Togo Heihachiro (東郷平八郎)

Heihachiro TOGO (January 27, 1847 - May 30, 1934) was a samurai, a feudal retainer of the Satsuma Domain, and a member of the Imperial Japanese Navy. His various military class ranks and honors included Fleet Admiral, junior first rank, Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum, Order of the Golden Kite, and marquis.

As a naval commanding officer in the Meiji period, he contributed greatly to victories in the Sino-Japanese War and Russo-Japanese War, boosting Japan's international standing to make it one of 'the five most powerful countries.'
He comanded the Combined Fleet in the Russo-Japanese War and became widely known around the world as 'Admiral Togo', being praised for his military potential after winning a lopsided victory over the Russian Navy in the Battle of Tsushima. In Britain, which was in alliance with Japan, journalists coined the name "Nelson of the East" after national hero Vice Admiral Horatio Lord NELSON. With the saying "Nogi of the land, Togo of the sea" he was classed with General Maresuku NOGI as the world-famous admiral who led Japan to victory by the daring Crossing the T tactic, and was much revered by the people as a hero of the Russo-Japanese War.


TOGO was born in Nihonmatsu Umaba in Kajiyacho near Kagoshima Castle in Satsuma Province (Shimokajiyacho Katagiri), as the forth son of Satsuma feudal retainer Sanetomo TOGO and Mashuko (益子), the third daughter of Yomizaemon HORI (堀与三左衛門). His childhood name was Nakagoro (仲五郎), and at his 14th birthday coming of age ceremony was named Heihachiro Saneyoshi (平八郎実良). In June 1867 he founded a branch family. As a feudal retainer of Satsuma, he served in the Anglo-Satsuma War (the Bombardment of Kagoshima), and in the Boshin War served in Niigata and Hakodate, and fighting in the Naval Battle of Awa, Battle of Hakodate and the Battle of Miyakowan bay.

Studies in England

From 1871 to 1878, during the Meiji period when imperial rule was restored, Togo studied in Portsmouth, England as a naval officer on a government scholarship. He originally had wanted to be a railroad engineer. Before studying on government scholarship in England, he at first pleaded to Toshimichi OKUBO to allow him to study abroad, but Okubo denied him accusing him of being too much of a "chatterbox." Then, after begging Takamori SAIGO, Saigo agreed saying "leave it to me," and soon after it was decided that Togo would study in England. This demonstrates the accuracy of Saigo's ability to read people as he deemed that Togo's talents were better suited to the military.

At first he hoped to study at the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, but it was not permitted by Britain, and he ended up studying on the HMS Worcester, a marine merchant school. He faced many troubles during his study abroad, including being called "to go China" (a play of words on his name), and his outgoing personality turned completely silent. However, when he informed them he participated in the Naval Battle of Miyako Bay he was immediately treated as a hero.

As he studied international law during his time abroad, when he was captain of the Japanese cruiser Naniwa in the First Sino-Japanese War, he correctly judged the sinking of the British merchant ship Kowshing, which did not respond after being warned to stop, as not a violation of international law. Furthermore, his calm sense of judgement from this incident was later a factor in his selection as Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet.

En route back to Japan, Togo, who learnt of Takamori SAIGO's Satsuma Rebellion and subsequent suicide, said "had I been in Japan I would have rushed to join Saigo," and he grieved over the man's death. Togo's elder brother Sokuro OGURA actually served in the Satsuma Rebellion as commanding officer of the third battalion ninth platoon, and committed suicide after the Battle of Shiroyama.

Sino-Japanese War

Togo served as captain of the 'Naniwa (protected cruiser)' from the beginning of hostilities in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894, and had an active role in the Battle of Pungdo (the sinking of the British Kowshing incident), the Battle of Yalu (Sino-Japanese War), and the Battle of Weihaiwei. At the end of the Battle of Weihaiwei he was promoted to rear admiral, and also became commanding officer of the Standing Fleet, but wartime organisation meant that he participated in the capture of Penghu as commander of the first attack column of the Combined Fleet.

After the Sino-Japanese War he temporarily lay low with sickness, but in 1899 became commander of the Sasebo Naval College, and in 1901 was assigned the first commander of the newly established Maizuru Naval Base. From the position of later preparations for war against America there was a tendency to see this as a leisurely post, but the important point was that it sat opposite Russia's Vladivostok naval port on the assumption that war with Russia would come. However, Togo himself seemed to want to transfer to a central position.

Nevertheless, in the tense lead-up to the Russo-Japan War Navy Minister Gonnohyoe YAMAMOTO called him back and in December 1903 appointed him as Commander-in-Chief of the IJN first Fleet and the Combined Fleet. Normally the Commander-in-Chief of the Standing Fleet Sonojo HIDAKA would be next in line for this position, but it was thought that Yamamoto disliked Hidaka's self-assertion, placing the loyal Togo into the role. In actual fact, Hidaka had health problems which would make it difficult to command, and Togo, with the most experience of all the admirals at the time, was a very reasonable choice. Yamamoto also reportedly told Emperor Meiji that his reason for selecting him was because he was "a man of good fortune."

The Russo-Japanese War

In the Russo-Japanese War from February 10 1904, he was aboard the flagship battleship Mikasa and commanded the Navy's entire military strategy, including the attack on Port Arthur (Battle of Port Arthur) which was the base of the Russian Far East fleet (the Russian first Pacific Squadron).

Also, on May 27, 1905 he ambushed the Russian Baltic Fleet (Russian second and third Pacific Squadrons and the flagship Knyaz Suvorov) that were commanded by Admiral Zinovy ROZHESTVENSKY who had sailed from Europe to the Far East. At the time of the Battle of Tsushima, staff officer Saneyuki AKIYAMA sent a report by telegraph to the Imperial General Headquarters which read, "Have received report that that enemy fleet has been sighted and our fleet will proceed forthwith to sea to attack and destroy the enemy. Weather today is fine but waves are high." Also, to inspire morale to the entire fleet Togo said, "the Empire's fate depends on this battle. Let every man do his utmost duty," and ordered the hoisting of the Z flag. Employing the Crossing the T tactic, later called the "Togo Turn," he led the Imperial Navy to victory.

Even Turkey, which was suffering pressure from Imperial Russia at the time, celebrated this victory as if it was its own, and Togo became a national hero there. That year in Turkey there were even people that named their children "Togo," and a street was also named after him.

Post Russo-Japanese War

Following victory in the Battle of Tsushima he was promoted to Navy General. Immediately after the close of the Russo-Japanese War he travelled to allied Britain and went to see a football match (at Newcastle United) with other commissioned officers and the crew.

From 1905 to 1909 he worked as the Chief of Naval General Staff and was put in charge of the president of Togu School (a school to educate the crown prince). In 1906 due to his achievements in the Russo-Japanese War he was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum and the Order of the Golden Kite (first class). He was also granted the title hakushaku (count) in 1907. In April 1913 he received the honorary title of gensui (Naval Marshall-General) and was permitted to stand before the Emperor while holding a cane. In 1926 he was awarded the Collar of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum. The only recipients of this award at the time were Crown Prince Hirohito and Prince Kanin Kotohito. Also, he was the first Japanese person to be on the cover of Time magazine (November 8, 1926 edition).

Later Years

The heads of the so called Kantaiha (Fleet Faction) Nobumasa SUETSUGU, Kanji KATO used Togo to interfere in the military administration. One example was that when the London Naval Conference was held in 1930, TOGO was opposed to the treaty for the limitation of naval armaments, and another one was that he expressed objection to the draft for correction of the disparities in treatments between the branches of teeth arms and those of supporting arms (the issue about line of command; teeth arms were superior to supporting arms in everything, such as treatments, personnel affairs, and command authorities). In the end, the fire of internal opposition was not contained until this issue was altered just before the end of the Second World War. Another one was that the idea of changing a stand-up collar of the first official military dress into a double-breast jacket in English style but this was scrapped by the words of TOGO who said "The Imperial Japanese Navy won the victory in the Battle of Tsushima wearing this military dress."

In the prime of his life he often played, visited Ryotei (fancy Japanese-style restaurants) for days at a time, and went out shooting, but in his later years he made it his concern to live a simple, frugal life, with interests such as bonsai (a dwarf miniature potted tree) and a game of Go. He also often cooked using a shichirin (earthen charcoal brazier). However, when his wife told press reporters that she had supplemented the family income with a side job in their newly-married days, he angrily responded that he had never given his family any financial worries.


Togo died in 1934 at the age of 88. The day before he died he was given the title marquis. After he died a great number of sympathy letters were sent, and one primary school student wrote, 'Even Admiral Togo dies?,' which was published in the newspapers and received a big reaction.

His state funeral was held on June 5. On the occasion of his state funeral, fleets of 'the five most powerful countries' at the time including the British Imperial Navy Eastern Fleet heavy cruiser 'the Kent,' American Navy Asian fleet flagship 'the Houston,' the fleets of France, Italy, Holland and China departed immediately for Tokyo Bay. A cortege participated in the funeral procession, and fired an artillery funeral salute at the appropriate time to mark the greatness of his achievements.

The hair of Togo together with the hair of Vice Admiral Horatio Lord NELSON of the British Navy is strictly guarded at JMSDF Officer Candidate School (Etajima base).

TOGO's descendants include Minoru TOGO, his son, who was the 40th alumni of the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy to become major general (of the Imperial Japanese Navy), Ryoichi TOGO, his grandson, (who, boarding on the heavy cruiser Maya, was killed in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and became next two ranks up from lieutenant to captain), and his great grandson, who was a line officer of the Maritime Self Defense Official, who graduated from National Defense Academy. Yoshihisa TOGO, his relative, is a vice-chairman of the Japan Committee for UNICEF.


Togo Shrine' was founded in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, and in Tsuyazaki-cho, Munakata-gun, Fukuoka Prefecture (now, Fukutsu City), and he after his death in his memory. Upon hearing a plan to found a shrine enshrining him in the future when Nogi Shrine was built, Togo pleaded to stop the plan before his death, but the shrine was established in the end. His statues were also erected in the East Park, old Imperial Japanese Navy Cemetery, Sasebo City, Nagasaki Prefecture and in Tagayama Park, Kagoshima City, Kagoshima Prefecture. Togo-ji Temple was founded at the site which used to be his villa, in Fuchu City, Tokyo Prefecture, which is famous for its beautiful cherry blossom.

In his later years, Togo's enormous authority in the Navy made it a custom for the Navy to ask for his statements about military orders and martial laws although he had already stepped down from public office. In the Ministry of the Navy, Prince Fushiminomiya Hiroyasu, the President of the Naval General Staff, and TOGO were called 'Imperial Highness and God,' regarded as interferences with military government. Shigeyoshi INOUE related Togo's reminiscences, saying that "Togo's interferences in peacetime always caused something bad to happen, and we must not deify human beings gods because gods are beyond criticism." Keisuke OKADA, Mitsumasa YONAI, Isoroku YAMAMOTO, and others also expressed skepticism about the deification of Togo.

Legend of Togo Beer

There is a so called 'a legend of Togo beer' stating that Togo was so popular in Scandinavian countries which had been subjected to pressure by Russia for a long period of time that beer bottles with Togo's portrait on the label were sold in Finland; but these were part of the 'Admiral Beer Series' that was produced from 1970 to 1992 and reproduced in 2003, and also featured Isoroku YAMAMOTO as well as the Russian Admirals Stepan MAKAROV and Zinovi ROZHDESTVENSKI, who fought against Togo in the Russo-Japanese War, and the fact is that Heihachiro TOGO is not especially popular in Finland.

The brewery began producing the beer with a label bearing Togo's portrait in 1971. Bottles of 'Togo Beer' now sold in Japan are private beer produced in the Netherlands which have had the labels used on the Finnish 'Admiral Beer Series' applied by a Japanese company.

In fact, there are many other things bearing the name 'Togo.'
For example, in 1934 when TOGO passed away, the Brazilian company Castelloes sold cigarettes under the brand name "Cigarros Gensui" in 'homage to Togo.'
The Japanese words used in the advertisement read "Cigarros 'Gensui' is dedicated to Japanese people for the eternal memory of Fleet Admiral Togo."

Another example is the Togoperla genus of the kawagera (stonefly) order of aquatic insects. It is said that this was named by Czech entomologist, Frant Klapalek after Heihachiro TOGO; others are Oyama kawagera (named after Iwao OYAMA; its scientific name is Oyamia gibba), Nogi kawagera (named after Maresuke NOGI; Cryptoperla japonica), and Kamimura kawagera (named after Hikonojo KAMIMURA; Kamimura tibialis), (those persons were prominent figures in the Russo-Japanese War).

Incidentally, it is said that before his death, 'Togo hagane,' iron and steel products named after Togo, were manufactured, and a pun, 'Togo bakane' (meaning Togo is stupid), was created and spread by some sakan (majors, lieutenant colonels, and captains) and some shokan (major generals, lieutenant generals, and admirals) in the Navy who were hostile to Togo.
According to one belief, the pun was, in fact, made up by a rival company to the Kawai Steel Company, a wholesale warehouse company which imported foreign steel and sold 'Togo hagane.'
It is also possible that the pun arose from the background of Japan's industrial community at the time which championed domestic products.


Since Togo's death, his private residence has been used as the Marshal Togo Memorial Park. Even now, there remains a statue of lion which belonged to his private house.

Generally, TOGO gave the impression that he was a man of taciturnity and solemnity, but he sometimes showed an indiscretionate side. There was an episode that demonstrated this side of him that occurred when he was invited to the Gakushuin School Corporation (an educational institution mainly for children of the imperial family and nobility) in his later years and, during his lecture, he asked a student what he wanted to be in future, and then told the student who answered "a soldier" that soldiers would die on battlefields, so he recommended the student to enter the Imperial Japanese Navy as opposed to the Imperial Japanese Army because those in the Navy would not die, making the Principal of the Gakushuin School, Maresuke NOGI, who used to be the Army General, somewhat disappointed.

The Emperor Showa said that Maresuke NOGI, the principal of the school, that NOGI left deep impression on him during his time as a student of the Gakushuin School and he did respect Nogi, but when he was asked about Togo, president of the Togu School (a school to educate the crown prince), by press reporters later in his life, he answered he had no impression about Togo.

Togo was so enthusiastic about raising the level of firing proficiency that he left the words at the dismissal ceremony of the Combined Fleet, saying, "One cannon hitting marks one hundred times out of one hundred makes it possible to take countermeasures against enemies' one hundred cannons hitting one time out of one hundred."

The agreement of the Disarmament Washington Naval Treaty that a 10:6 tonnage ratio of capital ships, being cut down from a 10:7 ratio which Japan contended, between the navies of the United States and Great Britain and Japan drove generals exasperation, but Togo is said to have urged them by saying that 'there was neither ratio nor limit in skill-up training.'
("The End of the Combined Fleet" written by Masanori ITO)

Togo respected Gengo KOGA as a military man, who fought in the naval Battle of Miyako-wan Gulf and was killed there. He also vindicated the memory of Tadamasa OGURI, who had been executed by guillotine as a rebel by the New Meiji Government. Destroying the Russian Baltic Fleet in the Battle of Tsushima, Togo invited Oguri's bereaved family who lived in a remote village to his private residence to praise Oguri's distinguished service (Oguri had built the Yokosuka Dockyard for future Japan before his death) and to express his deep gratitude to them, saying, "The Yokosuka Dockyard was able to provide enough supplies and maintenance for the Combined Fleet, which brought us victory in the Battle of Tsushima."

During Togo's state funeral, memorial messages for him were broadcast by radio from both England and America to Japan. The message of Bolton EYRES-MONSEL, First Lord of the Admiralty, by BBC from England, and the message of William STANDLEY, Chief of Naval Operation, by NBC from America were broadcast respectively, and it happened that the program by NBC finished earlier than planned, so the NBC broadcast the Japanese songs "Oedo Nihon-bashi Bridge" and "Kappore," which were completely unsuitable to the funeral memory, to fill its allotted time. The program was broadcast all over Japan, and some Japanese people thought that the two songs chosen by NBC were a technical problem.

Whenever Boutros-Ghali, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, came to Japan, he always visited to the Togo-jinja Shrine. Ghali, a person from Egypt, says, "Togo encouraged and liberated my heart when I was young."

The General's flag hoisted over the flagship Mikasa during the Battle of Tsushima was donated by Togo to the HMS Worcester possessing the training ship 'Worcester,' for cadets, where he used to study, when he attended Imperial Prince Higashihushiminomiya Yorihito, on behalf of the Emperor Meiji, to participate in the coronation ceremony of George V (King of Britain) in 1911. With no record about such a background of the flag in Japan, the flag's whereabouts had been unknown for a long time, but research conducted by Teruo MAYSUHASHI, Guji (chief of those who serves shrine, controls festivals and general affairs) of Togo-jinja Shrine, while writing Togo's biography in 2004 revealed that the Foundation of the Marine Society, succeeding to the property of the HMS Worcester, had preserved a silver cup, and the bust of Fleet Admiral Togo as well General's flag Togo had donated at that time. When the shrine staff requested that the foundation lend these things that Togo had left for the grand festival in the following year, it permanently donated them.

Togo used a pair of binoculars made by Carl Zeiss to check the sinking of the enemy fleet and the surrender in the Battle of Tsushima. This binoculars offered both five times and ten times magnification, and were imported by the Konishi head office (now KONICA MINOLTA HOLDINGS., INC) in 1904 just after they went on the market. They are now preserved on the Memorial Ship Mikasa now.

Japan bestowed several honors on Togo including the Collar of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum, the Grand Cordon of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum, the Order of the Golden Kite (first class), the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun with Paulownia Flower, and the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure. The Korean Empire conferred the Grand Cordon of the Gold of Korean Emperor (朝鮮皇帝金尺大綬章) on him. Britain awarded him the Order of Merit, and the Royal Victorian Order. France honored him with the Order of the Legion of Honor (Legion d'Honneur [Grand Officier]) (Grand Officer). Italy bestowed the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus (first class) (Ordine dei Santi Maurizio e Lazzaro) on him. Poland bestowed the Order of Rebirth of Poland (Order Odrodzenenia Poloski, or Order of Polonia Restituta) on him. Russia honored him with the Order of St. Anna (first class). Spain bestowed the Order of Naval Merit (fourth class) (white ribbon for general sevice with a blue stripe) on him.

[Original Japanese]