Sano Tsunetami (佐野常民)

Tsunetami SANO (February 8, 1823 - December 7, 1902) was a samurai and a feudal retainer of the Saga clan. He became a councilor of Genroin (the Chamber of Elders) in Meiji period. He was a founder of the Japanese Red Cross Society. He filled government posts including a privy councilor, the Minister of Agriculture, Commerce and Industry, and Okura-kyo (Minister of the Treasury). He received a Medal for Merit, Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun with Paulownia Flower. His peerage was a count. His title was an honorary employee of the Japanese Red Cross Society. He is mentioned as one of the seven wise men in Saga. His name was Eiju or Eiju Zaemon. He had a son named Tsuneha SANO.


He was born in Saga (Hayatsue Village, Saga County, Hizen Province: present Saga City) as the fifth son of Saburozaemon (Mitsuyoshi) SHIMOMURA who was a feudal retainer of the Saga clan. His childhood name was Rinzaburo.

In 1831, he became an adopted son of Tsunemi SANO, who was a doctor of the Saga Domain, and he received the name Eiju from former lord of the domain.

He studied in the domain school in Saga, Kodokan, and he went to Edo to study under Doan KOGA in 1838.

In 1839, he returned to Saga and learned the study of old documents at Kodokan, and surgery at Matsuo-juku.

In 1842, he got married to Komako who was an adopted daughter of the Sano family.

In 1846, he entered Genkyo HIROSE's Jishudo school in Kyoto, and then in 1848, he studied in the Tekijuku (the school of the Western studies) opened by Koan OGATA in Osaka and also entered Shunrinken (Medical school, hospital and accommodation in Edo period) founded by Seishu HANAOKA in Kii. At the Tekijuku, he was treated with kindness by the personnel, who were actively involved with the Meiji Restoration including Masujiro OMURA.

In 1849, he entered Shosendojuku founded by Genboku ITO in Edo, and became a school manager. He also studied under Seikai TOTSUKA in Edo. At that time, he started to devote himself towards the pro-Imperial movement. The clan found out about the fact and he was ordered to return to Saga in haste.

In 1853, he returned to Saga and became a tonin (a chief) of Seirenkata (an institution established in Saga for researches and experiments of physics and chemistry). He received the name 'Eijuzaemon' from the lord of the domain, Naomasa NABESHIMA.

In June 1855, he attended the navy's pilot denshu (learning what one has been taught) in Nagasaki. In August of the same year, the bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) opened Nagasaki Kaigun Denshu-sho (Japanese Naval School in Edo) and 48 feudal retainers of the Saga clan including Tsunetami attended as members of the inaugural class. Around the time, he preached to the lord of the domain, Naomasa NABESHIMA, the need for the foundation of a navy and he became a person in charge of Kaigun-sho (navy).

In 1857, he became the captain of Hiunmaru (a name of a warship) that the Saga Domain bought from Netherlands, and the following year, 1858, he became a director of Kaigun-sho in Tsu, Mie.

In 1863, getting an order from the bakufu, he manufactured a boiler in Kaigun-sho in Tsu, Mie.

In 1867, he attended the Paris Universal Exposition and he saw and heard about the International Red Cross Society and its activity there. Then he went to the Netherlands and made an order for manufacturing of Nisshin (a wooden steamship with masts in the Imperial Japanese Navy). He inspected military affairs, industry and shipbuilding techniques in Western countries and returned to Japan in 1868.

He was appointed to Hyobu shojo (Junior Secretary of the Ministry of War) in Hyobusho (Ministry of War) for eight months from March to October in 1870, and he devoted himself in establishment of a foundation for the Imperial Japanese Navy. However, a relationship between governors in charge of navy, including a Hyobu shojo Meido MASUDA, was not a friendly one and the effort of Sano failed to show results. Mamoru FUNAKOSHI, a colleague of Sano, sympathized with his dismissal.

In 1872, he was appointed to a Goyogakari (a general affairs official of the Imperial Household) for exhibition and he held Japan's first exhibition in Yushima Seido (Sacred Hall at Yushima) in March 1872 to modernize Japanese industry.

In 1873, he was appointed to a vice-president of administration for the Vienna International Exhibition, and sent to the exhibition.
He contributed to the modernization of Japanese industry through the exhibition and he received an imyo (another name) 'Exhibition Man.'

In 1875, he took office as a councilor in Genroin (the Chamber of Elders).

In February 1877, Seinan War broke out. He submitted 'the Petition for establishment of Hakuaisha (an organization founded in Seinan War and aimed for aids of the wounded, later Japanese Red Cross Society)' based on the knowledge of the Red Cross Society, which aid wounded soldiers regardless of enemies and allies, to the government but this was not permitted. In May, he received the permission of the establishment of Hakuaisha from Imperial Prince Arisugawanomiya Taruhito at Kumamoto. Imperial Prince Higashifushiminomiya Yoshiakira took office as a president of Hakuaisha.

In 1878, Tsunetami took office as a vice-president of Hakuaisha with Yuzuru OGYU.

In 1879, he established an artwork organization called Ryuchi kai (Nihon Bijutsu Kyokai [Japan Art Association]) to stop outflow of Japan Art, and took office as a president. He filled office until he died and devoted himself to protection and training of artists. In October 1879, he was appointed to a president of Central Sanitation Association.

In 1880, he was appointed to Okura-kyo (Minister of the Treasury) but he resigned in Meiji juyonen no seihen (the failed Meiji-14 coup of 1881) in 1881.

In 1882, he was appointed to a chairman of Genroin.

In 1883, the national hygiene association, Dainihon Shiritsu Eiseikai, was launched and he was appointed to a president.

In 1887, he changed the name Hakuaisha to the Japanese Red Cross Society and he took office as the first president. He became a viscount.

In 1888, he was appointed to a privy councilor.

In 1892, he was appointed to the Minister of Agriculture, Commerce and Industry in the first Matsukata cabinet.

The Japanese Red Cross Society engaged in wartime relief activities in Japanese-Sino War in 1894 and the Boxer Rebellion in 1900.

In 1895, he became a count.

In 1902, he died at age of 80 in his home in Tokyo. Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun with Paulownia Flower was awarded upon his death.

His grave is at Aoyama-bochi Cemetery.


Tsunetami submitted a proposal to transfer the capital to Honjoshuku (a largest post-station town in Nakasen-do Road) located in the inland area of Kanto, but he gave it up as he could not obtain people's support.