Ichiki Shiro

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  • Other Names: 市来正右衛門 (Ichiki Shouemon), 広貫 (Kôkan)
  • Japanese: 市来四郎 (Ichiki Shirou)

Ichiki Shirô was a retainer to Satsuma han who played a prominent role in a number of events pertaining to Shimazu Nariakira's policies and activities in the Bakumatsu period.

One such event was the Makishi-Onga Incident, in which Ichiki operated secretly at Nariakira's orders to replace key officials in the Ryukyuan government with those of a pro-Nariakira faction, and to pursue certain diplomatic & trade arrangements with Western powers, including, chiefly, in order to obtain arms and warships from the French.

Nariakira sent Ichiki to the Ryûkyû Kingdom in autumn 1857 to arrange for Ryûkyû to establish trade relations with the French and Dutch; since Ryûkyû was outside of the bakuhan (i.e. shogunate+domains) realm, i.e. outside of "Japan," but was under the control of Satsuma, this would provide Satsuma its own separate access to foreign trade and diplomatic relations. Ichiki arrived in Naha on 1857/10/10, and met with members of the Sanshikan (the three top-ranking royal advisors) on 11/3. He conveyed to them seven instructions from Nariakira: (1) that Ryûkyû should arrange for Dutch or French trade either at Amami Ôshima or Yamakawa[1]; (2) that Ryûkyû should arrange to purchase steamship warships from the French, for Satsuma's use; (3) that Ryukyuan students should be sent to the US, Britain, and France to study modern forms of government, industry, and military matters; (4) that an anchorage should be built on Taiwan for Ryukyuan ships traveling to China[2]; (5) that the Liuqiuguan in Fuzhou should be expanded, and trade with China also expanded; (6) that Ryûkyû should get involved in the Chinese arms trade; and (7) that Zakimi Morihiro should be dismissed from the Sanshikan.

Ichiki had to be careful to keep the negotiations, and their results, secret from Beijing, and also from the Tokugawa shogunate, who had been hostile for years to the idea of Satsuma becoming any kind of commercial center to rival Nagasaki (let alone a military power engaging in its own separate foreign relations negotiations). Despite the risks, this task was important enough to Nariakira that he was willing to have Ichiki send Ryukyuan officials to purchase ships and rifles from the British or Dutch at Fuzhou, if the French were uncooperative. It did not come to that, however, and Ichiki and a group of representatives of the Ryukyuan royal government secured an agreement with the French in 1858/7. The French would sell Ryûkyû a warship, and some amount of small arms, with the possibility for a more long-term trade relationship in future. The trade was never made, however, as Ichiki and the Ryukyuan government soon learned of Nariakira's unexpected death on 7/16, said to be from food poisoning; Nariakira's brother Shimazu Hisamitsu, acting as regent for Nariakira's successor, Shimazu Tadayoshi, canceled these plans, and went on to reverse many of Nariakira's other policies.

In addition to the commercial & diplomatic aspects, this scheme also involved a conspiracy to eliminate Zakimi ueekata - who was opposed to Nariakira's plans - from high government position, and to simultaneously elevate co-conspirators Makishi Chôchû and Onga Chôkô. This came to light within the Ryukyuan government in 1859, and came to be known as the Makishi-Onga Incident. Prince Ie Chôchoku led an investigation in which Makishi, Onga, and a third Ryukyuan official, Oroku Ryôchû, were found guilty and were severely punished; Ichiki escaped without incident, but went into hiding for a time.

Daguerreotype photograph of Shimazu Nariakira taken by Ichiki in 1857. The oldest known surviving photograph by a Japanese photographer. Important Cultural Property. On display at the Museum of the Meiji Restoration

Ichiki is also known as a notable early Japanese photographer. His daguerreotype photograph of Nariakira, taken in 1857, is the oldest known surviving photograph taken by a Japanese person. Held as an object of reverence and worship at Terukuni Shrine for many years, the glass-plate photograph was then lost, but resurfaced in a warehouse in 1975. Becoming in 1999 the first photograph to be designated an Important Cultural Property by the Japanese government, it is today in the collection of the Museum of the Meiji Restoration in Kagoshima.[3]


  • Robert Hellyer, Defining Engagement, Harvard University Press (2009), 166-167.
  • Marco Tinello, "The termination of the Ryukyuan embassies to Edo : an investigation of the bakumatsu period through the lens of a tripartite power relationship and its world," PhD thesis, Università Ca' Foscari Venezia (2014), 207-208.
  1. Both of these places were under the direct control of Satsuma, not Ryûkyû, so it seems an odd request.
  2. This also would have been outside of the jurisdiction of Ryukyuan authorities, though it is potentially conceivable that Ryûkyû could have secured this arrangement through discussion with Beijing.
  3. Philbert Ono, "Photo History 1999," Photoguide.jp.; gallery labels, Museum of the Meiji Restoration.[1]