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Takasugi Shinsaku
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Military Personnel
    (September 27, 1839-May 17, 1867)
    Born in Hagi (present-day Yamaguchi), Japan
    Imperial loyalist; Samurai
    Pupil of Yoshida Shōin
    Key figure in the Meiji Restoration
    Formed the Shotai and Kiheitai; reformed the Choshu fiefdom
    Used the alias Tani Umenosuke to hide his activities from the government
    Died, at 28, of tuberculosis only a year before the defeat of dominant Tokugawa shogun armies, restoring power to the Emperor
    He was a heavy drinker.
    He regularly frequented the whorehouses of Yoshiwara.
    He is remembered as Meiji era-leader despite not having actually lived during that period (although he helped usher it in).
    In fact, historians have noted he was the only member of the Sonjuku group to die from complications that were not political.
    Popular myth portrays him as a thoughtful strategist when he was the opposite: forceful, hot-tempered and brash.
    An anecdote from his childhood claimed that a New Year's Day guest once accidentally broke his kite on a tree after stepping on it.
    As the story goes, the child angrily grabbed a handful of mud and threatened to throw it on the guest's crested robe unless he apologized. The visitor profusely begged his pardon and went on his way.
    He enrolled in the school of Ohashi Totsuan, but left shortly thereafter, saying 'it is not enough to debate with bumpkins and bravados, even from Mito.'
    He inspired the manga series villain, Gin Tama (Google searches for his name overwhelmingly turn up results related to the character).
    A fictionalized version of him appears in an Anime-style video game, 'Bakumatsu Rock,' depicted as a bass player in a rock group led by fellow Samurai Sakamoto Ryoma.
    He was Yoshida Shoin's favorite pupil.
    His reforms completely transformed Japanese fighting techniques. He remains a beloved folk hero of his native Japan.
    He was profounfly affected by Yoshida's extradition and imprisonment, and would visit him frequently in prison.
    Shortly after his mentor was executed, he made a vow that he would never rest until he had destroyed the ruling Tokugawa Bakufu.
    He was imprisoned by the authorities after a failed anti-Choshu coup in Kyota, in 1863.
    He personally witnessed Imperialist aggression towards Chinese citizens while visiting during the Taiping Rebellion (it convinced him that outright resisting Western influence was futile).
    His renewed stance on foreign influence made him enemies within the Sonjuku, and he escaped at least one assassination attempt from Choshu loyalists.
    He was vindicated after forts along the Shimonoseki Strait were demolished by British and French warships in response to failed 1864 rebellion (his standing among the Choshu exponentially grew).
    He trained peasants in Western-style military techniques and organized them into militias (including the 'Irregular Troop Unit,' the Kiheitai, which he personally oversaw).
    The Shogun sought to crack down on the militias, but they strategically outmaneuvered their armies within a year. He would not live to see the final overthrow of the shogun.
    A famous anecdote has it that one day his mother gave him a boxed lunch to go watch the criminal beheadings with other children of the Samurai. After the first beheading, most of the boys ran home in terror, while he calmly ate his boxed lunch and stayed until the end of the day.

Credit: BoyWiththeGreenHair

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