Sir Ernest Mason Satow, P.C., G.C.M.G.


Scholar-Diplomat (Oxford DNB entry)

A great Englishman, a great European and a great friend of East Asia, especially Japan

Recent  Kindle Publications: Sir Ernest Satow's Private Letters (Three volumes, also available as large paperbacks).

My Research Results (from 1994 until December 2019) are freely downloadable here. Approximately half are about Ernest Satow. All (including No. 1 which is Satow's Peking diaries and letters to the F.O. in London) are in English, except for the last one, No. 40, which is in Japanese.  


Satow Bibliography (including my publications)

"Blessed are the Peacemakers" is written at the bottom of his gravestone in the churchyard of St. Mary's Church, Ottery St. Mary, Devon, England where he lived from 1907 until his death in 1929.

Commemorative plaque at

Beaumont House, installed 

in 2019

I presented on Satow's connection with Japan in his retirement at the EAJS Conference in Tsukuba University on September 15, 2019. 

Click here for the PDF. 


August 29 - September 8, 2018

I did a Book Launch of Satow's diaries for 1912-1920 in Ottery on September 1, 2018 at 2pm in The Curious Otter bookshop, No. 10, Mill Street, Ottery St. Mary, EX11 1AD 

See Facebook album here, and a video of the Powerpoint I used is here. The Ottery Heritage Society has just opened a splendid Museum and they  are keen to attract Japanese tourists to the town. Maybe at some point in the future a Satow memorial hall could be built in his honour. (It might need Japanese government support...) 

Before the book launch I attended the BIHG conference at Exeter University from August 30th to September 1st, and presented a paper about Sir Ernest Satow at the Second Hague Peace Conference held in 1907. The video of the Powerpoint for that is here.

And in the week after the book launch I was honoured to be part of a Japan Society panel at the newly reopened Japan House in London on September 6th. Further details are here

Satow on Wikipedia: English ; Japanese

Young Ernest Satow in Paris, 1869

You are visitor number

since 27 April 2018.

Thank you for your visit!

Introductory Remarks

Ernest Satow is best known in Japan for his book A Diplomat in Japan (first published in 1921) which describes the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate and beginning of the Meiji Era in 1868. He arrived in Japan in September 1862, a few days before the Namamugi Incident

Outside Japan Satow is probably better known as a scholar of international law. His Guide to Diplomatic Practice (first published in 1917) has been revised and republished several times. It is now in its seventh and centenary edition (2016) under the title Satow's Diplomatic Practice.

I want Japanese people to know more about Satow's importance outside Japan, and non-Japanese people to understand his importance within Japan. Put more simply, I would like more people in the world to know about this great but quietly influential man. To this end I am helping Sir David Warren write Satow's autobiography. 


Ian RuxtonKitakyushu, Japan

I first came across Ernest Satow's name in 1993 when I was writing my first ever academic paper about The Kobe Incident of 1868. Satow and A.B. Mitford were ordered by Sir Harry Parkes to witness the seppuku/harakiri of the Bizen officer, Taki Zenzaburo, held responsible for firing on foreigners in the settlement. He wrote that "It was no disgusting exhibition, but a most decent and decorous ceremony, and far more respectable than what our own countrymen were in the habit of producing for the entertainment of the public in front of Newgate prison." (A Diplomat in Japan, 1921, pp. 346-7). I found this to be a very interesting comment from a man who was clearly not afraid to make cross-cultural comparisons, nor to conclude in fairness and after careful thought that non-British ways might, after all, be better sometimes.   

IMDb has a two-part TV series broadcast in 1992 based on A Diplomat in JapanI uploaded part of the first programme to YouTube. See here

On New Year's Day 2017 I appeared briefly in a TV programme (a docu-drama) on NHK titled "Edo Jo Muketsu Kaijo" (The Surrender without Bloodshed of Edo Castle) which suggested that Ernest Satow played a key role as an intermediary between Katsu Kaishu and Saigo Takamori in preventing Edo (now called Tokyo) and the whole country of Japan being engulfed and consumed by the flames of civil war in 1868, with the foreign powers intervening much as they are now doing in Syria. He certainly knew both men, and was in Edo at the time, but his diary for the critical period is (deliberately?) blank, so it is hard to confirm the theory at this stage.  See article in Japan Times, December 30, 2016.

Shinnosuke Mitsushima played Ernest Satow very well and amusingly, even though he is 3/4 Japanese. I dream of a movie of Satow's life, with Eddie Redmayne as the young Satow and Jeremy Irons as the older Satow. (But frankly I fear the kind of cavalier approach to known historical facts and realities which many movie directors espouse. All the more so since the truth of Satow's life is more glorious and extraordinary than the imagination of most scriptwriters could ever comprehend!)

​Satow Family Photos - see also E.M. Satow, The Family Chronicle of the English Satows (privately printed, Oxford, 1925) and my paper about his early life.

Discussion of diary entries (mainly legibility, but also Greek etc.)

My Book Covers (Facebook album)

My first book about Sir Ernest Satow, The Diaries and Letters of Sir Ernest Satow published in 1998 has been translated into Japanese.  

Downloadable PDFs of some presentations which I have given about Satow:

Satow was an important collector of Japanese books.

1) See Hamish Todd, 'The Satow Collection of Books in the British Library: Its History and Significance'  in Daiei Toshokan shozō Chōsenbon oyobi Nihon kosho no bunkengakuteki, gogakuteki kenkyū  大英図書館所蔵朝鮮本及び日本古書の文献学的・語学的研究, ed. by Yukio Fujimoto (Toyama: Toyama Daigaku, 2007)


2) Most of his rare Japanese books are in the Cambridge University Library. See Nozomu Hayashi and Peter Kornicki, Early Japanese books in Cambridge University Library; a catalogue of the Aston, Satow and Von Siebold Collections (Cambridge University Press, 1991, first paperback edition 2012)

Union Catalogue of Early Japanese Books in Europe 

Bibliography of Japanese History up to 1912

Ernest Satow was also a pioneer Japanologist. I wrote a paper in 1996 about that for the Asiatic Society of Japan, the oldest academic society in Japan, of which Satow was one of the founders in 1872. Most of his Japan studies were published in the Transactions of the A.S.J. A scan of my paper can be downloaded here

You can download some more of my papers about Satow (and other topics) from Kyutacar archive.  The paper which I consider my best and most significant ('Ernest Satow, British Policy and the Meiji Restoration') is about Satow's foray into amateur journalism in 1866 when he wrote three anonymous and untitled articles in the Japan Times about the need for constitutional change in Japan. As a diplomat it was quite improper for him to meddle in the affairs of another country, as he admitted later in A Diplomat in Japan. But his articles were translated into Japanese - he himself did this with the help of his teacher! - and then circulated widely throughout Japan as "Eikoku Sakuron" (British Policy). This translation had a major influence towards the Meiji Restoration of 1868, being read by court nobles such as Iwakura Tomomi, daimyos of Satsuma and other clans, and members of the Shogunate, though its effect is difficult to measure precisely, as Grace Fox observed in her excellent but neglected Britain and Japan 1858-1883 (Oxford U.P., 1969). See also Tsuyoshi Sakakibara's 2015 thesis here

My most recent addition to the Kyutacar archive is a list of Satow's general correspondence, 1906 to 1927. It has already been published as a hardcover book via and is available from amazon and other online retail websites also.  

By far the most popular deposit in terms of the numbers of PDF downloads has been Satow's Peking diary (Vol. 1, 1900-03, Vol. 2 1904-06) and his semi-official correspondence from Japan and China, 1895-1906. These were deposited in 2007, and were completed in the previous year as the result of a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (Kakenhi).   

Here is the book which I plan to launch at Ottery St. Mary on September 1st:

The Diaries of Sir Ernest Satow, 1912-1920

Volume One Volume Two

I have recently approved proof copies of both volumes, which will allow the book to be made available through online retail outlets such as amazon, as my other paperback books on have been. (Both volumes are now available at the Ottery St. Mary Library, to which I have donated one of each.) 




And here is a list of my other books, hardcover and paperback:

General introduction - my first book:

Ruxton, Ian C. (ed.), The Diaries and Letters of Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929): A Scholar-Diplomat in East Asia, Lewiston, New York and Lampeter, Wales: Edwin Mellen Press, 1998.

Diaries - transcribed, annotated and indexed:

Morton, Robert and Ruxton, Ian (eds.), The Diaries of Sir Ernest Mason Satow, 1861-1869, Kyoto: Eureka Press, 2013.

Ruxton, Ian (ed.), The Diaries of Sir Ernest Mason Satow, 1870-1883,, 2010; Kyoto: Eureka Press, 2015.

Ruxton, Ian (ed.), The Diaries of Sir Ernest Mason Satow, 1883-1888,, 2016.

Ruxton, Ian (ed.), The Diaries of Sir Ernest Satow, British Minister in Tokyo 1895-1900, Tokyo: Edition Synapse, 2003., 2010.

Ruxton, Ian (ed.), The Diaries of Sir Ernest Satow, British Envoy in Peking, 1900-1906,, Volume One and Two, 2006. Eureka Press revised edition, 2 vols., 2016.

Ruxton, Ian (ed.), The Diaries of Sir Ernest Mason Satow, 1906-1911, Kyoto: Eureka Press, 2015.

Letters - transcribed and annotated

Ruxton, Ian (ed.), The Correspondence of Sir Ernest Satow, British Minister in Japan, 1895-1900,, Volume One (2005), Volume Two (2011) Volume Three, Volume Four (2014).

Ruxton, Ian (ed.), The Semi-Official Letters of British Envoy Sir Ernest Satow from Japan and China 1895-1906,, 2006.

Ruxton, Ian (ed.), Sir Ernest Satow’s Private Letters to W.G. Aston and F.V. Dickins: The Correspondence of a Pioneer Japanologist,, 2008.

Ruxton, Ian,  List of Sir Ernest Satow’s General Correspondence from 1906 to 1927,, 2018. 

Sir Ivor Roberts, editor of Satow's Diplomatic Practice 6th and 7th editions, discusses the latter edition on YouTube.

Book review on YouTube of Satow's Diplomatic Practice (Centenary edition, 2017) by barrister Phillip Taylor 

See also Joachim Schwietzke, 'Ernest Satow's Guides to Diplomatic Practice. From the First Edition in 1917 to the Sixth Edition (2009)', in Journal of the History of International Law/Revue d'histoire du droit international, Volume 13, Issue 1, pages 235-245. Published in 2011. 

ISSN: 1388-199X.

He points out quite correctly that the sixth edition and the first edition are quite different - for one thing, the first edition only had one author (Satow himself) while the sixth (and seventh) editions have multiple authors. This is separate from all the changes in the substance of diplomacy which have also occurred since 1917. 

Here is a video on YouTube showing how Satow's house at Lake Chuzenji (Nikko) looks now that it has been restored by Tochigi prefecture. I honestly wonder if it ever looked as smart as this, and whether the restoration has in some ways gone too far? I should like to see old photographs of the interior and exterior from the early days. Satow had it built to Josiah Conder's design in 1896. 

Thank you for reading this far! I am delighted that you are apparently so interested in Sir Ernest Satow. As a modest reward for your stamina(!) you can download the pdf of the Oxford DNB entry mentioned at the top of the page (uploaded with permission from Oxford University Press). It was written by my good friend Nigel Brailey of Bristol University, who taught me a great deal about Satow and whose passion for Satow's life and letters ignited my own. He also wrote about Satow at the Second Hague Peace Conference in 1907, which is the subject of my paper at the upcoming BIHG conference at Exeter University on August 31, 2018. R.I.P. 

Ernest Satow aged 22-23 in 1865-66 when

he was an interpreter in Bakumatsu Japan

E-mail me about this web page here

This page is based on a previous one which was on my university server. It is now on a private free server. It is currently under construction!

This site was designed with the
website builder. Create your website today.
Start Now