After being granted control of a land holding called Shimadzu in Southern Kyushu by Minamoto no Yoritomo, Koremune Tadahisa took the name Shimadzu and became the protector of the three domains of Satsuma, Osumi, and Hyuga. The Shimadzu watched over the land and people of Kagoshima for over 700 years from the Kamakura period (1185-1333) until the end of the Edo period (1603-1868).
The Shimadzu clan survived hundreds of years of turmoil and change for one major reason – their connection to the sea. Southern Kyushu was historically important in trading, connecting Japan with mainland Asia and the world beyond. During the Edo period, the Tokugawa Shogunate closed the country off to the outside world, breaking many of the links between Southern Kyushu and Asia. The Shimadzu however continued trading with China through the Okinawan islands, and were able to procure goods, information, technological skills and culture from the outside world throughout the Edo period.
During the 1840s, due to its location in Southern Kyushu, Satsuma was among the first of the feudal domains to feel the pressure of Western colonialisation of East Asia. The 28th head of the Shimadzu family, Nariakira, was particularly aware of this threat, stating “Japan must be made into a strong and wealthy country, on par with the Western powers”. Nariakira began the Shuseikan Project in an attempt to develop industrialisation, and started a number of education projects that would raise some of the young leaders who in a few years’ time would bring about the Meiji Restoration.
The modernisation project at the Shuseikan consisted of ironworking, cotton spinning, and glassmaking among other enterprises, and innovation took place at a stunning rate. One of the greatest successes was the manufacture of a functional reverberatory furnace, with only a drawing from a Dutch textbook as reference. By combining Japanese traditional craftsmanship and Western scientific learning, the samurai of Satsuma managed to bring modernisation to Japan. Nariakira unfortunately passed away suddenly, but his legacy was continued by the 29th head of the Shimadzu, Tadayoshi, and his father Hisamitsu.
In July, 2015 “Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining” was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This gave international recognition that Japan was the only non-Western country to have undergone an industrial revolution in the 19th Century. The former Shuseikan and the Shuseikan Project were major factors in explaining why Japan was the only non-Western country to successfully industrialise, and the method by which this was achieved. The vision and foresight of leaders like Shimadzu Nariakira were the key factor in this success, and we remain immensely proud of their contribution to the development of modern Japan.
The historical influence of the Shimadzu can be seen throughout Kagoshima, and one of our major missions is to protect and promote this legacy. One such location is the house and gardens of the Shimadzu family, Sengan-en.
Sengan-en is a stately home and landscape garden built in 1658 as one of the residences of the Shimadzu clan. The garden’s most striking feature is its use of active volcano Sakurajima and Kagoshima Bay as borrowed scenery. The gardens cover over 12 acres and include calming ponds, gently bubbling streams, mysterious shrines, a bamboo grove, and a mountain hiking trail. The crane lantern, which was Japan’s first gas light, is a reminder of when Nariakira would have walked around the gardens, dreaming of the bright future waiting for his country. The Bogakuro Pavillion, a gift from the king of Okinawa, is a symbol of the gateway to trade with the outside world. High on the mountainside, the huge characters carved into the cliff face show the influence of Chinese culture on the Shimadzu. At the center of the gardens is the house that was cherished by generations of the Shimadzu family. Visits to the house made by members of Western royalty affirm the status that Japan achieved through its industrial endeavours.
Next to the gardens and located in Japan’s oldest stone build factory, built in 1865, is the Shoko Shuseikan Museum. The building is a National Important Cultural Property and is the home to a wealth of historical records and displays related to the history of the Shimadzu clan, and the industrialisation that took place in the area in the late 19th Century.
The Shimadzu clan has a history of over 800 years, and our mission is to protect and promote this legacy whilst working for the benefit of the people of Kagoshima.
|1185||Koremune Tadahisa is ordered to take control of Shimadzu, a land holding in Southern Kyushu. He takes the name Shimadzu Tadahisa, founding the Shimadzu family line, and adopts a cross as his family crest.|
|1197||Shimadzu Tadahisa becomes protector of the Satsuma and Osumi domains.|
|1587||Shimadzu Yoshihisa defeats the Otomo clan and takes control of the Bungo domain. The Shimadzu clan controlled most of the island of Kyushu at this time.|
|1600||Shimadzu Yoshihiro participates in the Battle of Sekigahara.|
|1602||Shimadzu Iehisa is allowed to keep his lands and becomes the first Lord of Satsuma.|
|1658||Shimadzu Mitsuhisa orders the construction of Sengan-en as his second residence.|
|1851||Shimadzu Nariakira becomes Lord of Satsuma, and invests heavily in the Shuseikan industrialisation project.|
|1865||The Shuseikan Machinery Factory (presently the Shoko Shuseikan Museum) is completed.|
|1922||Founded as Satsuma Industrial Enterprise Limited.|
|1923||Former Shuseikan Machinery Factory is opened as the Shoko Shuseikan Museum.|
|1951||Company changes name to Shimadzu Limited.|
|1960||Shin-Kyushu Contruction KK founded. Later renamed to Shimadzu Construction KK.|
|1978||Shimadzu Golf Club founded.|
|1985||Satsuma Glass Crafts founded. Satsuma Kiriko reproduced for the first time in over 100 years.|
|1986||Production of Shimadzu Satsuma Kiriko begins.|
|2002||Satsuma Iroha-no-yu Founded.|
|2003||Minami Kyushu Clean Energy KK Founded.|
|2005||Shoko Shuseikan Museum Renewal.|
|2009||Former Shuseikan and Former Shuseikan Machinery Factory Added to the World Heritage Site Nomination List as “Emergence of Industrial Japan: Kyushu and Yamaguchi”. Shimadzu Retail Services KK Founded.|
|2015||Sengan-en and Shoko Shuseikan Inscribed as Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining”.|
|2017||First full scale renovation of Sengan-en.|
|2018||150th Anniversary of the Meiji Restoration.
Shimadzu Golf 40th Anniversary.
The logo for Shimadzu Limited is famous as the crest of the Shimadzu family. The cross in a circle crest was adopted by the Shimadzu towards the end of the Sengoku period. Prior to this the crest was simply a cross, a fact that was noted by Saint Francis Xavier when he arrived in Satsuma in 1549. It is not known why the family crest was changed, however it is thought that as the country entered peacetime a more ornamental design was chosen.