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Government Forces Attacking Miyazaki; True Picture of the Subjugation of Kagoshima

Japanese Color Woodblock Print 

Government Forces Attacking Miyazaki

True Picture of the Subjugation of Kagoshima

by Utagawa Kunimatsu, 1878


IHL Cat. #833

About This Print

The Satsuma Rebellion began in late January 18771.  Nine months later the rebellion had been crushed and its leader, Saigō Takamori, was dead by his own hand after being trapped by government troops and mortally wounded.

This triptych, issued in March 1878, almost six months after the end of the rebellion, depicts the rebels under the leadership of Kirino Toshiaki being attacked by government police and soldiers in a Miyazaki brothel during the final days of the rebellion.  According to published accounts, after government offensives drove the rebels out of Satsuma and Higo provinces, the rebels retreated into Hiuga, eventually retreating "in small bodies to Takaoka, Miyazaki and Sadoware" with the government in hot pursuit.2  A report of July 14, 1877 in the English language Japan Weekly Mail stated "It is now pretty clear that Saigo is at Takahara in Bungo, while Kirino and Kishima are at Miyazaki in Hiuga, making every preparation for a desperate defence."3  In early August, Miyazaki fell to government forces and while Saigō evaded government forces for a few more weeks, he was to meet his fate on September 24, 1877 after government troops assaulted his final stronghold at Shiroyama. 

The events surrounding this pictured engagement are likely detailed in the print's scroll, shown in detail below.  While there is at least one other print depicting this engagement at a brothel in Miyazaki, I haven't come across any English language accounts of the action in and around Miyazaki that mention the rebels being attacked at a brothel.

Of course, the artist wasn't present during the attack and the entire scene, as with so many Satsuma Rebellion battle scenes, is derived from newspaper reports and the artist's imagination.  Throughout the Rebellion, woodblock prints documented and sensationalized the battles, as can be seen in this collection's other Satsuma Rebellion prints.  The fact that this print was issued months after the end of the Rebellion, attests to how it captured the imagination of the public, many of whom held its leader, Saigō Takamori, in awe.  (See this site's article Satsuma Rebellion and Saigo Takamori Prints.)

click on image to enlarge

Throughout the triptych various participants are called out in the cartouches near their figures.  The main figure is Kirino Toshiaki, one of Saigō's major generals who is the rightmost figure in the right panel, with a green cartouche above him reading 桐野信作利秋.  Most of the other names appearing in the cartouches remain untranslated, but I have transcribed some of the cartouches below and provided the names in rōmaji when known.

Rebels:
山口小右工門 Yamaguchi Kōemon
永山九成 unread

弟子丸應助 unread 
市本勘助 Ichimoto Kansuke
高城十二 unread
伊東直二 unread
逸見十郎太 Hemmi Jūrōta (1849-1877) - died with Saigō at Shiroyama

Government forces:
児玉八之進 Kodama Hachinoshin (1843-1877) leader of the 10th platoon
神?大警部 unread police inspector



1 Official hostilities began later on February 21, when government troops fired on the advancing Satsuma rebel army south of Kumamoto Castle. [The Last Samurai: The Life and Battles of Saigo Takamori, Mark Ravina, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2004, p. 203]
2 The Satsuma rebellion: An Episode of Modern Japanese History, Augustus Henry Mounsey, John Murray, London, 1879, p. 202.
3 Japan Weekly Mail, Vol. 1. No. 25 July 14, 1877


Print Details

 IHL Catalog  #833
 Title Kagoshima seitō zenki no zu (Subjugation of Kagoshima, true picture)
 Kangun Miyazaki shingeki no zu (Government forces attacking Miyazaki)
 鹿兒島征討全記之内    官軍宮崎進撃之圖
 Artist  Utagawa Kunimatsu (1855-1944)
 Signature  not signed; artist's name contained in publisher's seal (see below)
 Seal  not sealed
 Publication Date  March 4, 1878
 Publisher

left column: 出版人 shuppanjin (publisher) 森夲 順 三郎 Morimoto Junzaburō [Marks: seal 26-088; pub. ref. 349]

center column: 画工 (artist) 歌川国枩 Utagawa Kunimatsu (with artist's address appearing to the right)

right column: 明治十一日 Meiji 11 3rd month 4th day ?

 Impression  excellent
 Colors  excellent
 Condition  fair - three sheets joined; soiling throughout; thinned areas
 Genre  ukiyo-e; senso-e
 Miscellaneous  
 Format  vertical oban triptych
 H x W Paper
 14 x 28 3/8 in. (35.6 x 72.1 cm)
 Literature
 
 Collections This Print


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