Sano Tsunetami

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Sano Tsunetami
Tsunetami Sano.jpg
Count Sano Tsunetami
Born (1822-12-28)December 28, 1822
Hayatsue, Saga, Japan
Died December 12, 1902(1902-12-12) (aged 79)
Tokyo, Japan
Nationality Japan
Occupation Politician, Cabinet Minister
Known for founding Japanese Red Cross Society
In this Japanese name, the family name is "Sano".
Sano Tsunetami2.jpg
Sano Tsunetami receives the permission to establish the Philanthropic Society by Prince Arisugawa Taruhito in 1877
Red-Cross Society membership certificate issued in 1902 by prince Komatsu-no-miya Akihito and Sano Tsunetami
Sano Tsunetami's grave in the Aoyama cemetery (Tokyo)
1939 Commemorative Postage Stamps on 75th Anniversary of the Japanese Red Cross

Count Sano Tsunetami (佐野 常民?, December 28, 1822 – December 12, 1902) was a Japanese statesman and founder of the Japanese Red Cross Society. His son, Admiral Sano Tsuneha, was a leading figure in the establishment of the Scout Association of Japan.


Sano was born in Hayatsue, Saga Domain (present-day Saga city, Saga Prefecture) as the fifth son of the low ranking Samurai Shimomura Saburōzaemon. In 1831 he was adopted by the physician Sano Tsuneyoshi who took care of his further education. He studied rangaku (western learning) under Hirose Genkyō, Ogata Kōan, Itō Gemboku, Totsuka Seikai, and others, and played a leading role in the creation of a modern navy for the Saga Domain.

After the Meiji Restoration, Sano was called upon to assist in the formation of the Imperial Japanese Navy. He accompanied the Japanese delegation to the Paris Exposition of 1867, and while in Paris learned of the International Red Cross. He traveled on to the Netherlands, where he ordered the Japanese warship Nisshin, and stayed on to supervise its construction and to learn of western shipbuilding techniques, but the image of the Red Cross remained in his memory.

In 1877, Sano created the Hakuaisha ('Philanthropic Society'), a relief organization to provide medical assistance to soldiers wounded in the Satsuma Rebellion. This organization became the Japanese Red Cross Society in 1887, with Sano as its first president.

Sano also served in the Genrōin, as a member of the Privy Council, and in various government posts. During the 1st Matsukata administration, he was appointed as Minister of Agriculture and Commerce.

Before his death, he was awarded with the Order of the Rising Sun (1st class with Paulownia Blossoms). His grave is at Aoyama Cemetery in Tokyo.

In 1939, the Japanese government issued a series of four commemorative postage stamps honoring the 75th anniversary of the Red Cross Treaty. A portrait of Sano Tsunetami appears on two of the stamps.


  • Brunton, Richard. Building Japan 1868-1876. RoutledgeCurzon (1995). ISBN 1-873410-05-0
  • Checkland, Olive. Japan and Britain after 1859: Creating Cultural Bridges. RoutledgeCurzon (2002). ISBN 0-7007-1747-1
  • Cobbing, Andrew. The Japanese Discovery of Victorian Britain. RoutledgeCurzon (1989). ISBN 1-873410-81-6.
  • Yoshikawa, Ryuko. Nisseki no soshisha Sano Tsunetami. Yoshikawa Kobunkan (2001). ISBN 4-642-05518-5 (Japanese)

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Political offices
Preceded by
Kōno Togama
Minister of Agriculture & Commerce
Jul 1892 - Aug 1892
Succeeded by
Gotō Shōjirō