Shijuku Ritsumeikan (Ritsumeikan Private Academy) (私塾立命館)

Shijuku Ritsumeikan was a private academy that Kinmochi SAIONJI established in his private residence in the Kyoto Imperial Palace in 1869.


Guest teachers
Prominent scholars of Chinese classics in the day were invited as guest teachers for the Shijuku Ritsumeikan. Kinmochi SAIONJI mentioned, 'We invited Neo-Confucian scholars and Confucians of Mitogaku (the scholarship and academic traditions that arose in the Mito Domain) as teachers, and some of them were famous as good writers. (Snip) It was like a bonzana of elite scholars of Chinese classics in Kyoto' ("Autobiography of Kinmochi SAIONJI" edited by Ki KIMURA). It is Tenko EMA, Seison HIROSE, Shiryu MATSUMOTO (Iwao MATSUMOTO), Tessai TOMIOKA and Hoyo (Shiro) GOYAMA who were in fact known as guest teachers. In 1870, when Seison HIROSE was invited to a poem meeting by Saionji, Aizan TANIGUCHI was also present as well as Seiitsu YAMANAKA who joined movement of Sonno Joi (slogan advocating reverence for the Emperor and the expulsion of foreigners) and enjoyed Tomomi IWAKURA's favor, Kaido ITAKURA (Chikushu OMI) who was a real brother of Tenko EMA and would be put in prison for the Ikedaya Incident, Hidegoro (Hideo) YAMAMOTO who was a son of a scholar of herbalism Boyo YAMAMOTO and a Chinese medicine doctor, and Rentaro (Chokuzen) HAMASAKI, so it is considered that some of these were also invited as guest teachers ("Seison-ko Shutaku Nikki" (Cherised Diary of Prince Seison)).

Character and scale of the academy

As Kinmochi SAIONJI himself mentioned that he established the academy with 'big ambitions to foster people loyal to the Emperor,' Shijuku Ritsumeikan was a general educational institute from the start, and different form other private academies of court nobles. Therefore, although it only offered opportunities for peaceful poem meetings when it was established, as talk of the academy spread nationwide, many young people gathered, and it became to offer opportunities to discuss domestic and international current events, and eventually grew, adding an additional building ("Autobiography of Kinmochi SAIONJI" edited by Ki KIMURA). According to the recollection of Saionji himself, a large number of students gathered from various domains as well as the Saionji clan and its retainers and vassals. As the academy developed its reputation, much more young people gathered, and it is known that it eventually expanded up to about 100 students.

Closing of the academy and its background
On April 23, 1870, Kyoto Prefectural Office (Dual capital system by Grand Council of State), which found the state of the academy disturbing, issued an injunction, which closed Shijuku Ritsumeikan after a little less than a year (the establishment was supposed to be around September 23, 1869). At that time, Kinmochi SAIONJI himself was in Nagasaki Prefecture to prepare for studying in France, so he had no choice but to accept the closing of the academy without doing anything.
Later, asked to give his comments on the closing of the private academy, Prince Saionji mentioned 'It seemed that they misunderstood that letting the students of Ritsumeikan speak freely was a revolutionary idea, but they asked that it be stopped, and while it was a shame, since the academy was quite active, I closed it.'

The closing order against the academy was deeply related to the notice of 'Cancellation of building of Kyoto University' that the Grand Council of State issued by the Dual capital system. In Tokyo Metropolis after the Meiji Restoration, it was decided that the 'Shoheiko' (a school run by Edo shogunate) would be rebuilt that a 'university' would be established as a central organization of the educational system. Thus, as the 'university' existed in Kyoto became unnecessary, the notice of abolition was issued in November in 1869. The authorities of Kyoto University, who had already started to prepare to rebuild Kyoto University, virtually ignored this notice, and in the following months of the notice, went ahead with the opening of the university as 'Provisional Kyoto University' (temporary university) (It was referred to as 'Kyoto School' in the notice by Kyoto rusukan (officer for the emperor who was out of Kyoto)). The Grand Council of State in Tokyo accepted the existence of 'Provisional Kyoto University,' and the school continued under the jurisdiction of Kyoto rusukan, but ended up being abolished in July in 1870, due to various reasons including headhunting of the teachers. At that time, 'Provisional Kyoto University' was located at Nishi-iru, Imadegawa, Tera-machi (in the southeast end of present Doshisha University campus), and just around the corner of 'Shijuku Ritsumeikan' in Kyoto Imperial Palace. While 'Provisional Kyoto University,' of which Kyoto rusukan put his prestige on the establishment, they barely collected more than 300 students, and was forced to close after a little more than eight months, while a private academy, which was about a 10-minute walk away, built an additional building to handle no less than 100 students, so it is easy to imagine that this brought the Kyoto rusukan' anger. Later, Kinmochi SAIONJI mentioned in a letter to guest teachers, that the 'injunction' against Shijuku Ritsumeikan must have been issued out of the head of Kyoto rusukan's 'suspicion' or 'envy,' and also mentioned that he would accept the closing of the academy for a while, but would like to wait for its rebuilding. In December in the same year, Kinmochi SAIONJI departed for France where he was going to study. He was away from Japan until 1880.

After the Saionji family moved to Tokyo in the Meiji Period, 'Shirakumo-jinja Shrine' was established in the Saionji residence site where the private academy used to be, which still exists now.

After the closing of Shijuku Ritsumeikan

Coming back to Japan from France where he studied, Saionji went into politics after serving as the president of Toyo Jiyu Shinbun journal, and he never lost his passion for education.
In 1880, he supported Tatsuo KISHIMOTO, Kozo MIYAGI and Misao YASHIRO to establish Meiji Law School, and when he became the Minister of Education in 1894, he opposed the 'Imperial Rescript on Education' made by Kowashi INOUE and others, and worked on a draft of the second Imperial Rescript on Education with Emperor Meiji's permission to revise the 'Imperial Rescript on Education.'
In the end, due to Saionji's retirement as Minister of Education, the revision of the Imperial Rescript on Education was not realized, but he reflected, 'I believed that the educational policy should be developed for more liberal way' ("Biography of Kinmochi SAIONJI" by Shuko SHIRAYANAGI).
As Minister of Education, he tried to build an imperial university with a 'free' school environment, compared to Tokyo Imperial University, and realized the establishment of 'Kyoto Imperial University.'
For the establishment of Kyoto Imperial University, Kojuro NAKAGAWA, an official of the Ministry of Education, who served as his lifelong aid, played a central role as the first Secretary General.
Besides, he took his place among the promoters for the establishment of the Japan Women's University, which Jinzo NARUSE established in 1901 with philosophy to 'educate a woman first as a person.'

Inheritance to Kyoto Hosei (law and politics) School
Kojuro NAKAGAWA, who was central to the establishment of Kyoto Imperial University as a secretary to the Education Minister Saionji, left the government and later moved to the business world after the university establishment was settled. However, since Kyoto Imperial University could only allow graduates of old-education-system high schools due to its institution, which was in fact far from the educational philosophy proposed by Kinmochi SAIONJI to 'give an (educational) opportunity to people with ability and motivation as a nation,' he realized its limitations and decided to establish a private school himself. Nakagawa gained cooperation from Takemaro SUEHIRO, a younger brother of Kinmochi SAIONJI, as well as backing from key figures in the political and business worlds, as well as the network of the academy, and established a three-year night school by taking a room of 'Seikiro (former Yoshidaya),' a restaurant in Sanbongi-dori Street, Kamigyo Ward.
This was 'Kyoto Hosei School.'
Kyoto Hosei School was established in order to take a supplemental role for Kyoto Imperial University, which was established to embody Kinmochi SAIONJI's educational ideal. In fact, almost all the lectures given by professors of Kyoto Imperial University, and the endowment act of 'Ritsumeikan Foundation,' which would be established later based on Kyoto Hosei School, specified that all holdings would be donated to Kyoto Imperial University when the Foundation dissolved.

As its school name showed, Kyoto Hosei School only had two departments at first - law department and politics department. However, creating a comprehensive university with medical and literature departments was ultimately brought into view, so the name Kyoto Hosei School did not reflect its substance (See 'Kyoto Hosei School for details). In 1904, when the economics department was established, and its teaching contents went beyond the limit as a law and politics school, it needed a new name to embody its substance. Thus, it made an offer to inherit the name 'Shijuku Ritsumeikan,' embodying the spirit of being a liberal and academic school environment separated from political power, which Kinmochi SAIONJI left with the establishment of Kyoto Imperial University, and Saionji kindly agreed. At that time, Saionji sent a big sign with the letters 'Ritsumeikan' that he had written himself when the private academy was established in 1869, as well as giving the following framed motto he wrote himself.

- Once, I established a school named Ritsumeikan. While studying in the West, the school closed but the name remained. At that time the staff of Kyoto Hosei School came and asked to inherit the name. I was delighted that the name would live out its meaning, and as such I hereby write and present this framed motto. Mencius said that our longevity was determined by fate, and waiting for our fate to befall us while cultivating the mind would fulfill our duties. This is exactly the point of learning.
April in 1905, Prince Kinmochi SAIONJI

In 1905, 'Kyoto Hosei School,' which was allowed to inherit the name 'Shijuku Ritsumeikan' by Kinmochi SAIONJI, established 'Ritsumeikan Foundation' in 1913, and renamed the university 'Ritsumeikan University' and the junior high school 'Ritsumeikan Junior/Senior High Schools.'
Though Saionji frowned on committing to a specific private school as a public figure, he continued to give tangible and intangible support to the development of Ritsumeikan Gakuen (academy) for the rest of his life.

Origin of 'Ritsumeikan'

Ritsumei (立命)' originated from a line, "殀壽不貳 修身以俟之 所以立命也," by Mencius in China. This means 'Our longevity is determined by fate.
Waiting for our fate to befall us while cultivating the mind will fulfill our duties.'

[Original Japanese]