Sunday, November 29, 2009

11/25/09: Day 6 in Japan, Part II - Satsuma Clan

Satsuma Clan (薩摩藩) is one of the more intriguing and important political power during the mid to late 1800's, as the Tokugawa Shogunate (徳川幕府) came to a close. Initially, they were very much against foreign influence, but after couple of engagement that demonstrated superior western power, they became close with the British and pushed for modernization.

One leading figure is Shimazu Nariakira(島津斉彬, top), the 11th leader of the Clan. He was proactive in importing western technology to Japan. Ohkubo Toshimichi (大久保利通, top center) was one of the key politician that transformed Japanese government by importing western concepts. Perhaps the most popular figure is Saigo Takamori (西郷隆盛, right), who along with Ohkubo became top figures despite their lower-class upbringing. Saigo was known as a samurai, but also one of the key figures in forming Satcho Doumei (薩長同盟), an alliance between Satsuma and Choshu cans that eventually brought down the Tokugawa Shogunate. The alliance was brokered by Sakamoto Ryouma (坂本竜馬) of Tosa Clan (土佐藩, bottom center), and also included Katsura Kogoro (桂小五郎) of the Choshu Clan (長州藩).

This marks the birthplace of Saigo Takamori. Towards the end, he developed friction with his childhood friend Ohkubo. Saigo eventually led Satsuma Revolution to keep samurai class from being abolished. Injured and defeated, Saigo took his own life at the battle of Shiroyama. It is said that the shogun Katsumoto depicted in the movie "Last Samurai" is based on Saigo Takamori.

On the other hand, Ohkubo devoted his efforts in developing infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and ports while reforming the government. One of the key changes were made in 1871, when he set an edict that banned samurai from wearing swords in public.

From the international relations point, Ohkubo determined that the Japan had been weakened, and took a strong stance against invasion of Korea to the dismay of Saigo. Eventually, the differences in philosophies led to Ohkubo fighting Saigo's charges. As Saigo was wildly popular in Satsuma, Ohkubo was seen as a traitor to many. Eventually, Ohkubo was assassinated.

In fiction, Ohkubo is said to be represented as Omuro in the movie, "Last Samurai."

One of the turning point of the Satsuma Clan was the Teradaya incident of 1862. Shimizu Hisamitsu quelled a plot formed by some of the anti-modernization extremists within their clan at the Teradaya Inn. This action set the tone of Satsuma as modernists, as well as gaining needed political capital from the Imperial Palace.

Satsuma Clan also produced a famous female historical figure, Atsuhimé (篤姫). Raised by Shimazu Nariakira, she was eventually arranged to marry the Shogun, Tokugawa Iesada. This move was motivated to gain Satsuma political power, but eventually, the clan decided to support the Emperor instead of the Shogun forcing her into a very difficult situation. NHK produced "Atsuhimé" drama, which is highly suggested. These keepsakes were used in the series.

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