Tahiti-4 (About YOSHIDA Shoin)



In my last column of "Tahiti-3," I uploaded a photo of a plate hanging at the entrance of a lighthouse.

It reads: Robert Louis Stevenson, Tahiti 1888.

‘Great were the feelings of emotion as I stood with mother by my side and we looked upon the edifice designed by my father when I was sixteen and worked in his office during the summer of 1866.’

The moment I saw this, I felt "This is it!"

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94) is a British writer known for "Treasure Island," "Strange Case of Dr. Jykyll and Mr. Hyde" etc., but his parents and grandfater were legendarily famous lighthouse design engineers.  Lighthouse desin was his family profession.  Robert was physically weak and had tendency for sickness so he was incapable of fulfilling the family expectations.  However, he was gifted with talents of literature.  In 1874, while he was staying in France in attempt to recover from illness, he fell in love with an American women 10 years older and with a child.  He goes to California in 1879 in a very weak condition, risking death, and marries in 1880.

Stevenson returns to England with his family from 1880 to 1887, but when he father died in 1887, goes back to the United States with his mother and family.  Next year in 1888, he sets off for a cruise to southern Pacific Ocean.  It is in this year of 1888 that the words were engraved on the plate at Tahiti.

Stevenson died in late 1894 in an island of Pacific Ocean at age 44.  Explore for information in Wikipedia etc.  The story is very attractive.  You will find history of a man.

Why did I think "This is it!" when I saw this plate in Tahiti?  It has something to do with YOSHIDA Shoin(1830-59).  I was thinking for years on how and when to introduce you this strange relationship between Shoin and Stevenson.  Likewise, I also thought very much about the right time when I introduced in my blog the lecture of His Majesty the Emperor in England on the 300th anniversary of the birth of Linne (May 2007).

YOSHIDA Shoin played an important role in forming spiritual peg for the structuring of modern Japan.  Many activists fighting for Meiji Restoration were nurtured at Shokason Jyuku, the school he founded.  Stevenson was the first to write about Shoin.  His article was published in March 1880 (Cornhill Magazine 41) under the title of "Yoshida-Torajiro" (Shoin was commonly known as Yoshida-Torajiro).  Later, it was made into a (chapter of a) book "Familiar Studies of Men and Books" published in 1882.

The article was written 20 years after the death of Shoin, in English.  Who told Stevenson about Shoin?  The answer is found in the beginning of Stevenson’s essay.  It was "Taizo Masaki." 

Taizo Masaki was the first President of Tokyo Institute of Technology (the name was different then).  There are many sites referring to the relation between Masaki and Stevenson (Ref. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 ).

Also, a book by Midori Yoshida, titled "Mystery of Biography of Shoin Yoshida written before Japan. Passionate Japanese ? why Stevenson the great British writer?" is published (2000).  I advise you to search the sea of information and think about this mystery of relationship, the great Shoin, and "essence of education."

Where is Shoin of today in this troubled Japan?

Anyway, I didn’t even dream of coming across their relationship at Tahiti.