Hatakeyama Yuko (畠山勇子)
Yuko HATAKEYAMA (December, 1865 - May 20, 1891) was a woman who committed suicide during the period the relationship between Japan and Russia became tense, leaving a suicide note to apologize to the crown prince of Russia who had been attacked by a Japanese in the Otsu Incident of 1891.
She was born as the oldest daughter of Jihei HATAKEYAMA in Yokosuka, Kamogawa-cho, Nagasa County, Awa Province (present Kamogawa City, Chiba Prefecture) in 1865. The Hatakeyama family had been farmer of Kamogawa and once very rich, however, at the Meiji Restoration they invested a lot of money, and later became very poor. She lost her father at the age of 5, and married a commoner in the neighboring Chitose Village (present Minamiboso City) at the age of 17, however she did not get along and divorced at the age of 23. After moving to Tokyo, she worked as maid at residences of the peerage and at a residence of a banker in Yokohama, and by the introduction of her uncle, she began to serve a fish wholesaler as a live-in hariko (woman doing needlework) in Muromachi, Nihonbashi Ward (present Chuo Ward, Tokyo). Since she had interests in politics and history under the influence of her father and uncle, she read newspapers containing political elements enthusiastically so that a storekeeper and her peers considered her a freak.
As soon as the Otsu Incident happened, she deplored and fussed that a national emergency had occurred, however, the close people ignored her fuss thinking 'there she goes again.'
On May 11, the crown prince of the Russian Empire (the Tsar's son, Tsarevich Nicholas) who would become Nicholai II (Tsarevich Nicholas II) was wounded seriously in the attack by a thug (Otsu Incident) during his visit to Japan, and people seethed in all over Japan. In such a situation, Russia decided and ordered that the crown prince of Russia should return to Russia from Kobe Port in a hurry. Hearing that, Yuko left the fish wholesaler with an excuse that she would return to her hometown, and rushed to the residence of her uncle Rokubei ENOMOTO in Shitaya. Enomoto was a trader and a weapon dealer from whom feudal lord families including Shimazu, Mori, Yamauchi, Maeda and Hachisuga had purchased guns secretly from the shogunate, and after the Meiji Restoration, he made a fortune by export of raw silk thread.
Since Yuko thought her uncle would understand her thoughts, she asked him to do something, explaining 'if the crown prince returns like that, our Emperor who went all the way to Kyoto to apologize would lose face.'
Although her uncle remonstrated with her explaining that there was no help for a mere common woman to concern about the nation's serious matters, the obsessed Yuko left for Kyoto by a train.
In Kyoto, after visiting a lot of temples by a rickshaw, Yuko presented petitions on which front were written 'Mr. Official of Russia,' 'Messrs. Japanese Government' and 'Messrs. Government' to Kyoto prefectural office after seven p.m. on May 20. In front of the prefectural office, she tied her legs together with a towel to avoid appearing ugly after the suicide, and committed suicide by cutting her throat and chest deeply with a razor. Since she could not die soon, she was taken to hospital to receive treatment; however, she died of a loss of blood with a deep cut. She died at the age of 27. In those years Japan was a lesser country of the Far East, so she thought that Japan might be destroyed if one of powers Russia declared war on the pretext of this incident. She had mailed her suicide notes to her uncle, mother and younger brother separately from the petitions, and the number of her letters brought the total to ten.
The news about her brave death was spread among people by some nationalists praising her as 'the chaste and strong-minded woman Yuko' and a grand memorial service for her was held.
Her grave is in Makkei-ji Temple (Kushige-agaru, Manju-ji Temple, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto City). Lafcadio Hearn (Yakumo KOIZUMI) and a Portuguese consul, Wenceslau José de Sousa de Moraes visited her grave. Also Moraes introduced her to the magazine "Serões" in Lisbon.
Some people say that the Russian side took a generous attitude (they did not carry out armed reprisals nor demand reparation) because her death had captured the international society's sympathy through her suicide note to the crown prince Nicholaii and sensational reports by newspapers.