Exhibition at the Embassy of Japan

Japan's pioneering Samurai

Until 15th October 2015

Open weekdays 09:30 - 17:30, closed weekends
Admission is free, but photo ID is necessary to gain entry to the Embassy.

The Embassy of Japan, 101-104 Piccadilly, London W1J 7JT

The current exhibition at the Embassy of Japan looks at the close relationship between the Satsuma domain in south-western Japan and the United Kingdom and examines the role the Satsuma domain played 150 years ago in the creation of the Meiji state, the rapid industrialisation of Japan and the popularisation of all things Japanese in 19th-century Europe.

In 1865, Satsuma (present-day Kagoshima) sent 19 young samurai to the United Kingdom to study the technological advances achieved by Britain’s Industrial Revolution. The Japanese Bakufu, government of the shogunate in Edo (now Tokyo), still forbade travel overseas and these young ‘Satsuma Students’ were pioneers, travelling to London in secret with false identities.

Upon their return to Japan, some of these former students went on to have influential posts in the new Meiji Government, becoming important statesmen, and leading diplomats: one became 'Gaimukyo' (equivalent to today's Minister for Foreign Affairs); another was the first Minister of Education; another went on to found Tokyo Museum.  The entrepreneurial spirit ran deep within the students: one led the commercial development of Osaka; one established Japan’s first brewery; another became the owner of a large winery in the USA.

Satsuma ware © V&A Images

Shuseikan Textile Spinning Factory and Foreigners' Mansion*
- courtesy of Japan Society
Discover why we in the United Kingdom we call certain small oranges ‘satsumas’ and how Kagoshima had long had contact with peoples overseas and how the broad-minded Satsuma domain lord, Shimazu Nariakira, spearheaded the development of industrial growth in Japan*.

See the unusual names of the Satsuma Students recorded in the University College London register and fine examples of Satsuma ceramics which were made famous by their exhibition at the Paris World Exposition of 1867, a result of the Satsuma Sudents’ visit to Europe two years previously. The name ‘Satsuma’ can be found in museum displays of ceramics all over the United Kingdom and find out where there are some near you.


This exhibition is organised by the Embassy of Japan and is one of a series of events in 2015 which commemorates the 150th anniversary of the arrival in the United Kingdom of the Satsuma Students from Kagoshima.

It has been made possible with the help of Dr Andrew Cobbing, Digital Archive of the Historigraphical Institute (University of Tokyo), Hokkaido University Library, Japan Center for Asian Historical Records, Japanese Gallery, Japan Society, Kagoshima Prefectural Museum of Culture Reimeikan, Kagoshima Prefectural Library, National Archives of Japan, The National Archives UK, SATSUMA 150, Satsuma Students Museum, Shoko Shuseikan, University College London

*On 5 July this year, Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution, including three sites in Kagoshima, were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.