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Akiyama Brothers Memorial

Statues of two famous soldiers in Baishinji

The Akiyama brothers, Saneyuki and Yoshifuru, from Matsuyama, played important roles in Japan’s history when the country emerged as a world power in the Meiji Period.

The brothers were born in Matsuyama Domain, Iyo Province, the sons of a poor samurai. Yoshifuru trained as a cavalryman while Saneyuki studied literature as a youth with his childhood friend, the famous poet Masaoka Shiki. However, due to lack of funds, Yoshifuru ordered his younger brother go to the Naval Academy in Tsukiji, Tokyo. The brothers subsequently became major personages in their respective spheres. Yoshifuru fought against the Cossacks in Russia, ending his days as headmaster of a junior high school in Matsuyama. Saneyuki also took part in the Russo-Japanese war, planning the decisive Battle of Tsushima. He later went to America as a naval attaché where he studied the theories of Alfred Thayer Mahan, the leading naval strategist of the time.

The Baishinji area of Matsuyama has a memorial to the Akiyama brothers, which consists of two bronze statues. To see these, you have to climb a couple of small hills. The statues stand on separate knolls, with Yoshifuru, the senior brother lower down. Each stands next to a cherry tree which wreaths it in blossoms in early April. Saneyuki’s statue is surrounded by naval shells, anchors, and other symbols of his trade. The men portrayed by both statues have a rather diffident air about them and they reminded me more of railway personnel than soldiers.

The hill where the statues stand is covered with trees and the path winds gently upwards, crossing a road bridge. When I visited in early spring, the trees were full of birds, singing and twittering away. A kite flew in lazy circles overhead, issuing its plaintive mewing cry. Whether you have a particular interest in the Akiyamas or not, it’s a nice walk.

You can also visit the birthplace of the Akiyama brothers in the center of Matsuyama off Ropeway Dori. The house where they were born has been reconstructed, and there are two more statues of the illustrious couple there too.

The memorial is located a few hundred meters to the south of Baishinji Station. From the station, you can just make out the greenish figure of Saneyuki under his cherry tree.

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Kyle Hedlund 12 years ago
Congratulations on submitting Japantourist.jp's 1000th article, Rod!

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