Enomoto Takeaki

Viscount Enomoto Takeaki (榎本 武揚, 5 October 1836 – 26 October 1908) was a Japanese samurai and admiral of the Tokugawa navy of Bakumatsu-period Japan, who remained faithful to the Tokugawa shogunate and fought against the new Meiji government until the end of the Boshin War. He later served in the Meiji government as one of the founders of the Imperial Japanese Navy.


Enomoto Takeaki
榎本 武揚
Enomoto Takeaki.jpg
Viscount Enomoto Takeaki
President of Republic of Ezo
In office
27 January 1869 – 27 June 1869
Vice PresidentMatsudaira Tarō
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Personal details
Born(1836-10-05)5 October 1836
Edo, Japan
Died26 October 1908(1908-10-26) (aged 72)
Tokyo, Japan
Resting placeKisshō-ji, Bunkyō-ku, Tokyo
35°43′39″N 139°45′13″E / 35.727425°N 139.75364°E / 35.727425; 139.75364
Hayashi Tatsu
(m. 1867; died 1892)
  • Enomoto Takenori (son)
  • Enomoto Kinu (daughter)
  • Enomoto Harunosuke (son)
  • Enomoto Hisashi (son)
  • Ishii Fujiko (daughter)
  • Enomoto Takako (daughter)
FatherEnomoto Takeyuki
RelativesEnomoto Takeshi (brother)
Military service
Allegiance Tokugawa bakufu
Republic of Ezo
 Empire of Japan
Branch/service Imperial Japanese Navy
Years of service1874–1908
RankImperial Japan-Navy-OF-8-collar.svg Vice Admiral
Battles/warsBoshin War
Battle of Hakodate
Naval Battle of Hakodate Bay


Early lifeEdit

Enomoto in The Hague, 1864

Enomoto was born as a member of a samurai family in the direct service of the Tokugawa clan in the Shitaya district of Edo (modern Taitō, Tokyo). Enomoto started learning Dutch in the 1850s, and after Japan's forced "opening" by Commodore Matthew Perry in 1854, he studied at the Tokugawa shogunate's Naval Training Center in Nagasaki and at the Tsukiji Warship Training Center in Edo.

At the age of 26, Enomoto was sent to the Netherlands to study western techniques in naval warfare and to procure western technologies. He stayed in Europe from 1862 to 1867, and became fluent in both the Dutch and English languages.[1]

Enomoto returned to Japan on board the Kaiyō Maru, a steam warship purchased from the Netherlands by the Shogunal government. During his stay in Europe, Enomoto had realized that the telegraph would be an important means of communication in the future, and started planning a system to connect Edo and Yokohama. Upon his return, Enomoto was promoted to Kaigun Fukusōsai (海軍副総裁), the second highest rank in the Tokugawa Navy, at the age of 31. He also received the court title of Izumi-no-kami (和泉守).

Boshin War and Meiji RestorationEdit

Enomoto Takeaki in Ezo, aged 32 (c. 1868–1869)

During the Meiji Restoration, after the surrender of Edo in 1868 during the Boshin War to forces loyal to the Satchō Alliance, Enomoto refused to deliver up his warships, and escaped to Hakodate in Hokkaido with the remainder of the Tokugawa Navy and a handful of French military advisers and their leader Jules Brunet. His fleet of eight steam warships was the strongest in Japan at the time.

Enomoto hoped to create an independent country under the rule of the Tokugawa family in Hokkaidō, but the Meiji government refused to accept partition of Japan. On 27 January 1869, the Tokugawa loyalists declared the foundation of the Republic of Ezo and elected Enomoto as president.

The Meiji government forces invaded Hokkaidō and defeated Enomoto's forces in the Naval Battle of Hakodate. On 27 June 1869, the Republic of Ezo collapsed, and Hokkaidō came under the rule of the central government headed by the Meiji Emperor.

As a Meiji politicianEdit

After his surrender, Enomoto was arrested, accused of high treason and imprisoned. However, the leaders of the new Meiji government (largely at the insistence of Kuroda Kiyotaka) pardoned Enomoto in 1872, realizing that his various talents and accumulated knowledge could be of use. Enomoto became one of the few former Tokugawa loyalists who made the transition to the new ruling elite, as politics at the time was dominated by men from Chōshū and Satsuma, who had a strong bias against outsiders in general, and former Tokugawa retainers in particular. However, Enomoto was an exception, and rose quickly within the new ruling clique, to a higher status than any other member of the former Tokugawa government.

In 1874, Enomoto was given the rank of vice-admiral in the fledgling Imperial Japanese Navy. The following year, he was sent to Russia as a special envoy to negotiate the Treaty of St. Petersburg. The successful conclusion of the treaty was very well received in Japan and further raised Enomoto's prestige within the ruling circles, and the fact that Enomoto had been chosen for such an important mission was seen as evidence of reconciliation between former foes in the government.[2]

In 1880, Enomoto became Navy Minister (海軍卿). In 1885, his diplomatic skills were again called upon to assist Itō Hirobumi in concluding the Convention of Tientsin with Qing China. Afterwards, Enomoto held a series of high posts in the Japanese government. He was Japan's first Minister of Communications (1885–1888) after the introduction of the cabinet system in 1885. He was also Minister of Agriculture and Commerce from 1894 to 1897, Minister of Education from 1889 to 1890 and Foreign Minister from 1891 to 1892.[3]

In 1887, Enomoto was ennobled to the rank of viscount under the kazoku peerage system, and was selected as a member of the Privy Council.

Enomoto was especially active in promoting Japanese emigration through settler colonies in the Pacific Ocean and South and Central America. In 1891, he established—against the will of the cabinet of Matsukata Masayoshi—a "section for emigration" in the Foreign Ministry, with the task of encouraging emigration and finding new potential territories for Japanese settlement overseas. Two years later, after leaving the government, Enomoto also helped to establish a private organization, the "Colonial Association", to promote external trade and emigration.


Tomb of Enomoto Takeaki in Kisshō-ji
Close up Tomb of Enomoto Takeaki in Kisshō-ji

Enomoto died in 1908 at the age of 72. His grave is at the temple of Kisshō-ji, Bunkyō-ku, Tokyo[4] (35°43′39″N 139°45′13″E / 35.727425°N 139.75364°E / 35.727425; 139.75364).


A statue of Enomoto Takeaki in Tokyo.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Akita, (1967) pp. 120–121
  2. ^ Kamo p. 87
  3. ^ Kamo p. 214
  4. ^ Yamamoto (1997) pp. 56–59


  • Kamo, Giichi. Enomoto Takeaki. Chuo Koronsha ISBN 4-12-201509-X (Japanese)
  • Yamamoto, Atsuko. Jidai o shissoshita kokusaijin Enomoto Takeaki: Raten Amerika iju no michi o hiraku. Shinzansha (1997).ISBN 4-7972-1541-0 (Japanese)
  • Akita, George. (1967) Foundations of constitutional government in modern Japan, 1868-1900. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, ISBN 978-0-8248-2560-7.
  • Hane, Mikiso. Modern Japan: A Historical Survey. Westview Press (2001). ISBN 0-8133-3756-9
  • Hillsborough, Romulus. Shinsengumi: The Shogun's Last Samurai Corps. Tuttle Publishing (2005). ISBN 0-8048-3627-2
  • Jansen, Marius B. and John Whitney Hall, eds. (1989). The Emergence of Meiji Japan, The Cambridge History of Japan, Vol. 5. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521482387; ISBN 9780521484053; OCLC 31515308
  • Keene, Donald. (1984). Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature of the Modern Era. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. ISBN 9780030628146; ISBN 9780030628160; OCLC 8728400
  • Ravina, Mark. (2004). The Last Samurai: The Life and Battles of Saigo Takamori. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley. ISBN 9780471089704; OCLC 427566169
Government offices
New creation President of Ezo
Jan 1869 – Jun 1869
Position abolished
Political offices
Preceded by
Kawamura Sumiyoshi
Naval Lord
(Ministry of Military Affairs)

Feb 1880 – Apr 1881
Succeeded by
Kawamura Sumiyoshi
New creation Minister of Communications
Dec 1885 – Mar 1889
Succeeded by
Gotō Shōjirō
Preceded by
Ōyama Iwao
Minister of Education
Mar 1889 – May 1890
Succeeded by
Yoshikawa Akimasa
Preceded by
Aoki Shūzō
Minister for Foreign Affairs
May 1891 – Aug 1892
Succeeded by
Mutsu Munemitsu
Preceded by
Kuroda Kiyotaka
Minister of Agriculture & Commerce
Apr–Jul 1888 (interim)
Succeeded by
Inoue Kaoru
Preceded by
Gotō Shōjirō
Minister of Agriculture & Commerce
Jan 1894 – March 1897
Succeeded by
Ōkuma Shigenobu