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幕末の謎

〈謎1〉何故、音吉の存在が日本では知られていなかったのか?
 武士でもなく、学者・思想家でもない庶民で、漂流後も日本へ帰ることなく海外で活動し、最終的にはイギリス人として海外で没したため、彼に関する記録等が国内にほとんど残っていない。このような日本人が過去に存在しなかったことが最大の理由ではないか。
Question 1. Why was Otokichi (c. 1817-1867) little known in Japan?
We can think of several reasons why Otokichi was not well-known in Japan:

He was a young sailor (about 15 years old) when he left Japan. He was not a clansman (or bushi, worrier), nor scholar or thinker. After the shipwreck, he lived and worked abroad, and eventually became a naturalized British citizen and died and buried in Singapore.

There remain only a few records of his life. Some of them are: (1) The record of his physical features and a painted figure by a Japanese officer(s) when Otokichi came to Japan as interpreter on board the Mariner (1849); (2) Otokichi's name appears in the records of several interviews given by Japanese shipwrecked sailors when they were interrogated by the Japanese official that in Shanghai Otokichi helped them return to Japan; (3) Otokichi was recorded as interpreter to Admiral Stirling by Mizuno Chikugonokami, Governor of Nagasaki, in the official document of Japan when the Anglo-Japanese Convention was signed by both sides on 14 October 1854; (4) The detailed account of the procedure was printed in The Illustrated London News dated on January 13, 1855 and also on April 28, 1855 the same paper printed a story given by the Japanese translator Oto (Otokichi); (5) Otokichi was mentioned by Christian missionaries in several occasions, one being in the reports of the unsuccessful trip to Japan by the Morrison (July and August, 1837), by Williams (Chinese Repository, Vol. VI, pp. 209-229, 353-380, 1837), Doctor Parker (Journal of an Expedition from Singapore to Japan, 1838), and King (The Claims of Japan and Malaysia upon Christendom Exhibited in Notes of Voyages Made in 1837, from Canton in the Ship Morrison and Brig Himmaleh, 1839).

〈謎2〉竜馬との交流はあったのか?
 交流があったという資料は、現時点では発見されていない。ただ、勝海舟が、イギリス東インド艦隊マリナー号の中国人「林阿多」を日本人だと見抜いていたことに加え、竜馬が長崎で作ったイギリス人グラバーらとの関係を見ると、幕末の日本と欧米列強との間に音吉が介在し、あるいは竜馬とも交流があったのではないかと思えてくる。
 なお、この件については音吉顕彰会においても鋭意調査中であり、今後その成果が得られることを期待している。
Question 2. Did Ryoma Sakamoto and Otokichi meet face to face?
No definite document has been found so far stating that Sakamoto Ryoma of Tosa (Kochi Pref.) clan met Otokichi. However, it is a feasible conclusion that they actually met or at least they knew of each other's name from the following-that Katsu Kaishu, marine magistrate of the Tokugawa government, who trained young men including Sakamoto to build and maneuver the modern warships, was convinced that the interpreter on board the British warship Mariner who introduced himself as a Chinese named Lin A-tau was a Japanese, and that in Nagasaki Ryoma befriended with British traders, especially Thomas B. Glover, who in 1861 founded Glover Trading Co. dealing mostly with weaponry.

Friends of Otokichi continues to look for the documents concerning the role Otokichi might have played in Nagasaki where he stayed from September 7 to October 20, 1854. Young Japanese men who came to Nagasaki to study Western technology must have looked for Otokichi as an embodiment of the future of Japanese.

〈謎3〉佐賀藩士中牟田倉之助は、なぜ2度もデント商会に音吉を尋ねたのか?
 徳川幕府最初の通商船「千歳丸」で長州の高杉晋作、薩摩の五代才助(友厚)らとともに上海へ行った佐賀藩士中牟田倉之助は、長崎の海軍伝習所出身で佐賀海軍を創設し、後に海軍中将・子爵にまでなった人物である。このような人が、なぜ尾張の一漂流民の音吉を上海のデント商会に2度までも尋ねたのか?ここでもまた、音吉という従来の日本人の枠を跳び越えた人間が、幕末に果たした役割を垣間見る思いがする。
Question 3. Why did Kuranosuke Nakamuta, clansman of Saga, visit Dent & Co. twice looking for Otokichi?
Kuranosuke Nakamuta visited Shanghai, together with Shinsaku Takasugi from Choshu (Yamaguchi Pref.) and Zaisuke/Tomoatsu Godai from Satsuma (Kagoshima Pref.), on board the Senzai-maru, the first merchant ship sent by the Tokugawa government in 1862. It was an 8-day trip, and the ship stayed there for about 2 months, from June 3 to July 31.

Nakamuta was a graduate of naval academy in Nagasaki, founded the Tosa Naval Force, and later became a naval admiral and viscount. While in Shanghai he visited Dent & Co. twice looking for Otokichi, who was a mere shipwrecked seaman from Owari (Aichi Pref.), though Otokichi left Shanghai for Singapore several months before on January 24.

Why did Nakamuta want to meet Otokichi? Maybe Nakamuta had met Otokichi earlier in Nagasaki (1854) and knew that he was working at Dent & Co. in Shanghai. They must have become friends and Nakamuta wanted to know more about naval technology as Otokichi was an expert seaman.

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