Bombardment of Kagoshima

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  • Date: 1863/7
  • Japanese: 薩英戦争 (Satsu-Ei sensou, lit. "Anglo-Satsuma War")

The Bombardment of Kagoshima, also known as the Anglo-Satsuma War, was a brief conflict which took place in 1863/7, in which British Royal Navy vessels shelled the castle town of Kagoshima, headquarters of Satsuma han.

The Bombardment came in the aftermath of the Namamugi Incident the previous year, in which a British merchant, Charles Lennox Richardson, was killed by Satsuma samurai after failing to make way for the daimyô's entourage, as they met on a road in Yokohama. Numerous negotiations took place in the months after the incident, with Britain demanding considerable reparations; the Tokugawa shogunate agreed to paying 100,000 pounds in damages, but after Satsuma refused to pay 25,000 pounds, seven British warships were deployed to Kagoshima harbor in the seventh month of 1863. The acting British consul, Edward St. John Neale, attempted for three days to negotiate some sort of settlement, but when no agreement could be reached, the ships opened fire.

Satsuma had a total of 92 coastal defense batteries installed across ten locations, including one set of batteries installed by Shimazu Nariakira ten years earlier (in 1853) at what is today Gionnosu Park. Satsuma also had three steam-powered warships purchased from British merchants in 1860-1863. The British ships, armed with a total of 89 Armstrong guns, suffered some considerable damage, but nevertheless managed to destroy much of the city before withdrawing, arriving back in Yokohama two days later. Thirteen British were killed in the battle, and 50 suffered injuries; on the Satsuma side, only five were killed, and another eighteen suffered injuries. Much of the city was destroyed, along with coastal defense batteries and the Shôkoshûseikan.[1] Still, the domainal lord, Shimazu Tadayoshi, claimed victory, and successfully represented to the Imperial Court that he had acted in accordance with the edict issued two months earlier by Emperor Kômei to expel the barbarians. Even so, seeking peace and the continuation of trade with the British, Satsuma officials borrowed money from the shogunate to pay the British an indemnity for Richardson's murder; in the 9th month, negotiations between Satsuma and the British, held at Yokohama, ended with Satsuma paying the British the equivalent of 100,000 Mexican silver dollars in reparations. Despite the hostilities which led into the negotiations, by the end, Satsuma realized the British were not aiming to conquer or colonize Japan, and the British realized that pursuing friendly relations with Satsuma could be a powerful check against French influence on the shogunate. Britain and Satsuma formed close relations which continued through the Meiji Restoration, contributing perhaps to the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902.[1]

Some excavated ruins of the Gionnosu batteries used by the Japanese in the battle as part of their efforts at coastal defense can still be seen today in Kagoshima's Gionnosu Park; they were named a World Heritage Site in 2015, alongside a number of other sites in Kagoshima and elsewhere associated with Japan's Meiji period industrialization.


  • Robert Hellyer, Defining Engagement, Harvard University Press (2009), 194-195.
  • Plaques on-site in Gionnosu Park, Kagoshima.
  • Gallery labels, Museum of the Meiji Restoration.[1]
  1. 1.0 1.1 Satsuma to Igirisu, Kagoshima: Shokoshuseikan (2011), 63.