Fukuba Bisei (福羽美静)

Bisei (also pronounced 'Yoshishizu') FUKUBA (August 24, 1831-August 14, 1907) was a Japanese samurai, a feudal retainer of the Tsuwano Domain, a scholar of Japanese classical literature, and a poet.
He was commonly known as 'Bunzaburo,' and his nick names were 'Mokuen' and 'Gendo.'
He was a viscount. He was a member of Kizokuin (the House of Peers).


He was born the eldest son of Bishitsu FUKUBA, a feudal retainer of the Tsuwano Domain. In 1849, at the age of 19, he enrolled in Yoro College, a domain school, where he studied Sinology and Yamagaryu (Yamaga school) military science. By the order of Koremi KAMEI, the lord of the Tsuwano Domain, Bisei went to Kyoto in 1853 and became a pupil of Takamasa OKUNI.. It is said that on that occasion, influenced by the philosophy of Japanese classical literature, he showed interest in the argument of Sonno-joi (slogan advocating reverence for the Emperor and the expulsion of foreigners) and developed a passion for domestic politics. In 1857, he returned to the Tsuwano Domain and worked as a lecturer at Yoro College. In 1863, he was called upon by the Imperial Court to serve Emperor Komei. In the coup of August 18, upon the exile of the seven nobles from Kyoto (Shichikyo-ochi), he went westwards with seven nobles and returned to the Tsuwano Domain, where he won the support of Lord Kamei and played an important role in the reforms of the domain duties.

In the second conquest of the Choshu Domain in 1866, he adopted the pro-Choshu strategy as the policy for the Tsuwano Domain. When Koremi assumed the important post of Jingikan (senior official at the Ministry of Divinities) for the Meiji restoration government in 1868, Bisei was appointed as a Gonhanji (assistant judicial officer) of the Jingi Jimukyoku (Shintō Worship Bureau), where he greatly contributed to the restoration and establishment of the Jingi system (Ministry of Divinities system).

He was appointed as a tutor to Emperor Meiji in 1869, an official in charge of the Imperial Household at Daigaku (Bureau of Education) in the same year, a Jingi taifu (deputy minister of the institution for dedications at religious ceremonies) in 1870, and an aide to the Minister of Religion in 1872.

Facing a wave of dissenting opinions against his suggestion that 'Merits of foreign countries should be introduced,' he was removed from the Ministry of Religion and was appointed as an official in charge of poetry and literature at the Imperial Household Ministry afterwards.

He was appointed as a Constitution Investigation Commissioner in 1876, a member of the Tokyo Academy in 1879, an official in charge of the Imperial Household at the Ministry of Education in 1880, and a Genroin gikan (councilor of Chamber of Elders or Senate) in 1885, and created a viscount in 1887.

In the meantime, he assumed the post of setsuri (president) of Ochanomizu University from 1880 to 1881.

In 1890, he was elected a member of the House of Peers. In the same year, he stepped down from public service and went into retirement.

Hayato FUKUBA, a senior official of the Imperial Household Ministry and a doctor of agriculture (viscount) who was also known as a horticulturist and landscape architect, was his adopted son.


In his childhood, pretending to be an acrobat, Bisei tried to walk a tightrope but fell from the tightrope.

At that time, he injured his waist joints and that prevented him from growing taller. It is said that his height did not reach 150cm even in his adulthood. Despite this misfortune, he immersed himself in studies, encouraged by his father's friends and was influenced by Moritake ARAKIDA's poetry (waka, Japanese poetry).

When Emperor Meiji moved out of Kyoto to Tokyo (Tokyo Tento, or transfer of the national capital to Tokyo), an express mail sent by horse came from Ise-jingu Shrine, which read as follows: 'A torii (gate) of the Shrine has collapsed. This may be a sign that the divine spirits are against the Emperor's transfer to Tokyo.'
Fukuba, however, did not bother listening to the message, snapping, 'Is it unusual that a man-made gate collapsed?'
It is said that this episode is a good example that reflects Fukuba's practical spirit, which kept him ahead of the pack of other classical Japanese literature scholars and government officials in charge of religious ceremonies.

[Original Japanese]