Satsuma: a popular fruit, and more exactly a mandarin, in Europe although sadly lacking from the American repertoire. However, fruit are rarely classified as games, and so to qualify for the Quest, I shall provide details of the game Satsuma, much enjoyed by those at our school who invented it.

Satsuma is played on a tennis court, and resembles doubles tennis in that it features four players. However, each of these four players are to play against one another, which evidently opens up unlimited opportunities for cheating, fighting and profanity; a proper private school game if ever there was one. Each player uses only one square of the court, and the tramlines and rear area are not involved.

Players begin the game with fifteen of the eponymous Satsumas, and lose one every time they lose a point; the rules governing loss are most similar to tennis, since missing the ball or failure to return it are the key offenses. Reaching no satsumas results in the player becoming a so-called "bomb kart", who can no longer win but must play on nevertheless - the game relies on the sporting nature of the participants at this time. When only one player has Satsuma's remaining, he is declared the winner, whereupon some kind of naked dance is often displayed.

As is traditional with improvised games, a large number of superfluous rules are in effect, and Satsuma owes much to Mornington Crescent in this respect. As may have occured to you, playing Satsuma on a standard court, as we are forced to, is less than ideal since there is only one net present where two are required, at right angles, to seperate the players. At this stage, I dare to introduce the K426 rule, or one of it's regional varients, which states that serving into such a square is illegal, as is playing a shot which would hit the hypothetical net. Wherever possible, the game thus degenerates into a brawl, with each player armed with a tennis racquet and an assortment of colourful language.

On hand to resolve such combat is the "modestus", or referee, although he is usually more than willing to partake in a little hand-to-hand if the occasion allows.

Rankings are not kept since that seems too much like hard work, but the beloved Mr Goatee is one of our finest players. However, he may be moving to the Over 65s category soon.

This is only a brief outline of the rules. A full copy of the rules can almost certainly not be obtained, since they number into the thousands and are entirely self-contradictory. Nevertheless, play Satsuma if you dare. It beats shaving Ewan McGregor's head, although I don't believe that was ever offered as a games option.


Satsuma is the old Japanese name for the area around Kagoshima, at the southern tip of Japan's mainland. During the Edo period, Satsuma was never fully under the shogun's control, owing to its geographic isolation and its strong daimyo lords.

Following the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry in 1854, which opened up Japanese ports to foreign trade, Satsuma became the hub of the sonno joi movement that sought to "revere the emperor and expel the barbarians." In 1863, Satsuma went to war with Britain after several of its samurai killed a British trader on the Tokaido Road at Kanagawa. When the British failed to receive an apology from the bakufu in Edo, they sailed to Satsuma and let their cannon loose, which more or less quelled the sonno-joi movement. These incidents are fairly well-documented, albeit with names and serial numbers filed off, in James Clavell's historical fantasy novel Gai-Jin.

Satsuma officially ceased to be in the late 1800's, when old feudal fiefs were replaced by prefectures (but the name is still in use, especially in tourist publications). Several of Satsuma's sonno-joi fighters went on to become the country's first prime ministers.

Satsuma (or "Satsuma ware") is a type of Japanese ceramics produced in the Satsuma region of Kyushu Island, Japan. Satsuma ware is produced at lower temperatures than porcelain, yet at higher temperatures than most pottery, so in a way, it is half-way between the two. The central characteristic of Satsuma ware is the richness of its decoration, usually executed in gold and polychrome colours (in later Satsuma ware, one particularly sees a unique blue glaze, Gosu blue) on a background of crackled white glaze.

The first Satsuma ware was produced using imported Korean techniques, using local (brown) clay. By the second half of the 18th century, the Satsuma ceramics had become so popular that clay was freighted from Kyushu to Awata near Kyoto, where it was used to produce a local variant of Satsuma ware, called "Kyoto Satsuma". Much of this was used as export goods, and wound up in Europe, where it helped inspire (among others) Wedgwood's ceramics works. In particular, the 1867 Paris Exhibition served as a showcase for Satsuma ware.

Today, many second-rate knock-off imitations of authentic Satsuma ware are produced, in China and Korea. Some are even passed off as antiques. In these cases, it is a case of caveat emptor. Usually, however, the copies are of such inferior quality that their nature is clear. When in doubt, contact an expert.

Satsuma is also a variety of Plum fruit, popular and common in California. The fruit has dark red flesh and skin, with a sweet, mild flavor. Satsuma plums are ready and ripe in late July, but in order to produce fruit, Santa Rosa Plums need to be planted nearby for pollination. An orchard of these trees, branches loaded and bending with fruit, is truly a spectacular sight.

Satsuma is also the name of a variety of Japanese sweet potato, satsuma-imo (薩摩芋). It is long, skinny, and has slightly pointed ends, with purple skin and yellow-orange flesh.

It is very popular in autumn, although it is thought to be fattening. (Really, it is no more fattening than, say, white rice.) A rarity in Japanese food, it is also a good source of fibre. Most of the fibre is found within 3mm of the skin, so it is best eaten unpeeled. The skin and outer flesh also contain the digestive enzyme yarapin. As a result, including this potato in your Japanese diet can greatly help to prevent constipation.

It is commonly roasted whole or served as tempura. You can also find it in the form of sweet potato chips, or some breakfast cereals such as Calbee's Osatsu.

It's also not uncommon to see the roasted satsuma-imo being sold by street vendors in cities. You can locate these vendors by following the wail of their continuous steam whistle. The unmatched heat-retention properties of this treat will keep your hands warm during those long autumn evening walks. Once cooked, it will easily break in half to share with your friends. Accordingly, satsuma-imo is also an autumn kigo in haiku.

Source: My girlfriend. (She's a nutritionist.)

Satsuma was one of the original 68 provinces of ancient Japan, located in the extreme southeast corner of Kyushu in what is today Kagoshima prefecture. Depending on one's perspective, Satsuma was either a primitive backwater nearly 1000 miles from the center of Japanese politics, or a crucial gateway to the outside world. But in either case, none could doubt the region's importance during the late Edo Era when Satsuma Domain rose to national prominence by taking the lead in overthrowing the Tokugawa Shogunate and initiating the Meiji Restoration.

On one hand, Satsuma's position on the periphery of Japanese culture made it easy to view its people as primitive or backward. Natives of Satsuma spoke a dialect of Japanese that was virtually unintelligible to the rest of Japan, and Satsuma food, dress, and customs were influenced by its proximity to Chinese, Korean, and Ryukyuan culture. Satsuma cuisine for example, was based on the sweet potato rather than rice, and instead of imbibing sake like the rest of Japan, the people of Satsuma preferred to get drunk off a ridiculously strong concoction of fermented potatoes, known as "satsuma shochu."

On the other hand, Satsuma was the region of Japan which had the greatest contact with the rest of the world, due to its control of the thriving trade routes in the Ryukyu Islands, and thus throughout its history the domain was an entry point for new ideas, new goods, and new technologies. The Japanese word for the sweet potato, for example, is satsuma imo or "Satsuma potato", because the sweet potato first arrived in Japan from China via Satsuma (In Satsuma however, the term is kara imo, "Chinese potato"). Similarly, guns first arrived in Japan via Satsuma when a ship carrying Portuguese guns wrecked on one of its islands in 1543, and when a Korean pottery style swept across Japan in the 17th century, it quickly became known as Satsuma ware, reflecting its point of entry. In the 19th century, Japanese-English dictionaries were known as satsuma jisho, "Satsuma dictionaries," because scholars in Satsuma were the first to produce them.

Even during the Edo Era, when Japan was theoretically a "closed country" (sakoku), Satsuma was allowed to continue this exchange with the outside world through the legal fiction that the Ryukyu Islands were an independent kingdom, and any trade that went on there had nothing to do with Japan, even though everyone knew that Satsuma had conquered the Ryukyus back in 1609. Given this long history of cultural exchange, it is not surprising that following the Opening of Japan in 1853, Satsuma was one of the first domains to embrace Western ideas, and became the site of some of Japan's first shipyards, large iron foundries, and munitions factories.


Although the name "Satsuma" dates at least to the creation of Satsuma province for taxation purposes in the 7th century, the modern history of Satsuma begins in 1185 when Minamoto Yoritomo, Japan's first shogun, appointed Koremune Tadahisa as military steward (geshi) of Shimazu shoen, a large investiture in the area surrounding what is now the city of Kagoshima. In 1197, Tadahisa was promoted to shugo, or military governor, of the entire Satsuma province, and the following year he changed his family name to match the name of the original investiture, thus founding the mighty Shimazu warrior clan.

While most Japanese provinces switched hands many times in the ensuing centuries as warrior houses rose and fell, the Shimazu remained one of the strongest families in Japan, ruling over the same territory uninterruptedly for nearly 700 years. Over time, they expanded their holdings, conquering neighboring Owari province, parts of Higo and Hyuga, and eventually, all of the Ryukyus. In the great battle of Sekigahara in 1600, when Tokugawa Ieyasu cemented his control over Japan, the Shimazu had the misfortune of fighting for the losing Western Alliance, and thus were labeled tozama daimyo and were barred from participating in the new national government established by Ieyasu. This proved to be a blessing in disguise however, as it also meant that the Shimazu were not subjected to many of the rigid social structures that would eviscerate the independent power of the loyal, or "fudai" daimyo. Thus by the mid-19th century, when most of the other domains had grown soft and weak, Satsuma retained a strong military and a vibrant, independent government, almost like an independent kingdom, which would allow it to play a dominant role in the birth of modern Japan.

Today the Shimazu no longer rule a feudal domain, but the have turned themselves into a modern corporation and continue to make their presence felt in modern-day Kagoshima, where Shimazu descendants are active in tourism ventures, hotels, and running museums, such that any visitor to Kagoshima is very likely to meet an employee of the Shimazu at some point during their stay. The seal of Kagoshima City is clearly derived from the Shimazu family crest, and nowhere else in Japan are the descendants of feudal warlords so prominently visible in contemporary life.


Of all its various roles in Japanese history, Satsuma is most famous as the domain that, along with Choshu, initiated the overthrow of the Tokugawa bakufu and the Meiji Restoration which putatively restored the emperor as ruler of Japan, but in reality, created Japan's modern bureaucratic democracy.

Like so many other changes, Satsuma's rise to national prominence began with the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry's black ships in 1853. In the wake of Perry's "opening" of Japan, the weakness of the shogunate was increasingly exposed as the Americans and other Western powers forced humiliating "unequal treaties" on Japan and the British navy brazenly shelled Japanese cities whenever they felt Japan was not obsequious enough. Satsuma itself was bombarded in 1863 when Satsuma samurai killed a British trader for failing to kowtow to the domain's ruler, Shimazu Hisamitsu (although this later proved beneficial to Satsuma when as part of his settlement with Britain, Hisamitsu agreed to purchase weapons and iron-clad warships).

In response to the patent impotence of the shogunate to retain any of Japan's dignity in the face of increasing foreign exploitation, the daimyo began pressing for a reforms to create a stronger government which could stand up to foreigners, with the primary goal of securing revision of the reviled unequal treaties. The secondary goal was of course to increase the power of the daimyo at the expense of the shogun, as the daimyo were essentially calling for the creation of a daimyo council which would approve or block shogunal decisions.

Shimazu Hisamitsu was one of the leaders in the push for the creation of such a council, and was aided in his efforts by the able politicking of his two advisors Saigo Takamori and Okubo Toshimichi. At first the Satsuma leaders envisioned reform within the existing structure of the shogunate, and Satsuma troops under Saigo were instrumental in putting down an 1864 attempt by Choshu domain to overthrow the shogunate. But as the young shogun's regent, Hitosubashi Keiki, continued to refuse the daimyo a greater voice in the national government, the Satsuma leaders eventually decided that the shogunate had to go, and in 1868 they united with their erstwhile Choshu enemies to topple the shogunate in the Boshin War.


But if Satsuma and Choshu had brought down the shogunate to protect and increase daimyo power, they ended up with the exact opposite. The new national government, even though it was made up of Satsuma and Choshu samurai including Okubo and Saigo, quickly realized that if Japan was to compete with Western nations it would have to eliminate the feudal system, and soon began a systematic assault on samurai privilege. Starting in 1871, the domain system was abolished, daimyo were stripped of their titles, and the old provinces were reorganized into the modern prefectures.

By 1873, even Saigo had had enough, and resigned from his position on the imperial council, where he had been one of the three most powerful men in Japan. Many of the highest officers in the government resigned with him, leaving the pragmatic Okubo sole master of the Meiji state. Saigo returned home to retirement in Satsuma, while the assaults on the samurai's elite status continued, culminating in the hatorei edict of 1876, which banned samurai from wearing topknots or carrying swords.

The final straw for Satsuma came in 1877, when rumors of a government plot to assassinate Saigo began to spread across the domain. Saigo, whose disaffection with the government he helped create had only deepened in the preceding years, was roused from his retirement and declared his intention to travel to Tokyo and "question" the government about the alleged plot on his life. This might have been all well and good, if not for the fact that 40,000 armed and disgruntled Satsuma samurai decided to travel with him. Of course, the national government and the newly formed Imperial Army could not allow this.

The result was the so-called "Satsuma Rebellion" of 1877. Saigo's goals were unclear from the start, and although many disaffected samurai from other domains flocked to the banner of their nations greatest living hero, and his men were spirited and well-trained, he lacked the supply lines and the ammunition stores of the well-funded if ill-trained national army, which consisted largely of conscripted commoners. An ill-advised besiegement of Kumamoto Castle in central Kyushu wasted precious time, allowing the Imperial Army to gather reinforcements and put its munitions factories into high gear. Meanwhile Saigo's army gradually exhausted its ammunition until it was fighting only with swords and pikes.

Still, Saigo held out for a year as the Imperial army chased him around Kyushu, his army gradually reduced by attrition, until at last he and his last few hundred men were cornered at Shiroyama just outside Kagoshima. On September 23, Imperial forces under future prime minister Yamagata Aritomo began the final assault on Saigo's position. The "last samurai" was killed in the fighting, and Satsuma's days as an independent state were over.

Important Dates in Satsuma History

1185 - Koremune Tadahisa named steward of Shimazu shoen.
1197 - Koremune Tadahisa becomes governor of Satsuma.
1198 - Koremune Tadahisa changes his family name to Shimazu.
1543 - Guns arrive in Japan for the first time when a Portuguese ship wrecks on Satsuma's Tanegashima Island.
1598 - Japanese returning to Satsuma from Toyotomi Hideyoshi's Invasion of Korea introduce "Satsuma ware" pottery to Japan.
1600 - Satsuma fights on the losing side in the Battle of Sekigahara.
1603 - The Tokugawa bakufu is established. Satsuma is labeled one of the tozama domains.
1609 - Satsuma forces capture the Ryukyu capital of Naha, securing Satsuma control of the Ryukyu islands.
1828 - Saigo Takamori is born to a low-ranking Kagoshima samurai family.
1863 - Kagoshima is bombarded by British warships in retaliation for the murder of British merchant Charles Richardson
1864 - Satsuma forces under Saigo Takamori thwart an attempt by Choshu troops to seize the Imperial Palace.
1866 - Satsuma signs an alliance pact with Choshu domain for the purpose of subverting the shogunate.
1867 - A Satsuma army enters Kyoto to demand the resignation of the shogun.
1868 - Satsuma and Choshu easily defeat Tokugawa forces in the Boshin War.
1877 - Satsuma forces under Saigo Takamori are defeated in the Satsuma Rebellion.

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