Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1839-1892
Satsuma Rebellion Picture Sugoroku Game Board
each of the twenty portrait tiles signed either Taiso Yoshitoshi, or Tsukioka Yoshitoshi; the central panel signed oju (by request) Shoso with artist's seal Shoso (Mishima Shoso); publisher unknown, Dec. 1877
six joined oban sheets 30 7/8 by 29 1/8 in., 78.5 by 74 cm
E-sugoroku ('picture' sugoroku) game boards became very popular in Japan following the increased affordability of woodblock printing methods in the Edo Period. Associated with New Year's games and beloved by children, their popularity led to their destruction - intact boards are scarce, and as such, there are few recorded. The game is structurally similar to the Western board game of chutes and ladders, which itself is based on the ancient Indian board game snakes and ladders, with merit-based rewards (ladders) and punishments (snakes) through life's journey. This particular type of e-sugoroku was known as tobi ('jumping') sugoroku. Players would begin on a furidashi or 'start' tile, and would jump to different tiles using dice rolls and following the rules established by the furidashi tile. The first player to reach the agari or 'goal' tile won.
Games tended to have a theme; in the case of this board, the theme was the 1877 Satsuma Rebellion. The game is initiated from the furidashi tile located in the right-hand section of the tab attached to the top edge, the agari tile is the on the left. The players are then off to defeat the rebels depicted in each of the game's subsequent tiles. At the center of the upper half of the board by Mishima Shoso (1852-1914) shows the visual reward of winning the game: the player would imagine themselves in the place of the kneeling figure, identified as Prince Arisugawa Taruhito (1835-1895), who led the army successfully in the defeat of the Rebellion. He is receiving honors from two seated imperial authorities, Chancellor of the Realm Sanjo Sanetomi (1837-1897) and Iwakura Tomomi (1825-1883), with the Emperor himself seated in the background partially obscured by half-lowered blinds. The scene relates very closely to an 1877 triptych by Shoso, Army and Navy Officers Having an Audience with the Emperor, which was published by Matsui Eikichi in October 1877.
The first tile on this board has a date seal of April 1875 which certainly does not correspond to a board featuring the Satsuma rebels. However, Keyes records a gameboard by Yoshitoshi titled Outlaws and Heroes published by Tsuda Genshichi (ca. 1877-1887) in 1875; while Iwakiri lists one of that same title and another titled Kagoshima Subjugation Sugoroku, both dated 1877 without identifying a publisher. It is unclear exactly how all these boards relate, but it is possible that the 1875 Outlaws and Heroes board was adapted to current events for this board.
The individual tiles depict portraits and biographies of notable rebels from the Satsuma conflict. In the first row (read right to left): Higo Suke'emon; Shinohara Kunimoto (1837-1877); Fuchibei Takateru (1840-1877); Nagayama Kyusei. In the second row: Ikenoue Shiro (1842-1877); Nakajima Takehiko; Henmi Jurota (1849-1877); Murata Shinpachi (1836-1877). In the third row: Murata Sansuke (1845-1877); Kodama Hachinoshin (1843-1877); Maebara Ikkaku; Kirino Toshiaki (1838-1877); Saigo Kohei (1847-1877); Beppu Kuro (brother of Kirino, b. 1842). In the fourth row: Yamauchi Hanzaemon; Deshi Maruosuke; Nagayama Yaichiro (1838-1877); Matsunaga Seinojo (1841-1877); Saigo Takamori (1828-1877); and Beppu Shinsuke (1847-1877).
Some of the rebels depicted here were notable figures of Japanese society. For example, Kirino Toshiaki, portrayed just below the central image on the left, had been considered one of the four hitokiri ('manslayers', or most talented samurai) of the late Edo Period and fought in the Boshin War for the Imperial army. He is pictured in the right sheet of Yoshitoshi's 1879 triptych Japanese War in Kagoshima, wearing a pointed hat. His commander, Saigo Takamori, is depicted one from the left on the bottom row. Takamori was a leading proponent of the Meiji Restoration, and later served as a Meiji bureaucrat before breaking with the regime to lead the Satsuma rebels. He is the central figure in Japanese War in Kagoshima, and is prominently depicted in many Satsuma Rebellion prints.
Whereas late Edo-period conflicts could only be depicted through the discreet avoidance of shogunal censorship, prints of the Satsuma Rebellion depicted contemporary officers and samurai in battles that actually occurred. At least thirty-seven publishers issued depictions of the conflict, a major shift even from depictions of the Choshu Expeditions (1864, 1866) and Boshin War (1868-1869) of the previous decade. During the Meiji Period, game boards often promoted state ideology through political and military themes, and later games would give players the chance to fight their way through the Sino-Japanese (1894-1895) and Russo-Japanese (1904-1905) wars. Movement around the board was seen as parallel to the adherence to societal norms; both the game and society favored those players who strictly adhered to rules and regulations.
Keyes 1983, p. 424, no. 325 ('Outlaws and Heroes' gameboard of 1875)
Traganou 2004, pp. 51-52 (re: sugoroku)
Marks 2011 p. 229, no. 307; p. 309, no. 545
Iwakiri 2014, p. 282
Hu et. al. 2016, pp. 25, 104-105
Paget 2017, pp. 24-29
MFA, Boston, accession no. 2000.282a-c (Shoso triptych)
Scholten Japanese Art is open Monday - Friday, and some Saturdays by appointment only
Contact Katherine Martin at
(212) 585-0474 or email
to schedule a visit between 11am and 4pm preferably for no more than two individuals at a time.
Visitors are asked to wear face masks and practice social distancing at their discretion.
site last updated
December 2, 2021
Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475
Join our mailing list...