Coded letters written by a 19th century Japanese statesman along with other historical documents were unearthed in an old storehouse in Kyoto. The letters were correspondence between Tomomi Iwakura (1825-1883) and some notable leaders at the front line in Kyushu during the civil war of Sein in 1877. There were also letters addressed to statesman Toshimichi Okubo (1830-1878) from Osaka.
The letters were decoded using a telegram technology and circular-shaped coding table. Acting as an early form of intelligence-gathering material, the letters contain the movements and plans of former warrior class members all over Japan. Iwakura was the Minister of Right during the Meiji government and was the second most powerful man in Tokyo that time. He led a two-year journey around the world to help Japan’s road to modernization. Another letter included in the treasure trove for historians and students of Japanese history was handwritten by the last shogun of the Edo Period (1603-1867), Tokugawa Yoshinobu. Written on March 7, 1868, it was addressed to Tomosada Iwakura, son of Tomomu and commander of the armed forces of the Meiji government. The letter informed Tomosada to stop an attack planned on Edo, which was supposed to take place eight days after the letter was written. The shogun said that he alone should be held liable in an attempt to save “innocent members of the public” from the effects of war.
Foreign studies professor from Kyoto University Kiyoshi Matsuda said that rummaging through the materials and documents found in the warehouse where the Yamamoto Dokushoshitsu school used to stand took him two years. The school, which opened during the Edo Period, taught medicine, painting and Confucian studies before shutting down in the Meiji era. “It is very significant that historical materials straddling a broad gamut of academic disciplines, such as Japanese history, art history, Japanese literature and science history, were uncovered in such bulk,” he said.
[via Asahi Shimbun]