Born into the Hioki branch of the Shimazu clan, Katsura was a longtime personal friend of Saigô Takamori. He served as an ômetsuke within Satsuma han for a time, before becoming a karô and continuing in that role through the events of the Meiji Restoration.
Following the Restoration, Katsura became governor of Miyakonojo prefecture for a time; during the Satsuma Rebellion he served as a supply officer.
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