The origin of the Sonjodo itself can be traced to the closing days of the Tokugawa government. Sho'in Yoshida (1830-59), who was renowned as an educator and had enlightened many people, wished to build the Sonjodo in Kyoto for the purpose of honoring the souls of Imperialists and encouraging the morale of the people. However, he was arrested during the Ansei Purge and died in prison, asking Irie Shi'en (Irie Kuichi 1837-64) to look after his affairs, to include the building of the Sonjodo. Shi'en himself was killed in the battle of Kinmon-no-Hen. When the Meiji era came, Yajiro Shinagawa, a disciple of Sho'in, found Sho'in's letter addressed to Shi'en on the Sonjodo. He made every effort to have his late teacher's earnest wish realized and eventually succeeded in founding the Sonjodo. There, Yajiro honored the souls of Imperialists in the closing days of the Tokugawa Shogunate. He also collected materials, including articles and letters left by them which show their achievements and put them in custody of the facility. Every year Yajiro held a memorial service for the deceased Imperialists exhibiting those materials.
After the death of Yajiro Shinagawa, Kanae Matsumoto, a member of the Committee for the Preservation of the Sonjodo, together with Yaichi Shinagawa, son of Yajiro, and others resolved that the facility should be newly built within the compound of Kyoto Imperial University, founded in 1897, and its collection donated to the university. They requested this to the Minister of Education in 1900 (33rd year of the Meiji era) and it was approved in February of following year (1901). As one can see clearly in Sho'in's letter to Shien, when he intended to found the Sonjodo in Kyoto, one of his purposes was to establish a university in Kyoto to gather able, talented young men and bring them up to be the elite for creating the new state. In April, 1903 ( 36th year of the Meiji era), the Sonjodo was rebuilt within the compound of the university, and Sho'in's wish and Yajiro's hearty desire were thus realized. The building itself still exists on the North western side of the Central Library of the university.
The Sonjodo collection contains books, hanging scrolls (kakemono), rolled books (makimono), folding screens (byobu), calligraphies (gaku), memorial articles (katana, eboshi, jingasa, gunsen, etc.), photographs and folios of rubbed copies. Under the circumstances mentioned above, the main part of this collection, as a matter of course, consists of the letters, reports submitted to the government (jousho) and manuscripts (kouhon) of Sho'in Yoshida. But it also contains plenty of documents and memorial articles belonging to Imperialists like Shinsaku Takasugi (1839-67), Genzui Kusaka (1840-64), Takayoshi Kido (1833-77) , Aritomo Yamagata (1838-1922) and others who were from Choshu ( roughly corresponding to present-day Yamaguchi Prefecture) and associated with Shokasonjuku ( a private school founded by Sho'in at Hagi, Choshu). In fact, this collection covers documents and materials of Imperialists not only from Choshu, but from all over Japan and from various classes too, from the members of the imperial family to feudal lords (Hanshu) to lower class samurai.
In 1903 (33rd year of the Meiji era), when the Sonjodo was donated to Kyoto Imperial University, the Committee for the Preservation of the Sonjodo requested the university to grant them permission to hold memorial ceremonies for Sho'in's and Shinagawa's deaths each year, that is, on 27 October (the anniversary of Sho'in's death) and on 26 February ( that of Shinagawa's) and to exhibit its collection in public, which was approved. Kouji Kinoshita , president of the university at that time, ordered the chief librarian, Bunjiro Shima, to pay special attention to the collection. Shima arranged for it to be kept in a rare books room and to be exhibited according to the request. Thereafter, for more than twenty years, those ceremonies were held twice a year, but from 1920, those were transformed into one small ceremony every autumn and a great ceremony every three years. The exhibition had been regularly held until 1944 when the precious and rare books, documents and other materials had to be evacuated. The ceremonies themselves were abandoned the following year.
This is the ninth time for our library to hold an exhibition with this theme ( the sixth time after World War II). This exhibition provides the opportunity to understand the ideas, scholarship and activities of the Imperialists who with high aspirations took an active part for the state from the closing days of the Tokugawa Shogunate to the beginning of the Meiji era. Needless to say, they are of great use for studying the history of the Imperial Restoration as well. Those Imperialists in fact laid the foundation for the modernization of Japan. Therefore, we think that to follow the trail of their 'footprints' around Sho'in Yoshida , which draw close also to the foundation of Kyoto University , is meaningful.
Our gratitude should be addressed to Professor Suguru Sasaki of the Institute for Research in Humanities, who kindly gave us advice and instructions. We are now planning to hold this exhibition by Electronic Library also, our first attempt at such an undertaking. For that project, we would like to express our appreciation to Professor Makoto Nagao of the Faculty of Technology, who is constantly giving us advice and instructions. We are looking forward to hearing the impressions of those who view the exhibition through computer display, a virtual exhibition space.
Last but not least, I would like thank the employees of Kyoto University Library which has exerted itself for this exhibition while continuing to do its everyday duties.
September 26th, 1994 Chief Librarian Naohiro Asao
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