Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Visiting Kagoshima City - Takamori Saigo walk
(Announcement sign welcoming you to Kagoshima, in the City Hall building.)
As mentioned previously, General Saigo Takamori was a significant figure in Kagoshima, and Satsuma, history, and is considered a local hero. After the fighting against the Tokugawa shogunate ended, Saigo opposed the negotiated settlement that marked the beginning of the Meiji Restoration and the return of ruling power from the Shogun to the emperor, arguing that the Tokugawa families be stripped of all of their lands. This put him at odds with the new government he helped install, and as a result he and his clan found themselves fighting government troops near Kagoshima. On Sept. 24, 1877, Saigo was hit by two bullets - one through his waist and the other through his thigh. According to the historical marker, he was "650 steps from his hideout cave" and his escape path was blocked. He committed seppuku and Beppu Shinsuke assisted by cutting his head off to hasten his death. Saigo's body was found later, and the fighting ceased, but the government forces couldn't find his head, making their victory a hollow one.
Takamori's likeness is now used to promote just about everything, from crackers and sake, to Kagoshima City itself. The city tour bus shows the Ferris wheel, Sakura-jima, the whale/fish from the aquarium, and Takamori. I'm not sure if the woman in the glasses is supposed to be someone specific. Ryouma Sakamoto's wife, Oryo, doesn't wear glasses in the images I've seen, and I haven't seen any pictures of Takamori's wife.
The marker for Takamori's birthplace (Jan. 23, 1828) is on the south side of the river, near the Meiji Restoration Museum, at the west end of the History Road. Currently, the spot is just a small packed-dirt plaza in the middle of some office and apartment buildings.
(Just to the left of this marker are the stones from his brother's, Tsugumichi's, Tokyo mansion garden (shown in the previous post).)
In Japan, it's fairly common for people to take on more than one name, if they master a specific cultural activity (like tea ceremony), take government office, or after they die. One of Takamori's other names was Nanshu. In 1853, both of his parents died, and according to one report he sold their house in 1855 to pay off debts. His next house was located where Kyoken Park is now. This park is just across the river and a couple of blocks closer to the Kagoshima-chuo station, near the Tourism center.
During the fighting against the government forces, mentioned above, Takamori and his men had a base in the Shiroyama hills just east of the current train station, behind what is now the ruins of Tsurumaru Castle. The easiest way to get to this cave is to go to the east end of the castle ruins, at the east entrance to the Reimeikan. Go north past the train tracks, then follow the tracks northwest. When the road starts to snake in the hills, you'll see a parking lot for a souvenir shop.
The cave is essentially just a horseshoe that goes back about 50 feet. You can see both entrances on either side of the statue above. There are two small alcoves in the walls of the legs leading to the back of the hill. One has a small statue of Takamori, the other holds a shrine. At the back of the cave are some glass cases displaying watercolor paintings.
As also mentioned above, in the final battle, Takamori was wounded and his forces pinned down 650 meters from the cave, in a spot that you'll pass as you follow the train tracks up to the cave. According to the story, Takamori turned in the direction of Tokyo, bowed, then asked Beppu Shinsuke to assist him in committing seppuku (cutting his head off to quicken his death after cutting his stomach open). The government forces found his body nearby, but his head was spirited away, thwarting the Tokyo politicians of claiming a clean victory.
The primary memorial for Takamori Saigo is the statue erected of him wearing his general's uniform, along Nakanohiratori street, at the northeastern corner of Central Park and in front of the Kagoshima Municipal Museum of Art.
From Kagoshima-chuo station, you can get to the former site of his mansion in Kyoken Park in about 10 minutes on foot, and his birthplace in another 5. The bronze statue is 15-20 minutes away, and the site of his death is another 20 minutes. The cave is 10-15 minutes after that. To learn more about Takamori and the rebellion, visit the Meiji Restoration Museum located next to the spot of his birthplace.