Sunday, April 3, 2011

Saigo Park, Kagoshima

A little history lesson for those of you who need it. In Japan, there were two primary authorities - the Emperor, and the Shogun. Initially, the Shogun was the Emperor's military strategist, but over time the Shogun, his families and his controlling advisers amassed enough power to assume primary control of the country and to relegate the Emperor to engaging in only cultural activities like art or religion. In 1603 the Tokugawa family took over the Shogun's role and held it until 1864. By the end of their reign, the Tokugawa had themselves become weak and ineffectual while their"advisers" in the bakufu (the name of the Shogun's advising cabinet) had all of the power. Then came Commodore Perry in his "black ships" and the bakufu was forced to allow trade between Japan and the outside world in 1854. This last act signaled to some dissidents that the bakufu itself had lost its way and that it was time to return power to the Emperor.

LinkOne of the primary leaders of the anti-bakufu forces was Saigo Takamori. Saigo was born in Satsuma, Kyushu, what is now known as Kagoshima. While he was initially imprisoned and exiled by his superiors, they did eventually put their trust in him to coordinate the uprising and to lead certain operations. At the end, the decisions to strip the samurai of their rice allowances resulted in some disaffected members, including Saigo, to go up against the new central government. He was killed during the final battle in 1877. He's considered a national hero, and there's a small attraction dedicated to him across the street from the Kagoshima International Airport. Admission is free, and the building is open during normal business hours.

The building is divided up into a central room, with two wings on either side. The main room is a gift shop, with some exhibits on Saigo himself, and figures showing the fashion styles of people in Japan at different times.

One of the exhibits is a display of gourds that used to be used for holding water while traveling.

The two wings are also divided up, so that the left wing includes various ukiyo-e prints, and drawings of Saigo by different artists. The right wing has photos and articles on other figures from Satsuma in history, including the currently-ubiquitous Ryoma Sakamoto.

At the back of the building is the big statue of Saigo.

Saigo made a friend.

It's a big statue, as can be seen from the other side of the freeway.

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