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The were members of the Chōshū han of western Japanmarker who studied in England from 1863 at University College Londonmarker under the guidance of Professor Alexander William Williamson. It was still illegal to leave Japan when they left, as sakoku was still practically in force until the Meiji Restoration.

Voyage to Britain

A Mr. Weigal, Jardine Matheson's manager in Yokohama, put the Chōshū youths, disguised as English sailors, aboard a reluctant Captain J. S. Gower's vessel at 1000 ryō each, bound for Shanghai where they were sheltered on an opium storage ship before dividing into two groups for the long voyage to Londonmarker.

When they reached London the Chōshū students were introduced by William Matheson to Professor Alexander Williamson.

Inoue Kaoru and Ito Hirobumi, destined to be two of the greatest Japanese statesmen of the age, worked as deckhands aboard the 1500 ton steamer Pegasus on the voyage to Europe. They also returned earlier than the other three when they realised that the Chōshū clan was in danger of attack by the allied powers for trying to close the Straits of Shimonosekimarker to foreign shipping.

Identity of the Chōshū Five

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