Politics in news nishikie

The brokerage of power

Except when they are violent, or worth poking fun at, political events do not inspire a lot of artistic interest. Considering the period when the news nishikie were in vogue, during the middle of the 1870s, they featured a reasonable number of stories related to the political condition, or the brokerage of power between rulers and ruled, government and citizen, institutions, interest groups, and states.

Political themes have been divided into democracy, the buzzword of the times, and wars both civil and overseas, though its seems both were uncivil. Battles between the sexes and races, encounters between the living and dead, and interspecies conflicts, will be taken up under society.

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Political themes





The last decade of the Tokugawa period and the first decade of the Meiji period were unsettling for many people, who found themselves caught up in local wars between the clans contending for control of the country, and Tokugawa or Imperial forces. Ironically, some of the clans that helped overthrow the Tokugawa shogunate, restore the foundations of imperial sovereignty, abolish the warrior caste and create an Imperial army consisting of conscripts from the general population, ultimately fell to the these same forces.

Nothing shook the nascent nation more than the resignations in 1873 of Saigo Takamori (1827-1877), Eto Shinpei (1834-1874), and Itagaki Taisuke (1837-1919) from their high government posts in protest over the government's refusal to accept Saigo's proposal to subjugate Korea. This began a chain of events which resulted in the death of Eto in the 1874 Saga Rebellion, and the death of Saigo in the 1877 Seinan War.


Civil unrest


TNS 50

Hokuetsu peasants, led by priests and samurai, march on prefectural halls.


Saga rebellion


TNS 656

Eto Shinpei, on the run from authorities, brushes an appeal to Iwakura Tomomi shortly before his arrest.

TNS 687

Widow kills child and self to follow husband who had been executed for joining the Saga Rebellion.


Eto Shinpei at a moment of peace before he "went in the wrong direction and became a devil under the sword".


Battle of Ueno


TNS 689

Valiant Shogitai loyalists are memorialized on the seventh anniversary of their defeat in the Battle of Ueno Hill.


A government soldier helps a woman find her husband, a Shogitai warrior, where he had fallen at the Battle of Ueno.


Skirmish at Todai Sannozan during the Battle of Ueno Hill.


Toeizan Monjuro in flames during the Battle of Ueno Hill.


Seinan war


"Tokyo nichinichi shinbun" prints related to Seinan War

TNS 9004

Kumamoto rebels defeated.

TNS 9005

Yamaguchi rebels pursued.

TNS 9003o

Riot at Shianbashi in Tokyo in December 1876.

TNS 9003r

Shianbashi riot print retitled as night raid by Kagoshima rioters at Anseibashi in Kumamoto in April 1877.

TNS 9005

Ibaraki insurgents.

"Yubin hochi shinbun" prints related to Seinan War

YHS 1127

Shinpuren rebellion.

YHS 1144

Yamaguchi rebels on run.

YHS 9001

Kumamoto rioters.

Other prints related to Seinan War

KS 1877

"Kagoshima Shinbun" print on violence in Fukuoka.

KS 1877

"Kagoshima Shinbun" print on Fukuchi Gen'ichiro and Nipposha's glory.

KJS 17

Saigo Takamori walking his dog in better times.

KSU 1877

Saigo at the end of his trail on Mt. Hanaoka.






Japan in the late 19th century was not the sort of democracy is today. Which is not to say it wasn't a sort of democracy. In the days of the news nishikie it was barely a nation and far from being a state. Not all provinces had been brought into the national fold, and there wouldn't be a constitution for more than a decade. But the subjects of the fledgling Meiji state were given, or took, new opportunities to determine their own destinies.

Participation took the form of civil protest, as in the Hokuetsu Riots. It also took the form of litigation, as in the efforts of Nishigori Takekiyo to free his former lord from the mental institution where he had been sent by political enemies who had him declared insane.

KJS 10

Nishigori Takekiyo went to court to free his former lord from a mental institution where the police had confined him in 1883. The litigation began in 1887 and continued until 1895.





Taiwan Expedition

The Taiwan Expedition of 1874 was another by-product of the government's refusal in 1873 to subjugate Korea. For essentially the same reasons, the government declined to chastise Taiwan for the murder by some of its aborigines of over fifty shipwrecked Ryukyu (Okinawa) islanders. But in 1874, after the Saga Rebellion, Saigo Tsugumichi (1843-1902), Takamori's younger brother, took matters into his own hands and led a large imperial force to Taiwan to find and punish the tribal members.

The news nishikie affiliated with Tokyo nichinichi shinbun featured more stories on the Taiwan Expedition than its Yubin hochi shinbun counterpart. This was mainly due to efforts of Tonichi's star reporter, Kishida Ginko, who accompanied the expedition and gave Tonichi the advantage in battle for exclusive and original stories.

TNS 712

Saigo Tsugumichi's expedition engages Raw savages in the Botan mountains of Taiwan.
(Yoshiiku's first Battle of Stonegate triptych)

TNS 9002

Saigo Tsugumichi's expedition collects Trophy heads of Botan aborigines in Taiwan.
(Yoshiiku's second Battle of Stonegate triptych)


Yoshitoshi's Battle of Stonegate triptych.

TNS 726

Japanese soldiers dress a Botan maiden in a kimono.

TNS 736

A native Taiwanese carries Tonichi reporter Kishida Ginko across a stream.

TNS 752

Taiwanese submit to the authority of Japan's expeditionary forces.

TNS 847

Japanese and Chinese officials signing Taiwan concililation agreement in Peking.

TNS 849

Japanese show the flag to celebrate the detente with China over the killings in Taiwan of shipwrecked Ryukyuan fishermen.

TNS 851

Man haunted by ghost of brother-in-law who died in Taiwan. A revised edition has different story.


Kanghwa incident

The Kanghwa incident of September 1875 again roused demands, again mostly from Satsuma quarters, that Japan deal with Korea militarily. Again, however, Okubo Toshimichi and others insisted on a diplomatic solution -- this time in the form of forcing Korea to sign a treaty of amity in which Korea agreed to open three treaty ports to Japan, while Japan recognized Korea as an independent and equal state.

The incident, and the treaty signed in February 1876, were the subjects of a number of nishikie that featured stories on current or recent events in the rapidly changing Empire of Japan.


Japanese marines pacify Kanghwa island, from which a Korean battery had fired on a Japanese ship.