Editor's Note: When President Kennedy was asked who was his most admired political leader in Japan, he said, "Yozan Uesugi." Many did not know who he was. It seems to me he was a very unusual daimyo. Here is something about him. To me, he seems to have had some of the characteristics of King Benjamin from the Book of Mormon. 日本語はこの下にあります。
Uesugi Yozan (1751-1822), the ninth lord of the Uesugi Clan and former ruler of Yonezawa and the Okitama region, was named by former U.S. president John F. Kennedy as the Japanese leader he most admired. When asked this question at a press conference, Kennedy was most likely thinking of Yozan's greatest accomplishment: pulling the Uesugi Clan out of a centuries old debt and avoiding bankruptcy by encouraging not just the farming class but even the idle warrior class to work in cooperation and with mutual trust and respect. Yozan was able to convince the people to do this by actually setting examples himself, living modestly, and encouraging others to speak out on and question traditional (but not practical) customs. Unfortunately, when Kennedy mentioned Yozan's name a Japanese journalist asked back "Yozan who?", indicating that most Japanese people were unaware of this great leader. It is said that Kennedy was impressed upon reading about Uesugi Yozan in the book Bushido by Nitobe Inazo, written in the U.S. in 1899. This book was later published in Japan, and has been translated into several languages.
Yozan was a mere lad of seventeen when he came to the
inheritance of the territory of Yonezawa in the now
province of Uzen. Born of the Akizuki family, a rather
inconsiderable daimio of Kiushu, he was adopted by the
Uesugi, higher in rank and larger in territorial
possession. But as we shall presently see, the adoption
was a thankless privilege on his part, as he was thus
responsibilities, the like of which were not to be found in the whole land. The boy was recommended by his aunt to the elder lord of Yonezawa as "rather reticent andmeditative, filial piety very characteristic of him." Unlike the common sons of the noble, he was singularly submissive to his tutor, Hosoi by name, who as a scholar and man of high principle, was raised to this responsible position from a state of total obscurity. The favorite story of a dutiful pupil often repeated to him by his worthy tutor was on this wise: "Tokugawa Yorinobu, the powerful lord of Kii, always looked with tender care upon a scar that was left upon his thigh, caused by a sharp pinch given by his teachers for some disobedience to the latter's will. 'This,' the great lord is reported to have often declared, 'is the warning my revered teacher has left on me, that on looking at it always, I may always examine myself, and be true to myself and to my people. But alas, the scar is fading with my age, and with it my vigilance too." The young Yozan always wept when this story was repeated to him, - a sensitiveness of the rarest occurence at the time when princes were reared in the closest seclusion, and were, as a rule, no more conscious of their duty toward their inferiors, than of the reason that kept them in power and opulence. That saying of a Chinese sage "Be ye as tender to your people as to a wound in your body" seemed to have impressed him to the very bottom of his heart, and the text became to him his own, and guided him in all his future dealings with his people.
The man so sensitive cannot but be religiously so as
well. On the day of his installment in his office, he
sent in the following oath to the temple of Kasuga, his
guardian god through his life:
"I. The exercises, literary and military, which I have prescribed to myself shall I pursue without negligence.
"II. To be a father and a mother to my people shall be my first and chief endeavour.
"III. The words that follow shall I not forget day and night :
No extravagance, no danger.
Give in charity, but waste not.
"IV. Inconsistencies of words with actions, injustice in reward and punishment, unfaithfulness and indecency, - from these shall I diligently guard myself.
"The above shall I strictly observe in future, and in case of my negligence of the same, let divine punishment overtake me at once, and the family fortune be for ever consumed.
of the Office of Danjo,*[ His official title.] Fujiwara
The First day of the Eighth Month of the Fourth Year of Meiwa (1767)."