This project showcases student project work from Japan and the World, a modern Japanese history course offered at Kanda University of International Studies. It focuses on important themes and individuals from the Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-26) periods, when Japan was beginning to open to the world after centuries of government-enforced isolation.

All submissions are researched, whether in English or Japanese, and references provided. Comments responding to and exploring ideas, suggesting connections or further reading, are most welcome. As entries are written by non-native English speakers, please refrain from non-constructive comments about language use.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Shintaro’s all about Satcho Alliance

By Kotaro Miura

Shintaro Nakaoka
Shintaro Nakaoka

Shintaro Nakaoka (1838, May 6-1867, December 12)

I strongly remember Shintaro Nakaoka as a hero despite my poor knowledge of Japanese history. He is famous as the person who made a connection between Satsuma domain and Choshu domain [editor's note: these two domains were instrumental in overthrowing the feudal government (bakufu) and bringing about the Meiji Restoration of 1868]. This big event is called “Satcho Alliance” and it has greatly affected Japanese history. I used to think a hero of Satcho Alliance is only Ryoma Sakamoto but this person also made an effort as well as Sakamoto did. The Satcho Alliance strongly connected to the “Meiji Restoration”.

For this report I’m going to write about Nakaoka and how he brought about Satcho Alliance.

History & Personality

Nakaoka was born in Tosa domain as a son of village headman in 1838. He especially learned Chinese classics and fencing in his childhood. His father intended to make Shintaro become a village headman so that Shintaro could get high education. In 1858 his father was sick and Shintaro took over the family job. He was always considering how villagers could live comfortably. The place where he lived and was in charge of was not good for agriculture. It was difficult to grow farm produce, thus villager were suffering from hunger. He sold his own place to make money and he bought some potatoes for villager. I think this episode shows exactly who he is. He has never forgotten his villagers and he always thought of quality of their lives. 

As a public spirited person and Zuizan Takechi

When Nakaoka was 23 years old he decided to join the party that was founded by Zuizan Takechi, who was Nakaoka’s teacher of fencing and keen to change Japan as soon as possible. Joining Takechi’s party was beginning of Nakaoka’s history of public-spiritedness. The party’s name was “Tosa-Kinnoutou”. At that time the “Sonno-Jyoui” movement was gradually becoming famous in Japan, especially in Choshu domain. “Sonno-Jyoui” means “Revere the Emperor and expel the barbarians”. Zuizan had same opinion with that. In Tosa-Kinnoutou there were over 200 people, including Ryouma Sakamoto. Zuizan plotted an assassination to change the policy of Tosa domain and it succeeded. He killed a high-ranking person in the Tosa domain.


Basically Satsuma and Choshu domains had power in Japanese politics, but their opinions were different. Satsuma stood by government side that was about to open country and have relationships with other countries. On the other hand, Choshu wanted to make the government step down. They seemed like fire and oil and that's why they had a fight in July 1864. After this war both of them fell into awful predicament because of the government. The government didn't work in the way that Satsuma and Choshu expected. Even though they had fought in the past, their complaints about politics became agreement. Then Nakaoka and Sakamoto stood up for making relationship between two domains. They thought if it’s possible to make Satcho-Alliance they could kick the government away and complete Sonno-Jyoui. They wanted to bring power back from government to the emperor. Actually they had their own trade company, “Kameyama-Syachu”. They tried to make connection between the two domains using trade. Satsuma was good at producing weapons and Choshu had huge rice fields. Nakaoka and Sakamoto made every effort to persuade people on both sides.

It wasn't easy to get people who were against Satcho Alliance to assent but they have never given up. In 1866 the head of both domains had an assembly and finally they assented to Satcho Alliance.



Web site for Shintaro Nakaoka