Reflection Paper on Shoin Shrine and Yushukan Museum

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Reflection Paper on Shoin Shrine and Yushukan Museum

The Shoin Shrine is located in Hagi, Tokyo. It is one of the most popular national historical sites within the region, and is named after the prominent philosophical and political figure Yoshida Shoin. Yoshida was an activist in the Edo era, and is actions in altering the history of the Japan to a positive political direction earned him a notable place in its history. Established in 1890, the shrine was originally a modest set of wooden buildings made in the early 19th century. It was made for learning purposes, where the Yoshida Shoin was able to mentor some of the key political figures in a bid to revolutionize Japan. It was one of the most important shrines political and philosophical ideals, and was crucial in supporting the adoption of western ways in a bid to develop the country. The Shoin Shrine is a symbol of the political revolution, which aided in the Restoration of Meiji as well as driving industrial and political modernization to the rest of the country.

The shrine was later built anew in 1927, and was much bigger than the original one. It was completed in 1955. It is located on the East of Hag’s Castle Town near Tokoji Temple. Yoshida Shoin was born as a local Samurai in Hagi, where he was able to read and write at the local schools. His interest in politics grew amidst public upheaval concerning the existing leadership. He focused on the Confucius theory of the Meng-Tzu, where he was able to learn some of the most important political and military strategies. He developed his philosophies based on these writings as well as his experience and relationships within the region of Hagi. He would the later form his basis of teachings based on these philosophies, which would influence some of the key figures that would help to shape the future, now history of Japan. One of the prominent political figures greatly influenced by his teachings includes Ito Hirobumi, who would later become Japan’s first prime minister.

The Shoin Shrine consists of several other sections, some of which consists of striking and vivid representations of Yoshiba Shoin. Also known as tableaux, these representations seek to communicate some of the philosopher’s key experiences in his short life. Yoshida Shoin’s lifetime was a short and dramatic one, and ended when he was executed for attempting to assassinate a government official. Despite this, he was more renowned for his significant teachings. This was an indication that people in the past appreciated the fact that political issues in the past were not always good or evil, but grey areas represented complication even within an individual’s ideals. While some might have chosen to see Yoshida’s intentions for assassination to be evil, others chose to see the other side of him, a smart and capable young samurai and philosopher responsible for shaping the history of Japan.

One of the most notable tableaux within the museum depicts Yoshida Shoin in a ‘Black Ship.’ The ship belonged to Townsend Perry, a British trader who came to Japan to seek economic concessions. Before this time, Yoshida Shoin had been arrested for defying the Shogun Decree and attempting to travel to other regions without permission. He was later arrested by the shogun and put in prison. One year later, Yoshida was put on house arrest. He still attempted to make an escape through the black ship, where he told Perry to take him to the Western regions. The tableau shows Yoshida in   the black ship attempting his escape. Another life size tableau shows Yoshida Shoin seated with some of his students in a small room. Even when Yoshida was arrested, he continued to teach his students while still in prison.

I was particularly impressed by his resilience to transform the country through these teachings even when the physical and mental conditions of confinement did little to favor him. In another tableau, Yoshida is in Japanese scaffolding designed for execution. This was a key event in his life, where the shogun issued the death penalty for his attempted assassination. His ability to influence and organize an assassination of a key political figure while still in prison showed his relentless determination for political activism. After he made the bold choice of confessing his treasonous intentions, he was executed.

The Yushukan Museum is one of the oldest war and military museums in Japan. It is located in the Yasukuni Shrine within Chiyoda, Tokyo. Established in 1882, it depicts some of the war artifacts recovered from the war that resulted in the Meiji restoration. These artifacts were recovered from the Imperial Japanese Army, which was official Japanese armed force that operated from the mid 19th century up to the Second World War. The shrine also honors the millions of Japanese soldiers that fought in the war and lost their lives in service of the country. The museum if filled with approximately ten thousand articles, some of which include paintings and other works of art that tell the story of the Meiji War. Every article has been filled with the predecessor’s wishes that worked toward a peaceful nation and successful nation.

Despite the Museum being a notable political and historical national memorial site, much controversy it is surrounded by much controversy, much like Yoshida Shoin. Many believed that the millions of soldiers who died in the war deserve to be honored, and maintained that it was improper for others to judge the actions of others especially in complicated matters of politics and civil war. However, others were of the opinion that some of the soldiers were traitors of the country who fought on the wrong side of the war, and it was thus a great injustice to honor such souls. In addition, the aggressive military strategies employed in the past have also been well documented within the museum, and people believe that this has worked towards painting a negative image of Japan’s ideals to the citizens and the wider international community.

After Yoshida was executed, some of the key political and military strategists took action in the political uprising that resulted in the war aimed at bringing to an end the shogun regime and putting the Emperor Meiji in power, something Yoshida did not live to see. The Meiji restoration was a political reform that restored imperial rule in Japan in the years between 1868 and 1912. During the mid 19th century, there were many controversies surrounding the acceptance of political and trade relations with the western world.

On one hand, the European countries consisting of Britain, France, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands, among other western countries were keen on expanding their colonies following the industrial revolution. News had spread that some of the Asian countries had already been invaded, and this was a cause for concern among the Japanese leaders. As a result, the Japanese became extremely cautious in their relationship with the western countries. They were successful in doing so, as they viewed themselves as self sufficient in their traditional and unique ways of life. On the other hand, lack of western relationships resulted in total seclusion, which some of the political leaders felt was a factor that would not be beneficial to the country in the future.

In an attempt to preserve their culture and avoid integration, the Japanese failed to realize that they would potentially be left behind in matters of global and industrial development, in which the western countries were most successful. Furthermore, the Edo period was characterized by strict and limiting laws which some believed worked against the larger majority of the Japanese people. This was because the strict traditional norms required certain strict standards within the social, political, and cultural spheres of each individual. In addition, the system was designed to limit the resources from reaching the majority of citizens, which consisted of the lower ranking samurai families and other working class people.

As such, Yoshida and other political activists were able to realize this, and thus fought for change in a bid to bring to an end such a system and embrace a more modern approach to political structures. Yoshida wished for a country of people whose future was not rooted on privilege, which promoted classism and poverty among the people. Instead, Yoshida and other political activists believed in a country where people were actually rewarded based on their hard work. The Meiji restoration did much to fulfill this vision of Yoshida. The restored Government was responsible for the rise of Japan as a modernized and successful nation towards the end of the 19th century and into the early twentieth century.

The Yushukan Museum contains several artifacts, text, and other historical objects that are dedicated to share the story of the war. In a sense, it can be described as the second part of a two-part story describing the conception, planning, and execution of the Meiji restoration. The first part is the Shoin Shrine, which shows the life and experiences of Yoshida while the second part is the Museum, which describes the details of the war through texts and artifacts. Conception can be seen as the period, which Yoshida dedicated his life to teaching his political and philosophical ideals. Thus, the idea of a political revolution was born in his successors, even though he was not able to live to see them act on it. The process of planning and execution is vividly described in the second Yushukan Museum, where texts of military strategies have been displayed, as well as some of the weapons and armors used.

Both the Shoin Shrine and the Yushukan Museum are related in a spiritual dynamic. This was because the prime reason for their existence was to honor the lives of people who took part in the Meiji restoration. Despite the execution of Yoshida Shoin, he was regarded by many as a person who died an honorable death. This was because he was responsible for influencing some of the pioneers of the revolution. Thus the shrine was built as a dedication to his deified spirit. The museum was created to tell his story of nobility further and patriotism through depicting some of the key events in his short life. The Yushukan Museum was built to honor the lives of the two million people who lost their lives in service to their country during the war. The museum tells us their stories through the documentations as well as objects used during the fight. These two shrines utilize the principle of ‘Yushu’, which means to relate closely to high-principled people in order to learn from them.

The two historical sites contain some of the most relevant historical events that helped to shape the political and economic state of Japan today. Due to the relentless dedication and bravery of the people who fought for these major reforms, Japan today enjoys the benefits of being a part of the industrialized world. One might argue that were it not for these events, it was possible that Japan might have remained in the socio economic cocoon that served to preserve their culture, while at the same time missing the opportunities of development that presented themselves through trade with the western world. Despite the political controversy that has surrounded Shoin shrine and Yushukan Museum, there exist much opportunity people to learn from the information provided through art. In addition, these two sites also create a forum for healthy political and social debate among citizens and leaders alike as a means of working towards better political reforms and a more successful democratic society.

 

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