Copped and cropped from Tsuchiya 2000
National Diet Library
Yubin hochi shinbun
No. 1144 (Series 22) 1876-11-20
Yamaguchi rebels on run

Story in brief

The story is about the capture of Maebara Issei in what is generally called the Hagi rebellion, centering on the town of Hagi, center of Choshu power in Yamaguchi prefecture.

The first red cartouche (upper right) names Maebara Issei (Oꐽ) -- standing in a boat crossing a river during a failed attempt to escape from his pursuers.

The man named in the other larger cartouche is Yamada (RcoY) -- wounded in the water.

The two figures on shore, identified by the smaller orange and red cartouches, are respectively Yokoyama Toshihiko (RrF) and Shirai Rinzo (ё).

The unnamed man on board to the right is probably Okudaira Kensuke (), who is mentioned in the story with Yokoyama. (WW)


Hagi rebellion

What is called the Hagi rebellion (̗) began on or about 28 October 1876 and ended with Maebara's capture on or about 5 November (some sources have 27 October to 8 November). Maebara and at least two others -- including Yamada and Okudaira -- were decapitated (a) on 3 December.

The Hagi Rebellion in Yamaguchi came immediately after the Shinpuren Rebellion in Kumamoto. Like the Saga Rebellion of 1874, both were portents of the Seinan War that broke out in Kagoshima in January the following year and engulfed the region until fall that year when Saigo Takamori killed himself in an admission of defeat.

Maebara Issei and his party

Maebara Issei (1834-1876), from Hagi, was one of many Choshu samurai who helped overthrow the Tokugawa. Rewarded with posts as vice minister of war and councilor in the new government, he resigned in 1872 to protest the centralization of power that he and many Satsuma/Choshu restorationists saw as a betrayal of their goals.

Maebara returned to his Choshu haunts in Hagi, where he became the leader of dissident former samurai who had lost their hereditary privileges and stipends when the domains were prefecturized and the bushi caste was disenfranchised.

Yamada Eitaro (1849-1876) was Maebara's first younger brother. He, too, had participated in the Satsuma/Choshu campaign against the Tokugawa shogunate, and was in Edo at the time of the Shogitai stand at Ueno Hill in 1868.

Okudaira Kensuke (1841-1876), another participant in the restoration campaign, was put in charge of Sado island during the first year of the Meiji period. He is remembered there for banning cremation, which Choshu had banned in 1864 (Andrew Bernstein, Fire and Earth: The Forging of Modern Cremation in Meiji Japan, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, Volume 27, Numbers 3-4, 2000, page 307).

Maebara, Yamada, Okudaira, Yokoyama, Shirai, and two other rebels attempted to escape by boat from Hagi, a port town on the Japan Sea and home of the former Choshu domain, to neighboring Shimane prefecture. Caught in a storm, they took refuge at Uryu, a small cove on the the tip of the Shimane peninsula, now part of the city of Izumo, in Shimane prefecture.

Telegram reporting arrests

The story related on the print was based on a report in the 20 November 1876 issue of Hochi. This is significant, because Yoshitoshi seems to have had knowledge of details of the pursuit that would have taken that long to be reported in Tokyo.

Apparently there was a telegram, posted or received somewhere at 9:40 on 7 November 1876, reporting that Yokoyama and Shirai had been captured in the port of Uryu on the 4th, but that Maibara, Okudaira, and three others were still on the boat.

On the night of the 3rd, local police, alterted that some Hagi rebels might be heading their way, arrested two men who had come ashore for water, and they proved to be from Maebara's boat. The following day, Yokoyama and his underling Shirai were apprehended when they came ashore to visit a local temple.

Maebara and the rest of his party were taken into custody on the 6th of November while he was eating and drinking with friends at an inn in the village. He was held at a jail in Matsue, arrived at Hagi on the 17th, and sentenced and executed on 3 December.

Source  Susa Local Historical Research Society (Hagi), Report No. 8, 1988, pages 23-27, digesting Matsumoto Jiro, "Hagi no ran: Maebara Issei to sono itto" [Hagi rebellion: Maebara Issei and his party], Tokyo: Taka Shobo, 1972 (Matsuno Shoten, 1985, 1996).

Justice was swift and unforgiving. Maebara was 42, Okudaira 36, and Yamada 27 when they were decapitated in Hagi on 3 December 1876, immediately after a court found them guilty of attempting to instigate a rebellion. Several members of his party and family committed seppuku after his execution.

The routing of Maibara and his followers at Hagi, by Miura Goro (OYO) in late October, is the theme of Yamaguchi rebels pursued (TNS-9005), a Stage 4 TNS triptych by Seisai Yoshimura. This print includes a boxed list of the names of some of the Yamaguchi rebels -- beginning with Maebara, Okudaira, Yokoyama, Yamada, Sase, and Shirai.

Yoshida Shoin and Ii Naosuke

Maebara was a student and admirer of Yoshida Shoin (1830-1859), a revolutionary from the castle town of Hagi, the political center of the Choshu domain, now part of Yamaguchi prefecture. Yoshida advocated "sonno joi" (c), a slogan meaning "Revere the emperor, expel the barbarians".

He was executed in 1859 for a number of anti-Tokugawa activities, but mostly because he confessed to plotting to assassinate a Tokugawa official sent to the Imperial Court in Kyoto in 1858 by Ii Naosuke (1815-1860) to obtain approval for a treaty of commerce and amity Ii wanted to sign with Townsend Harris.

Despite his failure to get imperial support, and opposed by many domains and even some Tokugawa factions, Ii went ahead and signed the treaty, which opened ports to the United States and granted extraterritoriality to American merchants and seamen.

In 1860, the year after Yoshida was executed, Ii was cut down at the Sakurada Gate of Edo Castle by other imperial loyalists who objected to the treaty and its implications for the opening of Japan to foreigners and their influence.

Print information

Series: Yubin hochi shinbun
Issue: 1144 [Hochi 1876-11-20]
Series: 22
Date: Meiji 9 [1876-12-22] (otodoke)
Publisher: Kumagaya Shoshichi [Kinshodo]
Drawer: Tsukioka Yonejiro
Signed: (Oju) Taiso Yoshitoshi
Carver: Horiko Hidekatsu
Writer: Ikusu Sanjin
Price: 2 sen
Size: Oban
Image: National Diet Library (Tsuchiya 2000)

Principal sources

Tsuchiya 2000
CCMA 2008