the collective name of confusian scholars in Matsushiro Domain at the end of Edo Period). His was commonly called Shuri, and his real name was Kunitada, later Hiraki, and pseudonym was Shiteki, later Shimei. He was posthumously granted Shoshii (Senior Fourth Rank).


On March 22, 1811, he was born as the first son of Ichigaku SAKUMA, a clansman in Matsushiro Domain in Shinano Province.

It is said that his pen name, Shozan, originated from a Zen temple Zozanemyo of the Obaku sect in the neighborhood. Shozan came from a low-ranking warrior family in Matsushiro Domain, and studied Keigaku (study of Keisho in Confucianism) and mathematics in his youth. He was especially interested in mathematics and studied it hard. The mathematical knowledge he learned in his youth was of great advantage to him in Western studies later.

In 1833, he went to Edo and studied Shushigaku (Neo-Confucianism) under Issai SATO, the leading authority on Confucianism in those days, and became collectively to be known as 'Niketsu' (two masters) with Hokoku YAMADA. Shozan was basically no more than a 'traditional intellectual' in those days, while he began to recognize the Western countries. In 1839, he ran a private school 'Shozan Shoin' in Edo and taught Confucianism.

In 1842, when Yukitsura SANADA, the lord of Matsushiro Domain, whom Shozan served, was appointed Kaibo gakari (coastal defense) concurrently with Roju (member of shogun's council of elders), circumstances turned 180 degrees for Shozan. The lord Yukitsura singled out Shozan to be the person in charge of Western studies, and Shozan began studying military science under Hidetatsu (also known as Tarozaemon) EGAWA.

Gentle and thoughtful Egawa seemed to dislike Shozan, but Shozan managed to learn military science from Egawa and wrote and submitted 'Kaibo Hassaku' (eight measures for naval defense) to the lord Yukitsura and was highly estimated. Shozan did great service as he succeeded in casting a cannon by absorbing techniques from Egawa and Shuhan TAKASHIMA.

Thereafter, Shozan took a great interest in Western studies as well as military science. He succeeded in making glass, inventing an earthquake prediction device, and furthermore, he planned to introduce vaccination for Cowpox virus. When Mathew Perry's Ships entered the harbor of Uraga in 1853, Shozan went to Uraga for inspection.

When Perry's squadron arrived again in 1854, his disciple Shoin YOSHIDA attempted to stow away and failed. Shozan was implicated in the incident and incarcerated in Tenmacho prison, and besides, he was placed under house arrest in Matsushiro after the imprisonment until 1862.

In 1864, Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA invited him to Kyoto where he taught Yoshinobu Kobugatai-ron (theory of reconciliation between the Imperial court and the shogunate) and Kaikoku-ron (theory of opening of a country to the world). Going to Kyoto, which in those days was the place where most of the Imperialists under the slogan of 'Sonno Joi ha' (supporters of the doctrine of restoring the emperor and expelling the barbarians) hid themselves, was dangerous for Shozan, who gave the impression of being a 'Westernized' person in those days, (he even walked in Kyoto without any attendants). On September 11, he was assassinated by Iemon MAEDA and Gensai KAWAKAMI. He died at the age of 54.

A memorial monument for the incident is placed at the site of assassination.

Personal Profile and Episodes

Shozan was a slightly overconfident and arrogant person, which was the reason he had a lot of enemies. Some people say that largely because of his personality, he has not been well-evaluated in spite of his various achievements. Nevertheless, Shozan was undoubtedly a recognized authority on Western studies in Japan in those days. That can be seen from the story of Gensai KAWAKAMI., who killed Shozan with his sword but due to the shock he received at learning Shozan's personal history, never assassinated again. Moreover, his disciples include not only the above-mentioned Yoshida but also Torasaburo KOBAYASHI, Kaishu KATSU, Tsugunosuke KAWAI, Ryoma SAKAMOTO, Sanai HASHIMOTO, and Hiroyuki KATO, all of whom led Japan in later days; that shows, in fact, that Shozan had a great influence on the upheaval of Japan during the end of Edo period.

Shozan considered himself to be 'the property of Japan,' so he asked to Ryoma SAKAMOTO, "Introduce me to a woman with large buttocks who can give birth to a lot of children because my child by blood is destined to achieve great things." But his son Keinosuke MIURA had dubious morals the same as his father, and deserted the Shinsengumi (a group who guarded Kyoto at the end of Edo period) instead of achieving great things.

Whether it was true or not, it is said that Shozan was the only Japanese Mathew Perry bowed to.

Although Kaishu KATSU became an older step-brother of Shozan through the marriage of Kaishu's younger sister and Shozan in 1852, Kaishu did not greatly appreciated Shozan as Shozan was arrogant.
According to Hikawa SEIWA, Kaishu disparaged Shozan such as 'He was just as people said he was, a very thoughtless and restless man, but he was helped by the age he lived in.'
It seems that Kaishu and Shozan did not get along with each other as both of them were overconfident.

Shozan was good at composing waka poems and Chinese poems, and paintings and calligraphic works. According to "Edo-jidai no Kinji Monogatari" (the Tales of Koto [a traditional Japanese string instrument] Players in the Edo Period) written by Shigeo KISHIBE, Shozan played the kokin (seven-string koto) and the koto for pleasure.

He carried out a military exercise of cannon shooting in 1851, but the barrel of a cannon exploded and he was laughed at.
Yet, Shozan remained calm and said 'Because of a failure, we can succeed.'