Satsuma Rebellion
The was a revolt of Satsuma
Satsuma han
The Satsuma domain was one of the most powerful feudal domains in Tokugawa Japan, and played a major role in the Meiji Restoration and in the government of the Meiji period which followed...

is the term for the military nobility of pre-industrial Japan. According to translator William Scott Wilson: "In Chinese, the character 侍 was originally a verb meaning to wait upon or accompany a person in the upper ranks of society, and this is also true of the original term in Japanese, saburau...

 against the Meiji government from January 29 to September 24, 1877, 9 years into the Meiji Era. It was the last, and the most serious, of a series of armed uprisings against the new government.


Although the Satsuma Domain had been one of the key players in the Meiji Restoration
Meiji Restoration
The , also known as the Meiji Ishin, Revolution, Reform or Renewal, was a chain of events that restored imperial rule to Japan in 1868...

 and the Boshin War
Boshin War
The was a civil war in Japan, fought from 1868 to 1869 between forces of the ruling Tokugawa shogunate and those seeking to return political power to the imperial court....

, and although many men from Satsuma had risen to influential positions in the new Meiji government, there was growing dissatisfaction with the direction the country was taking. The modernization of the country meant the abolition of the privileged social status of the samurai
is the term for the military nobility of pre-industrial Japan. According to translator William Scott Wilson: "In Chinese, the character 侍 was originally a verb meaning to wait upon or accompany a person in the upper ranks of society, and this is also true of the original term in Japanese, saburau...

class, and had undermined their financial position. The very rapid and massive changes to Japanese culture, language, dress and society appeared to many samurai to be a betrayal of the jōi ("expel the barbarian") portion of the sonnō jōi
Sonno joi
is a Japanese political philosophy and a social movement derived from Neo-Confucianism; it became a political slogan in the 1850s and 1860s in the movement to overthrow the Tokugawa bakufu, during the Bakumatsu period.-Origin:...

justification used to overthrow the former Tokugawa shogunate
Tokugawa shogunate
The Tokugawa shogunate, also known as the and the , was a feudal regime of Japan established by Tokugawa Ieyasu and ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family. This period is known as the Edo period and gets its name from the capital city, Edo, which is now called Tokyo, after the name was...


Saigō Takamori
Saigo Takamori
was one of the most influential samurai in Japanese history, living during the late Edo Period and early Meiji Era. He has been dubbed the last true samurai.-Early life:...

, one of the senior Satsuma leaders in the Meiji government who had supported the reforms in the beginning, was especially concerned about growing political corruption (the slogan of his rebel movement was "新政厚徳", "New government, High morality").
Saigō was a strong proponent of war with Korea
Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

 in the Seikanron
The Seikanron debate was a major political conflagration which occurred in Japan in 1873....

debate of 1873. At one point, he offered to visit Korea in person and to provoke a casus belli
Casus belli
is a Latin expression meaning the justification for acts of war. means "incident", "rupture" or indeed "case", while means bellic...

by behaving in such an insulting manner that the Koreans would be forced to kill him. A war would not only spur the strengthening of Japan's military
Japanese militarism
refers to the ideology in the Empire of Japan that militarism should dominate the political and social life of the nation, and that the strength of the military is equal to the strength of a nation.-Rise of militarism :...

, but would restore to the samurai their raison d'être. When the plan was rejected, Saigō resigned from all of his government positions in protest and returned to his hometown of Kagoshima
Kagoshima, Kagoshima
is the capital city of Kagoshima Prefecture at the southwestern tip of the Kyūshū island of Japan, and the largest city in the prefecture by some margin...

, as did many other Satsuma ex-samurai in the military and police forces.
To help support and employ these men, in 1874 Saigō established a private academy in Kagoshima. Soon 132 branches were established all over the prefecture. The “training” provided was not purely academic: although the Chinese classics were taught, all students were required to take part in weapons training and instruction in tactics. The traditions of bushido
, meaning "Way of the Warrior-Knight", is a Japanese word which is used to describe a uniquely Japanese code of conduct and a way of the samurai life, loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry. It originates from the samurai moral code and stresses frugality, loyalty, martial arts mastery, and...

were emphasized. Saigō also started an artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 school. The schools resembled paramilitary
A paramilitary is a force whose function and organization are similar to those of a professional military, but which is not considered part of a state's formal armed forces....

 political organizations more than anything else, and they enjoyed the support of the governor of Satsuma, who appointed disaffected samurai to political offices, where they came to dominate the Kagoshima government. Support for Saigō was so strong that Satsuma had effectively seceded from the central government by the end of 1876.


Word of Saigō’s academies was greeted with considerable concern in Tokyo. The government had just dealt with several small but violent samurai revolts in Kyūshū, and the prospect of the numerous and fierce Satsuma samurai, being led in rebellion by the famous and popular Saigō was alarming.

In December 1876, the Meiji government sent a police officer named Nakahara Hisao and 57 other men to investigate reports of subversive activities and unrest. The men were captured, and under torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

, confessed that they were spies who had been sent to assassinate Saigō. Although Nakahara later repudiated the confession, it was widely believed in Satsuma and was used as justification by the disaffected samurai that a rebellion was necessary in order to “protect Saigō”.

Fearing a rebellion, the Meiji government sent a warship to Kagoshima to remove the weapons stockpiled at the Kagoshima arsenal on January 30, 1877. Ironically, this provoked open conflict, although with the elimination of samurai rice stipends in 1877, tensions were already extremely high. Outraged by the government's tactics, 50 students from Saigō’s academy attacked the Somuta Arsenal and carried off weapons. Over the next three days, more than 1000 students staged raids on the naval yards and other arsenals.

Presented with this fait accompli, the greatly dismayed Saigō was reluctantly persuaded to come out of his semi-retirement to lead the rebellion against the central government.
In February 1877, the Meiji government dispatched Hayashi Tomoyuki, an official with the Home Ministry
Home Ministry (Japan)
The ' was a Cabinet-level ministry established under the Meiji Constitution that managed the internal affairs of Empire of Japan from 1873-1947...

 with Admiral Kawamura Sumiyoshi
Kawamura Sumiyoshi
Count , was an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy. Kawamura's wife Haru was the aunt of Saigō Takamori.-Biography:A native of Satsuma, Kawamura studied navigation at Tokugawa bakufu naval school at Nagasaki, the Nagasaki Naval Training Center. In 1868, he joined his Satsuma clansmen, and fought...

 in the warship Takao
Japanese steam warship Takao
was a steam warship belonging to the former navy of the Bakufu during the Boshin War of 1868-1869. She had been seized from the navy of the fief of Akita....

 to ascertain the situation. Satsuma governor, Oyama Tsunayoshi, explained that the uprising was in response to the government's assassination attempt on Saigō, and asked that Admiral Kawamura (Saigō's cousin) come ashore to help calm the situation. After Oyama departed, a flotilla of small ships filled with armed men attempted to board Takao by force, but were repelled. The following day, Hayashi declared to Oyama that he could not permit Kawamura to go ashore when the situation was so unsettled, and that the attack on Takao constituted an act of lese-majeste.

On his return to Kobe
, pronounced , is the fifth-largest city in Japan and is the capital city of Hyōgo Prefecture on the southern side of the main island of Honshū, approximately west of Osaka...

 on February 12, Hayashi met with General Yamagata Aritomo
Yamagata Aritomo
Field Marshal Prince , also known as Yamagata Kyōsuke, was a field marshal in the Imperial Japanese Army and twice Prime Minister of Japan. He is considered one of the architects of the military and political foundations of early modern Japan. Yamagata Aritomo can be seen as the father of Japanese...

 and Ito Hirobumi
Ito Hirobumi
Prince was a samurai of Chōshū domain, Japanese statesman, four time Prime Minister of Japan , genrō and Resident-General of Korea. Itō was assassinated by An Jung-geun, a Korean nationalist who was against the annexation of Korea by the Japanese Empire...

, and it was decided that the Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Army
-Foundation:During the Meiji Restoration, the military forces loyal to the Emperor were samurai drawn primarily from the loyalist feudal domains of Satsuma and Chōshū...

 would need to be sent to Kagoshima to prevent the revolt from spreading to other areas of the country sympathetic to Saigō. On the same day, Saigō met with his lieutenants Kirino Toshiaki
Kirino Toshiaki
was a Japanese samurai of the late Edo period, and an Imperial Japanese Army general of the early Meiji era.-Biography:Kirino, also known as ', was renowned as one of the Four Hitokiri of the Bakumatsu. His sword style was Ko-jigen-ryū, a branch of the high-speed Jigen-ryū . Kirino's activities...

 and Shinohara Kunimoto and announced his intention of marching to Tokyo to ask questions of the government. Rejecting large numbers of volunteers, he made no attempt to contact any of the other domains for support, and no troops were left at Kagoshima to secure his base against an attack. To aid in the air of legality, Saigō wore his army uniform. Marching north, his army was hampered by the deepest snowfall Satsuma had seen in more than 50 years.

Siege of Kumamoto Castle

The Satsuma vanguard crossed into Kumamoto Prefecture
Kumamoto Prefecture
is a prefecture of Japan located on Kyushu Island. The capital is the city of Kumamoto.- History :Historically the area was called Higo Province; and the province was renamed Kumamoto during the Meiji Restoration. The creation of prefectures was part of the abolition of the feudal system...

 on February 14. The Commandant of Kumamoto castle
Kumamoto Castle
is a hilltop Japanese castle located in Kumamoto in Kumamoto Prefecture. It was a large and extremely well fortified castle. The is a concrete reconstruction built in 1960, but several ancillary wooden buildings remain of the original castle. Kumamoto Castle is considered one of the three premier...

, Major General Tani Tateki
Tani Tateki
-External links:...

 had 3,800 soldiers and 600 policemen at his disposal. However, most of the garrison was from Kyūshū, and as many officers were natives of Kagoshima, their loyalties were open to question. Rather than risk desertions or defections, Tani decided to stand on the defensive.

On February 19, the first shots of the war were fired as the defenders of Kumamoto castle opened fire on Satsuma units attempting to force their way into the castle. Kumamoto castle, built in 1598, was among the strongest in Japan, but Saigō was confident that his forces would be more than a match for Tani's peasant conscripts, who were still demoralized by the recent Shimpuren Rebellion.

On February 22, the main Satsuma army arrived and attacked Kumamoto castle in a pincer movement. Fighting continued into the night. Imperial forces fell back, and Acting Major Nogi Maresuke of the Kokura Fourteenth Regiment lost the regimental colors in fierce fighting. However, despite their successes, the Satsuma army failed to take the castle, and began to realize that the conscript army was not as ineffective as first assumed. After two days of fruitless attack, the Satsuma forces dug into the rock-hard icy ground around the castle and tried to starve the garrison out in a siege
A siege is a military blockade of a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by attrition or assault. The term derives from sedere, Latin for "to sit". Generally speaking, siege warfare is a form of constant, low intensity conflict characterized by one party holding a strong, static...

. The situation was especially desperate for the defenders as their stores of food and ammunition had been depleted by a warehouse fire shortly before the rebellion began.

During the siege, many Kumamoto ex-samurai flocked to Saigō's banner, swelling his forces to around 20,000 men. In the meantime, on March 9 Saigō, Kirino and Shinohara were stripped of their court ranks and titles.

On the night of April 8, a force from Kumamoto castle made a sortie, forcing open a hole in the Satsuma lines and enabling desperately needed supplies to reach the garrison. The main Imperial Army, under General Kuroda Kiyotaka
Kuroda Kiyotaka
, also known as , was a Japanese politician of the Meiji era. He was the second Prime Minister of Japan from 30 April 1888 to 25 October 1889.-As a Satsuma samurai:...

 with the assistance of General Yamakawa Hiroshi
Yamakawa Hiroshi
Baron was a samurai of late Edo period Japan who went on to become a noted general in the early Meiji period Imperial Japanese Army. An Aizu retainer famous for his ingenious strategies against the early Meiji government during the Boshin War to overthrow the Tokugawa bakufu, he was of the first...

 arrived in Kumamoto on April 12, putting the now heavily outnumbered Satsuma forces to flight.

Battle of Tabaruzaka

On March 4 Imperial Army General Yamagata ordered a frontal assault from Tabaruzaka, guarding the approaches to Kumamoto, which developed into an eight-day long battle. Tabaruzaka was held by some 15,000 samurai from Satsuma, Kumamoto and Hitoyoshi
Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto
is a city located in Kumamoto, Japan.As of 2008, the city has an estimated population of 36,297 and the density of 172 persons per km². The total area is 210.55 km².The city was founded on February 11, 1942....

 against the Imperial Army's 9th Infantry Brigade (some 9,000 men).
At the height of the battle, Saigō wrote a private letter to Prince Arisugawa, restating his reasons for going to Tokyo. His letter indicated that he was not committed to rebellion and sought a peaceful settlement. The government, however, refused to negotiate.

In order to cut Saigō off from his base, an imperial force with three warships, 500 policemen and several companies of infantry, landed in Kagoshima on March 8, seized arsenals and took the Satsuma governor into custody.

Yamagata also landed a detachment with two infantry brigades and 1,200 policemen behind the rebel lines, so as to fall on them from the rear from Yatsushiro Bay
Yatsushiro, Kumamoto
is a city located in Kumamoto, Japan.On August 1, 2005, the city merged with the municipalities of Izumi, Kagami, Sakamoto, Senchō and Tōyō to form the new expanded city of Yashushiro....

. Imperial forces landed with few losses, then pushed north seizing the city of Miyanohara on March 19. After receiving reinforcements, the imperial force, now totaling 4,000 men, attacked the rear elements of the Satsuma army and drove them back.

Tabaruzaka was one of the most intense campaigns of the war. Imperial forces emerged victorious, but with heavy casualties on both sides. Each side had suffered more than 4,000 killed or wounded.

Retreat from Kumamoto

After his failure to take Kumamoto, Saigō led his followers on a seven day march to Hitoyoshi. Morale was extremely low, and lacking any strategy, the Satsuma forces dug in to wait for the next Imperial Army offensive. However, the Imperial Army was likewise depleted, and fighting was suspended for several weeks to permit reinforcement. When the offensive was resumed, Saigo retreated to Miyazaki
Miyazaki, Miyazaki
is the capital city of Miyazaki Prefecture on the island of Kyūshū in Japan. Located on the coast and perforated by several rivers, Miyazaki City enjoys scenic views of both ocean and nearby, verdant mountains...

, leaving behind numerous pockets of samurai in the hills to conduct guerilla attacks
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...


On July 24, the Imperial Army forced Saigō out of Miyakonojō
Miyakonojo, Miyazaki
is a city located in Miyazaki Prefecture, Japan.The city was founded on April 1, 1924. On January 1, 2006 the towns of Takajō, Takazaki, Yamada and Yamanokuchi merged into the city. As of 2008, the city has an estimated population of 169,384 and a population density of 259 per km²...

, followed by Nobeoka
Nobeoka, Miyazaki
is the northernmost city located in Miyazaki, Japan.-Population:As of the January 1, 2008 merger, the city has an estimated population of 130,435 and a population density of 150 persons per km². The total area is 867.97 km².-History:...

. Troops were landed at Ōita
Oita, Oita
is the capital city of Ōita Prefecture located on the island of Kyushu, Japan.- Demographics and geography :Ōita is the most populous city in Ōita Prefecture...

 and Saiki
Saiki, Oita
is a city located in Ōita Prefecture, Japan.As of 2003, the former city had an estimated population of 49,183 and the density of 249.19 persons per km²...

 north of Saigō's army, and Saigō was caught in a pincer attack. However, the Satsuma army was able to cut its way free from encirclement. By August 17, the Satsuma army had been reduced to 3000 combatants, and had lost most of its modern firearms and all of its artillery.

The surviving rebels made a stand on the slopes of Mount Enodake, and were soon surrounded. Determined not to let the rebels escape again, Yamagata sent in a large force which outnumbered the Satsuma army 7:1. Most of Saigō’s remaining forces either surrendered or committed seppuku. However, Saigō burned his private papers and army uniform on August 19, and slipped away towards Kagoshima with his remaining able bodied men. Despite Yamagata's efforts over the next several days, Saigō and his remaining 500 men reached Kagoshima on September 1 and seized Shiroyama
Mount Shiroyama (Kagoshima)
is a mountain located in Kagoshima, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. True height is 107m. The original name is The mountain is famous as a grueling battlefield of Satsuma rebellion.-References:* Kagoshima city official site ....

, overlooking the city.

Battle of Shiroyama

Saigō and his remaining samurai were pushed back to Kagoshima where, in a final battle
Last stand
Last stand is a loose military term used to describe a body of troops holding a defensive position in the face of overwhelming odds. The defensive force usually takes very heavy casualties or is completely destroyed, as happened in "Custer's Last Stand" at the Battle of Little Big HornBryan Perrett...

, the Battle of Shiroyama
Battle of Shiroyama
-External links:* *...

, Imperial Army troops under the command of General Yamagata Aritomo
Yamagata Aritomo
Field Marshal Prince , also known as Yamagata Kyōsuke, was a field marshal in the Imperial Japanese Army and twice Prime Minister of Japan. He is considered one of the architects of the military and political foundations of early modern Japan. Yamagata Aritomo can be seen as the father of Japanese...

 and marines under the command of Admiral Kawamura Sumiyoshi
Kawamura Sumiyoshi
Count , was an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy. Kawamura's wife Haru was the aunt of Saigō Takamori.-Biography:A native of Satsuma, Kawamura studied navigation at Tokugawa bakufu naval school at Nagasaki, the Nagasaki Naval Training Center. In 1868, he joined his Satsuma clansmen, and fought...

 outnumbered Saigō 60-to-1. However, Yamagata was determined to leave nothing to chance. The imperial troops spent several days constructing an elaborate system of ditches, walls and obstacles to prevent another breakout. The five government warships in Kagoshima harbor added their firepower to Yamagata's artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

, and began to systematically reduce the rebel positions.

After Saigō rejected a letter dated September 1 from Yamagata drafted by a young Suematsu Kenchō
Suematsu Kencho
Viscount was a Japanese politician, intellectual and author, who lived in the Meiji and Taishō periods. Apart from his activity in the Japanese government, he also wrote several important works on Japan in English...

 (see M. Matsumura, Pōtsumasu he no michi, pub. Hara Shobo, 1987, Chapter 1) asking him to surrender, Yamagata ordered a full frontal assault on September 24, 1877. By 6 a.m., only 40 rebels were still alive. Saigō was severely wounded. Legend says that one of his followers, Beppu Shinsuke
Beppu Shinsuke
was a Japanese samurai of the late Edo period who became an officer in the Imperial Japanese Army. He was a samurai of the Satsuma Domain, and an associate of Saigō Takamori. Beppu joined Saigō's forces during the Satsuma Rebellion. At the end of the rebellion, it was Beppu who was the second at...

 acted as kaishakunin
A kaishakunin is an appointed second whose duty is to behead one who has committed seppuku, Japanese ritual suicide, at the moment of agony...

and aided Saigō in committing seppuku
is a form of Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment. Seppuku was originally reserved only for samurai. Part of the samurai bushido honor code, seppuku was either used voluntarily by samurai to die with honor rather than fall into the hands of their enemies , or as a form of capital punishment...

before he could be captured. However, other evidence contradicts this, stating that Saigō in fact died of the bullet wound and then had his head removed by Beppu in order to preserve his dignity.

After Saigo's death, Beppu and the last of the "ex-samurai" drew their swords and plunged downhill toward the Imperial positions and to their deaths. With these deaths, the Satsuma rebellion came to an end.


Financially, crushing the Satsuma Rebellion cost the government greatly, forcing Japan off the gold standard
Gold standard
The gold standard is a monetary system in which the standard economic unit of account is a fixed mass of gold. There are distinct kinds of gold standard...

 and causing the government to print paper currency. The rebellion was also effectively the end of the samurai class, as the new Imperial Japanese Army built of conscripts without regard to social class had proven itself in battle. Saigō Takamori was labeled as a tragic hero by the people and on February 22, 1889, Emperor Meiji
Emperor Meiji
The or was the 122nd emperor of Japan according to the traditional order of succession, reigning from 3 February 1867 until his death...

 pardoned Saigō posthumously.

Organization of the Imperial Forces

At the start of the Satsuma Rebellion, the Imperial Japanese Army (including the Imperial Guard
Imperial Guard of Japan
The Japanese is an organization which is dedicated to protection of the Emperor of Japan and his family, palaces and other imperial properties. Following the end of World War II the traditional Guard, which also served as a unit in the Imperial Japanese Army, was dissolved and in 1947 a civil...

) numbered approximately 34,000 men. The line infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

 was divided into 14 regiment
A regiment is a major tactical military unit, composed of variable numbers of batteries, squadrons or battalions, commanded by a colonel or lieutenant colonel...

s of 3 battalion
A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel...

s each. Each battalion consisted of 4 companies. In peacetime, each company had approximately 160 privates and 32 officers and non-commissioned officers. During war a company's strength was to be increased to 240 privates. A battalion had 640 men in peacetime and theoretically 960 men in wartime. They were armed with breech-loading Snider rifle
The British .577 Snider-Enfield was a type of breech loading rifle. The firearm action was invented by the American Jacob Snider, and the Snider-Enfield was one of the most widely used of the Snider varieties. It was adopted by British Army as a conversion system for its ubiquitous Pattern 1853...

s and could fire approximately six rounds per minute.

There were two "regiments" of line cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 and one "regiment" of imperial guard cavalry. Contemporary illustrations show the cavalry armed with lances.

The Imperial Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 consisted of 18 batteries divided into 9 battalions, with 120 men per battery during peacetime. During war, the mountain artillery had a nominal strength of 160 men per battery and field artillery
Field artillery
Field artillery is a category of mobile artillery used to support armies in the field. These weapons are specialized for mobility, tactical proficiency, long range, short range and extremely long range target engagement....

 had 130 men per battery. Artillery consisted of over 100 pieces, including 5.28 pound mountain guns, Krupp
The Krupp family , a prominent 400-year-old German dynasty from Essen, have become famous for their steel production and for their manufacture of ammunition and armaments. The family business, known as Friedrich Krupp AG Hoesch-Krupp, was the largest company in Europe at the beginning of the 20th...

 field guns of various calibers, and mortars.

The Imperial Guard (mostly ex-samurai) was always maintained at wartime strength. The Guard infantry was divided into 2 regiments of 2 battalions each. A battalion was 672 men strong and was organized as per the line battalions. The cavalry regiment consisted of 150 men. The artillery battalion was divided into 2 batteries with 130 men per battery.

Japan was divided into six military districts: Tokyo, Sendai, Nagoya, Osaka
is a city in the Kansai region of Japan's main island of Honshu, a designated city under the Local Autonomy Law, the capital city of Osaka Prefecture and also the biggest part of Keihanshin area, which is represented by three major cities of Japan, Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe...

, Hiroshima
is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture, and the largest city in the Chūgoku region of western Honshu, the largest island of Japan. It became best known as the first city in history to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon when the United States Army Air Forces dropped an atomic bomb on it at 8:15 A.M...

 and Kumamoto, with two or three regiments of infantry, plus artillery and other auxiliary troops, assigned to each district.

In addition to the army, the central government also used marines and Tokyo policemen
Police services of the Empire of Japan
The of the Empire of Japan, consisted of numerous police services, in many cases with overlapping jurisdictions.-History and background:During the Tokugawa bakufu , police functions were based on a combination of appointed town magistrates of samurai status, who served simultaneously as a chief of...

 in its struggle against Satsuma. The police, in units ranging from 300 to 600 men, were mostly ex-samurai (ironically, many of whom were from Satsuma) and were armed only with wooden batons and swords (Japanese police did not carry firearms until the Rice Riots of 1918
Rice Riots of 1918
The ' were a series of popular disturbances that erupted throughout Japan from July to September 1918, which brought about the collapse of the Terauchi Masatake administration.-Causes:...


During the conflict, the government side expended in average 322,000 rounds of ammunition, and 1,000 artillery shells per day.

Organization of the Satsuma forces

The Satsuma samurai were initially organized into six battalions of 2,000 men each. Each battalion was divided into ten companies of 200 men. On its march to Kumamoto castle, the army was divided into three divisions; a vanguard of 4,000 men, the main division of 4,000 men, and a rearguard of 2,000 men. In addition, there were 200 artillerymen and 1,200 laborers. In April 1877, Saigō reorganized the army into nine infantry units of 350 to 800 men each.

The samurai were armed with Enfield and Model 1857 Six Line (Russian) muzzle loading rifles and could fire approximately one round per minute. Their artillery consisted of 28 mountain guns, two field guns, and 30 assorted mortars.


In English the most common name for the war is the "Satsuma Rebellion." Mark Ravina, the author of The Last Samurai: The Life and Battles of Saigo Takamori, argued that "Satsuma Rebellion" is not the best name for the war because the English name does not well represent the war and its Japanese name. Ravina said that the war's scope was much farther than Satsuma, and he characterizes the event as being closer to a civil war than a rebellion. Ravina prefers the English name "War of the Southwest."

In Media

  • The PS2 video game Way of the Samurai
    Way of the Samurai
    Way of the Samurai is a PlayStation 2 action-adventure game released in 2002.Set in 19th Century Japan, the player takes on the role of a ronin who wanders into a remote village and becomes involved in a conflict between rival clans...

    takes place in the Satsuma Rebellion.

  • The 2003 movie The Last Samurai
    The Last Samurai
    The Last Samurai is a 2003 American epic drama film directed and co-produced by Edward Zwick, who also co-wrote the screenplay based on a story by John Logan. The film was inspired by a project developed by writer and director Vincent Ward, who had previously filmed the movie in 1990, starring...

    , starring Tom Cruise
    Tom Cruise
    Thomas Cruise Mapother IV , better known as Tom Cruise, is an American film actor and producer. He has been nominated for three Academy Awards and he has won three Golden Globe Awards....

     and Ken Watanabe
    Ken Watanabe
    is a Japanese stage, film, and television actor. To English-speaking audiences he is known for playing tragic hero characters, such as General Tadamichi Kuribayashi in Letters from Iwo Jima and Lord Katsumoto Moritsugu in The Last Samurai, for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best...

    , is loosely based on the Satsuma Rebellion.


And also The Sun Rises by Christopher Nicole is loosely based on the events of the Satsuma Rebellion.

External links

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