Shimazu Hisamitsu

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  • Japanese: 島津久光 (Shimazu Hisamitsu)

Shimazu Hisamitsu was the father of the last daimyo of Satsuma han, the young Shimazu Tadayoshi, who ruled the domain from 1858 until 1868. Despite not being the domain's lord himself, as regent for his son, Hisamitsu governed the domain, and acted prominently on the national level, as if he were.

In regards to the Ryûkyû Kingdom, which was something of a vassal state under Satsuma's suzerainty, Hisamitsu reversed many of the policies of the previous daimyô, his brother, Shimazu Nariakira.

Prior to the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Hisamitsu vacillated between supporting and opposing the shogunate, while certain of his prominent retainers, Saigô Takamori chief among them, were staunch in their opposition to the shogunate. In 1862, in accordance with orders from Emperor Kômei that he aid in eliminating the problem of anti-shogunate rebels meeting and plotting in Kyoto, Hisamitsu dispatched a team of samurai from Satsuma to retrieve rebels originating from Satsuma and to bring them back to the domain, resulting in the famous Teradaya Incident. A fight broke out at an inn in Fushimi between rebels who had met there to plot against the shogunate, and these samurai dispatched by Hisamitsu to suppress their activities; several were killed before the remaining rebels surrendered.

Hisamitsu was also involved in the famous Namamugi Incident that same year, when a British merchant, Charles Richardson, either refused or was unable to properly make way for Hisamitsu's entourage as it traveled down the road; Richardson lost his head, and in response the British Royal Navy bombarded Kagoshima, the chief Satsuma castle town.

In the early Meiji period, he remained a staunch pro-samurai conservative, leaving Tokyo and returning to Kagoshima in anger and frustration in the early or mid-1870s, after submitting memorials to the Emperor expressing his distaste for reforms and innovations that had been undertaken which undermined the samurai as a privileged class of warriors, as well as reforms to the calendar, the wearing of Western dress at formal state occasions, the employment of foreigners as special advisors to the government, the adoption of foreign modes of military training, the adoption of commoner/citizen military conscription, and the like.


  • Kerr, George. Okinawa: The History of an Island People. Revised Edition. Tuttle Publishing, 2000.
  • Norman, E.H. Soldier and Peasant in Japan: The Origins of Conscription. New York: Institute for Pacific Relations, 1945. pp43-44.