To brush your history a bit, the Namamugi Incident occurred in 1862 when Charles Richardson, a merchant from Britain was killed by Shimazu Hisamitsu’s bodyguards when his party of four came too close for comfort with their procession. Apparently disrespect to the samurai could be fatal for the Japanese locals; however Foreigners were exempt from this rule. The slaying of Richardson and grievous injury to his friends sparked the Anglo-Satsuma War. Letters written by Richardson, days before his death were discovered by his family and will now be a part of an exhibition in the Yokohama museum.
The collection of letters includes one sent to his family just 11 days before his death; it recounts how wonderful Japan was for him. The letters were discovered by the family almost 20 years ago, along with other related family items. Michael Wace, a great-grandson of Richardson’s elder sister discovered the memorabilia and was keen to let the world know what Richardson thought about his time in Japan. The exhibition opens on the 19th of July, however Wace and his wife will visit Japan in September and pay tribute to his grave.
Although the Namamugi Incident was significant in terms of the ensuing war and realization by the Satsumo Domain to keep an open mind while embracing the world perspective; little was ever known about Richardson. The discovery of the letter and its contents gives us a foreigner’s view on how Japan was perceived by them at that time. According to Richardson, Japan was ‘abundant with gold and camphor’ and predicted it would go on to become a big trading country. In the last letter that he ever wrote, Richardson praised Japan, stating that the view of hills and beaches were outstanding. He went on to describe the wide streets of Edo (Tokyo), likening them to Regent Street in London. Around 30 exhibits, including Richardson’s letters, will be shown at the Yokohama Archives of History in Yokohama from July 19 to Oct. 21. The exhibition is titled, “Namamugi Jiken, Gekishin, Bakumatsu Nihon” (Namamugi Incident, a big impact, Japan in the closing years of the Tokugawa Shogunate).
[Via Asahi Shimbun]