A.D. 1877, TENTH YEAR OF MEIJI AND 2538TH OF THE JAPANESE EMPIRE.Jan. 4th. - Reduction of the national land-tax from three to two and a half per cent. Three-fourths of the total revenue of the empire is derived from the land- tax (p. 598). In a few days after, several sweeping measures of retrenchment were carried out. The departments of Religion (Kiō-Bu Shō), pp. 103, 598) and the Prefecture of Police were abolished, and their functions transferred to the Home Department. The salaries of nearly all government officials were reduced, and several thousands discharged. Such a measure is called a "jishin" (earthquake, p. 486). The public expenditures in all the departments were reduced by nearly $8,000,000, or the equivalent of the estimated reduction of government income from the land-tax. The local tax, formerly amounting to one-third of the land-tax, was at the same time reduced to one-fifth, or nearly a half, thus relieving the people, but sweeping away over $7,000,000 of revenue. The measure met, of course, with great popularity, the gratitude of the peasantry being "beyond imagination." One of the sad effects of the pinching economy rendered necessary was the abolition of most of the English language schools.
A Bureau of Decoration, composed of several high officials and the imperial princes, was formed to bestow decorations of "The Order of Merit of Meiji." They have honored a select number of natives and foreigners. The order consists of eight classes, to each of which is assigned its own peculiar decoration, which in the first-class is an eight-pointed star of thirty-two white-enameled rays issuing from a red-enameled ball (the hi-no-maru, or sun-circle), with the kiri (p. 67). See "Transactions of Asiatic Society," 1877, p. 21. The Japanese war medal is of silver, suspended by a white ribbon edged with green, hung on the left breast.
February 1st. - The great Satsuma rebellion began at Kagoshima, by the seizure of the Government stores of gunpowder by a body of 2500 samurai.
In Tōkiō, on the same day, the yashiki occupied as the Office of Foreign Affairs (p. 39) was accidentally destroyed by fire.
February 5th. - The railway between Kobé, Ōzaka, and Kiōto was opened by the mikado. Japan was admitted to the Postal Union. A Bail Law was promulgated February 9th. See Tōkiō Times, March 3d, 1877.
February 26th. - The extent of the Satsuma rebellion and the gravity of the situation were recognized when it was discovered that Saigō Kichinosŭké (pp. 302, 312, 315) headed the rebels who now appeared in Kumamoto and laid siege to the castle. Saigō was degraded from his rank as Marshal of the Empire, and Prince Arisugawa no Miya appointed to the supreme command. Saigō, Kirino, and Shinohara were branded as chōtéki. Shimadzŭ Saburo remained loyal. The insurgent ports were blockaded. All the available forces were sent to Kiushiu, and fresh levies of troops were made. The siege of Kumamoto was raised, and the imperial army, in two divisions, marched from Kagoshima and Kumamoto, intending to inclose the rebels in a cordon. The rebel army was composed of the veteran samurai of the war of the Restoration of 1868. The imperial troops were largely raw levies from the peasantry and middle classes. In June the two imperial divisions effected a junction after a great battle. Major-general Saigō Tsukumichi (p. 576) took the field in July, during which month, owing to the hard fighting, six thousand imperialists were killed or wounded.
August 14th, 15th. - The great battle of Nobuoka, an old natural stronghold, was fought. The bloody conflict resulted in the complete victory of the imperialists. The rebel leaders, however, escaped with a few hundred followers into Hiuga, whence, on September 2d, they made a dash on Kagoshimat and captured it, holding it for over two weeks.
September 24th. - Saigō, Kirino, and Murata, with their four hundred followers, were attacked on Shiroyama by fifteen thousand troops of the imperial army. Armed only with swords, the little band fought, scorning quarter. Many of them Committed hara-kiri. Not one of the imperial soldiers was killed. The three leaders and nearly three hundred of the band gladly met their death with unquailing courage, proud to die in blood by their own or at their comrades' hands, knowing no greater glory than to imitate Kusunoki (p. 191) and the ancient models of that ferocious military virtue of Old Japan - Yamato damashii.
This was the mightiest rebellion, inspired by the spirit of the past, against which the mikado's government has had to cope. It was the supreme effort of defiance of the forces of feudalism and misrule against order and united government. The Old met the New - mediævalism was pitted against the nineteenth century, and failed. "What Saigō could not achieve no imitator will presume to attempt." The rebellion cost Japan fifty millions of dollars. The rebel troops of Satsuma, Ōzumi, and Hiuga numbered 89,760, of whom 3533 were killed, 4344 wounded, and 3123 are missing. Of the imperial army, probably an equal number or more suffered the like fortunes of war, a very large proportion of wounds being cuts from the old two-handed sword-blades of the samurai. In the cities and villages of Japan, once quite free from the sight of legless and armless men and the results of gunshot wounds, the spectacle of men hobbling on crutches, empty sleeves, or bullet-scarred victims of gunpowder wars, is no longer a curiosity. In the treatment of the rebels, the Government displayed a lofty spirit of leniency unknown in Asia, and worthy of the Christian name. Of the 38,163 persons tried in Kinshiu, there were 295 acquitted, 35,918 pardoned, 20 fined, 117 degraded from the class of samurai, 1793 condemned to imprisonment with hard labor for terms varying from thirty days to ten years. Twenty persons were decapitated.
September 23d. - The imperial made infant Yukihito, heir-apparent, was born.
October 17th. - The Nobles' School was opened by the mikado and empress.
November 27th. - The iron railway bridge at Kawasaki (p. 360) was opened.
November 30th. - The National Industrial Exhibition at Uyéno, in Tōkiō, which was closely modeled after the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia, closed, having been opened August 21st. During this time the cholera broke out in Japan, but by the stringent enforcement of sanitary measures its ravages were very slight. Out of 11,675 cases, there were but 6297 deaths - a victory of science and care no less renowned than that of the army at Nobuoka.
December 8th. - Nobles' Bank was opened in Tōkiō.
The Postmaster-general's Report for 1877 shows that the spirit of progress is still the spirit of Japan. The increase of revenue over that of 1875 (p. 590) is $249,318. The number of letters, papers, etc., transmitted was 38,321,971, or an increase of 13,742,215 over the number in 1875. In all the items of the report there is increase and progress since 1875, notably in those of Postal Savings-banks and money-orders, of which there are now of the former 161, with 6211 depositors; of the latter, 247,505 were issued to the amount of $4,261,735. Under this department there are also established a Mercantile Marine Training School, and a Marine Board of Examination and License of competent masters, engineers, pilots, etc.