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[Minato City History Walk] Minato City, a meeting place between Takamori Saigo and Kaishu Katsu that led to the "bloodless surrender of the Edo Castle"

Takanawa Gateway Station was established last year as the first new station on the JR Yamanote Line in 49 years. The name of the station, "Gateway" (meaning entrance) was chosen with the aim of turning the area into a hub of international exchange, but it also has the meaning carrying the history of Takanawa when it was once a bustling gateway of Edo. Minato City, where the residences of various domains were located was the site of many historical events from the early modern period to the modern area, and this included Takanawa. Among them, the meeting between Kaishu Katsu and Takamori Saigo, which led to the "bloodless surrender of the Edo Castle," at the end of the Edo period, was one of the most significant events that changed Japanese history. Let's take a tour of the historical sites related to the meeting between the two men and open a page of history.

The Satsuma Domain's residence in Mita, where the two leaders met at the end of the Edo period

From Takanawa Ookido site, where it was once the entrance to the city of Tokyo, it is about 1km north of Daiichi Keihin, right outside of the A6 exit of Tokyo Metro Line Mita Station. There, a stone monument stands that reads "the site of the meeting between Nanshu Saigo and Kaishu Katsu, for the surrender of the Edo Castle."

There is a redevelopment construction in the area now, so there is only a panel information.

This was the place where Satsuma Domain's daimyo city warehouse used to be, and on March 13th and 14th 1868, Kaishu Katsu and Takamori Saigo had a meeting that led to the "bloodless surrender of the Edo Castle." Today, the area is filled with office buildings and the scenery at the time has been lost. On the inscription of the stone monument that was built in 1952, however, it reads, "right behind this warehouse was a sandy beach facing the sea, and at the time, rice sent by ship from the Satsuma Domain was landed here." It tells the people now how this area used to be close to the ocean.

Why was it that such an important meeting that determined the future of Japan was held here?

It was a time of turmoil at the end of the Edo period. The momentum for overthrowing the shogunate had grown, and even after the 15th Tokugawa shogun, Yoshinobu accepted the restoration of imperial rule in 1867, the new government, led by Satsuma Domain, continued the attack on the former shogunate. On the other hand, in Edo, the former shogunate camp burned down the residence of the Satsuma Domain, deepening the conflict between the two armies which led to the Boshin war.

The following year, in January 1868, the first battle was held in Kyoto which was called the "Battle of Toba-Fushimi," and the new government army won the battle. Yoshinobu, who was in Osaka at the time, hurried back to Edo. The new government advanced the army from three directions, Tokaido, Nakasendo, and Koshu Kaido, surrounding Edo.

After returning Edo, Yoshinobu left Edo Castle and took up residence at Kaneiji Temple in Ueno. While some of his subordinates advised him to fight until the end, Yoshinobu had shown some inclination towards reverence (obeying the imperial court) and so he entrusted the entire authority of the old shogunate to Ichiou Okubo and Kaishu Katsu, who had become acquainted with Takamori Saigo and other members of the new government army during the two conquests to Choshu from 1864.

After returning to Edo, Yoshinobu left Edo Castle and moved to Kanei-ji Temple in Ueno. While some vassals were promoting thorough anti-war, Yoshinobu, who had also shown the intention of Yasujun (to follow the Imperial Court) in part, entrusted the full power of the former shogunate to Kazuo Okubo and Katsu Kaishu, who had gained acquaintance with the new government forces such as Saigo Takamori in the choshu conquest twice from the first year of Genji (1864).

Left - Takamori Saigo, Right- Kaishu Katsu

Later, while Saigo was staying in Sunpu (present-day Shizuoka City), essentially as the commander of the new government army, Teshu Yamaoka, who had been ordered by the old shogunate to act as a negotiator, arrived. At the meeting, Saigo made seven conditions for sparing Yoshinobu's life and allowing the continuation of the Tokugawa family. The conditions included, "handing Yoshinobu over to the Bizen Domain (present-day Okayama prefecture)," "surrendering the Edo Castle," and "surrendering weapons and warships." Hearing this, Yamaoka set up a direct meeting between Katsu and Saigo. Originally, the new government army had set for a full-scale attack of the Edo Castle to be on March 15th, but the leaders of the two armies decided to meet two days before that.before that, the meeting between the top of the two armies was realized.

Saigo and Katsu discussing on the summit of Mt. Atagoyama.

Handing over Yoshinobu to Bizen, which was under the control of the new government, meant that Yoshinobu would have a seppuku, so Katsu needed to avoid that at all costs. However, the details of the secret meeting between the two men produced no detailed records, and much of what was discussed is not clear. For the meeting place, the Satsuma Domain had upper residences in Tamachi and Mita, and a lower residence in Takanawa. On Kaishu Katsu's diary, it said he "went to the Satsuma Domain residence in Takanawa." One theory is that on the first day, they had a preliminary meeting at the residence in Takanawa and on the second day, the final meeting was held at the residence in Tamachi.

Monument at the site of Satsuma Domain's Mita Residence, 5-chome Shiba

On the other hand, Mt. Atagoyama, where the Atago shrine stands, is also said to be the place Saigo and Katsu visited during their talks. At that time, the city of Edo and Shibaura could be seen from Mt. Atagoyama, which was slightly elevated at 26 meters above sea level. If you climb up the "stone steps of success" (Otoko-zaka) at Atago Shrine and look back, you will be able to imagine what the view used to be like, even though the view is now lost.

Actually, Katsu had a plan to burn down the city of Edo if the new government army invaded the city. His plan was to burn the city to stop the invasion, and use his personal funds to get the citizens to escape from Edo.

Even if this plan to burn down Edo was not implemented, Edo at the time was still the largest city in the world with a population of over 1.2 million. The new government forces gained momentum after their victory at Toba/Fushimi, and the former shogunate army was disadvantaged but had a powerful navy. A clash between the two armies would have obviously resulted in a large number of refugees. That was something also the United Kingdom did not want, as it felt Edo was important in terms of trade. Katsu prepared for the plan to burn down Edo while receiving an external pressure from the United Kingdom. Katsu, who had studied western-style negotiation in the United States approached the meeting with Saigo from a variety of angles to protect the city of Edo. Although no certain records remain, the two might have looked at the busy city of Edo from Mt. Atagoyama while Katsu tryied to convince Saigo, "would you still attack Edo Castle even after seeing this view?"

Thus, the two sides made peace, and the full-scale attack of Edo by the new government army was avoided. About a month after the meeting between the two, on April 11th, the Edo Castle was handed over to the new government side. The "bloodless surrender of the castle," which was a rare historical event in the world, was completed without a single casualty. Had the city of Edo been engulfed in a sea of flames, the city that would later be reborn as Tokyo might have never developed. The meeting between the two men which took place in the present-day Minato City, was one of the most important moments in Japanese history.

Other places related to Saigo and Katsu in Minato City

As a reminder of the connection between Takamori Saigo and Minato City, there is a calligraphy in Saigo's handwriting at the Tokyo Minato Brewery in Shiba.

A replica of Saigo's text can be found at the Tokyo Minato Brewery store

It says, "Although everyone is suffering from the scorching temperature in summer, I love how days are long in summer." It is said that Wakamatsuya, the sake supplier Tokyo Minato Brewery originated from, received this text from Saigo in exchange for him staying the night there.

Wakamatsuya used to supply sake to the residence of the Satsuma Domain. At the time, it was easy to escape to Edo Bay from the back room of Wakamatsuya if anything happened. This place became the secret meeting place of the key players who were involved in the bloodless surrender including, Saigo, Kaishu Katsu, and Teshu Yamaoka. The brewery's main brand is called "Edo Kaijo" (surrender of Edo Castle). It's a kind of sake you'd want to try even if you are not a history buff.

"The Site of Kaishu Katsu's Residence," where Kaishu Katsu lived from 1859 to 1868, is also located in Akasaka 6-chome, and the "Statue of Kaishu Katsu and Ryoma Sakamoto as Master and Disciple" stands in the same place where Katsu stands alongside Ryoma Sakamoto, his number one disciple.

Why not tour this area with so much history, feeling the emotions of great historical figures in the city of Edo?

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