Satsuma Domain

The Satsuma Rebellion, so named for the region in which most of the fighting happened, took place from January to September of 1877. The rebellion was led by Saigō Takamori, a former leader in the Meiji government who grew to question the integrity of the new government and eventually reject the social reforms that he had once supported. He led a group of Samurai on a conquest all over the Satsuma Domain against the imperial army. The imperial army was made of conscripts, emblematic of the focus on equality that had arisen in recent years. Unfortunately for the rebels, the imperial army had adopted modern weapons such as land mines, sea balloons, and rockets, while the rebels still largely fought with swords. Eventually, owing to being outmanned and outgunned, the rebellion was crushed and with it the class of the Samurai. Saigō’s rebellion can be seen as the last gasp of the many ex-Samurai who couldn’t or wouldn’t adjust to modern life and the social reforms that came with it, earning Saigō the title of “The Last Samurai.” 

However, the end of a class does not mean the end of a group of people. Remember that those who fought and died in this rebellion were only a small part of the massive Samurai class that was set to be dissolved by the government. So, while the surviving ex-Samurai were no longer able to call themselves Samurai, this was still a generation of people who held similar experiences, held similiar values, and were forced to face and overcome similar challanges in their lives. While the government did an admirable job of stripping away the official support for the Samurai class, they were hopelessly outmatched when it came to eliminating the culture that came with it. Indeed, one could even argue that the Samurai class wasn't destroyed at all: the group of people that it once defined, when stripped of government backing, simply moved on to different positions and changed with the changing times. 


Ravina, Mark. The Last Samurai: The Life and Battles of Saigō Takamori. Hoboken:  John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2004.

Kim, Elisa. “The Fall of the Samurai in Late Tokugawa Japan.” Guided History, Boston University,


Latitude: 31.905759900000
Longitude: 130.455727400000

Timeline of Events Associated with Satsuma Domain

Date Event Manage

Dissolution of the Samurai Class

In the years leading up to and following 1873, the government of Japan worked to gradually dissolve the Samurai class. The government at this point in Japan’s history was working to unite the upper and lower classes and create a system where all were equal, sentiments displayed in the Meiji Restoration’s Charter Oath, a sort of founding document for the new government. So, the government began to merge ex-Samurai into the rest of society. They did so at times with incentives, such as providing lots of opportunities for ex-Samurai to find employment in government projects like land reclamation and the railway industry. They also did so at times with mandates, such as abolishing their pension system, preventing them from carrying swords, discontinuing old styles of Samurai garb, and making rulings to end their once-held legal privileges. While many were able to adjust to their new way of life, many found their new lives a poor trade for what they once had. But hey, what could a group of highly trained, proud men who were suddenly stripped of their entire identity possibly do in retribution? Oh, wait . . .


  • “The Charter Oath (of the Meiji Restoration), 1868.” Columbia University Asia for Educators
  • Harootunian, Harry. “The Progress of Japan and the Samurai Class, 1868-1882.” Pacific Historical Review 28, no. 3 (1959): 255-266. doi: 10.2307/3636470.