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Monday, February 29, 2016

Glover House - Nagasaki

Above is a photograph of my mother sitting front of Glover House in Nagasaki, back in 1991, three years before she died.

She is, in that photo, the same age I will be by the end of this year... so it's more than a little spooky for me, as my short-term goal is to make it past her age. Really... I actually think about stuff like that.

I've thought about it for 20+ years.

Anyhow... Glover House in Nagasaki.

As you might have suspected, Glover is not a Japanese surname. In this case, it is named after Thomas Glover, a Scot who helped form the way Japan looks during the Meiji Restoration of 1868 when the ruling Shogun and samurai class was eliminated from ruling power.

Thomas Blake Glove was the first foreigner ever decorated by the Japanese government, awarded the Order of the Rising Sun (second class) in 1908.

Glover House was completed in 1863, and was his long-time home - the first Western-style building in the country. Despite the name, Glover actually called it Ipponmatsu, which means 'single pine tree'.

An 1863 of Ipponmatsu, showing why it was called Single Pine Tree. The tree was taken down in the early 1900s.
Born on June 6, 1838, in Fraserburgh in the Scottish county of Aberdeenshire, to an English coastguard father and a Scottish mother, the fifth of seven children, Glover was posted to Shanghai in 1859 during that country's second Opium War. This battle was something Great Britain had engineered against China to open that country up to free trade, ,mostly so it could sell and impregnate the market with the opium it was producing in the Indian Empire. Yes, it is as despicable as it sounds.

Glover did his part in Chain, for two years selling opium to local Shanghai middlemen, while also trading in silk, tea and guns.

When U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry and his Black Ships forced (they really did) Japan to open up its borders for trade in 1853, Glover joined the other Shanghai traders and moved to Japan.

Arriving in Nagasaki in 1859 at the age of 21, Glover was given a place to stay in the concession's area known as Dejima, where he would built a mini-empire of real estate.

In 1861, he founded Glover Trading Co. (Guraba-Shokei) to deal illegally with enemies of the Japanese Shogun, with by selling ships and guns to that Satsuma and Chosu clans in Kyushu, and to the Tosa clan from Shikoku, who didn't care for how the Shogun was running things.

Basically, however, Glover played off both sides, and thus managed to survive and thrive well enough.

For Great Britain, the role Glover played with the rebellious factions was to hopefully garner favor for the country after the disposal of the shogunate.

Glover never attempted to introduce opium to Japan, but did sell guns et al to numerous Japanese samurai clans to protect each other from each other, as well as to over throw the Shogun, but also weapons to Japan to help it fend off possible advances against by foreign powers.

Glover was a black market pirate playing everybody.

Thomas Blake Glover
In 1863, after the British navy attacked Kyushu, and in 1864 when it also attacked the port of Shimonoseki near Nagasaki - and also after a few samurai were killed by armed British citizens, the Japanese finally understood that it needed modern weaponry to retaliate and to survive.

Glover could provide them with pistols, rifles, machine guns, and warships, and became the Kyushu area's biggest arms dealer. This also help set up Kyushu as one of the country's most dangerous political regions... ensuring that rebel clans need not listen to the essentially powerless Emperor in Kyoto, or the Shogun in Edo (now Tokyo).

Naturally, when in 1868 the Shogun was over-thown by the rebellious clans he had helped arm, and the Emperor was restored to the position of highest respect and power, Glover was seen by those around him as a major reason why.

Ya can't win a war without guns, and Glover had the guns.

Despite this, by 1870, the market for more weapons and ships for the new Meiji Emperor was flooded, and Glover over-extended himself to the point of bankruptcy after becoming involved in Japan's first coal mine on Takashima Island in Kyushu.

His career was changed in 1874, when Iwasaki Yataro (surname first), the son of a Tosa-clan samurai family, asked for his help in their just set-up ship-building business.

This business, was just the previous year named Mitsubishi - yes, that Mitsubishi - and asked for Glover's knowledge and investment money.

What helped Mitsubishi greatly, was the fact that both Glover and Iwasaki both had and maintained relationships with many of the Meiji Emperor samurai who had been given top posts as a means to placate the former samurai class upon the dissolution of the shogunate.

The same ex-shogun cronies were not adverse to pass along government contracts, including those for warships to Mitsubishi, as a way of saying thanks for the help during the rebellious years.

In the land of sake, beer wasn't all that available... but Glover became involved with the fledgling Japan Brewery Co. that eventually became the Kirin Brewery Co... and... well... you know that iconic image of the mythological kirin creature on the bottles:

Well, considering the original sketch was done by his daughter Hana, that mustache on the creature was, and indeed is, representative of Glover's own 'stache. Hana was the daughter of Glover and Japanese Tsuru Awajiya (surname first), though they were not married, but common-law.

To be fair, some say the mustache/kirin thing is true, others and urban legend.

Thomas Glover posing for the Kirin label... myth or real?

Glover continued to work, mostly acting as business mediary between Japan and foreign businesses looking for contracts... and yet still... thanks to Glover's machinations in parlaying weapons and warships, Japan was able to defeat its first global super, defeating Russia in the 1904-05 war.

Love him or hate him, Glover helped propel Japan and the Meiji government along... turning the isolated country with a fascination of all things Western, into a country that now wanted a larger slice of the global pie... with Russia as its first victim.

And while Great Britain was also worried that Japan might try and take up arms against it, Glover had, back in 1865 helped convince Great Britain not to interfere with the rebellious Japanese clans of Satsuma and Choshu and their over thrown of the Shogun... and then in 1902, after dealing with Lord Charles Spencer - yes, of the same Lady nee Princess Diana mother of the UK's Prince William, the future King of England... anyhow, Glover made sure that Japan and Great Britain signed the 1902 Anglo-Japanese Alliance... which meant that Japan would be on the 'good guy' side of Great Britain when it went to battle during the Great War of 1914 - 1918. now known as World War I.

Thomas Glover died on December 16, 1911 at his home in Tokyo, but was buried at the Sakamoto International Cemetery in Nagasaki.

Glover House in Nagasaki is a museum/tourist attraction that for whatever reason still attracts some two-million people annually.

Personally, I think it's weird that my mother would travel to Japan to look at 150-year-old western style house.

My own house is now 70, the previous one I owned will be 115... oh well... I guess Japan sure loves its black market profiteers who, I suppose, helped remake Japan into a western powerhouse.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Really, I was just going to post the damn photo... but then I wondered who the fug was Glover and why would anyone visit it? Oh well... I suppose everything is answered.

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