Hosoi Heishu (August 3, 1728 – June 29, 1801)
Hosoi Heishu was a samurai scholar born in the sleepy village of Hirashima, modern-day Arao, in Tokai City Aichi Prefecture, about 40 minutes drive south of Nagoya.
Heishu was born in 1728 in a home where the Meitetsu Shurakuen Station now stands. Heishu was taught at the local temple where he excelled to the point of being sent aged 17 to Kyoto and Nagoya to further his education in the Chinese classics. He spent three years living in Nagasaki studying Chinese before returning to Nagoya to open a school.
Hosoi Heishu founded a style of Confucianism enhanced with Shinto beliefs, and made the teachings of Confucius readily available to the general public. His lessons appealed to a wide range of people and across class divides too, making him one of the most respected and influential educators of the time.
Heishu reformed Edo Period education, providing lessons for the townsfolk as well as the ruling samurai classes. Being a teacher to the nobility, Heishu also influenced politics. One example is the Lord of Yonezawa, (modern day Yamagata Prefecture) Uesugi Yozan is now remembered as a wise and virtuous ruler, and his regions’ notable and rapid shift from being a poor, indebted and corrupt domain, to one of administrative and economic success has been largely attributed to the Lord’s teacher, Heishu.
The samurai scholar continued to write and educate until his death in 1801, Edo (Tokyo) at the age of 74. In 1974 a small Heishu Memorial Hall was established near his birth site paying tribute to the local hero. A statue of the scholar greets you as you enter, and the museum features a number of handwritten and published books, scrolls, items and teachings of Heishu.
In front of the museum are three large rocks featuring the characters for “study”, “think”, and “do”, the three main philosophical thoughts of Heishu’s teachings. Perhaps Japan’s modern education system should re-examine Heishu’s style of teaching, as the samurai scholar was against teaching collective thought, instead, placing emphasis on each student’s individuality.
The Memorial Hall is a small but interesting tribute to a man who proved that perhaps the pen was indeed mightier than the samurai sword.