Seiko Usui: Jose Rizal's Japanese Girlfriend
© 2013 by Jensen DG. Mañebog
If only Jose Rizal had no patriotic mission and no political will, he would have married her and settled in Japan for good.
It was during Rizal’s second trip abroad when he met Seiko Usui. From Hong Kong, he arrived in Japan in February 1888 and moved to the Spanish Legation in the Azabu district of Tokyo upon the invitation of an official in the legation.
One day, Rizal saw Seiko passing by the legation in one of her daily afternoon walks. Fascinated by her charm, Rizal inquired and learned from a Japanese gardener some basic information about her. The next day, Rizal and the Japanese gardener waited at the legation gate for Seiko. Acting as a go-between and interpreter, the gardener introduced the gracious Filipino doctor and the pretty Japanese woman to each other. The gardener’s role as intermediary was cut short however when Seiko spoke in English. She also knew French, and so she and Rizal began to converse in both languages.
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O-Sei-San, as Rizal fondly called Seiko, voluntarily acted as Rizal’s generous tour guide. She accompanied him to Japan’s shrines, parks, universities, and other interesting places like the Imperial Art Gallery, Imperial Library, and the Shokubutsu-en (Botanical Garden). Serving as his tutor and interpreter, she helped him improve his knowledge of the Japanese language (Nihonngo) and explained to him some Japanese cultural elements and traditions like the Kabuki plays.
It was thus not surprising that Jose fell for the charming, modest, pretty, and intelligent daughter of a samurai. Seiko subsequently reciprocated the affection of the talented and virtuous guest who, like her, had deep interest in the arts.
Their more than a month happy relationship had to end nonetheless, as the man with a mission Rizal had to leave Japan. His diary entry on the eve of his departure illustrates what he had thrown away in deciding to leave O-Sei-San:
“Japan has enchanted me. The beautiful scenery, the flowers, the trees, and the inhabitants – so peaceful, so courteous, and so pleasant. O-Sei-San, Sayonara, Sayonara! I have spent a happy golden month; I do not know if I can have another one like that in all my life. Love, money, friendship, appreciation, honors –these have not been wanting.
To think that I am leaving this life for the uncertain, the unknown. There I was offered an easy way to live, beloved and esteemed…”
As if talking to Seiko, Rizal affectionately addressed this part of his diary entry to his Japanese sweetheart:
“To you I dedicate the final chapter of these memoirs of my youth. No woman, like you has ever loved me. No woman, like you has ever sacrificed for me. Like the flower of the chodji that falls from the stem fresh and whole without falling leaves or without withering –with poetry still despite its fall – thus you fell. Neither have you lost your purity nor have the delicate petals of your innocence faded – Sayonara, Sayonara!
You shall never return to know that I have once more thought of you and that your image lives in my memory; and undoubtedly, I am always thinking of you. Your name lives in the sight of my lips, your image accompanies and animates all my thoughts. When shall I return to pass another divine afternoon like that in the temple of Maguro? When shall the sweet hours I spent with you return? When shall I find them sweeter, more tranquil, more pleasing? You the color of the camellia, its freshness, its elegance…
Ah! Last descendant of a noble family, faithful to an unfortunate vengeance, you are lovely like…everything has ended! Sayonara, Sayonara!”
Onboard the steamer ‘Belgic’, Rizal left Japan on April 13, 1888 never to see Seiko again. In 1897, a year after Rizal’s martyrdom, Seiko married Alfred Charlton, British chemistry teacher of the Peer’s School in Tokyo. Mr. Charlton died on November 2, 1915, survived by Seiko and their child Yuriko.
At the age of 80, Seiko died on May 1, 1947 and was buried in the tomb of her husband at Zoshigawa Cemetery. Their daughter Yuriko became the wife of a certain Yoshiharu Takiguchi, son of a Japanese senator. (© 2013 by Jensen DG. Mañebog)
The author's e-book on Jose Rizal's love life
Jensen DG. Mañebog, the contributor, is a book author and professorial lecturer in the graduate school of a state university in Metro Manila. His unique e-books on Rizal (available online) comprehensively tackle, among others, the respective life of Rizal’s parents, siblings, co-heroes, and girlfriends. (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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