Saigoku senso nisshi

A chronicle of disturbances heralding Seinan War

By William Wetherall

First posted 20 June 2009
Last updated 24 February 2010

Saigoku senso    Nisshi  |  Eiri shinbun  |  Maeda Kenjiro
Studies    Tamura 2001  |  Ikizumi 2007
Related news nishikie    Shinpuren disturbance  |  Akidzuki disturbance  |  Hagi disturbance

Saigoku senso

The appearance of what is fully called Eiri shinbun / Saigoku sensō nisshi or "Illustrated news / Western provinces war daily journal" in November 1876 is a good example of the evidence I find in favor of my contention that early illustrated newspapers and ultimately photojournalism developed directly from illustrated story books. In other words, news nishikie were a dead-end attempt by publishers of souvenir nishikie to enter the news business.

Saigoku sensō nisshi is also proof that the format of some of the earliest late-Edo news pamphlets, which emulated that of popular illustrated story booklets, was alive and well as late as the eve of the Seinan War -- albeit by then the texts were being printed with metal type. The four reportedly known issues of bear a notification date of 18 November 1876.

Saigoku sensō nisshi was the same (small) size as Koko shinbun, the series of woodblock news pamphlets published by Fukichi Gen'ichiro in 1868 just before the start of the Meiji period. Like most such publications by the mid and late 1870s, it reflects the shift to metal type while using woodblock illustrations.


"Saigoku" (西国) means the countries or provinces of the western reaches of Japan. At one time it included all provinces from the Kansai region and westward. Later it specified mainly the nine provinces of Kyūshū. Still later it embraced also Chōgoku (originally San'yō, later also San'in) and Shikoku.

Here Saigoku implies Kyushu and Chugoku -- in particular Kumamoto and Yamaguchi prefectures -- the sites of the civil disturbances reported in Saigoku senso nisshi. These disturbances took place in October and November 1876. They prove, in hindsight, to have been the harbingers of the "Seinan sensō" (西南戦争) or "westsouth war" -- a series of battles fought mainly in the southern provinces of Kyushu.

The Seinan War as such did not begin until early 1877 -- a few months after the disturbances described in Saigoku senso nisshi.



For a quick overview of this illustrated news pamphlet see the Almanac entry on Saigoku senso nisshi.

The first issue of Saigoku sensō nisshi consists of 12 leaves folded and bound with two threads on their unfolded right margins. The ten leaves in the middle are numbered show the running title Saigoku sensō nisshi (西國戦争日誌), the ssue number "Dai-ichi-gō" (第壹號), and the leaf number 1 (一 ichi) through 10 (十 jū).

Front cover

The cover shows the following impressions.

Meiji 9-nen 11-gatsu
[November 1886]
(metal type)

絵入新聞 西國戦争日誌
Eiri shinbun / Saigoku sensō nisshi
[Illustrated news / Western provinces war daily journal]
(woodblock printed)

Dai 1-gō
[Number 1]
(metal type)

Eiri shinbun sha in
[Illustrated news company seal]
(rectangular vermillion ink seal)
(seal graphs in tensho 篆書 style)

Editor's preface

The inside page of the cover leaf is given to a short preface attributed to the editor (Maeda Kenjirō) and dated October 1876. The preface begins with the phrase "the circumstances of the rioting in Kumamoto and Yamaguchi" (熊本山口騒擾の事情 Kumamoto Yamaguchi sawagi no kotogara).

The editor observes that in daily publications, including Eiri shinbun, with no time to correct information gathered by reporters or the errors contained in hearsay, the papers ran the stories as they were. The editor has compiled "this small volume" (此の小冊 kono seusatsu > shōsatsu), though, after taking into consideration true stories (実説 jitsusetsu > jissetsu) dispached from the places where the incidents ocurred and every news (各新聞 kaku shinbun) [report], and order [the events] by day.

The preface also states that each issue will feature one or two (絵 ゑ we).


the text like the preface is written in a simple descriptive style there is one continuous practically unpunctuated text the flow of text is broken only by an two paragraph breaks and two dropped blocks of cited texts

the only periods are found in a short citation of kanbun (this is the only kanbun in the text. it consists of four sentences. the first three are terminated by periods. the last has kaeriten) the kanbun text is enclosed in parentheses (page 3a) parentheses are also used to offset several phrases in the principle text (pages 4a, 4b, 5a)

commas appear only to separate names in long lists in the latter stretches of the text (from page 6a, but especially pages 6b through 8a)


Issue 1 focuses on the uprising in Kumamoto of a number of "former samurai" (士族 shizoku, "samurai clan") -- the new legal status of higher ranking samurai who had been disenfranchised, and some others, as opposed to "peers" (華族 kazoku, "flower [royal] clan") and "commoners" (平民 heimin, "ordinary people").

Kyushu domains contributed many of the leaders of the restorationist forces that overthrew the Tokugawa shogunate and established the Meiji government. Some of the leaders, such as Etō Shinpei and Saigō Takamori, went on to hold some of the highest posts of the new government, then became disenchanted with the course on which the government began taking the country.

The punitive expedition in 1874 against Taiwan aborigines, who in 1871 had killed a number of Ryukyu fisherman who had washed ashore after their boat had been wrecked in a storm, was essentially a Kyushu movement at odds with the government's diplomatic position on the Taiwan issue. The expedition was mounted from Kyushu and used mostly Kyushu soldiers, led by Kyushu officers, generaled by Saigō Tsugumichi, Takamori's younger brother.

Also in 1874, Etō Shinpei quit his post as Minister of Justice, returned to his home province in Kyushu, and ended up leading the "Saga disturbance" (佐賀の乱 Saga no ran). When it was suppressed, he went into hiding but was soon captured, tried, and beheaded.

Entering 1876, Kyushu was awash with restless political dissidents of all ages. There were all manner of disputes Parts of the region were

The dissident men are most commonly referred to as "robbers" or "rebels" (賊 zoku), but are also called "rioters, insurgents" (暴徒 bōto) and "bandits" (賊徒 zokuto). All three terms were widely used to label people who violently opposesed the court or government or otherwise disturbed public order and peace.

These men wished to "expel barbarians and close ports" (攘夷鎖港 jyau i sakau > jōi sakō) and were not pleased with "development advancement" (開化進歩 kaikwa shinpo > kaika shinpo) (pages 1a-1b).

The Shinpōren uprising has inspsired many studies in Japanese. The most reliable report in English at the time of this writing is Rogers 1997, which can be read on Google Books.

John M. Rogers
Divine Destruction: The Shinpuren Rebellion of 1876
Pages 408-439
In: Helen Hardacre and Adam L. Kern (editors)
New directions in the study of Meiji Japan
Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1997
xlii, 782 pages, and 44 pages of b/w plates
Proceedings of the Conference on Meiji Studies
Harvard University, May 4-6, 1994
Volume 6 of Brill's Japanese Studies Library


There are three pictures of the kind typically found in Edo and early Meiji woodblock printed story books and other publications. Such drawings continued be used as illustrations in books, pamphlets, and newspapers printed with metal type.

Two of the pictures span two pages (2b-3a, 6b-7a). One, which appears to show Ueno Kengo racing through town on his white horse, fills more than half of one page (


編輯者 前田健次郎


同 [東京府平民]
出版人 柳谷藤吉

Tokyo-fu Heimin
Editor Maeda Kenjirō
4th Major ward, 6th Minor ward
Ikenohata 7-kenchō 51-banchi


同 [東京府平民]
出版人 柳谷藤吉

Inside back cover

The inside of the last leaf begins a list of "sales and distribution places" (賣捌所 urisabakisho) which spills over onto the back cover. The list begins with places in Tokyo, and continues with places from other parts of the country. The Tokyo list begins with Eiri shinbunsha and Hōchisha, both news companies. All other places bear the names of individuals or book publishers and dealers.

Back cover

A list of vendors that begins inside the back cover continues on the back cover. Also on the back cover is vermillion price stamp reading "Standard price 3-sen 5-ri" (定價三銭五厘 Teika 3-sen 5-ri).


Eiri shinbun



Maeda Kenjiro

Maeda Kenjirō (前田健次郎) was the common name (通称) of the news reporter, novelist, and art researcher Maeda Kōsetsu (前田香雪), whose principal [legal] name (本名) was Maeda Natsushige (前田夏繁). He was born in Okachimachi in Edo on 29 January 1841 (Tenpo 12-1-7), the son of Maeda Natsukage (前田夏蔭), and passed away on 12 December 1916 (Taishō 5-12-12).

In 1875 he began working for Hiragana eiri shinbun (平仮名絵入新聞). By 1882 he was the president of Tōkyō eiri sha (東京絵入社). He was affiliated with the Tokyo Imperial Household Museum (now the Tokyo National Museum), a temple and shrine preservation society, and arts and crafts and fine arts associations. In 1892 he became a professor at Tokyo School of Fine Arts, in 1949 was merged with Tokyo Music School to become the present-day Tokyo University of the Arts.

Maeda Natsushige was the coauthor, with Takabatake Ransen, of Todai senki (東台戦記) or "Eastern Heights war chronicle", which is also titled Matsu no ochiba (松廼落葉) or "Fallen leaves of Pines". This work was published in the May 1874 (the date of the preface) to mark the 7th anniversary of the Battle of Ueno Hill. As such it memorializes the men who fell in this conflict between remnants of Shinsengumi and others who had taken refuge in the Tokugawa temples on the heights with the intention of protecting the clan's interests there, and military units of the new restorationist government.

The work was woodblock published in two volumes, which contain some woodcuts and color maps. Waseda University Library has a, and high-quality scans of its pages are available on the library's website.

See Shogitai heroes for a full translation of Takabatake's TNS-689 news nishikie story about the Battle of Ueno Hill memorial observances. The story also served as a plug for his book with Maeda.

前田 香雪, 1841-1916 マエダ, コウセツ maeda, kosetsu ●この著者/作者で早稲田大学蔵書目録を検索● 高畠 藍泉, 1838-1885 タカバタケ, ランセン 1875(明治 8)平仮名絵入新聞に入社。1882(明治15)東京絵入 社長。帝室博物館・古社寺保存会・工芸協会役員・日本美術協 会副委員長。  1892(明治25)東京美術学校教授。 東京絵入新聞』は 東京絵入新聞の前田香雪 前田 香雪 まえだ こうせつ 1841(天保12. 1. 7) 1916.12.12(大正 5) ◇新聞記者・小説家・美術研究家。本名は夏繁、通称は健次郎、





Tamura on "Saigoku senso nisshi"

Tamura Sadao, a specialist in recent period (early modern) Japanese history including the Meiji restoration and the history of Yamaguchi prefecture, retired from a university post in 2001, after which he began posting many of his publications and other data related to his historical interests.

A link to a net version of the following article can be found under the heading 前原一誠 (Maebara Issei) on the portal page of his site 田村貞雄 (Tamura Sadao). Maebara (1834-1876), a Chōshū domain samurai, had studied under fellow-Chōshū samurai and teacher of military tactics and politics Yoshida Shōin (吉田松陰 1830-1859).

Yoshida, a "revere-tenno-expel-barbarians" restorationist, was jailed and executed for plotting an assassination and rebellion. Maebara, who had become an official after the restoration before becoming disenchanted with the direction the government was going, was executed for instigating and leading the Hagi disturbance.

The Chōshū domain is also known as the Hagi domain, since for some time its headquarters had been at Hagi castle in the present-day city of Hagi in Yamaguchi prefecture.

近代日本研究 18
2001年度 (2002年3月)
135-171 ページ

Tamura Sadao
Hagi no ran ni kan suru shiryō-teki kenkyū
[A study of historical materials concerning the Hagi distrubance]
Kindai Nihon kenkyū Number 18
[Modern Japanese studies]
2001 issue (March 2002)
Pages 135-171
Keiō Gijuku Fukuzawa kenkyū sentaa
<Fukuzawa Memorial Center For Modern Japanese Studies, Keio University>

The article includes the following information about Eiri shinbun Saigoku senso nisshi (retrieved 20 June 2009).

1. The development and present state of Hagi disturbance studies

(1) Publications immediately following the Hagi disturbance

News reports of the incident were very lively, and making [using] these news articles as materials pamphlets with illustrations were published one after another. All are combined reports of the Kumamoto prefecture (Higo) Shinpūren disturbance and the Fukuoka prefecture (Chikugo) Akidzuki disturbance.

The temporally earliest [such] publication, is Utsumi Takeshi [Tsuyoshi?], compiler, Kumamoto Yamaguchi pursuit and shoot chronicle (Kin'undō, November 1886).

Next there is Maeda Kenjirō, Illustrated news Western provinces war daily journal, Numbers 1-4 (Tokyo, Kamiya Tōkichi, Eiri shinbun sha, 42 leaves, November 1886). In the preview of Number 5 in Number 4 [of this publication] (publication notification 18 November 1876) there is [is written] . . ., but the publication of Number 5 or others could not be confirmed.




時期的にもっとも早い出版物は、内海毅編『熊本山口追討録』(錦雲堂 一八七六年十一月)であろう。

ついで前田健次郎『絵入新聞西国戦争日誌』第一〜四号(東京、神谷 [sic = 柳谷] 藤吉、絵入新聞社、四二丁、一八七六・一一年 [sic = 一八七六年一一月] )がある。その第四号(一八七六年十一月十八日出版届)にある第五号予告には「第五号ハ萩■■ [sic = の乱?] の戦より賊徒就縛の顛末、熊本秋月の結果まで集録し年内発兌す」とあるが、第五号以降の発行は確認できなかった。

Comment   Tamura's Internet text appears to be corrupted. Based on my copy of Number 1, I have shown what I presume to be the intended text in square brackets.


Ikizumi on "Saigoku senso nisshi" 九州史学研究会 Kyushu Society of Historical Research 『九州史学』掲載論文総目録 149 2007.10 論文 生住昌大 士族反乱報道と士族反乱実録 ―前田健次郎編『絵入新聞西南戦争日誌』の検討―

九州史学 (九州史学研究会)
149号, 2007年10月, ページ

Ikizumi Masahiro
Shizoku hanran hōdō to shizoku hanran jitsuroku
(Maeda Kenjirō hen "Eiri shinbun Seinan senō nisshi" no kentō)
[Shizoku revolt reports and shizoku revolt records
(An examination of Maeda Kenjirō's "Illustrated news Seinan war daily journal)]
Kyūshū historiography (<Kyushu Society of Historical Research>)
Number 149, October 2007, pages

Ikizumi, a professor at the Graduate School of Social and Cultural Studies, Kyushu University, has written a number of articles examining journalistic and other documentary reports, and even novelistic versions, of events before and during the Seinan War of 1877. This report focuses on what is oddly described as journal of reports on the "Seinan" rather than "Saigoku" war. Judging from other reports, he might prefer to translate "shizoku hanran" as "shizoku dissidence".


Related news nishikie

A number of publishers put out nishikie editions of stories about the violent confrontations in the western provinces. Though the Tokyo nichinichi shinbun (TNS) and Yūbin hōchi shinbun (YHS) nishikie series had ended by the end of 1875, the same woodblock publishers, using other drawers and writers, put out several triptychs of similar design and under similar banners.

The following links are to such prints that are introduced on this website. The [dates in brackets] represent notification dates. Lag times between the dates of the reported events and the approximate publishing dates are relatively short, indicating the speed at which woodblock publishers could respond to "breaking news" in order to turn a few quick yen.

Shifting borders

During the early years of the Meiji period, when shogunal territories and domains were prefecturalized, prefectural borders shifted several times, some radically. As the government experimented with different groupings of the former domains, prefectures were formed, split up, reshuffled and merged. Entire counties, consisting of villages and towns, and single villages and towns, were cut from one prefecture and pasted to another.

Border shifting was arguably more radical in Kyushu, over a longer period of time, than elsewhere. If the frequency of changes in territorial affiliations and names was confusing enough for local people, it was all the more so for those in other parts of the country who had no reason to be interested in Kyushu geography. Some news reports and other materials continued to use older names long after they had formally changed.

Borders of Kumamoto prefecture

The affiliation of Amakusa, a shogunate-controlled island territory which had been part of Higo province, changed four times between 1868 and 1871. During the 4th intercalary month of Keio 4 (May-June 1868), when shogunal territories came under the direct jurisdiction of the new government, Amakusa became Tomioka prefecture, which in the 6th month was renamed Amakusa prefecture, which in the 8th month was merged into Nagasaki prefecture.

During Meiji 4 (roughly 1871), when domains began to be prefecturalized, the province of Higo was divided into Kumamoto prefecture (Kumamoto domain) and Hitoyoshi prefecture (Sagara domain). In the course of other territorial changes and relocations of prefectural capitals during the 11th month, Kumamoto and Hitoyoshi were renamed Shirakawa and Yatsuhiro, and Amakusa was annexed to Yatsushiro.

In 1873, Shirakawa and Yatsuhiro were combined as Shirakawa prefecture, which was renamed Kumamoto in February 1876.

Borders of Fukuoka prefecture

By the middle of 1871, Chikuzen province had been divided into Fukuoka and Akidzuki prefectures, Buzen province into Kokura, Chidzuka, and Nakatsu prefectures, and Chikugo province into Kurume, Yanagawa, and Miike prefectures. By the end of the year, the territories which had been Chikuzen, Buzen, and Chikugo provinces were regrouped into into respectively Fukuoka, Kokura, and Midzuma prefectures.

In April 1876, Kokura prefecture was merged into Fukuoka prefecture, and Saga prefecture was integrated into Midzuma prefecture. In August the same year, two counties in Fukuoka became part of Ōita prefecture, and the former Saga part of Midzuma was shifted to Nagasaki prefecture.

Shinpuren disturbance

The Shinpuren disturbance (神風連の乱 Shinpūren no ran) broke out in Kumamoto on 1876-10-24 and was suppressed by the following day. The uprising, however, triggered the Akidzuki and Hagi disturbances, and a number of other violent clashes between disidents and police and other government forces elsewhere in Japan before the start of the Seinan War in early 1877.

YHS-1127 Shinpuren rebellion (1876-10-29)

TNS-9004 Kumamoto rebels defeated (1876-11?)

YHS-9001 Kumamoto rioters names (1877-2-??)

Akidzuki disturbance

The Akidzuki disturbance (秋月の乱 Akidzuki [Akizuki] no ran) broke out in Fukuoka prefecture on 27 October 1876. It was generally suppressed by the end of the month when the remnants of the Akidzuki party, defeated by government troops led by Nogi Maresuke (1849-1912), disbanded.

Some members killed themselves. Others returned to their homes, holed up somewhere else in the prefecture, or attempted to flee to adjacent prefectures. By the end of November, surviving leaders and many others had been arrested. Court rulings on 3 December resulted in the decapitation that day of two of the leaders.


Hagi disturbance

The Hagi disturbance (萩の乱 Hagi no ran) broke out in Yamaguchi prefecture on 28 October 1876. It was suppressed by 5 November, and on 3 December two of the captured insurgents, including Maebara Issei, were found guilty of committing a capital offense and immediately decapitated.

The Hagi rebellion triggered minor clashes elswhere. As news and rumors about the uprising spread to the eastern provinces, some sympathetic former samurai, including a few who government authorities knew to be veteran insurgents from past civil conflicts, attempted to make their way west to join Maebara, and resisted when intercepted.

YHS-1144 Yamaguchi rebels on run (1876-11-20)

TNS-9005 Yamaguchi rebels pursued (1876-11-22)

TNS 9003 Tokyo Shianbashi incident (1876-12)