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General Nogi

The noble spirit of Japan's last samurai

On the 13th of September in 1912, General Nogi Maresuke and his wife Shizuko ended their lives following the classical Japanese warrior tradition of junshi, following one's master into death.

The general's master was none other than the Emperor Meiji and after his funeral procession had left the Imperial palace, Maresuke and Shizuko went back to their home in Nogizaka, Tokyo and followed him into the hereafter.

It is with much regret that not much is known about Madame Shizuko's thoughts and feelings about following her husband into the void. Her memory raises many questions that may never be answered. General Nogi, however, left behind a clear explanation for his decision. A man of much respect and dignity, a man of letters, the general was haunted by the loss of his soldiers' lives many years before.

His poetry exhibits much in the way of regret; the general took the deaths of his men personally and wished to atone for their loss. At one point, he asked the Emperor for permission to take his own life but was refused. In his final letter, Nogi reiterated his desire to expunge the guilt he felt for losing so many men almost a generation prior and to follow his Emperor into the world beyond. In his own words, "I have made up my mind to take the step."

A celebrated national hero, Nogi lived his life during Japan's emergence from almost three hundred years of feudal isolation. His ritual death, seen by many to be an anachronism from a bygone age, was still considered a shock. But it also revealed Nogi to be a man of deep loyalty, dignity and for not a few, Japan's last samurai.

Dedicated to the general and his wife, the immaculately kept grounds of the Nogi Shrine in Nogizaka features the home of the late couple. The room where both ended their lives remains visible, a solemn reminder of the spirit of another time.

Getting there

Take the Chiyoda Subway Line to Nogizaka Station. The Nogi Shrine is a short walk from Exit 1.

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Lynda Hogan 3 years ago
I saw your comment about the photo of Shizuko looking intense, so possibly not at peace with the decision. It is a shame that we will never know her thoughts and feelings, but without doubt we can tell she was a loyal wife, perhaps the unsung hero in this tale.
Sleiman Azizi Author 3 years ago
There very well may be something about it in Japanese but I just can't spare the time at the moment to do anything other than the most perfunctory research on it.
Cathy Cawood 4 years ago
I think his face looks gentle, but maybe it's sadness I'm seeing there.
Sleiman Azizi Author 4 years ago
There is a photograph of him and his wife on the morning of the day they took their lives. He looks completely at ease and she looks... intense?
Elena Lisina 4 years ago
History is always interesting, especially with the look from modern time. I watch historical films and they show progressive Japanese people who always wanted the same - thier country to be united, peaceful and prosperous. But, of course, there are always stubborn and narrow minded people...
Sleiman Azizi Author 3 years ago
It's very much a different age now. Very different.

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