Hiromu Nakai was born Yokoyama Kyunoshin in Kagoshima, (Satsuma Domain), in 1838. Although born into a Samurai class family, Nakai had a tough upbringing and was later imprisoned for a year for leaving Satsuma, for Edo (Tokyo), without authorization.
After his release he did the same again but went by the name of Goto Kyujiro under the guise of being from Tosa domain to avoid a second arrest. Hiromu Nakai’s life could easily make a whole book but here we’ll cover just one major event that occurred during his time in Kyoto.
In 1868 Nakai was attached to the newly established Japanese Foreign Department and so had major involvements with foreign visitors to Japan. One such incident involved the British Minister Sir Harry Parkes. Parkes and his entourage, including the well-known British diplomat and translator Sir Ernest Satow (pictured below left), were on route through Kyoto to visit the Emperor. They set off from Cho-in Temple next to Maruyama Park with Nakai at the head of the procession. Whilst on route they were attacked by two rogue Samurai.
In Satow’s book, A Diplomat In Japan (an account of his time in Japan originally published in 1921), Satow describes what happened, “Nakai observing what was passing jumped down from his pony and engaged the fellow on the right, with whom he had a pretty tough fight. In the struggle his feet got entangled in his long loose trousers, and he fell on his back. His enemy tried to cut off his head, but Nakai parried the blow, receiving only a scalp wound, and pierced the man’s breast with the point of his sword at the same time…Nakai jumping up hacked off his head”. Nakai was also a writer and it is said that whilst recovering from the head wound he suffered during the above incident he worked on the publication of his first travel journal (Seiyo Kiko-Kokai Shinsetsu).
He died at the age of 56 in 1894 but not before a year earlier being appointed to the post of prefectural governor of Kyoto. A stone post stands at this location on Kiyamachi Dori, Kyoto (pictured right) marking both the residence of Nakai on the side face and on the front face an inscription marks the residence of the wife of the famed revolutionary Sakamoto Ryoma, Oryo.
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