This is the usual English translation of the Japanese word han which may better be rendered "Daimiate," that is, the territory and personal followers of a Daimyō, or territorial noble in feudal Japan. The soldier-gentry of a Japanese Daimiate differed from the Highland clans in the fact that all the members did not claim a common origin or use the same surname; but they were equally bound to their lord by ties of love and implicit obedience, and to each other by a feeling of brotherhood. This feeling has survived the abolition of feudalism in 1871. Ever since that time, the members of the four great Daimiates of Satsuma, Chōshū, Tosa, and Hizen have practically "run" the government of Japan. Her greatest modern statesman, Itō, her best-known minister of foreign affairs, Inoue, and Yamagata, and Aoki, and Katsura are all Chōshū men, while such salient names as Ōyama, Matsukata, Yamamoto, and Kawamura, with more or less the whole navy, belong to Satsuma.
The student of Japanese politics who bears this fact in mind, will find many things become clear to him which before seemed complicated and illogical. Political questions are not necessarily questions of principle. They may simply be questions of personal or local interest. The present paramount influence of the four Daimiates of Satsuma, Chōshrū, Tosa, and Hizen is partly an inheritance from olden times, partly the result of the share which they took in restoring the Mikado to his position as autocrat of the Empire in the revolution of 1868. The two strongest of the four are Satsuma and Chōshū, whence the term Sat-Chō, used to denote their combination; for in Japanese there is no vulgarity in cutting off the tails of words. On the contrary, to do so is considered an elegant imitation of the Chinese style, which is nothing if not terse. The Satsuma men are credited with courage, the Chōshū men with sagacity. The former are soldiers and sailors, men of dash and daring; the latter are diplomats and able administrators. Meanwhile, the aim of modern Parliamentarians is to pull down all that remains of the clan system, and to substitute party government in its stead. Their success is doubtless only a question of time.