Saigo Takamori - The Man Behind
This is the first real biography, in English or Japanese, of Saigo Takamori - ",the last Samurai", - the great hero of Meiji Japan. It is impossible to over-estimate Saigo's importance, both during the pivotal Meiji period and today. A samurai from Kagoshima, Saigo played a major role during the Meiji Restoration, then died in 1877 while involved in a samurai rebellion against the government he had done so much to create. He remains today among Japan's most beloved national heroes, and is universally believed to embody the very essence of what it means to be Japanese. As the Japanese themselves say to foreigners - ",Understand Saigo and you will understand Japan",. Yet for one so firmly fixed in the public heart and mind, Saigo is surrounded by controversy and ambiguity, and his life has been the subject of sustained debate since before his death. As this fascinating and highly important study shows, the controversy surrounding Saigo arose and continues today because ",Dai Saigo", - ",The Great Saigo", - and the historical Saigo Takamori are two very different characters. One is the myth, the other the man behind it, who has until now remained largely unknown. Returning to primary sources, the author reconstructs the historical Saigo from the mythic ",Dai Saigo",. In a book that is at once a groundbreaking biography, a study of the mythologizing process and a compelling example of the power of image in everyday life, the author demonstrates that the lasting importance of Saigo Takamori lies less in the undeniably significant role played in the creation of the Meiji state and the birth of modern Japan, than in the power he continues to exert over the Japanese popular imagination, and in what we can learn from that about the Japanese today.
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