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  • Japanese: 電信機 (denshinki), 電報 (denpô)

The telegraph was the first form of electronic communication adopted in Japan. First introduced to Japan in the 1850s, it was in widespread use in the country by the end of that century.

The first telegraph ever brought to Japan was most likely one given as a gift to the shogun by Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States in 1853, along with three miles of wire.[1] The Dutch gifted the shogunate another telegraph two years later, in 1855.[2] This came to be installed at the shogun's Hama Detached Palace.[3]

In 1857, lord of Saga han Nabeshima Narimasa gave a telegraph machine produced in Saga to lord of Satsuma han Shimazu Nariakira as a gift.[4] That same year, Nariakira set up a telegraph system within the Tanshôen gardens within the grounds of Kagoshima castle and sent (from one end of the garden to the other) what is said to be the first Morse code message ever sent within Japan.[5] Whether this was indeed the first-ever telegraph message in Japan, or the first on Japanese-made equipment, and whether it was using the machine gifted by Nabeshima or one built in Kagoshima is unclear.

The Meiji government began laying telegraph lines in 1869,[6] and by 1876, if not earlier, it had become a standard way for official governmental communications (if not citizens' regular communications as well) to be exchanged. (A modern postal system and railroad network were established around the same time.[6]) As such comparatively high-speed communications and transportation became more widespread, one repercussion was that prices for goods across the country began to equalize; systems such as the kitamaebune, which relied on buying products inexpensively in the provinces and selling them at a large markup in the cities, suffered and others benefited as the economy shifted.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Martin Dusinberre, Hard Times in the Hometown: A History of Community Survival in Modern Japan, University of Hawaii Press (2012), 34.
  2. Ishin Shiryô Kôyô 維新史料綱要, vol 1 (1937), 630.
  3. Ishin Shiryô Kôyô 維新史料綱要, vol 2 (1937), 87, 91, 98.
  4. Ishin Shiryô Kôyô 維新史料綱要, vol 2 (1937), 368.
  5. Plaques on-site at Tanshôen.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Andrew Gordon, A Modern History of Japan, Oxford University Press (2013), 71.