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Osugi Sakae was a legendary Japanese figure whose life actions and believes helped usher in the western culture to the Japanese world. From his early life, Osugi acted has a great revolutionist who brought secularism to the Japanese people. When we look into his person autobiography, we get to point out the motivating factors that were behind his struggle for social freedom. The book, The Autobiography of Osugi Sakae he wrote documents every detail on why he believed that change should be brought to the people. He takes us on a journey through his life, the achievements, the setbacks, the regrets and his most significant ambitions.
According to his biography, Sakae was born on 17th January 1885 in Marugame, Kagawa as the eldest son of a Japanese military captain, Osugi Azuma, and Kusui Yataka (Sakae). His father who was an army general was a firm believer in Buddhism. He spent most of his early life surrounded by military personnel. The military influence saw him venture into the Japanese military enrolled as a cadet officer. His military life was short-lived due to his indetermination to serve in the disciplined forces.
Osugi faced a lot of misconduct allegation when he was a student in the cadet school. He was accused of homosexuality and violence where he engaged in a knife fight with one of the students. After numerous suspensions, he was finally expelled from the military. His ejection from the cadet school paved way to his academic life.
Life Experience and Academic Interests
After his expulsion from the military school, in January 1902 Osugi went to Tokyo to study literature which so him learning English, Germany, Italian, French, Russian and Esperanto. His exposure to the European languages meant that social influence on the western culture was inevitable. His interest in Christianity and archaism was further fueled when he enrolled to study French in his higher learning. At the time a typical Japanese was a statist in the making from its cultural belief of centralized power form of governance. Institutions were not independent of the government. Osugis' study of anthropology and archeology significantly transformed his view on life contrary to the society believes.
He went further to study various books including Bakunin and Kropotkin leading him to develop his theory on ethical egoism, which paves the way for his revolutionary character that set to influence on the Japanese society. The basis of this theory was a push for democratic (Nagatsuki, 1989) independence on peoples believes. His firm belief on outdoing the socialist literature for the people gave birth to the open-platform novelty that gave people the power to take charge of literature writing and development. His actions stirred a movement that ended rubbing shoulders with the authorities leading them being labeled as outcast undermining the society's way of life.
From his revolutionary mindset, Osugi was always distant to his family. His closes allies were his revolutionary comrades and friends sharing the same ideologies. As a leader of the various revolutionary movement, Osugi spends a better part of his time off and in prison. This came from charges that were directed at him on an allegation of treason on the Meiji Emperor. His outspoken social believes and anarchism was the cause of his persecution. From the year 192 to 1916 there was a massive crackdown on anarchists and socialist by the government that saw hundreds of Osugis' comrades arrested and imprisoned. Eleven of the foremost leaders were (Sakae)judge and convicted on the death penalty on what came to be known as The Great Trial of 1910-1911. Osugis neck was spared when eleven of his comrades were brutally executed (Sakae).
Factors that Contributed to Osugis' Conversion to Christianity and Socialism
It is general knowledge to see rebellious individuals trying to explore new experience that what the general public believes in. Osugi was not the exception to this. His revolutionary mindset gave him a curiosity to explore further beliefs that ended him converting to Christianity. His desire to learn more about the European culture can be witnessed in his determination to learn most of the major Europe languages. These gave him an association with Christianity and the Western lifestyle. To acknowledge the factors that led to his drastic changes, we are going to outline the primary motivating factors.
He believed in independent living. During his academic life, Sakae experiences an urge for self-empowerment has seen in his ethical egoism theory. The will to explore other culture that merged with his believes saw him gaining interest in Christianity that seemed to advocate for equality and social democracy. The identity derived from Christianity saw him embracing it in spite of the unpopularity of Christianity in the imperial Japan of the early 19 century.
He was interested in natural science. Osugi had a passion for learning more about humanity and nature. This can be attributed to his yearning to learn more about human evolution and other natural science. The freedom of life that his advocated for in the natural science got embedded in Sakaes' believes hence paving the way for his conversion to socialism. From the knowledge gained from studying books such as Discourse on Evolution by Oka Asjiro's became the motivating factor to naturalism which in the end yielded in in conversion to socialism.
Osugi's academic exposure to the western world. Sakae had a passion for learning all that entails the European life. His understanding of the major languages of Europe gave him a platform to do personal research on what experience was like in the western world. The lifestyle of the west promotes individuals independence and rights to be heard. This became lucrative for the rebellious Osugi who was still trying to find his self-identity in imperial Japan. The ideology preached in the Western culture was in line with his personal beliefs hence becoming a stepping stone to his conversion to Christianity and socialism.
The Amakasu Incident
Amakasu incident is the widely used term to refer to an event which happened on September 16, 1923, after the Great Kanto Earthquake in Japan. The tension brought by the earthquake sparked fears amongst the officials from the government that the anarchists will take advantage of the chaos produced by the quake to overthrow the government. This saw a massive crackdown carried by the military police where the anarchists were targeted and brutally murdered. Including those targeted was Osugi Sakae where the military police beat him to death together with his lover and his six years old nephew. This act caused a nationwide uproar which facilitated the spread of socialism which has found ground in today's Japanese society.
The Meiji Politics and Society
In the early 19th century, Japan gained its world recognition for being the only non-western country to be able to fend the Western supremacy from gaining ground on its territories. (Sakae)This has been attributed to the early foundation on social life and imperialism that was founded during and before the Meiji era. The Meiji area started from October 23, 1868, to July 30, 1912. It is during this period that the Japanese society was transformed from a private federal organization to a modernized society. This transformation was accrued from the Japanese ideology of extending its imperial power to the neighboring states in the Pacific.
Many scholars have hailed this period as the introduction of democracy to the Japanese people. The change in societal beliefs gave rise to great reformists who helped to usher in Japan to the global form of leadership. The abolition of the Han system significantly fueled the revolution and having it being replaced by order of prefectures which took powers from independent institutions making everyone to be answerable to the Emperor. This great revolutionist included Osugi as discussed above, Choshu, Honshu, and Satsuma just to name a few. Their undying determination made the Meiji are a turning point in the Japanese society and all nation as a whole.
The Meiji era society saw a social class ranking system which was defined as Shinokosho. This ranking system was based on Confucianism that had been borrowed from China. The noblemen who were the rulers enjoyed more privileges in the society. The second class citizens where the samurai who were the warriors followed by the farmers/peasants and lastly, the artisans and finally the merchants. Takashi in his publication The Soil brought out a captivating story of how life was for the peasants who majorly resided in the villagers. From his writing, we can outline how the farmers were rated at a lower rank despite their tremendous effort in the production resource to run the Empire (Nagatsuki, 1989). The constant mistreatment like a requirement to seek for a permit for free movement within the empire brought great division in the society.
Importance of Autobiography Writing
Autobiographies have always acted as the best tools in keeping history and passing of knowledge. This comes from the fact that first-hand information is written and passed by the character. The values of these autobiographies include the following.
The ability to speak directly on your life to the descendants. The autobiography provides a tool where an individual can relay messages directly to his descendants in his life. This enables one to pass crucial information to his next of keen or other interested parties. The book gave an opportunity to write is life from his personal experience to any concerned party. He had been labeled an enemy of the state, but his autobiography guides us on the real picture of his achievements on social changes he brought to the society
It opens doors for one to reconcile his past mistakes to his present time. When an excellent autobiography is maintained, one can acknowledge his past mistakes and devise a mechanism to avoid repeating those mistakes. Osugi was able to recognize his past mistakes and pursue his desires. He acknowledges the mistakes that had led him being targeted by the state and laid out measures that he could use to pressure the government without being on the wrong side of the law
It increases self-awareness. An autobiography helps an individual to identify his ambition. In doing so, it gives one a chance of self-awareness to understanding his purpose in life. The autobiography shows how Sakae was able to get his life purpose in his determination to bring change to the society
Through history, great revolutions have paved the way for changes in the society. Sacrifices made by great revolutionary leaders such as Osugi Sakae in Japan should never be undermined. Instead, their work should be a working example of a push in a change inequality and better governance in the current society. Instead of the wrong image given to this revolutionist, such as being named as outcasts in the community, much need to be done to appreciate their work in fighting for the minorities who have been overlooked in the community. This is because their work serves to remind us of self-tolerance and respect which we should accord each other at all times.
Anne Walthall, M. W. (2017). Politics and Society in Japan's Meiji Restoration. California: Macmillan.
Nagatsuki, T. (1989). The Soil: portrait of Rural Life in Meiji Japan (Voices from Asia). California: University of California.
Sakae, Osugi. The Autobiography of Osugi Sake. California: University of California, 1992. E-Book.
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