If at any time in my life you had asked me to name my heroes I would have said my dad. I could list some of his accomplishments and you'd say, "That is a good list of accomplishments. That is a good series of events in a man's life. That is not bad and I hope to compare to that list. If I did I would be content with my life. I hear that the people who are afraid of death are those who did not live full lives, but he wouldn't feel that way. He is a man that I can admire, a man that lived well, and I am impressed."
But in the interest of being unbiased I will list the three men who impress me more than anyone who is not family.
In chronological order:
No. 1: Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Here is a link describing him as "One of the most remarkable men in Japanese history,"
Here is his Wikipedia entry.
This is a guy who was born a peasant. A peasant in a society that did not like people to change their station in life. If you were born a farmer you died a farmer, and so on.
This guy was employed at various times in various trades. He learned some but was unimpressed with them.
He then went to a man that was often overlooked, but who had potential even if no one noticed. And he said, approximate: Employ me. He was asked, "what skills do you have?" He responded, "loyalty." (That man was Oda Nobunaga.)(If there is a company I feel similarly to today it is the Boston Brewing Company, maker of Sam Adams beer. If they were located anywhere near where I'd like to live, I'd say, "I'm working for you, and not taking 'no' for an answer.")
He was hired. And rose through the ranks.
Apparently there is/ was a saying in Japan:
What if the bird will not sing?
Oda Nobunaga: "Kill it."
Toyotomi Hideyoshi: "Make it want to sing."
Tokugawa Ieyasu: "Wait."
Most of what I just told you comes from my reading of one of my favorite books. Taiko by Eiji Yoshikawa. (Since you are not me, if you wish to read about Japanese people in a book of historical fiction by Eiji Yoshikawa, I suggest Musashi. That book is about an admirable man, and is more to taste for most people; it was described as the "Gone with the Wind" of the far east.)
I often daydream of being as admirable as Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
No 2. Roy Chapman Andrews
Here is his Wikipedia entry.
This guy comes from my state: Wisconsin.
He was the world's first expert on whales, he explored Korea, and southern China, among other things. But is most notable accomplishment, the one that made him famous in the twenties, was his exploration of Mongolia.
If I was going to summarize him to you I'd say, "Have you seen the Indiana Jones movies? The exploring far away countries? The getting shot at by natives? The fear of snakes? That's him."
He explored Mongolia as an archeologist and one of his party discovered the first dinosaur egg (that's how I first heard of him). But even before that he was impressive. Here is a biography, how can you not be impressed by this account of his life? Here is his book about exploring southern China; I want to do what he did there. This book, Heart of Asia: True Tales of the Far East, is so good I wonder why each chapter is not the basis of a movie. In fact if you want to write an action movie script I suggest you pick a chapter of this book at random and turn it into a full movie.
Here is his biography.
He has written other books, many of which I have not read. Yet.
No. 3: Naughty Nomad
Here is his website.
He is a contemporary of us, and a year younger than me.
But if you read his blog posts and his comments on the rooshv forum, how can you not be impressed with his travel of the world. (and slaying of girls.)
He has seen africa, east asia, southeast asia, eastern europe, etc.
I dare you to read his words and not be impressed by his deeds and adventures. If you are not? Fuck you.
I imagine that I will have much more to say about him on August 1st, 2012 because that's when his first book comes out. If its 10% of what I hope, I'll need to rearrange my list of favorite books.
Honorable mentions to my list of heroes: