Nogi Shrine (乃木神社 Nogi-jinja) is a Shintō shrine located on the grounds of General Nogi's former residence in Akasaka, Minato Ward, Tōkyō, close to Roppongi's Mid-Town Complex. It was established in November 1923 and dedicated to Nogi Maresuke and his wife Shizuko who both took their lives on the day Emperor Meiji was interred. General Nogi is enshrined as a Shintō deity and venerated in several shrines across Japan (in Kyōto, in Shimonoseki where his family hailed from, in Tochigi where he served as a commander, and in Saitama). The shrine was destroyed in the Tokyo air raids in 1945 and rebuilt in 1957.
The main building of general Nogi's residence was built in 1902 and is a spartan wooden structure with a tiled roof. It was modeled on the French military barracks that impressed the general so much during the two years he spent in Germany. Making skillful use of the sloped terrain, the three-story mansion appears to have only two floors.
After the general's death the building was donated to the city of Tōkyō. It is open to the public on September 12 and 13, free of charge. It displays the living quarters of General Nogi and his wife, including the room where they committed suicide. Next to the mansion is a sturdy brick structure roofed with Japanese tiles, the stables of General Nogi's horses. The building was constructed in 1889, long before the residence itself.
The shop attached to the shrine sells books and other memorabilia of Nogi Maresuke as well as small sake bottles of the kind the general used for his favourite sake from Tochigi.
Entrance to Nogi Shrine next to Nogizaka Station (Tōkyō Chiyoda Line)
The former Nogi residence
The room where General Nogi and his wife took their lives.
Memorial slab dedicated to Gen. Nogi
Statue of Nogi Maresuke in commemoration of his role as principal of Peers School
The stables at the former Nogi residence
More photos in the Nogi album.
General Nogi: the tragedy of a war hero
Nogi Maresuke (乃木 希典, 1849-1912) was born in Edo as the son of a Chōshū retainer. In 1871, he was commissioned a major in the newly formed Imperial Army and two years later given command of an infantry regiment. In 1876, he took part in quelling anti-government rebellions in Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture. During the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877, Nogi's regiment lost its battle standard, a disgrace he took so personal that he was determined to take his own life. His superiors dissuaded him from committing suicide, but the shame of the flag incident was to haunt him for the rest of his life. Despite his feelings of guilt and bouts of drinking, his military career flourished: he was given a brigade command in 1878 and promoted to major general seven years later. In 1887-88, Nogi accomplished a tour of duty in Germany which left a deep impression on the general, instilling into him a renewed sense of military discipline and traditional samurai values.
In the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-5, his troops rapidly conquered Liaodong Peninsula and its military base of Port Arthur, landing him a divisional command, a promotion to lieutenant general, and the title of baron (男爵 danshaku). He served as governor general of Taiwan in 1896-98, but left the position in frustration over his own incapacity to solve the island’s pressing issues and over the corruption and incompetence prevalent in the colonial administration.
The Russo-Japanese War of 1904 brought on new military opportunities: he was promoted to general and given the command of the army that was to directly assault the Russian positions in Port Arthur. The Russians had leased Port Arthur from the Chinese to whom Japan was forced to return the peninsula in 1895. Nogi's unrelenting attacks on the Russians in the autumn of 1904 proved futile and claimed the lives of some 56,000 Japanese troops, losses he felt personally responsible for. Only after the Japanese high command dispatched another general, Kodama Gentarō (兒玉 源太郎, 1852-1906), to assist Nogi in a more reasonable strategy - namely to use heavy siege guns - did Port Arthur fall to the Japanese army. It is said that Emperor Meiji personally intervened to keep Nogi in command; Kodama's role in the fall of Port Arthur remains unclear till today. It was the emperor who in an imperial conference forbid Nogi to commit seppuku.
What contributed most to the general's glorification in Japan was his stoical acceptance of the death of his two sons, both infantry officers who had died at Port Arthur. Nogi returned as a war hero, in spite of his ineffectual military leadership. In 1907, he was elevated to count (伯爵 hakushaku) and made director of the prestigious Peers School (nowadays Gakushūin University) where he promoted a patriotic and stern curriculum.
On the evening of September 13, 1912, the day of Emperor Meiji's funeral, General Nogi and his wife committed ritual suicide in their residence, just as the funeral cortege left the palace. While some of his contemporaries viewed his death as an ultimate protest against the extravagance and degeneration of modern Japan, his suicide note points to atonement for the mistakes of his military career. His act of junshi (殉死) - to follow one's lord into death - left a profound impact on the Japanese public and intellectuals such as Natsume Sōseki and made Nogi a symbol of loyalty and virtue.
General Nogi and his wife Shizuko in a photo taken on the day of their ritual suicide.
- Bix, Herbert, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, Harper 2000
- Frédéric, Louis, Japan Encyclopedia, Harvard University 2002
- Keene, Donald, Emperor of Japan, Meiji and his World, Columbia University 2005
8-11-27 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0052; Nogizaka Station on Tokyo Chiyoda Line (one-minute walk).