Japanese soldier and statesman. A member of a lowly but prestigious samurai family, he played a central role in the overthrow of the shogunate and the establishment of the Meiji imperial state. Showered with the highest honours, he initially retired from public life, but in 1871 was persuaded to return to the government as commander of the Imperial Guard. Fearing for the decline of the samurai way of life in the face of the introduction of conscription, Saigo promoted a war of redemption against Korea, to be triggered by his own murder at Korean hands, but retired in 1873 when this plan was vetoed. Subsequently his private school at Kagoshima became a centre for samurai dissatisfaction, and in 1877 he was forced into rebellion by the actions of his followers. Defeated by government forces under Yamagata, he had himself killed by one of his own men.
Subjects: World History.