Battle of Tabaruzaka, Siege of Kumamoto Castle, February – April 1877.

Hi everyone.  Please note that this was originally written back in 2016 I think, I am in the middle of researching more about this battle and I will update it as I go along.  Cheers!

The Battle of Tabaruzaka was one battle within the Satsuma Rebellion (Seinan War) fought between the newly formed Imperial army of the Meiji Government and rebels from Kyushu lead by Saigo Takamori.  This article will discuss the siege of Kumamoto Castle, the Battle of Tabaruzaka as well as the retreating battles of Ueki and Kitome.

kumamoto castle 1873

Kumamoto Castle as it looked at the time of the Satsuma Rebellion.

Tabaruzaka, also known as ‘Suicide Pass’ was the location for one one Takamori’s last stands against the imperial army. Takamori’s Army numbered about 15,000 and the imperial army numbered nearly 90,000. Takamori’s troops dug in up on Tabaruzaka mountain pass in an attempt to stop Kumamoto castle from being reinforced by imperial troops while the rebels attacked the castle.

After the first week of fighting losses were terrible for the rebels, about 3000 dead and 4,500 wounded. Heavy rain made the use of firearms impossible so fighting was conducted the old fashioned samurai way, with swords. Due to heavy losses on both sides the imperial army brought in cannons to force the rebels off the mountain.

After nearly 2 weeks of fighting and heavy losses Takamori called off the seige of Kumamoto castle and retreated to Miyazaki leaving behind a number of rebel groups to ambush following imperial troops.


I found quite a chilling song relating to this battle.

The rain rains down, rains down.
Drenching both mounts and men.
They must cross, they will not cross

In their right hands bloodied swords,
In their left their horses’ reins.
High and handsome in the saddle-
Ah, exquisite youth!

The hills are strewn with their corpses;
The rivers run with their blood,
Enriching, as it flows, the harvest-
Sad, wild Autumn……


  1. Is this song the original version of the song that Sanshiro Sugata sings before his battle with Higaki in Akira Kurosawa’s first movie Sanshiro Sugata?
    From the movie:
    A bloody sword in the right hand
    Reins in the left hand
    Of a little boy riding on a horse
    Don’t shed tears for me
    What we face tonight
    is bigger than our love
    The horses are wet with the pouring rain
    I can’t go past the slope of Tabaru


      1. Hi Rekishi Nihon,
        Thank you for your response.
        The character of Sanshiro is loosely based on the life of Saigo Shiro 西郷四郎 (1866-1923). In 1886 Saigo Shiro was victorious in a highly publicized competition over a larger jujitsu opponent, establishing judo as the superior hand to hand fighting style. Saigo Takamori’s rebellion occurred in 1877, only 11 years before this jujitsu – judo battel.
        Akira Kurosawa grew in a house with a father that was a martial art program instructor, so it makes sense that Akira was expose to the story of Saigo Shiro before a book was written about him.
        Is Sanshiro song written from the perspective of one of the Imperial Army men (I can’t go pass the slope of Tabaru), while the original song is more neutral (They must cross, they will not cross Tabaruzaka)?

        All the best,
        Shlomo Handeli


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