Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Question About Nakayama Nariaki's Character

Shimazu Nariakira (1809-1858)

[Warning - a Work In Progress - Wonky and Speculative]

A few days ago I put forth a suggestion for what Japan commentators should say when they are asked, "Why are Japan's politicians such idiots when it comes to the feelings aroused by actions and words that seem to slight the invasions of Asia in the 19th and early 20th centuries?" (Link)

I suggested that commentators say, "It's not a Japan thing. It's a Satsuma thing."

One commenter asked:
Could you explain what a "Satsuma thing" is for those of us who normally think of Satsuma as a sweet potato?
I of course have an idea what I mean. However, to make my proposal more substantial I stopped by the local library.

Whilst perusing a quick guide to the Edo-Meiji transition I was struck by the entry on Shimazu Nariakira (島津斉彬), the 11th daimyo of Satsuma, whom Taiga Dorama viewers would recognize as the adopted father of Atsuhime.

I was struck by the second character of the 11th daimyo's personal name.

Hin ( 彬 ), while simple in construction, is a pretty darn obscure kanji. It does not appear among the 5,500 characters listed in Nelson's -- at least the edition of Nelson's on my bookshelf. It does appear in Kojien but seems to be used for but a single word - hinpin ( 彬彬 ) -- which means "when that which is on the outside is the same as that which is on the inside" -- which is a pretty cool state of being, in ceteris paribus.

Looking at the name I said to myself, "That's funny. I have only seen that character one other time...and that is in the name of...nah, it couldn't be."

But, of course, it is. One of the Japanese readings of hin is "akira" as in Shimazu Nariakira. However, another reading is "aki" -- and there just happens to be politician whose name features that reading of the character.

Nakayama Nariaki (中山成彬).

Who is Nakayama Nariaki?

Just a member of the Diet so unapologetic about Japan's international behavior prior to 1945 that he managed to make himself a personal non grata in the Liberal Democratic Party. Nakayama N.'s wife Kyoko was the special advisor for the North Korean abductees issue for three prime ministers in a row (Abe, Fukuda fils and Aso). Nakayama N. returned to Nagata-cho in December after a long period in the political wilderness via the swearing of allegiance to the Ishihara Shintaro-led Japan Restoration Association.

So what?

Well it was Nakayama N. who was feeding the questions to prime minister Abe Shinzo on April 10 when Abe made the dangerous assertion that a Japanese politician's visiting Yasukuni is the same as an American president's visiting Arlington National Cemetery (Link - J) -- the first in what have been a string of Abe responses and Diet member actions which have crippled what had been improving Sino-Japanese and South Korea-Japan relations.

Why would a member of the opposition be serving up revisionist softballs for Abe Shinzo to hit out of the ballpark?

It could be that the JRA is trying to play nice with the LDP to lay the groundwork for a political alliance between the two parties after the July elections.

Then again, it could be that Nakayama Nariaki entered the Diet in 1986 as a member of the Seiwakai, or as it was known at the time, the Abe Faction -- led at that time by a certain Abe Shintaro, the father of a certain Abe Shinzo.

So what about so what? Nakayama's from Miyazaki, not Kagoshima.

True, but Nakayama is from southwest Miyazaki, from the city of Kobayashi, which, in the Edo Period, was inside the Kagoshima han, a.k.a. Satsuma.

If one indeed put plugs the characters for "Shimazu Nariakira" and "Nakayama Nariaki" into Google, out pops a cascade of speculation, mostly on the list-serve 2Chaneru, about the connection in between the daimyo's and the JRA politician's names -- but no official confirmation of a link.

Given the rarity of the character in question, the near homophony of the given names, Nakayama's birthplace and Nakayama's jut-jawed nationalism, it would be weird if the person who came up with Nakayama's given name were not a Shimazu clan fan.

Mito may have provided the ideology; Choshu the brains; Tosa the inspiration. Satsuma provided the brawn..not just in the Restoration in '68, but the Invade Korea dispute (Seikanron) in '73, the invasion of Taiwan in '74, the pressuring of Korea to sign the Kanghwa Treaty in '76, both sides in the Seinan War in '77 (the reason why Yasukuni was established), deposing the Ryukyuan king in '79...

"Japanese nationalism" -- it's all interconnected...and a lot of the time, it's Just A Satsuma Thing.

Later - For fans of the institutional, rather than the familial, indicators, both Nakayama Nariaki and Nakayama Kyoko are former Finance Ministry bureaucrats.

Image courtesy: Wikipedia

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