Yoshii Tomozane (吉井友実)

Tomozane YOSHII (April 10, 1828 - April 22, 1891) was a Japanese samurai, a feudal retainer of Satsuma domain, and a government official. He was a Count, whose court rank was Shonii (Senior Second Rank) and who held Grand Cordon of the Order. His common name was Nizaemon, Chusuke, and later Kosuke. His anonym was Hyobu YAMASHINA.


He was born as the first son of Tomomasa YOSHII, a feudal retainer of Satsuma Domain in Kajiya-machi, a castletown around Kagoshima-jo Castle. During reformation of domain duties by Nariakira SHIMAZU, lord of the domain, Tomozane forged close ties with royalists of other domains, as a rusuiyaku (a person representing the master during his absence) of Ozaka hantei (a residence of the domain in Ozaka [Osaka] maintained by daimyo), thus playing an active role as a younger reformist. After Nariakira's death he attempted to leave the domain with his forty comrades including Toshimichi OKUBO, but as Tadayoshi SHIMAZU, lord of the domain, dissuaded him from leaving, he then assumed the post of Ometsuke-yaku (inspector general). Later, having served as Kachi-metsuke (a person in charge of night duty and inspection), Goyobeya-shoyaku (a clerical of the senior councilor's office) and so on, he took a leading role in the domain duties as a chief member of the Seichugumi organization including Takamori SAIGO and Toshimichi OKUBO, and promoted Sonno-tobaku (literally, reverence for the emperor and the overthrow of the shogunate) movement. In the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, whereby the Boshin War started, Tomozane made great achievements by leading an army himself and defeating the bakufu army, and in 1869, was awarded shotenroku (a premium) of 1,000 koku (approximately 180 cubic meters of rice).

After Meiji Restoration he assumed important posts such as Sanyo (councilor), Genroin gikan (councilor of the Chamber of Elders or Senate), Kobu-taifu (Minister of Industry), Kunai-jikan (an undersecretary of Imperial Household Agency) and president of Nippon Railway (the first private railway company in Japan). In 1884, he was conferred Countship for his contribution in the Restoration. He died at the age of 64 in 1891.

Records of Main Offices and Ranks Held

In 1868: Choshi (able people recruited from among the best of the clansmen and the public by new Meiji Government to be assigned as councilors or directors in the government departments) sanyo-shiki (literally, councilor agency [government department between a ministry and a bureau under the ritsuryo system]), Kokubo (or Gunbo) jimukyoku-hanji (judge of the Military Defense Affairs Bureau), Gummukan-hanji (judge of the Military Affairs Office), Danjodai-daichu (an official in the Office of Prosecution, a police agency that mainly investigated political conspiracies), and Danjo-shohitsu (assistant director of the Office of Prosecution). In 1870: Minbu-shoyu (Junior Assistant Minister of Popular Affairs) concurrently serving as Okura no shoyu (Junior Assistant Minister of the Ministry of the Treasury), Minbu-taijo (Senior Secretary of the Ministry of Popular Affairs). In 1871: Kunai-taijo (official below shoyu of the Department of the Imperial Household [present-day Imperial Household Agency]), Kunai-shoyu (Junior Assistant Minister of the Department of the Imperial Household). In 1875: Genroin-gikan (councilor of the Senate). In 1877: Itto-jiho (first-class attendant advisor to the emperor). In 1878: concurrently serving as Genroin-gikan (councilor of the Senate).
In 1879: concurrently serving as Takumibe-shoyu (Junior Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Industry)
In 1880: concurrently serving as Kobu-taifu (Senior Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Industry).
In 1882: president of the Nippon Railway
In 1884: Kunai Taifu (Senior Assistant Minister of the Department of the Imperial Household)
In 1885: concurrently serving as Genroin-gikan (councilor of the Senate). In 1886: Kunai-jikan (Undersecretary of the Department of the Imperial Household). In 1888: Sumitsu-komonkan (privy councilor). In 1891: Kunaisho goyogakari (a general affairs official of the Imperial Household).

Family and Relatives

Eldest son: Kozo YOSHII (a Count, lieutenant commander of the Navy, and a member of the House of Peers)
Daughter: Sawako (the wife of Duke Iwao OYAMA)
Grandchild: Isamu YOSHII (a Count, waka poet and scenario writer)
Great-grandchild: Shigeru YOSHII (a Count, general manager of Korakuen Stadium, councilor of Japan Amateur Baseball Association)


As Tomozane was born in Kajiya-machi, he had been friends with SAIGO, OKUBO, Atsushi SAISHO and others since his early childhood. In 1864, he pleaded for the return of SAIGO, who had been in exile, and visited the island as a messenger to recall him.

When SAIGO was given a court rank for his achievements in the Restoration of Imperial Rule, Tomozane, having forgot SAIGO's imina (real personal name, but tabooed out of respect while he was alive), erroneously registered his imina as "Takamori" which was SAIGO's father Kichibei's imina. Although SAIGO's first name was "Takanaga" at the time of genpuku (coming of age ceremony), which was later changed into "Takeo," he began to announce his first name as Takamori from this incident on.

While SAIGO's honor had not been recovered after his death, Tomozane, together with Masaharu (or Shoji) IJICHI, Michihira IWASHITA, Taneomi SOEJIMA and others, secretly performed rites and festivals on an anniversary of his death and made efforts to realize the audience of SAIGO's bereaved children with Emperor Meiji. Tomozane was also an originator of a plan to build the Statue of SAIGO in Ueno.

At the time of Kinmon no hen Incident, Tomozane met with Ichirobei-masahiro INUI, a retainer of Tosa Domain, Keisuke OTSUKA, a retainer of Kurume Domain and others submitted a written opinion to the Imperial Court in order to strengthen determination of the Imperial Court against the Choshu Clan.

He escorted Ryoma SAKAMAOTO, who got injured in the Teradaya Incident, to the residence of Satsuma Domain in Kyoto. Subsequently, Tomozane offered his residence to SAKAMOTO on his honeymoon in Satsuma, and was in return presented a short sword named "Raikunimitsu" as a token of gratitude.

During his official travel in Paris Tomozane recommended match manufacturing to Makoto SHIMIZU who was studying there. In later years SHIMIZU became the first match manufacturer in Japan.

[Original Japanese]