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Bronze Statue of Saigō in Ueno Park


Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Bronze Statue of Saigō in Ueno Park

by Watanabe Nobukazu, 1899

Prosperity of the World and Fashion of the East
IHL Cat. #1277

About This Print

A spring day in Ueno Park with the cherry trees in bloom and strollers lingering by the recently erected bronze statue of Saigō Takamori, a leader in both the 1867 Meiji Reformation that overthrew the shogun, restoring the Meiji Emperor and bringing a modern government into power, and the 1877 Satsuma Rebellion which sought to overthrow that same government.

Sitting on a rise near the main entrance to the park, the statue was designed by Takamura Kōun (1852-1934) and unveiled on December 18, 1898. Oriented so that it faces Edo Palace, it promotes Saigō in his earlier role "as the hero of the Restoration who led the imperial army in its takeover of Edo Castle, not as the disgruntled leader of samurai interests who had been forsaken by the Tokyo regime.”1 The statue pictures Saigō in informal attire with his dog and conjures the earlier military leader, diplomat and "humanist who cherished slogan was 'Revere Heaven, love mankind' and "whose spiritual and physical magnanimity earned him the epithet 'Saigo the Great' and the adoration of an entire nation."2

Among those present when the statue was unveiled on December 18, 1898 were members of Saigō's family, including his widow, Itoko.  Her reaction to the statue is described as follows:

Itoko traveled from distant Kagoshima to attend the unveiling ceremony with other members of the Saigo family.  She sat next to her late husband’s younger brother, the Marquis Saigo Tsugumichi, who had occupied high posts in the Meiji government, including minister of the navy and minister of the interior.  The illustrious gathering waited silently for the veil to be removed.  When the statue was finally uncovered, revealing the image, Itoko emitted a sudden shriek.  “It looks nothing like my husband,” she exclaimed.  She was immediately silenced and later reprimanded by Tsugumichi, out of regard for the “feelings of those many people who went to such trouble and expense to produce the statue.”  But Itoko would never overcome here embarrassment at the statue’s informal attire “for all the world to see” – because in life Saigo “was a man of the utmost decorum” who would have worn the formal “hakama and haori bearing the family crest, or a military uniform.”3

1 Splendid Monarchy: Power and Pageantry in Modern Japan, T. Fujitani, University of California Press, 1998, p. 91-92.
2 Samurai Tales: Courage, Fidelity, and Revenge in the Final Yearsof the Shogun, Romulus Hillsborough, Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle Pub., 2010.  [Note: On the day of the February 11, 1889 promulgation of the Meiji Constitution, Saigō was exonerated of his role as the leader of disgruntled samurai during the 1877 Satsuma Rebellion and redecorated with the senior third rank for his role in the Meiji Restoration of 1867.]
3 Ibid.

Print Details
 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description Bronze Statue of Saigō in Ueno Park
 上野 公園 西郷銅像 Ueno Kōen Saigōdōzō
 Artist Watanabe Nobukazu (1872-1944)
応需 延一 ōju Nobukazu
 Seal none
 Publication Date February 6, 1899 明治卅二年
Hasegawa Tsunejirō 次郎 [Marks: pub. ref. 469; seal not shown]
from right to left: 
明治卅二年 二 六日 印刷 [Meiji 32nd year, 2nd month 6th day, printed]
同年  ? 発行印刷 [same year, 2nd month, [unread] day, published]
発行者 publisher and printer
袖田町五バンチ Tokyo Kanda Kajichō 5-banchi
次郎 Hasegawa Tsunejirō

 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good - full size separate sheets, unbacked, 1 1/2 in. piece of upper right margin on right sheet missing; minor toning and soiling
 Genre ukiyo-e; kaika-e
 Format vertical oban triptych
 H x W Paper 
 14 1/2 x 9 3/4 in. (36.8 x 24.8 cm) each sheet (approx.)

 Collections This Print
 The Metropolitan Museum of Art JP3350; The New York Public Libary The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints andPhotographs 101539.a-c