Satsuma han

From SamuraiWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
The island of Kyûshû, with Kagoshima Prefecture in dark green. Satsuma han covered this territory, along with some to the northeast, in Hyûga province.

Satsuma was one of the most powerful han in the Edo period, and played a major role in the Meiji Restoration and in the government of the Meiji period which followed. Controlled throughout the Edo period by the tozama daimyô of the Shimazu clan, its territory spanned the provinces of Satsuma, Osumi and the south-west region of Hyûga on the island of Kyûshû, and had the Ryûkyû Kingdom as a vassal state. The territory is largely contiguous with today's Kagoshima prefecture, plus parts of Miyazaki prefecture.

Officially called Kagoshima han, the domain was ruled from Kagoshima castle in Kagoshima. Its kokudaka, the official measure of the domain's production, and therefore its wealth and power, was assessed at 770,000 koku for most of the period, the second highest kokudaka after that of Kaga han.



The Shimazu family controlled Satsuma province for roughly four centuries prior to the beginning of the Edo period and the establishment of the han, and towards the end of the 16th century, controlled nearly all of Kyûshû. Despite being chastised by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in his 1587 Kyûshû campaign, and forced back to Satsuma, they remained one of the most powerful clans in the archipelago. During the decisive battle of Sekigahara, which took place in 1600 and put an end to the long Sengoku period, the Shimazu stayed home in Satsuma, consolidating and protecting their power. While a great many clans fought and lost at Sekigahara, the Shimazu remained one of the few who, alone, possessed sufficient military might to resist the shogun's armies, had he tried to forcibly seize their territory. Unlike many clans who were assigned and reassigned han over the course of the Edo period, the Shimazu maintained their territory, and a great degree of autonomy.

In 1609, the Shimazu requested permission from the shogunate to invade the Ryûkyû Kingdom which lay to its south. After a brief invasion which met little resistance, Satsuma seized a number of the northern Ryûkyû Islands,[1] annexing them to the han, and claimed the Ryûkyû Kingdom as a vassal state. For the remainder of the Edo period, Satsuma exacted tribute from Ryûkyû, influenced its politics, and dominated its trading policies. As strict maritime prohibitions were imposed upon much of Japan beginning in the 1630s, Satsuma's ability to enjoy a trade in Chinese goods, and information, via Ryûkyû, provided it a distinct and important, if not entirely unique, role in the overall economy and politics of the Tokugawa state. The degree of economic benefits enjoyed by Satsuma, and the degree of their oppression of Ryûkyû, are subjects debated by scholars, but the political prestige and influence gained through this relationship is not questioned. The Shimazu continually made efforts to emphasize their unique position as the only feudal domain to claim an entire foreign kingdom as its vassal, and engineered repeated increases to their own official Court rank, in the name of maintaining their power and prestige in the eyes of Ryûkyû.

Satsuma remained the second wealthiest domain (in terms of official kokudaka rating) and among the most powerful throughout the Edo period. This derived not only from their connection to Ryûkyû, but also from the size and productive wealth of Satsuma province itself, and from their extreme distance from Edo, and thus from the Shogun's armies. The Shimazu exercised their influence to exact from the shogunate a number of special exceptions. Satsuma was granted an exception to the shogunate's limit of one castle per domain, a policy which was meant to restrict the military strength of the domains. Satsuma had the highest proportion of samurai in its population of any domain, roughly 1/4,[2] as compared to 1/10 in most parts of the archipelago. Contrary to the policy of removing the samurai from the countryside and consolidating them in the domainal capital, as was standard in most domains, the Shimazu were able to form sub-fiefs within their domain, and to dole out castles to their retainers, administering the domain in a manner not entirely unlike a microcosm of the Tokugawa state(s) itself. The Shimazu also received special exceptions from the shogunate in regard to the policy of sankin kôtai, another policy meant to restrict the wealth and power of the daimyô. Under this policy, every feudal lord was mandated to travel to Edo at least once a year, and to spend some portion of the year there, away from his domain and his power base. The Shimazu were granted permission to make this journey only once every two years. These exceptions thus allowed Satsuma to gain even more power and wealth relative to the majority of other domains.

Though arguably opposed to the shogunate, Satsuma was perhaps one of the strictest domains in enforcing particular policies. Christian missionaries were seen as a serious threat to the power of the daimyô, and the peace and order of the domain; the shogunal ban on Christianity was enforced more strictly and brutally in Satsuma, perhaps, than anywhere else in the archipelago. The ban on smuggling, perhaps unsurprisingly, was not so strictly enforced, as the domain gained significantly from trade performed along its shores, some ways away from Nagasaki, where the shogunate monopolized commerce.

In addition, Satsuma was regarded as one of the strictest domains in restricting travel into or out of the domain. One contemporary account describes it as the strictest of the domains, with Hizen han, Awa han, and Tosa han following closely behind, and at least one scholar has today described Satsuma as a "closed country" within the "closed country" of Tokugawa Japan. Residents and travelers within Satsuma were required to carry wooden identification tags, and it was made quite difficult for people to enter or leave the domain, resulting in the development of a marked difference in cultural norms from those even in immediately neighboring domains. One contemporary traveler remarked that customs do not change much between Kansai and Higo province, but that as soon as one steps over the border into Satsuma, the customs are quite different; he describes them as possibly old-fashioned, or perhaps even as if Satsuma were a foreign country. Not only was the transmission or influence upon Satsuma of cultural changes the rest of the archipelago limited, but the flow or spread of Satsuma's culture into the rest of Japan was likewise quite limited, making it seem all the more mysterious and unfamiliar.[3] Reasons for these tight controls may have included a desire to protect the domain from outside religious influences, and from epidemics and plagues, as well as to protect domain secrets. Indeed, one scholar notes, very few residents of Satsuma appear on registers of pilgrims in Shikoku, for example, an indication that very few residents of Satsuma traveled outside the domain at all.[4]

These policies were considerably relaxed, however, for a brief period under daimyô Shimazu Shigehide (r. 1755-1787). It is said that Shigehide desired to bring more commerce and trade into the domain, and believed that greater merchant activity was essential for a prosperous castle town; Satsuma residents were even allowed during this period to make the pilgrimage to Ise. It was during this time, as well, that Furukawa Koshôken and Tachibana Nankei, among other prominent scholar-travelers, were able to enter the domain and travel within it, Koshôken explicitly noting that it was then easier to enter Satsuma than it had been previously. Various precautions and procedures more strict than in most other domains were still in place, however, as he relates that the guards at the border searched all his possessions, and required him to prove he had enough coin to prevent himself from becoming any kind of burden for the domain.[4]

Towards the end of the Edo period, the shogunate's power waned, and contacts with Westerners increased dramatically, particularly for Satsuma, as Western ships frequently landed in the Ryûkyûs and sought not only trade, but formal diplomatic relations. Frustration and tensions arose in Satsuma and other domains over the shogunate's failure to repel these Western incursions, and over a number of other issues. In the Namamugi Incident of 1862, an Englishman was killed by retainers of Satsuma, leading to the bombardment of Kagoshima by the British Royal Navy the following year.

A number of powerful retainers of the Shimazu, foremost among them Saigô Takamori, along with samurai of a number of other domains, then pushed forward the events which led to the Meiji Restoration. The events of the 1860s are in fact far more complex than most accounts indicate, but in short, Saigô and his comrades, against the wishes of the Satsuma daimyô at the time, sought to overthrow the shogunate. A number of political discussions and petitions led to skirmishes, and ultimately, Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu agreed to step down and put an end to the shogunate.

The Meiji government which was established in the aftermath of these events was largely dominated by people from Satsuma and Chôshû han. Though the samurai class, domain system, and much of the political and social structures surrounding these were abolished shortly afterwards, figures from these two areas dominated the Japanese government roughly until World War I. It is said, however, that these two areas continue to exert a disproportionately powerful influence over politics even today.

Daimyô of Satsuma

  1. Shimazu Tadatsune
  2. Shimazu Mitsuhisa
  3. Shimazu Tsunataka
  4. Shimazu Yoshitaka
  5. Shimazu Tsugutoyo
  6. Shimazu Munenobu
  7. Shimazu Shigetoshi
  8. Shimazu Shigehide (1755-1787)
  9. Shimazu Narinobu
  10. Shimazu Narioki
  11. Shimazu Nariakira
  12. Shimazu Tadayoshi

Other major figures from Satsuma


This article was written by User:LordAmeth and contributed to both S-A and Wikipedia; the author gives permission for his work to be used in this way.

  • Sakai, Robert (1957). "Feudal Society and Modern Leadership in Satsuma-han" Journal of Asian Studies Vol 16. pp. 365-376
  • Sakai, Robert (1968). "The Consolidation of Power in Satsuma-han." in Studies in the Institutional History of Early Modern Japan. (John W. Hall & Marius Jansen eds.) Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Sakai, Robert, et al. (1975). The Status System and Social Organization of Satsuma. Tokyo: Tokyo University Press.
  • Sansom, George (1958). A History of Japan to 1334. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
  • Sansom, George (1961). A History of Japan: 1334-1615. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
  • Sansom, George (1963). A History of Japan: 1615-1867. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. pp218-242.
  1. including Amami Ôshima, Tokunoshima, Okinoerabujima, Yoronjima, and Kikaigashima.
  2. Norman, E.H. Soldier and Peasant in Japan: The Origins of Conscription. New York: Institute for Pacific Relations, 1945. p44.
  3. Munemasa Isoo 宗政五十緒, “Tachibana Nankei ‘Saiyūki’ to Edo kōki no kikō bungaku” 橘南谿『西遊記』と江戸後期の紀行文学, in Shin-Nihon koten bungaku taikei 新日本古典文学大系, vol. 98, (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1991), 442.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Vaporis, Constantine. Breaking Barriers. Harvard East Asia Monographs, 1994. pp209-210.
Personal tools