Gessho (月照)

Gessho (1813 - December 20, 1858) was a Sonno Joi (Revere the Emperor, Expel the Barbarians) School Buddhist monk who lived at the end of the Edo period. He went by the aliases Sokyu, Ninkai, Ningai and Hisamaru.

He was born in 1813 as the eldest son of an Osaka physician.

In 1827, he entered the Joju-in sub-temple of Kiyomizu-dera Temple under the influence of his uncle Zokai. He went on to become the head priest of Joju-in Temple in 1835. However, his commitment to the Sonno Joi philosophy and connections to the court nobles of Kyoto led him to side with the Hitotsubashi family during Iesada TOKUGAWA's conflict surrounding the shogun's successor, causing him to be viewed as a threat by Tairo (great elder) Naosuke II. He was a close friend of Takamori SAIGO and persuaded him from taking his own life after the sudden death of Nariakira SHIMAZU who Takamori greatly respected.

During the Ansei Purge which began in August of 1858, he became a wanted man as Naosuke viewed him as a dangerous member of the Sonno Joi School, leading him to flee Kyoto with Takamori. He escaped to the Satsuma Domain but the domain, which considered him to be a burden, declined to provide protection and ordered that he be sent to Hyuga Province. This was essentially the casting of him over the border between the Satsuma Province and the neighboring Hyuga Province. These events led Gessho to make the decision to take his own life, and he and Takamori attempted to drown themselves in Kinko-wan Bay. Gessho died but Takamori miraculously survived. Gessho was aged only 46 at the time. There was also another Buddhist monk by the name of Gessho.

Death poem

Okimi no tame ni ha nanika oshikaramuSatsuma no seto ni mi ha shizumu tomoEnglishOf what should I have regrets if it is for Thee?Even if I should sink in the narrow straits of Satsuma?

[Original Japanese]