Saigo Takamori

From Academic Kids

Saigō Takamori (西郷 隆盛 Saigō Takamori, 23 January 1827/28 - 24 September 1877), one of the most influential samurai in Japanese history, lived during the late Edo Period and early Meiji Era. As a low-level samurai, he was recruited to travel to Edo, modern day Tokyo, to assist Shimazu Nariakira, daimyō of Satsuma han. He was later put in command of over fifty thousand samurai, a large part of the imperial army.

As a leader of the Imperial forces in the Boshin War, Saigō was one of the key figures in the Meiji Restoration. In spite of his humble background, he became the state councilor and army general of the new state.

Saigō initially disagreed with the modernization of Japan and the opening of commerce with the West. He did insist, however, that Japan go to war with Korea because of the refusal of that country's government to recognise the legitimacy of the Meiji Emperor as head of state of Japan. But because the other leaders of the restoration strongly opposed these plans out of budgetary and cost considerations, Saigō resigned and returned to his hometown of Kagoshima.

Saigō Takamori statue in Ueno park
Saigō Takamori statue in Ueno park

Shortly thereafter, he established a private academy in Kagoshima for the faithful samurai that had also resigned their posts in order follow him from Tokyo. In 1877, led by Saigō, they revolted against the central government, which had just eliminated their rice stipends. The imperial palace had recruited new guards who were nothing more than glorified rice peasants and armed them with modern weapons. The samurai, also being equipped with modern weapons, were able to seriously challenge the imperial army in battle for several months. Badly injured in the hip during the fierce battle, instead of being killed or captured by the enemy, Saigō asked for his head to be cut off by a comrade to preserve his honor. Legend and art show that Saigō committed seppuku, a traditional form of suicide, before this, though an autopsy and the original historical records deny this.

Many legends sprung up concerning Saigō, many of which denied his death. Many people in Japan expected him to return from India or China or to sail back with Russia's crown prince to overthrow injustice. Unable to overcome the affection that the people had for this hero of tradition, the Meiji govenment recognized his bravery and pardoned him posthumously on February 22, 1889.

A famous statue of Saigō walking his dog stands in Ueno Park, Tokyo. Saigō's last stand against the Meiji government was the historical basis for the 2003 film The Last Samurai. Saigō met the noted British diplomat Ernest Satow in the 1860s, as recorded in the latter's A Diplomat in Japan.


The Last Samurai : The Life and Battles of Saigo Takamori, Mark Ravina, Wiley, 2004 (Highly Recommended)ar:سائيغو تاكاموري de:Saigō Takamori fr:Saigo Takamori ja:西郷隆盛 ru:Сайго Такамори zh:西鄉隆盛


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