Tuesday, May 3, 2011


History remembers Japanese martyrs of China's revolution

On May 22, 1907, a revolutionary uprising near the port of Chaozhou in Guangdong had its final days. Surrounded by Qing troops, the ringleaders were hiding in a cave, eating red berries.

One dressed his comrades in the suits of Japanese businessmen and bluffed their way through the Qing lines to reach a Japanese cargo ship in the port, which took them to the safety of Hong Kong.

The man who saved the life of his conspirators was Nagatomo Kayano, one of the many Japanese who were inspired by Dr Sun Yat-sen and devoted themselves to his revolution. They gave him their careers and their assets -- and some their lives.

In this year, the 100th anniversary of the Xinhai revolution and the Republic of China, the story of these Japanese supporters shows another face of their country. If their advice had been followed, the history of the 20th century would have been different.

"The Japanese who fought for China's revolution were inspired by the fervor of Dr Sun," wrote Kayano in his memoirs. "When I talked with him, I realized he would fight until the end. So I decided to join his struggle, to live and die with him."

Kayano and his compatriots were inspired by Sun's vision of a democratic and republican China that would end the country's decline and ally with Japan in opposing the western powers. They wanted China to follow the example of their own country -- to modernize, industrialize and earn its independence.

After the Qing government forced the Macau government to expel Sun from the city in 1894, he spent the next 17 years in exile, in Europe, the United States, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and mainly Japan, which he visited 10 times and where he spent nearly 10 years. He built up a support base of 300 Japanese.

One of them, Toten Miyazaki, believed that Sun could change China and introduced him to senior politicians who gave their approval for him to remain in Japan and set up his operational base there.

It was in Tokyo on August 20, 1905 that Sun formed the Tongmenhui, the Chinese Revolutionary Alliance (CRA), which seven years later became the Kuomintang. It was the foundation of the Xinhai revolution. Eight Japanese were members, including Kayano and Shokichi Umeya, who had met Sun earlier that year in Hong Kong, where he ran a photographic shop.

Umeya was also inspired by Sun's vision of a prosperous East Asia and freedom and equality for its citizens and threw himself wholeheartedly into the struggle.

Umeya rented an office for the CRA in the Yurakucho district of central Tokyo and borrowed money to finance its newspaper, the Voice of the People. Over the next 20 years, Umeya raised billions of yen to pay for Sun's travel and living expenses, weapons and ammunition for the uprisings and, in 1915, a flying school in Japan to train Chinese pilots.

After Sun's death, Umeya commissioned four large bronze statues, up to 2.5 meters high and each weighing a ton, and sent them to China. They remain today where he donated them – Sun's mausoleum in Nanjing, the Huangpu Military Academy and Zhongshan University in Guangzhou and the Sun Memorial Home in Macao.

Umeya also commissioned dozens of small busts but ran out of money. So he used funds set aside for his daughter's wedding. When she protested, he replied: "many Japanese respect Mr Zhong-shan. These busts will ensure that his thinking lives on for ever."

He even planned a temple in Sun's memory. After the Japanese occupation of Manchuria in 1931, he publicly criticized the government and was interrogated by the military police; the newspapers called him a 'traitor'.

A sick man, he went to Tokyo to petition the Prime Minister in person but collapsed at the city's railway station and died on November 23, 1934, aged 66.

The Umeya family still runs the Matsumoto Hotel overlooking Hibiya Park in central Tokyo, close to where the CRA held its inaugural meeting. In a room in the hotel is a small exhibition devoted to Sun, including a piano played by his wife.

This year the Modern History Research Centre of the China Academy of Social Science has commissioned a copper statue of Umeya, which it will donate to his native place in Nagasaki, in memory of his friendship with Sun.

Of Sun's Japanese supporters, Kayano was the closest to the front line. Born in Kochi in 1873, he moved to Osaka in 1890 and became a reporter for the Jiji Press, one of Japan's two biggest news agencies. He became interested in the city's democratic movements and was under surveillance by the police.

In 1892, he moved as a reporter to Shanghai, where he quickly became fluent in Mandarin. He wore Chinese clothes and a pigtail, which he did not cut off until October 1910. He became indistinguishable from a Chinese.

As a journalist, he saw at first hand the weakness and inefficiency of the Qing government and the contempt with which the Caucasians held the Chinese. During a visit to Hong Kong in 1895, he met Sun and pledged his support.

He joined the CRA in Tokyo and set up 'Revolutionary Review', a Japanese-language magazine to promote Sun's ideas. His office attracted revolutionaries from China as well as Vietnam, Poland and Russia.

In 1907, under pressure from the Qing, the government expelled Sun; Kayano accompanied him to Hong Kong, where they planned the Huanggang uprising. After its failure, Kayano returned to Japan and raised enough money to purchase from the Osaka arms market 2,000 rifles, 3,000 pistols and 20 military swords, which he put on a Japanese cargo ship for Shantou.

In October 1910, he was in Wuchang to take part in the uprising that finally overthrew the Qing. Sun invited him to attend the proclamation ceremony for the Republic of China in Nanjing and he followed Sun for the next 15 years of struggle until his death in 1925.

Kayano also played a major role in negotiations that could have averted a war between Japan and China. In December 1931, the Japanese Prime Minister, a personal friend, sent him to Shanghai to negotiate secretly with the government over Manchuria, occupied by Japan's Kwantong army two months before.

Through personal contacts with the government, Kayano reached an agreement to negotiate the withdrawal of the Kwantong army, with senior figures from China and Japan to meet in Manchuria on January 10. But the Japanese military and Foreign Ministry found out about the negotiations and torpedoed them.

Prime Minister Tsuyoshi Inukai, 76, wrote a despairing letter to the chief Chinese negotiator. "I am deeply worried by the troubled situation of which you speak. I wish to take this occasion to work out an extensive plan for the prosperity of all Asia. This was the foremost wish of Dr Sun Yat-sen and it is my wish as well. It is my hope that you may do something great for the yellow races."

The Mainichi Shimbun newspaper commented that, had Kayano's peace mission been successful, war with China could have been averted and Japan's history would have been different.

But the forces of hatred and militarism triumphed. Kayano died on April 14, 1947 aged 74, a deeply disappointed man, having seen the ideals that had guided his life destroyed in the most terrifying war in history

The first Japanese martyr of the revolution was Yoshimasa Yamada, who was killed by Qing troops in a failed uprising in Huizhou in 1900, at the age of 32.

Born in 1868, he went to Shanghai to work in the office of a Japanese trading company in 1890 and improved his already excellent Mandarin. There and in Beijing, he saw the pitiful conditions of ordinary Chinese and met Kang Youwei (???)?who advocated peaceful reform.

In July 1898, he met Sun in Tokyo and swore allegiance to him. In the spring of 1900, he went to work as a teacher at a Japanese-funded college in Nanjing. In October, he joined the uprising which cost him his life.

His work was continued by his cousin Juntaro, who became Sun's secretary in 1906 and helped him to negotiate a loan of 120 million Chinese dollars from the Mitsui Company. His home in the French concession of Shanghai became a centre for Sun's revolutionary activities.

In 1916, a political rival shot dead an ally of Sun who was staying in the house. Terrified by the sound, the maid holding Yamada's baby daughter dropped her to the ground, causing an injury to her chest, which left her crippled for life.

Juntaro lived in Shanghai until 1948, working as a teacher and publisher of newspapers and magazines. After returning to Japan, he set up a museum of materials on the Chinese revolution and promoted ties between the two countries. He died in Tokyo in 1960, at the age of 85.

Another martyr was Shintaro Kaneko, a Japanese infantry officer who joined the Chinese revolutionary army in Wuhan in October 1911 and was killed in battle, at the age of 47.

The wife Sun left behind

One of the least known episodes of Sun's life in Japan is his marriage to a 15-year-old schoolgirl named Kaoru Otsuki in 1903. They had a daughter, Fumiko, born on May 12, 1905. She did not learn until the 1950s that her father was the founder of the Republic of China.

This liaison remained secret for decades because neither Taipei nor Beijing wanted the world to know that a national figure they held in such reverence had had a second marriage with a teenage foreigner and abandoned her when she was expecting.

The two first met in 1898, when they were living in the same building in the Chinatown district of Yokohama. At that time, Sun already had a wife, Lu Muzhen, from his native village in an arranged marriage in 1886, who had borne him a son and two daughters.

In 1902, Sun asked Kaoru's father for her hand but he refused, citing the 22 years difference in age and the fact that she was so young. He later relented and the two married the next year.

Before Fumiko's birth, Sun had to leave Japan. Unable to contact him and with little money, Kaoru had their daughter adopted by a brewing family in Yokohama named Miyagawa when she was five and gave them the engagement ring which she had received from Sun. She never saw her husband again.

Kaoru later married the brother of a wealthy banker; but, when he found a letter from Sun in the house, he divorced her. Then she moved far away to Tochigi prefecture, married the manager of a temple and had a son by him.

Fumiko's grandfather told her only in 1951 who were her birth parents. She had a son named Toichi. Earlier this year, he spoke to Chinese-language Asiaweek, his first interview to a Chinese media. He said that, in 1956, mother and son went to the temple to see Kaoru for the first time. "She was a beautiful old woman, short in stature and with a light smile. She said that they had chosen Fumi, because its pronunciation was very close to the Chinese 'Fumei', to show that she was the daughter of Sun Yat-sen." Kaoru died in 1970, at the age of 83.

He told the magazine that, in June 1977, he had accompanied his mother on a visit to Taipei where they visited the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. Fumiko closely examined the statue of her father and said that her narrow face and deep eyes were a legacy from him.

In November 1980, the two were invited to the mainland, where they visited Beijing and Shanghai. They saw Sun's mausoleum in Nanjing where they were moved to tears. "During my life I never saw my father," said Fumiko. "I was never so happy as I am today and have no regrets. My mother had no alternative but to give me to be raised by another family." She died in May 1990; associations in Japan connected to Sun sent wreaths to her funeral.

Chen Fu-po, president of the Japan Sun Yat-sen Memorial Association, said that, according to long-term research they had conducted with elderly Chinese inhabitants of Yokohama, it was a historical fact that Sun had married Kaoru Otsuki. "In the past, both Taiwan and China wanted to hide or avoid this piece of history but there is no need to now. The strength of great men in history lies in the truth. Sun Yat-sen was a man, not a god." Asia Sentinel

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