Akira was born as the 3rd son of Matsuura Hiromu, the 10th daimyō of Hirado. His elder brother, Matsuura Terasu became 11th daimyō of Hirado in 1841; however by 1849, despite having a wife and three official concubines, was still childless. Therefore in November 1849, Akira was officially adopted as his son and heir. Terasu died unexpectedly on August 5, 1858, and Akira became the 12th daimyō of Hirado.
Akira was an active ruler, and attempted to continue the efforts started by his brother to strengthen the domain in face of the unsettled Bakumatsu period by continuing land reforms, sponsoring improved agricultural methods and military training. In 1859, he was visited by Katsu Kaishū and by the Dutch doctor J. L. C. Pompe van Meerdervoort. In 1860, he built coastal defenses as increasing numbers of foreign ships were seen near Hirado’s shores.
Politically, he supported the moderate Kōbu Gattai policy of attempting to reconcile the Tokugawa Bakufu with the Imperial Court. During the Boshin War of the Meiji Restoration, he commanded his forces as part of the Satchō Alliance in support of Emperor Meiji, and fought at the Battle of Toba-Fushimi and against the Tokugawa remnants of the Ōuetsu Reppan Dōmei in northern Japan, at Morioka and Akita.
In June 1868, the revenues of Hirado domain were raised to 61,700 koku as a reward for his loyalty to the new government. However, with the abolition of the han system later that year, he surrendered the title of daimyō to the central government and was appointed governor until Hirado domain was absorbed into Nagasaki prefecture in July 1871. Awarded 4th Court rank, he moved to Tokyo and entered into service of the Imperial Household Ministry. In April 1884, he was made a count in the new kazoku peerage system. From 1890, he served in the House of Peers of the Diet of Japan. He was later awarded 2nd Court rank.
In addition to his political work, Matsuura Akira was also heir to the Chinshin-ryu (鎮信流?) school of the Japanese tea ceremony begun by the 4th daimyō of Hirado, Matsuura Shigenobu. His former house in Hirado still exists, and is preserved as the “Matsuura Historical Museum”. The building is listed as a National Important Cultural Property. The collection holds household objects, paintings, calligraphy, and documents relating to the early foreign trade in the area. All items in the collection had once been the property of the Matsuura clan of Hirado.
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