Shiga Shigetaka was a prominent thinker, geographer, and politician of the Meiji and Taishô periods.
He was born the eldest son of Shiga Shigemoto, a retainer in the service of Okazaki han. In 1874, Shigetaka moved to Tokyo, where he studied at the University of Tokyo and Kôgyokusha, before graduating in 1884 from Sapporo Agricultural College. Two years later, he journeyed around the South Sea Islands (Micronesia) aboard the naval vessel Tsukuba, completing the book Nan'yô jiji the following year, based on his observations. In 1888, along with Miyake Setsurei and others, he established a group called Seikyôsha, which then began publishing a magazine called Nihonjin. Emphasizing the preservation of national characteristics, the magazine supported the First Imperial Diet's hard stances against foreign powers. Shigetaka was later active in similar groups, including Dôshikai and Chûô-seisha, and a number of different political parties.
In 1897, he became head of the Mountains and Forestry Bureau within the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce. He was appointed a councilor to the Foreign Ministry the following year, and was elected to the Lower House of the Diet twice, in 1902 and 1903, though he lost his seat in the 1904 elections.
After that, he left politics, and pursued a life as a traveler and geographer. His Nihon fûkei ron ("Theory of Japanese Landscape"), published in 1894, became a bestseller and is said to have played a significant role in changing people's attitudes about the beauty of Japan. His other publications included Sekai sansui zukan ("Illustrated Landscapes of the World") in 1911, and Shirarezaru kuniguni ("Unknown Countries").
Among the many artistic and cultural treasures to have passed through his hands is a wooden plaque which once hung in the Hokuden ("North Hall") of Shuri castle, the royal palace of the Ryûkyû Kingdom. Inscribed with the calligraphy of Chinese investiture envoy Wang Meng-lou, the plaque was given to Shigetaka as a gift, and later donated by him to the city of Okazaki. This precious treasure of Ryukyuan history is today housed at the Okazaki Mindscape Museum.
- "Shiga Shigetaka," Asahi Nihon rekishi jinbutsu jiten 朝日日本歴史人物事典, Asahi Shimbun-sha.
- Shirarezaru Ryûkyû shisetsu 知られざる琉球使節, Fukuyama-shi Tomo no ura rekishi minzoku shiryôkan 福山市鞆の浦歴史民俗資料館 (2006), 13.