The Salad Bowl. Vol. IV, No. 11. Nov. 1996. p. 1, 3.

Takayama Chogyuu, c. 1896
Shimizu Profiles:

Takayama Chogyuu

South of Mt. Fuji in eastern Shizuoka city there is a temple known as Ryuugeji. Among its hundreds of tomb stones, one grave is prominent. On top of a polished neo-classical German reliquary these words are etched -

Obviously we should transcend the present.

Written by a prominent Meiji era thinker, Takayama Chogyuu, this inscription is elegant and enigmatic. Many of Takayama's works are crafted in a literary style which seems arcane to contemporary readers. His works illustrate how much the Japanese language has changed in the last hundred years. It is a pity that Takayama is not more widely read, since many of this ideas are still timely.

Born into a well-to-do family in northeastern Japan three years after the Meiji Restoration of 1868, Chogyuu was the third son of a minor samurai. At the age of two he was adopted by his aunt's family.

In 1887 he entered high school in Sendai. A gifted learner, he was admitted to Tokyo Imperial University five years later. Graduating in 1895 with a degree in philosophy, he was influenced by the works of Thomas Greene. Greene's concepts of self-realization and nationalism were themes that Chogyuu expounded on throughout his life.

In his early twenties Chogyuu developed tuberculous. During this period he completed his most famous work, the Takiguchi Nyuudou, a semi-historical travelogue published in the Yomiuri Shinmbun. Seeking relief from his respiratory spasms, he went to the resort town of Atami in 1895, then spent the following winter in Shimizu. Writing about his experiences, Chogyuu described life in these areas with warmth, sensitivity, and nostalgia.

In 1896 Chogyuu moved to Sendai to teach English and logic at a prestigious high school. A student revolt the following year made him reevaluate his career options. Giving up English teaching to edit a literary magazine, Chogyuu moved to Tokyo. It was at this time he married Sato Sugi.

A surge of ultra-nationalism enveloped Japan in the wake of the Sino-Japanese War of 1895. Chogyuu wrote about his identity as a Japanese. Anticipating the thoughts of John Dewey, he regarded nationalism as laudable in some respects, but also recognized a need to cooperate internationally. Like many intellectuals of his era, he viewed nationalism as a part of moral training. Although patroitic, it would be a mistake to classify Chogyu as an military expansionist and Chogyuu later became disgusted with the militaristic tendencies developing in Japan.

While editing the magazine Taiyou, Chogyuu wrote about Walt Whitman and Nietzche. Both authors espoused the concept of heroic individuality and doctrine of universality within each individual. He came to view Nichiren (1222- 1287) as a sort of Japanese Zarathustra: a person who embodied both "Japaneseness" and humanity. Shortly before passing away, he wrote an essay comparing Nichiren with Jesus, outlining how both thinkers influenced history.

In 1900 Chogyuu received an offer from the Ministry of Education to study abroad for three years. He was tempted by the offer, but postponed and eventually canceled the trip due to poor health. Suffering from another series of TB spasms, he spent the fall of 1900 in Shimizu. Though his doctors advised him to avoid writing, he found it difficult to keep away from his pen.

In 1901 Chogyuu became a professor at Toyo University in Tokyo. Teaching one day a week, he devoted most of his time to writing about aesthetics. He regarded the aesthetic values of each culture as manifestations of their "kokoro" [spirit-ethos] and praised classical Japanese values.

In 1902 he received a Ph.D. in literature from Tokyo Imperial University, writing about Asuka era art. The work left him exhausted. Chogyuu put his last energy into Kangae Issoku [tr. "A Bundle of Thoughts"], an essay emphasizing the need for self-knowledge.

On Dec. 24, 1902 Chogyuu died. Requesting that his bones be buried close to Mt. Fuji, a memorial was built for him at Ryuugeji. His daughter Hatsuko, who also passed at the age of 31, rests next to him.

Although Chogyuu's literary career spanned a mere six years, he had a decisive impact on other Japanese intellects such as Hasegawa Tenkei, Anesaki Choufuu, and Tanaka Chigaku. He is not widely known outside of Japan, but his Takiguchi Nyuudou has been translated into English.

- Tim Newfields

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Copyright 1996 by Tim Newfields and the Shizuoka City International Association