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Takami Senseki
(1785-1858) was a scholar of Dutch studies and a chief retainer of the Koga Domain (present-day Ibaraki Prefecture). In 1837, the feudal lord of Koga succeeded in quelling a rebellion led by Ôshio Heihachirô (1793-1837). In connection with this victory, Senseki paid a visit to Seigan-ji Temple in the Asakusa District of Edo as the lord’s representative.

Retainer of the Koga fief (古河藩)that could yield 80.000 Goku(石)of rice (NOTE: in other words around 14.5 billion liters of rice. In those days, around 96 million people could be fed with this amount (150kg/person) per year, which means about 260.000 people per day. People consume less rice and nowadays 650.000 people or so could be fed with the same amount in one day). Also specialized in studies of the Western culture. Worked a lot as the assistant of Koga Lord Toshitsura Doi(土井利位)for whom gave cooperation in the private conception of the Sekka-Zusetsu(雪華図説), the Illustrated Crystal Encyclopedia.

Accomplishments as daimyō (local lord) minister
During Edo-era(江戸時代), the Koga fief (today’s Koga city) was not included in Hitachi-No-Kuni territory(常陸国) but in Shimousa-No-Kuni(下総国). Koga was a strategic land and water point of transportation and since it was close to Edo (former name of Tōkyō), many hereditary daimyo families appointed there were accounted at important Bakufu (Note: shogun government) offices.

The Doi family for which Senseki Takami had served was a noted family with hereditary powers. The Doi family was first designated in the Koga fief when Toshikatsu Doi became chief minister (1633). The family was temporarily transferred but was reappointed in Koga (1762). From that point, it kept the lordship of the Koga domain until 1869, year of the Meiji Hanseki-Houkan(版籍奉還)(note : return of the lands and people to the emperor). More precisely, Senseki Takami served Toshitsura Doi(Lord between 1822 and 1848).

Toshitsura successively held the positions of instrumentalist guard, temples and shrines magistrate, Ōsaka castle keeper, all being Bakufu elite offices. As Toshitsura was the Ōsaka castle keeper broke out the Ooshio Heihachirou rebellion, and Senseki was in charged of gathering help forces.

Besides, Toshitsura slung himself up and became 京都所司代, member of the Shogun’s Council of Elders and helped Mizuno Tadakuni(忠邦水野)reform the shogunate administration. When the reform went too far, Tadakuni Mizuno lost his standing and Toshitsura assumed the head-position of Shogun’s Council of Elders. This coincides with the beginning of the collapse of the feudal system under the Tenpou Era(天保期between 1830 and 1843)

Achievements as learner of the Western culture
Senseki’s contribution as a learner of the Western culture is more famous than his role as a daimyo’s minister. He showed a passionate interest in the collection of Western civilization products. As a geographer, he was the first Japanese to provide an original map of a foreign country, the “New Translated Map of the Netherlands”, or the Shinyaku-Orandakoku-Chizu(新訳和蘭国地図).

Senseki, who was a good academic advisor to feudal lord Toshitsura Doi, gave his cooperation in the writing of the Illustrated Encyclopedia on Snow Crystallization, the Sekka-Zusetsu(雪華図説, litteraly the encyclopedia on Flower-Shaped Snow).

The wide knowledge of Senseki concerning the Western culture is also reflected in his political theories as a daimyo’s minister. He preached for a Western style of military preparation and was a strong advocate of a port-opening policy, that is to say he thought one should open ports and assimilate Western systems and techniques and prepare for a possible fights against foreign countries.

He was also a very close friend of painter and Western culture learner Kazan Watanabe(渡辺華山)whose portrait of Senseki Takami, very famous, is now being held at the National Museum of Tōkyō(東京国立博物館蔵).


Digital Art
Photoshop CS5

Public Domain Images:
Wikimedia.org (Commons):


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