Makishi Chochu

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  • Born: 1818
  • Died: 1862/7/19
  • Other names: 板良敷朝忠 (Itarajichi Chôchû / Itarashiki Chôchû)
  • Japanese: 牧志朝忠 (Makishi Chouchuu)

Makishi Chôchû Pechin was a Ryukyuan scholar-bureaucrat who headed the kingdom's diplomatic exchanges with Western countries in the 1850s. His abilities in Western languages allowed him to rise up in the ranks unusually quickly or easily, and to be granted this position.[1]

Born a commoner, he studied Jigen-ryû martial arts under Matsumura Sôkon.[2]

Itarashiki, as he was known earlier in his life, journeyed to China in 1839 along with returning Chinese investiture envoys, and studied at the National Academy, where he learned formal Court Chinese (Mandarin). While in Beijing, among many other activities, he came to converse on numerous occasions with the head of the nearby Russian Orthodox Church, a man named Avvakum; he may have also interacted with Jesuits or other Catholic missionaries in the city.[3]

After his return from China, he learned English from Aniya Masasuke (Yoseyama ueekata), and came to serve as an official translator and interpreter. He acted in this capacity when the French ship Alcmene arrived in 1844, and again when Commodore Perry came to Ryûkyû in 1853-1854.[1] When Perry and his men first arrived, and requested that they be allowed to stay overnight in Tomari, it was Itarashiki who conveyed the government's decision (after discussing the matter with his superiors) that they could not (the Americans stayed anyway).[4] George Kerr also cites an incident where Itarashiki, speaking on behalf of the government, told Bernard Bettelheim, who had taken up residence in the Buddhist temple Gokoku-ji, to keep the temple doors open so that people could worship.[5] He was rebuffed in this instance as well, though that was not the case with all interactions he had with foreigners.

At some point in his career, as a result of Satsuma's high opinion of his language skills, he was promoted to the Council of Fifteen[6], and to the post of hichô shudoi, a position roughly akin to Minister of Education and Foreign Affairs.

When Russian ships commanded by Yevfimy Vasilyevich Putyatin arrived in Naha in 1854, Itarashiki served as interpreter for the Ryukyuan side, and was surprised to discover that the very same Father Avvakum he had met in Beijing served aboard these ships as the Russians' Chinese-language interpreter.[3]

French ships came to Ryûkyû once again in early 1855. Itarashiki again served as chief representative of the government, interacting directly with the foreigners and acting upon the policies and wishes of both the Ryukyuan royal government and Shimazu Nariakira. Nariakira rewarded Itarashiki in some fashion for his loyal service and skillful handling of the foreigners, as the French remained throughout that year and into the next, re-establishing a Catholic Mission, constructing residences, and engaging in other activities. In 1857, the French gifted an artillery piece to the king, and Nariakira ordered Itarashiki to become familiar with the object and its use.[7]

Alongside a Ryukyuan official by the name of Onga Chôkô, and one from Satsuma named Ichiki Shoemon, Itarashiki engaged in a number of negotiations and trade agreements with the French. In 1858, arrangements were made for Ryukyuan students to study in France, for the kingdom to purchase arms and a warship, and for regular trade to begin between the two nations.[8]

That same year, he was named chief of Makishi District in recognition of his services, and thus came to be known as Makishi Pechin.[9][10]

After the death of Shimazu Nariakira, in 1858, however, Nariakira's successor, Shimazu Hisamitsu, sought to reverse many of his brother's policies, and to eliminate figures such as Makishi, who he saw as his political enemies (i.e. as his brother's political allies) from power. When the French arms scheme came to light (see Makishi-Onga Incident), he was imprisoned and sentenced to ten years of exile on Kumejima as the result of a trial based solely on his confession, absent any other evidence. He was, however, bailed out of his sentence in 1862 in order to become an official English teacher in Satsuma. While on the way to Kagoshima, however, as the ship passed near the island of Iheya, he jumped into the sea and committed suicide, drowning himself.[1][6][11]


  • Kerr, George. Okinawa: The History of an Island People. Revised Edition. Tuttle Publishing, 2000.
  • Taira, Koji. "Troubled national identity: The Ryukyuans/Okinawans." in Weiner, Michael (ed.) Japan's Minorities: The Illusion of Homogeneity. London: Routledge, 1997. p153.
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Makishi Chôchû." Okinawa Compact Encyclopedia (沖縄コンパクト事典, Okinawa konpakuto jiten). Ryukyu Shimpo. 1 March 2003. Accessed 29 September 2010.
  2. Andreas Quast, "A hero for one, a traitor for others," Ryukyu-Bugei, 18 August 2012.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Maehira Fusaaki, Ryûkyû shisetsu no ikoku taiken 琉球使節の異国体験, Kokusai kôryû 国際交流 59 (1992), 65.
  4. Kerr. p312.
  5. Kerr. p320.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Makishi Chôchû." Asahi Encyclopedia of Japanese Historical Figures (朝日日本歴史人物事典, Asahi Nihon rekishi jinbutsu jiten). Asahi Shinbun Corporation. Accessed via, 29 September 2010.
  7. Kerr. pp344-345.
  8. Kerr. pp345-346.
  9. Kerr. p347.
  10. 悲劇を生きた沖縄の偉人 板良敷(牧志)朝忠.
  11. Though the Asahi Encyclopedia includes this discussion of a sentence of exile to Kumejima, and of his bail to serve as an English teacher in Kagoshima, George Kerr (p348) provides the date 1862, but does not mention Kumejima, a sentence of ten years, or a trial. According to his narrative, it was while on his way to Kagoshima "to answer for his part in Nariakira's schemes" that Makishi jumped overboard and killed himself. Which account is more accurate is unclear.