Togo Heihachiro

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Admiral Togo at the age of 58, at the time of the Russo-Japanese War.

Tōgō Heihachirō (東郷 平八郎 Tōgō Heihachirō, December 22, 1847 - 5 May, 1934) was a Japanese admiral and one of Japan's greatest naval heroes.

Contents

Early life

Togo was born on December 22, 1847 (by the Western calendar) in the Kachiyacho district of city of Kagoshima in Satsuma Province (modern-day Kagoshima prefecture). His father was a samurai serving under the house of Shimazu, and he had three brothers.

Kachiyacho was one of Kagoshima's samurai housing districts, in which many other influential figures of the Meiji period were born, such as Saigo Takamori and Okubo Toshimichi. They rose to prominent positions under the Meiji Emperor partly because Satsuma had been a decisive military and political factor in the Boshin war against the Bakufu and the restoration of Imperial power.

Tokugawa conflicts (1863-1869)

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

Togo's first combat experience was at the age of 17 during the Anglo-Satsuma War (August 1863), in which Kagoshima was bombarded by the British Royal Navy to punish the Satsuma daimyo for the murder of Charles Lennox Richardson on the Tōkaidō highway the previous year (the Namamugi Incident), and the refusal to pay an indemnity in compensation.

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

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

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Togo during his studies in Europe, in 1877.

Studies in Britain (1871-1878)

Togo studied naval science for seven years in England from 1871 to 1878, together with sixteen other students. He first went to train on H.M.S. Worcester. During 1875, Togo travelled around the world on the British training ship Hampshire. On his return he studied in Cambridge (though not at the University). There he lived with Reverend A.S. Capel. He then went to the Naval Preparatory School in Portsmouth, and to the Royal Naval College at Greenwich.

Togo finally came back to Japan on 22 May 1878, onboard a newly purchased British-built ship, Hiei.

Franco-Chinese war (1884-1885)

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

Togo also observed the ground combats of the French forces against the Chinese in Formosa (Taiwan), under the guidance of Joffre, future Commander-in-Chief of French forces during the First World War.

Sino-Japanese war (1894-1895)

In 1894, at the beginning of the Sino-Japanese War, Togo, as a captain of cruiser Naniwa, sank the Kowshing, a British transport ship working for Chinese navy. A report into 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 Togo famous overnight for his mastery of contentious issues involving foreign countries and regulations.

After the end of the Sino-Japanese war, Togo's career was not so prominent. He was successively president of the Naval Staff College, commander of the Sasebo Naval College, and commander of the Standing Fleet.

Russo-Japanese war (1904-1905)

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

In 1903, the Navy Minister Yamamoto Gonnohyoe appointed him chief admiral of the Combined Fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy. This astonished many people including Emperor Meiji who asked Yamamoto why Togo was appointed. Yamamoto replied to the emperor, "since Togo is a man of good fortune."

In the Russo-Japanese War Togo defeated the Russian fleet at Port Arthur in 1904 and destroyed the Russian Baltic Fleet in 1905 at the battle of Tsushima. This historic battle broke Russian strength in East Asia.

Later life

Later, Togo was Chief of the Naval General Staff and was made a Count. He also was a member of the Supreme War Council.

In 1913, Togo received the honorific title of Fleet Admiral.

From 1914 to 1924, he was then put in charge of the education of Prince Hirohito, the future Showa Emperor.

In 1940, shortly after his death, Togo Shrine was built in Harajuku, Tokyo in dedication to Togo Heihachiro. There he is celebrated as a shinto kami.

See also

References

  • 'The Silent Admiral: Togo Heihachiro (1848-1934) and Britain' by Kiyoshi Ikeda, Chapter 9, Britain & Japan: Biographical Portraits, edited by Ian Nish (Volume One, Japan Library, 1994) ISBN 1873410271cs:Heihačiró Togó

de:Tōgō Heihachirō ja:東郷平八郎

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