Satsuma Rebellion

The first test of the young Meiji government came with the revolt of the powerful Satsuma clan based in the southern region of the island of Kyushu. This influential clan was headed by the Shimazu family, which had been founded by Shimazu Tadahisa, son of Minamoto Yoritomo, in the Kamakura period. It was one of the two powerful clans (the other was the Choshu) that made the restoration of power to the Emperor possible. After nine years of working close to the central government, the samurai of Satsuma had grown dissatisfied with the direction the government was taking. They organized a considerable army to fight against the untried troops of the central government. It was a momentous clash between traditional Japanese warfare, as waged by the sword-wielding individual warriors, and the new peasant army, trained in western strategy and using western weapons. The rebellion was led by Saigo Takamori, a giant of a man with an engaging personality who, just a few years earlier, had been a leader in the government and who, as field marshall, had actually been responsible for forming the government army that he now opposed. Saigo was one of the three young samurai who had joined the government and whose personal magnetism had helped to weld it together. The second was Kido Koin,a samurai from the Choshu clan, who was an extraordinarily able diplomat, a master of the art of persuasion. Kido's historical importance rests primarily upon his conviction that feudalism had to be abolished if the nation was to prosper together with his ability to convince the feudal lords that it was in their own interests, as well as their patriotic duty, to return the Emperor to power and to support the new central government. The third of the triumvirate was Okubo Toshimichi who, as Saigo, was also a member of the Satsuma clan. Saigo was the impetuous man of action, Kido the diplomat, and Okubo the master planner of the new regime. Later it was because of the opposition of Okubo to Saigo 's ideas for conquest and expansion that Saigo resigned from the government. Saigo had advanced a plan for the conquest of Korea that included sending an envoy to that country to make impossible and insulting demands. This would result, he explained, in the Koreans executing the envoy and would thereby give Japan an excuse for declaring war. The envoy, he insisted, would be himself. Okubo and Kido refused him, and Saigo went back to his home in Kyushu. There, he was prevailed upon to join the rebellious samurai and to lead them against the government army. The government acted swiftly to crush the rebellion. The fighting was brief but bloody. Saigo and his men fought well, but the government soldiers easily triumphed. When he was badly wounded, he committed suicide in the samurai tradition, rather than be captured. But his contribution to the early government, his bravery and spirit were not forgotten. He became a hero to future Japanese soldiers and was pardoned posthumously by the Meiji Emperor, whom he had both supported and opposed.

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Trains Run on Time
Industrial Beginnings
Satsuma Rebellion
First Industrial Fair

Dancing and Diplomacy
The First Constitution
War with China
War with Russia
The New Face of Tokyo
Toward the Future