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Tōgō Heihachirō

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Collection: 1848 Births, 1934 Deaths, Graduates of the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, Grand Crosses of the Order of Polonia Restituta, Honorary Knights Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, Honorary Members of the Order of Merit, Imperial Japanese Navy Marshal Admirals, Japanese Expatriates in the United Kingdom, Japanese Military Personnel of the Russo-Japanese War, Kazoku, Légion D'Honneur Recipients, People from Kagoshima, People from Satsuma Domain, People of Meiji-Period Japan, People of the Boshin War, People of the First Sino-Japanese War, Recipients of the Order of the Chrysanthemum, Recipients of the Order of the Golden Kite, Recipients of the Order of the Rising Sun, Recipients of the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Samurai, Shimazu Retainers
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Tōgō Heihachirō

Marshal-Admiral The Marquis Tōgō Heihachirō Saneyoshi
Nickname(s) "The Nelson of the East"
Born January 27, 1848
Kajiya-Chō, Kagoshima-Jōka, Satsuma, Japan
Died May 30, 1934(1934-05-30) (aged 86)
Tokyo, Japan
Allegiance  Empire of Japan
Service/branch  Imperial Japanese Navy
Years of service 1863–1913
Rank Marshal-Admiral
Battles/wars Anglo-Satsuma War
Boshin War
First Sino-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
Awards Collar of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum
Order of the Golden Kite (First Class)
Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun
Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure
Order of Merit
Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order
Other work tutor to Crown Prince Hirohito

Marshal-Admiral Marquis Heihachirō Tōgō , OM, GCVO ((東郷 平八郎; 27 January 1848 – 30 May 1934), was a gensui or admiral of the fleet in the Imperial Japanese Navy and one of Japan's greatest naval heroes. He was termed by Western journalists as "the Nelson of the East", after Horatio Nelson, the British admiral who defeated the French and Spanish at Trafalgar.


  • Early life 1
  • Tokugawa conflicts (1863–1869) 2
  • Studies in Britain (1871–1878) 3
  • Sino-French War (1884–1885) 4
  • Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895) 5
  • Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905) 6
  • Later life 7
  • Honours 8
    • Tōgō's career promotions 8.1
    • Japanese 8.2
    • Foreign 8.3
  • Family 9
  • On film 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • Further reading 13
  • External links 14

Early life


Tōgō was born on 27 January 1848 in the Kajiya-chō (加治屋町)district of the city of Kagoshima in Satsuma domain (modern-day Kagoshima prefecture), in feudal Japan, the third of four sons of Togo Kichizaemon,[1] a samurai serving the Shimazu daimyo, and Hori Masuko (1812-1901).

Kajiya-chō was one of Kagoshima's samurai housing-districts, in which many other influential figures of the Meiji period were born, such as Saigō Takamori and Ōkubo Toshimichi. They rose to prominent positions under the Meiji Emperor partly because the Shimazu clan had been a decisive military and political factor in the Boshin war against the Tokugawa Shogunate during the Meiji Restoration.

Tokugawa conflicts (1863–1869)

Officers of Kasuga, in August 1869. Third-class officer Tōgō is dressed in white, top right.

Tōgō's first experience at war was at the age of 15 during the Bombardment of Kagoshima (August 1863), in which Kagoshima was shelled by the Royal Navy to punish the Satsuma daimyo for the death of Charles Lennox Richardson on the Tōkaidō highway the previous year (the Namamugi Incident), and the Japanese refusal to pay an indemnity in compensation.

The following year, Satsuma established a navy, in which Tōgō and two of his brothers enrolled. In January 1868, during the Boshin War, Tōgō was assigned to the paddle-wheel steam warship Kasuga, which participated in the Battle of Awa, near Osaka, against the navy of the Tokugawa Bakufu, the first Japanese naval battle between two modern fleets.

As the conflict spread to northern Japan, Tōgō participated as a third-class officer aboard the Kasuga in the last battles against the remnants of the Bakufu forces, the Battle of Miyako Bay and the Battle of Hakodate (1869).

Studies in Britain (1871–1878)

Tōgō during his studies in Europe, in 1877

Tōgō studied naval science for seven years in England as an apprentice officer, from 1871 to 1878, along with several other Japanese students. Arriving after a journey of 80 days at the port of Southampton, Tōgō first travelled to London, at that time the largest and most populous city in the world. Many things were strange to Japanese eyes at that time; the domed buildings made out of stone, the "number and massiveness of the buildings", "the furnishings of a commonplace European room, "the displays in the butchers' shop windows: it took them several days to become accustomed to such an abundance of meat."

The Japanese group was separated and sent to English boardinghouses for individual instruction in English language, customs and manners. Tōgō spent five months in Cambridge studying mathematics and English under the direction of the Rev. Arthur Douglas Capel.[2] The Rev. Capel was at the time of Tōgō's visit the curate at the Anglican church of St. Mary the Less in Cambridge. Tōgō is recorded to have attended services at the same church during his stay.

Later in 1872 Tōgō was sent to Plymouth, where he was assigned as a cadet on HMS Worcester, which was part of the Thames Nautical Training College. Tōgō found his cadet rations "inadequate": "I swallowed my small rations in a moment. I formed the habit of dipping my bread in my tea and eating a great deal of it, to the surprise of my English comrades." This was attributed possibly to Tōgō's "Far Eastern metabolism", the lack of rice, "or that some other essential element was missing; or perhaps the climatic differences sharpened his appetite." Perhaps the excitement of his adventure contributed, or maybe Togo just liked the food. Tōgō's comrades called him "Johnny Chinaman", being unfamiliar with the "Orient", and not knowing the difference between Asiatic peoples. "The young samurai did not like that, and on more than one occasion he put an end to it by blows." Tōgō also surprised these young Englishmen by graduating second in the class.

During 1875, Tōgō circumnavigated the world as an ordinary seaman on the British training-ship Hampshire, leaving in February and staying seventy days at sea without a port call until reaching Melbourne, eating only salted meat and ship's biscuits. Tōgō 'observed the strange animals on the Southern continent.' On his return, Tōgō had sailed thirty thousand miles. Tōgō suffered a strange illness which severely threatened his eyesight: 'the patient asked his medical advisers to "try everything", and some of their experiments were extremely painful.' Rev. Capel commented later, 'If I had not seen with my own eyes what a Japanese can suffer without complaint, I should often have been disinclined to believe....But, having observed Tōgō, I believe all of them.' The Harley Street ophthalmologists saved his eyesight. Tōgō then went to Portsmouth to continue his training before attending the Royal Naval College, Greenwich. During his stay, the Imperial Japanese Navy placed orders in Great Britain for three warships. Tōgō made use of the opportunity to apply his training, observing the construction of the Fusō while on work experience at the Samuda Brothers shipyard on the Isle of Dogs.

Tōgō, newly promoted to lieutenant finally returned to Japan on 22 May 1878 aboard one of the newly purchased British-built ships, the Hiei.

Tōgō was absent from Japan during the Satsuma Rebellion, and often expressed regret for the fate of his benefactor Saigō Takamori.

Sino-French War (1884–1885)

Back in the Imperial Japanese Navy, Tōgō received several commands, first as captain of Daini Teibo, and then Amagi. During the Franco-Chinese War (1884–1885), Tōgō, onboard Amagi, closely followed the actions of the French fleet under Admiral Courbet.

Tōgō also observed the ground combat of the French forces against the Chinese in Formosa (Taiwan), under the guidance of Joseph Joffre, future Commander-in-Chief of French forces during World War I.

Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895)

The statue of Heihachirō Tōgō
Mikasa Park in Yokosuka Japan.

In 1894, at the beginning of the First Sino-Japanese War, Tōgō, as a captain of the cruiser Naniwa, sank the British transport ship, Kowshing, which was chartered by the Chinese Beiyang Fleet to convey troops. A report of the incident was sent by Suematsu Kencho to Mutsu Munemitsu.

The sinking almost caused a diplomatic conflict between Japan and Great Britain, but it was finally recognized by British jurists as in total conformity with International Law, making Tōgō famous overnight for his mastery of contentious issues involving foreign countries and regulations. The British ship had been ferrying hundreds of Chinese soldiers towards Korea, and these soldiers had mutinied and taken over the ship upon the appearance and threats from the Japanese ships. A contemporary account from a German survivor, Major von Hannecken stated that the Chinese survivors had been fired upon, sinking two lifeboats. "...By this time only the Kowshing's masts were visible.The water was however covered with Chinese, and there were two lifeboats from the Kowshing crowded with soldiers. The Japanese officer informed me that he had been ordered by signal from the Naniwa to sink these boats. I remonstrated, but he fired two volleys from the cutter, turned back, and steamed for the Naniwa. No attempt was made to rescue the Chinese. The Naniwa steamed about until eight o'clock in the evening, but did not pick up any other Europeans..." [3]

He later took part in the Battle of the Yalu, with the Naniwa as the last ship in the line of battle under the overall command of Admiral Tsuboi Kōzō. Togo was promoted to rear admiral at the end of the war, in 1895.

After the end of the Sino-Japanese War, Tōgō was successively commandant of the Naval War College (Japan), commander of the Sasebo Naval College, and Commander of the Standing Fleet.

Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905)

Admiral Tōgō on the bridge of the battleship Mikasa, at the beginning of the Battle of Tsushima, in 1905

In 1903, the Navy Minister Yamamoto Gonnohyōe appointed Tōgō Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy. This astonished many people, including Emperor Meiji, who asked Yamamoto why Tōgō was appointed. Yamamoto replied to the emperor, "Because Tōgō is a man of good fortune".

During the Russo-Japanese War, Tōgō engaged the Russian navy at Port Arthur and the Yellow Sea in 1904, and destroyed the Russian Baltic Fleet at the Battle of Tsushima in 1905, a battle which shocked the world. Tsushima had broken the Russian strength in East Asia, and is said to have triggered various uprisings in the Russian Navy (1905 uprisings in Vladivostok and the Battleship Potemkin uprising), contributing to the Russian Revolution of 1905.

Post war investigations were held of Russian naval leaders during those battles in which Tōgō had prevailed, seeking the reasons behind their utter defeat. The Russian commander of the destroyed Baltic fleet, Admiral Zinovy Rozhdestvenski (who was badly wounded in the battle) attempted to take full responsibility for the disaster, and the authorities (and rulers of Russia) acquitted him at his trial. However, they made Admiral Nikolai Nebogatov, who had tried to blame the Russian Government, a scapegoat. Nebogatov was found guilty and sentenced to ten years imprisonment in a fortress, but was released by the Tsar after serving only two years.

Later life

Tōgō kept his journals in English, and wrote that "I am firmly convinced that I am the re-incarnation of Horatio Nelson."[4] In 1906, he was made a Member of the British Order of Merit by King Edward VII.

Captain Sempill showing a Sparrowhawk to Gensui Count Tōgō Heihachirō (as he was at the time) in 1921.

Tōgō was Chief of the Naval General Staff and was given the title of hakushaku (Count) under the kazoku peerage system. He also served as a member of the Supreme War Council. In 1913, Admiral Tōgō received the honorific title of Marshal-Admiral, which is roughly equivalent to the rank of Grand Admiral or Admiral of the Fleet in other navies. From 1914 to 1924, Gensui Tōgō was put in charge of the education of Crown Prince Hirohito, the future Shōwa Emperor.

Tōgō publicly expressed a dislike and lack of interest for involvement in politics; however, he did make strong statements against the London Naval Treaty.

Tōgō was awarded the Collar of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum in 1926, an honor that was held only by Emperor Hirohito and Prince Kan'in Kotohito at the time. He added the award to his existing Order of the Golden Kite (1st class) and already existing Order of the Chrysanthemum. His peerage was raised to that of koshaku (marquis) in 1934, a day before his death.

On his death in 1934, at the age of 86, he was accorded a state funeral. The navies of Great Britain, United States, Netherlands, France, Italy and China all sent ships to a naval parade in his honour in Tokyo Bay.

In 1940, Tōgō Jinja was built in Harajuku, Tokyo, as the naval rival to the Nogi Shrine erected in the honor of Imperial Japanese Army General Nogi Maresuke. The idea of elevating him to a Shinto kami had been discussed before his death, and he had been vehemently opposed to the idea. There is another Tōgō shrine at Tsuyazaki, Fukuoka. The statues to him in Japan include one at Ontaku Shrine, in Agano, Saitama and one in front of the memorial battleship Mikasa in Yokosuka.

Tōgō's son and grandson also served in the Imperial Japanese Navy. His grandson died in combat during the Pacific War on the heavy cruiser Maya at the Battle of Leyte.

In 1958, Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, an admirer of Gensui The Marquis Tōgō, helped to finance the restoration of the Mikasa, Admiral Tōgō's flagship during the Russo-Japanese war. In exchange, Japanese craftsmen assembled a Japanese "Garden of Peace," a replica of Marshal-Admiral Tōgō's garden, at the National Museum of the Pacific War (formerly known as The Nimitz Museum) in Fredericksburg, Texas.[5]


Incorporates information from the corresponding Japanese WorldHeritage article [6]

Tōgō's career promotions


  • Midshipman: 11 December 1870
  • Ensign: 1 August 1871
  • Sublieutenant: 3 July 1878
  • Lieutenant: 27 December 1878
  • Lieutenant Commander: 27 December 1879
  • Commander: 20 June 1885
  • Captain: 10 July 1886
  • Rear Admiral: 16 February 1895
  • Vice Admiral: 14 May 1898
  • Admiral: 6 June 1904
  • Fleet Admiral: 21 April 1913


  • Count: 21 September 1907
  • Marquis: 29 May 1934




Admiral Tōgō with his wife Tetsu, in 1913

Tōgō's wife was Kaeda Tetsu (1861–1934). The couple had two sons; the elder son, Takeshi (1885–1969), succeeded his father as the second Marquess Togo in 1934 and held the title until the kazoku was abolished in 1947. The younger, Rear-Admiral Tōgō Minoru (1890–1962) followed his father into the navy, rising to the rank of rear-admiral and ending his career in 1943 as commander of the naval district in Fukuoka. His elder son Ryoichi, who became a naval lieutenant, was killed in action during the Second World War.

Takeshi married Ohara Haruko (1899–1985); the couple had one son, Kazuo (1919–1991) and two daughters, Ryoko (1917–1972) and Momoko (1925-). Kazuo married Amano Tamiko and had three daughters, Kikuko (1948-), Shoko (1952-) and Muneko (1956-). As Kazuo and his wife never had sons, to perpetuate the Tōgō name they adopted their son-in-law, Maruyama Yoshio (1942-), the husband of Kikuko. Kikuko and Yoshio have two sons; the elder, Yoshihisa (1971–), married Niimi Miyuki and has two sons, Ryuuta (1991–) and Masahei (1993–). [6]

On film

Tōgō was portrayed by Toshiro Mifune in the 1969 Japanese film The Battle of the Japan Sea (佐藤 勝: 日本海大海戦):

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Cobbing, Andrew (1998). The Japanese Discovery of Victorian Britain. Abingdon, Oxford: Routledge. p. 122.  
  3. ^
  4. ^ Garson, R. W. (January 1999). "Three Great Admirals - One Common Spirit?" (PDF). The Naval Review 87 (1): 63–64. 
  5. ^ Japanese Garden of Peace
  6. ^ a b Togo genealogy
  7. ^ The London Gazette, 15 May 1906

Further reading

  • Andidora, Ronald. Iron Admirals: Naval Leadership in the Twentieth Century. Greenwood Press (2000). ISBN 0-313-31266-4
  • Blond, Georges. Admiral Togo. Jarrolds (1961). ASIN: B0006D6WIK
  • Clements, Jonathan. Admiral Togo: Nelson of the East. Haus (2010) ISBN 978-1-906598-62-4
  • Bodley, R. V. C., Admiral Togo: The authorized life of Admiral of the Fleet, Marquis Heihachiro Togo. Jarrolds (1935). ASIN: B00085WDKM
  • Dupuy, Trevor N. Encyclopedia of Military Biography. I B Tauris & Co Ltd (1992). ISBN 1-85043-569-3
  • Ikeda, Kiyoshi. The Silent Admiral: Togo Heihachiro (1848–1934) and Britain, from Britain & Japan: Biographical Portraits Volume One, Chapter 9. Japan Library (1994) ISBN 1-873410-27-1
  • Jukes, Jeffery. The Russo-Japanese War 1904–1905. Osprey Publishing (2002).ISBN 1841764469
  • Schencking, J. Charles. Making Waves: Politics, Propaganda, and the Emergence of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1868–1922. Stanford University Press (2005). ISBN 0-8047-4977-9

External links

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