03 January 2004

Mori Koben, Japanese Pioneer in Chuuk (Truk)

Mori Koben was born in 1869, the son of a samurai from Tosa (now Kochi) in Shikoku, Japan, and died "King of the South Seas" in Chuuk (Truk), Micronesia in 1945.
It is said that as a young man, Mori was a fervent admirer of his fellow Tosa countryman, Itagaki Taisuke, the melodramatic champion of the People's Rights Movement of early Meiji and an early advocate of an aggressive Japanese influence on the Asian continent, particularly in Korea. If true, this may explain how Mori in his youth became criminally involved in the so-called Osaka incident of 1885. In brief, this dramatic political scandal centered on the plans of Japanese political dissidents, frustrated by their government's abandonment of the reformist cause in neighboring Korea, to cooperative with the members of a Korean reform party for the overthrow of the Korean government and its replacement by a "progressive" regime. The leader in the conspiracy was Oi Kentarô, a former samurai, in whose person was combined an explosive mixture of explosive liberalism and unrestrained chauvinism.... Young Mori was caught up in a police dragnet, but, as a minor, was quickly released.
After further misadventures, he signed on to become the Micronesian trading representative of the Ichiya Company. In 1892, he arrived in Moen, Chuuk [Truk] aboard the TenryĆ» Maru after a stop in the Bonin Islands. He was 22, all alone, and armed only with a sword and two daggers.
Perceiving that the islands, particularly Moen, were in a continual state of internecine warfare, Mori soon offered his services as military advisor to Manuppis, the most important chief on the island. Armed only with a spear, Mori led the complete rout of an opposing Trukese clan, a victory that earned him the lifelong friendship of Chief Manuppis and, eventually, the chief's daughter in marriage.
They prospered and had twelve children. When the Germans took over in 1900, Mori was the only Japanese trader in Chuuk to escape expulsion for trading in guns and liquor. A Japanese trading ship ended his isolation in 1907.
By the time Japanese ships dropped anchor there in the huge lagoon at Truk in the autumn of 1914, Mori, by character and exploit, was already a legend among the small Japanese community there.
By 1940, the Japanese press was referring to him as "King of the South Seas" and the government awarded him the Order of the Sacred Treasure. However,
Mori had little use for the aggressive bombast of Japanese propagandists, and he genuinely feared the coming of the war. Yet, fiercely loyal to his country, he had actively assisted in the military preparations and had drawn upon decades of goodwill among Trukese relatives and friends to help muster labor and support for the war effort. But he was an old man with failing powers, and by the time the war broke out he had suffered a stroke that paralyzed his right side and left him unable to walk. He became a convalescent at his home on Tol, cared for there by his family. In the summer of 1943, he began to have hallucinations in which he saw his country's utter defeat. His mind began to wander and, by the time American planes roared over the reefs to launch their devastating attack on Truk in 1944, Mori had slipped into senility.
By August 1945, he had slipped into a coma. He died on the evening of the 23rd, 8 days after Japan had surrendered.

SOURCE: Mark R. Peattie, Nan'yo: The Rise and Fall of the Japanese Empire in Micronesia (U. Hawai‘i Press, 1988), pp. 26-33, 195-197, 299-300.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

My father, Hideichy Mori, is the son of Rokuro Mori whom is the youngest son of Mori Koben.

The current 7th President of Federated States of Micronesia is the grandson of the eldest son, Ichitaro Mori, of Mori Koben.

Thank you Joel for this post.

Anonymous said...

I am a granddaughter of Masataka Mori, eldest son of Ichitaro Mori, eldest son of Koben Mori

Ku'uipo said...

I am a grandaughter of Shiro Mori, 5th in the line of sons sired by Koben Mori.

REXiZ said...

I am a grandaughter of Yasu Mori, son of Niro Mori, 2nd son of Koben Mori.

RiROSE said...

I am also a grandaughter of Yasu Mori, son of Niro Mori, 2nd son of Koben Mori.

Anonymous said...

I am the grandaughter of Emiko Mori,daughter of Ichitaro.Mori, eldest son of Koben Mori

DonJuan said...

I am the grandson of Anthony Mori, son of Rokuro Mori,youngest son of Koben Mori

Anonymous said...

I'm Jt Mori. The son of Suetaka Mori, who was the youngest son of Niro Mori that had passed away in the island of Tonowas.

Anonymous said...

I am great grand daughter of Osame. First born daughter of Koben Mori.

Anonymous said...

I am one of the many great grandson of Mori Koben. Grandson of Rokuro Mori. The youngest of Mori Koben's sons.

Anonymous said...

I'm Micronesian and I'm also in the Mori blood-line. I'm like the great grand-daughter, but I honestly don't know in what line and what number I'm supposed to have or be in. But yo, this is cool.. now I know some more about my great-great-great grandfadda. AND THAT IS SO COOL THAT I HAVE SOME SAMURAI IN ME! YEAAAAAAH!

Stanley Kutta said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Stanley Kutta said...

I am also the grandson of Yasu!

Anonymous said...

I am told by some of Koben grand children that I am a Koben Mori descendant too. I am an illegitimate great grand-daughter of Koben Mori. It is shame to mention but what can I say, if that's the fact, what can I do about it. Nothing. We have always kept it a secret and wish it to keep it that way. That is why I identify myself as anonymous. Pretty cool though to learn some things about my biological great grandfather. Still want to do a DNA ancestor test just to make sure the stories are not made up.

Anonymous said...

I am an illegitimate great-grand daughter of Koben Mori. My grandpa, I'm told, is an illegitimate son of Koben Mori. Shame to say, but this is what I'm told. People say it's true, but we like to keep it on the down low. Keep it buried. Ty!!