On May 22, 1907, a revolutionary uprising near the port of Chaozhou in
Guangdong had its final days. Surrounded by Qing troops, the ringleaders
were hiding in a cave, eating red berries.
One dressed his
comrades in the suits of Japanese businessmen and bluffed their way
through the Qing lines to reach a Japanese cargo ship in the port, which
took them to the safety of Hong Kong.
The man who saved the life
of his conspirators was Nagatomo Kayano, one of the many Japanese who
were inspired by Dr Sun Yat-sen and devoted themselves to his
revolution. They gave him their careers and their assets — and some
In this year, the 100th anniversary of the Xinhai
revolution and the Republic of China, the story of these Japanese
supporters shows another face of their country. If their advice had been
followed, the history of the 20th century would have been different.
Japanese who fought for China's revolution were inspired by the fervor
of Dr Sun," wrote Kayano in his memoirs. "When I talked with him, I
realized he would fight until the end. So I decided to join his
struggle, to live and die with him."
Kayano and his compatriots
were inspired by Sun's vision of a democratic and republican China that
would end the country's decline and ally with Japan in opposing the
western powers. They wanted China to follow the example of their own
country — to modernize, industrialize and earn its independence.
the Qing government forced the Macau government to expel Sun from the
city in 1894, he spent the next 17 years in exile, in Europe, the United
States, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and mainly Japan, which he visited
10 times and where he spent nearly 10 years. He built up a support base
of 300 Japanese.
One of them, Toten Miyazaki, believed that Sun
could change China and introduced him to senior politicians who gave
their approval for him to remain in Japan and set up his operational
It was in Tokyo on August 20, 1905 that Sun formed
the Tongmenhui, the Chinese Revolutionary Alliance (CRA), which seven
years later became the Kuomintang. It was the foundation of the Xinhai
revolution. Eight Japanese were members, including Kayano and Shokichi
Umeya, who had met Sun earlier that year in Hong Kong, where he ran a
Umeya was also inspired by Sun's vision of a
prosperous East Asia and freedom and equality for its citizens and threw
himself wholeheartedly into the struggle.
Umeya rented an office
for the CRA in the Yurakucho district of central Tokyo and borrowed
money to finance its newspaper, the Voice of the People. Over the next
20 years, Umeya raised billions of yen to pay for Sun's travel and
living expenses, weapons and ammunition for the uprisings and, in 1915, a
flying school in Japan to train Chinese pilots.
death, Umeya commissioned four large bronze statues, up to 2.5 meters
high and each weighing a ton, and sent them to China. They remain today
where he donated them – Sun's mausoleum in Nanjing, the Huangpu Military
Academy and Zhongshan University in Guangzhou and the Sun Memorial Home
Umeya also commissioned dozens of small busts but ran
out of money. So he used funds set aside for his daughter's wedding.
When she protested, he replied: "many Japanese respect Mr Zhong-shan.
These busts will ensure that his thinking lives on for ever."
even planned a temple in Sun's memory. After the Japanese occupation of
Manchuria in 1931, he publicly criticized the government and was
interrogated by the military police; the newspapers called him a
A sick man, he went to Tokyo to petition the Prime
Minister in person but collapsed at the city's railway station and died
on November 23, 1934, aged 66.
The Umeya family still runs the
Matsumoto Hotel overlooking Hibiya Park in central Tokyo, close to where
the CRA held its inaugural meeting. In a room in the hotel is a small
exhibition devoted to Sun, including a piano played by his wife.
year the Modern History Research Centre of the China Academy of Social
Science has commissioned a copper statue of Umeya, which it will donate
to his native place in Nagasaki, in memory of his friendship with Sun.
Sun's Japanese supporters, Kayano was the closest to the front line.
Born in Kochi in 1873, he moved to Osaka in 1890 and became a reporter
for the Jiji Press, one of Japan's two biggest news agencies. He became
interested in the city's democratic movements and was under surveillance
by the police.
In 1892, he moved as a reporter to Shanghai,
where he quickly became fluent in Mandarin. He wore Chinese clothes and a
pigtail, which he did not cut off until October 1910. He became
indistinguishable from a Chinese.
As a journalist, he saw at
first hand the weakness and inefficiency of the Qing government and the
contempt with which the Caucasians held the Chinese. During a visit to
Hong Kong in 1895, he met Sun and pledged his support.
the CRA in Tokyo and set up 'Revolutionary Review', a Japanese-language
magazine to promote Sun's ideas. His office attracted revolutionaries
from China as well as Vietnam, Poland and Russia.
In 1907, under
pressure from the Qing, the government expelled Sun; Kayano accompanied
him to Hong Kong, where they planned the Huanggang uprising. After its
failure, Kayano returned to Japan and raised enough money to purchase
from the Osaka arms market 2,000 rifles, 3,000 pistols and 20 military
swords, which he put on a Japanese cargo ship for Shantou.
October 1910, he was in Wuchang to take part in the uprising that
finally overthrew the Qing. Sun invited him to attend the proclamation
ceremony for the Republic of China in Nanjing and he followed Sun for
the next 15 years of struggle until his death in 1925.
also played a major role in negotiations that could have averted a war
between Japan and China. In December 1931, the Japanese Prime Minister, a
personal friend, sent him to Shanghai to negotiate secretly with the
government over Manchuria, occupied by Japan's Kwantong army two months
Through personal contacts with the government, Kayano
reached an agreement to negotiate the withdrawal of the Kwantong army,
with senior figures from China and Japan to meet in Manchuria on January
10. But the Japanese military and Foreign Ministry found out about the
negotiations and torpedoed them.
Prime Minister Tsuyoshi Inukai,
76, wrote a despairing letter to the chief Chinese negotiator. "I am
deeply worried by the troubled situation of which you speak. I wish to
take this occasion to work out an extensive plan for the prosperity of
all Asia. This was the foremost wish of Dr Sun Yat-sen and it is my wish
as well. It is my hope that you may do something great for the yellow
The Mainichi Shimbun newspaper commented that, had
Kayano's peace mission been successful, war with China could have been
averted and Japan's history would have been different.
forces of hatred and militarism triumphed. Kayano died on April 14, 1947
aged 74, a deeply disappointed man, having seen the ideals that had
guided his life destroyed in the most terrifying war in history
first Japanese martyr of the revolution was Yoshimasa Yamada, who was
killed by Qing troops in a failed uprising in Huizhou in 1900, at the
age of 32.
Born in 1868, he went to Shanghai to work in the
office of a Japanese trading company in 1890 and improved his already
excellent Mandarin. There and in Beijing, he saw the pitiful conditions
of ordinary Chinese and met Kang Youwei (???)?who advocated peaceful
In July 1898, he met Sun in Tokyo and swore allegiance to
him. In the spring of 1900, he went to work as a teacher at a
Japanese-funded college in Nanjing. In October, he joined the uprising
which cost him his life.
His work was continued by his cousin
Juntaro, who became Sun's secretary in 1906 and helped him to negotiate a
loan of 120 million Chinese dollars from the Mitsui Company. His home
in the French concession of Shanghai became a centre for Sun's
In 1916, a political rival shot dead an
ally of Sun who was staying in the house. Terrified by the sound, the
maid holding Yamada's baby daughter dropped her to the ground, causing
an injury to her chest, which left her crippled for life.
lived in Shanghai until 1948, working as a teacher and publisher of
newspapers and magazines. After returning to Japan, he set up a museum
of materials on the Chinese revolution and promoted ties between the two
countries. He died in Tokyo in 1960, at the age of 85.
martyr was Shintaro Kaneko, a Japanese infantry officer who joined the
Chinese revolutionary army in Wuhan in October 1911 and was killed in
battle, at the age of 47.
|The wife Sun left behind
One of the least known episodes of Sun's life in Japan is his marriage
The two first met in 1898,
In 1902, Sun asked Kaoru's father for her hand
Fumiko's grandfather told her only in 1951 who were her
Chen Fu-po, president of the Japan Sun Yat-sen Memorial