rare wood carving of Sontoku as a young man sitting upright with a scroll in hand.
Sontoku Ninomiya (1787-1856) is venerated as a philosopher and agriculturist in
the late Edo period. He was born into a poor peasant family, and lost his parents
at the age of fourteen. However, through acquiring and transforming abandoned
fields into farm land, he became rich in his early 20s'; then he was appointed
the administer of agriculture, successfully turning rundown fiefdoms into prosperous
farmlands for much of the feudal domains. Although he had left no written records
of philosophy, his teachings are known to combined Confucism, Shinto and Buddhism.
In the Meiji era, shrines for Nonomiya were established throughout Japan. His
image is commonly portrayed as a young teen strolling with a book in hands while
carrying firewood on his back, and many of these Sontoku statues can be seen erected
in parks and schools.