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Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1839-1892
Japanese War in Kagoshima
(Kagoshima boto syutuzinzu)
signed oju Yoshitoshi, with artist's seal Yoshitoshi, and publisher's date and address seal Meiji juninen, -gatsu, -ka; Hasegawacho 20-banchi, shuppanjin Fukuda Kumajiro, ?-yacho 5-banchi, Tsukioka Yonejiro (Meiji 12 , Fukuda Kumajiro of Gusokuya)
oban tate-e triptych 14 3/4 by 30 1/8 in., 37.6 by 76.4 cm
Saigo Takamori (1828-1877), popularly known as the 'Last Samurai,' led rebel forces against the Imperial regime during the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877. Leading up to and through the early periods of the Meiji Restoration, Takamori remained loyal to the pro-modernization forces. He was a commander in the Second Choshu Expedition in 1866, attempting to subdue a rebellious group of samurai who were resisting efforts at opening trade and modernize the military, and then again fought in the Boshin War of 1868-1869, leading imperialist forces of the new Meiji Regime against a group opposed to the Restoration.
After acting a Meiji bureaucrat for a short time, he retired to his home in Kagoshima, where a group of disenfranchised samurai would soon initiate the rebellion and convince Takamori to be their leader. The rebellion would be crushed between late January and September of 1877. The rebels stood little chance against the far larger and already westernizing military of the Imperial regime. Takamori himself would die at Shiroyama during the final battle of the war. Injured, he is said to have committed seppuku or to have succumbed to his wounds. Notably, his exact cause of death is uncertain, and was at the time the subject of much speculation. While the seppuku theory of death was popular especially with the rise of state-sponsored bushido culture, others speculated that he was decapitated or died of a gunshot wound. More fancifully, some imagined that he ascended to the planet Mars, attained nirvana, or overthrew Emma-O, the King of Hell.
The rebels are caught in deep snow, encumbered in their attempt to take up positions against the Imperial army. Proud of his imperial service, Takamori still wears his official uniform. When news of the heavy snowfall reached the capital, supporters of the Restoration took it as a providential sign that their cause was the righteous one.
In addition to Takamori several the other Satsuma rebels are identified. They are, identified from right to left, as follows: (right sheet) Henmi Jurota (1849-1877); Ikenabe Kichijuro; Kodama Hachinoshin (1843-1877); Kirino Toshiaki (1838-1877); Saigo Kohei (1847-1877); (center sheet) Saigo Yoshinosuke Takamori (1828-1877); Fuchibei Takateru (1840-1877); Shinohara Kunimoto (1837-1877); (left sheet) Murata Sansuke (1845-1877); Murata Shinpachi (1836-1877); Ikenoue Shiro (1842-1877); and Beppu Shinsuke (1847-1877).
Highlights of Japanese Printmaking: Part Five - Yoshitoshi, Scholten Japanese Art, New York, 2017, cat. no. 56
Roger Keyes, Courage and Silence, 1983, p. 436, no. 420
Mark Ravina, 'The Apocryphal Suicide of Saigo Takamori: Samurai, Seppuku, and the Politics of Legend,' in The Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 69 no. 3, 2010, pp. 691-721 (re: Takamori's death)