Goryo Hamaguchi

Goryo Hamaguchi

Goryo Hamaguchi (浜口(濱口)梧陵 June 15, 1820 - April 21, 1885) was the seventh business owner of current Yamasa Corporation in Japan He saved many lives of his fellow villagers of Hiro-Mura (current Hirogawa, Wakayama), when a massive tsunami struck the Kii Peninsula in 1854. He set fire to stacks of "Inamura" (rice sheaves) to use as landmarks and help him guide those villagers to safe place. He is often considered to be a "Living God", due to Greek novelist Lafcadio Hearn's story about him in "Gleanings in Buddha-Fields: Studies of Hand and Soul in the Far East" (1897). "Inamura no Hi: The burning rice fields" (published in the U.S. by Sara Cone Bryant in 1963) also chronicled Goryo's heroic exploits and the historical account of his efforts were also introduced into Japanese textbooks.

Hamaguchi participated in various recovery efforts in Hiro-Mura, including the construction of a sea wall that spans more than 600 meters long, 20 meter wide and 5 meters high, which minimized damage from tsunamis in later years. He spent his own money on the project (94 kan and 344 monme of silver which is equivalent to 1,572 ryo: gold piece) and hired a total of 56,736 villagers to work on it.

In the field of education, Hamaguchi established a private academy for learning swordplay and Chinese classics with Hamaguguchi Toko and Iwasaki Meigaku at the end of the Edo period. This private academy was later called "Taikyu-Sha" and became the current Taikyu Junior High School after afew changes.

Hamaguchi became the Minister of Post and Telecommunications at the behest of Okubo Toshimichi in 1871 before he was elected the first chairman of the Wakayama Prefecture Assembly in 1879. After resigning as chairman, he founded the "Kinokuni Doyukai (Association)" and developed activities that encouraged democracy.

On April 21, 1885, Hamaguchi died in New York during his tour of Europe and the United States, which had been a long-cherished desire of his.

His funeral was held on June 15, 1885 in Hiro-Mura and more than 4,000 people people gathered to pay their final respects.

Life of Hamaguchi Goryo At Glance

Note)   In July of 1871, the abolition of the han system (feudal clan system) and establishment of the prefecture system was an act to replace the traditional han system and introduce new local government.

Early Life (from "A Short Story of Goryo Hamaguchi")

“The northwestern part of Hiro-Mura (current Hirogawa-cho) is facing the ocean and Miya-zaki (part of current Arida City) is located about 12 kilometers away right across of the bay. Kiri-saki and Ta-saki are parts of Tamura and Suhara (districts in current Yuasa-cho) along the jugged coastline between Hiro-Mura and Miya-zaki. Shira-saki (part of current Yura-cho) is located about 12 kilometer away from Hiro-Mura in the other direction. Nabae-saki and Medo-saki can be found near the area. The distance between Miya-zaki and Shira-saki is about 16 kilometer and there are Ashika-shima, Tsuru-shima and Kuro-shima in the Hidaka county side of the triangle area in the bay. Taka-shima, Karumo and Kenashi Islands are scattered in the east of those three islands like stars in night sky.”

As Goryo Hamaguchi described above he appreciated the beauty of his hometown in those islands and colors of waves that he could see on any given day from the village by the bay. Even though it would change the natural beauty of the village, he decided to spend a significant amount of money to build a seawall along the coastline of the village (more than 650 meters). He also planted rows of adult pine trees behind the seawall in order to prevent damage to the whole village from such a natural disaster as a tsunami.

The seawall and pines trees are not only the symbol of acts by this great man but also the eternal message to the villagers of what life is all about. Mr. Hamaguchi set an example of overcoming any hardship that we may encounter in our lives with dignity and wisdom. This is how he lived in the period of Meiji Restoration when Japan was searching for a leader can bring a country to right direction.

The Hamaguchi family was known for a ruling family of Hiro-Mura in Arida country over the years. They are the descendents of Yasutada of Taira who served the Lord Shiba in Owari (now called Aichi prefecture) and later renounced his regular daily life to practice at the Hodoin Temple in Mt. Koya. During the Meio period (1492-1500), he moved to Hro-Mura and became a believer of the ninth priest of Jitsunyo (Shonin) in the Honganji Temple sect. And during the Eisho period (1504-1520), he became a Buddhist monk called Seiryo and opened his own center of practice in Hiro-Mura.

His youngest son, Masaayoshi, took over his position to represent current Anraku-ji Temple in Hirogawa-cho. Yajiro Sanekage, another son of Yasutada, started a new family and it marked the beginning of the Hagaguchi family. The family engaged in soy sauce manufacturing business at the port of Choshi in Kamifusa (currently the northern part of Chiba prefecture) during the Genroku period (1688-1703) under Tomonao’s watch. It was the foundation of Yamasa Corporation, the premier soy sauce manufacture in the world today. The family tradition of using Gihei for the head of Hamagichi family started after Tomonao’s tenure.

Thanks to the geographical advantage of Chiba and other attributes related to soy sauce manufacturing, as well as dedicated efforts by the members of Hamagichi family over the generations after the first Gehei, Yamasa’s business flourished during the periods of Kyoho (1716-1735) and Houreki (1751-1763). Yamasa products were gaining popularity and in a huge demand by people in Edo (now called Tokyo) because of its premier quality. During the Bunsei period (1818-1829), the feudal government of Japan enforced its price control for almost all products. However Yamasa products were exempted from governmental pricing control since its product quality was so superior to others; the government even gave its highest honor to Yamasa as a soy sauce manufacture.

Shichiemon, a younger brother of the forth Gihei and the first to carry that name, started a branch family under the Hamagichi’s name. Since the second Shichiemon had no child, the younger brother of the fifth Gihei became the next Shichiemon. The sixth Gihei had no child either and the first son of the third Shichiemon became a successor of the original Hamaguchi family. He was Goryo Hamaguchi. Although he was adopted to the original Hamaguchi from its branch family, the fifth Gihei was his grandfather and his stepfather was a real uncle of his. Therefore, the bloodline of Hamaguchi is still intact.

The fifth Gihei, grandfather of Goryo with a great personality, was truly polite and showed his interest in variety of things. He found time to study and enjoyed fine arts every time he could get away from his work. He mastered the painting style of southern Chinese school under Kaiseki Noro and used “Kampo” as his signature. Goryo admired and respected him and was well taken care of by him. In that regard, Goryo was very much influenced by his grandfather in developing his own personality.

Goryo Hamaguchi was born on June 15, 1820 in Hiro-mura. He was raised by his biological mother Shin after his father, the third Shichiemon, died at the age of 22 when he was 2 years old. In September of 1831, he was adopted to the original Hamaguchi family as a successor and renamed his name to “Gita”. He soon left Hiro-mura for Choshi where he started learning the family business. The Hamaguchi family (Kichiemon) had house in Koami-cho, a Nihon-bashi district of Edo, where he stayed for a while before coming to Choshi because it was an important place for its business geographically (on the way to Choshi from Kishu). According to the Hamaguchi’s family creed, any family members even future business successors were treated equally with other employees and were not allowed to fool around from the early age. One of the reasons was to learn how to handle lots of problems so that he could accept any challenges may rise in the future. Another reason was to learn how to deal with as many people as possible so that he could be a great leader in understanding others feeling. He was not an exception and slept in the same room and ate the same dishes as other employees. Overcoming many hardships in his early ages, he dedicated himself to the family business success. At the age of 15, he celebrated his “Genko”, a ceremony to be recognized as an adult, and renamed himself o “Gitaro”. He put lots of efforts in practicing swordsmanship and studying I Ching, the oldest Chinese classic texts, as his grandfather Kampo encouraged him by sending a letter saying “those are interesting subjects to learn”. Grandfather Kampo died in Autumn when he turned 18.

Long lasting friendships affected his life

In October of 1839, Goryo married to a daughter of Umetaro Ikenaga in Yuasa at the age of 20. After staying in Hiro-mura for another 6 months, he came back to Choshi via Edo in the following spring. By the time, he already mastered techniques of various martial arts especially for swordsmanship. In addition, thanks to efforts he put in for general studies and fine arts earlier, he was very good at composing and writing poets. He accidentally met Gonsai Miyake, who became his mentor and friend for life, in his academic quest and physical training. Gonsai was originally from Shimabara in Hizen (current Nagasaki prefecture) and devoted himself in medical study since his birth in 1817 (Bunka 14). He studied science introduced to Japan by Dutch in Nagasaki and later moved to Edo. At that time, people were debating over Chinese medicine and Western medicine until the feudal government made a favorable ruling to Chinese medicine because of its similar environment to Japanese. Western medicine is prohibited from practicing for practical use in the following March.

ee Also

Lafcadio Hearn


* Hearn, Lafcadio "Gleanings in Buddha-Fields: Studies of Hand and Soul in the Far East (1897)"
* Ladd, George Trumbull "Rare Days in Japan (1910)"
* Ladd, George Trumbull "In Korea with Marquis Ito (1908)"
* Bryant, Sara Cone "The Burnining Rice Fields (1963)"
* Hodges, Margaret Moore "The Wave (1964)"

External links

* [http://www.yamasa.com/english/index.html YAMASA Corporation]
* [http://www.yamasausa.com/ Yamasa Corporation USA]
* [http://www.town.hirogawa.wakayama.jp/inamuranohi/english/index.html "Inamura no Hi" no Yakata]
* [http://www.kantei.go.jp/foreign/koizumispeech/2005/01/18address_e.html Speech by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi]

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