Satsuma Clan

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One of the two major clans that was in opposition to the Tokugawa Shogunate, the Satsuma Clan, after the Meiji Restoration, supplanted their rival Chosu Clan in the Imperial Japanese Army; they were always dominant in the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Their traditional stronghold was Kagoshima in the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, with their key family the Shimazus, descended from Tadahisa Shimazu, son of Yoritomo Minamoto of the Kamakura Period. They were allied with the House of Fushimi, a branch of the imperial family from which Hirohito's Empress Nagako was descended.

Satsuma rebellion

In 1877, some Satsuma samurai, angry about the Emperor's edict that only members of the military sjould wear swords, Takamori Saigo led the Satsuma Rebellion. Saigo, only shortly before, had been a leader of the Meiji government, along with Toshimichi Okubo, another Satsuma, and Koin Kido of the Chosu. Kido was a diplomat and negotiator, who convinced the feudal lords to join the national government. Saigo was the military leader and Okubo a planner. Although the 15,000 man army, imm quickly took Kagoshima, the Western-trained new army, directed by Toshimichi Okuba and under the tactical control of Aritomo Yamagata, defeated them, [1] and Saigo, badly wounded, ordered his most loyal retainer, Shinsuke Beppu, to kill him. Saigo is still revered as the "last samurai", and statues in Tokyo's Ueno Park and Kagoshima's Central Park honor him.[2]

Return to influence

Until the late 1920s, the rebellion largely ended Satsuma power in the Army. Their national power began to return through the Palace. Count Nobuaki Makino, a Satsuma and son of Okuba,[3] was the companion of Prince Hirohito on his European tour of 1921, and then became Lord Privy Seal, generally considered the most important Palace official, from 1925 to 1935.


  1. Edwin P. Hoyt (1985), The Militarists: the Rise of Japanese Militarism since WWII, Donald I. Fine, ISBN 0917657179
  2. Ivan Morris, "The Apotheos of Saigo the Great", The Nobility of Failure
  3. David Bergamini (1971), Japan's Imperial Conspiracy, Morrow, p. 315