The Strait of Shimonoseki is the throat of the Inland Sea. With the latter's north water channel and central water channel1 leading out to the Genkai Sea, vessels navigating inwards from or outwards to the Genkai Sea pass through the strait without exception. In ancient times there was Rinkaikan, now there is Shunpanro: both being said to be guesthouses for faraway visitors. Standing against the hill and looking out at the sea, Shunpanro faces up towards the tomb of the juvenile Emperor Antoku2 in the east and overlooks the streets in the west. With the morning sunlight and the evening silhouettes, the myriads of changing vistas make one difficult to attend to them soon enough. I heard that the location of Shunpanro was originally the old site of Amidadera Buddhist monastery. Fujino Genyo of Buzen area acquired a piece of land there measuring 400 steps square, and opened his doctor's office. After he passed away, the widow operated a guesthouse, frequented by high officials. In the Sino-Japanese War [beginning July 1894],3 with our six army divisions4 being all victorious, the Ch‘ing court of China was shocked with fear and hurriedly asked for cessation of hostilities. In March of the following year the court sent Li Hung-chang to Shimonoseki. Count Ito Hirobumi received the order to negotiate, with this guesthouse as the venue. I also accompanied Count Ito to participate in this pivotal process. In April the peace treaty [Treaty of Shimonoseki] was initialed, and the name of Shunpanro became known the world over. In the ninth year of the Taisho period [i.e. 1920], the owner of Shunpanro passed away with illness, and the business was foundering. Hayashi Heishiro of Shimonoseki invested money to buy it, and asked me to write about it. Alas! The magnitude of the nation's prowess of today actually has its source from the Sino-Japanese War [1894-1895]. This location is apparently a historic relic. How can its preservation be left to negligence? This righteous deed of Mr Hayashi is naturally appropriate. Looking around me, the personages of both sides at the treaty negotiation demised one after another. Only my old body remains. This is why notwithstanding my lack of learning I venture to compose this record.

Early summer of kigai year [i.e. 1923]

Composed and handwritten by Count Ito Miyoji,5 Noble of Junior 2nd Court Rank , First Order of Merit

Original text written in classical Chinese
Translated into English by Louis Chor


Romanised Chinese and Japanese personal names follow their native order with family name first.

1Further information in Japanese on these two channels — 北水道 and 中央水道 — is available from Hydrographic and Oceanographic Department of Japan.

2Emperor Antoku 安徳天皇 (1178-1185) was a kid when he perished in the sea in the Battle of Dannoura of 1185, in which the Taira clan 平家 was defeated by the Minamoto clan 源氏. The Minamoto clan began the 700-year rule of the Bakufu military regime lasting until the Meiji Restoration 明治維新 of 1868. The reign name of Emperor Antoku is Juei 寿永. The sea battle of Dannoura 壇ノ浦 took place close to where Shunpanro is.

3Declaration of war by the imperial courts of China and Japan was on 1st August 1894. This Sino-Japanese War, which formally began Japan's agressive invasion of China for 50 years until 1945, is called 甲午戰爭 in China and 日清戦争 in Japan.

4Six army divisions plus the Konoe Division 近衛師団 were mobilised for the land invasions. At sea, the Battle of the Yellow Sea in the afternoon of 17 September 1894 was a frontal confrontation between two national fleets of top-of-the-class ironclad warships.

5Ito Miyoji 伊東巳代治 (1857-1934), politician and bureaucrat. He drafted the declaration of war for Emperor Meiji.

♣ The two Chinese characters 講和, the title of the tablet meaning peace negotiation, are the calligraphy of Prince Kuni no Miya Kuniyoshi-o 久邇宮邦彦王 (1873-1929), army general and father of Empress Nagako, wife of Emperor Showa. ♣

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春帆樓碑記     From the Gardener, August 2008. Revised December 2009.