Saigo Tsugumichi (西郷従道)

Tsugumichi SAIGO (June 1, 1843 [old calendar] - July 18, 1902), also called Judo SAIGO, was a Japanese samurai serving as a feudal retainer of Satsuma, politician, and military man of the Imperial Japanese Navy. He was a fleet admiral who received Juichii (Junior First Rank), Daikuni (supreme order), Kousankyu (third rank), and the title of marquis. He also served as a Genro (elder statesman). His father is Kichibei SAIGO and his mother is Masako. He had siblings including Takamori SAIGO. His childhood name was Ryusuke. When he entered into priesthood later and became a chabozu (tea-server), he was named Ryuan, and he also went by the kemyo (common name), Shingo. His real name was Ryuko or Ryudo.

Although "Tsugumichi" is widely known as the pronunciation of his name, one of descendants of the SAIGO Family confirmed that his name was officially pronounced as "Judo" (Refer to Episodes).

Brief Personal History

He was born in Yamanoguchi Baba, Shitakajiya-cho, (Hogiri, Shitakajiya cho), Kagoshimajo, Satsuma domain. He was taught swordplay by Kaneyoshi YAKUMARU at Yakumarujigen School and Goden Ryu, military science, by Masaharu IJICHI. He started working for the lord of Satsuma domain, Nariakira SHIMAZU, on the recommendation of Nobuyoshi KAIEDA and became a chabozu (tea-server) to be given an alias name, Ryuan.

He returned to secular life on September 30 (old calendar), 1861 to be renamed Ryuko, and he also started to use Shingo as the kemyo (common name). He joined Seichugumi admiring Nariakira and threw himself into the Sonnou Joui movement (movement for revering the emperor and eliminating the foreigners).

In 1862, members of Seichugumi gathered in Kyoto for showing their loyalty to the Emperor and overthrowing the Shogunate, and he joined a party which was organized mainly by Shinshichi ARIMA within Seichugumi. However, they were suppressed by the domain due to the Teradaya Incident. Since Tsugumichi was young, he returned to the domain to be suspended. When the Anglo-Satsuma War occurred in 1863, his suspension was dissolved and he applied for Kesshitai (suicide corps) to be a soldier posing as a merchant selling watermelons. Although he got a serious wound caused by a gunshot penetrating his body at the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, he fought battles at various places during the Boshin War.

In 1869, he went to Europe with Aritomo YAMAGATA to research the military system. On July 30 in 1870, he returned to Yokohama City. On August 22 of that year, he was appointed Hyoubugon no daijo (officer of the department of Military affair) and received Shorokui (Senior sixth rank).

In 1873, his brother, Takamori, resigned from his government positions in the dispute over invading Korea (Seikanron). Many fellows from Satsuma domain followed Takamori, but Tsugumichi remained in the government. In 1874, he became an army lieutenant general and commanded the troops as a Buntijimu totoku (governor) in the Taiwan expedition of that year. When Takamori raised a rebellion during the Seinan War in 1877, Tsugumichi did not take part in it and became a Rikugunkyo daiko (Deputy chief of the Army) to cover the absence of the government. Since then, he had been playing an important role in the government as a grand person of Satsuma clique. Immediately after the Seinan War was over, he became a KONOE totoku (Governor of the Imperial Guard). Immediately after Toshimichi OKUBO was assassinated in 1877, he became a Sangi (councillor) and then assumed the post of Rikugunkyo (Chief of the Army) at the end of the year. After Kiyotaka KURODA resigned from the Chief of the Hokkaido Development Commission on January 11, 1882, he was appointed as the successor while serving as the Sangi and the Minister of Agriculture and Commerce. He served as the Chief of the Hokkaido Development Commission until the Commission was abolished on February 2 of that year. In accord with the Kazoku (peerage) system enacted in 1884, he received the title of Hakushaku (count) for the great achievements in the Meiji Restoration. He successively worked in different positions, such as the Minister of the Navy and the Minister of Home Affairs (Japan), in the Hirobumi ITO cabinet.

In 1892, he was appointed a member of the Sumitsu-in (Privy Council of Japan) as a Genro (elder statesman). In the same year, he established Kokumin Kyokai of Japan (The People's Co-operative Party). He became a full admiral in 1894 and his title was elevated to Marquis in 1895. In 1898, he became a first navy man who received a title of Fleet admiral.


When registering his name after the Meiji Restoration, he intended to orally register his name as "Ryudo", but the officer misheard it as "Judo" due to his accent and his official name became "Judo." He did not particularly mind it and the name has remained unchanged. In fact, the real name of Takamori SAIGO was "Takanaga" and "Takamori" was their father's name. Tomozane YOSHII, his comrade, registered Takamori as his name by mistake. These brothers were rather indifferent to their names.

He has been thought of as a generous and tolerant person like his brother, Takamori, and his cousin, Iwao OYAMA. However, in the Otsu incident which occurred during his tenure as the Minister of Home Affairs, he demanded the death penalty for Sanzo TSUDA, the culprit, and exerted a great deal of pressure such as intimidating the Chief of Daishin-in (Predecessor of the Supreme Court of Japan), Korekata KOJIMA,. It is believed that he was overeager because he was strongly concerned that if Tsuda was not sentenced to death, Russia was highly likely to attack on Japan's mainland to defeat and destroy Japan.

While he was serving as the Minister of the Navy, he selected Gonbei YAMAMOTO as the Kanboshuji (director of the secretariat) of the Ministry of the Navy and allowed him to exercise his abilities, leading to the victories of the Imperial Japanese Navy in the Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War. As with his cousin, Iwao OYAMA, SAIGO was a large minded person and kept an attitude that relied on his subordinates for small office work without fussing over details and took responsibilities for their failures. It is said that SAIGO's generosity allowed YAMAMOTO, who was good at militaly administration, to fully demostrate his abilities. There is an episode which denotes their relation. When Kaoru INOUE asked SAIGO about the Navy expansion plan, he replied as follows. "Actually, I do not know about it." "My subordinate, Yamamoto, knows about it, so I will get him here to explain it." Then, INOUE received an explanation from YAMAMOTO and understood it.

After he resigned as the Minister of the Navy, the Navy fell into a difficult situation where they needed to pay a deposit for a capital ship, but suffered from a lack of funding for it. When the Minister of the Navy, Gonbei Yamamoto, consulted Tsugumichi SAIGO, he replied, "You have no choice but to divert money from other parts of the budget. Of course, it is a serious matter and in case that it become a trouble, I will share the blame with you and cut up the abdomen together in front of Niju-bashi Bridge," and the Navy purchased the capital ship. The navy ship purchased at that time was Mikasa (battle ship) which achieved outstanding performance in the Japanese-Russo War later.

Although he was nominated as a candidate for the Prime Minister more than once, he refused to run for it because his brother, Takamori, suffered the disgrace of rebel (Iwao OYAMA did the same).

In a conference, one of the Cabinet members kept stating the obvious and the discussion reached a dead end. When the Cabinet member tried to sit on a chair, Tsugumichi SAIGO, who sat on the adjacent seat, pulled the chair and made him fall on his buttocks. Since everybody had a big laugh and none of them felt like continuing the discussion, they have reached an agreement in the conference while the Cabinet member was smiling wryly.

He was nicknamed "the Minister of Naruhodo (I see)" because he was often murmuring Naruhodo when listening to others.

He bore some resemblance to his brother, Takamori, and his pictures were used as reference materials when Edoardo CHIOSSONE created Takamori's portrait.
(It was said that the portrait was based on Tsugumichi's head and Iwao OYAMA's body.)

He owned a vacation house in Yanagihara Village, Sunto County, Shizuoka Prefecture (now Numazu City) and an island located off the coast where the house was built is commonly called SAIGO island.

He was the first Japanese horse owner permitted to join Japan race club founded in Yokohama and rode his horse, Mikan, to become the first Japanese horse owner winning the race in 1875. A caricature depicting the victory still exists.

When his son, Jutoku, uttered Chankoro, a disparaging term for people of Chinese origin, in front of Tsugumichi after the Japanese-Sino War, he got furious and scolded him saying, "do not insult foreigners".

Family and descendants

His father is Kichibei SAIGO, his mother is Masako, one of his siblings is Takamori SAIGO (real name: Takanaga), and one of his cousins is Iwao OYAMA.

He had a wife named Kiyoko (daughter of Ryosuke TOKUNOU). His first son, Juri (born on October 9, 1874), went to Russia at the age of 7, attending the then Russia Minister to Japan, Karl de STRUVE. Empress Maria FYODOROVNA (wife of Alexander III) and Alexei ALEXANDROVICH (younger brother of Alexander III) treated him kindly, and Juri got baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church with the emperor and the empress serving as godparents (Christian name: Alexei). Then, STRUVE was transferred as a Minister to the United States and Juri moved to Washington where he became infected with typhoid and died on December 10, 1884 (10 years and 2 months old). On the day before Juri died, his father's cousin, Iwao OYAMA, visited him in the middle of an inspection tour of Europe and the United States and OYAMA immediately revisited him on receiving an urgent message that informed him of Juri's death to cry bitterly at Juri's bedside. OYAMA made arrangements to send Juri's remains to Japan. When OYAMA finished the inspection tour and came back to Japan, he visited the SAIGO family right away to express his condolences and tell Juri's last moment to Judo and Kiyoko. At that time, Judo and Kiyoko kept crying while repeatedly saying "Arigato (Thanks)" for OYAMA's thoughtful consideration.

His second son was Jutoku SAIGO (Colonel of the Army and a member of the House of Peers). One of his grand children was Jugo SAIGO (Colonel of the Army). One of his great-grandchildren, Rikimaru SAIGO, is working as an English teacher at Kamakura Gakuen in Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Another great-grandchild, Jusetsu SAIGO, is a representative director of e-plat Co., Ltd.

Tomohide IWAKURA, his sotomago (grandchild from a daughter married into another family), was an anglicist who served as a professor of Hosei University.

Tomotada IWAKURA, his sotohimago (child of sotomago), is a scholar specializing in Italian literature and an emeritus professor of Kyoto University.

[Original Japanese]