~Wandering the history of Koriyama City, Fukushima~ The beans and Mr. Gonsai【The Asakano Journey】

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Issued in style Koriyama, vol. May 2016.

~Wandering the history of Koriyama City, Fukushima~
The beans and Mr. Gonsai【The Asakano Journey】

Some people say “there is no appreciable history in Koriyama”, but this is not true!

As we have Ōyasuba Kofun, the archaeological park, people have lived here for many hundred years, and developed cultures.

“style Koriyama” searches and presents attractiveness of Koriyama City. This time, we would like to introduce a hidden great man from Koriyama.

Who is Mr. Gonsai?

The Asakano Journey

Our local favorite Japanese sweet shop, Kashiwaya, sells a dessert with an interesting name, Gonsai Bean. What is Gonsai? Is it a kind of beans or the name of person who made it? I was curious, so I bought one. It has a cute packaging. At the back of the packaging, it say the name comes from a person called “Asaka Gonsai”, who was a neo-Confucian Scholar and educationist in the last days of the Tokugawa shogunate. He loved mountains so his name, Gon means mountains. Similarly he used the word which means mountain for the name of his school.
The Asakano Journey

His school had many graduates who became famous historians in the last days of the Tokugawa shogunate, such as Iwasaki Yataro, Takasugi Shinsaku, Yoshida Shoin, Maejima Hisoka, Oguri Kozukenosuke. Did you know that Koriyama had such a great person like Gonsai. So I went to Asakakunitsuko Shrine, where Mr. Gonsai was born, to know more about him.

Mr. Gonsai had about 2,280 pupils

Mr. Gonsai

Teacher!  Hey Yataro.

“Koriyama was one of the most flourished post stations on Oushu Road, so it was where literature and haiku culture were developed. I believe such a place created a person like Mr. Gonsai. “

Born in Asakakunitsuko Shrine, Gonsai studied mainly neo-Confucianism, which is rationalism, but he believed in flexibility and equality, so he was willing to take any positive ideas from other schools. His educational policy was to reveal individual’s characters and ability, not to push his thought. If you are trying to standardize individuals, you are not qualified to be a teacher. Later he became a professor in Shoheizaka Gakumonjo, the top educational institution in Japan at that time. How cool is that!

Among the various range of pupils, there was Iwasaki Yataro, from Kochi, the founder of MITSUBISHI. He stayed in the Gonsai’s house and learned more than any other students. Because of the favor he received from Gonsai, he built facilities related to MITSUBISHI in Koriyama, which are still functioning even today.

Gonsaizm is still being succeeded today

Mr. Gonsai

What kind of person was he?
The true Gonsai, was a good father of five kids. He sometimes took his kids to a hot-spring in Kusatsu to treat their skin. While he was a high-ranked scholar, he had many friends, had a great personal connection, and interacted with people friendly. There is a short story: He did not eat potatoes, because he did not want farting during his lectures. Wow I think he gives a lot of attention.

There is also a story about Gonsai’s habit to praise. He was a kind man, and he always gave praise by finding something good about people. It is the timeless education style to praise. When someone composes a poem, he always praised it. When the poem was not good, he praised their handwriting. When the poem and the handwriting were not good, he praised the quality of the paper or the ink brush. This education style to praise students was extremely rare back in those days in Japan. Gonsai was an honorable man who gave Tokugawa shogunate his opinions about politics and foreign diplomacy. The students were praised by the great man, so they were highly motivated and were active in various fields. I understand why he was popular. I wanted to meet him. The current Asaka Kinder-gardern still continues to take care of children with the tradition.

His kindness comes from his experiences. When he was younger, he went to Edo (current Tokyo) on his own without any support, and was a live-in student at his teacher’s place. What a great man! I wanted to share the Gonsaizm with you.

At last, this is a word from him.

If you become lazy on a halfway through, you lose all the things you have done, and you stay unskilled again.

This means that it is important that you do your best till the end without being lazy. What a smart word is that?


Gonsai Bean

①「Gonsai Bean」
The origin of this sweet comes from a story. Gonsai had his sights on a scholar at 17 years of age, and he was heading to Edo (current Tokyo). On the way, he was eating roasted soybeans and thought I wish the beans were mixed with sugar.
Gonsai Bean has the toasted soybean flour flavor, and it has mid and fine taste.

Mr. Tomoshige Ando

The teacher of Japan from Asaka
“It is nonsense to say that there is no appreciable history in Koriyama”, says Tomoshige Ando, the 64th chief priest of Asakakunitsuko Shrine. He studied about his ancestor, Gonsai, and with his wide knowledge of the history of Koriyama he has written a book called “Introduction to the history of Asaka”. I asked Mr. Ando about Gonsai’s education policy and his personal character.

Asaka Gonsai Memorial Hall

③Gonsai Memorial Hall, where you can find Gonsai’s books with his handwriting.

Asaka Gonsai Memorial Hall

④Gonsai’s Pupil Register, which recorded 2,280 names (Important Cultural Property Designated by Fukushima Prefecture)

Asaka Gonsai Memorial Hall

⑤Gonsai is one of Eight Masters of Japan, together with Rai Sanyo

Asakakunitsuko Shrine


The 64th chief priest of Asakakunitsuko Shrine,
Mr. Tomoshige Ando

Asaka Gonsai Memorial Hall (In Asakakunitsuko Shrine)
1-6-23 Shimizudai, Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture
Tel 024-932-1145


Right after the starting point of a mountain ascent on Sakura Street. The white torii|(front guard frame) is the sign↓


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