Nanshuo Ikun (The Teachings of the Late Nanshu) (南洲翁遺訓)

Nanshuo Ikun is a collection of lessons written by Takamori SAIGO. This book consists of 41 lessons and 2 additional lessons in addition to dialogues and addenda. It is also referred to as Saigo Nanshuo Ikun, Saigo Nanshu Ikun and Dai Saigo Ikun.


Nanshuo Ikun is a collection of stories that Saigo related to an official of the former Shonai Clan.

The Incident of setting fire to the residence of the Satsuma Clan in Edo

On January 3, 1868, after the Decree (of 1867) for the Restoration of Imperial Rule, Saigo sent Kyunosuke MASUMITSU and Shohei IMUTA to Edo who collected ronin (masterless samurai) at the residence of Satsuma Domain to disturb the peace of streets of Edo. The Shonai Clan was in charge of the security outfit Shinchogumi in Edo being responsible for security of streets of Edo. Ronin congregated at the Satsuma Clan residence and the Shonai Clan retainers consequently were in confrontation with one another, transpiring an incident where the former opened fire at the Shonai Clan residence. The foregoing matter developed into an incident that, on January 19, 1868, the shogunate army, with the Shonai Clan taking the leading part set fire to the Satsuma Clan residence.

Tohoku War

On July 4, 1868, the Satsuma army led by Saigo defeated Shogitai (a group of the former Tokugawa retainers opposed to the Meiji government who fought in the Battle of Ueno) in the Ueno War but the Aizu Clan continued to fight back while various clans in the Tohoku region formed the Ouetsu-reppan alliance. On October 8, 1868, the Imperial army launched an offensive on Tsuruga-jo Castle in the Tohoku War and, on November 6 of that year, the Aizu Clan surrendered. Meanwhile, the Shonai Clan drove the Imperial army back but, they became unable to continue to fight with the Ouetsu-reppan alliance breaking down and surrendered on November 10, 1868.

It was expected that the Shonai Clan retainers would be severely punished being condemned for the incident of setting fire to the Satuma Clan residence and fighting during the Tohoku War, but they received a surprising clemency. When word got out that Saigo had instructed to exercise clemency on the Shonai Clan retainers, he rose to fame throughout Shonai.

The visit of the former Shonai Clan retainers to Kagoshima

In August 1870, the former head of the Shonai Clan Tadazumi SAKAI sent Moritaka INUZUKA and Korekazu NAGASAWA to Kagoshima to deliver letters to the former head of the Satsuma Clan Tadayoshi SHIMAZU and Saigo. On December 28, 1870, Tadaatsu SAKAI, accompanied by 78 people including the former Shonai Clan retainers, arrived in Kagoshima.
15 people from the Dewa Matsuyama Clan also arrived in Kagoshima separately from the Tadaatsu party
A total of 93 visitors stayed in Kagoshima receiving military training for four months.

In 1873, losing the Seikan debate, Saigo resigned from his public post and returned to Kagoshima on November 10 of that year. Along with Takatsugu ITO and Motosuke KURITA, the former Shonai Clan retainer Noritsune SAKAI visited Kagoshima to hear Saigo's story concerning Seikanron (debate on subjugation of Korea). Tsunekoto AKAZAWA and Totaro MITSUYA also visited Kagoshima to hear Saigo's story. In May 1875, eight people from Shonai including Sanehide SUGE and Shizumasa ISHIKAWA visited Kagoshima as well.

On February 11, 1889, when the Constitution of the Empire of Japan was issued, the official court rank stripped of Saigo due to the Seinan War was reinstated and his honor was recovered. Marking this occasion, it was decided that a bronze statue of Saigo would be erected in the Ueno Onshi Koen Park with Tadaatsu SAKAI being one of the founders. Sanehide SUGE ordered Tsunekoto AKAZAWA and Totaro MITSUYA to compile quotes and lessons of Saigo in his days to publish his good lessons.

The Mitsuya edition

On January 18, 1890, the Mitsuya book was printed by Shueisha Publishers with Totaro MITSUYA from Yamagata Prefecture being the editor and publisher and with Shintaro KOBAYASHI from Tokyo being the printer. It was entitled Nanshuo Ikun and approximately 1000 copies were published.

The Katabuchi edition

The Katabuchi book was published in Tokyo under the title of Saigo Nanshu-sensei Ikun by Taku KATABUCHI from Saga in 1896.


The following is excerpts from the original text of the original article:
The leading numbers are serial numbers.


11. Civilization is a term to express appreciation for moral principles and ethics being universally observed and not a word to admire glorious palace chambers, beautiful clothes or superficial splendor of appearance. It makes no sense when people talk about civilization and barbarism. "Once I discussed about civilization with someone and when I said, 'The west is barbaric,' he retorted by saying, 'No, it is civilized'and, hence, we started to argue. When I persisted in my views on the west being barbaric, that person vehemently objected and asked what made me say so whereby I answered, 'If the west is truly civilized, they should deal with an undeveloped country with fundamental kindness and should admonish that country with patience to lead it to become civilized but, instead of doing so, they have been hardhearted and brutal towards the undeveloped and unilluminated country to their own benefit which is barbaric,' that person pursed his lips with words failing him," chuckled Saigo.


17. We can only undertake diplomatic intercourse with a foreign country based on the spirit that we take it on squarely through the right way, that we represent our country, that we are willing to sacrifice our lives and that we will carry it through to its fulfillment until we drop. If we compromise the true intent of our nation for the sake of keeping peace as the main aim of diplomacy and acquiesce in everything that the foreign country dictates cowering by fear of their power and might, we shall be held in contempt and disrespect instead. As a matter of fact, friendship between our nation and that country will be thrown out of the window and we shall ultimately be brought under their control.

18. When his talk turned to the topic of affairs of State, Saigo said lamentably that if a situation ever arises where this nation is insulted by a foreign country, it will be a duty of the government to carry out the right way and to act in accordance with moral principles even if the entire country becomes engaged in and goes down as a result. On the other hand, listening to some people discuss banking, food supplies and public finance all the time may make one wonder what heroic brave men they must be but if those people are confronted by a bloody event such as a war, they will all have the same idea and will seek an immediate peace to make them feel better. If we are too afraid of the word fighting and are unable to fight when necessary to do so, the government is not up to fulfilling its primary duty and, in that case, it will be an administrative organization for business practice, in other words, the business czar and not the government of a country.

Revere heaven, love people

24. The right way originates from the world and nature which people carry out to respect Heaven. Because Heaven loves me and others equally, I will love others just as I love myself.

Important affairs of State

30. It is difficult to deal with people who do not care about their lives, fame, official rank or money. Only with these people who are hard to deal with as mentioned in the foregoing can one share hardship to accomplish important affairs of State. It is, however, difficult for those that are mediocre and worldly to identify such people.

The first edition

The first edition of the Mitsuya edition is a collection of Chido Museum in Yamagata Prefecture. Foreword and epilogue drafted by Tsunekoto AKAZAWA and reviewed and drawn up by Sanehide SUGE appeared in the first edition of the Mitsuya book.

[Original Japanese]