Katsu Kaishu

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  • Born: 1823
  • Died: 1899
  • Titles: Awa no kami, gunkan bugyô
  • Other Names: 勝麟太郎 (Katsu Rintarou)
  • Japanese: 海舟 (Katsu Kaishuu)
Katsu Kaishu in Edo period
Photograph of Katsu Kaishu.

Katsu Kaishû is considered the "father" of the modern Imperial Japanese Navy.

Kaishû was born in Edo in 1823, the son of low-ranking hatamoto Katsu Kokichi, and in his youth attended classes in Western studies and then studied naval science from the Dutch naval detachment in Nagasaki. Kaishû rose in rank to become commissioner of the Tokugawa navy in 1860 and captained Japan's first cross-Pacific journey to San Francisco. Kaishû believed that Japan’s future was best served to open itself to the world and this put his life in jeopardy at the hands of Japan’s pro-Imperial, anti-foreign radicals. Originally intent on cutting down Kaishû, Sakamoto Ryôma became hooked on Kaishû's vision for Japan and became his leading disciple. Kaishû protected the outlaw Ryôma and other ronin in a naval academy that Kaishû established in Kobe and installed Ryôma as its head. Kaishû also contributed to the surrender of Edo to pro-Imperial forces without resistance in order to avoid catastrophic losses of life and property.

In the Meiji period, Kaishû was granted the title of Hakushaku in the new Meiji peerage, and went on to serve as head of the Privy Council for a time, and also as naval commissioner until his retirement from public life. Following his death in 1899, he was buried with his wife near the site of their home, on the shores of Senzoku Pond, in what is today Senzoku-ike kôen (Senzoku Pond Public Park) in Tokyo.


Katsu Kaishu in Fiction


  • Katsu Kaishu (勝海舟) 12th NHK Taiga Drama 1974


  • Oyakodaka (父子鷹) Shimozawa Kan
  • Katsu Kaishu (勝海舟) Shimozawa Kan
  • Katsu Kaishu (勝海舟) Katsube Masanaga
  • Shin Bakumatsu Fuun Roku Kanketsuhen (新幕末風雲録完結編) Mine Ryuichiro
  • Katsu Kaishu (勝海舟) Murakami Genzo

Research Books

  • Katsu Kaishu and Meiji Restoration (勝海舟と明治維新) Itakura Kiyonori
  • Katsu Kaishu & Sakamoto Ryoma (勝海舟と坂本龍馬) Kaku Kozo
  • Katsu Kaishu no Jinseikun (勝海舟の人生訓) Domon Fuyuji
  • Katsu Kaishu no Subete (勝海舟のすべて) Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha


  • Hillsborough, Romulus. RYOMA- Life of a Renaissance Samurai. Ridgeback Press, 1999
  • Jansen, Marius B. Sakamoto Ryoma and the Meiji Restoration. Columbia University Press, 1994.
  • Rekishi Dokuhon 2007/1 issue
  • Plaques on-site at Senzoku-ike Park.
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