Sunday, August 7, 2011

MUSINGS / July 18, 2011

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun's July 18 issue.

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In 1868, during the Boshin War, a fierce battle was fought when forces seeking to return political power to the imperial court attacked Tsurugajo castle, a stronghold of the Aizu domain (now part of Fukushima Prefecture), which was loyal to the ruling Tokugawa shogunate.

Among those on the Tokugawa side was a 24-year-old woman who, after her younger brother died in the battle, donned his clothes, cut her hair like a man's and took up arms herself, rushing through the smoke to join the battle.

This woman, referred to as a late-Edo period Japanese Joan of Arc, later became the wife of Jo Niijima, who founded Doshisha University after the Meiji Restoration.

She is Yae Niijima, the heroine of a yearlong historical TV drama titled "Yae no Sakura" (Yae's cherry) that NHK plans to start airing in 2013.

The city of Aizu-Wakamatsu, where the castle is located, has been the setting for a number of historical TV dramas.

But local people's hopes are higher for this NHK series than for any that have come before it. Their proud tourism industry has been devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Even though Aizu-Wakamatsu is 100 kilometers from the troubled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, people scared of radiation have been reluctant to visit. The number of visitors to the city for school excursions in spring was down 90 percent from last year.

The hot spring inns and hotels in the city have been accommodating many evacuees from within the vicinity of the crippled nuclear plant, so the situation at those establishments is far from business as usual.

At such a time, it is nice of both Kagoshima and Yamaguchi prefectures to have offered their support to the tourism industry of Aizu-Wakamatsu.

These two prefectures--formerly the Satsuma and Choshu domains of the imperial forces during the Boshin War, and thus old enemies of the Aizu domain--may have been unable to remain indifferent to the sorry plight of Aizu-Wakamatsu.

Yae is said to have endured any hardship, never given up and always believed in the future.

The life of Yae, and her survival through tumultuous times, may offer a cue for the "revival of Aizu."

(Jul. 21, 2011)

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