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Title: Makers of Japan

Author: J. Morris

Release date: May 6, 2023 [eBook #70710]

Language: English

Original publication: United Kingdom: Methuen & Co, 1906

Credits: Peter Becker and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)
















Modern Japan dates from the advent on the coast of Idzu province of the American squadron under Commodore Perry in 1853. Prior to that time, however, more than one attempt, predestined to failure, had been made to bring about the abolition of the feudal system, the agitators, in nearly every case, paying the penalty of their boldness with their lives. Among the more famous of these heroes were Fujita Toko, Yoshida Shoin, and Sakuma Shozan,—patriots who shone during the first half of the nineteenth century. They were in advance of their age. They lived in the days of the Tokugawa Shogunate, when old ideas on the subject of foreign intercourse still were uppermost. It was dangerous to advocate, as these men did, a policy of complete reconstruction on an imperialistic basis, yet they had the courage of their opinions, and with might and main advocated recourse to Occidental arts and sciences for the express object of rendering their country strong to resist aggression in every form. Their memory is held by all their fellow-countrymen in the very highest respect, not more for their self-sacrifice than for the real benefits that are seen to have accrued to the people from their foresight. One lost his life in a terrible earthquake another was executed by order of the Sho-gun, and the third was stabbed to death by Ro-nins, or “Wave-men,” the turbulent spirits of an epoch of social and political unrest. All three are esteemed as martyrs in the cause of progress. And although the country was not reopened, after its voluntary seclusion of two centuries and a half, until the treaty with the United States which Perry negotiated became operative in 1854, many surreptitious efforts had been made to obtain a footing in the Japanese empire, between the time of the East India Company’s withdrawal in 1623 and the appearance of[vi] the “black ships” of the American squadron in Kurihama Bay. The Portuguese had found their way to the isles of Japan as early as 1542, and might have remained there indefinitely had they not aimed at the acquisition of political power, as well as at the spread of the Christian religion. Expulsion followed persecution, and the sins of the Portuguese were visited on all foreigners indiscriminately, access to the Land of the Rising Sun being from that date denied to all aliens alike, save a few Dutchmen who were permitted on somewhat humiliating conditions to remain at Nagasaki for purposes of trade. Will Adams, sailor and shipwright, of Limehouse, London, passed the last twenty years of his life at Yedo, and died on the 6th of May 1620, while still in the service of the Shogun Iyemitsu, and contemporarily with him there dwelt for a time at Hirado, a tiny island on the west coast of Kiu-shiu, between which and the mainland flow the “Spex Straits,” a certain Captain John Saris, founder of the East India Company’s depot there. These men were in reality the first to obtain a footing on Japanese soil as representatives of England. Adams died and was buried near Yokohama, and Saris returned to London, on the retirement of his Company, for the time being, from the Japanese trade.

There came also to the Japanese ports at various times travellers from Russia, including an embassy under M. Resanoff, whalers from the United States, and several British warships and merchantmen. The Eclipse of Boston, Mass., was at Nagasaki as early as 1807, and the British man-of-war Phaeton called at that port the following year. M. Golownin spent two years in captivity to the feudal lord of Matsumaye in Yeso, in 1811-1813, and the famous Dr Von Siebold was able to pass four years, from 1825 to 1829, in the Shogun’s capital of Yedo, or as it was then commonly spelt, Jeddo. The King William who reigned in Holland in 1844 contrived, it is said, to have his autograph letter presented in that year to the supposed ruler of Japan, in reality the Shogun, urging the opening of Japan to foreign intercourse. There was an American whaler in Yedo Bay in 1845,[vii] and two such vessels were wrecked soon afterwards on the Japanese coasts, their crews being well treated by the inhabitants. Five years before Commodore Perry landed at Uraga there had been some American vessels in Yedo Bay under Commodore Biddle, and a British ship, the Mariner, found her way thither in 1849. By such means more and more had come to be known of Japan and its people, though in a vague, disjointed fashion, among the dwellers in the Occident, despite the existence of Iyemitsu’s edict prohibiting travel. Still, the rule was very strictly enforced, and even those subjects of the Japanese Emperor who had chanced to be carried off to America in vessels by which they had been saved when shipwrecked in their own junks were not permitted to return to their own country until after its formal opening to commerce in 1854. Some who had thus involuntarily quitted their native land as children were scarcely able to speak their mother tongue on their return, though well acquainted with English, which they had acquired in the interval. Needless to say, they speedily recovered the use of Japanese as a language and became of immense service to their country as interpreters at a time when very few who knew English were to be met with there. Much more was known in those days of Dutch than of any other foreign tongue, as works in Dutch had been procured of the “Oranda-jin”—as the Hollanders were termed—then dwelling in Nagasaki, and had been most diligently studied, not less for the sake of learning the language than of absorbing the information on scientific matters which those works were fitted to convey.

Concurrently with the growth of a desire for the restoration of the true imperial rule there had been a revival of learning, and Confucianism, long in decay by reason of the greater attachment of the masses to the tenets of Buddhism, began again to take hold of the popular mind. Chinese literature had become once more the study of the educated classes, and a demand arose for everything introduced from China which was only equalled, perhaps, by that created a half-century later[viii] for things European. In proportion as Buddhism lost its hold of the people the ancient Shinto religion, which is based upon the veneration of ancestors, and is directly connected with the patriotic devotion of the subjects of the Ten-shi to the Imperial house, acquired fresh strength, to the complete overthrow of the Buddhistic faith and its disestablishment as a State religion. Under the Tokugawa regime it had attained to immense power and influence, but with the conviction gaining ground everywhere that the best interests of the country were to be served only by the assumption of the active duties of sovereignty by the real monarch instead of his delegate, the cult of Shinto triumphed and the Buddhistic religion, though by no means extinguished, took second place in the estimation of his Majesty’s loyal subjects. But this was not until nearly eighteen years had elapsed from the date of Perry’s arrival at Uraga, and in the interval the country underwent innumerable vicissitudes, the effects in reality of the sharp divergences of opinion which the proposal to throw open the country to foreign trade and intercourse created. There were two parties in the State—viz. the Jo-I or party of exclusion, and the Kai-koku or party of admission. Jo signifies expulsion,—to thrust from one,—and I means a barbarian. Kai-koku, on the other hand, was literally “to open the country,” and the distinction between the two parties was therefore most marked. Eventually the Jo-I party became the O-Sei or party of Imperial Government, in opposition to the Baku-fu, lit.: Military Curtain government, by which was meant the government of the Shogun. Naturally all those who were opposed from one cause or another to the prolongation of the prevailing system of government by the Shogun ranged themselves under the banner of the Jo-I, whether actually hostile to aliens or not, but when the cry for expulsion had served its purpose the promoters of the movement against the Bakufu were willing enough that it should be abolished, in favour of a term which more aptly expressed the real objects and desires of the party so constituted. It is a fact that many of Japan’s foremost statesmen were originally[ix] members of the Jo-I organisation, though it certainly is not from that to be inferred that they were at any period of their careers downright hostile to foreigners. The famous motto was adopted essentially as a matter of policy.

Anxieties were multiplied for the Baku-fu when an Englishman, who formed one of a party out riding on the highroad between Yokohama and Yedo, was cut down and killed by swordsmen belonging to the retinue of the Prince of Satsuma. That was in September 1862, and it brought matters to a climax. The British Charge d’Affaires, Colonel Neale, demanded instant reparation, but though indemnities were paid to Mr Richardson’s relatives, both by the Shogun’s government and the daimio of Satsuma, the actual assailants escaped justice.

A little while prior to this outrage the chiefs of Satsuma and Choshiu had united in a league for the “subjugation and expulsion of the Barbarians,” and as loyal retainers of their respective lords many of the men who have since been most prominent in the establishment of a new Japan were greatly embarrassed, for while their convictions led them to the adoption of every art and science that was likely to render Japan a strong nation, their strict obedience to their chieftain’s views would have entailed the complete abandonment of their hopes of profiting by the experience and knowledge of the Occident, since it would have involved a return to conditions which had prevailed in the years preceding 1853. Those Choshiu men in particular, who were known to favour the introduction of Western arts, went, therefore, with their lives in their hands, and one to whom reference will be made at a later stage, bears to this day the marks of cuts which he received in an attempt made upon his life by some of his fellow-clansmen, whose ideas on the subject of foreign intercourse were not identical with his own. I allude to Count Inouye, whose cheek was sliced by an antagonist’s weapon whilst he was stoutly defending himself against an altogether unexpected onslaught by a Yamaguchi samurai. The alliance of the two great[x] Southern daimios for the repudiation of the treaties and the expulsion of aliens was not of a lasting character, nor was it intended, perhaps, that it should live long, for the object, no doubt, was to exert pressure on the Shogun rather than to wage war on the strangers. Nevertheless the attitude assumed towards foreigners, to be consistent, could not be other than one of hostility for the time being, and accordingly we find the lords of the two provinces named drifted soon afterwards into open defiance of the Occidentals’ naval power and the actions of Kagoshima and Shimonoseki, the first as a consequence of the daimio’s refusal to punish his people for the Richardson murder, and the second as the result of persistency in firing on passing European vessels, ensued, in 1863 and 1864. How far the feudatories named were indulging their own caprices in thus defying the Western powers, and how far they sought merely to carry out what they conceived to be their Emperor’s wishes, cannot now be known, but that they were amply warranted by Imperial orders in impeding the entry of aliens is proved by the Emperor Komei having sent a high official of the Court to Yedo with a letter to instruct the Shogun to expel all foreigners. This remarkable despatch conveyed the Emperor’s desire that the Shogun would forthwith proceed to Kioto to take counsel with the court nobles and thereupon despatch orders to the various clans, throughout the empire, to the effect that by dint of all their strength they should combine to thrust out the barbarians and restore tranquillity to the land. Though the Shogun did not go to Kioto just then, it was not through disobedience to his Imperial master’s commands, and it is probable that had not the trouble with the Satsuma procession occurred on the Tokaido, near Tsurumi village (where there is now a railway station), and had not Richardson’s life been forfeited, the Shogun would have felt himself obliged to take measures to enforce the Emperor’s order for the foreigners’ expulsion. That the Emperor Komei was very much in earnest about the matter is to be inferred from the fact that the official charged with the conveyance of the message to the Shogun was accompanied by the Prince of Satsuma,[xi] at the imperial desire, and it was when the Satsuma chieftain was returning to his own province after the execution of the Emperor’s instructions to escort his messenger to Yedo that the deplorable affair occurred at Tsurumi, and the Satsuma clan was plunged into direct antagonism with the subjects of foreign powers. The failure on the part of the Shogun to punish it, not from lack of inclination, but from military inability to perform the task, resulted in the bombardment of Kagoshima by the British squadron in the following summer. It deserves mention that, despite their avowed antipathy to the admission of foreigners to their country, the Satsuma clansmen were ready at that early date to avail themselves of Western appliances to the utmost, and on the principle that to retain her position among the nations Japan must adopt all the arts and sciences that would help her to become strong to hold her own, they had bought guns, and ships, of modern type, and proceeded to make the best use of both, as far as their limited experience could serve them, immediately that the British admiral entered the Bay of Kagoshima with his fleet. They did not wait for him to open fire: they took the initiative themselves, and with unquestionable courage and skill. Satsuma has, indeed, from the very beginning of the new regime been prominent in both the army and the navy, and though it must always be a matter of extreme difficulty to draw distinctions where the clansmen were without exception prompt to wield the sword on slight provocation in defence of their own or the national honour, the men of Satsuma ever bore the reputation under the old regime of being a warlike and indomitable race.

After 1863 their attitude towards the strangers speedily became less hostile, and they imported machinery for a cotton mill, bought more steamers, and in every way evinced a resolve to lose no further time in vain efforts to sweep back the tide that they saw was steadily and irresistibly advancing. On the contrary, they perceived that it would be to their advantage to float with it, for the clans that might be the first to arm themselves on the foreign model, and likewise most prompt to adapt themselves to[xii] changed circumstances, by copying the European methods of warfare, would be the first to profit by the military supremacy they could hardly fail to acquire over the others. Gradually the notion of expelling foreigners lost ground, so the way was paved for a better understanding with the nations of the Occident. And the trend of opinion in Satsuma was quickly seen to be communicating itself to Choshiu, where the feudal chieftain Mori, after his defeat at Shimonoseki by the combined fleet under Admiral Kuper, was willing to enter into peaceful relations with the subjects of other powers, and exhibited every disposition to be on terms of friendship for the future. It is recorded of the lord Mori that in 1864 he declared his readiness to admit foreigners to the ports in his barony of Choshiu, within a few months only of the actual engagement between his forts and the combined fleet, and the daimio’s attitude may have been modified by the representations of Ito and Inouye, who although they failed to impress on him the futility of opposing the allied squadrons may nevertheless have in some degree led their chieftain to recognise the benefits that would accrue to a speedy adoption of modern weapons and the arts of the Occident, as conferring exceptional strength on those who might be content to sink their prejudices and avail themselves of the improved appliances which lay ready to their hands. At all events it seems to be fair to assume that the supremacy of the Satsuma and Choshiu clans in the councils of the state which in later years became so noticeable as to excite the jealousy of others had its origin in the willingness evinced by the daimios of those clans to listen to the recommendations of patriotic samurai who owned allegiance to them. What is true of Satsuma and Choshiu is of course equally true of the other clans prominent in the struggle for the revival of imperial rule, namely Hizen and Tosa. In the course of this work it will be fitting that I should invite attention to the individual share which each of those who are classed as Makers of Japan actually took in the most remarkable undertaking of recent years, though in the earlier phases of the Restoration struggle they were[xiii] merely units of the clans to which most of them belonged. And fame rests with those Southern clans since it was by their combined action and unity of purpose that the Emperor Mutsuhito was invested, almost from the first, with that direct sovereign government of his subjects which for so many centuries had been denied to his predecessors on the throne, and which is now so conspicuously predominant in the relations that exist in Japan between the monarch and his dutiful and contented people.

With the assent of the Emperor Komei in 1865 to the Treaties made by the Shogun began brighter days for Japan, and if it must be owned that the benefits were at first unrecognised, and that considerable opposition was in some quarters manifested to the innovations proposed, matters had advanced so far, prior to the accession to the throne of the present sovereign, that there was hope of the total abolition of feudalism, and the inauguration of an essentially new regime. The world has never ceased to marvel at the ease with which this stupendous alteration was effected. In other lands when a revolution has been brought about it usually has been only at a vast cost in human life. True, the northern and southern clans fought in Japan, but the strife was not of long duration, nor was it of a particularly sanguinary character in comparison with the terrible slaughter that has often accompanied revolution elsewhere. It left behind it no traces of animus to disturb the harmony of the future among the subjects of the Japanese Emperor. That these magnificent results were attained, and that Japan has never one inch receded from the position that she took up nearly forty years ago, are facts that may in a large degree be ascribed to the prudence, genius, and statesmanlike capacity of many of those pioneers in thought and action of whose careers these pages are intended to form a brief, and necessarily most imperfect, record.

In the preparation of this volume my object has been to convey

(a) A general impression of Japan and her people;

(b) The workings of reform, as exemplified in the lives of some of her patriots.


In the several chapters devoted to the history of these Makers of Japan I have sought to explain the part which each played in the introduction of reforms, and to portray the situation in Japan now that those measures for which they were responsible may be said to have taken full effect. In brief, the aim has been to supply History through the medium of Biography.

I cannot do better, perhaps, than quote a sentence or two which recently fell from the lips of one of Japan’s greatest statesmen, Count Okuma, and whose career is briefly recorded in the following pages:—

“Now that peace has crowned the tremendous efforts which Japan made in the War with Russia the effect upon herself will be that she will be able to make still greater progress in the paths of civilisation, and the true spirit of the Japanese nation will have more room to display itself. Japan has never been an advocate of war, and will never draw her sword from its sheath unless compelled to do so by the pressure of foreign powers. She fought to secure peace, not for the sake of making war, and was only too glad to lay down her weapons as soon as peace was obtainable, and to devote herself to the promotion of interests of a nobler kind. The eminence of Japan is ascribable to no mere mushroom growth; it has its roots in the past, and her progress is to be explained by natural causes which anyone may comprehend who cares to study her history attentively. The late war was not one of race against race, or of religion against religion, and the victory of Japan points to the ultimate blending into one harmonious whole of the ancient and modern civilisations of East and West.”

My thanks are due to His Excellency Viscount Hayashi and the members of the Japanese Embassy in London, by all of whom the most kindly interest has been taken in my work, and from whom I have received most valuable aid in its preparation. Also to Baron Suyematsu, who[xv] assisted me greatly with his personal reminiscences and who revised the chapter on Marquis Ito, his father-in-law. I have also to record my indebtedness to the Editor and Mr S. Imai of the Osaka Mainichi Shimbun, from whom I received material help in regard to the history of those earlier Makers of Japan who flourished in the first half of the Nineteenth Century. I have availed myself of every opportunity of consulting the writings of Messrs Black and Rein, and the works on Japan and its affairs by Count Matsukata, Sir R. Alcock, Sir E. Reed, Sir Robert K. Douglas, Messrs Hearn, Clement, and many others, and I have taken my figures for the most part from Japanese official publications. When in 1895 I wrote “Advance, Japan!” I ventured to predict the rise of Japanese influence in China and that Japan would be “the lever to set the Chinese mass in motion” though her efforts would “tend towards the consolidation of the Chinese Empire rather than to its disintegration.” That work was translated in 1904 into Russ avowedly in order that the Tsar’s people might learn something of the nation they were fighting. In 1898 I had written “What will Japan do?” and had based the story on a firm conviction that she would defeat Russia when the inevitable contest should occur, the date I ventured to assign for the outbreak of hostilities being, as it turned out, three years too soon. That little volume was at once translated into Japanese. If in the attempt that I have now made to assign to the chief personages their due positions in respect of their nation’s stirring history, I have in the smallest degree succeeded in conveying useful information concerning our allies and their country to the people of the Occident, I shall not have laboured in vain, and in submitting my work in all humility—conscious of its many defects and shortcomings—to the judgment of the public, my one hope is that it may be of some slight service to those who may honour me by perusing its pages.

J. M.




I. His Majesty the Emperor of Japan 1
II. Prince Tokugawa Keiki: the Last of the Shoguns 53
III. Fujita Toko 97
IV. Sakuma Shuri (otherwise Shozan) 101
V. Yoshida Torajiro (otherwise Sho-in) 114
VI. Marquis Ito 119
VII. Prince Iwakura Tomomi 154
VIII. Prince Sanjo Sanetomi 163
IX. Count Inouye Kaoru 170
X. Viscount Okubo Toshimichi 184
XI. Count Goto Shojiro 195
XII. Marshal Saigo Takamori 202
XIII. Field-Marshal Marquis Yamagata 219
XIV. Count Okuma Shigenobu 246
XV. Field-Marshal Marquis Oyama 255
XVI. Fukusawa Yukichi 268
XVII. Marquis Kido Koin 273
XVIII. Count Itagaki 279
XIX. Count Matsukata Masayoshi 284
XX. Admiral Viscount Enomoto 299
XXI. Admiral Togo Heihachi 306
XXII. Baron Eichi Shibusawa 315




H.M. the Emperor of Japan Frontispiece
The Geku Shrine at Isé to face page 8
The Arms Museum at Tokio 32
The Ex-Shogun and Family 53
(From a Photograph by the Kinkodo Co., Tokio)
The Interior of Shiba Temple 84
Fujita, Sakuma, and Yoshida 97
Marquis Ito 119
Japanese School at Seoul 136
Prince Iwakura Tomomi 154
Prince Sanjo Sanetomi 163
Count Inouye Kaoru 170
Viscount Okubo Toshimichi 184
Count Goto Shojiro 195
Marshal Saigo Takamori 202
Marquis Yamagata 219
Count and Countess Okuma 246
(From a Photograph by the Kinkodo Co., Tokio)
Marquis Oyama 255
Fukusawa Yukichi 268
Marquis Kido 273
Count Itagaki 279
Count Matsukata 284
(From a Photograph by Elliott & Fry)
Admiral Enomoto 299
Admiral Togo 306
Baron Shibusawa 315





At the head of the list of Makers of Modern Japan stands by right the name of the illustrious ruler, not merely in virtue of his imperial position, but of the supreme efforts which throughout his reign of thirty-eight years to the present time he has made to raise the status of his country among nations and to confer upon his subjects the blessings of enlightened government. His Majesty Mutsuhito, son of the Emperor Komei, succeeded to the throne of Japan in February 1867, when he was fourteen years and three months old, was crowned on the 13th October 1868, married the Princess Haruko on the 9th February 1869, and has issue a son (the Crown Prince Yoshi-hito) and four daughters, the Princesses Tsune, Kane, Fumi, and Yasu.

The Crown Prince was born on the 31st August 1879, and was installed in this dignity on the Emperor’s birthday, 3rd November 1889, came of age and took his seat in the Upper House, in 1897, married on the 10th of May 1900 the Princess Sadako, daughter of Prince Kujo, and has issue two sons.

The personal name of the sovereign is rarely written or spoken in Japan, it being regarded almost as a discourtesy to allude to the ruler as other than the Ten-shi, the son of the heavens, or more elegantly as the Tenno, the heaven-sent Emperor. The theory of the supernatural origin of the imperial dynasty ceased to have weight with the educated classes long ago, but that in no way lessens the respect and affection which his subjects have for their sovereign. It was at his express command that they divested themselves of every vestige of superstition concerning[2] his traditional semi-divine descent, and when they ascribe to his personal virtues their success in war, as they commonly do, it is but evidence of their conviction that it is an immeasurable benefit to themselves, and ensures success in their undertakings, to have as their monarch one who is in every sense a man to be esteemed for his high sense of honour, his love of truth and justice, and his innate appreciation of the duties devolving upon him as having inherited the proud title of “an Emperor who owns allegiance only to heaven.” There were, in the years which have gone by, some Emperors who sadly failed to realise the necessity of setting a good example to their subjects, in Japan as elsewhere, but the memory of those monarchs is not revered. The present ruler has won throughout his reign the love of his people for the purity of his life, the untiring attention which he bestows on the affairs of his country, the supreme magnanimity he has ever displayed in his treatment of those who by the force of circumstances have been placed in a position of hostility, not to his rule, for that is impossible in Japan, but to his Cabinet, and above all for the readiness that he has invariably evinced in time of national anxiety to enter into his people’s feelings and to subordinate his personal comfort to his paramount duties as an active sovereign. Had it still been the custom for monarchs to head their forces in the field his Majesty Mutsuhito, as all his loyal and dutiful subjects know, would have mounted his charger and led his hosts to battle with as great a zest as did ever one of his predecessors on the throne in the fighting days of old. That happiness being denied him, he sat at his desk in his headquarters at Hiroshima for sixteen hours a day while his troops, for eight months, waged war a decade ago with the Chinese in Manchuria and Shantung.

It may be useful here to explain that the title of Mikado by which his Majesty is perhaps best known to Europeans, although undeniably an appellation of great antiquity and in no degree derogatory, is in little use in Japan itself. Literally it signifies the “honourable gateway” or “entrance,” and though in ancient times the designation, when applied to a ruler who dispensed justice from a seat at the[3] entrance to his pavilion, may have been more or less an appropriate title, it may be also that as years went by the preference of the people for some term that should more definitely convey the idea of the sovereign’s supremely exalted origin, according to then popular belief, led to the gradual adoption, in official documents, of the title of Tenno, and in common conversation of that of Ten-shi, terms which are in general use at the present day. The perpetuation of the term Mikado among foreigners, though almost obsolete among the inhabitants of the Ten-shi’s realms, is on a par with the retention of the name “Japan” as that of the country itself, it being a survival of the “Jipangu” of Marco Polo, who thus alluded to it in writing an account of his travels. Marco Polo’s book was prepared in 1299 at Genoa, and Jipangu was doubtless the traveller’s rendering of the Ji-pên-kwoh of the Chinese, the name by which Japan is known to that nation to-day, and by which Marco Polo heard the island Empire spoken of some 600 years ago. To the Ten-shi’s subjects their land is Ni-hon-koku, or Sun-origin Land, a term that is fairly translated, perhaps, as the Land of Sunrise. Ji-pên-kwoh, in Chinese, has precisely the same meaning, and the three ideographs employed are identical in Chinese and Japanese, the difference being one of pronunciation only. Though the dwellers in Nihon know as a rule by this time what is meant by Japan they always speak of their land as Nihon or Nipon, and though they know to whom strangers allude as the Mikado, they refer to his Majesty as the Ten-shi or Tenno. Nevertheless, the terms in use abroad, though they have less to recommend them on the score of accuracy, either for country or ruler, bid fair to survive for generations.

In Japan there are four Imperial families in which are vested the rights of succession to the throne in case of the failure of the direct line of the sovereign. These families are the Arisugawa, Katsura, Fushimi, and Kanin. The throne has ten times been occupied by a woman, but it was ever an inflexible rule that she should choose a prince-consort from among these four Shinnō, or Imperial families, and the relationship of these families to the throne well[4] illustrates the principle of adoption which prevails throughout Japan in all classes, from the Imperial circle down to the home of the humblest peasant. Adoption there confers all the rights, privileges, and obligations of blood relationship, and it was on this basis that the late Prince Taruhito, who played so important a part in the making of Modern Japan, and is often referred to elsewhere in this volume, came to occupy the position of uncle to the reigning monarch. Prince Taruhito, who for the first three decades of the Meiji era was the Commander-in-chief of the Japanese army, and died towards the close of the Chino-Japanese war of 1894-5, was adopted as a son by the Emperor Ninko, who reigned from 1817 to 1846 (grandfather to the present Emperor), and he thus became a brother of the Emperor Komei, who was the real son of Ninko. The Emperor Komei sat on the throne from 1846 to January 1867, and was succeeded by his only son the reigning Sovereign Mutsuhito. The late Prince Arisugawa was therefore uncle by adoption only of the present Emperor, and curiously enough that is in one sense the relationship which actually exists between the present Prince Arisugawa, who recently visited our shores, and the present Emperor, for the prince is the younger brother by birth of the late Prince Taruhito, who, having no children of his own, adopted his brother as his son and heir. Prince Taruhito having adopted his brother as his son, however, the brother then became the reigning monarch’s cousin, and, as adoption confers absolute rights, it is in the light of cousinship that we must regard the personal relation of Prince Takehito Arisugawa to the occupant of the throne. In reality it is difficult to institute anything like a fair comparison, for in Europe our family relationships do not precisely correspond to those that exist in the Japanese Empire, and any effort at explanation of the actual status attained by the system of adoption, as it prevails there, must fail to convey an accurate idea of the true position. Still it will now be understood, as adoption brings with it full privileges, how Prince Takehito, the prince who served as a midshipman in the British navy, and is generally known as Prince Arisugawa, was for some[5] years the heir-presumptive to the Japanese throne. The Emperor Ninko having left two sons,—though one was his son by adoption,—recourse would have been had to the line of the adopted son had the present occupant of the throne remained without a direct heir. The Crown Prince was not born until 1879, but the direct succession is now, it would seem, amply secured, as he has sons of his own.

The equivalent of “his Majesty” in Japanese is “Hei-ka,” so that the full expression employed in speaking of the monarch is Tenno Hei-ka, but there are additional titles not in general use, as is the case not only in Japan and neighbouring countries but among most European as well as Asiatic States. The same is true of the land over which the Ten-shi rules, for it has borne fully as many names as have at various periods the British Isles, and it was remarked at the time that the Albion and the Shikishima battleships were being built side by side at Blackwall that these vessels carried the ancient names of the countries to which they belonged, for Shikishima is a poetical title,—implying Isles of Prosperity,—for Japan, and is employed there in very much the same way as Albion is with us.

The Emperor of Japan has no family name, for, apart from the theory of his semi-divine descent, his house dates back to a period in the world’s history when the dwellers on this globe were fewer in number, and surnames had not been brought into use in the Orient. Thus it has a claim to respect in virtue of the unparalleled duration of the dynasty such as is possessed by no other reigning family in the world. His subjects are justly proud of the fact, and likewise of the circumstance that he rules over a people who have remained unconquered through the ages, in assured tenure of the land bequeathed to them by their ancestors.

The profound respect, verging upon adoration, paid in Japan to the occupant of the Throne is ascribable to an absolute conviction, pervading the minds of all classes of his Majesty’s subjects, that their ruler is a monarch who personally studies the welfare, the happiness, and real[6] comfort, of his people. The feeling that the sovereign takes an almost paternal interest in the well-being of those whom he governs is so universal in Japan as practically to constitute a feature of Japanese national life. It is shared by all, rich and poor, young and old, the noble and the lowly. In theory the throne is above criticism. In the present era it is so in practice. In the long history of the Land of the Rising Sun, there have been instances in which the sovereigns have conspicuously fallen short of the standard of perfection, but in Japanese eyes the failure to attain the ideal has been due not to the errors of the individual so much as to his environment. There seems to be no room in the Japanese mind for the conception of a ruler who has not the amelioration of the lot of his loyal subjects always at heart, and if they were to be confronted with direct proof to the contrary they would cling to the belief that their sovereign must have been the victim of circumstances. The people’s attachment to the throne never wanes, or can wane, but if it happens that he who occupies that exalted position is a sovereign for whom they are able to develop an intense affection, owing to his personal characteristics, so much closer must the bonds be drawn, so immeasurably in advance of all previous experience will be the enthusiasm evinced for his cause by those who may be privileged to serve him afloat or ashore.

The present Emperor has on more than one occasion, indeed, expressed the wish that his subjects would cease to attribute to his family a supernatural origin, and although it was inevitable that at the period of his accession he should be regarded as Pope as well as Emperor, in virtue of the connection that had from time immemorial existed between the throne and the Shinto faith, insomuch that Shintoism was to all intents and purposes the State religion of Japan, he took the earliest possible opportunity of investing his cousin, then the Uyeno-no-miya, or High Priest of Uyeno temples, with the spiritual functions appertaining to the Sovereign’s office, and announcing his own intention of ruling Japan purely as a secular monarch. Under the title of Kita Shirakawa-no-miya this prince two[7] years later left the temples and entered the newly raised army, with the rank of major. General Kita Shirakawa-no-miya died some years ago, but his brother Higashi Fushimi-no-miya, who likewise was a Shinto priest at the outset of his career, was entrusted with the imperial brocade banner and ordered to chastise the rebels in the war of the Restoration in 1868, and he subsequently distinguished himself as a military officer in many hard-fought fields. He some years ago visited London as the representative of the Ten-shi and was present at St Paul’s on the day that Queen Victoria gave thanks for the recovery from a severe illness of the Prince of Wales, our present King Edward VII. With the resignation by the prince Kita Shirakawa-no-miya of his priestly office the direct relationship of the imperial family to Shintoism ceased, though by the deification of former rulers of the country, and the retention for untold years of the position of head of the church by the reigning sovereign, the union had seemed to be indissoluble. Shinto is now only a cult, but it embodies the principle on which the moral teaching of the Japanese substantially is based, and it still has for its chief function the performance of rites in memory of the imperial ancestors. Shintoism has neither creed nor dogma,—it inculcates patriotism and loyalty. It enjoins upon all the virtue of courage, the cultivation of the strictest sense of honour, and the universal practice of courtesy and consideration. The essence of Shinto (lit.: “the way of the gods”) is the spirit of filial piety, and, to quote the late Lafcadio Hearn, it implies the “zest of duty, the readiness to surrender life for a principle. It is religion, but religion transmuted into ethical instinct. It is the whole emotional life of the race,—the Soul of Japan.” In its best and purest form, according to the highest authorities, it consisted of ancestor-worship combined with reverence for the forces of nature. There was the natural respect for the memory of ancestors, national or individual, added to the awe inspired by the phenomena of nature, in the tempest and the earthquake, the lightning’s flash and the thunder’s crash. The beneficent influence of the summer sun on[8] the ripening corn led those who lived by agriculture to value the blessing as the gift of a goddess, and they revered her as “Ama-no-terasu,” the splendour of the skies, and regarded her as the special ancestress of their adored ruler. Thus, as one authority has remarked, to those Japanese whose first idea of duty is loyalty to the Emperor,—and this means the nation at large,—Shinto becomes a system of patriotism exalted to the rank of a religion. The common people still regard it in that light, and continue to worship and pray at its temples, though officially it was secularised six years ago and placed under the control of a Bureau of Shrines, as distinct from the Bureau of Religions, which takes cognisance of matters affecting the Buddhist and Christian faiths. In 1899 the officials of the Isé shrines, which are the oldest in the Empire, and in which are preserved the three sacred emblems of the monarchy,—the mirror, sword, and jewel of antiquity,—symbolical of regal power, and looked upon as coeval with the dynasty itself,—took measures to define their position as heads of a secular organisation. They then described Shintoism as “a mechanism for keeping generations in touch with generations, and preserving the continuity of the nation’s veneration for its ancestors.” But throughout the length and breadth of the land the sight of a Shinto shrine will continue to prompt the passer-by to pause for a moment in his journey, to fold his hands in silent prayer, to cast a coin into the capacious moneybox, and to bow the head in submission to a higher will, no matter whether the rites of Shinto worship be for the future viewed in the light of a religion or only as a cult.


Marco Polo’s references to “Jipangu,” as we have seen, were not based on his personal observations but on information derived from the Chinese, and though he travelled widely in China, accompanied by his brother, he never set foot on Japanese soil. That an island empire existed to the east of them, however, had been known to the Chinese for centuries, and Kublai Khan had unsuccessfully sought to bring it into subjection only a short time prior to the Polos’ arrival at his Court in[9] 1275. It is probable that Christopher Columbus, when setting sail from Palos in 1492, hoped to reach “Jipangu,” of which he had doubtless heard through the publicity given to Marco Polo’s travels, by sailing westward, and it is possible that Columbus imagined that he had found his way to some part of an Eastern continent when he discovered America. The first traveller to actually land in Japan was Fernao Mendes Pinto, in 1542, seven years before the Jesuit Missionary Francisco Xavier arrived there. Pinto was favourably received in Bungo, a province of Kiushiu, the large island in the south-west of Japan, and arrangements were made for a vessel to visit Bungo with foreign produce, every other year. Pinto belonged to Coimbra, in Portugal, and thus it is to that power that is due the honour of its subjects having been the first to visit Japanese shores. Pinto’s ship was the only survivor of three which started from Lisbon on a voyage of adventure, and it was from her crew that the Japanese first acquired a knowledge of the use of firearms. The Bungo province gives its name to the narrow channel that here divides the islands of Kiushiu and Shikoku, which is exceptionally rich in historical associations, for if tradition be in this instance correct it was in one of its many little bays that the vessel conveying the ancestor of the Ten-shi, the first Emperor Jimmu Tenno, dropped anchor over 2500 years ago. Where Jimmu Tenno came from remains an absolute mystery, but it seems to be fairly established that he brought with him a mighty host, armed for conquest, and that he had early encounters with the tribes then inhabiting the south and west of Hondo, the main island. One of these was the Yamato tribe, which probably at that remote period dwelt in what is now Iwami, and its occupancy of the coast facing the peninsula of Korea, might be taken to imply that its people originally crossed the water from that kingdom, though it would not of necessity follow that the men of Yamato were identical in race with the dwellers in Korea at the present day. Fighting his way along the borders of the Inland Sea, the invading chieftain Jimmu Tenno ultimately reached the neighbourhood of what is now[10] Kioto, and set up his capital in that region. It is not improbable that he brought with him many members of the Yamato tribe that he had subjugated, and this may account for the presence to this day in that part of Japan of numberless families possessing the characteristics in a marked degree of what is termed the Yamato race,—in other words, the elongated features and intellectual aspect as distinguished from the round chubby countenances of the majority of the men and women of the hei-min, or common stock, which forms so large a percentage of the entire population. The Yamato people may have emigrated in the first place from Manchuria, passing through Korea on their way to Japan, and though it may be condemned as fanciful the idea is perhaps not altogether groundless that in seeking to recover Manchuria in recent years from the grip of the Muscovite the Japanese may in reality have been striving, though few were aware of it, to deliver their own ancestral home from the presence of the Western intruder.

Jimmu Tenno began to reign as Emperor of Japan in 667 B.C., being then, it is supposed, about thirty-five years of age. Ancient Japanese tradition no doubt assigned to him a supernatural origin, and it is not difficult to trace in the unexpected advent on Japanese soil of the conqueror and his knights the germ of such a belief, supported as it probably was by martial prowess to a degree with which the then peaceful inhabitants of the Japanese chain of islands were totally unfamiliar. The peoples of the adjoining mainland of Asia—that is to say, the Chinese and the Manchus, as well as the Koreans—were appreciably in advance, it is to be presumed, in the arts of war, of any of the islanders of that age, and the invaders, as Jimmu Tenno and his men must have been, of Southern Japan, seven centuries before the Christian era, may have been regarded, and not altogether unnaturally, as beings descended from another planet. The Emperor Jimmu’s mother was a daughter, we are told, of the Sun-Goddess and the Sea-God (the Japanese Neptune) and in this myth may be traced a notable parallel to that concerning Romulus, the founder and[11] first King of Rome, whose father was reputed to have been Mars, the god of war. Romulus founded Rome just eighty-six years before Jimmu became the founder of the dynasty of Japanese emperors, but there the parallel ends, for while Rome became a republic in less than 250 years, and underwent endless vicissitudes, a direct descendant of Jimmu occupies the imperial throne of Japan to-day.

In the older histories of Japan one may read how the Isles of Sunrise came into existence, and the legend is pretty enough to merit recognition in lands other than that to which it especially applies. When all was chaos on this globe, very far back in its nebulous stage of existence,—when the purer elements were ascending to form its skies, and the impure were gathering to form its earth,—the god Izanagi, with his august spouse the goddess Izanami beside him, was standing on the ethereal arch that spans the higher heavens, bearing in his hand the jewel-spear. Suddenly he thrust the weapon downward and with it probed the watery expanse beneath. As he drew it forth from Ocean, drops of foam and brine fell from its point, and in congealing formed an island. That island is called “Foam-land” (Awaji), in the centre of what is now Japan, and it bars the passage from the eastward to the picturesque “Inland Sea.” In it Izanagi and Izanami took up their abode, and gradually formed the other islands of the group. The Sun-goddess and the Sea-god were their children, and Ama-no-terasu, the “Splendour of the Skies,” was their grand-daughter, and became the parent of Jimmu Tenno, the first Emperor of Japan.

In the month of July 1853, there appeared to the astonished gaze of the inhabitants of the little fishing village of Uraga, situated on the Pacific coast within ten miles of the entrance to the Gulf of Tokio, a squadron of “black ships,” as the children termed the war vessels, the like of which they had never before seen or even heard of, and not long afterwards a boat was rowed ashore and a party of officers landed. For 230 years there had been no communication with[12] strangers, the edicts of the Shogun Iyeyasu and his successors in the office having expressly prohibited all intercourse, for reasons which need not be given here, and the open defiance of the law of the land implied by the visit of the Americans filled the villagers with consternation. It was discovered that the unwelcome guests had brought a letter for the reigning monarch of Japan, and this the head man of the place agreed to forward to the proper officials. Commodore Perry happened to reach Japan at a time when the feudal lords of the various provinces had become jealous of the long-continued supremacy of the Tokugawa line of Shoguns, deputies of the crown who had for two and a half centuries practically ruled the country, in the name of the monarchs who had remained in seclusion at the palace of Kioto while their lieutenants governed the land from Yedo. The movement in favour of the re-establishment of the direct rule of the Emperor, in place of the semi-regal authority which had been exercised by the descendants of Iyeyasu, the first Shogun of the Tokugawa line, had begun to take definite shape some years previously, as we shall discover when we consider the history of Fujita, Sakuma, and Yoshida,—patriots who flourished earlier in the nineteenth century,—and the advent of the American visitors served but to accentuate the difficulties of the situation for the Yedo potentate, who was placed on the horns of a dilemma. If he yielded to the demands of the Americans that the nation which had so long been hidden from the rest of the world should emerge from its retirement and admit foreigners within its gates, he would incur the wrath of the ultra-Conservative party among the nobility of his own land. If he refused to comply with the American President Fillmore’s amiable suggestions, Japan might yet share the fate of China, and a forcible invasion of his Imperial master’s dominions, which would be equally disastrous to himself as being responsible for the exclusion of the “barbarians,” was almost certain to occur. The Shogun took the advice of those who advocated the making of treaties with men whom they were not then strong enough in Japan to effectually exclude,[13] and the thin end of the wedge was inserted by the conclusion of the compact,—at first nothing more than a promise of friendship,—between Japan and the United States of America.

Under the provisions of the American treaty then negotiated by Perry, the United States acquired the right of establishing a legation at Shimoda. This is a small town at the tip of the Idzu promontory, which extends in a southern direction from the province of Sagami, and it is sixty-five miles as the crow flies south-west of Yokohama. Over a building which had previously been a Buddhist temple the Stars and Stripes were hoisted at Shimoda in September 1856, and America’s accredited envoy, Mr Townsend Harris, resided there for many months, being the first of the diplomatic representatives of foreign powers to dwell in the newly awakened Land of Sunrise, and the first to arrange a treaty of commerce. Under the arrangement made with Commodore Perry there were to be two seaports opened to the reception of American vessels, where they might obtain coal, provisions, wood, and water. One of these ports was Shimoda, the other was Hakodate, in the northern island of Yeso. The treaty provided for hospitable behaviour towards shipwrecked crews,—a matter in which, had the instincts of the Japanese nation at large been appreciated as they are to-day it would perhaps have been deemed superfluous to make any stipulations—and it also included certain regulations for conducting trade and for the residence of consuls or agents, at the places named. The stay of the American agent at Shimoda was not of long duration, for on the opening of the capital, as a place wherein the representatives of other powers could most fittingly dwell, Mr Harris removed to that city. But it should not be lost sight of that Shimoda was for a time the official headquarters of the American Legation in Japan, and a place where the population was more or less accustomed to see foreigners long before the rest of the country,—save the trading ports of Yokohama, Kobé, Nagasaki, and three other places on the coast opened later—was available to strangers. The British treaty, made the same year by[14] Admiral Stirling, was on similar lines. It was not until the Earl of Elgin concluded the treaty of 1858 that powers were obtained for the residence of the foreign ministers in Yedo, though it had been agreed that a third port,—that of Nagasaki,—should be opened to trade. The Elgin treaty in addition provided for the establishment of open ports at Kanagawa, Niigata, and Hiogo. But Kanagawa being a town situated on the highroad along which in those days it was usual for the feudal lords and their immense retinues to travel, and the feeling in many quarters being decidedly inimical to foreigners, it was deemed inexpedient to make it a focus of animosity due to the strangers’ settlement therein for purposes of trade whilst it might remain the recognised resting-place for imperial and other processions making the journey to and from Kioto and Yedo. Accordingly it was agreed that the little fishing village of Yokohama, lit.: “the beach across the way,” on the other side of the bay of Kanagawa, which is itself a mere indentation of the coastline of the Gulf of Tokio, should become the actual place of residence of the foreign community. From this small beginning in 1859 the port speedily grew to be the centre of a vast and profitable trade, and its population now numbers 194,000, of whom 2100 are foreigners exclusive of Chinese. It is claimed for Kobé, a port in the channel separating Shikoku from Hondo, that it has eclipsed the older port of Yokohama in respect of its commerce, and it is in some things better situated for trade, particularly with the tea-producing districts. Kobé was originally a village adjoining Hiogo, which was the port that it was settled by treaty should be thrown open, and as a matter of fact it is divided from Hiogo only by a creek, a few feet wide. The port is now officially styled Kobé-Hiogo, and to all intents and purposes the two places are one.

Not only did the dai-mios of the western provinces modify their views on the subject of the admission of strangers but the reigning Emperor Komei himself ceased to contend at the last against that influx which if it could not be successfully resisted might very possibly, it was[15] thought, be turned to good account in preparing the nation to combat other encroachments of a less pacific character in the days to come. It may well be that this resolution was arrived at in full view of events that were taking place in the extreme north of the Empire, where Russia was little by little feeling her way towards Yeso, and had already seized the moment of Japan’s preoccupation in respect of domestic concerns to establish herself in the island of Sakhalin, between which and Yeso only a narrow strait, twenty-five miles wide, existed to bar the path of the settlers to the virgin soil and luxuriant forests of “Hokkaido,” Japan’s “North Sea Circuit.” At all events the Emperor Komei about this time signified his willingness that the engagements which the Shogun had entered into with the powers of the Occident should be recognised and adhered to.

The Shogun Iyemochi, who had been wedded to the Emperor’s sister four years previously, but who had not during the intervening time wholly succeeded in overcoming his imperial master’s reluctance to ratify the treaties which his predecessor in the Shogunate Iyesada had made, was in 1864 residing at the castle of Osaka,—the stronghold built by the renowned Hideyoshi (the Tai-ko or generalissimo) at the close of the Sixteenth Century,—and was thus within a few hours’ journey of the imperial residence. His visit to Kioto that year (1864) had been marked by the Ten-shi’s favour despite the remembrance of his failure to induce the aliens to quit Japan’s shores, and no more had been heard of the proposition that he should forthwith expel the barbarians and restore peace to the country. The vital change in the sovereign’s ideas is believed to have been brought about mainly by the advice of the lord of the Satsuma province, who, as was to be seen, had changed his own opinion very considerably after the naval engagement at Kagoshima of the previous year. There can be no doubt that the influence of Shimadzu Saburo was largely instrumental in bringing about a reconciliation between the Emperor and the Shogun, and for the moment harmonious relations were re-established. The personal quarrel which[16] arose with the lord Mori of Choshiu would have been a more serious matter for the Shogun had the Satsuma lord been ready to throw in his lot with Iyemochi’s opponents, and whatever may have been the feeling on the point at Hagi the disinclination of Satsuma to join the Choshiu clansmen in the attack on Kioto may be held to have turned the scale against Mori. It was not long before the two clans were actually united, however, in a successful attempt to demolish the Shogunate altogether. It is thought that when Iyemochi obeyed the summons of the Ten-shi to visit Kioto with, in the first place, the avowed object of concerting measures for the expulsion of aliens, he took the fatal step of subordinating his own party’s policy to that of the Court party, and thereby hastened the downfall of the Tokugawa family, for the strength of the Shogunate had lain in the assertion of its prerogatives as inheriting the privileges of its founder, the law-giver Iyeyasu, and who re-established it in the beginning of the Seventeenth Century.

But to return to the events of 1864, it was with excellent judgment and an intuitive perception of the favourable turn which affairs were then taking that Sir Harry Parkes, the British Minister, who had succeeded Sir Rutherford Alcock, seized the precise moment to despatch two members of his Legation staff, Messrs Mitford and Satow,—the present Lord Redesdale, and Sir Ernest Satow, now British representative at Peking,—to see the Shogun and personally endeavour to arrive at some satisfactory arrangement concerning the opening of the remaining ports to trade for which sanction had been obtained by the provisions of the Elgin treaty. The visit ended with complete satisfaction to the negotiators, and when the four powers directly concerned—viz. Holland, France, the United States, and Britain—urged officially on the Shogun the desirability of speedily opening Hiogo (Kobé) he agreed to write a letter to his imperial master suggesting that this should be done. The Emperor Komei at first refused but ultimately gave his consent. It was settled that Hiogo, and with it Osaka, should be opened to foreign trade and residence on and from the 1st of January[17] 1868, which was five years later than had been contemplated by the framers of the Elgin treaty, but under the then existing circumstances it was highly creditable to the delegates to have achieved so much.

The defeat of the Choshiu men in their earlier attempt to capture Kioto had had the effect of inducing them to study the art of war as practised in the Occident, and when Iyemochi, in consonance with the imperial command, sought to chastise Baron Mori, and promptly marched his troops through the provinces bordering the Inland Sea as far as Nagato, he found himself confronted by a superior force of riflemen, armed after the modern fashion, who, though they lacked everything in the way of military uniform, had acquired sufficient knowledge of drill and co-operation to render them doughty opponents for any force that the Shogun could place in the field against them at that stage of the national development. The men who bore rifles were not in pre-Restoration days regarded as the highest in rank among soldiers, for the Japanese had of old a predilection for the personal combat, hand to hand, and were prone to despise warfare of the kind in which a missile was hurled at the foe from a comparatively safe distance. Thus the swordsman ranked highest in Japanese estimation down to a very recent period,—but the Choshiu riflemen proved by their able use of modern firearms that a power such as had been before unknown in relation to implements of strife lay in the weapons that they so coolly and dexterously handled to the complete discomfiture of their enemies. And thus was laid, it may be supposed, the foundation of that high standard of superiority which the Choshiu troops have since attained as regards their ability to wage war on modern principles. They developed a natural aptitude for the employment of firearms from a date long prior to the present Emperor’s reign, and for some years were the only force in Japan that might be said to have adopted western armaments, with perhaps the sole exception of a force of foreign-drilled infantry (some 800 in all), belonging to the Shogun, under Kubota Sentaro, which took part on behalf of the Japanese[18] authorities in a review and sham fight that was held at Kanasawa, near Yokohama, on the 21st March 1866, at a time when it was needful to have a few British troops in the town for purposes of defence against a possible sudden descent of some recalcitrant dai-mio’s followers.

The Shogunate was tottering to its fall when it sought in June 1865 to suppress the Choshiu rising, and signally failed to do so. Only a few months later the Shogun Iyemochi died (August 1866), and was succeeded by Hitotsubashi Yoshinobu, a scion of the Mito branch of the Tokugawa family, and who is in more modern times alluded to as the Prince Keiki. The letters of which the Japanese pronunciation would be Yoshinobu are, when given their approximate Chinese sounds, to be read as Keiki, hence the two renderings of the Shogun’s name. Tokugawa signifies the “river of abundance,” and Keiki or Yoshinobu mean “goodness and joy,” the signification of the characters remaining unaltered, of course, whichever may be the system of pronunciation adopted. Shortly after Keiki’s accession to the Shogun’s seat the trouble in Choshiu was brought to an end by the lord Mori’s submission. Into the cause of that there is no need to enter here as it will be found to have been fully discussed in the chapter on the career of Marshal Yamagata. Peace was only nominally restored, for the reason that greater events were in preparation, and the country was now on the eve of those marvellous changes which ushered in the era of Meiji,—the period of Enlightened Rule,—by which his present Majesty chose that his reign should be known to posterity. The Emperor Komei’s decease followed very quickly upon that of the Shogun Iyemochi. Keiki had been Shogun only four months when Komei Tenno died and was succeeded by his son Mutsuhito, who happily still reigns over an adoring and devoted people, distinguished among the nations of the earth for their unfaltering attachment to the imperial throne and for the intense loyalty and patriotism they display towards its wise and benevolent occupant. It happened that at the moment when the Emperor Mutsuhito came to the throne Japan was torn by conflicting political views on[19] the subject of the advisability of re-opening the country to foreign trade and intercourse, after having been closed to foreigners down to 1854 from a date early in the Seventeenth Century. The treaties which the Shogun had entered into with the representatives of Foreign Powers, during the lifetime of the Emperor Komei, still gave anything but unalloyed satisfaction to one section, and that a very numerous and implacable one, of the body politic, and the land was a prey to the most bitter dissensions. A large proportion of the so-termed anti-foreign party was sincere in its outcry for the expulsion of foreigners only so far as it might be the means to an end. No doubt there were thousands in Japan at that time who were genuinely hostile to strangers, and honestly believed that the land would be well rid of the intruders, but it is nevertheless true that these patriots, as they unquestionably deemed themselves, were exploited by the Reformers whose main ambition it was to see the country again governed by the Ten-shi himself, and not, as had so long been the rule, by his lieutenant the Shogun. It is due to the curious and altogether anomalous state of affairs that then existed that we have in the Makers of Modern Japan many men who at one time belonged to the party which openly advocated the expulsion of all aliens. Whatsoever may have been their real feelings at the time towards strangers, it is evident that their first care was to put an end to the dual system of control from Kioto and Yedo, and to restore the supreme power to the hands of the Ten-shi.

It is due to the memory of the Emperor Komei, though no great change was accomplished in his reign, to acknowledge the foresight he displayed in having his son and heir educated on liberal lines, thoroughly fitted for the duties of active sovereignty over his people, so that when the moment arrived for a revolution in the system of administration the youthful monarch was equipped with knowledge regarding the outer world and its chequered history that had never been acquired by his august predecessors on the imperial throne, coupled with broad and noble ideas of government far in advance of his years.[20] The stirring events of 1867 and 1868 therefore found his Majesty not unprepared for the tasks devolving upon him. His training had indeed been almost Spartan in its rigour and simplicity, among the family of the Court noble to whose care he had been entrusted. Strict discipline is rather the rule than the exception in Japan in regard to the education of princes, and in the youth of the Emperor Mutsuhito there was no departure from established custom,—on the contrary, the Emperor his father had enjoined upon the noble charged with the heir-apparent’s education the necessity of making him a hardy rather than a delicate youth, and he was encouraged, therefore, to take delight in horsemanship and manly sports, the ancient game of da-kiu (Japanese polo) being much played in the palace grounds at that period. It is even said that he smelt powder before he was twelve years old, for the battle between the Choshiu men and the Shogun’s forces already mentioned took place in Kioto close to the imperial residence, and bullets flew in all directions among the palace buildings. As an equestrian his majesty shines conspicuously, for he is an accomplished rider, and takes a keen delight in the field manœuvres which in peace time are annually carried out in one part or another of his dominions. On these occasions it is no uncommon thing for the Emperor to be in the saddle day after day for a week together, and it may well be that to the profound study that he is well known by his troops to make, at all times, of the needs of his army, must in part be ascribed the firm belief of officers and men that they win battles by virtue of his beneficent interest in their welfare. He enjoys following his troops in their prolonged marches, when carrying out their regular training, and never hesitates to mount his charger in the roughest weather, on the principle that what his men are asked to do in the sense of exposure to the elements, he is ready himself to undertake. Alike under the hottest sun or the most drenching rain, he takes his stand on some eminence to watch them defile before him, utterly regardless of personal comfort or of danger to his health. In this he but evinces his complete repugnance to a life of[21] luxurious ease, and it is to be said of his whole career, both prior to his accession to the throne of his ancestors and since, that he has never spared himself in any one particular, but has been a hard worker from his boyhood, with little or no disposition to indulge in play or relaxation of any kind save the mental recreation involved in the daily composition of a stanza of poetry. At another page will be found almost literal reproductions of some of his Majesty’s latest efforts in this direction, inspired, no doubt, by the circumstances of the terrible struggle in Manchuria, wherein so many thousands of his warriors have sacrificed their lives for the empire of which he is the revered head.

To return to the Emperor’s early life, he is ever ready to avow himself indebted to the ability and wisdom of his tutors, foremost among whom were the Princes Sanjo and Iwakura, whose part in the making of the Japan of to-day is elsewhere referred to in detail. They were Court nobles (kuge), and both are long since dead, but it was to their teaching in great measure, aided by that of other gifted counsellors, that was due the strikingly complete emancipation of his mind from old-fashioned ideas, and his adoption of the principles of government upon sound and progressive lines. His Majesty began his reign with a declaration, wholly spontaneous, that he would as soon as practicable create a deliberative assembly for the discussion of public affairs, that personal freedom should be secured to all his subjects, that whatever evil or pernicious customs were in existence should be abolished, and that a new system, based on the study of the experience of foreign nations, particularly as regarded the defence of the Empire, should be forthwith inaugurated. This was the substance of his Majesty’s Coronation oath, as it was termed, and is the Magna Charta of the rights and privileges of the Japanese people. The sovereign voluntarily repeated this promise at a Meeting of the feudal princes and barons assembled at the Palace in Kioto in April 1869, two years after his accession to the throne. But the interval had been occupied in effecting that radical change in the system of administration which[22] has been the wonder of the world, and in quelling an insurrection which was the direct outcome of the abolition of the Shogun’s office, though personally the holder thereof had discouraged the rebellion as far as he could by resigning his post. The Emperor had accepted that renunciation of his rights by the Shogun Keiki, but the adherents of the Shogunate had fought on in spite of their titular leader’s withdrawal. In after years the sovereign, as we shall find, magnanimously abolished the decree which had in 1868 declared the Shogun to be in rebellion, and wholly absolved him from any intentional disobedience. But for the time being there was civil war in the Land of Sunrise, and the history of those unhappy eighteen months subsequent to the Emperor’s accession must briefly be told, though, as is the case with regard to the strife of the early sixties, in the United States of America, the memory of those terrible days when clan fought against clan in Japan has ceased to trouble the Ten-shi’s subjects, and those who once were sworn enemies are and have for many years past been good friends. The events of 1867 were especially important in respect of the influence that they were to exert on the future of the country. In the first place the powerful Satsuma clan had obtained a conspicuously influential position in the councils of the Empire. The prime mover in this had been Shimadzu Saburo, who was the real father of the feudal lord of the province, but as the previous daimio, who in reality was Shimadzu’s brother, had adopted the young prince as his son, it followed under the Japanese laws concerning adoption that the father became uncle to his own child. In the course of the violent controversy which had arisen Shimadzu had most vehemently opposed the Shogun, and accordingly he was classed among those who were averse to the opening of the treaty ports to foreign trade, but in reality he was not unfavourable to the admission of aliens, and was actually willing that the entire province of Satsuma should be open to foreign enterprise. To this suggestion, however, the Shogun had offered objections.

Satsuma had benefited by its trade with Nagasaki, the[23] only port that had remained accessible to vessels from Europe during the long seclusion of the nation from Western intercourse. In the year 1866 the British Minister, Sir Harry Parkes, had accepted an invitation to visit the headquarters of the Satsuma clan, three years after the bombardment of the town of Kagoshima by Admiral Kuper’s squadron. The Minister made the voyage in the warship Princess Royal, accompanied by the Serpent and the Salamis, and the young prince of Satsuma came off to welcome his guest in a magnificent state barge. Sir Harry Parkes, on landing at Kagoshima on the 27th July, found that adjoining the daimio’s palace within the castle walls were a foundry and well-equipped workshops, and that at the foundry they had succeeded in casting a number of very serviceable cannon, and quantities of shot and shell. Near by was a glass works, and in one of the workshops was a steam lathe. These facts afford strong testimony to the progressive spirit manifested even at that period by the Satsuma clan, and the appreciation of the value of Western appliances which had thus early in the history of the Restoration struggle prompted the samurai of Satsuma to fit themselves to attain a commanding position among the supporters of the Ten-shi, as opposed to those who favoured the regime of the Shogunate.

The inability of the Shogun’s forces to subdue the Choshiu samurai had placed the Shogun himself in a position that was obviously intolerable. Not only was one of the most powerful of the feudal lords openly antagonistic to the Shogunate but it was known for a fact that the Satsuma clan was virtually allied to Choshiu in this effort to repudiate the Shogun’s right to exact obedience from the great feudatories. It is to the infinite credit of Tokugawa Keiki that at this crisis in his country’s affairs he recognised the need of a more centralised and uniform system of administration,—one in which the real power and control should be vested in the person of the Ten-shi. He resigned the office which had been in his family for 264 years, and begged that he might be permitted to retire into private life. The Emperor Mutsuhito accepted the voluntary surrender by[24] the Shogun of his time-honoured privileges and in doing so opened a new chapter in the record of the Japanese Empire. The manifesto was in the sovereign’s own words and was substantially as follows:—

It has pleased Us, at his request, to dismiss the Shogun. Henceforward We shall exercise supreme authority, in both the internal and the external affairs of the nation. For the term “Tycoon” (meaning Shogun) which has hitherto been employed in the Treaties must henceforth be substituted that of Emperor.

To this historic document were appended the great seal of “Dai Nihon” and the signature in the monarch’s own caligraphy—Mutsuhito—it being, perhaps, the first time in all Japanese history that the personal name of the ruler had been used officially during his lifetime. The retiring Shogun left the capital and for a brief period took up his abode in the castle of Osaka. But it was to the chief town of Suruga province, midway between Tokio and Kioto, that he finally withdrew, and thereafter lived the unobtrusive life of a country gentleman on a small estate which the Emperor bestowed upon him. In this way, in the perfect seclusion of Shidzu-oka (lit.: the Hill of Peace) he was able to wholly divest himself of political connections, and was now and then to be seen setting out on a fishing excursion with perhaps but one attendant, preferring the quietude of his existence apart from the cares of State, and revelling in his emancipation from the pomp and circumstance of that Court of which for a brief interval he had been the acknowledged and puissant head. Never, perhaps, did a potentate more completely renounce his rights, nor so absolutely efface himself on doing so, in the history of mankind, but he has had his reward in the confidence and favour of the real sovereign whose deputy he had been, and from whom he has received in recent years the highest honours. He has the rank of Prince under the new regime, while Prince Tokugawa Iyesato, the head of the Tokugawa family, has also been[25] raised to the same rank, and holds office as President of the House of Peers. Thus the family of Tokugawa, which from the close of the Sixteenth Century until 1868 virtually ruled Japan, retains, by the magnanimity of the Emperor, a status among the nobility of the land that is unsurpassed by any princely or ducal house, and actually boasts the possession among its ranks of two princes, since his Majesty thought fit in 1900 to request his former Shogun to visit Tokio, and then and there conferred upon him the title which he now holds, declaring at the same time that he was perfectly absolved of all participation in the events of 1867-8, which would no longer blot the record. There has been nothing in the personal relations of his Majesty with his dutiful and supremely loyal people which has more endeared him to them than his extreme generosity, and inasmuch as there were necessarily among all classes of his subjects many thousands—even hundreds of thousands—who had in their early days been proud to own allegiance to the Shogun and the Tokugawa house, the sovereign’s attitude has been more widely appreciated than it is possible, perhaps, for strangers to the country to comprehend.

The surrender of his privileges by the Shogun in 1868 was resented by the bulk of his adherents, and though they were compelled to retreat towards the north before the determined advance of the Satsuma, Choshiu, Hizen, and Tosa men, under the command of Saigo Takamori, whose notable history will be found elsewhere in this volume, the struggle lasted for many months. In support of the Tokugawa side the stoutest resistance was maintained by the Aidzu clan, whose chieftain dwelt in the castle of Wakamatsu, midway, or nearly so, between the capital and the straits of Tsugaru which separate the northern island of Hokkaido or Yeso from Hondo, the mainland. The prince of Aidzu had been guardian of the “Nine Gates” of the Ten-shi’s palace at Kioto under the Tokugawa regime, until the coup d’état of the 3rd January 1868, by which his opponents contrived to secure the person of the young Emperor, whereupon an imperial edict appeared appointing, instead of the Aidzu men, the clans of[26] Satsuma, Tosa, and Geishiu, as guardians of the Gates. Loyalty to the old regime led the Aidzu chieftain to oppose as far as he was able the deposition of the Shogun, until he was made aware that Keiki’s resignation had been accepted by the Emperor.

Clan jealousy was of course responsible to a very great extent for the opposition of the northern feudatories to the proposed changes, and in the broad sense of the term this was a conflict in which the south waged war on the north. For according to that spirit of loyalty to a chief which prevailed then and, happily for Japan, still prevails, throughout the Ten-shi’s realms, in spite of his subjects having taken for a model the matter-of-fact latter-day civilisation of the Occident, it was permissible to regard the Shogun’s voluntary submission as an act prompted solely by a desire to spare the lives of his followers, and as such one of which they were not obliged to take cognisance, for although there was no act of self-sacrifice in which they were not ready to join if it could be proved to be needful in their country’s interests, they held themselves to be in no way bound by a promise or declaration that their chief had been compelled, as they deemed it, to make under the pressure of circumstances. They regarded the Shogun as the victim of a political combination, and were indisposed on that account to yield to the ambitious dominance of the clansmen of the south. The Aidzu men, therefore, continued to oppose a solid front to the Kioto party, and in the vicinity of Wakamatsu itself many desperate contests took place. All the males of a family, from the father to the youngest son, are known in some cases to have taken the field in defence, as they believed, of their lord’s interests, and warfare of that determined character which those who have watched the career of the Japanese soldier of to-day can fully comprehend lasted in the north of Japan until late in 1868. During the preceding summer there was a fierce engagement at sea, close to the town of Hakodate, which resulted in the defeat of the Shogun’s squadron, at that time commanded by Admiral Yenomoto. Ultimately a general amnesty was proclaimed, and the ships which[27] remained under the Tokugawa flag were handed over to the newly-formed department of the imperial navy.

But before this came to pass, incredible as it may seem, an attempt was made, it was declared, to establish in Yeso some sort of republic, and the signatures to the remarkable document in which proclamation was made of the intentions of the promoters of this scheme included that of Otori Keisuke (now Baron), who later represented his nation with distinction as its Minister to the Court of Seoul. On board one of the vessels commanded by Admiral Yenomoto, moreover, in the engagement at Hakodate, was a young officer who in his later years has been the recipient of the highest honours in recognition of the splendid services rendered to his country in the course of a distinguished diplomatic career.

Strictly speaking, though the proceedings have been described at various times as tantamount to an effort to establish a republic it is impossible that the idea can ever have been entertained of overthrowing the authority of the Ten-shi, whose rule is based on principles which are in the minds of all his subjects immutable and indestructible. What the advocates of a republic for Yeso had in view could in reality have been but the setting up of an independent administration for the northern island, distinct from that of the Central government which it was proposed to provide for the whole Empire at Tokio. But the Shogunate Republic in Yeso, had it ever taken actual shape, would have been nothing more than a local administration owning allegiance to the sovereign power at Kioto, and it would have been more an imperial dependency than a republic.

The Shogun, at the time that he tendered his resignation of his office, had urged upon his imperial master the advisability of convening a meeting of daimios at the capital of Kioto, and his advice was taken. The lords of the various provinces assembled while the War of the Restoration, as it is termed, was yet in progress. A form of Government was decided upon in which the control of the administration was vested in a Council of State, presided over by a Chancellor (the Dai-jo-dai-jin) assisted[28] by two Vice-chancellors (the Sa-dai-jin, or Vice-chancellor of the Left, which in Japan ranks highest, and the U-dai-jin, or Vice-chancellor of the Right). The Administrative departments of State comprised those of the Imperial Household, Foreign Affairs, Finance, War, Education, Justice, and Religion, each with its departmental chief or Minister. The First Council as finally formed was composed of:—

Prince Sanjo Sanetomi Dai-jo-dai-jin: a Court noble.
Prince Iwakura Tomomi Sa-dai-jin: a Court noble.
Prince Shimadzu Saburo U-dai-jin. Of Satsuma.
Saigo Takamori Of Satsuma.
Okubo Toshimichi Of Satsuma.
Kido Takakoto Of Choshiu.
Inouye Bunda Of Choshiu.
Ito Hirobumi Of Choshiu.
Okuma Shigenobu Of Hizen.
Itagaki Taisuke Of Tosa.

The Ministry was in reality constituted to give equal representation to the four leading clans, as far as practicable, though the Choshiu and Satsuma influence actually predominated.

Acting under authority of his Majesty the members of the Council here mentioned had in the preceding January, on the occasion of the coup d’état, established a provisional government, and had called upon the Shogun to surrender his heritage and to submit himself entirely to the will of his imperial master. For some months past there had been frequent conferences at the Nijo Castle in Kioto between the Shogun and Goto Shojiro (late Count Goto), who, with Komatsu of the Satsuma clan, persistently urged upon the Shogun the advisability of establishing an Imperial Government, with the effect that his Highness had been on the point of yielding to their arguments. Goto was the trusted representative of the Tosa clan, and had brought a letter from his feudal lord addressed to the Shogun, in October 1867, recommending his Highness to resign his position of Shogun, for patriotic reasons. There is excellent ground for the belief widely entertained[29] in Japan, and which it is palpable his Majesty shares, that the Shogun, had he been wholly free to follow the dictates of his own heart, would have relinquished his office there and then, but a new complication arose through his followers coming to blows with the Satsuma retainers, thus compelling him either to repudiate them or to accept a position of absolute hostility to the new government of which the Satsuma chieftain was a leading member. It was with that extreme clemency which has throughout characterised the rule of the present monarch that in after years his Majesty spontaneously recognised that the Shogun had no real intention of being hostile to himself, and that it was mainly the acts of the adherents of the Tokugawa family which drove the Shogun into seeming antagonism to the party of reform. As already explained, the Emperor has recently conferred on the former Shogun a title by which his once lofty position in pre-Restoration days is fittingly acknowledged.

But for the time, as has been said, there was civil war, and its progress was marked by the almost continuous defeat of the Shogun’s forces, and their gradual retreat through the provinces of the Tokaido, the great eastern coast road, on the Shogun’s capital of Yedo, now Tokio. There in the famous castle some of the Tokugawa clansmen were closely besieged, while others made their way northward to the more remote regions of Aidzu and Oshiu, and again defied the imperialists until the future Field-marshal Yamagata finally hunted them down and compelled them to surrender as the only alternative to extermination. The Shogun himself finally retired into private life, at the urgent solicitation of Katsu, the lord of Awa province, in May 1868, five months after his resignation of his office in the first place had been formally accepted by the sovereign, and for what happened after May, until the autumn of that eventful year of 1868 saw the terrible internecine strife brought to a close, the Shogun cannot be held directly responsible. By many he has been blamed because he did not remain by the side of the young sovereign at Kioto in the stormy period which marked the last month of 1867 and the beginning[30] of 1868, but it must be remembered that as a consequence of the coup d’état of the 3rd January the provisional government had already thrust the Shogun aside and was issuing edicts for which it had the direct authority of the monarch. The Shogun’s office had in reality ceased by that time to exist. His presence at Kioto may well have seemed to him in those days to have become superfluous, and his sense of self-respect prompted him to retire to his own castle of Osaka three days later, on the 6th January, seeing that he was no longer being consulted on affairs of State. In the same month of January 1868, there was a naval engagement off Awaji, that “foam-land” to which reference has been made in connection with Japanese mythology, and which lies athwart the Inland Sea a little west of Kobé, the opposed squadrons consisting of the Satsuma vessels Lotus, Kiang-Su, and Scotland, and the Shogun’s Kaiyo Maru (the frigate bought from the Dutch), the yacht Emperor (Queen Victoria’s present to himself) and the Fujiyama, another steamer purchased abroad. The three Satsuma ships were part of the fleet which had in recent years gradually been formed by the lord of the fief in pursuance of his conviction that the possession of powerful vessels would some day or other prove advantageous to the clan. They held their own fairly against the stronger ships of which the Tokugawa party had simultaneously possessed itself, and though the Scotland was sunk off Awa Bay as a result of the encounter the Satsuma men had no reason to be ashamed of the figure they cut in this early clash of armaments at sea. The Satsuma vessels had been under fire before, for they had taken part in the resistance offered by the Satsuma clan to Admiral Kuper at Kagoshima, when he undertook to chastise the lord of their province in 1863. The Tokugawa ships returned to Osaka, or rather to Tempo-san, which is to the great commercial port of Japan what Gravesend is to London, and there they awaited the progress of events in that spring of 1868 which must be accounted the most stirring period of Japanese modern history, as the events already narrated when taken in conjunction with those which[31] have to be related will, it is believed, sufficiently demonstrate. It may be observed that after the battle of Fushimi, midway between Osaka and Kioto, which soon afterwards occurred, and in which the Tokugawa men were signally defeated, the frigate Kaiyo Maru was of the utmost service to the Shogun in conveying him from the region where his forces were meeting with nothing but disaster to a safe retreat for the time being at Yedo. He took passage in her from Tempo-san, and safely reached his own castle in what is now Tokio after two nights at sea.

The then British Minister, Sir Harry Parkes, early in the spring of 1868 despatched Messrs Satow and Willis to express to the newly formed Kioto Government his hope that the time might be deemed opportune for the inauguration of direct relations between the accredited representatives of Western powers and his Imperial Majesty, the Shogun having actually resigned three months or more before. Dr Willis was the medical officer attached to the British Legation, and at a later date took up his residence in Kagoshima, the chief town of Satsuma, where he was physician to the hospital which the clan established, and his services during the stormy days of the Restoration struggle and subsequently when the Satsuma men were nominally in rebellion were invaluable. The British Minister’s messengers were well received and hospitably entertained in Kioto, and were permitted to walk freely in the streets of the ancient capital of the Ten-shi, which was something that no foreigners had ever done before. The anti-foreign feeling was still very strong throughout Japan, as was proved by the wholesale massacre of a French vessel’s boat’s crew at Sakai, near Osaka. An officer and eleven men were killed in all, and the French Minister, M. Roches, made an imperative demand on the Shogun’s government, which at that time (February 1868) was administering the affairs of the country, for the delivery of the bodies of the murdered men within twenty-four hours, a request which it was found practicable as well as politic to comply with. Also a number of Bizen soldiers hailing from that province[32] washed by the Inland Sea, west of Awaji, had in passing through the newly opened port of Hiogo, vented their animosity towards the strangers whom they saw in the streets by running amok among them and firing with their rifles right and left. This crime, like that perpetrated at Sakai, was avenged, for the Government was strong enough to issue orders for the performance of seppuku by the culprits and to insist on execution of the sentences. The Bizen men were marching from Okayama to Osaka at the time when they allowed their anti-foreign ideas to outrun their discretion, the actual order to fire on the foreign residents being given by one Heiki Tatewaki, whose death was decreed by imperial edict and the then Governor of the port, the present Marquis Ito, was directed as his Majesty’s representative, to see the act of seppuku carried out in due form.


But there were worse troubles to follow, for when, in the month of March, Sir Harry Parkes went to Kioto on the invitation of the Emperor, to attend, in company with the Ministers of France and Holland, the first imperial audience of the reign of Meiji, he and his retinue were suddenly attacked in a public thoroughfare there, by two outlaws, of the “ro-nin” type already described, and the British representative had personally a very narrow escape. But for the magnificent courage shown by the Japanese officers who had been sent to meet the Emperor’s guest, Goto,—who rode by Sir Harry’s side, and Nakai,—who was immediately in front, with a member of the Legation guard,—both of these Japanese gentlemen having instantly engaged the ro-nins with their swords so effectually that one of the assailants was slain on the spot, and the other taken prisoner, afterwards to be executed, it is probable that Sir Harry would have been killed. The eminent services rendered by Count Goto (as he afterwards became) to his country are elsewhere recorded in this volume. Queen Victoria decorated him, and likewise Mr Nakai, for their gallantry on this occasion, and the Emperor manifested his poignant regret for the outrage when the following month the British Minister was received at Court. The Ten-shi gave practical effect,[33] moreover, to his abhorrence of these crimes by issuing a decree in which it was declared that all persons guilty in the future of murdering foreigners, or of committing any acts of violence towards them, would not only be transgressing the express commands of the Emperor, but would be the direct source of national misfortune, inasmuch as they would be committing the heinous offence of causing the national dignity and reputation for good faith to suffer diminution in the eyes of those Treaty Powers with which his Majesty had declared himself to be on terms of amity and friendship. The effect of such an edict on the minds of people so accustomed to obey their sovereign’s behests as are the Japanese could not be other than salutary, and although there were isolated cases in the years which ensued wherein attacks were made on strangers, the era of opposition to the entry of aliens was by this time practically at an end, and taken in conjunction with the abolition shortly afterwards of those anti-Christian edicts which had been promulgated by his predecessors on the throne it must be admitted that the Emperor speedily gave gracious and convincing evidence of his desire to rule with that justice and liberality towards humanity at large by which he has ever been distinguished throughout an already long reign.

These events have to be recorded in connection with the life of the imperial court at Kioto at a time when the war of the Restoration, as it is termed, was still in progress in the northern portion of the island of Hondo, and in many cases the fighting was of the most desperate character, fortune by no means invariably inclining towards the imperialists. There was a fierce encounter at Utsu-no-miya, a town about sixty miles north of the capital, resulting in a success for the Shogun’s side, their leader having been Otori Keisuke, who, after undergoing a term of imprisonment for his share in prolonging the rebellion, entered the Imperial Government service, and rose to occupy posts of distinction.

In October 1868, his Majesty Mutsuhito was crowned Emperor of Japan in the ancient castle of the Nijo, at[34] Kioto, and it was then that he took the oath to rule constitutionally, which was a purely voluntary act, prompted by an earnest desire to confer upon his people the advantages and blessings of enlightened government. A few weeks later, in the second month of 1869, he wedded the Princess Haruko, the daughter of a Court noble, and during the ensuing spring the Imperial court was wholly transferred to Yedo, that city being renamed Tokio, or Eastern Capital, to distinguish it from Kioto, which bore thenceforward the official title of Saikio, or Western capital. At Tokio his Majesty took up his abode in the Hon-maru, or Inner circle of the former castle of the Tokugawa family, and on the following 6th of September he received Prince Alfred of England in the palace gardens of Fuki-age, adjoining the imperial residence. This was the first occasion in the history of Japan on which the sovereign had ever met a foreign prince, all previous intercourse with strangers having taken place through the medium of the Shoguns. The interview between the Ten-shi and the British prince, afterwards the Duke of Edinburgh, took place in a tiny summer-house in the picturesque grounds of Fuki-age, then of considerable extent and laid out in wholly Japanese style, with its clumps of bamboo, groves of pine, masses of rhododendron, and azalea, rippling brooks, and grassy dells that go to form the delightful pleasaunces in which the heart of every Japanese rejoices. The meeting was of a most cordial character, the Emperor on that occasion wearing the unique old-fashioned head-dress which it was customary from time immemorial for the sovereigns of Japan to don on State occasions. His majesty only once afterwards appeared in public with this peculiar crown, and that was on the day that he opened the railway from Tokio to Yokohama in 1872. He has since worn foreign dress at all State functions.

Late in 1869 the Emperor was joined at Tokio by the young Empress Haruko, who travelled overland by the highroad termed the Tokaido, with an immense retinue, resting on the way at the prescribed honjins or private hotels used by the feudal lords on their former journeys[35] to and from Yedo, when the Shoguns required them to pay periodical visits to the headquarters of the Tokugawa government. The Empress was some weeks on the road from Kioto to Tokio, and as her procession passed through the street of Kanagawa, near Yokohama, the foreign residents took the opportunity to assemble at the wayside and show their respect for the Ten-shi’s consort. They did not catch a glimpse of her features, but they knew that behind the gauze-screened windows of her lacquered palanquin sat the highest lady of the land, perhaps as much interested in her first sight of the strangers from the west as they were with the various elements of the imperial cortege. Though her majesty had heard and read much of the characteristics of the Occidentals, she had never previously seen any of them; in after years, however, her own beneficent impulses in the cause of charity led her to receive on many occasions the wives and daughters of foreign residents and contributed to the establishment of an enduring fame as the strenuous advocate and supporter of all good works.

The Emperor was but little in evidence in the early years of his reign, and it was an event in the history of the nation when the monarch who had been brought up in such strict seclusion was one day seen in the streets of his capital driving in an open carriage to Hama-go-ten, the beach palace in the suburbs of Tokio, in company with his Ministers the Princes Sanjo and Iwakura. On this occasion he had done them the supreme honour of calling for them at their residences and conveying them in his own carriage to a ceremony in which they were both deeply concerned. This was on the 1st of October 1871, and it is difficult to estimate at its true value the extraordinary effect which so graceful an act on the part of the monarch who had only four years before succeeded to a dignity which seemed to impose on him an existence of absolute invisibility to his subjects must have had on those who were witnesses of this vast concession to modernised ideas. Under the old regime the princes would themselves have been hidden from the vulgar gaze by the latticed windows of their sedan chairs, and the sovereign[36] would never have been seen outside his own palace walls.

The next year the first line of railway was completed and the moment was seized by his Majesty’s advisers for a grand ceremony at the port which thirteen years before had been thrown open to foreign trade. A suitable stage had been erected at the Yokohama end of the eighteen miles long railway, over which an experimental train service had been conducted for some weeks previously, and at the appointed hour the Emperor, clad in white silk robes, with a crimson sash, and scarlet trousers, and wearing in place of a crown the antique black coif terminating in an upright lath-like structure which rose some ten inches above his head, came forward in full view of the multitude, which included hundreds of foreign residents and visitors. To the great mass of his subjects, with whom the existence of the sovereign had always been a matter of pious belief rather than of assured reality, this manifestation in the flesh of their revered ruler was beyond measure impressive and gratifying. It unquestionably smoothed the path of the newly formed Central Government, for the advent of his majesty on the scene was proof positive that all which was then being done in the way of innovation upon established usage had the imperial sanction and authority. In Japan this meant a great deal more, owing to the respect for law and order which is admittedly inherent to the Japanese character and disposition, than it by any possibility could have done in lands where less reverence is shown to sovereign attributes. The day was one to be remembered by old and young alike, for it marked beyond all doubt the emancipation of Japan from the thraldom of a feudal system which had held her in check for centuries. The Emperor had set the seal of his approval on projects of reform.

In the same year the Gregorian calendar was adopted throughout Japan, and from this period may be said to have been obliterated those discrepancies in dates which had been unavoidable owing to the tendency to resort to the Chinese plan of reckoning time. Down to the year named the day of the month corresponded to the age[37] of the moon, and an intercalary month had to be provided in the calendar every third year. The new year fell usually between mid-January and mid-February, and as dates were given in conformity with the old style of reckoning in some cases and in others the new, it may be that down to 1872 there will here and there be found a difference of a month or so in the recorded dates of events.

The opening of the railway in 1872 from Tokio to Yokohama, though of no great length, made communication between the capital and its port a far more easy matter than it had been at the time when the Tokaido was the only highway and traffic was liable to dislocation by the passage of a daimio and his retinue of two-sworded samurai. It is true that for some two or three years prior to the date on which the regular service of trains between the two places began to work a revolution in the system of travel there had been a steamer or two plying to and from the wharf at Tsukiji, near the Hama-go-ten Palace, in Tokio, and the jetty at Yokohama which then existed near the northern end of the “Bund” or Esplanade. But the accommodation, though the residents freely enough availed themselves of such facilities as the service afforded, was of the most limited and primitive character, and was necessarily wholly inadequate to the demand for the means of transport of that almost pauseless ebb and flow of the tide of humanity along the shores of the bay which from the days of Kaempfer had never failed to attract the attention of travellers. One of the saddest incidents of the early days of the new era was the explosion of the small steamer Yeddo as she lay at the Tsukiji “hatoba” with steam up in readiness for her daily voyage to Yokohama, some scores of lives being sacrificed on that occasion. The Yeddo was one of the pioneers of the coasting trade of Japan, which has since grown to proportions truly enormous.

While the railway to the “Eastern capital” was being built, another line was commenced from the newly opened port of Kobé-Hiogo to Osaka and on to the “Western capital” of Kioto. It was officially opened for traffic in 1873, the Emperor being present on the occasion, which[38] gave rise to great national rejoicing. The improved methods of transport had by that time been extensively supplemented by greatly enhanced facilities for intercommunication in the form of telegraph lines, which had been stretched over practically the entire length of the highroad from Tokio to Nagasaki, close upon 1000 English miles. The work was done in the days when the peasantry of the interior had no conception of the value of such aids to commerce and were not easily to be persuaded to refrain from interference therewith. In many cases the telegraph poles were uprooted as soon as they were planted in the ground, and in others the opposition to the innovation took the form of active hostility to the individuals, both native and foreign, charged with the duties of carrying out the proposed works. The origin of this antagonism, however, was to be ascribed solely to local prejudice, and the punishment of the ringleaders proved to be a sufficient deterrent to the rest, for after the first few months the attacks entirely ceased.

At this stage the residents of the Capital had become somewhat accustomed to see the Emperor riding or driving through the streets of the metropolis, for he periodically reviewed his troops on the Hibiya parade ground, and not infrequently was to be seen visiting places at some distance from his capital. The greatest concern was manifested by all classes when, late one night in the spring of 1873, the signal guns were heard to announce that a fire had broken out within the castle. There was a prompt muster of the forces forming the Tokio garrison and for a while the utmost consternation prevailed. The damage done was immense, and the actual source of the outbreak was discovered to have been in such dangerous proximity to the imperial apartments as to suggest for the moment that there had again been a preconcerted arrangement to seize the person of his Majesty, in the confusion which might well have been expected to arise on the warning guns being fired. Happily the monarch was efficiently guarded, and whatever may have been the true cause of the conflagration there was[39] no difficulty in removing the Court to another palace at Akasaka, in the suburbs, wherein his Majesty dwelt during the rebuilding on a modern design of the imperial residence within the Honmaru. In the thoroughfares of Tokio were at this time to be seen scores of Satsuma samurai, retainers of the feudal chieftain Shimadzu Saburo, who was occupying the position in the new Government of Sa-dai-jin, or Vice-president of the Left, as already mentioned, and these ardent spirits of the warlike clan of the south found much in the changes that were then taking place to be displeased with. They persisted in wearing their two swords in their belts, and had their hair dressed in the old-fashioned queue. Their retention of the old style of costume, too, with its loose trousers, sandals for the feet, and lacquered helmet tied with cords for the chin, among a population that was already beginning to adopt foreign fashions to a notable extent, made them conspicuous and provoked the ridicule of the lower classes. This the Satsuma clansmen were quick to resent, and here and there slight skirmishes were recorded, the general effect being to create a feeling of uneasiness which lasted for many weeks until the Satsuma chieftain, as elsewhere explained, resigned his office and returned to his stronghold of Kagoshima in the summer of 1873.

The year 1874 was memorable as that of the expedition to Formosa, when Japan chastised the savages of the south-east coast of that island for their ill treatment of Japanese shipwrecked sailors. China’s attention had been drawn to these barbarities, but she had professed her utter inability to put a stop to them, and Japan had then warned the Peking Government that if the savages should continue to subject Japanese mariners or others who might be cast away on Formosan shores to the inhuman treatment which it had been the fate of others in misfortune to experience the Tokio Cabinet would know what to do. A fresh incident arose and Japan was as good as her word. The younger brother of the Saigo Takamori whose fame as a leader will never wane was selected as the Chief of the Expedition, and to him, afterwards[40] the Marquis Saigo, his Majesty entrusted the duty of vindicating the honour of the Japanese Empire, of which it must never be said that it has shown the slightest hesitation to hit out when the interests of its own people have been imperilled. In past years her arm has not always been long enough to extend support to her subjects over-sea, but it is Japan’s aim, as it is that of Britain, to convince the rest of the world that while she repudiates most vigorously the idea that she seeks territorial aggrandisement or covets the recognition of an unchallenged supremacy in the Far East, she at all times resents the slightest attempt to trespass on what are regarded by her statesmen as the boundaries of her national safety. If Japan’s arm is growing longer and her policy seems to be far-reaching, it is but the natural outcome of her resolve to protect her people wherever they may be and to encourage their lawful desires for expansion into fresh fields of enterprise as the result of the remarkable growth of her population at home.

The Formosan expedition proved a complete success, and a detailed account of its progress will be met with elsewhere in these pages. It gave to the newly formed army its first opportunity of displaying to the satisfaction of the sovereign its qualifications as a fighting force, inasmuch as the difficulties which it had to encounter, although its adversaries were savages, were naturally on a formidable scale, and the undertaking bore in this respect a strong resemblance to what have been described as Britain’s “little wars.” The upshot was that the tribesmen of the Formosan east and south-east coasts developed a wholesome fear of the prowess of disciplined troops and from that time forward there were no recorded instances of their maltreatment of mariners, whilst at the present day the best effects are perceptible from the spread of education among them in consequence of the establishment of native schools in Formosa since it became a Japanese Colony. There was, however, an additional advantage secured to Japan by the expedition, in that it served for the time to divert attention from the ever-pressing political questions arising from China’s somewhat[41] irritating attitude, mainly in regard to Korea. From time immemorial the monarch of Korea had paid tribute to Japan at stated intervals much in the way that he had paid an annual tribute to China, but owing to Japan’s preoccupation with other and weightier matters the practice had fallen into desuetude. Instigated by ambitious Chinese officials, as it was generally supposed, Korea had sought to free herself from any and all obligations to continue this practice, and by way of emphasising this reluctance to be bound by old traditions the Koreans had thought fit to attack the Japanese Legation and to otherwise commit unfriendly acts towards their immediate neighbours on the east. The Samurai of Satsuma and the other southern clans clamoured to be led against the Koreans,—and if the Koreans should be supported by China, then against the Chinese as well,—in order that these insults to the Japanese flag might be avenged. It was a strong plea, but it had to be resisted, for Japan was not ready to embark at that time in a great war. Consequently the Government deemed it prudent to be content with the compensation offered and the establishment of a garrison for the Legation at Seoul which might suffice to adequately protect its staff. By the ardent followers of the Satsuma chieftain, however, this was regarded as wholly insufficient, and matters had reached a decidedly perilous stage when the despatch of an expedition to Formosa happily provided an outlet for the superabundant energies of the younger swordsmen. The personnel of the punitive force consisted largely of Satsuma samurai, and right well did the men acquit themselves in the tasks which fell to their share in the mountainous wilds of “the Beautiful Isle.”

A few months prior to the setting out of the Formosan Expedition there had been an insurrection in Saga, the chief town of the Hizen province, led by Yeto Shimpei, who had not long before been a member of the new Government. The rising had been very quickly suppressed, and without much bloodshed, but it was an indication that the policy of the new administration met with scant favour in some of the regions remote from the[42] metropolis, where the spirit of the people was, for want of wider knowledge, very averse to what were viewed as pernicious innovations based upon a wholesale introduction of Occidental manners and customs. Though the antipathy to foreign methods subsided with the punishment of the foremost of the Saga insurgents, the embers were not wholly extinguished, and less than three years later they burst once more into flame at Kagoshima, as will presently appear, and in the meantime the growing hostility in Satsuma to the proceedings of the Tokio Cabinet revealed itself in a variety of ways, though it was the policy of the administration to avoid the danger of driving matters to extremities with the warlike clansmen of the extreme south, at the head of whom stood Saigo Takamori, then resident on his own farm in the vicinity of the castle town which was the Satsuma stronghold and the headquarters of its quasi-independent military organisation. Nevertheless, the clansmen continued their regular drilling and set utterly at naught the remonstrances of the Tokio Government.

Affairs in Satsuma reached their climax in February 1877, when a march to Kioto was decided upon, the military cadets and the clansmen, mustering over 12,000, having resolved on accompanying their leader Saigo Takamori on a journey to the Western capital ostensibly to beg for the intervention of his Majesty in respect of the grievances which Satsuma claimed to be enduring at the hands of the existing Tokio Government. The telegraph promptly carried the news to Kioto of the departure of this formidable force from Kagoshima, and preparations were instantly made to oppose its progress. The Emperor proclaimed Saigo and his followers to be in rebellion, and the Emperor’s uncle, Prince Arisugawa, was directed to inflict punishment on the offenders. The incidents of the campaign in Kiushiu which ensued are set forth at length elsewhere in this volume, and order was not restored in the southern island until the autumn of the year, after a period of the most disastrous strife in which Satsuma was a house divided against itself, inasmuch as there were many of the clan who remained[43] faithful to the imperial standard, notably the younger Saigo, afterwards marquis, and Admiral Kawamura, who commanded the imperial fleet.

The Emperor remained for some time at his Kioto palace before returning to Tokio, and it was known at the time that this outbreak of hostilities in a part of his dominions occasioned his Majesty the most profound sorrow, the more so that Saigo Takamori had led his own forces to victory ten years before, when the imperialists had been plunged into warfare with the adherents of the Shogun. That Marshal Saigo should have been so ill advised as to head an insurrection was to the monarch whom he had in former years served so faithfully a source of the most poignant grief, and the sad end of the arch-rebel, in battle on the crest of Shiroyama, in the town of Kagoshima, made a deep impression on all in Japan. The Emperor’s attribute of magnanimity was displayed only a few years ago in the grant of a peerage to the son of the famous Satsuma leader, and the imperial approval of the erection of a monument to his memory in the public park of Uyeno, in Tokio. The record of Saigo’s rebellion has been effaced, and only his splendid services to the State in the years prior to 1877 are kept in his sovereign’s remembrance.

The period which followed the war in Satsuma was one of uninterrupted industry and persevering endeavour on the part of all the Ten-shi’s subjects to make up for the time which had been lost by the civil war. Immense interest was taken in the advancement of education and the spread of commercial enterprise, the shipping and manufacturing trades being diligently fostered by wise enactments that were often the outcome of the ruler’s own initiative. There can be no doubt that at this period were laid the foundations of that unexampled industrial prosperity which has distinguished the latter portion, down to the present time, of the Meiji era, and which, resting as it does on the most secure basis—one which even a war with a great European power has been powerless to disturb—bids fair to last for ages to come.

In 1880 the Imperial edict appeared establishing the[44] prefectural assemblies, local parliaments which served in not a few instances to develop a talent for debate in political aspirants, and likewise to familiarise the agricultural population, wherein lies the main strength of the nation, with the principles of representative institutions on a larger scale, such as had been foreshadowed by the Imperial promise made at the time of the Emperor’s accession. That promise was reiterated, and a definite date assigned for the opening of the Japanese Diet, by his Majesty in the following year. It was in 1880, too, that the new Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure, on both of which a vast amount of careful consideration had been bestowed, were promulgated, the codes themselves having been compiled with a lucidity and completeness which leave nothing to be desired. There is no ambiguity about the laws of Japan, and as translations have been made and published under the sanction of the Government, accessible to all, it is practicable for a stranger to make himself acquainted with the rules and regulations applicable to every walk of life without the aid of lawyer or interpreter.

The announcement that the Emperor had determined to grant a Constitution was everywhere received with joy and gratitude, for though the time had not, it was fully comprehended, yet arrived when it would be feasible for a representative assembly to meet, the nation had the sovereign’s word for it that there would be no needless delay.

Under the system which existed in the early years of the Meiji era the Ministry had consisted of those charged with the conduct of Foreign and Home Affairs, the management of the naval and military forces, of the national finances, of ecclesiastical affairs, and of public instruction. At the side of the Ministry stood the Sa-In, or Senate, of which there were thirty-two members, and the Sho-In, or Council of State, the number of members whereof was unlimited,—the nominations to both these bodies being made by the sovereign. The power of the Emperor was in those days, in both temporal and spiritual affairs, regarded as boundless, and a voluntary surrender[45] of rights which,—though they had often in the past history of the nation lain dormant,—had existed unchallenged from remote antiquity,—was a concession the importance of which could not be too highly esteemed. The Senate (Gen-Ro-In, as it was latterly termed) was composed of Peers of the realm, and of persons who had rendered the country distinguished service in their several capacities, or who were eminent by reason of their erudition, and its duty was to take charge of legislative matters referred to it by the Cabinet or introduced at the instance of the Senate itself. The Gen-Ro-In was likewise empowered to receive petitions regarding legislation from outside sources, so that in its functions it was largely the forerunner of the present House of Peers, as constituted under the edict of 1889. There was also a Local Governors’ Council, which resembled to some extent a national assembly, though composed of officially nominated members, for it was directed by imperial rescript on its first sitting that its duties would be “to attend to the affairs of State as the representative of the people’s interests.” In the same rescript the Emperor declared that the said Council had been called together “in pursuance of the solemn promise, given by Us on the occasion of Our accession to the Throne, to summon delegates of Our subjects to assist Us in the conduct of affairs of State, to make with those delegates arrangements calculated to cement the amicable understanding that prevails between rulers and ruled, and to enable both to co-operate for the common good of the country.” It was added that the Governors who attended the Council were in “no danger of incurring the displeasure of the Government for any opinion enunciated by them at the meeting.” The Council which had thus existed since 1875 was abolished in 1880, but meanwhile the prefectural assemblies had been established, and there were thus other legitimate channels for voicing public opinion.

The next year saw the issue of the proclamation providing for the assembly of a truly national representative body in 1890, and meanwhile Marquis Ito and his staff were diligently preparing the Constitution and the[46] Laws bearing upon elections to the Diet and the Houses themselves, all of which were proclaimed in 1889, on the 11th February, the anniversary of the ascension of the throne by Jimmu Tenno. Thus was fulfilled in its entirety the promise made in the “Charter Oath,” as it is termed, taken by his Majesty on his coronation. The Imperial Rescript has been throughout the guide and mainstay of the people’s hopes and ambitions, and in its original form it was worded as under;—(the translation is almost literal)—

I. In administering the business of the State, We shall settle affairs by public opinion, which shall have an opportunity of expressing itself in public representative assembly.

II. Our administrations shall be in the interests of the whole people, and not of any particular class of Our subjects.

III. No person, whether official or private citizen, shall be hindered in the prosecution of his legitimate business.

IV. The bad customs of past ages shall be abolished, and Our Government shall tread in the paths of civilisation and enlightenment.

V. We shall endeavour to raise the prestige and honour of Our country by seeking knowledge throughout the world.

In 1893, when Parliamentary institutions were in their infancy, the representative assemblies having met for the first time in 1890, the climax was reached in a furious political agitation by the Lower House of the Diet voting a wholesale reduction of the Government expenditure, to which the Ministry absolutely refused to consent. It was then that the Emperor intervened with a characteristic message impartially addressed to both his Cabinet and to the Diet, pointing out facts which he was resolved to bring to their remembrance. The Emperor declared[47] that the progress of foreign countries in which representative institutions had taken root had been rapid and constant, but that if disputes and bickerings were indulged in not only would time be wasted and energies dissipated but the attainment of those worthy objects for which all were working would be hindered and delayed. He continued;—“We have full confidence in the faith and ability of the servants of Our Crown, and have committed to their care the execution of measures calculated to promote our designs, and We have no doubt but that the representatives of Our people will share with Us in our care for the national welfare. The expenditures mentioned in Article 67 of the Constitution—i.e. those connected with naval and military administration—should not be the cause of any dispute or contention, seeing that they have the express written sanction of Our Decree. In the matter of administrative reform, We have given special instruction to Our Ministers to give the fullest consideration, so that there may be no error in the conclusions they arrive at, and then come to Us for Our sanction to any reforms they may desire to introduce. The question of national defence is one which brooks no delay, and in order to show our own sense of its paramount importance We have directed that the expenditures of Our Household be cut down, so that We may be able to contribute a yearly sum of Yen 300,000 [£30,000] for the next six years to the necessary equipment of the national defences. We have at the same time ordered all officers and officials in Our service to contribute, unless excused by Us for exceptional reasons, one-tenth of their salaries, for the same period of years, towards the expenses of naval construction. We depend, therefore, on the co-operation, along constitutional lines, of Ministers and Representatives, in the accomplishment of our great national tasks; and We call upon Our people, one and all, to do their duties in this matter.”

That proclamation appeared in 1893, one year before the outbreak of war with China, and it had the effect of putting an end to the disputes, for all sides cheerfully[48] acquiesced in the wisdom and impartiality of the sovereign’s decision.

During the war with China in 1894-5, the Emperor’s solicitude for the welfare of his people and the painstaking diligence with which he entered into the minutest details of the naval and military plans for the prosecution of the campaign in Manchuria and Shantung, his unwearying attendance at his desk in the Hiroshima headquarters for more than eight months without change, having left his Court behind him when he took upon himself the serious burdens of conducting the war, endeared him to his people to an extent that no mere words could effectively describe. When at the close of the long struggle he returned to his capital his reception was such as to have satisfied his utmost aspirations and must have convinced him that his subjects feel for him not the traditional reverence they owe to a sovereign but the deep and abiding regard of a loving people.

Her Majesty the Empress has been for thirty-seven years the devoted consort of the ruler, and is esteemed throughout the imperial dominions as the very embodiment of all the womanly virtues. While the Emperor is immeasurably concerned with the welfare of the army and navy, her Majesty takes the utmost personal interest in the Red Cross Society, and continually works for the benefit of the hospitals, her greatest happiness consisting in identifying herself with or aiding with her own hands the undertakings of charitable institutions. In the wars which Japan has gone through the care of the sick and wounded has been the subject of the Empress’s most anxious thought, she and the four young princesses having toiled at bandage-making and other useful occupations day after day. She regularly devotes much time to such tasks, encouraging the sick with cheering words, and she rigorously pared down her household’s expenditure from the outset, in order that the contributions made to benevolent societies might be the more munificent. She has always been a liberal patroness of the arts, and in the direction of education she has been untiring in her promotion of worthy objects. There is not a man or[49] woman in the empire who would allude to her Majesty in terms short of the most profound and respectful regard, and the people yield her homage not more by right of her exalted station than in their universal recognition of her queenly attributes and personal charm.

The Crown Prince has received an education which has among other things fitted him to become in due course of time the Commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy. He does not take part in active service, but all the other princes of the blood have by the Emperor’s desire entered the services afloat or ashore, and have very recently been serving as Military or Naval officers in war.

The late Prince Arisugawa, as the chief of the general staff, was at the headquarters at Hiroshima during the China War, and planned all the operations of the campaign. He died at the age of sixty-one from the results of hard work and exposure, during the trying months from September 1894 to January 1895.

He was succeeded in his office by his relative, the late Prince Komatsu, who in March 1895 proceeded to China as Commander-in-chief of the army in the field.

Prince Kita-Shirakawa was also in the field as commander of the imperial guards division, and fought at Port Arthur, and in Formosa, where he died before the end of the war from the effects of climate. He was universally popular as an officer, and his early decease was deplored. Prince Takehito Arisugawa was at Wei-hai-wei and the Pescadores, and did good service as the captain of the Matsushima.

Prince Kanin, as a major and officer of the staff, fought bravely in the Liaotung peninsula, and likewise took part in the Russo-Japanese war, in which also three of the imperial princes were under fire, before Port Arthur.

Prince Higashi Fushimi was a commander on board the Chitose, Prince Yamashina on the Yakumo, and Prince Fushimi was on the Hatsusé.

It was a source of immense pride to the nation that these princes of the imperial house were all actively engaged on its behalf in the hour of trial.


Thirty-eight years ago the Emperor began his most auspicious reign with the solemn message to his people, conveyed in the Go-Jo-no-Go-Sei-Moni.e. a Decree of Five Articles previously referred to:—

“On ascending the Throne of Our Ancestors, Our determination is, in spite of all difficulties that may beset Our path, to rule Our country in person, to secure the peace of all Our subjects, to open friendly relations with other countries, to make Our country glorious, and to establish the nation on a permanent basis of prosperity and happiness.”

With extreme tenacity of purpose and the most steadfast determination the sovereign has never deviated a hair’s-breadth from the course which he set himself to follow. He cast aside at the outset the ties which might have bound him to an ancient feudalism, resolved to substitute Constitutional and Parliamentary Government for the Absolutism that his predecessors on the throne had exercised, and by his countenance and example rendered feasible the adoption by his people of all the arts and sciences known to modern civilisation, in order that the nation might ultimately raise itself to a pinnacle of greatness never before attained by a purely Asiatic Empire.

Under his Majesty’s wise rule Japan has developed her latent resources and extended her commerce to a degree that has transcended even the most sanguine expectations of her mercantile men, while she has perfected within her borders the essentials of a permanent system of defence, naval and military, ample for her needs.

The address which the Emperor first issued to his Army and Navy made the deepest impression on the minds of all, and its stirring tones have rung in the ears of his soldiers and sailors ever since, as they have braced themselves to measure strength with their enemies on land and sea. The Emperor said:—

“As your Commander-in-chief We fully rely upon you as We do upon Our own hands, and[51] desire you to look to Us as your head, so that the relation between us may be one of absolute and sincere confidence and trust. Whether We perform Our duty successfully or not, depends entirely on the manner in which you perform yours. If Our country fails to stand high in the opinion of other nations, We desire you to share in Our sorrow. If it rises with honour, We will enjoy the fruits of it with you. Stand firm in your duty; assist Us in protecting the country; and the result must be the prosperity of the nation and the enhancement of Our country’s reputation.”

This is the “imperial message” the terms of which are graven deep on the memories of men of both services in Japan, inspiring them with ardour in the heat of battle and encouraging them to patiently endure the inevitable privations and suffering of their lot. The root-principle of their conduct is strict conformity with the Emperor’s Message, their one anxiety not to fall short of their duty in executing the ruler’s commands. The imperial charge laid upon them is that they shall be brave and enduring, true and honourable in their actions, simple and frugal in their habits.

In their Emperor they have always had a brilliant example set them, not only of diligence in the performance of daily tasks, but of the practice of that frugality and adherence to a simple mode of life which is enjoined upon all. His menage is noticeably free from ostentation, his wardrobe and table being almost meagrely supplied. Winter and summer he is at his desk by 8 A.M., ready for the transaction of State business, and his endurance is marvellous, for when occasion demands it he will continue at work far into the night, ever ready to receive any of his ministers in audience should matters of serious importance arise. The Emperor is well known to his people to have the habit of closely questioning those who may come before him until he has mastered the facts of a case, and then he gives his decision without hesitation. His fondness for horses is proverbial, and it is always[52] on horseback that he appears at reviews of his troops, or at the annual manœuvres, when he conducts the operations in person, as Commander-in-chief. His Majesty’s sympathies are promptly aroused by the oft-recurring calamities that unhappily sweep over Japan, in the form of tornadoes, earthquakes, tidal waves, conflagrations, or epidemics,—he condoles with the sufferers,—and his privy purse is open to the relief of real distress. His personal attributes have won the respect and affection of his people, now numbering 46,000,000—an increase of 14,000,000 has taken place in the population of his dominions since he came to the throne—and in an intensely practical age like the present it is stimulating to discover that there is a nation in the distant Orient which, while its sons have fought their way to “a place in the sun,” has nevertheless preserved throughout a whole-souled devotion and unquestioning loyalty to its monarch, never exceeded, never perhaps equalled, in the history of the globe.

Allusion has been made to the Emperor’s predilection for writing short poems as a relaxation from the cares of State. They are occasionally given out for publication in the daily journals and appear under the heading of Giyo-Seii.e. Imperial Compositions. Those of last year frequently bore reference to the war in which his forces were engaged in Manchuria, and two may here be quoted in illustration of the trend of his Majesty’s thought during that anxious period:—

Ikanaran koto ni aite mo, tayumanu wa,
Waga shikishima no Yamato-damashii.
Scorning to yield, whatever fate’s decree—
Undaunted is the soul of my Japan.
Shiraku mono yoso ni motomu na yo no hito no
Makoto no michi zo Shikishima no michi.
Sincere as one who seeks for that which lies beyond,—
My country’s course shall be.



Prior to the Meiji era, which began in 1867, the Shogun (known in foreign countries as the Tycoon), who was the Emperor’s deputy at Yedo, now Tokio, personified the military supremacy of a feudal system which had existed for many centuries, the last occupant of the post being the direct descendant of the founder of the Tokugawa house in which the office of Shogun had been hereditary from the year 1603. Possibly the history of Modern Japan might have taken a different turn but for the recognition by the Shogun Hitotsubashi Yoshinobu, otherwise Tokugawa Keiki, of the necessity of introducing reforms into his country if it were to hold its own against the tendency to deal arbitrarily with the nations of the Orient which was half-a-century since being manifested by some of the powers of the Occident. Prince Keiki placed his resignation in 1868 in the hands of his imperial master and counselled the adherents of the Tokugawa house to unite with those of the Southern clans in efforts for the well-being of the nation at large. That his followers could not be persuaded at once to take his advice can scarcely be regarded as the fault of the Shogun, who had only the year previously succeeded to the honours of the position yet was prompt to relinquish them in order, as he hoped, to avert some of the horrors of civil war. Tokugawa Keiki was chosen by the Mito branch of the family to follow the Shogun Iyemochi in 1866, and he succeeded to power at Yedo castle at a moment when Japan was racked with dissensions between the party which opposed the opening of the ports to foreign trade and that which was in favour of the admission of strangers. The Shogun Iyesada, who in 1854 and subsequent years had entered into the treaties with[54] the representatives of the Occidental nations, had been repudiated by his imperial master, the Emperor Komei, who for a long time refused to ratify these agreements. Even though he eventually signed them the nation remained sharply divided within itself on the question of the introduction of foreign methods. It is almost necessary, in order that the position occupied at this period by the Shogun should be fairly comprehended, to allude briefly to the earlier history of Japan, from about the time of the Emperor Konoye, who was contemporary with King Stephen of England. The rise of the military caste in Japan dates from that era, when the Taira and Minamoto families were contending for the mastery, and it was a period which has been termed not altogether inaptly that of the Japanese “wars of the roses” (the badges worn were really red and white chrysanthemums), inasmuch as the rival clans were intimately related to each other, and strove to place their respective candidates in possession of the real executive power, which was even then becoming gradually acquired by the deputies of the true sovereigns who dwelt at Kioto. Ultimately the Minamoto family prevailed, in the person of the famous warrior Yoritomo, about 1185 A.D., and seven years later, when his authority had been firmly established, he received from the reigning sovereign the title of Sei-I-Tai-Sho-Gun—i.e. Barbarian-vanquishing-Generalissimo, in allusion to the duty of guarding Japan from the inroads of those northern savages who at that period made occasional descents on the coasts of Oshiu. The headquarters of the Shogun’s government were then at Kamakura, a place of great interest to travellers at the present day, and within easy reach of the port of Yokohama. Kamakura as it now stands contains but few traces of its former glories, but the temple dedicated to Hachiman, the Japanese Mars, is of noble proportions and annually attracts thousands of pilgrims who journey thitherward in confident expectation of obtaining relief or benefit from the virtue inherent in this celebrated shrine. In Yoritomo’s day it was a city of 1,000,000 inhabitants, but its yashiki walls, crumbling to powder, are fast disappearing,[55] and its magnificent avenues of cedar ceased to resound to the martial tread of mail-clad warriors centuries ago. Kamakura fell, as Yedo rose, and Yedo castle, some portions of which yet exist, adjoining the Imperial palace, was begun in 1592. It is Kamakura that boasts the possession of the bronze image of Buddha, over fifty feet in height, towering from its high pedestal above the groves of pine that surround the temple, and forming a conspicuous landmark as the village is first seen from a hill on the Fujisawa road. After Yoritomo’s death the Ho-jo family gained an ascendency in the affairs of the nation and practically ruled it until 1333 A.D., for the Shoguns of that epoch were scarcely more than figureheads. But it is to the everlasting credit of the Ho-jo that when Kublai Khan sought to subjugate Japan, in the thirteenth century, the defence of the country was in their hands so complete as to have led to as overwhelming a defeat of the Mongol armada as that which Queen Elizabeth of England inflicted upon the presumptuous Spaniards in 1588. The Mongol invaders had, like the Duke of Medina Sidonia, not only to contend against the very active defenders of the realms which they sought to invade, but also with fierce storms at sea that threw their vessels into confusion and exposed the scattered fragments of Kublai Khan’s immense fleet to separate and disastrous attack from the Japanese vessels manned by resolute samurai.


The armada which had threatened Japan’s independence had no sooner been disposed of than internecine strife began afresh, and rival dynasties of Shoguns kept the land in a ferment until, in 1392, the northern or Ashikaga line proved itself the stronger, and Japan entered into the enjoyment of two centuries of almost uninterrupted peace. Under the Ashikaga administration the country flourished exceedingly, and the epoch is famed in Japanese history as one in which learning and the sciences advanced to a degree of perfection never before known. High art and culture everywhere prevailed.

It was during the supremacy of the Ashikaga Shoguns that the geisha first became popular in Japan, and the[56] musical instrument termed the samisen was introduced from the Loo-Choo islands. The earliest trace to be met with of the use of this species of guitar is contained in a history of events for the year 1558, and it has been suggested that the Loo-Choo people obtained the instrument from the Spaniards who came to the Philippines in 1520, and continued their voyage under Magellan northward as far as Nafa. But this view of the samisen’s origin is not entirely concurred in by Japanese archæologists who hold that it is improbable, for many reasons, that it is merely a bad copy of the guitar. The Loochooans called it the Jamisen, and used it to scare away snakes, because its sound was, as they declared, much like the cry of the mongoose (ichneumon), which is the implacable enemy of the serpent tribe. Possibly this explanation of the purpose which their special instrument of music was made of old to serve may not altogether commend itself to the geisha body to-day, and it would appear to be more probable that snake’s skin was stretched on the drum where ordinarily vellum is employed,—in more recent time cat’s skin has been used,—and that ja = serpent, and mi = body, sen = strings, may be the actual derivation of the name, though as written now in Japan it might mean “three dainty threads.” The geisha’s office was to sing, dance, play the samisen or other musical instrument, to pour out wine for the guests, and generally to infuse gaiety and good humour among the convives, her title of gei = accomplishments, and sha = exponent, sufficiently indicating the nature of the services she was engaged to render. She was, in fact, a professional entertainer, and in the luxurious days of the Ashikaga Shogunate she became fashionable, and has never lost her popularity. Her taste in dress is considered to be unapproachable, her coiffure is a triumph of the hairdresser’s art,—the recognised style being some form or other of the “shimada,” a fashion brought to the capital centuries ago from the town of Shimada, a railway station midway between Tokio and Kioto,—she is entirely her own mistress, and often lives in her own house, though in the majority of cases she dwells with others and has an agent who makes contracts[57] for her. Her attractions may draw patrons and benefit the landlord, as he is quick to perceive, of the restaurant to which she may choose to attach herself, and if she should be summoned to a house or to take part in an entertainment to which she does not care to go, she is at perfect liberty to decline the invitation. Anything less resembling the life of slavery that it is sometimes represented to be it would be difficult to imagine. Her singing and dancing are usually remunerated at a fixed price per half-hour, varying according to her status as an accomplished entertainer, and she is not infrequently called upon to display her abilities to a party composed exclusively of ladies, whose wish it may be, like that of the other sex, to beguile the tedium of a winter evening by her witty conversation and her skill in music. Finally it must be added that a geisha of good repute is more sought after than one whose morality is deemed to be somewhat lax. In any case her character is always known to the police, for it is the rule that she must take out a licence as an entertainer, and the Chief Superintendent of the Section, in handing the document to her, commonly adds some words of fatherly admonition to avoid the many pitfalls that of necessity lie in her path.

The nation once more experienced the miseries of civil strife towards the close of the sixteenth century, this time by reason of the introduction of a religion which differed from that which had been dominant in Japan for twenty-three centuries, and likewise from that Buddhism which had found its way eastward 1000 years before from India. The Portuguese had obtained the right, under the Ashikaga rule, to settle in Japan, and in 1542 they brought with them,—what were altogether strange at that time to the Ten-shi’s people,—firearms, and the doctrines of the Roman Catholic faith. The keen desire manifested by the Jesuits to make proselytes speedily provoked the antagonism of the Buddhist and Shinto priesthoods, but, as was the case in China, the climax seems to have been reached only with the assumption by the new-comers of political power. To such pretensions the ruling house[58] at Yedo could but oppose all its strength, and the patriotism of the country asserted itself in the form of a persecution that left no stone unturned in the effort to rid the land of a direct menace to its existence as an independent monarchy, secure from the influences of the Church of Rome. But the expulsion of the visitors was not accomplished until many years after the supremacy of the Ashikaga line had been successfully challenged by Nobunaga, and to the renowned Hideyoshi,—the Taiko-sama, or Great general,—had succeeded the scarcely less famous Iyeyasu, “the Law-giver,” who founded the Toku-gawa dynasty of Shoguns, and himself to all intents and purposes governed the country, from his accession in 1603 to the post of Sei-I-Tai-Sho-Gun, to his death in 1616, for though nominally he gave way to his third son, Hidetada, in 1605, he really ruled in his son’s name, and retained the executive power in his own hands. His ostensible retirement was due to his desire for leisure to frame his system of laws for the better government of the empire, and he drew up a scheme for the effective subordination of the provincial dai-mios, or feudatories, to the ruling authority at Yedo, which remained in force until the Restoration of direct sovereign rule, in 1868.

The Shogun Iyeyasu was descended from the Minamoto family, and the name Toku-gawa, lit.: stream of blessings, is said to have been taken from a river and village of the same name in the province of Shimo-tsuke, and not far from the celebrated Nikko Shrines. On the banks of the little Tokugawa the Shogun’s ancestors had dwelt, as farmers, for centuries, but the father of Iyeyasu,—Toku-gawa Shiro,—lived in the village of Matsudaira, in the province of Mikawa, which borders on the Pacific, about midway between Kobé and Yokohama. Here the “Law-giver” was born in 1542, the year that the Portuguese voyager, Mendez Pinto, first set foot on the soil of Japan. Iyeyasu fought under Nobunaga, and Hideyoshi, and ultimately succeeded the renowned Tai-ko Sama in the supreme command of the military forces, occupying thereafter the position of Sei-I-Tai-Sho-Gun. Iyeyasu first acquired property in his native province of Mikawa, and[59] all his early associations were with that region, so much so that his opponents in after years were accustomed to allude to him somewhat slightingly as the “man from Mikawa.” When Iyeyasu obtained the position of Shogun in 1603 he elevated his birthplace to a position of honour by conferring its name as an extra title on many of his supporters, and down to the date of the abolition of such territorial distinctions there were not a few prominent dai-mios who thus preserved their connection with the Tokugawa regime from the beginning of its supremacy. The traces were to be found in titles such as “Nabeshima Matsudaira Hizen no Kami”—the baron Nabeshima Matsudaira of Hizen province,—Kuroda Matsudaira the dai-mio of Chikuzen,—and a host of others. In accord with the plans formulated by Tokugawa Iyeyasu every one among the number, some 300 in all, of the provincial barons was personally required to spend a moiety of each year in residence at his Yashiki in Yedo, and to leave his family there for the other six months,—the Yashikis being town mansions dotted about the capital in which a semi-regal state was kept up, and where the barons were surrounded by hundreds of their own retainers, ready to do their chieftain’s bidding on the instant. The remnants of these mansions are still to be found in modern Tokio, but they were in great part utilised, on the Restoration of Imperial rule, as Government offices and barracks for the troops of the army then about to be formed on Western lines. One of the most remarkable of these mansions of Old Yedo was that occupied by the Mito family, and it still retains much of its ancient splendour, inasmuch as it has been converted into a public park, and its magnificent gardens are maintained at the expense of the State, while the buildings and site of the historic residence of the Mito princes have been made over to the military for the purposes of an arsenal. It was part of Iyeyasu’s plan to adequately provide for the preservation of the Tokugawa line in the office of Shogun, and to that end he conferred upon three of his sons dukedoms in Owari, Kishiu, and Mito respectively. These three provinces are somewhat widely[60] separated, for Owari is the region of which the flourishing city of Nagoya is at the present day the centre,—Kishiu is the province that borders the Kî channel at the eastern entrance to the Inland Sea,—and the Mito territory was that which is situated north-east of Tokio, and to the north of the river Toné, where it enters the Pacific near Cape Inuboye. Kishiu is now known as Wakayama Ken or Prefecture, Owari is Aichi Ken, and Mito is now Ibaraki Ken, though the boundaries do not exactly correspond with the ancient frontiers. The tripartite grant of territory to his seventh, eighth, and ninth sons respectively under this arrangement was accompanied by the proviso that in the event of the failure of the direct line the Shogun should be chosen from among the cadets of one or other of these families. In after years it frequently became needful to fall back on the wisely ordained succession thus laid down at the beginning of Iyeyasu’s reign at Yedo, wise in the sense that the extinction of the line was provided against, though it was not always possible to make a selection that met with the approval of all parties, since it sometimes happened that more than one branch of the Tokugawa house was ready with a candidate for the post of honour. It will presently be seen that a difficulty arose in this respect only a few years prior to the abolition of the Shogun’s office altogether, and which was not disposed of without many heart-burnings.

Some idea may be formed of the scale of magnificence on which the feudal system inaugurated during Iyeyasu’s tenure of the Shogunal office was based from the subjoined table of the barons’ revenues. For convenience’ sake I have added the approximate value of the koku of rice, in terms of which the incomes were formerly calculated, at the prices ruling in Japan for that commodity at the present day.



The San-ke, descended from the three youngest Sons
of the Founder of the Tokugawa house
Title Residence Income At present
koku £
Owari Nagoya 610,000 = 762,000
Kii Wakayama 559,000 = 700,000
Mito Mito 350,000 = 440,000
(All bore the family arms of the Tokugawa, three
heart-shaped leaves in a circle.)
Dai-Mio’s Clan Family Name Residence Income At present
koku £
Mostly sprung from the Governors appointed by, or the personal
connections or vassals of Tokugawa Iyeyasu, A.D. 1603-16
Kaga Mayeda Kanazawa 1,027,000 = 1,284,000
Satsuma Shimadzu Kagoshima 710,000 = 887,000
Sendai Date Sendai 625,000 = 780,000
Echizen Matsudaira Fukui 320,000 = 400,000 } Close Relatives of Iyeyasu
Aidzu Matsudaira Wakamatsu 230,000 = 280,000 }
Higo Hosokawa Kumamoto 540,000 = 655,000
Chikuzen Kuroda Fukuoka 520,000 = 650,000
Geishiu (Aki) Asano Hiroshima 426,000 = 535,000
Choshiu & Suwo Mori Hagi 369,000 = 462,000
Hizen Nabeshima Saga 350,000 = 463,000
Inaba Ikeda Tottori 350,000 = 463,000
Bizen Ikeda Okayama 315,000 = 419,000
Ashiu (Awa) Hachisuka Tokushima 258,000 = 323,000
Tosa Yamanouchi Kochi 242,000 = 304,000
Chikugo Arima Kurume 210,000 = 267,000
Descended from Hachiman Taro
Akita (Ugo) Sataki Akita 206,000 = 258,000
Nambu (Mutsu) Nambu Morioka 200,000 = 250,000
Yonezawa (Uzen) Uyesugi Yonezawa 150,000 = 188,000

At the time of Iyeyasu the total revenue of the Empire was calculated to be equal to 28,900,000 koku of rice, out of which he distributed 20,000,000 of koku among those daimios and other dignitaries who were closely attached to the Tokugawa house, and retained 8,900,000 koku for the support of his own household and the maintenance of Government in Yedo. From this immense sum he also had to make, it must be borne in mind, suitable grants to the Court at Kioto, including the privy purse, and it was incumbent on the Shogun at all times to secure to the Emperor ample funds for the support of the imperial dignity and honour. In[62] former years this duty had not invariably been executed on a fitting scale of liberality, the Ashikaga Shoguns in particular having made it a point to keep the Emperors poor. Under the regime of the Tokugawa, however, this had never been a cause of complaint, and in the days of Iyeyasu especially the apportionments of revenue to the service of the Court were made on a satisfactory basis. The repair of roads, and the cost of local administration in general, were matters to which the Daimios were expected to give attention without any allowances beyond those made from headquarters, their own incomes having in the majority of cases been ample for all purposes.

Following these eighteen “kokushiu daimios” ranked the eighteen “Ka-mon” (Members of the family) who were all relatives of the Tokugawa house, and bore the name of Matsudaira, the revenues they enjoyed ranging from 10,000 to 200,000 koku.

Next to the Ka-mon were the “To-sama” (outside lords) with incomes of 10,000 to 100,000 koku. They numbered from 90 to 100. These were representatives of collateral branches of the Kokushiu or greater barons, but were “outside” the Tokugawa.

After the “To-sama” ranked the “Fu-dai” (successive generations) and of these there were 115 families, with revenues ranging from 10,000 to 350,000 koku. The fu-dai were the main support of the Tokugawa house under the Shogunate regime.

It is not surprising to know that the feudal castles of these numerous barons were at one time to be counted by the hundred, or that many are still extant.

Among the Fudai families ranked two which became exceptionally conspicuous in the later days of the Tokugawa Shogunate,—as will presently appear, one for the defection of its chief to the opposing side in the battle of Fushimi in 1868, the other, on the contrary, for the sturdy loyalty which the head of the house exhibited to the engagements which on behalf of the Tokugawa Shogun he, as Regent, had entered into with the nations of the West. The first was Todo, the chieftain[63] of Tsu, in Isé, whose followers went over to the imperialists and turned the scale against the Tokugawas,—the other the famous Ii Kamon-no-kami, who was killed in Tokio by political assassins in 1860. These two barons were the richest of the Fu-dai, each having a rent roll valued at half-a-million sterling.

When Iyeyasu the Law-giver died in 1616 his first resting-place was at the temple of Kunozan, in the province of Suruga, which adjoins his own native province of Mikawa. The mount of Kuno is close to the port of Shimidzu, in Suruga Gulf, and the temple is approached by many flights of stone steps, and looks out immediately on the broad Pacific, the impressive solitude of the spot being broken only by the occasional visits of bands of pilgrims coming from far-distant parts of Japan to pay their respects at the shrine. The wooden structures betray the ravages of time, notwithstanding that the contributions of the faithful are devoted to the preservation of this and like edifices which possess for the Ten-shi’s subjects deep historic interest, and the peculiar sanctity of the fane in Japanese estimation is doubtless heightened by the claim made for it by the attendant priests that it still holds the heart of the great Shogun though the rest of his remains were transferred to Nikko in 1617. Nikko, the incomparable Nikko, lit.: Sun’s Effulgence,—is so well known to Occidental travellers that a lengthy description of its glories would here be superfluous, and it need only be mentioned, perhaps, that the splendid cryptomeria-bordered highways met with on the journey thither were equally with his code of laws a part of “Iyeyasu’s Legacy” to the nation, inasmuch as it was with a wish to afford the millions who in after years might traverse the roads of Niphon that protection from its fierce summer suns which might be derived from spreading shade trees that the founder of the Tokugawa house caused those magnificent avenues to be planted and maintained. The tomb at Nikko to which his body was removed from Kunozan in March 1617 was regularly visited by the occupants, each in his turn, of Yedo Castle, but only the founder’s grandson[64] Iyemitsu, who completed the work of building Nikko, and also of the original Uyeno temples at Yedo, rests beside Iyeyasu in this sacred spot. The other Shoguns of the Tokugawa line were interred in the capital, six at Uyeno, and six at Zozoji in Shiba, and on the “Rock of the Dead,” as the hill at Nikko is named on which these heroes of Old Japan repose, only the mausolea of the First and Third of the Tokugawa Shoguns are to be found. But there is that in the surroundings of the lonely graves on the crest of Hotoké-Iwa that is absent even in the gorgeous edifices which stand within those famous groves of pine and cedar that envelop the base of the mountain, and in the simplicity of the unadorned tombs, with their moss-covered approaches, and the time-worn balustrades which surround the peaceful courtyard, with its few bronze urns and incense-burners, there is grandeur unmistakable, and a dignity which no wealth of embellishment ever could confer. Iyeyasu in his lifetime wielded practically regal sway, and he and his successors of the Tokugawa dynasty of Shoguns were de facto rulers in Japan, and obtained their investiture direct from the Ten-shi who was de jure ruler at the ancient capital of Kioto, while they, as vicegerents, held their semi-imperial courts at Yedo.

The rise of the military power dates from the days of Hideyoshi, whose ambition it was to subjugate Korea and add the peninsula to the Empire of Japan. But all his efforts, from one cause and another, were frustrated, and when in 1598 he died, after six years of ineffectual strife, the idea was for a time abandoned, his successor, Iyeyasu, as we have already seen, choosing the path of internal reform as that by which he would seek fame, rather than that of foreign conquest. Hideyoshi had restored order to the land, and it was for his successor in the exalted office to consolidate and strengthen the influence which the Taiko had acquired with the feudatory chiefs, and to carry onward to complete fulfilment the work of centralisation so boldly begun. Hidetada, as the second Shogun, followed in his father’s footsteps, though his tastes lay rather in the direction of art, but it was reserved[65] for Iyemitsu to perfect Iyeyasu’s policy, and it was by Iyemitsu that Japan was closed for the time to foreign intercourse. In 1617 all Japanese ports excepting Hirado and Nagasaki were barred to strangers, and four years later the subjects of the Ten-shi were forbidden to visit foreign lands. In 1624 all foreigners save the Dutch and the English were banished from Japan;—and in 1637 there took place the terrible massacre of Christian converts at Shimabara in Kiushiu. By 1638 aliens of every sort save the Dutch had been expelled, and the Hollanders remained only on promise of faithful compliance with severe restrictive laws, and at the sacrifice in great measure of their personal liberty. Christianity, it was supposed, had been rooted out, but it was found in after years to have survived to some degree, in the vicinity of Nagasaki, the persecution to which its adherents were subjected.

Thus though the Anti-Christian edicts were promulgated during the latter part of Iyeyasu’s life it was by his grandson, who succeeded Hidetada, that the policy of extermination was resolutely carried into effect. How far the action of the Shogunate was prompted at this time by the dread of foreign encroachment is to be gathered from the proclamations issued at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Hideyoshi, moreover, is said to have paid more attention than it deserved to the idle boast of the Portuguese that it was the practice of their monarch to first send missionaries to convert the natives of a country to his own religion and next to send an army which, aided by the converts, contrived to overrun the land and add it to his dominions. Iyemitsu said in reference to this report:—

“If my dynasty perishes in consequence of civil wars, this is a disgrace which falls only on me: but if only an inch of our territory were to fall into foreign hands, the whole nation would have cause to be ashamed.”

Under the Tokugawa regime the influence of the military caste was predominant, and the samurai ranked[66] next to the nobles, but all samurai were not of equal rank, for the spearmen were of higher grade than the men who fought with firearms, and the mounted man ranked above his comrade who fought on foot. Among the retainers of the barons a hatamoto, as he was termed, was a person who had command of as many, in some cases, as thirty foot-soldiers, and held a position akin to that of captain in the modern army. Hatamoto signified “under the flag,” each company having its own distinctive banner inscribed with its number and place of origin. The hatamochi was the actual standard-bearer from Hata, a banner, and Mochi, to hold. The ashi-garu (lit.: light of foot) was the lowest rank of samurai of the feudal times, and the man who carried a gun was less entitled to respect, according to that rigid code of honour which was so jealously guarded by the knighthood of Japan, than the man who met his enemy with the sword,—foot to foot, and hand to hand. It was doubtless to be ascribed to a survival of this feeling that in the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877 the followers of Marshal Saigo were ever anxious to come to close quarters with their foes, and often threw away their rifles in order the better to wield their treasured swords. The warrior trained in the old school had nothing but contempt for the method of fighting which enabled a man to hurl missiles at an enemy from a comparatively safe distance. The samurai’s principles led him to challenge his adversary to mortal combat in the open field, but were averse to anything which might be construed as seeking an undue advantage. With the military caste uppermost, and the farmers ranking next in order of precedence, then the artisans, and lastly the tradesmen or traffickers in wares of whatever description, with a lower class still of genuine outcasts, distinguished as Eta (the tanners) or Hi-nin (not men) the people of Japan led a more or less contented life of seclusion from the outer world until the arrival on their coasts of Commodore Perry’s ships in 1853, though it would be wrong to imagine that there had not arisen in the land in all those years a spirit of inquiry concerning the mode of life which prevailed among other nations. On the[67] contrary, and more particularly towards the end of the Tokugawa epoch, thoughtful men had come to the front with proposals for enlightened government, earnestly advocating the adoption of some system that should be more in accord with what was dimly conceived to be the age of progress that had dawned in the other hemisphere, vague reports of which had reached the hidden East through various channels.

It was while Iyeyasu virtually ruled Japan, and before his son Hidetada had been invested with the Shogunal authority, that a shipwrecked English mariner, Will Adams of Rotherhithe, won his way to favour by his abilities, mainly in the direction of shipbuilding, and attained to high rank in the service of the Shogunate. The East India Company, a few years later (June, 1613), established a depot at Hirado, in Spex Straits, not far from Nagasaki, where the Dutchmen had been earlier in the field. Adams learned that some of his countrymen were resident at Hirado, and journeyed thither overland at the Shogun Iyeyasu’s command to see them. He found the little colony in charge of Captain John Saris, whose diary has afforded much information concerning the mode of life of the pioneers of British trade in their remote settlement in the then little-known “Zipangu” of Portuguese navigators, and Adams himself left some few written traces of his remarkable career which have been carefully preserved, and are of the utmost value as throwing light on the manners of that period when the feudal system was in full force. On retiring nominally from the control of affairs in favour of Hidetada, in 1605, Iyeyasu had taken up his abode at Shidzuoka, then called Sumpu, and thither Adams brought Saris to have audience of the great Chieftain, by special desire. Captain Saris had been made the bearer of a letter from King James I. of England to the Emperor (Shogun) of Japan, which was delivered in due course at Shidzuoka. The English sovereign had expressed his desire that commercial relations should be established between Britain and Japan. Saris and Adams saw both Iyeyasu and Hidetada, and the project was well received. A charter[68] was granted, in pursuance of which the English were to enjoy as much freedom of trade as the Dutchmen then in Nagasaki, the document comprising eight clauses, and constituting the first “Anglo-Japanese Agreement” of history. Unhappily the venture of the East India Company, in whose favour the charter was given, did not turn out so satisfactorily from a monetary point of view as could have been wished, and eventually the factory that had been established at Hirado, was closed, and the British withdrew, not again to seek commercial privileges until 1856. Saris placed Captain Cocks in charge of the Hirado depot and returned to London to report to the East India Company the success of his mission, and Cocks remained until the withdrawal from Hirado in 1623.

Adams never returned to his own country, and died in his own house at Hemi village, where his grave, with that of his Japanese wife, is to be seen on the hill above the modern naval station of Yokosuka, a few miles south of Yokohama, in the Gulf of Tokio. He had taught his friends at Yedo the art of building ships on the Occidental model, and it is recorded that many of his vessels were employed in over-sea trade to the Philippines, Siam, Cochin China, and Mexico. But the law of 1621 prohibiting the use of decked ocean-going craft brought about a return to the ancient form of junk with a single mast. The construction of decked sailing boats has only of late years been revived in connection with the fisheries of Yeso and the quest of the seal and sea-otter, off the Kuriles archipelago. After the East India Company closed its factory at Hirado trade was still further restricted, and in obedience to an edict of 1641, the Dutch were finally confined to the islet of Deshima, in Nagasaki harbour, and all other foreigners were ordered to quit the country. Saris had long before returned home,—Adams had been dead for years,—and little or nothing occurred for two centuries to remind the Western world of the existence of the far-off Japanese Empire.

Throughout this interval the feudal system flourished and the Shogunate was at the zenith of its power. Every daimio nominally owned allegiance to the Ten-shi’s deputy[69] at Yedo, but there had been murmurings against the feudal rule long before the American ships made their appearance at the entrance to the Bay of Yedo in 1853. A few men, more daring than their fellows, had been bold enough to write and speak openly of their desire to see the ancient order of things re-established and of their hope that the Ten-shi would again in person regulate the affairs of his dominions. In most cases the would-be reformers had for their temerity lost their heads. But the leaven that they had introduced had begun to work, and when the Shogun Iyesada made the treaties with the Western nations under which Japan was reopened to foreign trade and intercourse the real basis of the opposition which he encountered, and which outlasted his own lifetime and that of his successor in the office of Shogun, was an antagonism to the Shogunate itself, and not to the strangers who sought to develop commerce with the Empire. Thus it came about that the truly progressive clans,—Satsuma, Choshiu, Tosa, and Hizen,—all of which had in some form or other availed themselves of foreign inventions in the form of rifles and other implements of warfare, or of steamships and gunboats and armaments, with the object, as it would seem, of strengthening their own positions, were to be found ranged under the banner of Jo-I, or “Expulsion of the Alien,” when with more candour their slogan might have been “Down with the Shogunate.” The Tokugawa side, on the other hand, was in favour of the resumption of foreign relations and maintained the advisability of pursuing the policy of kai-koku—i.e. opening the country—which Iyesada had initiated. Neither side was in actual fact antagonistic to foreigners, and no sooner had the Jo-I party attained its purpose in overthrowing those who had espoused the cause of the Shogun, than it at once adopted an attitude towards aliens which was in effect a complete ratification of the policy that had been adhered to by the Government of Yedo. The Sat-cho alliance to “expel the stranger” entered into between Satsuma and Choshiu at the end of 1861, or early in 1862,—a couple of years before the present Marquis Ito and his[70] comrade Inouye Bunda, now Count Inouye, stole away to England,—was mainly designed to embarrass the Shogunate, and was by no means so reactionary as it at first appeared to be.

When Perry dropped anchor at Uraga it was the Shogun Iyeyoshi who sat on the Viceregal throne in Yedo, but he shortly afterwards died, and was buried in the cemetery attached to Zozoji temple in Shiba, where five other Shoguns of the Tokugawa line were interred, and when Perry came for the promised answer to the American President’s letter the Shogun Iyesada was in power. But soon afterwards his health failed him to the degree that he found it expedient to appoint a Regent in the person of the Go Tai-Ro (lit.: Honoured Great Elder)—i.e. Prime Minister of State under the Tokugawa Government—an office which was filled by the baron Naosuke Ii Kamon-no-kami, between whom and the feudal chieftain of Mito there were great differences of opinion in regard to the wisdom of the Kai-koku policy. For reasons which were never very clearly comprehended, Nari-aki, the senior lord of Mito, was all his life bitterly opposed to the influx of foreigners, and when in 1860 the Regent was assassinated at the Sakurada Gate of Yedo castle the crime was perpetrated by men who had once been retainers of the Mito family, but had voluntarily severed their connection therewith in order that the responsibility for the murder that they were resolved to commit should not be laid at the door of their lord. They banded themselves together as Ro-nins, or “Wave-men,” casting themselves as it were on the billows of adventure, and caring nothing whither they might drift in the political currents of the hour. Other Ro-nins made a midnight attack in 1861 on the then recently-established British Legation at Takanawa, a southern suburb of Yedo, and these were afterwards proved to have belonged previously to the Mito clan. The daimio Nari-aki died in 1862, and it was felt that one source of uneasiness had been removed from the path of those who were totally averse to the suggested expulsion of the subjects of foreign powers and repudiation of the[71] compacts which had been entered into. But the assassinated Regent had had other enemies in the political world, for his appointment had never been favourably received by the Jo-I party (in reality the advocates of the restoration of direct imperial rule, and who only used Jo-I as a convenient battle-cry) and when, in 1858, the Shogun Iyesada died and his place was taken by the youthful Iyemochi, at that time only twelve years old, and the Regency of Ii Kamon no Kami was continued, the antagonism between the rival factions—one nominally pro-foreign and the other nominally anti-foreign, but neither of them seriously concerned with the foreigner so much as with the abrogation or retention of the feudal system,—grew more fierce and deep-seated than ever. The Mito clan, notwithstanding that its old prince Nari-aki had been violently anti-foreign, had in a general way given its support to the Shogun, but even in Mito dissensions arose, and the clansmen were divided among themselves. In proportion as these internal quarrels arose in the Shogun’s party its influence in the State declined and that of the party of the Mikado, as it was termed, gained strength. It must be understood that the reference here is not to the now-reigning Emperor but to his father, who occupied the throne until the year 1867. An imperial ordinance promulgated in 1862 abolished the old law made in the days of Iyeyasu whereby the feudal lords were obliged to spend half their time at the capital, and this repeal of a statute on which the Shogunate had relied for the preservation of its ascendency over the clans hastened, no doubt, the downfall of its authority. It was further weakened, it may be supposed, by the internecine strife that arose from the rivalries of the three branches of the Tokugawa house, for when Iyesada died it had been the ardent desire of the Mito prince to place his son Hitotsubashi Yoshinobu,—otherwise Tokugawa Keiki,—on the viceregal throne at Yedo, a wish that was thwarted by the Regent Ii Kamon no kami. The reason that Nari-aki’s son bore two names was that in the year 1848, when he was only eleven years old, he had been adopted into the family of the Owari branch of the Tokugawa family, which branch bore the[72] surname of Hitotsubashi, while his other name could be read as either Keiki or Yoshinobu, the Chinese characters by which it was written being readable according to the Kan-On, or Chinese sounds as Keiki, while the Japanese equivalents of the same symbols are Yoshinobu. To the candidature of Nari-aki’s son the Regent would not agree, and carried his point in favour of Kikuchiyo, a prince of the Kishiu branch of the Tokugawa family, who took the name on his accession of Iyemochi. This prince was the thirteenth child of the XIth Shogun, and a cousin of the deceased Iyesada. The regent’s power at this period was equal to the effort of compelling Nari-aki to confine himself to his Yedo mansion, in a forced retirement which was tantamount to imprisonment, and similar steps were taken in regard to the princes of Owari, Hizen, Tosa, and Uwajima, who were opposed to the Regent’s policy. Tokugawa Keiki was forbidden to show himself at Yedo castle, and was ordered to remain in strict seclusion within his own abode.

Meanwhile the Emperor Komei, at Kioto, was being urged by the feudal lords of Tosa, Hizen, Sendai, Uwajima, and other provinces to abrogate the treaties which the Regent had made, to close the ports, and expel all strangers from the land, but Ii Kamon no kami was too strong for them to succeed in overthrowing him, and it will be understood that the representations of the Ministers of foreign powers already accredited to Japan in virtue of the treaties must all have tended to confirm the Regent in his resolution to abide by the terms of the compacts which he had entered into. This was in effect the situation in March 1860, when the ro-nins at the Sakurada Gate in Yedo put an end to the life of the Regent, and affairs were left in greater uncertainty than ever.

The baron Ii Kamon-no-kami Naosuke is considered to have been a genuinely patriotic statesman, one, moreover, who was able to realise the necessities of the hour and gifted with tact and resolution to carry his point. His persistence in the policy of kai-koku procured for him the undisguised antagonism of a very powerful faction, but[73] he remained unshaken in his determination to adhere to the arrangements that had been entered into with foreign powers. The assassins responsible for his death had carried on their persons, as was customary with ro-nins bent on some notable deed, written declarations setting forth their motives, and declaring it to be their belief that the admission of aliens to the country spelt speedy ruin. His intimate friend, Baron Matsudaira of Yada, had sought to dissuade him from paying his customary visits to the Shogun, who dwelt within the inner moat of the castle, and in urging his request had even endeavoured to hold the Regent back by grasping the sleeve of his robe, a scrap of the material being torn away in the effort, so vehement were Matsudaira’s representations of the impending danger. That was on the 21st of February, a fortnight before the murder was actually perpetrated, so that Ii Kamon-no-kami was perfectly conscious of the risk he ran in continuing to perform his daily duty at the castle. His own residence was just outside the second moat, and he had only quitted it a few minutes when, at nine o’clock on the morning of the third of the third month (April 5th according to the Gregorian calendar), he received several sword-thrusts as he sat in his palanquin, and died immediately. The day was one on which his enemies were sure that he would be passing that way early, as it was one of the great annual festivals (Sekku) when the princes and barons invariably went to the palace to pay their respects and offer the congratulations appropriate to the season. Their retinues included numerous swordsmen, and their processions were characterised by a pomp almost unimaginable to-day, with scores of trusty henchmen, their lords’ crests prominently displayed on their helmets and their banners and insignia borne aloft, marching on either side the palanquin to guard their chief. The Regent’s cortege was at the Sakurada Gate when the attack was delivered, and the falling snow had led the retainers to keep their sword-hilts covered, so that there was a fatal delay in encountering the ro-nins, who, moreover, were disguised as peasants, and wore rain-coats to conceal their weapons. Eight of the[74] Regent’s men were killed, and three of the ro-nins were slain on the spot, eight more being brought to execution at a later date. The whole thing was the work of but a few minutes, and the band no doubt had a confederate who was skilled in heraldry watching at the gate, ready to announce the baron’s approach, and able to distinguish his procession by the device on the banners which some of his retinue bore.

The Regent was forty-five years old at the time of his death, having been born in 1815, the fourteenth son of the baron Naonaka. The Ii family is a very old one, an ancestor having aided in the subjugation of the rebels, so termed,—presumably the Ainus,—in the island of Yeso, between A.D. 987 and 1011, when the Emperor Ichijo was on the throne. The name Ii is taken from the spot not far from Hamana inlet, in Totomi province, called Ii-dani, or the valley of Ii, whereat the first baron built a castle in the eighth century. But having been appointed protector of the city of Kioto, one of the baron’s ancestors had removed to Hikoné, on Lake Biwa, to be nearer his charge, and thus it came about that Ii Kamon-no-kami was Lord of Hikoné at the period when he became Regent, and dwelt at the Hikoné Yashiki in Yedo. The baron Ii bequeathed to the nation a couplet illustrative of his real patriotism, a quality which even those who were opposed to his policy never failed to recognise as part of his noble nature. It runs:—

“Omi no mi kishi utsu nami no iku tabi mo,
Miyo ni kokoro wo kudaki nuru kana!”
(Rent as the wave-beat rocks on Omi’s strand
My broken heart, for our belovéd Land!)

Lake Biwa, on which stands Hikoné, is often in poetry termed the Sea of Omi. It washes the shore of what in feudal times were the lord of Hikoné’s estates.

At the time when the dissensions between the supporters of the Bakufu and the nominally anti-foreign faction were at their height, the young Shogun was but fifteen years old, and was able to render his party but little help in the crisis in its fortunes which had been reached. An[75] effort was made to bring about a fusion of the interests by the marriage of the Shogun to the Mikado’s sister, the Princess Kazu, on 11th March 1862, the hope being that it might thus be feasible to present a united front to the incursions of the Westerners, but the union failed for the time being to have any political results in the direction anticipated, and the divergence of views on the question of the admission of strangers remained as pronounced as at first. In this attempt to reconcile the conflicting interests of parties the prince of Satsuma, acting through his uncle, Shimadzu Saburo, and on the advice of Saigo Takamori and Okubo Toshimichi, elsewhere referred to in this book, had exerted all his influence but without avail. On the other hand a vast amount of jealousy was created between the Chiefs of Satsuma and Choshiu, for the Baron Mori, the lord of Choshiu, was at this time wholly in favour of the expulsion of foreigners.

Matters were in this condition, when the least spark might lead to an explosion, in the summer of 1863, at the moment when the Shogun, possibly as a consequence of the Kioto Court influence brought to bear through his connection by marriage with the imperial house, decided to proceed to the Mikado’s capital and submit himself entirely to the Emperor Komei’s commands. He expressed his concurrence in the Court party’s views on the subject of the abrogation of the treaties, and was willing that the aliens should be driven out of the land. Whether he was sincere in this attitude or not is a question that it is not easy to answer, but at all events there was a personal quarrel at Kioto between the young Shogun and Mori, the Choshiu chieftain, which ended disastrously for Mori, who was sent down by the Emperor Komei to his own dominions in the west and Iyemochi remained in favour. The Choshiu clan was from that hour in direct antagonism to the Shogun’s party, and the baron Mori’s retainers were so indignant at what they considered to be the insult put upon their lord at Kioto that they marched to that city and attacked it The present ruler of Japan was only very young at the time, and it was a novel experience, no doubt, to hear the rattle of musketry in close proximity[76] to the palace walls. The Choshiu clansmen were encountered and worsted by the soldiers of the Shogun, who had been ordered by imperial edict to punish Choshiu for the outrage, and at the same time the chief of the insubordinate clan was by the Emperor’s command deposed.

The Choshiu baron remained obdurate, and in pursuance of his hostile attitude towards foreigners, and presumably with the idea of embroiling the Shogun’s government with Western powers, he persevered in the practice, despite all remonstrance, of firing on such vessels as attempted to pass the Straits of Shimonoseki. He set the Shogun’s authority completely at defiance, and raised in the south-west of Japan the standard of revolt. At the head of a numerous army the Choshiu leaders, one of whom was the present Marshal Yamagata, again set out for Kioto, and were met by the Shogun’s forces led by Iyemochi himself, who was certainly not deficient in courage, though his health, even at that time, was far from satisfactory. The series of engagements which followed terminated badly for the Shogun’s supporters, for the Choshiu men were better armed, and had been drilled on something like Western principles, as the result of a study of military books translated from the Dutch. They also bore rifles of the “Tower” and other patterns which probably had been brought to Japan from Europe, by way of China.

The first step towards the fall of the Shogunate had in reality been taken when the admission was made that the power of the Shogun had its limitations, for the doctrine which had prevailed for centuries, and to which the supremacy of the Tokugawa house was traceable, was that the holder of this high office enjoyed complete freedom of action without reference to the monarch at Kioto and was to all intents and purposes the executive head of the State. The visit paid to Kioto by the Shogun Iyemochi at the instigation of the imperial counsellors struck at the root of this theory of absolute power and led to the open revolt of some of the provincial magnates against the authority of the Bakufu, a title, by the way, which, as applied to the Yedo Government, sufficiently demonstrated its military character, since Baku signified[77] the curtain which was used in camp to screen the Generalissimo’s quarters from the vulgar gaze, and Fu meant “seat of government.” Once the principle became admitted that the Shogun was like other of the nation’s most puissant nobles, only a vassal of the Ten-shi, the way was paved in a measure for the restoration of the real monarch to the exercise of his rightful prerogatives and the re-establishment of that direct rule which had existed in former years prior to the usurpation of regal power by the Ashikaga and Tokugawa Shoguns. It may be said, therefore, that the thin end of the wedge with which the fabric of the Yedo government was ultimately to be sundered and overthrown was inserted in 1863. The actual outcome of the Shogun’s visit to Kioto was the issue of an imperial notification to the Ministers of Foreign Powers at Yedo that all strangers would be expelled from the Empire. The announcement came from the Department for Foreign Affairs in the Bakufu, and was to the effect that the orders which had been received by the Shogun from Kioto were peremptory, and required the closing of the recently opened ports. The foreigners were to be driven out, because the people of Japan were not desirous of holding intercourse with foreign countries. The Minister added that the discussion of this subject had been left to him “by his Majesty,” by which term was meant the Shogun, who had figured in the early treaties,—that for example made by the Earl of Elgin on behalf of Queen Victoria, dated 26th August 1858,—as “his Majesty the Tycoon of Japan.” The Shogun’s government was at this time trying to sit on two stools simultaneously, for while the notification was given to the foreign representatives in obedience to the orders received from Kioto there was palpably no intention of giving effect to them in any shape, even had the Bakufu then possessed the strength requisite to bring about the strangers’ exclusion. On this point the presence of war vessels at Yokohama warranted the Bakufu officials in entertaining serious doubts. At all events the Shogun’s Government soon afterwards had to express regret for the deplorable affair near Tsurumi, on the highroad from Yokohama to[78] Yedo, when an Englishman lost his life, and in offering an apology the Bakufu expressed a hope that nothing might again arise to imperil the friendly relations between Britain and Japan. When it was urged that the murderers should be brought to justice the Bakufu was fain to acknowledge that it had not the power to punish the Satsuma clan which had been guilty of the crime, and thereupon Admiral Kuper was sent to Kagoshima to bombard the Satsuma chieftain’s forts. The engagement took place on the 11th of August, a fortnight before the Elgin treaty was signed at Yedo, the breach between the Shogun and the southern clans being at that time practically complete. The bombardment spurred the Satsuma clan to the attainment of greater military strength, for their leaders were quick to grasp the importance which Satsuma would acquire, in connection with those coming events which even then were casting long shadows athwart the political path, by being first in the field with approximately efficient naval and military forces. Western appliances were imported and foreign inventions largely drawn upon to increase Satsuma’s effective strength, and from being hostile to foreigners the attitude of the clansmen became almost friendly, a circumstance that was partly due, it may have been, to the consciousness of the Satsuma leaders that in spite of their antiquated weapons they had made no mean fight of it when assailed in their stronghold by the modern British ships of war.

The waning Shogunate had despatched a mission to Europe the previous year to beg for an extension of time in regard to those provisions of the treaties which included the opening of additional ports to foreign trade, for it was felt that the Bakufu had trouble enough on its hands without arousing further opposition by the fulfilment of the strict letter of the compacts which had been entered into with the Western powers. That mission was successful inasmuch as the opening of Kobé-Hiogo was postponed until the 1st of January 1868, and the British Government gave assurances of its unwillingness to take any steps that might embarrass the Government of the Shogun. But a fresh source of trouble had speedily[79] developed itself in Choshiu, by the baron’s arbitrary treatment of shipping at Shimonoseki, and when, after the united squadrons of the Western powers had compelled the defenders of the forts in the straits to haul down their flag, and an indemnity had been exacted, the Bakufu became more than ever discredited, and its downfall accelerated. As with Satsuma, so with Choshiu, the fighting led to the foes becoming far better friends than had seemed to be possible, and in 1864 the baron Mori signified his willingness that any of his ports in Choshiu should be opened to the commerce of the strangers. It was not until many years after this that Shimonoseki was actually opened, but the delay was not due to the reluctance of the clan. During those prolonged contests with the Bakufu the clans of Satsuma and Choshiu were secretly allied, and the rivalry which might have been utilised to enable the Shogunate to triumph over Choshiu by enlisting the help of the Satsuma clan in the execution of the imperial command given to the Shogun Iyemochi to punish Choshiu was not in reality to be obtained by reason of this private compact between the two daimios. The bond of union was, of course, a common desire to bring about the abolition of the Viceregal office and restore the personal rule of the Emperor. The abstention of the Satsuma clan from interference on the side of the Shogunate probably saved the Choshiu clan from the defeat that would otherwise, it is to be believed, have overtaken them in the end. It was the policy of the Satsuma chieftain to allow the Shogunate to be worsted.

Difficulties multiplied, and the Shogun Iyemochi had taken up his residence in the castle of Osaka, after paying a second visit to the Emperor at Kioto, at the end of 1864, so the foreign ministers had to journey thither when they desired to communicate personally with him in his retreat. By this time some of the more powerful among the provincial daimios had fallen away from their allegiance to the Shogun, and had ceased to attend the Court at Yedo or to reside there during the prescribed six months of the year. Satsuma, for instance, did not occupy his yashiki after September 1862, until he paid it[80] a visit in the early seventies, and others among the Yedo mansions of the provincial lords remained unoccupied from that time forward until they were turned to account as Government offices after the Restoration. The Shogun’s entourage lost the pomp and circumstance of state in 1864, with the removal of his retinue to Osaka, and the internecine strife which culminated in the battle of Uyeno in 1868 was entered upon soon afterwards.

In 1866, however, while the Shogun’s men were contending for the mastery with the retainers of Choshiu, the Emperor Komei decided to ratify the treaties that the Shogun had made, and thenceforward the relations of the Bakufu with the representatives of Occidental powers were characterised by greater cordiality than had for some time past existed. The British Minister, Sir Harry Parkes, who had succeeded Sir Rutherford Alcock at Yedo, sent Messrs Mitford and Satow to Osaka with a message to the Shogun, and the mission ended with mutual satisfaction; the Shogun wrote to the Emperor at Kioto urging the opening of the port of Kobé-Hiogo to trade as early as practicable. The Emperor Komei finally gave his consent, and even expressed himself at this time as favourably disposed towards the fulfilment of the treaties. The right of native merchants to hire foreign vessels to trade either at the open ports or abroad was established in 1866, and thus Japanese foreign trade was set free from the restrictions which had checked its development.

As an illustration of the amicable relations which had by this time grown up between the Japanese authorities and foreigners, it may be related how, on the 21st of March 1866, 800 samurai troops, under the command of Kubota Sentaro, marched out of Yokohama in company with the British from the camp on the Bluff for a field day in the country towards Kamakura. The Japanese soldiers who thus for the first time in the history of the two nations bore their part in an Anglo-Japanese Alliance were men belonging to the Shogun’s forces, and their officers had acquired a knowledge of Western drill from their studies at the British camp, under the guidance[81] of the officers of the Lancashire Fusiliers, then forming the garrison of the Yokohama foreign settlement. Less than two years before the Shogun’s troops had participated in similar manœuvres, but only to a very slight degree, as at that time the Japanese had been armed with the bow and arrow and wore chain armour, in the ancient style. Two years’ drill had made the Shogun’s men so efficient that their shooting with the rifle astonished the British spectators by its rapidity, and by the ease with which the men handled their weapons, comparatively unaccustomed as they undoubtedly then were to modern firearms. Among those who were in this way the pioneers of the Japanese modern military organisation were many personal friends of the first Ambassador to the Court of St James, Viscount Hayashi.

In August 1866, the Shogun Iyemochi, whose health had for a long time past been failing, died at Osaka, his end having been accelerated, it is beyond doubt, by the vicissitudes of the last year or two, and the effort demanded of him when personally taking the field at the head of his army against the troops of the contumacious lord of Choshiu. Notwithstanding the fast-growing power of the Shogunate’s political adversaries, the moment was scarcely fitting for attempting its entire overthrow, and in December of that year the Shogun Keiki, seventh son of the prince of Mito, a branch of the Tokugawa family, and adopted son of the Hitotsubashi family—i.e. the Owari branch of the same Tokugawa house—was duly invested with all the dignities of his exalted office. He had been nominated Shogun, as already explained, in 1858, by the then prince of Mito his father, but had been passed over owing to the strenuous opposition of the Regent, whose hostility to the Mito prince Nari-aki has been alluded to, and its effects described.

The newly appointed Shogun had had abundant opportunities of observing the gathering disposition of his countrymen to seek the restoration of the sovereign to the direct rule of his dominions and the abolition of the system of government by delegate which had for two and a half centuries prevailed. The transfer of the active[82] duties of government to the hands of the real monarch had become a matter easy of accomplishment, moreover, by reason of the fact that the policy of the Kioto Government and that of the Shogun no longer differed in respect of the treatment of the foreigners who sought to establish intimate diplomatic and commercial relations with Japan.

In January 1867, the Emperor Komei fell a victim to smallpox, five weeks after he had appointed Tokugawa Keiki to the office of Shogun. Though the Bakufu was declining rapidly, the hour had not arrived for its final extinction, but no one could better judge of the hopelessness of the situation, perhaps, than the Shogun Keiki, who had for several years acted as guardian to the late occupant of the position, and had been also Minister of Justice (Giyobukiyo) in the time of Iyesada.

Despite the patriotic willingness of the Shogun Keiki to recognise from the very outset the need which was beginning to be felt of a thoroughly unified administration, the northern clans, which had been faithful to the Tokugawa house and had ever made its cause their own, were far from being reconciled to the reorganisation of the government as it was sought to constitute it, and appealed to arms against the domination of the Satsuma and Choshiu combination that had by this time obtained vast influence at Court. Civil war followed, but the strife was desultory in character until the later months of the year, by which time the Shogun had satisfied himself of his inability to effectively chastise the recalcitrant lord of Choshiu, and was compelled to accept defeat. As, moreover, his position as Shogun was manifestly under such conditions intolerable, he tendered to the Emperor his resignation of the office that had been in his family for 264 years.

The Prince of Tosa had returned to his castle at Kochi in October 1867, and had written to the Shogun in the following terms:—

“It appears to me that although the government and penal laws have been administered by the military class ever since the Middle Ages, yet since the[83] arrival of foreigners we have been squabbling amongst ourselves, and much public discussion has been excited. The East and the West have risen in arms against each other, and civil war has never ceased, the effect being to draw on us the insults of foreign nations.

The cause of this lies in the fact that the administration proceeds from two centres, and because the Empire’s ears and eyes are turned in two different directions. The march of events has brought about a revolution and the old system can no longer be obstinately persevered in.

You should restore the governing power into the hands of the sovereign, and so lay a foundation on which Japan may take its stand as the equal of all other countries. This is the most imperative duty of the present moment and is the heartfelt prayer of YODO.

Your Highness is wise enough to take this advice into consideration.”

The full name of the writer of this remarkable epistle was Yama-no-uchi Yodo, daimio of Tosa province.

It was not until the close of December 1867 that the Emperor received the formal abdication of the Shogun’s powers, and it was foreseen that among his adherents there would be many who would resist to the uttermost what they could but regard as their chieftain’s degradation, voluntary or otherwise. For the resignation of his prerogatives involved also the surrender of his lands and possessions, and his followers’ fortunes were so inseparably linked with his that it meant to them the deprivation in like manner of all those privileges on which they had thereunto placed the highest value. The Satsuma and Choshiu leaders were willing to avail themselves, however, of their proximity to the throne by seizing the person of the Emperor, and this coup d’état was carried out.

On the 3rd of January 1868, suddenly appeared an imperial edict giving to the three chiefs of Satsuma, Tosa,[84] and Geishiu the charge of the Nine Gates of Kioto,—in other words the guardianship of the Emperor’s palace,—an office which had previously been held by the Lord of Aidzu, a northern province, and who ceased to occupy it by reason of his having espoused the cause of the Shogun in the Kai-koku versus Jo-I discussion.

It is due to Aidzu to acknowledge that the clan, from the time when, in 1862, it had been given the charge by the Shogun Iyemochi of the imperial city, had evinced the utmost loyalty and energy in its defence. In repelling the attack of the Choshiu men in 1864 the Aidzu chieftain’s retainers had shown the greatest bravery and determination, and as honest, staunch protectors of the Emperor’s person and guardians of the palace the clansmen had had no sympathy with the agitators who had sought to sow discord between the monarch and his deputy. Both sides, indeed, had reason to value the lord of Aidzu’s fidelity to the trust reposed in him. When, therefore, the edict appeared by which Aidzu was relieved of his functions, the adherents of the Shogunate were incensed, for they saw, or believed that they saw, in the coup d’état the clearest possible indications of a Satsuma and Choshiu intrigue. The rescript is remarkable as having definitely decreed the end of the old regime, and it brought about the ascendency of the southern clans, for which the way had been paved in great measure during the previous Emperor’s reign. The old distinctions between the court lords (kuge) and the territorial magnates were at one stroke swept away, new titles were introduced, and while some of the princes, the kuge, and many of the samurai, found places under the new regime, the adherents of the Tokugawa were for the most part dismissed from office and their positions given to men of the opposing side.


Acting under the authority of the sovereign, the perpetrators of the coup d’état proceeded to set up a provisional government, and the Shogun was directed to surrender his fiefs and hold himself entirely at the disposal of the Emperor, whose pleasure would in due course be made known to him. This decisive stroke was delivered by the combined agency of the leaders of the clans of[85] Satsuma, Choshiu, Hizen, and Tosa, and the Shogun was on the verge of yielding to the demand made upon him when hostilities broke out between his adherents and the followers of the Satsuma chieftain. The Shogun was in this way driven into the position of seeming antagonism to the Imperial Government as provisionally constituted, and the fact that he was in great measure the victim of circumstances was in after years most generously recognised by his imperial master. The Shogun, acting no doubt on the advice tendered to him by his supporters, quitted Kioto on horseback, accompanied by only a few mounted attendants, on the 6th January, and reached the castle of Osaka early in the morning of the 7th, just four days after the coup d’état and though he has by some been blamed for allowing himself to be ousted from his position at the Emperor’s side, as the principal adviser of his sovereign, it is difficult to censure him for so doing seeing that the monarch had already begun to issue decrees without consulting his customary adviser. In fact, the decree which was issued as a result of the coup d’état expressly stated that thenceforward everything connected with the government of the country would emanate from the Cho-Tei—i.e. the Imperial Court at Kioto—and strict obedience to the terms of the proclamation was enjoined upon all. The chiefs of the Aidzu and other clans which held allegiance to the Tokugawa side throughout its vicissitudes were summoned to a conference the night previous to the Shogun’s departure for Osaka, and a letter was written to the Cho-Tei by the Shogun in which he declared that it being evident that some deceiver stood at the young sovereign’s side he would, for the safety of the nation, resume the duties of his office, and the better to secure for himself due freedom of action he would remove to the city of Osaka, where he could in his Majesty’s interests venture to take upon himself once more the direction of affairs as Shogun. History relates that at the meeting of his supporters held in the Shogunal palace at Kioto it was urged on his Highness that it would be better to retain control of the neck of the bottle by holding Osaka, the[86] key of Kioto, than wait to fall into the trap which had been set for them. The formal resignation of the Shogun had been tendered by him to the Emperor at the close of 1867, but not definitely accepted, and when it was found that he had quitted the capital an imperial messenger was despatched to Osaka to request his return and the lords of Owari and Echizen were ordered to furnish an escort. Preparations were at once made to obey the sovereign’s command, but the Aidzu and Kuwana clansmen, who had followed their chiefs to Osaka, declared that they would form the escort necessary, and set out in the van of the force which was to constitute the Shogunal procession on the short journey northward. The Shogun himself was to start with the last of his little army, some four days later than the vanguard. To the experienced eyes of the Satsuma and Choshiu leaders, who now had entirely the ear of the young ruler, and whose troops were at this time in full possession of the capital, this march back of the Shogun’s whole army had for them the most sinister of meanings, and accordingly their combined regiments were thrown forward, to challenge the advance of the Tokugawa men, as far as Fushimi, a village seven miles from Kioto on the highway east of the river Yodo. The Commander-in-chief of these imperialist forces was the prince who then bore the title of the Ninnaji-no-miya, a close relative of the Emperor, and before him was carried the gold brocade banner which is emblematic of delegated sovereign authority. The prince afterwards took by imperial order the name of Higashi Fushimi-no-miya, and he is elsewhere referred to as having subsequently spent some time in England. Marshal Saigo Takamori, as he afterwards became, held a position equivalent to that of Chief of Staff in modern campaigns. The main body of the Shogun’s army marched by the Fushimi-kai-do, or eastern road, though a portion took the western one, and there was a contingent of the followers of the lord of Idzumi on that road also, on whose fealty the Shogun believed he might rely. As the sequel showed, the defection of this force was his undoing, for at the critical[87] moment it allowed itself to be won over bodily by the imperialists. At the village of Fushimi the Shogun’s men found that barriers had been erected to stay their progress, and though when challenged the leading company made answer “this is the procession of his Highness the Shogun, who is going to Kioto by the Emperor’s express command,” passage was refused by the imperialist guard. The Shogun’s men were ordered to advance, and an engagement commenced which lasted for three whole days without intermission. The treachery of the men of Tsu, retainers of Todo Idzumi-no-kami, turned the scale, and the Shogun’s army was compelled to retreat from Fushimi towards Osaka, where the Chiefs of Aidzu and other clans loyal to the Tokugawa house found the warships belonging to their side, under the command of Admiral Enomoto, lying off the mouth of the Yodo at Tempo-san. The Shogun himself received the distressing news of the defeat of his forces at Fushimi when about to set out with the last of his army for Kioto, on the 27th of January 1868, and on the afternoon of that day, realising that irremediable disaster had befallen his arms, he quietly took his departure from Osaka castle attended by a few faithful friends, and safely reached the Kaiyo Maru.

This was a Dutch-built frigate which had been purchased for him in Europe and brought out to Japan shortly before. In order to reach the ship the Shogun had had to take boat at the Shin-Sei bridge in Osaka, whence the distance to Tempo-san is about four miles by river.

But before he set out he penned a letter to the foreign representatives then present in Osaka, to the effect that the battle having gone against him, they must provide for their own safety, and they accordingly did so to the best of their ability. The British Minister, Sir Harry Parkes, was staying in a temple in the northern part of the city, and, with his mounted escort of ex-constables of the London police, he rode into the newly established foreign settlement at Kawaguchi that night. At this crisis in the affairs of Japan it was advisable, to prevent mishap, that the British and other foreign ministers should be well guarded, and Sir Harry had with him in addition to his[88] own escort a detachment of the Ninth Regiment, then quartered at Yokohama, always at his disposal. The ships of the powers also lay at Tempo-san, within hail, but the weather being at the moment exceptionally stormy the ministers could not get aboard the vessels. It has to be recorded that Osaka city was held by the men of Choshiu, who showed every disposition to befriend the foreign residents and protected them against any possible violence of the mob, though only four years had elapsed since the bombardment of Shimonoseki by the allied squadrons, and that incident could not have been entirely forgotten. The Tokugawa men had quitted Osaka on the day following the departure of the Shogun, and the mob seized the opportunity, prior to the entry of the Choshiu troops, to pillage the castle and set it afire. The men wounded in the battle of the 27th painfully made their way along the roads from Fushimi, and many were attended by the medical officer of the British Legation who had accompanied Sir Harry Parkes from Tokio. Dr Willis, the genial Irishman and accomplished surgeon here alluded to, is doubtless remembered to this day by many of his patients. He was at a later date in charge of the hospital at Kagoshima, belonging to the Satsuma clan, and was universally respected in Japan. When, in 1877, the clan was declared to be in rebellion, and all foreigners in the country and at out-ports were directed to repair to the nearest “treaty port” for safety, where they would be under the protection of their own warships, he declined to quit his post at the hospital, where he could be of use to his Satsuma friends, and the British cruiser sent to bring away the foreign residents had to leave him behind. But as a bombardment was imminent a Japanese government steamer was sent to fetch him away, and he was then induced to yield.

Although the Shogun had embarked on the Kaiyo Maru on the 27th January at Tempo-san, she did not immediately sail for the gulf of Tokio, but took part in the memorable sea-fight which occurred near Kobé shortly afterwards. Late on the 27th the dwellers in the newly opened foreign settlement saw from the esplanade that[89] the Kaiyo Maru, together with the Ban-riyo Maru (which was in reality the Emperor yacht that Queen Victoria had presented to the Shogun), and Fusiyama, a steamer that the Shogunate had bought, arrived from Osaka, at a time when there were three vessels of the prince of Satsuma’s little fleet in Kobé harbour. When their adversaries steamed in the Satsuma ships were preparing to leave, but they waited until dawn, and then got under weigh. The Kaiyo immediately sent two shots after them, and one of the Satsuma vessels, originally named the Kiang-su, turned and slowly steamed round the harbour, as a challenge, and then followed her consorts the Scotland and the Lotus. The three Shogunate vessels instantly accepted the gage of battle, and all six ships disappeared below the horizon to the southward. The fight took place in Awa bay, which faces Kobé, on the Shikoku coast, about forty miles from that now well-known and flourishing port. The Scotland was sunk, and another of the Satsuma ships took fire. No precise knowledge is obtainable as to what damages the remaining vessels received but the Kaiyo Maru, Emperor yacht, and Fusiyama were able to reach Shinagawa, close to Tokio, on the 4th of the ensuing month, exactly a week after they left Kobé. Immediately on his arrival there the Shogun landed and went to his castle, now the imperial residence.

Yedo, now Tokio, was at that time still the headquarters of the Shogunate, and while stirring events had taken place in the vicinity of the Ten-shi’s capital of Kioto, scarcely less exciting incidents had had to be recorded in respect of the Shogun’s centre of authority in the north. The duty of keeping the peace in Yedo had been assigned to the dai-mio Sakai Sayemon-no-jo, a magnate whose income was that of 150,000 koku.[1] To assist in the work he had engaged a number of ro-nin, or masterless samurai, whom he dubbed the Shin-Cho-gumi, lit.: newly raised company, and installed as a species of police. Finding that the dwellers in the Satsuma Yashiki at Mita, adjoining[90] Shiba, where now stands the Shiba palace, were somewhat addicted to burglary, he determined to put a stop to such irregularities, and demanded of the clansmen then resident in the yashiki that the culprits should be surrendered to justice. In the temper of the samurai of all classes in those days of storm and stress a peremptory demand of this nature was tantamount to a challenge to a trial of strength, and a desperate combat ensued at Mita, in which fifty of the Satsuma men were killed outright. Some contrived to make good their escape to a Satsuma vessel that was at the moment in the harbour of Shinagawa (one of the three that afterwards fought at Awa Bay) and she quickly got up steam and weighed anchor. Four Shogunate ships lying off Shinagawa fired on her as she passed them, and two—the Eagle and the Dumbarton—were able to take up the chase. The Eagle and the Satsuma vessel had a long running fight, following an encounter in Mississippi Bay, near Yokohama, which the residents of that port were privileged to witness on the Sunday afternoon, and in the end the Satsuma champion sped away to the southward and the Eagle returned to her anchorage at Shinagawa. In the Mita fight between the Shin-Cho-gumi and other Shogunate men and the retainers of Satsuma the yashiki was practically burned to the ground and the bodies of the fallen were cremated within its walls. It goes without saying that the deadly animosity which existed between the Satsuma and Tokugawa followers was in no sense diminished by these active hostilities.

[1] In those days the standing of a feudal lord among his fellows was in strict accord with his income, and some dai-mios enjoyed enormous revenues as expressed in koku—1 koku = 5 bushels of rice.

In resigning into the hands of the Emperor a power that had for two and a half centuries been wielded by the Tokugawa family the Shogun Keiki issued the manifesto which is here reproduced according to a translation made at the time, though the dignity and force of the original composition are necessarily somewhat impaired.


“A retrospect of the various changes through which the Empire has passed shows us that after the deadness of the monarchical authority, the power passed[91] into the hands of the Minister of State,—and that by the wars of 1156 to 1159 the governmental power came into the hands of the military class. My ancestor Iyeyasu received greater marks of confidence than any before him, and his descendants have succeeded him for more than two hundred years.

Though I perform the same duties, the objects of the Government and of the penal laws have been missed, and it is with feelings of the greatest humiliation that I find myself obliged to acknowledge my own want of virtue as the cause of the present state of things.

Moreover, our intercourse with foreign countries becomes daily more extensive, and consequently our national policy cannot be pursued unless directed by the whole power of the State.

If therefore the old regime be changed and the Governmental authority be restored to the Imperial Court,—if the counsels of the whole Empire be collected and the wise decisions received,—and if we unite with all our heart and all our strength to protect and maintain the Empire, it will be able to range itself with the nations of the Earth. This comprises our whole duty to our country.

However, if you [the Daimios] have any particular ideas on the subject, you may state them without reserve.”

The Shogun had lost no time in making known to his imperial master at Kioto his desire to submit unreservedly to the sovereign’s will, for a courier was despatched from Yedo shortly after the arrival of the Kaiyo Maru at Shinagawa anchorage. But it turned out that after the Shogun’s departure from Osaka an imperial messenger in the person of the baron Higashi Kuze was sent to Kobé to assure Sir Harry Parkes and the other foreign representatives that the engagements which had been entered into by Japan with their respective governments would be observed to the letter, and the imperial despatch contained an announcement of the Shogun’s resignation. The[92] memorable document was dated the 3rd of February,—the day before the Shogun reached Yedo. Not only was the imperial rescript of the most welcome,—because reassuring,—character, but it bore for the first time in the history of Japan the sign-manual of the Emperor in the form of his personal name of Mutsuhito. Never before in the lifetime of the monarch had the personal name been appended to a state paper, it being customary to attach the great seal alone, but on this occasion both the great seal and that bearing the ruler’s own name were affixed to the document of which Higashi Kuze (now Count) was the bearer. The text thereof was as follows:—

The Emperor of Japan announces to the Sovereigns of all foreign nations and to their subjects that permission has been granted to the Shogun Yoshinobu to return the governing power in accordance with his own request. Henceforward we shall exercise supreme authority both in the internal and external affairs of the country. Consequently the title of Emperor should be substituted for that of Tycoon which has been hitherto employed in the Treaties. Officers are being appointed by us to conduct foreign affairs. It is desirable that the representatives of all the treaty powers should recognise this announcement.


(With the Seal of Dai Nihon,—Great Japan.)

February 3, 1868.

The Emperor’s relative Ninnaja-no-Miya, afterwards Prince Higashi Fushimi, then became Minister for Foreign Affairs, and he wrote to all the foreign ministers notifying to them the fact of his appointment, and stating that it was the Emperor’s express mandate to him that all existing agreements made by the Bakufu with foreign countries should be respected.

For a while the Shogun retired to the temple of Uyeno, but on the decision of the Emperor being made known to him he went first to Mito, and not long afterwards to Shidzuoka, the chief town of Suruga province, at that[93] time also known by its ancient name of Sumpu. He directed his followers without exception to adopt a similar course and submit themselves to the imperial will, yielding the Ten-shi implicit obedience from that time forward. In the vast majority of cases, however, this excellent counsel fell on deaf ears, for the adherents of the Tokugawa house were for the most part resolved by this time to carry on the struggle to an end.

On the retirement of Tokugawa Keiki the third son of Prince Tayasu, of the Mito branch of the family, by name Kamenosuké, at that time only five years of age, became the lineal head of the house. He is now Prince Iyesato, the President of the Tokio House of Peers, and bears the title of Kō-shaku, lit.: Duke, though by courtesy styled Prince, there being in Japan a distinction between those who bear the simple title of Prince and the Imperial Princes of the Blood Royal.

More recently the Emperor, in the abundance of that magnanimity which has ever distinguished him, called the former Shogun, who is to-day in his sixty-ninth year, to the Imperial Palace at Tokio, and conferred upon him likewise the rank of Kō-shaku, a title similar to that borne by Prince Tokugawa Iyesato, who, as explained, represents the older (Tayasu) branch of the Tokugawa family, so that there are now two noblemen who hold this rank in what in pre-Restoration days was the viceregal line of Tokugawa Shoguns who claimed descent from Iyeyasu the Law-giver.

Prince Tokugawa Keiki, during his retirement at Shidzuoka, was often visited by those who had shared the fortunes of the Shogunate, but he entirely refrained from all interference with politics, and lived the life of a country gentleman, finding his recreation mainly in fishing, and showing his sympathy with the hard-working agricultural population in a way that won for him the respect and regard of all classes. When the Emperor sent for him to visit Tokio, a few years ago, he set out amid demonstrations of esteem on the part of the populace in Suruga which must have convinced him by their spontaneity that if in the course of events he had been compelled to relinquish[94] the semi-regal state in which he had dwelt at the capital, he had retained in the hearts of his fellow-subjects of the Ten-shi a place of highest honour, and that the affection for his person evinced at every stage of the journey by those who were in former days his henchmen had flourished unabated throughout the lapse of close upon four decades. A writer once described the Shogunal entourage in terms which, after all the changes that Japan has undergone during the last quarter of a century, read somewhat strangely, but they serve to convey most vividly to the mind that magnificence by which, in the pre-Restoration period, the Court of Yedo was distinguished. There was a direct contrast between it and the almost severe simplicity of the Kioto Dai-ri, which housed the real monarch, in his complete seclusion, while his vicegerent performed most of the duties of sovereignty in a city 400 miles distant. The quotation is from an account given by one of his Highness’s own pages, and affords an interesting sketch of the daily routine in the Shogunal palace, or Nijo, at the Western Capital.

The usual form of address, we are told, was Go Zen (Your Highness), and there were in the palace no fewer than fifty pages, whose duties were to attend on the Shogun at all times, to wait at table, dress his hair in the fashion peculiar to that time, and, when invited to do so, take part in equestrian and other exercises. The Shogun habitually rose at eight o’clock, and made his toilet for the day. He never wore any garment twice, the whole of his raiment being renewed each day. At breakfast seven or eight dishes were placed before him, but he ate sparingly at all meals, and at ten o’clock he saw his ministers in council (the Go-ro-ju, or assembled honoured elders). Having devoted the forenoon to affairs of state he usually, at midday, went to the “male quarters” of the palace to ride, shoot, or play polo,—in Japanese “da-kiu”—being skilled in archery, and a sure shot with the pistol. On the lake he had a boat in which he rowed himself, and he was expert in fishing with a casting-net. At four o’clock he usually returned to the ladies’ palace, and listened to their playing on the koto or Biwa (the samisen[95] was always too vulgar an instrument to have entry to the palace) and at 6 P.M. the evening repast of choice viands was served in great variety. His highness dined alone, having many ladies to wait on him, as well as pages, and the banquet often lasted until 11 P.M., with music and classic dances at intervals during the evening. He had no companions, for the reason, no doubt, that his rank prevented his associating on terms of equality with even the feudal lords, who were obliged by an inflexible etiquette to bow their heads to the floor when in his august presence, and to remain in that attitude throughout an interview. It is recorded that in 1866 a photograph of the Shogun was taken in his palace of Nijo at Kioto by an officer of an English man-of-war then in Japanese waters, his Highness wearing at the time his robes of ceremony, and it would be interesting to learn that the portrait still exists. The Nijo was built by the first Shogun of the Tokugawa line, the “Law-giver” Iyeyasu, and it was designed to be as much a fortress as a palace. The gorgeous gateways, resplendent in lacquer and gilding, leading to the inner apartments, remind one in their wealth of embellishment of those wonderful temple gates and halls at Nikko, constructed not long afterwards by Iyeyasu’s grandson, the magnificent Iyemitsu, and in the splendid audience chamber, where the Shogun sat on a dais to receive the homage of the feudal barons, the visitor catches a glimpse, as it were, of the pomp and circumstance which to the end of the Bakufu’s existence as a power in Japan surrounded the person of the “Last of the Shoguns.”

For fifteen years prior to its extinction the foreign policy of the Tokugawa Shogunate had been that which was found acceptable to the Emperor Mutsuhito on his accession, thus the necessity for the “Tycoon’s” intervention to secure imperial recognition for the treaties was no longer apparent, and it was inevitable that the position he held should eventually become untenable, apart from all other considerations of political exigency. The predominance of the Bakufu as a military despotism attained its zenith, to judge by the available history of the period,[96] in the days of Iyemitsu, and in proportion as the individual strength and influence of the numerous feudal barons who owed it allegiance were found to increase, the real power of the Tokugawa house steadily diminished. While it lasted, however, the Bakufu did much to render Japan a prosperous country, studiously fostering the arts of civilisation in general, and diligently seeking to promote secular education. It established academies as far back as 1857 for the study of foreign languages and science, supplemented by a school of medicine in 1858.



Outside the Japanese Empire the name of Fujita Toko is but little known, yet he undoubtedly exercised an influence which tended greatly towards the making of Modern Japan, if only by reason of his pronounced hostility to the Regency of the Bakufu and his steadfast, unwearying inculcation of the doctrines of loyalty to the real sovereign and constant preparation for national defence. That he was in advance of his age is clear, for he lived in an era when Japan was secluded from the outer world, and was mainly dependent on such information regarding it as filtered through from Holland by way of the Dutch settlement at Nagasaki. Fujita was a renowned Chinese scholar and teacher of the classics, born in the third year of the Bunkwa period (1806), at Mito, in eastern Hondo, the seat of one branch of the Tokugawa family which for 250 years virtually ruled the country from Yedo. Mito is distant from the capital some fifty-five miles by railway, and is now the chief town of the Ibaraki prefecture, with a population of about 35,000, but in the time of Fujita it was accessible only by road through Tsuchiura, a town at the extremity of the large inlet or lagoon named Kasumi-ga-ura which penetrates from the Pacific a long way inland just to the north of Cape Inuboye. Mito itself is about twelve miles from the coast and is a flourishing agricultural centre, famed for its output of barley, beans, millet, and buckwheat. Tobacco is also extensively cultivated in this region, which is at the present day in the enjoyment of exceptional facilities of communication, for sea-going steamers call at Choshi, an anchorage at the mouth of the river Toné, close to Cape Inuboye, and smaller craft ply between Choshi and the[98] towns situated along the Toné or on the shores of Kasumi-ga-ura, in addition to the branch railway from Oyama on the main line to the north of Japan and a separate line in connection with the capital through Tsuchiura.


Fujita Toko was not merely a celebrated professor of Chinese literature in an age when classical learning was highly prized, but he was the friend and counsellor of the famous Rekko, senior prince of Mito, whose seventh son, born in 1837, was destined to play so conspicuous a part in the affairs of the nation, and who happily still occupies a leading position as Prince Tokugawa Keiki, better known in pre-Restoration days as the Shogun Hitotsubashi, and whose share in the revival of imperial rule is elsewhere referred to in these pages. The head of the Mito house, Prince Tokugawa Nariaki, strenuously opposed the Bakufu form of government and its policy towards foreign powers, but there is no direct evidence that he was personally antagonistic to the people of the Occident. Dark deeds were attributed to his followers, but the perpetrators were at all events in theory “ro-nins” or outlaws, who had voluntarily severed their connection with the clan beforehand, and for whose crimes the house of Mito was not to be held responsible. This was particularly the case in regard to the assassination of the Regent or Tairo, Ii Kamon-no-Kami, in 1860, at the Sakurada Gate in Yedo. Though the murderers had once, it turned out, been followers of the “old prince of Mito”—as he was termed—they had cut themselves adrift from the clan, and were acting independently of it when they perpetrated the crime that so profoundly stirred the community.

Fujita had long before this taken up his abode in Yedo, and dwelt in that part of the capital known as Koishikawa, down to the date of the terrible earthquake of 1855, in which he, in common with many thousands of his fellow-citizens, was engulfed. He spent practically the whole of his life, however, in Mito, and thither came in 1842 the future Commander-in-chief of the Imperial Forces in the War of the Restoration, and at a later period Minister for War in the Government of Revived Imperial Rule, Saigo Takamori. Saigo became Fujita’s pupil, and there is no[99] doubt that the professor instilled into Saigo’s mind a hostility to the Shogunate as deep and enduring as his own, to bear fruit in after years when the possibility as well as the desirability of effecting a complete revolution in the administration came to be a matter no longer of secret consultation but of free and open discussion. If in the affectionate remembrance of his countrymen Saigo Takamori was the “sword and spear” of the Revolution of 1868, as Kido was its “brain” (employing a phrase once much in vogue), the thoughts of people in Japan must often turn to the long since dead Mito scholar who implanted in his pupil the conviction of the pressing need that there was for a return to the old order of things, and the personal rule of the real emperor.

There is a little story still current in Japan relative to the time of Saigo’s departure from Mito, after a stay of some years’ duration there under Fujita’s tuition. The master had bidden a number of his friends to a supper in Saigo’s honour, and in accord with ancient custom Fujita offered his sakazuki (wine-cup) to his pupil in token of friendship, but Saigo, to Fujita’s surprise, at first begged to be excused. When rallied on his excessive caution Saigo explained that he went in fear lest under the influence of wine he might be guilty of acting imprudently, but Fujita would not accept the plea. “A man who aims at distinction as a samurai must never refuse his master’s invitation to take wine with him,” declared Fujita,—meaning, apparently, that a soldier must place himself unreservedly in the hands of his chief,—and Saigo thereupon took the risk, as he deemed it, on that occasion, and drank several cupfuls of Sake. Fujita was pleased with his pupil’s spirit, and often said of him afterwards that whatever Saigo might undertake he would assuredly succeed in, as he could accommodate himself to circumstances.

Fujita had many other students of classical literature staying with him at Mito at various times, it being a period when not only was there the highest appreciation of Chinese literary composition, but things Chinese in general had a vogue in Japan which approximated to that[100] which in later years was developed in respect of things European. There was, moreover, a growing disposition among the samurai to apply themselves to the study of such arts and sciences as were revealed to them through translations of foreign works introduced by the Dutch at Nagasaki. To thinking men of the type of those who went to Fujita for instruction the Dutch books formed the only media whereby the desired information concerning the Western world could be obtained, and considering the difficulties under which those who sought knowledge in those days must have laboured the perseverance shown in its pursuit reflects vast credit on professors and pupils alike. Long prior to Commodore Perry’s first visit in 1853 the Japanese people were cognisant to some extent of the existence of railways, and steam engines,—even of the electric telegraph, it is said, which was at that time quite new to Europe and America,—and blast furnaces, mills, and workshops of different kinds had been set up on plans obtained from Nagasaki, with no inconsiderable share of success. Other industrial inventions had been introduced, which, if they did not precisely originate in the Occident, had at least been brought to some degree of perfection there, such as the art of printing from movable types, which is said to have belonged in the first place to Korea, and so with human effort in other directions it was at last discovered that all unknown to the Western world the leaven had been working in the various strata of society in Japan with results as astounding to the onlooker as they were beneficial in their effects on the nation. The disposition towards independence of political thought that arose from the perusal of foreign writings which found their way to the country in its period of seclusion was productive, when once the upheaval commenced, of a mental activity that manifested itself in a thousand ways in the last half-century, and there is little likelihood, despite her eagerness for progress, that Japan will ever forget those who aided in the past to bring about her emancipation from a feudal system which sapped her energies and blighted her prospects of advancement. Fujita Toko lives in the hearts of his countrymen.



In the eighth year of the Bun-kwa era, corresponding to A.D. 1811, during the reign of the Emperor Kokaku, was born in the little town of Matsu-shiro (Pine citadel) in Shinano province, a man who was destined to leave his mark on the annals of his country for all time. Little has ever been heard of him, so far, outside his own land, but in Japan he is regarded as one of the forerunners of a new regime,—a patriot to whom the Japanese people of the present day are indebted in no small degree for the privileges which they now enjoy. His family name was Sakuma, and his common or as we might say, his baptismal name was Shuri, but to the student of history he is best known, perhaps, by his nom de plume of Shozan. His poetical works fill many volumes, and I venture to quote one of the numerous “thirty-one syllabled” poems which he penned, as an example of his endeavours to stimulate his fellow-countrymen to throw off the yoke of feudalism:—

Kokoro-mi ni izaya sakeban Yama-biko no
Kotaye tataseba koye wa oshimaji.
(When once to our loud shouts Echo vouchsafes an answer
The vocal effort made to gain her favour counts for naught.)

It is recorded of him that even as a child he evinced an unusual gravity of demeanour, so much so that his behaviour was that of an adult rather than a boy of seven, and the neighbours were apt to shake their heads in doubt as to what manner of man he would grow up to be. He cared nothing for the ordinary sports of Japanese children of his years, who, as we have often been assured, dwell in a perfect paradise as far as their play is concerned, but was at all times distinguished by a taciturnity wholly unbefitting one so young. His cleverness was the subject of[102] general remark, and he was a source of intense pride and satisfaction to his parents. In Japan, as in the West, children who betray extraordinary ability are objects of the most marked admiration.

As far as can be ascertained, Shuri continued to reside in his native town until he was twenty-nine years old, when he set out for Yedo, as the capital of the Shogun,—now Tokio—was then called, to seek his fortune. There he studied diligently, under such celebrated professors as Hayashi Jussai and Sato Issai, the then much-prized Chinese literature, and enjoyed the close friendship of those profound scholars Yanagawa Seigan, Watanabe Kazan, and Tsuboi Shindo. All these men won for themselves enduring fame as exponents of the writings of the Chinese sages, and under their guidance Sakuma became deeply versed in the teachings of Mencius and Confucius, and many of the lesser lights of Chinese philosophy. Japan’s rigid seclusion from the outer world, which had at that time already lasted over two centuries, had had the result, for one thing, of elevating Chinese learning to a position, in the eyes of the average Japanese, scarcely less exalted than that of Greek or Latin in England in the Middle Ages, although in Japan some knowledge of Chinese was found among all classes. But Sakuma’s studies were by no means confined to Chinese literature. He set himself to glean all that he could from the works of the Hollanders, then almost the only Occidental writings available to the Japanese in their search for information, and having acquired a fair knowledge of the Dutch language, he embarked resolutely on an investigation of the arts and sciences of the West, including the manufacture of firearms, the construction of vessels of war, of fortifications, and the casting of heavy guns. The immediate effect of his researches was to imbue his mind with a conviction of the paramount necessity of strengthening the national defences, and providing against the contingency of an attack by some hostile Western power. His studies in musketry led him to invent a new weapon, in the shape of a musket capable of far greater rapidity of fire than that which at the time[103] was in use, the pattern of which had been brought from Europe. Sakuma was groping in the dark, by comparison with those of his fellow-countrymen who, at a later date, followed in his footsteps along the path which led to substantial reforms, but he was on the right track, as his unerring judgment assured him, though it was not his fate to live until the dawn of the Meiji era, still less to be able to form a true conception of the success that would attend his country’s efforts and the phenomenal progress that would be achieved under the beneficent auspices of the Emperor Mutsuhito’s reign. In 1842, which was the thirteenth year of the Tempo period, while the Emperor Ninko was on the throne, the feudal chieftain of Shinano, Sakuma’s native province, was given high office under the Tokugawa Government—that is to say, under the administration at Yedo of the Shogun, or as he was better known to Europeans, the “Tycoon.” The Shinano dai-mio, as the feudal chiefs in those days were styled, raised Sakuma to the rank of private adviser to the State on matters concerning coast defence. In the execution of his duties in this capacity Sakuma prepared a memorandum on the nature of the measures to be adopted for adequate protection, and the document is not without historical value, when considered in the light of the more recent events of Japanese history. The report, it will be remembered was made in the year 1842. Roughly speaking, Sakuma’s ideas of national defence were,—

(a) To fortify all points of strategical importance on the coast territories.

(b) To prohibit the export of copper to Holland, and to undertake the manufacture of a large number of cannon. (The impression conveyed is that many thousands of such guns were to be cast, and that the material was to be bronze.)

(c) To build powerful men-of-war, on the Western model.

(d) To promote the trade with foreign countries, by every means at command, external commerce being essential to the national development, and at[104] the same time to put a check on the self-seeking ambitions of the Dutch merchants at Nagasaki, and induce them to abandon their evil ways.

(e) To strengthen the navy. (Considering that Japan was not supposed to have had a navy until quite recent years, this provision would at first sight appear to be somewhat superfluous, but the reference is, of course, to the very few sailing vessels fit to carry guns which had been built in the days of the Tokugawa regime, on lines that had been handed down to the native shipbuilders from the time of Will Adams, the sailor and shipwright of London, who, after his vessel’s wreck on the Japanese coast, at the dawn of the seventeenth century, entered the employ of the then Shogun, and for the remainder of his life devoted himself to the service of his adopted country.)

(f) To establish schools and in every way spread a knowledge of the benefits of a liberal education.

(g) To familiarise people with the principles of sound government, by the introduction of beneficent regulations, and to lead them to appreciate its advantages by the establishment of organised rule on enlightened methods.

(h) To employ only the more intelligent persons in offices of higher rank.

It will readily be comprehended that these recommendations, had they been adopted, would at the outset have involved such sweeping reforms in the methods of administration as would have procured for Sakuma in any case a whole host of enemies, for there were vested interests to be considered in those times as in every age, and it is not at all surprising to learn that his proposals were not received with any degree of favour: admirable as they were in conception, they struck at the very root of the system on which the Tokugawa rule was based, after the closing of the country to foreign intercourse in 1638, which was that of complete seclusion from the rest of the world, and the memorandum was, as might be said, pigeon-holed for future reference.


To fully appreciate the risk that Sakuma ran in putting forward proposals so entirely subversive of the existing order of things, it must be brought to mind for an instant that early in the seventeenth century of the Christian era, at a time when the over-sea trade of Japan had attained to some importance, the Tokugawa Government sternly suppressed all trade with foreign nations on account of the attempts of the Jesuit missionaries, it was said, to obtain for their order that political influence in Japan that they had succeeded in securing at the time in China. The construction of large vessels was prohibited under very severe penalties, and a maritime trade that bade fair to prove eminently advantageous to Japan was strangled at the outset. As far as can be gleaned from the records of that period, Japan had in 1620 about 200 ocean-going ships, fit to brave the storms that were usually to be encountered in the course of a voyage to India, Mexico, or the islands of the South Seas, where the Japanese flag was in those days by no means rarely to be seen. The order that thenceforward Japanese ships were to have but one mast struck at the root of naval expansion, and Japan was still suffering the consequences of this drastic regulation when Sakuma penned his remarkable essay on needed measures of defence.

When his feudal chief, at a later date, returned to his own province Sakuma went back also, being no longer in the employ of the Shogun, though of course the clan administration was still conducted in full accord with the prevailing system, under which the Shogun, as the Emperor’s deputy, managed the nation’s secular affairs and controlled its foreign policy. It was not long, however, before Sakuma was again in Yedo, this time occupying himself in teaching Dutch, of which he had acquired a competent knowledge, to a group of pupils whose ideas tended to coincide with his own. It was at this period that he wished to publish a Dutch-Japanese dictionary, but the Shogun’s officials, so strict were still the laws on this point, could not grant the desired permission. And in the fifth year of the Ka-yei era, corresponding to 1852, the year before Commodore Perry[106] made his appearance off the shores of Idzu province, Sakuma sought to issue a handbook on gunnery, but this right was likewise denied him. The work was entirely from his own pen, and it is to be regretted that it has not, so far as is known, been translated.

The next year eight American warships arrived at the little bay of Uraga, close to the entrance of the gulf of Yedo, and it was freely stated that they had brought a message to the effect that unless the Japanese were prepared to open their ports to trade with all nations these “black ships” would find their way to Yedo itself and bombard the castle of the Shogun. The prospect filled the minds of the people of the locality with horror. Japan had no naval or military strength to oppose to these invaders. It was mournfully recognised that the coast forts then in existence had no armaments that would enable them for an instant to cope with the powerful guns on board the American ships. Japan had in secluding herself failed to keep pace with the march of progress, and was wholly at the mercy of the powers of the Occident. China had had, as in Japan they well knew, to endure in 1841 the intrusion of foreign troops, and the forcible entry of Western vessels into the waters of the Yang-tse-kiang, and now Japan, though she had secluded herself for centuries from the unwelcome attentions of foreign nations, was destined to undergo, as it seemed, the forcible encroachment on her dominions of Western barbarians with whom she had no sort of sympathy, and whose acquaintance she had absolutely no desire whatever to make.

Sakuma was stirred to action. Mounting his horse, he set off alone to Uraga, riding at full speed, resolved to see for himself, as a first step, what manner of men these visitors were, and to gather, if he could, from their attitude to the local inhabitants, what were the real intentions of the intruders. He saw sufficient, as he judged, to form an opinion, and speedily returned to Yedo in order that he might make a report to his feudal chief, who was then staying in the capital. Soon afterwards Sakuma was appointed a member of the general[107] staff, and given the command of the military forces. While enjoying the opportunities which his position afforded him, he frequently at this period advocated the adoption of a new and more complete system of training, as being requisite if Japan desired not merely to protect herself from the aggression of those foreign powers which had already worked their will upon China, but to be in a position some day to choose her own friends should a recourse to Occidental methods suggest itself as politically advantageous to his countrymen. But his aspirations met with no favourable response at headquarters. His ideas were pronounced to be crude and altogether needlessly alarmist in their tendency. He was compelled, therefore, to bury his hopes for the time being, trusting that in the chapter of accidents something might arise to add force to his own respectful but solemn warnings of the danger of delay.

The following year, being the first of An-Sei era,—at this time it was the custom in Japan to change the name of the era to commemorate some auspicious or notable event, irrespective of the sovereign’s reign, but now the eras are co-extensive with the monarch’s tenure of the throne—the American cruisers reappeared at Uraga, having as arranged on their previous visit, returned to receive an answer to President Fillmore’s despatch, in which he had saluted the ruler of Japan with obvious good will and had expressed with a heartiness that could not be misinterpreted America’s wish to be on cordial terms with the subjects of the Ten-shi. On this occasion the squadron of Commodore Perry permitted itself the freedom of entering the Bay of Yedo, an act that came perilously near wrecking the negotiations altogether. As it was, the Tokugawa Government directed two prominent dai-mios, the feudal barons of Kokura and Matsushiro respectively, to prepare for the defence of the approaches to the Sho-gun’s chief city. Kokura is a castle town in the straits of Shimonoseki, afterwards so famous for a fierce fight between the combined foreign squadrons and the forts of the dai-mio of Choshiu province, facing the Buzen province to which[108] Kokura belongs, and Matsushiro is in the Shinano province, and was the place of Sakuma’s birth, and the seat of that feudal chief to whom he owed allegiance. It is situated west-north-west of the Japanese metropolis, towards the west coast, close to that mighty river the Shinano, which there pours its waters into the Sea of Japan. By his chieftain Sakuma was immediately directed to attend and advise the military council, and from that time forth he so ardently devoted himself to the elaboration of a scheme of defence as to allow himself no proper time, it is said, for rest, night or day, until he had completed his task. A week after the advent for a second time of the American warships in Uraga Bay Sakuma took up his position in the vicinity of what is now Yokohama in command of his small force, all being resolved to prevent, as far as their limited powers would permit them to do, the landing of what were then regarded as hostile visitors.

The Tokugawa government had it in mind at that time to open the port of Shimoda to foreign trade in response to the American proposal, the situation of this place, near the extremity of the peninsula of Idzu, and bathed by the waves of the Pacific, being such as to afford reasonable security from too close intimacy with the strangers. But Sakuma was averse to this, on the ground that Shimoda was strategically far too valuable to be relinquished for the purposes of trade, and the free entry and egress of aliens and their ships, and he suggested instead the opening of a trading centre at some spot within the bay of Yedo, not wholly, it may be surmised, without an eye to the practicability of closing the entrance to the bay, should such a course become necessary, by fortifications at Kannon-saki. Ultimately Kanagawa was selected as the port to be opened, the actual site for the foreign settlement being laid out at the village of Yokohama, the “beach over the way,” as its name implies, from the town of Kanagawa. Parenthetically it may be mentioned that as long as the Treaties with foreign powers remained in force Kanagawa was the official designation of the port commonly known as Yokohama.[109] The result of Sakuma’s remonstrances was that the opening of Shimoda was postponed sine die, and Kanagawa was finally chosen to be the first of the ports at which foreign trade and intercourse should be allowed.

In 1851, three years before the treaty of peace and amity with the United States of America was concluded, Sakuma had received into his entire friendship one who was like himself to occupy a niche in the annals of his country. This was Yoshida Torajiro, better known now by his literary name of Sho-in. Yoshida, as Sakuma’s pupil, had become imbued with his mentor’s ideas on the subject of national defence, and acting on Sakuma’s suggestion, which was that every man ought to examine for himself how other countries provided for their own security from attack, Yoshida endeavoured to procure a passage in an American warship, though it was at that time against the law for a Japanese to quit his native land, and in this endeavour he was supported by the conviction that Sakuma approved of his plan, but unfortunately the attempt was foredoomed to failure, as Commodore Perry would not countenance a breach of Japanese law. Sakuma perceived that Yoshida contemplated running the risk of detection, with the object of seeing for himself the condition of people under an enlightened government, and gaining experience which should fit him to continue the good work which the elder man had begun, and the pupil received at the hands of his master a treasured letter stimulating him to yet greater efforts in his search for knowledge, and designed to comfort him amid the inevitable trials and difficulties of the career that he had mapped out for himself. That composition was to be historic, for it decided the fate of Sakuma too, but it shows the clearsightedness of its writer, and it was subsequently an incentive to many to prove constant amid the storm and stress of a period of transition and revolution. An attempt is here made to translate Sakuma’s stirring exhortation into English, but the result is by no means satisfactory, for it is very difficult, if not impossible, to reproduce faithfully the force of the original.

Rendered into English it might perhaps be read as:—


“He has journeyed a thousand leagues, and though he has not yet disclosed to me the trend of his thoughts, I perceive that he is meditating some exploit out of the ordinary. As I watch him move away from my cottage gate I see in fancy a solitary stork outstretched on the wing in the autumn sky. The ocean lies beneath, and the five continents seem to be the bird’s close neighbours. So in a tour of the globe one takes in the situation at a glance, and the benefit exceeds that of a hundred lectures. An intelligent person would not fail to profit hugely by the opportunities presented of acquiring expansive views of men and things. Unless a man achieves something wonderful in life he cannot hope to bear a high reputation after his death.”

The letter brought trouble to Sakuma’s door because it happened to fall into the hands of his political foes, who promptly denounced him to the Government as having instigated a Japanese subject to transgress the laws, and his arrest and imprisonment speedily followed. He was permitted to return to his native province, but was there confined to his own house, on pain of immediate punishment if he ventured to quit it. For nine years he endured this captivity, and then was set free, receiving thereupon invitations from the feudal lords of both Nagato and Tosa to settle in their territories and act in each case as adviser upon matters of coast defence. Nagato is the Japanese title of the province otherwise known as Cho-shiu, and Tosa is one of the four baronies of the Shikoku (lit.: four states) island, the third largest of the group forming the Japanese empire. Sakuma’s fame as an ardent reformer had already spread to the south, in which the two chieftains named held sway, and they thus early evinced their antagonism to the Tokugawa regime, and their recognition of the purity and self-sacrificing character of those ambitions for which Sakuma had already suffered imprisonment. Both dai-mios, in inviting Sakuma to make his home within their borders had it in mind, beyond doubt, to protect him from the dangers that were fast accumulating above his[111] head, and had he been willing to become the protege of either he would have been comparatively safe, for they were all-powerful within their own fiefs, and might have secured for him perfect freedom for the elaboration of his plans of reform. But for reasons with which the present age has little concern, and were they even fully comprehended might scarcely, perhaps, be appreciated, Sakuma respectfully declined the flattering offers thus made to him and clung to his home in Yedo to the last.

Japan was now on the verge of experiencing a crisis in her affairs which threatened to end in one of those sanguinary internecine struggles for supremacy between rival factions to which in her long and exceedingly diversified history, not only under the Tokugawa dynasty but for centuries antecedent thereto, she had been no stranger.

In the third year of the Bunkio era, which was that corresponding to A.D. 1863, Sakuma was invited to visit Kioto, then the centre of learning, as indeed it had ever been, and the city in which dwelt the absolute monarch of Japan, the Ten-shi himself, but again he rejected all overtures to change permanently his place of abode. The following year the title of the era was altered to Genji, so often from one cause and another was it desirable at that period to change these era names. Once more Sakuma was urged to go south, and this time he consented to make the journey to the ancient capital, arriving there in the spring of 1864. It was at that epoch that the latent animosity to foreigners, begotten of racial prejudice and ill report combined, reached its height, and attacks on strangers were not at all infrequent, both in the capital and the provinces. “Loyalty to our Emperor, and expulsion of foreigners” was the cry that animated the masses of the people, who were totally incapable, no doubt, of judging for themselves, and were urged to deeds of violence by the specious arguments of skilled agitators, unable to form any conception of the ignominy that a policy of deliberate persecution was certain to entail for their country. Kioto became infested with men of the “ro-nin” class, outlaws by choice, having obtained from their feudal lords permission to detach themselves[112] from their masters’ service and to become free-lances prepared to undertake deeds of violence for which the barons to whom they ordinarily owed allegiance should not be held responsible to the State. It mattered little whether the “ro-nin” had been dismissed from his lord’s employ for some personal shortcoming or had sought temporary or permanent leave of absence. His lord was no longer liable for what might occur. And it was not in Kioto alone that these men had assembled, for Yedo was almost equally in favour with them as a convenient lurking-place, and the persons and property of foreigners were often assailed, to the extent that life became most insecure. Within a brief space of time a whole series of assassinations took place, including the killing of Mr Richardson on the Tokaido seven miles from Yokohama the slaughter of Dankichi, an interpreter to the American Embassy, of Mr Heusken, attached to the British Embassy in a similar capacity, and of several others. The chapter is so painful a one in Japanese history, and Japan so long ago repented in sackcloth and ashes for the crimes of which her people were then guilty, that it is needless to offer, and would perhaps be ungenerous in an English-reading public to demand, a detailed account to-day of these deplorable occurrences. Suffice it to say that Sakuma himself, for the ostensible reason that he firmly adhered to his opinion,—despite the opposition of a numerous and powerful body of his fellow-countrymen who advocated the abrogation of the treaties and the return to a policy of complete isolation,—that the other ports designated as the emporiums of general foreign trade should be forthwith opened, as well as Yokohama, incurred the censure of the anti-foreign clique and was stabbed to death by “ro-nins” on the 11th of July 1864, he being then in the fifty-fourth year of his age.

Of the character of Sakuma Shozan it is impossible to write in terms of too high praise. By his countrymen he is universally esteemed a martyr to the sacred cause of enlightened progress. He was unselfish in the extreme, ever willing to aid others with his learning, a man of lofty ideals, of unrivalled ability to forecast the future and prepare[113] himself, as he strove to prepare others, for its inevitable changes and transformations. His was patriotism of the purest type, for he had everything to lose and absolutely naught to gain by seeking to popularise in Japan the institutions of the West. He was in advance of his age, and shared the fate of many a reformer in other lands. He realised, at a time when it was fatal to entertain views so heretical, that the days of Japan’s complete liberty to choose a course for herself had passed, and that she would be driven to consort with the other nations of the earth if she would avoid the fate which was seen to have overtaken some other Asiatic peoples and potentates. He suffered for his boldness in criticising the then existing order of things, and a perusal of his later poems will serve to indicate the extent to which he was willing that the nation should go forward in its adoption of Western ideas and appliances, for they are eminently inspiring and resolute in tone, encouraging in every line the pursuit of knowledge with the single purpose of providing for the national defence and the retention of the independence of the land for which he prophesied the most brilliant future. Sakuma was the great forerunner of that distinguished band of patriots who, in some cases at the sacrifice of their lives, and always by the whole-souled devotion of their best energies, helped to make Modern Japan.



During the reign of the Emperor Nin-ko, in the first year of the Tempo era, which corresponded to A.D. 1830, there was born in Cho-shiu province, south-west Niphon, Yoshida Torajiro, the son of samurai parents, who were retainers of the dai-mio Mori, the lord of the fief. Yoshida’s birthplace was the little village of Matsushita (Under the pines), close to the town of Hagi, on the west coast of Niphon, facing the peninsula of Korea. From his earliest years Yoshida was an ardent student of Chinese literature, and exhibited an extreme cleverness as a child that won for him uncommon fame in the district. So proficient had he become in this department of study that at the age of eleven he was called on to lecture on a topic of military history in the presence of his feudal chieftain, the dai-mio Mori Kei-shin, and his erudition was the source of the utmost astonishment to his hearers. When he was nineteen he set out on a tour through the island of Kiu-shiu, his main object being to make the acquaintance of those prominent men in the south of Japan who just then had raised the cry of “loyalty to the Emperor, expulsion of all foreigners.” This sentiment, it will be observed, did not have its origin in the later fifties, as might have been supposed from the frequency with which it was then heard, after Perry’s visits had led to the conclusion of treaties of peace and amity, but was prevalent as far back as the year 1849, when the only aliens in the country were a few Dutchmen at Nagasaki. The feeling at that time was perhaps only local, for it was to the vicinity of that port that Yoshida wended his way in the evident belief that he would there meet with those who most strongly entertained this opinion of the proper course to be taken with the intruders. No doubt his[115] youthful impressions had been stimulated by the reading of the Nihon Gaishi, a work on Japanese history, written by Rai Sanyo, that at that period was intensely popular. His father’s influence, moreover, was all in the same direction, and the circumstances all point to Yoshida’s having imbibed principles that were distinctly adverse to the retention of foreigners in the country under any conditions whatever. Precisely what effect his travels in Kiushiu had on his mind can never be known, but it may be assumed with tolerable safety that he journeyed to Nagasaki and there saw the Dutchmen dwelling in their own fashion in the quaint little settlement of Deshima, where they were all but prisoners, though allowed to carry on their trade.

In the meantime the Emperor Ko-mei, father of the reigning monarch, had succeeded Ninko on the throne, and the era bore the title of Ka-ei. It lasted until 1854, and it was when it was in its fourth year that Yoshida went to Yedo and there met, as described in a previous chapter, with Sakuma Shozan, whose pupil he became. At this time Sakuma was forty years old, and Yoshida was twenty-two. From their first meeting Yoshida recognised in the elder man a greatness of intellect and grandeur of aim that fascinated him, and led him there and then to appreciate the opportunity afforded him of becoming Sakuma’s disciple. More especially was he convinced of the soundness of Sakuma’s views on the importance of coast defence, and at his suggestion undertook a journey into the provinces of Sagami and Awa, with the express object of searching out the most suitable positions, from a strategical point of view, for the defence of Yedo Bay. It will be perceived, as constituting a matter of no trifling interest, that the defence of the coast was under anxious consideration two years at least prior to the arrival off Uraga of Commodore Perry and his squadron of “black ships,” so that it cannot be said that these measures were proposed as a direct consequence of the American expedition’s advent in Japanese waters. After visiting Awa and Sagami Yoshida went north to the Tsugaru Straits and Hakodate, having the same purpose ever before him, the[116] strengthening of his country’s defences against the intrusion of foreign powers.

In 1853, the year of Perry’s arrival, Yoshida was again in Yedo, but in September of that year he went once more to Nagasaki. His secret purpose was then to embark for Europe in a Russian cruiser, but by the time he reached the port named the vessel had sailed, so that his hopes were entirely frustrated. Sakuma had recommended him to make his way to Europe, if possible, because, as he said, if Yoshida desired to form an adequate idea of the most efficient means of providing for the security of the Japanese coasts it was first requisite that he should fully comprehend the conditions under which the protection of their own coasts was successfully undertaken by foreign nations. It was on this advice that he sought by every means at his command to obtain a passage to some foreign land, and in the following year, when the American warships again visited Uraga, Yoshida made his next attempt, in company with a faithful servant who very possibly hoped also to get away to a land where there would be no restrictions on their movements, and entire liberty of thought could be secured. It is a matter for regret that his ambitions in this regard were once more frustrated, for in Yoshida there can be no doubt that Japan had a truly patriotic son, one who, had the opportunity been afforded him, would have achieved distinct success in the direction which he had marked out for himself, the preservation of Japan for the Japanese. In Yoshida’s case, as in all others with which I am acquainted, the innate patriotism that he had inherited had been aroused and stimulated by the experiences that the neighbouring Chinese Empire had undergone. In common with other people in the Far East, he had heard of the occupation of Canton, and of Chusan, of the expedition up the Yang-tsu-kiang, and of the forcible opening to foreign commerce of the ports of Ningpo, Amoy, and Shanghai. Such doings were of dire portent for the dwellers in Dai Niphon, for if the Chinese, who for so many centuries had in the arts and sciences led Japan, found themselves reduced to the necessity of conforming to the will of the Western invaders, by[117] reason of a laxity in preparation for national defence, how much more incumbent must it be upon the Japanese, with only their islands to call their own, and no hinterland to retire into, strenuously to make ready for eventualities. Yoshida’s request for a passage to the United States was refused,—Commodore Perry mentions him as Isagi Kooda,—and he was imprisoned for having attempted to quit Japan at a time when emigration was forbidden.

In the following year Yoshida was confined to his own house at Matsushima, in the province of Cho-shiu, but a year later, in the third of the An-sei era, the discipline was so far relaxed as to admit of his taking pupils for the study of military books. It was probably at this period that he wrote to a Court noble, by name Ohara Shigetami, who held very similar views on the subject of the foreigners’ invasion, begging him to visit Cho-shiu for the purpose of starting an agitation there in favour of the “expulsion of barbarians and the restoration of the Ten-shi to supreme control,” that twofold object on which a majority of the patriots of the age laid stress in the belief that its attainment was wholly indispensable to the welfare of the nation. In truth Yoshida’s teaching of military subjects was little more than a cover for the inoculation of his pupils with the principles of a most resolute antagonism to the Bakufu—i.e. the system of government by the Tokugawa line of Sho-guns, a plan of vicarious rule in which he could discern nothing for his country but disaster. A school was at this time opened in the village of Matsushima by two uncles of Yoshida Sho-in, named Kubo and Tamaki, and after a while Yoshida succeeded them in the management thereof; it deserves more than a passing reference, for it was destined to be the cradle, as it were, of the revolution of 1868, by which the present Emperor was led to abandon the life of utter seclusion that it had for centuries been customary for the occupants of the Japanese throne to lead, and to take upon himself the actual rule of his dominions. Among those who attended this school were not a few to whom fell the lot of fighting, a short time afterwards, at Fushimi, in the tremendous contest for supremacy which took place between the[118] adherents of the Sho-gun and those who sided with Choshiu and Satsuma.

Yoshida conducted the village school for two years and a half, from July 1856 to December 1858, but in the latter month he was arrested, and thrown into gaol for having, it was alleged, incited his pupils to plot against the Tokugawa dynasty, and planned the assassination, his enemies asserted, of the Minister Manabe Norikatsu, a member of the Government. It is certain, whatever degree of guilt may have attached to him in other respects, that he consistently challenged the wisdom of the Tokugawa’s foreign policy, and advocated most zealously the abolition of that form of administration, becoming in consequence the object of a most determined persecution by the Yedo Government.

After an incarceration lasting five months in his native province he was transferred to the Temmacho Prison in Yedo, and its doors closed over him in July 1859. On the 27th of October following he was decapitated in obedience to the orders of the Bakufu, and thus at the early age of twenty-nine ended the career of one of Japan’s most earnest patriots. While his aim was the retention of Japan for the Japanese, and his determined antagonism to the Shogunate arose from its willingness to enter into treaties for the opening of the Empire to foreign trade, the object sought by his followers was the destruction of the Tokugawa dynasty itself, and their opposition to foreign intercourse proceeded not from antipathy to the Occidentals so much as from a paramount desire to put an end to the dual form of administration. The cry of “Expulsion of the Alien” was raised by Yoshida’s disciples in the expectation that acts inimical to the strangers would embroil the Bakufu with those Western Powers, the subjects of which were by degrees attaining a foothold in the country, and that government by the Shogunate would then become an impossibility.



A Statesman of transcendent ability, the Marquis Ito Hirobumi of necessity has his detractors. By the vast majority of the nation, however, his political views are deemed wholly acceptable, and in regard to the value of his services to his country there are not in Japan two opinions. He was born in September 1841, at Kumagé, in the province of Cho-shiu, otherwise Nagato, in south-west Japan. By birth a samurai, he spent his boyhood in studies suitable to his station in life, and became proficient in the military exercises which were prescribed for the retainers of the feudal barons, but from the time of Commodore Perry’s arrival in 1853 his aspirations became directed into a new channel, and his reading especially took a turn in the direction of the adaptation of foreign methods to the needs of Japan. In this he was associated with many of his fellow-clansmen whose names have become in later years household words in the country of their birth, and are almost equally well known to the people of other lands. Yamagata, Kido, Takasugi, Yamao, Inouye Kaoru, with many others who have since risen to fame, were fellow-students of the political and military systems of the Occidental nations, striving desperately to acquire information that should guide them in their project of raising their country to the level of the leading powers of the world.


The little knot of reformers was headed by Takasugi, a man of samurai rank who was considerably the senior of his colleagues in age, and one of the earliest acts of the party, on ascertaining the attitude of the lord of the province towards the Bakufu, was to put itself in a posture of something like rebellion against his authority. The reformers sought to organise a substantial resistance in[120] Cho-shiu to the policy of the Shogun, who had, it was urged, betrayed the best interests of his country by entering into treaties with foreigners. Ostensibly, if not actually, the leaders of this anti-Bakufu league were hostile to innovations from the Occident, but they were willing to avail themselves of Western arts and sciences to the end that their own position might be strengthened to oppose the Shogun’s administration, and accordingly we find the new military system gaining ground notwithstanding the avowed antagonism of the reformers to the invasion of their country by the originators of that system.

At Hagi, a town beautifully situated on the west coast of Nagato, and the castle town of the lord of that province, the reformers gradually matured their plans and drilled a small army of their fellow-samurai in the martial exercises of the West as set forth in books of which they had become possessed at Nagasaki and elsewhere, mainly in the Dutch tongue. It is recorded of Ito Shunsuke that he earnestly strove to make himself acquainted with Occidental progress, and became by degrees a competent English scholar, thus equipping himself for the course of Western travel which he was able to undertake in the year 1863, when he left his country for the first time on the long voyage to Europe in a sailing vessel belonging to Jardine Matheson & Company of Shanghai, for whom Glover & Company, British merchants of Nagasaki,—a port which had been opened to foreign trade four years previously,—were agents.

Ito Shunsuke, as he was then named, was one of many young men of Samurai rank who, with the view of acquiring information which they felt might the better enable them to do good service to their country, were willing to undergo all kinds of privations and run all risks in order that they might add to their store of knowledge. Glover & Company, as agents for the owners, Jardine Matheson & Company, facilitated the escape of the young men, who were concealed in a garden at Yokohama, their queues having previously been cut off and their hair trimmed in foreign fashion, until the sailing ship was prepared to weigh anchor, when they were stealthily put on board by their[121] English friends. It is due to the Marquis Ito to say that he has never failed to acknowledge in most graceful terms his indebtedness at the outset of his career to the aid he thus received from those who were not of his own land.

On his return to Japan twelve months later he found that his feudal chief, the dai-mio of Cho-shiu, had become involved in a dispute with the Bakufu, or Government of the Sho-gun, concerning right-of-way through the Shimonoseki Straits, which separate the Cho-shiu territory from the adjoining island of Kiu-shiu. The lord of the province was averse to the free entry of foreign vessels into the Inland Sea from the west, and had signified his disapproval by firing on ships that attempted the passage of the straits, from batteries which he had placed on the hills above. The Bakufu had failed to convince the Cho-shiu chieftain that the channel ought to be open to all comers, and despairing of its own ability to put a stop to the systematic interference with foreign shipping, had authorised the admirals of the Western Powers to take such measures as they thought fit. Ito Shunsuke, with his knowledge of the naval and military strength of the Occident amplified by personal inspection at the European capitals, saw that his lord was inviting disaster by his arbitrary treatment of the strangers, and sought to dissuade him from continuing the attacks on passing shipping, but the feudal baron was resolved to persist in his endeavour to check the influx of foreign ideas, and Ito had to return to the ship in which he had taken passage, with this express object in view, from Yokohama, with his mission unfulfilled. The foreign men-of-war had been at the time assembled in Yedo Bay preparatory to setting out for the Inland Sea, on their way to the Shimonoseki Straits to engage the Choshiu batteries, and the two young men of that province, for in this matter Ito was associated with his fellow-clansman Inouye, deemed it expedient to endeavour to convince their lord that however skilful might be the Choshiu gunners, it would be impossible for them to hold their own against the formidable armaments of the Western warships. In this long and self-imposed,[122] and, as it turned out to be, useless journey to the capital of his native province from the coast, Ito was accompanied by this friend and fellow-student Inouye, who had likewise been to Europe with him,—no other than the present Count Inouye Kaoru, who is elsewhere referred to in this book.

To appreciate the nature of the services thus early rendered to his clan and to the nation at large, it must be remembered that the laws under which emigration to countries abroad was prohibited, and which had been framed in the days of Iyeyasu, were still in force. Special permission was needed for any Japanese to quit his native shores, and in case of surreptitious departure without the formality having been observed it was somewhat risky to return. Ito and Inouye had contrived to reach Europe without complying with the regulations, and were liable to certain penalties in consequence, so that in undertaking to visit Choshiu with the object of making representations to their chieftain Mori they had to brave his anger for their disobedience to the regulations in the first place, apart from the character of their mission, which was, to say the least of it, one not calculated to appease the wrath of a noble who held strong views on the subject of dealings with foreigners in general. The journey from the little coast town in the Inland Sea where the envoys, garbed as doctors of medicine, were put ashore by a boat from the British warship Barrosa in which they had come south from Yokohama was not more than sixteen Japanese leagues (forty English miles) in length, but the track lay across mountains, and the only means of conveyance were kago of the type used in the hills, mere baskets slung from poles borne on the shoulders of two men, who walked at about four miles an hour. The mission, as already said, was a complete failure, for the lord of Cho-shiu refused to pay any attention to the letters from Foreign Ambassadors, or to listen to the faintest suggestion that his batteries were not a match for anything that the foreign ships might carry, and he was resolved that the gates of Bakan,—otherwise Akamagaseki, the Red Horse Barrier,—should not be thrown open without[123] a struggle. The Barrosa returned to Yokohama, and shortly afterwards the combined fleet, comprising British, French, Dutch, and American vessels, accordingly steamed south to the Straits, and the memorable battle of Shimonoseki, of 1864, was fought, with the result that the Cho-shiu guns were speedily silenced. On a low hill at the back of the town, overlooking the swift-flowing waters of the straits, is a tiny graveyard where repose the Cho-shiu men who fell in that final effort to close the door to Western trade. On the opposite shore are two or three neglected graves which local tradition declares to be the burial places of the French soldiers who were victims to the Cho-shiu artillerymen. The gunners were aided by archers, one of the foreigners killed having been transfixed by an arrow. Some day it may be feasible, perhaps, to have the spot suitably marked where rest those who did their duty as gallantly as did their foes whose memories are honoured with well-kept tombs on the other side of the narrow channel in which the fierce combat occurred. It was long believed that the foreigners who fell were buried at sea, but still living witnesses of the battle aver that three bodies were brought ashore on the Moji side and interred in the field which abuts on the beach, and where mounds of earth are distinctly traceable, or at all events were visible when the writer was engaged in work there some years ago. In his task he had the assistance of several Cho-shiu men who had taken part in the operations against us, and who bore the scars of injuries received while serving their own guns. There was not the slightest sign at any time manifested of resentment,—though the fight had taken place too recently to be other than fresh in the memory. It was felt that the best use had been made of the weapons that the province then possessed, and that no disgrace attached to defeat under such conditions,—moreover, had not the British bluejackets landed immediately the firing ceased, and striven might and main to extinguish the flames which had been ravaging the town as a consequence of the fight in its immediate neighbourhood? The inhabitants of Shimonoseki will never forget that the victors proved[124] themselves to be generous foes, and nothing but good will has been exhibited towards strangers in the now flourishing port ever since.

Ito Shunsuke was much occupied for the ensuing two years in Kioto, where his knowledge of Europe became of immense value to his party, and in preparations for the struggle with the Bakufu which it was plain could not be long delayed.

The main incidents of those two years are recorded elsewhere in connection with the career of Prince Sanjo, and it will suffice to mention here that immediately on the resignation of the last of the Sho-guns, whose adherents continued the war, nevertheless, for some months longer, Ito was busily occupied with plans for the institution of government on a Western model, to the careful study of which he had devoted himself while absent in the capitals of Europe. It was a period of intense political excitement and unrest, and as the Marquis not long since declared, little thought entered the minds of men other than the all-absorbing idea of restoring the supreme power to the dynasty of the true sovereigns of Japan, and abolishing for ever the influence of the Tokugawa line of Sho-guns.

It is comparatively little known that the statesman who has been for fifty years prominent in every great work connected with the advancement of his country upon Western lines and has advocated the adoption of every foreign institution that would be calculated to benefit his native land was in his young days opposed to the influx of strangers, having been an ardent follower of the Jo-I party which was adverse to the cultivation of foreign relations. He was brought up in this school of thought, having been a pupil for some time of Yoshida Shoin, who is elsewhere alluded to in this volume, and when he at first favoured the introduction of Western appliances and methods it was purely in order that the defence of the empire should be secured against foreign aggression.

After the Restoration to the direct exercise of the prerogatives of sovereignty of his present Majesty in 1867, and the final suppression of the revolted northern clans, the opening of the port of Hiogo to foreign trade became[125] an accomplished fact, and Ito Shunsuke, as he was still named, received the appointment of Governor. Though the port was officially styled Hiogo, the residences of the foreign merchants, indeed the whole “Settlement” in which they lived and transacted their business, was situated in the adjoining town of Kobé, under which name the port has become best known to Europeans, and latterly as Kobé-Hiogo. It has had many famous men as its Governor in the years that have passed, notably the present Minister to Great Britain, Viscount Hayashi, and the office may be said to have been the stepping-stone to still greater distinction in more than one instance, but Kobé will never forget that he who is often almost affectionately referred to as the “grand old man” of Japan was the first to occupy the chair as its chief magistrate. This was in 1868, when he was yet a young man of twenty-seven, and he was selected, it may be assumed, for this responsible post on account of his exceptional acquaintance with Europe and its people, and with the habits and requirements of foreign residents in general.

His subordinates at Hiogo, during the time he was Governor, were like himself young and progressive men, entirely at one with the propaganda of the new and progressive policy which aimed at the consolidation of the Empire and the development of all its resources. Many proposals were put forward by Governor Ito at this period with the view of remodelling all branches of the imperial polity, in particular with respect to the imposition of taxes, military education, and so on, covering a wide field. Their advocacy of these measures procured for Ito and his associates at the time the designation of holders of the “Hiogo view.” It was really Ito who inspired Kido, the famous statesman whose history is recorded in another chapter, with the resolve to take up the question of the total abolition of the feudal system, and which rapidly gained supporters in many quarters, to the extent that in a few years it came to be an accomplished fact.

As Governor of Kobé-Hiogo, he won the highest esteem of all classes, but he was not destined to remain long in that office, for he was called to Tokio next year to undertake[126] the duties of Finance Vice-Minister, and the following spring he went to the United States to study the monetary system of that country, a task to which he devoted himself for the ensuing twelve months, returning to his own land in 1871.

While away he wrote the following memorandum on “Reasons for basing the Japanese new coinage on the metric system.”

According to the coinage system recently adopted in Japan, the silver yen is the standard unit of value, so that it may be used as legal tender in transactions to any amount; the smaller coins, various fractions of one yen, are to be the subsidiary medium of exchange, each kind being permitted as legal tender in transactions amounting to one hundred times its value. There is besides the gold yen, but it is subsidiary, and may be used in the payment of sums not more than ten times its value or one hundred yen. The silver yen is equal in quality to the American dollar, but slightly exceeds the latter in weight. The gold coins are in England and America legal tender to any amount. I presume the Japanese Government is in hopes that gold coin will always remain abundant while silver yen will gradually wear out through constant handling, so that in course of time gold will of itself become the standard unit of value. Just now there is under discussion in the U.S. House of Representatives a bill for establishing an international system of coinage. The ten-dollar gold piece according to that system is to weigh 257·2 grains, or sixteen and two-third grammes. The Japanese ten-yen gold piece weighs 248 grains, but if it were slightly increased in weight to equal the suggested international standard coin, the coinage system of Japan would be established on a sound basis and be for ever free from all fluctuations of exchange value. As to which metal should be the standard of value, the opinion of the economists all tend to coincide in regarding gold as the fittest metal for standard.[127] That Austria, Holland, and some other countries still maintain a silver standard is probably due to the great difficulty of changing the old system. If a system of coinage were to be newly established by any of these countries, there is no question but that the gold standard would invariably be adopted. It will be a wise policy for Japan, therefore, to consider the trend of opinion in Western lands and establish her new system in accordance with the best teachings of modern times. It may be that for the time being, on account of the possible great loss to the country from the too sudden adoption of the gold standard, a silver standard may have to be maintained. Otherwise there is no question that gold is the best metal for the standard of value. If the gold standard is introduced, silver may be fitly coined for a subsidiary medium of exchange, putting a limit to its legal tender amount. It may be as well to establish our system on this basis, making silver provisionally the standard, strictly keeping in view, however, the time when gold will be made to supersede silver as the standard of our system of coinage.

The foregoing memorandum was chiefly instrumental in effecting a change in the coinage policy of the country,—it bore a postscript to the effect that the contents thereof had been penned in haste, but that the main points which Ito wished to emphasise were:—

I. The necessity of slightly reducing the weight of the unit of value of the silver coinage; and

II. To determine the weight of the gold coin according to the metric system.

And it concluded:—

“Written in America on the 29th day of December 1870.”

(Signed) Hirobumi.

The Government decided to adopt at once the gold standard, and issued the new coinage regulation on the[128] 10th of May 1871. The various measures then taken, and supported at subsequent dates by the administration, proved unavailing, however, to maintain gold monometallism in healthy growth at that period. The issuing of a large amount of inconvertible paper money drove specie, especially the gold coins, out of the country. This and the smallness of the natural output of gold in Japan compelled the Government to have recourse to gold and silver bimetallism in 1878, as being more conducive to the national prosperity at that time.

From this time onward Ito’s rise to power was singularly rapid, he was in truth the man of the hour, the chosen counsellor of the youthful sovereign, the hope of a nation which had at the moment but a faint impression, if any at all, of the part that it would be called on to play in the not distant future, and was as yet merely groping towards the light. The finances of the revivified country needed exceptional ability for their reorganisation, for there were still in operation in the provinces the primitive arrangements for the introduction of which the at times urgent necessities of the feudal lords was often directly responsible, and which it was absolutely essential should be replaced by methods more substantial if local credit were to be maintained,—there were the inevitable heavy expenditures incidental to the adoption of a new system of administration,— a less cumbrous coinage was greatly wanted,—and a workable plan of taxation whereby to support the reformed Government of the country was above everything essential. These were among the matters that pressed for the attention of the department which Ito was called on virtually to control.

Only a few months had elapsed when his services were demanded in a different capacity, but one that afforded still greater opportunities for the display of his talents, for he was chosen by the Emperor to take a most active part in the mission which it was resolved should visit America and Europe, there to gather information on matters of vital importance to the nation, and in December of the year 1871 the party, headed by Prince Iwakura, started from Yokohama in a Pacific mail steamer for San[129] Francisco. Although it was not absolutely the first time that Japan had sent her messengers abroad, for two of the feudal barons with their secretaries had been to Europe on a short visit in the early sixties, the mission of Prince Iwakura, following immediately as it did the assumption by the real monarch of all the duties appertaining to his imperial station, bore a special and striking significance. The departure of the vessel from the bay of Tokio was watched by many thousands of people, and the event was acknowledged on all sides to be full of happy augury for Japan.

In California the mission was very cordially welcomed, and in an eloquent speech delivered at the Lick House, San Francisco, in January 1872, shortly after landing, Ito set forth the objects of the mission. Without reproducing the whole oration, it may suffice to give here some of its salient features, but the occasion was a memorable one, since it could but be regarded as the first time that the empire, newly emancipated from the thraldom of an intensely rigid feudalism, had declared itself through the mouth of an accredited representative. The speaker began by remarking that: “This is perhaps a fitting opportunity to give a brief and reliable outline of many improvements introduced into Japan. Few but native Japanese have any correct knowledge of our country’s internal condition.... Our mission, under special instructions from His Majesty the Emperor, while seeking to protect the rights and interests of our respective nations, will seek to unite them more closely in the future, convinced that we shall appreciate each other more when we know each other better.... To-day it is the earnest wish of both our Government and people to strive for the highest points of civilisation enjoyed by more enlightened countries. Looking to this end we have adopted their Military, Naval, Scientific, and Educational Institutions, and knowledge has flowed to us freely in the wake of foreign commerce. Although our improvement has been rapid in material civilisation, the mental improvement of our people has been far greater.... While held in absolute obedience by despotic Sovereigns through many thousand years, our people knew no freedom nor liberty[130] of thought. With our material improvement they learned to understand their rightful privileges, which for ages had been denied them. Civil war was but a temporary result.... Our daimios magnanimously surrendered their principalities, and their voluntary action was accepted by a general Government. Within a year a feudal system firmly established many centuries ago has been completely abolished. What country in the middle ages broke down its feudal system without war?

“By educating our women we hope to ensure greater intelligence in future generations ... our maidens have already commenced their education. Japan cannot claim originality as yet, but will aim to exercise practical wisdom by adopting the advantages, and avoiding the errors, taught her by the history of those enlightened nations whose experience is their teacher. A year ago, I examined minutely the financial system of the United States, and every detail was reported to my Government. The suggestions then made have been adopted and some of them are already in practical operation.

“In the department of Public Works, now under my administration, the progress has been satisfactory. Railroads are being built, both in the eastern and western portions of the Empire. Telegraph wires are stretching over many hundred miles of our territory, and nearly one thousand miles will be completed within a few months. Lighthouses now line our coasts, and our shipyards are active. All these assist our civilisation, and we fully acknowledge our indebtedness to foreign nations.

“As ambassadors, and as men, our hope is to return from this mission laden with results valuable to our country and calculated to advance permanently her material and intellectual condition. While bound to protect the rights and privileges of our people, we aim to increase our commerce, and by a corresponding increase of our productions, hope to create a healthy basis for their greater activity.

“Time, so burdened with precious opportunities, we can ill afford to waste. Japan is anxious to press forward. The red disc in the centre of our national flag shall no[131] longer appear like a wafer over a sealed empire, but henceforth be in fact, what it is designed to be, the noble emblem of the rising sun, symbolical of the awakening of Japan, and her wish to be found ever moving onward and upward amid the enlightened nations of the world.”

The Iwakura Mission proved in every sense save one an immense success. One of the Secretaries was Mr Tadasu Hayashi, who subsequently in the diplomatic service of his country was accredited to the various capitals and won distinction in all, ultimately to represent Japan, as Viscount Hayashi, at the Court of St James. In the United States Prince Iwakura and his party everywhere were received with genuine enthusiasm, as giving by their visit substantial proof of the desire of Japan to enter at no distant date the comity of nations, and of the close neighbourship that exists between the two countries, their shores washed by the waves of the broad Pacific Ocean. As Prince Iwakura was the head of the Mission, the actual details of the journey will be found recorded in the pages of this volume devoted to a brief review of his share in the making of Modern Japan, and it may suffice here to mention that all returned to Yokohama in January 1873 and that the construction of a Cabinet on Occidental lines was there and then proceeded with.

In describing the mission as having been successful in every sense but one, it becomes necessary to explain that undoubtedly among its members the hope had been cherished that the treaties made twenty years before with the West might, now that Japan had given earnest of her intentions to justify to the uttermost extent her inclusion in the ranks of civilised powers, be revised on a basis of equality, or might at all events be modified in a way to remove from the minds of the Japanese people the impression that the bargains made as exemplified in the earliest agreements with foreign powers were somewhat one-sided. But as yet the powers of the western world were insufficiently cognisant of the scope and sincerity of Japan’s legitimate ambitions to comprehend that her claim to complete equality of treatment could with perfect propriety and security be admitted. The ambassadors[132] accepted the situation with the utmost composure, and proceeded to store their minds with all the information that might serve to fit them for the administration of their country’s affairs on Occidental lines modified to meet its own peculiar needs. Among the first results of the mission were the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, which came into operation with the year 1873, and the removal of all the anti-Christian edicts from the Statute Book. A notable event, moreover, was the reception, some time later in the year, of a number of foreign ladies by the young Empress of Japan, then in her twenty-second year. The members of the Iwakura mission were particularly impressed with the advisability of introducing the system of prefectural assemblies, the working of which they had had opportunities of studying in Europe, and these initial steps in local self-government, it was ultimately ordained by the Emperor, should be inaugurated in 1879.

It had always been the custom in Japan for a man to have two personal names, one being for everyday use, so to speak, and the other one that by which he desired to be known to posterity, and to be employed by his historian, should he ever attain distinction. The Government, in order to abolish this cumbrous system, ordered people to choose a single name, for permanent use, and to make their selection forthwith, and it was in obedience to this decree that Ito chose for himself the name of Hirobumi, instead of Shunsuke, as that by which, in preference, he would for the future be known. In Japan the surname usually precedes the personal name, though of late years the compliment has been often paid to Europe of adopting its method in this respect, and the Marquis writes his name in Roman letters as “Hirobumi Ito,” rather than “Ito Hirobumi,” the form that he would adopt if using a Japanese pen. Ito Hirobumi became Minister of Public Works in the Cabinet of 1873, his friend Inouye Bunda, as he was then, holding the portfolio of Minister of Finance. It was as Minister of Public Works that the remarkable administrative skill of the future Premier was first manifested. Those who, like the writer, were privileged to serve Japan in those days in the department over which[133] he presided will retain vivid impressions of the quick, keen perception that he manifested in everything appertaining to engineering and the rapidity with which he mastered all the details connected with the building of railways, with mining and telegraphs, and with every branch of the huge undertaking then comprised under the head of public works to be carried on by the newly formed Government.

Lighthouses on the Western system had been begun as early as 1870, and a short experimental line of telegraph had been constructed from Yedo to Yokohama in the same year, followed by one joining Osaka with Kobé. And in the ensuing year, prior to the departure of the Iwakura Mission, the postal system had been inaugurated on an American model, and from Hong Kong the entire machinery of a mint had been procured, it having been available for purchase in consequence of the British Government having determined to cease coining in the Colony. Docks were being established in Japan, and newspapers were beginning to make their appearance. Into the whole of these varied fields of enterprise, as Minister of Public Works, Ito Hirobumi now threw his entire energies, with the best possible results, and Japan soon had her own printing establishment (the In-satsu-kiyoku) for the execution of Government work, her own Official Gazette for the promulgation of orders and regulations, her own specially designed coinage, her own State-maintained line of railroad, her own telegraphs to every part with submarine cables connecting the larger islands one to another. In his capacity of Minister the practical knowledge that he had acquired in Europe served the rising statesman in excellent stead, and he was able personally to concern himself with every branch of the important department over which he presided. At that time the number of his countrymen who might lay claim to share his intimate acquaintance with these matters was small indeed. During his stay in Great Britain in the year 1872 arrangements were made for the inauguration of a College of Engineering at Tokio, and a brilliant staff of Professors, headed by Mr Henry Dyer, was shortly[134] afterwards engaged to fill the chairs of Mining and Metallurgy, Geology, Mechanical, Railway, and Electrical Engineering, Architecture, Chemistry, etc., and some hundreds of cadets commenced a six years’ course to fit them for the duties of carrying on the multifarious undertakings on which it had been decided to embark.

The next few years of Marquis Ito’s strenuous life were spent in active preparation for the still more onerous duties that were to fall to his lot when Japan should be in a position to take her place as one of the leading nations of the earth, by right of her advancement in all the arts and sciences that tend to make a people great and powerful. He continued to avail himself of every opportunity of enlarging the field of his own knowledge and experience, making an especial study of the Constitutions of the several European States. For a time he was Minister of the Interior, having been succeeded at the department of Public Works by his friend and fellow-clansman, Inouye Kaoru.

Although he has four times been Prime Minister in the years which have elapsed, the fame of the Marquis Ito will for ever rest on the invaluable work he accomplished for Japan in the framing of a constitution, based to a certain extent on his researches into European history and contemporary politics, but modified to suit the requirements of an Oriental country, deeply immersed in the traditions of autocratic rule, and wedded to a feudal system of which lingering traces yet remained to enter at times into conflict with the principles of representative government and limited monarchy. The years devoted to the task of evolving a constitution that should suffice for the nation’s needs and be acceptable to the ruler who had pledged himself to bestow this inestimable boon on his subjects, an act of spontaneous generosity in the sovereign for which his people have never ceased to record their gratitude, were years to which the Marquis looks back with infinite pride and pleasure. It was not until 1881 that the Emperor announced his intention of fulfilling the promise conveyed in his coronation oath, the details of which have already been given in referring[135] to his Majesty’s personal share in the making of modern Japan, and the eight following years were more or less consumed in deliberations, but at last, on the 11th of February (the anniversary of the ascension of the throne of Japan by Jimmu Tenno, the first Emperor and direct ancestor of the present occupant), in the year 1889, was solemnly proclaimed the Constitution of which the subjoined is a digest, as translated into English.

The Emperor is the repository of the supreme power inherited from the glorious spirits of the Imperial Founder of his House, and of a line of Imperial ancestors, and it is by virtue of that inherited power that he promulgates (11th February 1889), the immutable fundamental law of the Constitution. The person of the Emperor is sacred and inviolable. It is with the consent of the Imperial Parliament or Diet that he exercises the legislative power, sanctioning and promulgating laws, and when the Diet is not sitting he issues ordinances with the force of laws, to be confirmed at the next session. He convokes and prorogues the Diet and dissolves the Lower House. He appoints and dismisses all officials, civil and military,—he has absolute command of the army and navy,—he declares war, makes peace, and concludes treaties,—he may declare a state of siege,—and he confers titles of nobility and other marks of honour. The rights of the monarch being thus defined, we come to the rights of the subject. “No Japanese subject shall be arrested, detained, tried, or punished, unless according to law. The rights of property, conditionally on the payment of taxes, are to be inviolable. Liberty of speech and of publication, of public meeting and association, and of petition, so long as the limits of the law are not transgressed, are fully secured.” In the same way religion, “within limits not prejudicial to peace and order,” is free.

The Imperial Diet comprises a House of Peers and a House of Representatives. In the first are five classes,—(a) Members of the Imperial Family, (b) Princes and Marquises, (c) Counts, Viscounts, and Barons, elected as representatives of the several orders, the representatives[136] of each order not exceeding one-fifth of that order, (d) persons nominated, for life, by the Emperor on account of meritorious service to the State, or of erudition, (e) persons elected for seven years by and from the fifteen highest tax-payers in each city and prefecture, and subsequently nominated by the Emperor. The number of members from the last two classes is not to exceed the number of representatives of the hereditary nobility.

The foregoing are some of the salient features of a Constitution that is the pride and glory of the Japanese nation, but there are others of not less importance, perhaps, in their influence on the future of the nation and which appeal to its sense of order with the more force, it may be believed, in that the enactments so promulgated have not merely all the weight of actual law but form integral parts of the Constitution. They provide for certain fixed expenditures based on the powers appertaining to the Emperor, and are opposed to the rejection or reduction by the Diet without the consent of the Government of such expenditures as may have arisen by the effect of law or that appertain to the legal obligations of the Government. The expenses of the Imperial Household, though defrayed out of the Treasury funds, require no consent of the Diet unless an increase is contemplated. Another significant provision is that when the Diet cannot be convoked, owing to the external or internal condition of the country, in case of urgent need for the maintenance of public safety, the Government may take all necessary financial measures by means of an Imperial ordinance. A still more important clause is to the effect that when the Diet has not voted on the budget, or when the budget has not been brought into actual existence, the government shall carry out the budget of the previous year. It has been found needful on more than one occasion since the year 1890 to take advantage, owing to the tactics of a factious parliamentary majority adverse to the Cabinet, of these provisions. The Cabinet being directly responsible to the Emperor, the opposition in the Diet has been powerless[137] to prevent the policy of the Government being carried out,—on the other hand, the statesmen on whose shoulders has rested from time to time the weight of public affairs have been called upon to sustain a heavier burden than would have fallen to their lot had they been armed with fewer powers. That the nation’s business has been conducted on the whole with undeniable prudence and success is due to the personal characteristics, in great measure, of the surviving Makers of Modern Japan.


To return to the transition period, prior to the promulgation of the Constitution in the preparation of which the subject of this sketch had so conspicuous a share.

In connection with this task of paramount importance and responsibility the future premier again visited England, accompanied by a staff of qualified assistants, to glean all the additional particulars regarding the principles and practical operation of European constitutions and parliamentary institutions, and the mass of detail thus gathered was carefully considered on the return of the mission to Tokio, by a well-staffed bureau presided over in great measure by the statesman with whom it had come to be identified in respect of its deliberations. Of the process by which the committee thus formed arrived at its conclusions, what were the systems deliberated upon, the arguments pro and con employed to ensure their adoption or rejection, little has ever been made public, but that there was no lack of careful consideration of every detail is to be comprehended from the fact that eight years were in all consumed in the work, the proclamation of the Constitution bearing date, as we have already seen, the 11th of February 1889. While the provisions of this Edict gave birth to representative bodies, the utmost anxiety was evinced to safeguard the executive from any encroachments on its legitimate sphere by those bodies, as though the outcome of their profound researches into the principles of representative government in Europe had been a conviction on the part of the examining committee that disadvantages[138] were to be recognised, in relation to the benefits, in a proportion which it was impossible wholly to ignore.

The prerogatives of the Crown had to be secured from excessive interference by the governed,—the government must be absolutely free to employ all the nation’s resources. Without this clear perception of the attributes of sovereignty at the outset, it might have been difficult to have brought all Japan’s strength to bear in the critical situations which have in later years arisen. As matters stand, however, the direct rule of the sovereign, though in some respects the idea of limited monarchy is preserved, remains practically unfettered, and the supreme control rests in the Emperor’s own hands. The Cabinet being responsible to the Ten-shi himself, may continue to conduct the affairs of the nation until it pleases him to signify a wish for its resignation, in spite of adverse votes on its policy that may be passed in both Houses, a provision which places it above the exigencies of party strife, and secures at all times its complete independence of action.

The prefectural assemblies, which were designed to pave the way for organised self-government through representative bodies on the western model, continued to meet in the provinces and to constitute a very useful training for the people in the principles of local administration and the formation of public opinion. The functions of these provincial parliaments were definitely laid down in a special ordinance in the year 1888, a few months before the assembly of the first Diet, so that there should be no conflict in regard to the respective powers of these institutions. A notable step had been taken four years previously in the reorganisation of the aristocracy on a system akin to the Chinese but accommodated to the methods of the Occident. There had been from ancient times in the Chinese Empire certain well-defined grades of the aristocracy, and in a modified form the titles so conferred had had their equivalents in Japan, so that it became necessary merely to revive the system under modern conditions. The degrees of nobility thus reintroduced were Ko = prince, Ko = (with a different symbol) marquis, Haku = count, Shi = viscount, and Dan = baron, corresponding to the Kung,[139] Hou, Po, Tzu, and Nan of the Chinese, the European equivalents for these titles being adopted by imperial ordinance from the year 1884. It has often been supposed that Japan copied the Western forms in reorganising her nobility, but the truth is that she officially recognised the European ranks under their Chinese equivalents, just as her scientific terminology is based upon the ideographs which have been employed in China for tens of centuries to represent substances of which the inhabitants of that land were cognisant though they lacked the enterprise to turn their knowledge to practical account. Chinese, as a language, has been to Japanese what Latin and Greek have been to English, the never-failing fount from which it was feasible to draw as occasion might require a term to suit the needs of scientific advancement. There had been princes, court nobles, and a hereditary aristocracy in Japan from times out of mind, the new feature introduced was the adjustment of mediæval titles of nobility to the requirements of a later age. Under this arrangement it became possible to group the former feudal magnates according to the relative positions that they had occupied while in possession of their estates, and simultaneously to raise to commensurate rank those who had become distinguished by their services to their country. Honours were to be conferred solely by the sovereign, and while he confirmed in this respect in their inherited privileges the members of the older aristocracy the Emperor raised to a status of equal title to respect those who had served him in the reconstitution of his empire on a basis of unexampled prosperity. On Ito Hirobumi his Majesty conferred the rank of Count. A similar honour was bestowed on his colleague and fellow-countryman Inouye Kaoru, and on many more. The former feudal lord of the Hizen province, for example, took his place in the new peerage as Marquis Nabeshima. The court noble Iwakura, who had headed the mission to Europe and America, became a Prince. The great shipbuilder, Iwasaki, who by his enterprise had done yeoman service to the nation in establishing this valuable industry at Nagasaki, became a baron.

It was in 1885 that Count Ito, as he had now become,[140] by the favour of the sovereign, under the provisions of the law creating a Peerage, formed his first Cabinet, in accordance with the resolution arrived at, by the Emperor in Council, to introduce this vital change of system in respect of the political organisation of the Empire. The Supreme Council of the nation thenceforward became composed of the heads of the various departments of State, with a Minister-president at its head. The Count, as in duty bound, took his place as the first to occupy the presidential office, and around him were grouped the foremost men of his party, in which the Sat-Cho element as it was termed, predominated. Sat-Cho is a compound word evolved from the names of the two great clans of the south, Satsuma and Choshiu. The first syllables are seen to be united in the compound, a term which has for many years been employed in Japan to signify the ascendency enjoyed in the political affairs of the New Japan by the representatives of the two clans indicated. Satsuma and Choshiu have always, under the later regime, shone conspicuously in the annals of the navy and the army having been the pioneers in the introduction of modern naval and military science. The Ministers who formed the First Cabinet of Japan were:—

Count Ito Hirobumi: Minister-President.
Count Inouye Kaoru: Foreign Minister.
Marshal Yamagata: Home do.
Count Matsukata: Finance do.
Marshal Oyama: War do.
Marquis Saigo (late): Navy do.
Viscount Mori (late): Education do.
Admiral Enomoto: Communications do.

The Privy Council, of which the special function is to advise the sovereign whenever it may be his pleasure to consult it, was established in 1888, and Count Ito became its first president, having resigned his post of Minister-president of State to take up this more important office. The expression is used advisedly, because in Japan, where the prerogatives of the sovereign place him nearly on a level with those rulers whose sway is absolute and autocratic, the Privy Council occupies a position of responsibility[141] that is not shared even by the Cabinet, in those crises that must at times occur in the life of a nation. To the Privy Council in Japan belong all those surviving Elder Statesmen, as they are with fitting respect designated, who have helped to make of Japan the marvellous success as a world power that she has become. In the formation of the Japanese Privy Council we may trace a close resemblance to that body which discharges somewhat similar functions in Great Britain. The original idea was not improbably imbibed by Count Ito during his study of European systems of Government, but in Japan the plan is extended to admit of the adoption of an ever-widening field of selection. The Emperor may summon whom he may think fit among his people to aid him in his deliberations, and in his wise choice of counsellors he has been guided by the evidence afforded of sterling ability or rare virtue rather than by affluence or the world’s esteem. The Privy Council may boast a membership exclusively of patriots, proved in the fire, men who have in reality sought above all things their country’s welfare, the advancement of their ruler’s legitimate interests and the maintenance of his rights and prerogatives unimpaired. He is able as a result to invest them with his complete confidence in the hour of trial. It was to the Privy Council that was entrusted the solemn duty of finally deliberating upon the draft to be submitted to the Emperor of the new Constitution, prior to its adoption in February 1889, and it is obvious from the character of its members that in this body his Majesty has been able to repose the utmost confidence at critical periods in the life of the nation.

The first Ito Cabinet remained in office until 1888, and when it was replaced by a Ministry of which Count Kuroda was the President, Count Ito at the express command of the sovereign, continued to retain office as a Cabinet Minister, but without holding any portfolio. In 1892 he again formed a Cabinet of which he was the Premier, and this lasted four years, through all the storm and stress of the war with China, in 1894-5, only in the year following going out of office on the conclusion of peace. In April 1895, occurred the famous meeting at Shimonoseki to[142] arrange the terms for a cessation of hostilities, when Japan was represented by Count Ito Hirobumi and China by Earl Li Hung-chang. The document as eventually drawn up is too long for quotation in its entirety, but in its main provisions it covered a wide field, the opportunity being seized by Japan to insist on the opening of additional ports in China to foreign trade, a service to the rest of the world which has perhaps been less appreciated than Japan had a right to expect at the time. Under this treaty of peace China definitely recognised the full and complete independence and autonomy of Korea and agreed to the cessation of ceremonies and formalities and the payment of tribute derogatory to such independence. China ceded to Japan in perpetuity and full sovereignty the following territories, together with all fortifications, arsenals, and public property thereon:—

(a) That part of the province of Feng-tien (Southern Manchuria), south of a line drawn from the mouth of the Yalu upstream to the mouth of the An-ping, thence to Feng-hwang-cheng and on to Hai-cheng, thence to Ying-kow (Newchwang) including the towns and places named.

(b) The island of Formosa, and adjacent islets appertaining thereto.

(c) The Pescadores group, that is to say all islands between longitude 119° and 120° E. and between 23° and 24° N. latitude.

The indemnity was fixed at 200,000,000 taels, payable in eight instalments. Wei-hai-wei was to remain in the occupation of the Japanese forces as a guarantee of the faithful performance of the stipulations of the agreement.

In the Liao-tung Convention signed at Peking on behalf of their respective countries by Baron Hayashi Tadasu and Earl Li on the 8th November 1895, the Third article of the Shimonoseki Treaty was abrogated, and a sum of 30,000,000 taels added to the monetary indemnity.

Mention has here been made of the boundaries in Liaotung province of the region which was to have become part of the Japanese Emperor’s dominions. Had that[143] bargain been carried out Russia, who had long before fixed her gaze upon the fortress of Port Arthur, would have had to abandon the hope of ever acquiring the coveted spot, and accordingly with the view of preventing its transfer to Japan she thought fit to address to the Government of Tokio, with the consent and approval of France and Germany, the subjoined remonstrance:—

“The Government of his Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias, in examining the conditions of peace which Japan has imposed on China, finds that the possession of the peninsula of Liao-tung, claimed by Japan, would be a constant menace to the capital of China, would at the same time render illusory the independence of Korea, and would henceforth be a perpetual obstacle to the permanent peace of the Far East. Consequently, the Government of his Majesty the Emperor would give a new proof of their sincere friendship for the Government of his Majesty the Emperor of Japan by advising them to renounce the definitive possession of the peninsula of Liao-tung.”

As Minister-President of State it fell to the lot of Count Ito, on the receipt of this historic document, to advise his Japanese Majesty to comply with the recommendation therein set forth, and to incur all the odium that attached in Japan itself to what was looked upon by the less thoughtful of the population as an abject surrender to the aggressive European Powers which were leagued in an unholy intrigue to deprive Japan of the legitimate fruits of her victory over China. For a time Count Ito went in danger of his life, for there are not rarely to be found those in Japan who are willing to regard themselves as the appointed agents of the gods for the punishment of what they deem to be an indignity brought upon the nation, no matter what the circumstances may have been. But that the Minister went well guarded at the express command of his sovereign in these days of uncommon excitement he might have shared the fate of other true patriots whose history is briefly recorded in this volume.


By his imperial master the Minister-president of the day, however, was throughout praised for the part which he took in respect of the war and of the settlement reached on its conclusion, and a signal mark of his Majesty’s favour was given in the statesman’s elevation to the rank of Marquis in connection with these notable events.

In 1897 Marquis Ito visited Great Britain for the fourth time, the occasion being the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The representative of the Ten-shi was Admiral his Royal Highness the Prince Arisugawa, so well known in the British Navy, he having served his apprenticeship to the sea in H.M.S. Iron Duke, after a course of education at Greenwich Naval College. Marquis Ito was for some weeks in London in the summer of that year, and paid a fifth visit to this country in 1900, to which reference will be made later on.

In the year 1898 the Marquis headed a ministry which included:—

Count Inouye: Finance Minister.
Baron Nishi: Foreign do.
Viscount Yoshikawa: Home do.
General Katsura: War do.
Marquis Saionji: Education do.
and the late Marquis Saigo: Minister for the Navy.

In 1900 he took office for the fourth time as Minister-president, with Baron Suyematsu, so well known in Europe of recent years for his contributions to the literature of the day and for his reasoned and fearless championship of his country’s cause on the lecture platform and elsewhere, as the Minister of the Interior. In this Cabinet was Mr Takaaki Kato, formerly Japan’s representative at the Court of St James, who held the portfolio of Foreign Affairs, General Viscount Katsura, now Premier, was Minister for War, and Admiral Baron Yamamoto was Minister for the Navy, a position which he occupied under successive administrations, from 1899 until January 1906.

In 1900 Marquis Ito associated himself with the doctrines of party government, and an immense step was taken in that direction by the formation of a political[145] body named the Sei-Yu-kai, pledged to the adoption and support of Constitutional methods. His views on the duty of a political party were set forth in a manifesto at the time and may with advantage be introduced here:—

“If a political party aims, as it should aim, at being a guide to the people, it must first commence with the maintenance of strict discipline and order in its own ranks, and above all must shape its own conduct in accordance with an absolute and sincere devotion to the public interests of the nation. It must, moreover, avoid falling into the fatal mistake of conferring posts on persons of doubtful qualifications merely because they happen to be members of its own political organisation.”

It is probable that when this Association was formed its founder intended that it should be a party of such wide scope that it would embrace all the then contending factions, and that thus while seeking to promote the principles of party government it would at the same time do away with the friction that was so much to be deplored. Nominally it did unite the factions under one leadership, but, sad to say, the friction in great part remained, and dissension was still rife within the party, to the manifest impairment of its capabilities for the attainment of the general weal. By Marquis Ito it has always been claimed that the Constitution was not a matter of agreement between the sovereign and his subjects, but a magnanimous grant of privileges to them by the Emperor purely on his own initiative, and it is not for the people, therefore, to question any of its provisions. Its sole aim, regarded from this lofty standpoint, is the substantial progress and well-being of the country, and it was because the leaders of political parties became too eager in their strife for the possession of power, to the detriment of their usefulness as regarded the advancement of the nation, that the idea of forming the Sei-yu-kai arose in the first place. Marquis Ito in former years was stoutly opposed to the theory of party government, and though he headed the association with which he was for two or three years closely identified,[146] it may be held with some show of reason, perhaps, that he was never entirely enamoured of the system, for he has often alluded to the mischief which the friction inseparable from party rule is apt to create as altogether regrettable, and calling for the introduction of some form of administration of the country’s affairs that should be free from the drawbacks which he recognises and deplores. Marquis Ito, in truth, assents to the proposition that party government has its advantages as well as its disadvantages, but he is by no means a whole-souled convert to the doctrine that it is the best that could be devised for Japan. He aims at something higher and nobler, and though he is prepared at all times to admit that excellent work has been done in the thirty-eight years of his present Majesty’s reign, he would ascribe the national progress to the circumstance that the people have acted together under the guidance of the Imperial Oath, taken at the beginning of the Mei-ji era, when the present ruler ascended the throne, in which it was proclaimed that “a deliberative assembly should be formed; that the uncivilised customs of former times should be abandoned; that the impartiality and justice displayed in the workings of nature should be adopted as a basis of action; and that learning should be sought throughout the world in order that the foundation of the Empire should be firmly established.” There has never been discernible any slackening of the marvellous energy with which Japan entered upon the quest of those most commendable objects, and the only tendency towards reaction that the most uncharitably disposed of critics has been able to discover was in reality nothing more than a desire, and that most temperately and dispassionately expressed, for the preservation of the national spirit, at a moment when it appeared to be in some danger of undergoing temporary eclipse. In Europe constitutional government has been the growth of centuries, but to Japan it is still comparatively new. Even in the West the personal element is by no means obliterated, and it is unlikely that Japanese politicians would be found wholly capable of eliminating that element and of giving to the world an example of a perfect civilisation in which individual[147] ambitions and the jealousies of cliques should become completely subordinated to love of country and zeal for public welfare. Nevertheless much has been accomplished in the direction of the elevation of political life to a high standard of purity, far above the sordid and despicable strivings for place and power that too often disgrace those countries of the Occident which ought to be foremost in setting the despised Orient a good example. It is a wise provision of the Japanese Constitution, if we may judge by results, that renders it impossible for the Cabinet to be affected by an adverse vote in Parliament, the appointment or dismissal of Ministers remaining the sole prerogative of the sovereign, as when once a Ministry has been invested with the imperial authority to perform its functions it holds a place removed from interference by party considerations with its deliberations, and from any unwarrantable intrusion, by even the members of its own side in the Diet, upon its complete privacy and abstraction from political concerns during its discharge of its duties to the State. There may be those in Europe who will yearn for the freedom which the observance of such a rule as this implies, and will be prone to regard the Japanese as a people who have found a way to improve upon the systems which served them to some extent as models for their modernised institutions.

It was the little rift within the lute caused by the inability of some of its members to see eye to eye with Marquis Ito that ultimately brought about the fall of the last Ito Cabinet, which was in office from October 1900, to May 1901, and then received his Majesty’s permission to dissolve itself, the Minister-president announcing his intention of retiring from political life, a resolution which was strenuously combated by all his adherents, who besought him to reconsider his decision. On the plea that his health would be the better for a sea voyage, however, the Marquis contrived to secure that rest from the cares of statesmanship which he had fairly earned, and he came to Europe once more at the close of the year, arriving in London on Christmas Day 1901, for a brief stay in the British metropolis which, as he[148] observed, he had first visited as long ago as the year 1863. On this occasion his object was to gather information and ideas, as he declared, and his tour was devoid of all political significance. The journey from capital to capital in the Occident was not, however, undertaken exclusively, it was thought, for pleasure, nor was it believed in a general way that the veteran statesman had travelled many thousands of miles without having an adequate purpose, though he chose not to disclose it. His wishes were respected, and during his sojourn in London, though he was the guest of the Lord Mayor at the Mansion House, and was received in audience by King Edward at Marlborough House, it was accepted as sufficient that he had, as it was described, come to England for purposes of private study, though necessarily the knowledge that he sought to acquire could not fail to be of service eventually to Japan, on account of the prominent position which the Marquis has of late years continuously occupied in his own land. The Lord Mayor in a felicitous speech (3rd January 1901), gave utterance to British opinion at large when he declared that the career of his guest had been one almost unequalled in truth, and indeed in fiction. “The incidents of that career,” said the Lord Mayor (Sir Joseph Dimsdale), “do not only represent the achievements of a great character, of a wonderful brain, an indomitable will and public spirit: but they have carried with them from year to year the destinies of an empire which it is hardly too much to say has been created in a few decades. Whether we look to the growth of civilisation, the increase of political and commercial relations, the spread of science, or the establishment of constitutional freedom, we are amazed at the almost fabulous progress of Japan in the last forty years. The promotion of all that may be placed to the credit of our honoured guest.” The marquis spoke in his own language in making his reply, the following translation being given there and then by his travelling companion Mr Tsudzuki:—

“In thanking you for the high honour done me, and for the eulogy of my country, I regret that I do[149] not feel entitled to the praise that has been showered upon me. The progress of Japan in the past is entirely due to the powerful guidance of her sovereign and the loyal patriotism of her people. All that I have done for my country does not exceed the limits of having served as one of the links in the harmonious co-operation of advancing civilisation. I am unworthy of the high opinion which his lordship has been good enough to express of me. I think it may not be out of place to give expression to my profound satisfaction at the cordial relations which have existed for nearly a century between England and Japan. It was the English people who were the first to come to our shores as the harbingers of civilisation. Who could compute now the number of Japanese who speak the English language or the closeness of the relations which now exist? I was one of the first Japanese to come to this country thirty-eight years ago—a country equally hospitable then as now. Since then how many of our countrymen have been studying in England in commerce, education, industries, the navy, and in the venerable institutions of education and learning? And how many of your institutions—social and political—have served as models in our task of assimilating Western civilisation? I need not remind you that we have never failed in our profound admiration of England and English ideas, and its excellent self-governing institutions. And how many of your countrymen have lent us a helping hand in the education and regeneration of our land, as tutors, professors, and as employees in the different branches of our public life, and, above all, in commerce, as constantly intermingling with the ever-increasing network of peaceful relations between the two countries? I believe that the focus of international competition is moving steadily towards the Pacific Ocean, and pledged as we are, not only by our historic relations with the west, but also the east, we are destined to play an ever-increasing part[150] in the development of that portion of the globe. It is only natural for me to believe and sincerely hope that the continuance of those friendly feelings and sympathies which have existed in the past shall be daily more strongly cemented. With these hopes and convictions I trust I may be excused if I construe this hospitality as one of the many tokens of the continuation of our past friendship.”

At the dinner given the evening prior to his departure for Paris, on his way home, the Marquis was the recipient from Lord Lansdowne on behalf of the King, of the order of Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Bath.

On his way to London the Marquis had passed through Russia, where he was received in special audience by the Tsar, and Count Lamsdorff gave a Ministerial Banquet in his honour. From St Petersburg he travelled to Germany, Italy, and Belgium, receiving at Potsdam a decoration from the Kaiser, at a banquet specially arranged, the tour through Europe being one of unalloyed satisfaction to the veteran statesman, and of exceptional value to his country, in that he obtained information at first hand regarding the status of political parties, and added to his store of knowledge on subjects connected with the science of constitutional government, which is one of the many matters on which he is privileged to be the trusted adviser of his sovereign, in virtue of his position as President of the Council.

In this necessarily imperfect sketch of the strenuous life of Marquis Ito I have touched mainly on his public career, leaving to the last any reference to the simplicity and usefulness of his private life in town and country, the one permeated with the anxieties and perplexities of a statesman’s daily round of duty, the other a restful freedom from political worry always to be secured in his seaside villa at Oiso. In a measure the Marquis may be said to have made Oiso, for it was not until he had a house built there, within sound of the waves of the Pacific, that the wayside village and posting station of ancient times became known as a health resort and acquired a certain[151] notoriety as a convenient seaside bathing-place. Oiso will never be a Brighton or an Eastbourne, perhaps, but it has a pretty collection of villa residences close to the shore, and it has for a background the peerless Fujiyama, while the Pacific billows rattle the shingle on its extensive beach. Here it is that the veteran statesman is visited by his life-long friends, those “elder statesmen” of the new regime who recognise in him their experienced chief and are by the nation regarded, in the main, as its safest guides and counsellors in all that appertains to the welfare of the country.

It is here that he seeks repose when jaded with the cares of office, for although he no longer heads a Ministry, and is therefore exempt, it might be imagined, from the storm and stress of party politics, his advice is as much sought and valued as it ever was, and his presence in the capital is often indispensable to the adjustment of matters of the highest national importance. According to Western ideas the Marquis is not a wealthy man,—as Premier his salary was less than a thousand pounds a year,—but on the other hand his tastes are not expensive, and like the vast majority of his countrymen he lives a frugal, almost abstemious, life in which neither the pleasures of the table nor the dissipations of society have any share. He is essentially a man of active habits, and betrays in no marked degree the weight of years or the strain of his long-continued and invaluable services to his nation. He feels a justifiable pride in the achievements of the Japanese army and navy, for he was among the first to perceive that if Japan would take her stand among the powers of the world she must provide herself with, first of all, the means to add weight to her arguments in the council. In some respects the most critical period of Japan’s development was from 1892 to 1896, which covered the war of 1894-5 with China, and throughout this term the hand of the Marquis was on the helm, steering the ship of State through the exceedingly troubled waters produced firstly by the war itself and secondly by the oppressive action of three European powers which deprived the victor in the struggle of the fruits, in no[152] small degree, of the victories achieved. Japan had then to stomach an affront which she could never forgive, and Ito has lived to see the day when by the might of her sons Japan has been avenged. Not completely, perhaps, in the opinion of some, but sufficiently so to justify the adoption of the policy which he advocated, for,—come what may,—his country has obtained a place in the front rank of naval and military powers of which the future, be it favourable or unfavourable, can by no means wholly deprive her. His patient courage and determination in the hour of trial have extorted admiration on all sides. His sober judgment and wise discretion in the conduct of affairs of State have won for him the entire confidence and regard of his countrymen wherever they are to be found. His adaptability has ever been one of his distinguishing characteristics. In his choice of a model he has confined himself to no one country or system but has framed his progressive measures, whether of naval or military organisation, of public works, or of administrative improvement, with an absolute freedom from bias that has enabled him to secure for his nation in all cases that which is most suited to its needs, and which in actual practice has proved the most beneficial throughout.

In his grand conception of a reformed and reinvigorated Japan under a written constitution and codified laws based upon the best that could be gleaned of Occidental modes of procedure, the Marquis Ito was instrumental in conferring upon his country a series of benefits such as by no ordinary combination of fortuitous circumstances could it have obtained in the lifetime of an individual, however exalted. His early visit to the Occident afforded him an insight into methods of government which had borne the test of time, and by his accurate judgment and skilful interpretation of the demands of a people who were yearning for enlightenment and freedom he gauged to perfection the possibilities of a wholesale adaptation of Western arts and sciences to the requirements of his own land. Among the lessons learned in the course of an extended tour through Europe and[153] America by the Iwakura Embassy in 1872 had been the imperative need of adopting measures of defence against the even then palpably inimical designs of Russia in regard to Japan’s position. If the travellers had been deeply impressed with the power and wealth of the Occidental nations they were not less convinced by what they saw of the need of an efficient system of national protection by sea and land. In his representations to his sovereign the future Premier dwelt then, there is reason to believe, on the advantages of a policy of preparation for eventualities such as in recent times has borne good fruit in a hundred ways. It is to the Marquis Ito Hirobumi more than to any other individual statesman that the honour belongs of having brought his country, subject to the guidance of a wise and revered monarch, through a period of unexampled peril in respect of its domestic condition, and of frequent crises in its foreign relations. Troubles have lately arisen owing to the action of one of the Great Powers, and for which Japan is in no sense to be held responsible, by which the efficiency of her naval and military organisations was for a year and a half subjected to the most severe tests, but the final results were of a character to still further elevate the status of the country among the nations of the earth and to confirm its claim to consideration as the most potent, enlightened, and progressive of any in the Orient.

Korea, by the terms of the Peace Settlement of 1905, has come under the protection of Japan, and Marquis Ito has assumed the duties of Resident-General; the speedy development of the peninsula under Japanese auspices may therefore be looked for. Already there is a large Japanese population, and both Korean and Japanese children attend the Japanese schools at Seoul, where special attention is given to physical drill. The photograph shows the girls exercising with the naginata, a weapon which the daughters of samurai were taught in the olden time to wield most effectively.



There may be some who yet remember Tenniel’s cartoon in Punch of 1872 depicting a Japanese nobleman attired in orthodox haori and hakama and wearing two swords in his girdle, watching a faction fight in Ireland, and remarking to the Archbishop of Canterbury,—“These, your grace, I suppose, are Heathens?” To which the answer was: “On the contrary, your Excellency, they are among our most enthusiastic Religionists!” The figure in the ancient costume of Japan was intended to represent Prince Iwakura, the head of an Embassy which included Ito, Kido, Okubo, and others whose names are familiar enough to the people of the Occident to-day but were then as strange to their ears as can well be imagined. The visitors had come to England from the Far East by way of America, and were here to learn all that it was likely would be useful to the people of their own land to know. When he quitted Japan on the mission to Europe and America Prince Iwakura was U-dai-jin, or Vice-Chancellor of the Right, and had always occupied a high position at the Court of Kioto, being a Kugei.e. a member of the old nobility—by birth. He had, like Prince Sanjo, been a prominent leader, intellectually, in the great transitional period of 1867-71, and was thoroughly imbued with the tenets of the kai-koku section of the Japanese body-politic, though he can scarcely be said to have been a whole-souled advocate of unrestricted intercourse with foreign nations,—not at any rate until after his visit to the capitals of the West in 1872.


The prince began his life at the palace as one of the Jiju, or junior chamberlains in the imperial service at Kioto. This was in the year 1848, when he was about sixteen years of age. In the month of February 1858, at[155] the time when the American Minister Townsend Harris was pressing the Government of Yedo for the completion of a new treaty with the United States, it happened that Hotto, the feudal lord of Bichiu, was sent to Kioto by the Shogun to explain the critical state of affairs, and with the request that the Emperor Komei, who was then on the throne, would give his sanction to the conclusion of the treaty referred to. But several of the Kuge protested, Iwakura being one of them, and presented a memorial to the Emperor, urging him not to consent to the Shogun’s proposition. As far as Iwakura was concerned, it was not through any disposition towards factious opposition to the Bakufu that he protested, as was to be well comprehended from the fact that when the Bakufu was being urged by the Court party to expel foreigners from Japan altogether, and the Tokugawa officials realising the impossibility of carrying out the imperial commands, and that it was mainly due to the circumstance that the kuge had the ear of the ruler at Kioto, yet pretended to acquiesce, and suggested that the Kuge should unite with the samurai in the effort to turn out the Westerners, the intention being that the kuge should thus come to see the folly of attempting to shut up the treaty ports, Iwakura at once said publicly that the Bakufu’s suggestion was just and right. The idea of his taking this view of the matter was, however, so displeasing to the Emperor Komei that Iwakura was ordered to shave his head and go into retirement until further orders. Thus it was by his impartial attitude that he made enemies among those who were opponents of the Shogun, and they dubbed him Sabakuka, or helper of the Bakufu, ostracising him so completely that no one went near him. As a matter of fact he was no friend to the Bakufu, but he was a fair-minded man, not afraid to give utterance to his convictions, and did not approve of the principle of wantonly opposing every step that the Shogun might find it advisable to take.

While Iwakura was dwelling in this enforced seclusion means were found of opening up communication between him and Saigo Takamori, Okubo, Kido, Goto Shojiro, and others of the imperialist party, and so when the change[156] of government was brought about in 1868 he was at once released from his retirement and appointed at first a Sanyo, then a Gijo, and finally, when the new administration was completely arranged for, in the autumn of that year, he became a Fuku-Sosai or Vice-Chancellor of the Government, a title that subsequently was merged in that of U-dai-jin.

Long prior to his journey to Western lands he had come in contact with Western people to no inconsiderable extent, as a brief allusion to the part he took in the reception of the Duke of Edinburgh in 1869 will suffice to show. But first it should be explained that as a Court noble he had in the preceding year accompanied his present Majesty from Kioto to Yedo, thenceforward to be known as Tokio. The youthful sovereign travelled by the famous To-kai-do, or road of the Eastern Sea, and as it was the first and last occasion on which the sovereign journeyed under conditions that have long since ceased to exist, it may be worth while to recall some of the features of the imperial procession and the methods of travel which down to that date were adopted in Japan. Matters have in this respect been completely changed, for the railways have revolutionised everything. The honjins at which the daimios stayed for the night when journeying by easy stages from their provinces to the Shogun’s capital at stated periods and back to their domains have mostly disappeared,—the post stations, where their servitors hired baggage ponies and their palanquin bearers were changed, every few miles, still exist on most roads, but the palanquins have been replaced by the “man-power-car” (jin-riki-sha), a vehicle then uninvented. The stately manners and elaborate courtesy of the old regime have been replaced by a certain brusqueness that sometimes offends. The journey from Kioto to Yedo formerly occupied four weeks. The average rate of progress was thus about twelve miles per day, but it was not uniform, and much depended on the character of the road, and of the weather. The Emperor rode in a specially constructed “norimono” (lit.: thing for riding in) and was hidden from the gaze of the vulgar by silk-gauze curtains. The bearers of the imperial vehicle had been[157] trained to perfection in the art of carrying it steadily,—to the degree, indeed, that they could run fast with it when a bowl brimful of water had been placed inside and not spill a drop, if we may credit the assertions of those who formerly made their journeys in this fashion,—and were carefully matched for height to prevent any oscillation. In the month of November, when the Emperor removed to his new capital, the days were warm and sunny, and the nights cool, so that the time chosen was the pleasantest for travelling of all the year, and as the honjin keepers had been warned of his Majesty’s approach by advance couriers all had been made ready for his fitting reception. By his express command no levy of any sort was made but, down to the smallest article needed for use on the road, everything was paid for. As the procession neared Kanagawa some of the Yokohama residents were present at the roadside to witness its passage through the little town, and it is supposed that his Majesty, then not quite seventeen years of age, obtained his first view of the strangers in his realms through the gauze-curtained windows of his norimono. The advance was slow and dignified. There were 1000 soldiers marching in scattered parties of from forty to two hundred, with a few flags, and several bands of music playing a weird air that no one recognised. Beyond this there was not a sound. The people bowed profoundly, but in perfect silence, as the ruler of Japan passed by. Following the Emperor came Prince Iwakura, in a norimono, and some twenty other nobles of the Court, as also three or four territorial lords, each with his own retinue. Slowly the procession wended its way along the “Eastern Sea Road” at a foot pace, until the castle of Yedo which had for two and a half centuries sheltered the deputy ruler, but thenceforward to be the headquarters of the real sovereign, came in sight, from the suburb of Shinagawa. Soon the imperial norimono had been borne across the inner moat and the Emperor had reached his palace, not again to appear in public for a long time, and then not in a norimono but in a wheeled vehicle of European pattern drawn by well-groomed horses.

Next year there came to Japan Prince Alfred of England,[158] and with his reception as the first foreign prince to visit Japan under the new order of things created by the Restoration Prince Iwakura had all to do. At the time he gracefully said that the Government had given to the reception of the English prince the most anxious consideration, inasmuch as it was of all things wished that the utmost friendship should be shown towards Foreign Powers, and the Government was ready to promote the formation of intimate relations even though in doing so they might have to sacrifice to some degree the ancient usages and ideas, so much so that the Emperor would be compelled to observe an altogether new etiquette in receiving Prince Alfred in a way that would be acceptable to Great Britain, but that it afforded intense gratification to reflect that this compliment would in the first instance be paid to an English prince, and would form some slight acknowledgment of the abundant proofs which Japan had received of the thorough good will of England and of the Government of Queen Victoria.

It is ancient history now, but the Galatea dropped anchor at Yokohama on Sunday, the 25th of August 1869. The royal standard, however, was not hoisted by her until the 31st, and then all the warships in harbour and the fort of Kanagawa broke into a tremendous salute, which later the Galatea returned with the flag of Japan at the main. On the 1st of September the Duke took up his residence in the palace of Hama-go-ten, in Tokio, which had been made ready for him, and on the 4th he went to the palace within the castle to meet the Ten-shi, who welcomed his guest in the Audience Chamber, and then invited him to a less formal meeting in the adjoining garden of Fuki-age. Refreshments were served in the maple pavilion, and the Emperor awaited the Duke’s coming in the tiny pavilion by the waterfall. As Prince Alfred entered the Ten-shi rose and bowed courteously, and begged his guest to be seated. The suites remained standing, while the Emperor said “It affords me great pleasure to receive a prince who has come so far, and I hope you will remain long enough to repay you for the fatigues of the journey.” The best wishes were expressed on both sides for cordial relations[159] between England and Japan and the memorable interview was brought to a conclusion.

Interest will always attach to this first meeting of the Japanese Emperor with a member of another ruling house, for it signalised a vast alteration in the views of the Japanese aristocracy as well as the beginning of cordial relations between the two powers which have with the lapse of time grown closer and closer, and promise to be eternal. It is due to the memory of Prince Iwakura to show, as it has here been sought to do, that he most clearly appreciated the benefits which were certain to accrue from the maintenance of a mutual understanding between his country and ours, and did all that it was feasible in that epoch to do to cement the ties which were thus early growing up between nations destined to be one day absolutely allied.

In 1870 Prince Iwakura was despatched on an important mission to the lord of Satsuma province, being the bearer of a request from the Emperor that the daimio Shimadzu Saburo, then dwelling at Kagoshima, should come to Tokio and give his assistance in affairs of State, by taking his seat at the Grand Council. The Emperor wrote a special letter to Shimadzu,—who was virtually all powerful in Satsuma, though nominally the uncle and truly the father of the daimio of the clan,—to the effect that the Dainagon Tomiyoshi (Iwakura) was charged to convey the expression of his Majesty’s esteem and calling upon him (Shimadzu) to join in the great work of reforming the national institutions. To Iwakura the Imperial Commission was given in these terms:—

To Iwakura Dainagon:

His Majesty desires to present a sword to the shrine of Shokoku Daimojin at Kagoshima in Satsuma, and to take an oath to the god to exalt the destinies of the State.

You will therefore proceed thither and worship in obedience to this desire of his Majesty.

Sanjo Sanetomi:
Tokudaiji Sanenori:


The Satsuma lord found an excuse for non-compliance at the time with the sovereign’s command, though he ultimately went up to Tokio with a retinue of armed samurai, at a date when the wearing of two swords in the girdle had become an anachronism, and then made but a brief sojourn there.

The next mission undertaken by Prince Iwakura was that alluded to at the outset,—the visit to America and Europe.

With him, as Vice-ambassadors, were four of the heads of departments of State, and a number of Secretaries and clerks belonging to the several departments represented. The dominant idea seems to have been that the chiefs should form a council of five among themselves, and be able to adequately represent the views of their sovereign. The prince had some months prior to the leadership of this mission being conferred upon him been made Minister for Foreign Affairs, and what was a most exceptional thing at that time, indeed an altogether unprecedented honour, the Emperor paid him a visit at his own residence in Tokio, and thus addressed him:

“I have purposely called on you to thank you for your zeal in my service. Ever since the Reform you have exerted yourself day and night to secure the happiness and tranquillity of the empire, and the present state of prosperity has principally depended on you.”

When Prince Iwakura was chosen to lead a mission to the Western Powers it is to be inferred from this commendatory utterance of the sovereign how great was the importance that was attached to its successful fulfilment, and there can be no doubt that much was anticipated from it in the shape of compliance by the Governments to which it was accredited with a desire that the Japanese Government had very much at heart, and that was the revision of the treaties entered into twelve to fifteen years before with foreign powers,—a revision which it took many years to bring about but was at last amicably effected in 1894.


The Embassy left Yokohama by a Pacific Mail Company’s steamer in December 1871, and it was absent altogether a year and nine months. Everywhere it was well received, but the results were not quite satisfactory, for when it returned the vexed question of extra territoriality was no nearer a settlement in accordance with Japan’s views than when it set out.

On his return Iwakura found a strong party in the Government in favour of inflicting punishment on Korea for wrongs and insults that it was declared the nation had sustained at the hands of the people of the neighbouring peninsula. As Korea was tributary to China, this meant going to war with the Chinese, and Iwakura was profoundly opposed to an adventure of this character in the then state of the Empire’s naval and military forces. A split in the Government followed, and the members of the war party, which included Goto Shojiro, Itagaki Taisuke, Saigo Takamori, Soyeshima, and Yeto Shimpei, all resigned, their places in the administration being taken by Ito Hirobumi, Katsu Awa-no-kami, Okubo, and Terashima.

The ill feeling in the country engendered by this conflict of opinion led to a determined attempt on Prince Iwakura’s life by men belonging to the Tosa clan, who were caught and executed for their abominable crime. The prince was returning from the imperial palace at eight o’clock in the evening of the 15th of January 1874, in a small open carriage, the hood of which, fortunately, as the night was cold, had been drawn up. Nevertheless, though the hood was a partial protection, he received several wounds from the swords and spears with which the intending assassins had armed themselves. The attack took place on the causeway at Ku-ichi-gai, close to the castle moat, and the driver of the carriage and the betto or groom, were likewise both badly wounded. In endeavouring to escape from his assailants the prince fell headlong into the moat, which happily was not deep at that point, and the assassins, as they deemed themselves to be, took to flight, on the guard at the palace gate approaching with a lantern. Their victim had strength left to shout, and[162] was hauled out of the moat, more dead than alive from his injuries and immersion in the ice-cold water on that winter night. He was a long time confined to his bed, but he eventually recovered to be able to resume his part in the official life of the capital.

He died in 1881 deeply mourned by the whole of the Japanese people, who recognised in him perhaps more than in any other statesman of his generation the guide and counsellor of the monarch at critical periods of the nation’s history, and he undoubtedly was honoured by his sovereign with a close personal friendship such as rarely falls to the lot of a subject under any conditions, in Japan or elsewhere.



On the 6th of November 1868, when the British Minister, the late Sir Harry Parkes, was reviewing the British garrison at Yokohama, a Japanese equestrian, wearing the native robes of white silk which befitted his rank as a kuge or Court noble,—his horse led by two grooms or “bettos,” and attended by forty soldiers in blue serge uniforms, with black cloth caps,—a man of slight physique, and particularly juvenile in appearance,—sat placidly in his saddle watching with an interested air the movements of the foreign troops as they executed a series of evolutions and marched past the representative of Queen Victoria. The visitor, who had come from Tokio to attend the review, was Prince Sanjo, the first Prime Minister of Japan, and leader of the newly formed Government of the Restored Imperial Rule. A few minutes later Sir Harry, with a well-turned compliment on the skill of Japanese swordsmen, and a graceful acknowledgment of his indebtedness personally to the valour of one of their number, handed to the Japanese statesman the sword sent by the British Queen for presentation to Mr Nakai Kozo, in memory of the day when Nakai and Goto Shojiro, as is elsewhere related at length, saved the life of the British Minister when he was attacked by outlaws in the streets of Kioto in March of the same year. Prince Sanjo passed on the gift to Mr Nakai with his own congratulations to the recipient on the performance of a brilliant feat of arms, and thus closed an incident that served to remind those present of an exceptionally stormy period in the history of the nation, and which happily was then giving place to comparatively settled conditions. Prince Sanjo had come from Kioto to Yedo, thenceforward to be the capital of the Empire under the[164] title of Tokio, in the month of June, in attendance on the Emperor, who then removed to the former headquarters of the Shogunate and gave to the place its new name. Sanjo was at that time Fuku-Sosai, ranking next to the Emperor’s uncle, Prince Arisugawa Taruhito, who occupied in the first administration formed under the Restored Imperial regime the position of Sosaii.e. Supreme Director of the Government. The decisions of the So-sai were unchallengeable, and it was an office which only a prince of the blood might hold. Sanjo had always, even during the lifetime of the present Emperor’s father, sided with those who recognised the need of reforms, and when, in the autumn of 1868, the Department of the So-sai was abolished and the Dai-jo-kwan, or Supreme Governing Council, was constituted, thus resuscitating an ancient advisory body that had had a prior existence in the eighth century, he succeeded to the post of president, or Dai-Jo-Dai-Jin, thereof, and occupied it from that time forth until the dissolution of the Council on the reconstitution of the Government in the year 1886.


The Ministry of the Restored Rule was soon after its institution reorganised so as to give equal representation to the four leading clans that had been directly concerned in the revival of direct imperial control—viz. Satsuma, Choshiu, Tosa, and Hizen. Up to the year 1886 the Dai-jo-kwan was a separate body, distinct from the Council of Ministers or heads of departments. But in that year the two Councils were fused into one, and became the Cabinet as it exists at the present day. In Japan, it will be remembered, the Cabinet is appointed directly by the sovereign, and is entirely independent of any political party that may be predominant in the Diet. The Ministry at the outset of the Meiji era included those energetic reformers, Ito Shunsuke (afterwards Hirobumi) and Inouye Bunda (afterwards Kaoru) both Choshiu Samurai, and in Prince Sanjo they found an able and ardent supporter of their views. His influence was apparent in the tolerant attitude of the Court party towards the policy of the new government, and as the motto of the administration was then, and still is, “a[165] strong Japan, for defence, and if need be, for aggression,” it is not easy to see in what respect the Imperialistic conservatism of the Kioto nobles was stultified by the doctrine enunciated in the Council Chamber at the capital. The retention of Japan for the Japanese was the object sought by both sides, but while one would have attempted to realise it by the expulsion of the subjects of the Occidental Powers, the other party in the State was willing to believe that Japan’s safety and territorial integrity were best to be preserved by the assimilation of those arts and sciences that had given to the Western peoples their capabilities of waging successful warfare, and of thereby imposing their will upon others. The policy which commended itself to Japan at that epoch was certainly not inspired by a mere love of change, nor by any pronounced preference for foreign ways, nor was it ascribable to a passion for learning, in the abstract, but it was directly prompted by a well-grounded political incentive to action that has never lost its hold on the minds of Government or people, and is indubitably as strong to-day as when its principles were first assented to by the nation at large, close upon forty years ago.

Prince Sanjo belonged to the eighth Kuge family, and was therefore a descendant of the Fujiwara house which has from very early days provided consorts for the Emperors. The mothers and wives of the sovereigns of Japan have all been Fujiwaras by descent, and the rule still holds good that the princesses of the blood shall marry into Fujiwara houses. The retention of Prince Sanjo in the office of Prime Minister on the establishment of the Dai-jo-kwan was a wise step of which the good effects were incalculable, inasmuch as it tended towards the reconcilement of those antagonistic sections of the community which were to be classed respectively as adherents of the old and of the new systems. At the beginning he was himself an opponent of the kai-koku policy which favoured the opening of the country to foreign trade and intercourse, but in the end he vastly aided the accomplishment of those plans to which he had finally accorded his unqualified approbation. As a[166] Fujiwara he could not be other than a devoted servant of the throne,—as a convert to the doctrine of reform he was a pillar of strength to the Government of the Restored Imperial Rule, and a strenuous advocate of the adoption of methods calculated to place his country in the van of Asiatic powers. The Fujiwaras in the ninth century assumed regal control, in their tenure of the office of Kwambaku,—an ancient title borne by the Prime Minister of the State,—and the holder of it in A.D. 888 had wielded absolute sway, arranging all affairs with and on behalf of the then reigning Mikado, who seems to have been content to efface himself and to permit the Minister to exercise sovereign powers. Thus the prestige of the Fujiwara house was a valuable prop to the edifice of State and the influence exerted by the prince as Premier throughout his long occupancy of the exalted office was ever thrown into the scale of solid advancement.

When the Shogun Tokugawa Keiki tendered his resignation in the spring of 1868, he made a strong appeal for the assembling at an early date of the provincial lords in Kioto, in order that they might express individually and collectively their views to the young monarch on the great questions which were then agitating the land. This Council of Dai-Mios met while the war of the Restoration was yet in progress, and the outcome of their deliberations was the revival of the historical Dai-jo-kwan, with a Dai-jo-dai-jin, or Chancellor,—to use the term then commonly employed in translation,—a Sa-dai-jin, or Vice-chancellor of the Left, which ranks highest in Japan,—and a Vice-chancellor of the Right, the U-dai-jin. The holders of the Vice-chancellorships under Prince Sanjo were Prince Iwakura and the feudal chief of Satsuma. The administrative departments created—viz. Foreign Affairs, Finance, War, Education, Home Affairs, Justice, Religion, and the Imperial Household—were each presided over by a Minister, and among those who accepted portfolios at that time were many whose names will remain conspicuous for all time in the chronicles of the Empire. Few of them are now alive,[167] but it may with strict justice be said that their labours in laying the foundations of good government for their country were not in vain.

Prince Sanjo was at the head of the government throughout the troublous period when it became necessary, in order to vindicate Japan’s rights, to send an expedition to Formosa, led by Marquis Saigo, and at the far more anxious stage when rebellion arose in Satsuma and it was imperative to prosecute the war against Saigo Takamori and his followers with vigour, lest the spread of principles opposed to the Government policy should ultimately render its position insecure. Throughout it was Prince Sanjo who presided over the deliberations of the Cabinet, and who enjoyed the complete confidence of his imperial master. A great demand arose for the revision of the treaties into which Japan had entered with foreign nations, at a time when she practically had no choice but to throw open her ports to over-sea trade. Year after year this momentous problem, how to procure for the country adequate recognition of its paramount rights, while it chafed under the claims of foreigners to enjoy the immunities afforded by extra-territorial jurisdiction, obtruded itself, but it was not until the Dai-jo-kwan had given place to a Cabinet in 1886 that a satisfactory stage leading to revision was entered upon, and then Prince Sanjo had ceased to be Premier.

Five years previously the nation had passed through a crisis in its financial affairs due to the difficulties arising from a superabundant issue of paper currency, and trade had been temporarily affected in a way to give the maximum of concern to the Ministry. Brave efforts were made, and with an appreciable measure of success, to economise in every department of State. With the revival of commercial prosperity to some extent in the autumn there was promulgated the imperial decree granting a Constitution, to take effect in 1889, and for the assembly of a Parliament in 1890. These gracious fulfilments of the promise vouchsafed to his people by the sovereign at his accession filled the nation with joy, and it was resolved that steps should be taken to frame a[168] Constitution which should be acceptable to the monarch and at the same time satisfy all the legitimate aspirations of his loyal subjects. To this end it was agreed that Marquis Ito should visit Europe, there to complete his studies of Constitutional law and history, in order that he should be in a position to offer the Emperor advice on every point in connection with which information might be desired. By 1884 the internal progress of the Empire was such as to give the utmost confidence to the administration of which Prince Sanjo remained the head, and it had become practicable to regard the unrestricted opening of the country to foreign commerce and residence as being within the domain of practical politics, and indeed within measurable distance.

By the time that it had become desirable, in 1886, to reconstitute the Government on a model more suited to the requirements of a regime based upon parliamentary procedure, the new army of Japan had attained dimensions which warranted the Ministry in entertaining high hopes of its future serviceability as the safeguard of the national interests, and simultaneously the navy had risen to the condition of being a formidable force. The army mustered at this stage over 100,000 of all ranks, and in the fleet there were twenty-six vessels, five of them ironclads, in all mounting some 225 guns. The railway system had grown to a total of nearly 300 miles, and there were 5000 miles of telegraph. In one way and another the outgoing governing council was able to give a thoroughly satisfactory account of its stewardship, for while in Korea there had been rioting resulting in the deaths of a number of Japanese, and the War party at Tokio had clamoured for retaliatory measures at Seoul, a treaty had been negotiated on acceptable terms with the Peking Government and Japan had, by the moderation of her demands for redress, averted the danger which threatened of an open rupture with consequences for which Japan was herself at that period but ill prepared.

On being relieved of his office of Dai-jo-dai-jin Prince Sanjo went nominally into retirement, but his services[169] as an adviser to the Crown were not infrequently called for, until his health failed him in 1889.

His decease took place in February 1891, of influenza, and just before his death the Emperor visited him and conferred on him, as an old and faithful servant, the highest rank that it is possible for a Japanese subject to attain, and which had not been bestowed by an Emperor of Japan on anyone since the Eleventh Century.



Like others who have been prominent in the making of modern Japan, Count Inouye was a soldier before he became a statesman. To most of the foreign residents in Japan at the period immediately following the Restoration of Imperial rule he was best known as the Finance Minister, Inouye Bunda. To his countrymen he was the dashing Choshiu leader who had commanded the samurai troops of the southern clan in the fierce and prolonged strife of pre-Restoration days between his lord and the Bakufu, or Government of the Shogun. He and many of his colleagues in the first Imperial Government had made names for themselves as deft wielders of the long keen swords that they wore in their belts rather than for sage advice in the council chamber, but they speedily gave proof of exceptional ability in directions far removed from the ordinary path of the bushi, whose province it was of old “to follow his chief to the field.” But prior to his defeat of the Tokugawa forces the future financier had spent more than a year in England and the capitals of the Continent, having contrived to make his escape from his own land when foreign travel was still interdicted. A batch of students left Japan in 1863 intending to remain abroad for a five years’ course of study, but Inouye heard of the troubles that were thickening in connection with his own province consequent upon the attitude of its lord towards foreign intercourse, and having had opportunities of judging of the military strength of the Occidental nations in the course of his journey through Europe resolved in company with his friend Ito Shunsuke to return forthwith and warn the Choshiu baron of the risks that were being incurred by the clan. They left their fellow-students behind them in Europe and hastened to Yokohama,[171] where they found the combined squadron on the point of sailing for Shimonoseki, to punish the daimio of Choshiu for firing on passing ships. Armed with letters from the Foreign Ministers to the baron Mori, their lord, Ito and Inouye took passage in one of the warships, and were at their own desire landed at a point on the coast, in the Suwo Nada, as that part of the Inland Sea is termed, and made their way by road to Hagi, where the daimio was then in residence. Hagi is some forty miles across country from the Suwo Nada, and Inouye and his companion ran considerable risk of being discovered and brought to book for having quitted the province without leave. They assumed the disguise of medical men, who were permitted in those days to wear one sword, and were thus not wholly without means of defence had they been attacked in the mountains, and they succeeded in reaching the castle town to which they were bound without being delayed on the road. But they found the baron Mori entirely averse to the proposition that he should withdraw his standing order to the forts to fire on strangers, and on the other hand, though their reception had not been unkindly, they were ordered to return with a message of defiance to the squadron they had left in the Inland Sea. Three days in all had elapsed when they rejoined the British man-of-war Barrosa and communicated the purport of their lord’s reply. One course only remained open to the British and other commanders, and the vessels steamed to a selected position in the straits, just out of the strong current, and early the next morning prepared for the assault. Not without warning, however, for due notice was given of the intention, failing surrender. The Choshiu batteries were eight in number, beginning at Chofu, three miles east of the town of Shimonoseki,—and now the first railway station on the Sanyo line towards Kobé,—and extending thence to the hill, opposite Moji Point, where the main street of Bakan—another name for Shimonoseki, and in general use—begins. Seventy-four guns were mounted in the eight batteries, and the instant that the guns of the squadron opened fire, on the expiration of the allotted time, the most vigorous response was made by the[172] Japanese gunners. The most powerful of Choshiu’s ordnance was mounted at Maita-mura, a village midway between Bakan and Chofu. After some severe fighting, in the course of which the town of Bakan took fire and burned fiercely, the batteries were silenced, and the British ship Barrosa landed a party of bluejackets and marines to aid in extinguishing the conflagration. During the engagement one man on board a foreign ship was killed by an arrow, the Choshiu men having fallen back on archery to help them in the defence of their positions. On the surrender of the forts a document was drawn up for the baron’s signature, agreeing to certain conditions for the withdrawal of the attacking squadron, and Ito and Inouye were once more despatched at the request of the local government to represent the utter impossibility of holding out against superior force. The envoys returned two days later with the agreement sealed, and seventy-two guns, then supposed to be the total number in use, were taken on board the allied vessels. Two guns were unwittingly left in position on the hillside, commanding the straits, for the writer found them there when surveying the locality ten years afterwards, all but hidden in the dense undergrowth. The Choshiu samurai were not a little proud of the resistance which they had been able to offer to the foreign ships’ attack, and the townspeople never forgot the magnanimous behaviour of the victors in going ashore to quench the flames that the battle had originated.


The men of Choshiu, some fifty or more in all, who fell in the memorable fight were interred in a special cemetery situated on rising ground in the rear of the town, and the graves are still tended with that loving care which is invariably bestowed everywhere in Japan on the burial-places of relatives and friends. The Frenchmen,—it is said there were three,—who were killed aboard the French warships, were taken ashore on the Moji side for interment, and at a later date the French admiral visited the spot, and, according to report, discovered that the graves had been wilfully desecrated, indeed,—as it was said,—wholly destroyed. That some misapprehension must have[173] existed on this point is certain, since the writer was conducted by a farmer, who dwelt near Moji point, to the spot where the three sailors had been buried, and to all appearances the graves, though surrounded by dense vegetation, were intact. This was in the year 1873, when a submarine cable was being laid across the Straits to form part of the Japanese telegraph system. The farmer knew that those who fell on the side of the allies lay in that secluded spot, and expressed his regret that being a poor man he could do nothing to show his respect for those who had perished at the post of duty. The undergrowth was cleared away, and the soil had been purposely left untouched by rake or hoe. This was more than thirty years ago, and it is impossible for the writer to say whether or not some suitable memorial to the French victims of the battle has since been set up at the place indicated, but in any case there must still be people dwelling near it who know where the interments took place, as the story of the combined attack on the forts and the incidents of the struggle is told with zest by father to son, and on the Shimonoseki side the festival of the dead is regularly held at the tiny graveyard at the back of the main street.

Only a little while before the date of the Shimonoseki bombardment the Choshiu retainers at the baronial mansion in Kioto had engaged in hostilities with the Shogun’s supporters at the capital, and so close to the imperial palace were the combatants that the walls were repeatedly struck by bullets. This was during the lifetime of the Emperor Komei, and the now reigning sovereign was then only ten years of age, this early experience of hearing shots fired in anger, and particularly in the immediate vicinity of the imperial palace, though indicative of the pitch to which clan jealousy and animosity had at that period attained, being such as his Majesty was not likely to forget.

As to Choshiu, the sequel to the attack made by the clansmen on the Shogun’s troops was that the Emperor Komei issued an edict deposing the lord Mori and directing the Shogun, as Commander-in-chief of the forces, to[174] punish him for his rebellious behaviour. The Choshiu clan thus found itself in a position of antagonism to the imperial house, as well as to the Bakufu, and as at the same moment it was assailed by the combined foreign fleets at the Straits of Shimonoseki, in consequence of its attacks on passing vessels, the head of the clan was driven to the necessity of defending both flanks as best he could. He contrived to stall off the assault of the Shogun’s troops for the few days that he was engaged at Shimonoseki, where his forts were demolished by the fire of Admiral Kuper’s men-of-war and their allies, and when that trouble was past he raised the standard of rebellion in real earnest and defied the Shogun openly. Discipline and drill (for they were armed with Tower rifles, and had been partially trained on a Western system) served the men of Choshiu well, and they succeeded in inflicting a severe defeat on the forces of Iyemochi, who led his men in person. In this encounter between the forces of Choshiu and the Shogun the Satsuma clan stood aloof, possibly as the result of private negotiations between the clan leaders, for there were at this time several persons making their way to the front who were destined at no very remote date to play the most important parts in the affairs of the nation. On the Choshiu side were Ito and Inouye, on the Satsuma side were Saigo and Okubo, all men whose names will never fade in the history of their country’s emancipation from feudalism. The leaders of the two clans were united, moreover, by a bond of common interest, inasmuch as all desired to bring about the abolition of the Shogunate and secure the revival of direct imperial rule by the Emperor himself. The future Marquis Ito and Count Inouye had at this time only just returned from their first visit to Europe, as already recorded, and they lost no time in impressing upon their fellow-clansmen of Choshiu the advantages of military preparation for the coming struggle. The spirit of loyalty to the clan with which they were animated prompted them to ensure, as far as was practicable, that it should be in a position to do itself justice in the final effort which was then about to be made to restore the personal authority of the Ten-shi.


Inouye Bunda was invested with the control of the Choshiu forces in the field, and many engagements took place in the region bordering the Inland Sea. After the death of the Shogun Iyemochi in 1866, however, the encounters between the Bakufu troops and those of Choshiu became less frequent, and there was practically a truce during the later months of the year 1867, the situation in October being such as to prompt the Shogun Keiki, whose tenure of the office had been but brief, to prefer a request to be relieved of duties which circumstances had made it all but impossible for him to fulfil. The lord Mori made his submission to the Court, at Kioto, but the hostility of the clan to the Bakufu remained latent, notwithstanding its temporary suppression, and when, at the close of December 1867, the supremacy of the southern clans was established at the capital, followed by the departure, on the 3rd of January, of the Shogun Keiki for Osaka, the Choshiu clan was prepared to play a very active part in the restoration of direct imperial rule in substitution for that delegated authority which the Tokugawa house had so long wielded.

But Inouye Bunda had shown capacity of a different kind to that which had so far been demanded of him as a military leader, and he at once took his place as one of the most well-informed members of the new administration, particularly on matters of finance, which he had made his especial study.

It became necessary for the Imperial Government to undertake works of public utility, more especially railways, and on this account money had to be obtained from abroad, the first loan being negotiated through the agency of the Oriental Banking Corporation, while Count Inouye, as he subsequently became, was at the Finance Department. The interest on this loan was 9 per cent., and on a subsequent one 7 per cent., both being extinguished very early in the Meiji era. In the fifth year (A.D. 1872) the wise step was taken by Inouye, then Vice-Minister of Finance, of laying by a Reserve Fund comprised of extraordinary incomes, obtained in the first place from the sale of certain Government articles which had ceased to[176] be of any use. The idea of inaugurating such a reserve had been borne in upon the Government by the trying financial experiences of the preceding four years of the reign, consequent on the new administration having had to shoulder the responsibilities of the provincial Governments or Hans, by which in many instances a flood of paper money had been issued to circulate in merely their own territories, and not current beyond their boundaries. The extinction of the Hans obliged the new Government to undertake the liabilities so incurred to the agricultural and other population. The Vice-minister had also in view the resumption of specie payments at the earliest possible moment, though it was long ere his wishes were realised. Altogether he found it practicable to create the “Treasury Reserve Fund” by appropriating 11,330,000 yen,—adding together 11,230,000 yen of specie and 99,000 odd of paper money, which had been accumulating in the Government treasury. The Rules framed by him and issued in connection with this Reserve Fund are evidence of the clear perception the Vice-Minister had of the necessities of the hour, for he pointed out the urgent demand that then existed for giving support to the policy of the Government by saving up specie as a reserve, and arranging for its utilisation in a definite and unequivocal manner, in order that the circulation of paper money and the redemption of bills might be effectively provided for. A set of rules, twelve in number, was laid down for determining the method of the utilisation of the fund, in June 1872, and with slight modifications to suit changed conditions these regulations held good throughout the period antecedent to the introduction of Parliamentary Government. Such reserve funds as were in the possession of the Hans, kept for the redemption of the notes issued by them,—for they were not all indifferent to this obvious duty,—were added to the Government’s reserve, according to the actual sums received. And as the New Treasury’s convertible bills then totalled 6,800,000 yen, it was arranged that the amount thereof should be withdrawn at any time from the reserve fund of over 11,000,000 and paid in exchange for those bills whenever the demand might be made. By the following[177] December the Reserve fund, in the Vice-minister’s management, had reached the sum of over 16,000,000 yen, and as the yen was the equivalent of the dollar, at that time valued at from forty to forty-four pence English, the Reserve Fund was roughly £3,000,000 sterling.

But when every liability had been taken into consideration it was the Vice-minister’s somewhat mournful conviction that the Reserve was not equal to even one-tenth of the total of the bills and various other kinds of paper money in existence, for there were 20,000,000 yen worth of the Hans notes out somewhere, and 55,000,000 worth of the Dai-jo-kwan paper, issued to meet the unavoidable cost of setting up the new administration in 1868. This financial difficulty, indeed, was but one of the many problems that the Government of the Restored Imperial Rule was faced with at the beginning of its career, apart from all considerations of the opposition that it had to expect from those who were averse to the change and resolved to appeal to arms in support of their convictions. Indeed, the insight which even a superficial examination of the financial position in the early years of Meiji is apt to afford the student must tend to add to the wonder always experienced that the marvellous results which it is on all sides acknowledged were achieved by the men in power were attained with no greater sacrifices than those which had to be recorded. The spirit in which the individual members of the administration set about their tasks is, however, well exemplified by the tone of the memorandum addressed by the Department to the Government in December 1872. These were its terms:—

“It is our purpose to persist in our efforts to increase the Reserve Fund and bring it up to an amount which may one day prove to be of great service to the financial administration of the country. It is, therefore, our earnest prayer that not only during the time that we are in office, but down to a hundred years yet to come, in pursuance of the plan here laid out, efforts shall be made year after year to augment the fund, thus protecting and advancing the prosperity of[178] the nation, in order to establish the foundation of popular confidence in the national currency, and furthermore that the fund shall positively never be spent for expenditures under the General Account.

Should the Cabinet find our scheme acceptable, we would most humbly beg for the immediate sanction of his August Majesty, with the counter signatures of all the Ministers of State. With these prayers we hereby submit this memorandum to the careful consideration of the Government.”

From that time forward the Government never neglected any opportunity of augmenting the Reserve Fund, and when at a later date the change to the adoption of a gold standard was in preparation the fund which had been so wisely initiated in 1872 was of the greatest help in partly paving the way for the resumption of specie payments by Count Matsukata.

In 1878 it was decided that a sum of 10,000,000 yen in gold should be kept, as part of the Reserve Fund, in the Government Treasury, the remainder being turned into floating capital, and it was ordered at the same time that 20,000,000 yen should be added annually out of the general account to the Sinking Fund, having for its object the redemption of public debts, both domestic and foreign.

It would be very difficult to set forth in detail the many services rendered to his country by Count Inouye in the domain of finance, but enough has been adduced already in the way of proof that his guiding hand was of immense value to the nation in the critical period which followed on the Restoration of Imperial Rule, and for many years after while the national finances were being gradually established on the substantial footing they have in later years been shown to possess. It was as Foreign Minister in several administrations that Count Inouye also distinguished himself, having held that portfolio at various times during the existence of the Dai-jo-kwan, which only gave place to the Cabinet in 1886. It was while he was Minister for Foreign Affairs in 1882 that a systematic attempt was made to bring about an amicable adjustment[179] of the outstanding questions relative to the position of foreigners in Japan, a conference of representatives of the treaty powers meeting at Tokio to seriously consider revision in all its bearings. Minister Inouye, who had some time previously changed his name from Bunda to Kaoru, had throughout held it to be impossible for the nation to preserve the attitude which the advocates of an exclusive policy had sought to maintain towards the Occidental powers, and at the conference he boldly stood up for the wholesale opening of the ports to foreign trade, with a corresponding abandonment of consular jurisdiction on the part of the Western nations, in recognition of the Emperor of Japan’s sovereign rights over every foot of Japanese soil. The agreements to be entered into on this give-and-take basis were to be valid for twelve years, though there was a suggestion that the tariff, and the regulations in general as to foreign commerce, should be subject to alteration at the end of eight years. Some of the foreign delegates were dissatisfied with this proposal, while on the side of the Japanese there was no little repugnance evinced even in high quarters to the idea of throwing the whole country open to trade. There were other difficulties, too, in regard to the period that should elapse before the provisions respecting the admission of foreigners to the interior should come into force, and the suggested appointment of foreign judges to the Japanese Courts after the style of the Mixed Courts in China. Finally the conference broke up without reaching any conclusions on these knotty questions, though it was something to reflect upon that a genuine effort had been made on both sides to remove the obstacles to a better understanding. In 1884 there were clear indications that the Foreign Minister’s policy was gaining ground, symptoms of a disposition to welcome foreigners being manifested where previously there had been violent antagonism to the project.

In 1885 the war party in Japan conceived the notion of an alliance between their country and France against China, there being at the time extreme bitterness of feeling between the French and the Government of Peking, which[180] culminated in the bombardment of Foochow. The reversal of Japan’s traditional policy towards the neighbouring empire which an alliance of the kind at that moment would have entailed was fully appreciated by Japan’s Foreign Minister, who had by this time been raised to the peerage as Count Inouye. It was by his tact that Japan was enabled to steer clear of complications at this juncture, and to retain her influence in affairs at the Chinese capital.

The year following Count Inouye was again immersed in the excessively complicated problem of treaty revision, which it had been Japan’s object to effect for fully fifteen years past. The conferences began in May and lasted throughout the year and well into the next. By the summer of 1887 Count Inouye had by his patience and urbanity brought the negotiations to a stage wherein it really seemed that nothing was requisite beyond the actual signature of the agreements. But at that moment the Cabinet decided, notwithstanding that the British and German representatives were urging on their colleagues the advisability of forthwith surrendering the consular jurisdictions, without any transitional stage, that it was premature to adopt Count Inouye’s views with regard to the opening of the country unrestrictedly to commerce and travel, mainly because it was felt that the safeguards which it was still deemed needful by some of the delegates to insist upon were destructive of the judicial independence of the State. While such were the opinions entertained in some degree even in official circles the hope of adjusting the differences became more than ever slender, and popular antagonism to the grant of any concessions of the kind was once more revived, to the extent that in July 1887 Count Inouye terminated the conference in the conviction that it could serve no useful purpose to prolong its sittings. More than twelve months had been consumed in a fruitless endeavour to reach a satisfactory settlement, and the end seemed to be as far off as ever.

In August, however, the Emperor invited the British Minister, Sir F. Plunkett, to a private audience, and warmly eulogised the part which Great Britain had taken in the prolonged effort to revise the treaties on a basis[181] acceptable to Japan, also intimating his intention of sending to the then Prince of Wales—now his Majesty King Edward VII.—the Grand Cross of the Order of the Chrysanthemum, by the hand of the Imperial Prince Komatsu. The ceremony of investiture subsequently took place at Marlborough House, and the German Emperor was simultaneously the recipient of the order named, likewise in recognition of the friendly part played towards Japan in connection with the Revision Conference.

Count Inouye resigned his post of Foreign Minister, as a matter of course, when the Cabinet refused to endorse his proposition, but he remained in the Government for the time being, his place at the Foreign Office being taken by Count Ito, who was also at that time Prime Minister. Count Inouye became Court Councillor, but in the ensuing summer he was again in the Cabinet as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the portfolio of Foreign Affairs having in the previous February been assumed by Count Okuma, on the retirement of Count Ito to become President of the Sumitsu-In, or Privy Council, then newly created as his Majesty’s highest resort of counsel. Ten Cabinet Ministers were given seats as ex-officio members of this council, one of them of course being Count Okuma whose return to official life, after seven years’ retirement following his long service as Minister of Finance between 1873 and 1881, was a source of immense gratification to the people at large as well as to his colleagues in the Ministry, implying as it did a fusion of the interests of the Progressives (Kai-shin-to) and the Government party represented by Counts Inouye and Ito, at a rather critical period in the history of the nation’s affairs. At the Foreign Office the policy of Count Inouye was ably and steadfastly pursued in respect of treaty revision by Count Okuma, who on receiving the congratulations of the Yokohama Chamber of Commerce in 1889 on the promulgation of the Constitution, took occasion to say that “one national aspiration yet remained unsatisfied,—the revision of the treaties.”

In 1890 Count Inouye became a Lord-in-waiting, which office had never previously been filled by other than a[182] member of the old Court nobility, and in bestowing this unusual honour on one of the Elder Statesmen the Emperor gave signal proof of his appreciation of Count Inouye’s matured judgment and ability.

By 1892 a disruption of the Cabinet had become inevitable, and at the Election of February the Opposition gained a victory, which brought about the return of Count Ito to power, and with him Count Inouye, in his old position at the Foreign Office. On the 1st of December he made a memorable speech in the House of Representatives in reference to the necessity of increasing the naval armaments of the empire,—a speech which was remarked upon both inside the House and out of it as having been one of his most telling efforts,—powerful in argument, lucid in theory, convincing in its array of facts. It was the prelude to a request from the Finance Department for a credit of 16,000,000 yen, to be spread over a period of seventeen years, and which the Diet forthwith granted.

During the subsequent war with China Count Inouye continued to be a leading member of the Government, but in 1897 he was in opposition to the Coalition Cabinet of Counts Okuma and Itagaki, and when that was succeeded by the Administration of Marquis Yamagata he still remained out of office. But towards the close of the year 1900 a ministerial crisis arose which resulted in the overthrow of the Yamagata Cabinet and its place was taken for a brief space of time, scarcely seven months in all, by a Ministry of which Ito (now Marquis) was the Premier. Contrary to expectation, the post of Finance Minister in this was allotted to Viscount Watanabe, who had previously served as Vice-minister with both Count Inouye and Count Matsukata, though it was commonly believed that Count Inouye had been invited to accept the post. Whatever may have been the real situation at this time, it is a fact that there had been eleven different Cabinets between December 1886 and the end of 1900, the collapse in every case having been due to internal dissension rather than to external pressure, and this may be accepted as an indication of the difficulty[183] which was experienced by statesmen of even the front rank to unite on a general scheme of domestic as distinguished from foreign policy. In relation to foreign affairs the patriotism of the nation has ensured a reasonable continuity, but on home questions there has frequently been wide divergence of opinion. It was generally expected that in May 1901, when the last Ito Cabinet went out of office, Count Inouye would be successful in forming a Ministry, or that he would join a Ministry with Marquis Saionji as Premier, on the basis of the Ito party. But in the end the Cabinet of Count Katsura was established, and it continued until January 1906 to hold office, having guided the destinies of the nation with conspicuous success through the long and anxious period of the war against Russia.

Although he has not held a portfolio, therefore, in any recent administration, the influence of Count Inouye is always felt and his wise and sure guidance sought for in times when the financial outlook in Japan is more than ordinarily complicated, as was the case shortly before the formation of the existing Government in 1901. There seems to be a consensus of opinion in the country that among the “Elder Statesmen” three in particular are most conversant with financial matters,—Counts Inouye, Okuma, and Matsukata,—and to one or other of them it always turns in the hope of being extricated from its difficulties and relieved of its anxieties in a monetary crisis. In business circles the prestige which Count Inouye enjoys has never waned, from the period of his earliest assumption of the duties appertaining to the office of Finance Minister, and his views on those matters with which he has been more particularly connected during his long and diversified career, as soldier financier, and diplomatist will never cease to command the highest respect and attention of the nation.



One of the most trusted of his Majesty’s advisers, Okubo Toshimichi was the Minister who was mainly responsible for the vast administrative reform symbolised by the public appearance of the Emperor Mutsuhito and the removal of the imperial court from Kioto to Yedo, renamed Tokio. Okubo held firmly to the conviction that the distinction which had for three centuries been recognised, in pursuance of the Shogunal policy, between the feudal chieftains and the court nobility (kuge) must forthwith be abolished, as a first step towards the re-establishment of that direct personal rule which had existed prior to the usurpation of the imperial prerogative by the Ashikaga house, and by the Tokugawa family which followed it at Yedo. Okubo Toshimichi was a Satsuma samurai of good family, and though the Kagoshima clan has many a name inscribed on its roll of honour there is none that possesses for his countrymen a greater power to stir the emotions or awaken grateful memories than that of the subject of this memoir. Twenty-eight years ago, on a lovely summer morning, as he was on his way to attend a meeting at the imperial palace, in an unfrequented part of the highway at Kojimachi adjoining the castle moat, his carriage was stopped by some students, as they seemed to be, who a moment before had been sportively thrusting at one another with branches of the flowering cherry (sakura), the better, as the sequel showed, to lull the suspicions, if he entertained any, of the coachman on the box. The Minister, unarmed, finding his carriage stopped, descended and faced his assailants, who thereupon stabbed him to death, and at the same time slew the coachman who loyally sought to aid his master.



A rough-hewn granite slab, bearing an inscription on its one smoothed side, stands amid a clump of azalea bushes to mark the spot where the patriot fell. The band of fanatics who slew him no doubt fancied that they were serving the best interests of their country by thus putting an end to a noble and promising career, owing to his avowed conviction of the advantages to be reaped by the adoption of the kai-koku policy, which they had been taught to believe would be injurious.

When brought to trial the culprits declared, however, that they killed the Minister because he was a traitor to his clan. How utterly unfounded and altogether preposterous was the accusation will be evident from the brief story of his meritorious career which follows. He left a record of unswerving patriotism, of bold and energetic administration of national affairs, of far-seeing and well-judged advocacy of all that could be deemed beneficial to his country in the political and economical systems of other lands, which he had made from the first his especial study. Okubo Ichi-o, or Toshimichi, was born in 1836, and from a comparatively early age acquired no little fame as a student of Chinese literature. He sought and obtained from the beginning sound knowledge of the affairs of the outside world that to most of his countrymen was in those days a sealed book. Foreigners, with Okubo, were never the enemies of Japan, but people with whom, on the other hand, it should be to the national interest to cultivate a permanent friendship. That their good will should be secured for the reformed system of government which he foresaw would ultimately have to replace that of the oppressive Baku-fu,—an administration based upon an anachronic feudalism,—was always with him a matter of real concern, and to obtain it he devoted his whole energies. His zeal and daring led him to urge on the sovereign the desirability of his assuming the reins of active government, and to put forward in the first instance a definite proposal to the effect that the seat of government should be transferred to Osaka, the seaport only twenty-seven miles distant, where the magnificent castle built by Hideyoshi[186] on the banks of the river Yodo might be made a fitting residence for the monarch.

In his truly remarkable Memorial to the Emperor he pointed out that no such revolution as that which had just taken place had ever previously occurred since the creation of Japan. The Memorial was dated March 1868, and in alluding to it here my endeavour is to give precedence to the Minister’s first great effort in the direction of progress, and with which it is inevitable that his name should be for ever associated. Okubo proceeded in his Memorial to argue that the time was peculiarly opportune for the fulfilment of the great undertaking of restoring the ancient constitution of the Ten-shi’s realms, a task which he held had only been half accomplished by the defeat at Fushimi of the Bakufu’s forces. “If,” he wrote, “the Imperial Court should seek only a temporary advantage, instead of insuring permanent tranquillity, we shall have a repetition of the old thing, like the rise of the Ashikaga after the destruction of the Hojo. We shall be rid of one traitor only to have another arise. The most pressing of your Majesty’s pressing duties at the present moment is not to look at the Empire only, and judge solely by appearances, but to consider carefully the actual state of the whole world,—to reform the inveterate and slothful habits induced during hundreds of years,—to give union to the nation,—so that the whole Empire shall be moved to tears of gratitude, and both high and low appreciate the blessing of having a Sovereign in whom they can place their trust.”

The memorialist went on to recommend very strongly a transfer of the Capital to Osaka, as being the fittest place for the conduct of foreign relations, for enriching the country and strengthening its military powers, for adopting successful means of offence and defence, and for establishing an army and navy. He was anxious that the young Emperor, then only in his sixteenth year, should set out on the journey to Osaka without loss of time. But there were cogent reasons why the new organisation should be centred in the city that had for centuries been the recognised headquarters of the executive,[187] and Tokio, the present capital, was ultimately fixed upon as the future seat of the Central Administration.

Okubo was one of the Iwakura Embassy which set out from Tokio at the close of 1871 and visited the United States of America, Great Britain, and the various countries of Europe, ostensibly to announce to the powers what sweeping changes had been effected in Japan from the date of the present ruler’s accession in 1867. The Embassy was headed by Prince Iwakura, and associated with him in addition to Okubo Toshimichi were Ito Hirobumi, Kido Takakoto, and Yamaguchi Naoyoshi. Only one leading member of that mission, the Marquis Ito, now survives. The especial aim of the ambassadors was to procure revision of the treaties with the Western nations which had been entered into by the Government of the Shogun, and under which compacts the position of Japan was considered to be that of a country under the tutelage of America and the European States. There was, however, a duty imposed upon the Mission that was of far greater importance to the future of the Japanese nation even than those already specified, for it was entrusted with the task of collecting information in all quarters regarding foreign institutions, methods of government, laws and their enforcement, and of gathering at first hand every detail needful to the adaptation of the systems of the Occident to the requirements of the Far East. Although at that time a revision of the treaties proved to be impossible of attainment, the mission was in other respects of immense service to Japan, and Okubo, for one, became as fully convinced by what he saw in the West of the advantages of representative government as were those among his colleagues who had previously seen something of its results. Ito, for example, had been to this country before, and so had Hayashi Tadasu, as he then was, the Secretary to the Mission, who had studied for some time in a private college in England. The work of the embassy was most conscientiously carried out, and its members journeyed here and there in search of opportunities to add to their stock of knowledge on every point that conceivably might be of value to the[188] departments of State with which they were for the most part individually as well as collectively identified. In the new administration at Tokio, immediately on the mission’s return, Kido was entrusted with the portfolio of Home Affairs, Ito Hirobumi became Minister of Public Works, and Okubo received the appointment of Gaimukiyo, or Minister for Foreign Affairs. One effect of the visit of the Japanese Ambassadors to the European capitals was speedily visible in the withdrawal of the garrison of British troops which had for years been maintained at Yokohama, the ability of the Imperial Government to protect the foreign residents at the ports opened by treaty to foreign trade having been demonstrated to the satisfaction of the British Government, and the last of the guard of marines which had been quartered on the Bluff in Yokohama took their departure early in 1873.

It is especially noteworthy that the Iwakura Embassy had, even at that early period, been quick to discover traces of the deeply aggressive designs of Russia, and in a memorandum drawn up by Okubo appear the memorable words:—“Russia, always pressing southward, is the chief peril” for Japan. The aim of Japanese statesmanship, from that time forward, became of necessity the safeguarding of the national interests in the adjacent peninsula, and there was a strong party in the Government in favour of going to war there and then in defence of the rights of Japan. But in their travels in Europe the ambassadors had learned enough to convince them that to enter at that stage on a contest with the Colossus of the North would only be disastrous for their country, and the peace advocates, foremost among whom were Prince Iwakura and Okubo Toshimichi, carried the day. Unhappily the stealthy advance of Russia and the question of how to counteract it produced such a divergence of opinion that the newly formed government was torn asunder and the split had consequences for the nation at large which could never have been expected at the time. Among the ministerial advocates of a forward policy at that date were Saigo Takamori and Itagaki[189] Taisuke, who are elsewhere referred to in this volume, and they, in company with Yeto Shimpei and others, resigned office.

Viscount Okubo held an important position under the Tokugawa administration in the days of the Shogun Iyesada, who, owing to ill health, appointed a Tairo, or Regent, whose duty it became to shoulder the heavy responsibilities of that very troublous period of the national history. The Regent was Ii Kamon-no-kami Naosuke, lord of the fief of Hikoné, near Lake Biwa, who was assassinated by Ro-nins, lit.: “Wave-men,”—in other words, men who having become masterless were restless and tempest-tossed by political gales, an element often uncontrollable and for whose vagaries no one should be held primarily responsible,—on the 3rd of March 1860, less than two years after he had entered on his onerous task. It was in reference to that, and to the attitude of the Regent towards foreign powers and the treaties which had been made with them that Viscount Okubo, at a later date penned the following note by way of preface to the memoir of Ii Kamon-no-kami Naosuke written by Mr Shimada Saburo. The original note was in classical Chinese, and the translation was made by Mr Shimada,—himself one of Japan’s foremost scholars, a much-travelled man, and member of the Lower House of the Diet, whose contributions to current literature have been numerous. The memorandum by Viscount Okubo serves to indicate, moreover, his own opinion on the advisability of opening the country to foreign intercourse, and which led to his association with other prominent Makers of New Japan. He wrote:—

On the evening of the sixth month of the fifth year of An-sei era (1858) when I went to see the Tairo, Baron Ii, to inform him of my departure to Kioto on the following day, I told him that as to the appointment of the Shogun’s heir, I had heard it directly from the Shogun himself; but as to the question of foreign affairs, I said that I had embodied my opinion in a poem, and asked him if that[190] were his view. I had the poem written on my pocket paper, and presented it to his consideration. He carefully perused it and said that he approved of it, instructing me at the same time to act up to the spirit of that poem. Now I have the pleasure of appending that poem here as an evidence that the Baron was in favour of opening the country to intercourse with foreign nations. The poem reads:

“However numerous and diversified the nations of the earth may be, the GOD who reigns over them all (or, binds them together) can never be more than one.

Okubo Ichi-o.

The Regent himself, like Okubo, with whose poetry he was in sympathy, fell a victim to the assassin’s dagger, as is elsewhere related in detail, and at the time alluded to in the foregoing note the country was so torn by clan dissensions and was so agitated by the continued rivalry of the Jo-I and Kai-koku factions that Ii Kamon-no-kami was prompted to express himself in verse which is elsewhere translated as:—

Rent as the wave-beat rocks on Omi’s strand
My broken heart, for our beloved land!

Okubo had attained to a position of influence in the Satsuma clan long prior to the restoration of imperial rule, and it followed almost as a matter of course that when the new administration was formed he became a member of the first Council of State. Prince Sanjo was the Chancellor (Dai-jo-dai-jin), and the feudal chieftain of Satsuma officiated as one of the Vice-chancellors (Sa-dai-jin) while Prince Iwakura was the other (U-dai-jin). Sai means left, and U right,—the left being highest in Japan. This Council gave place to a body closely resembling a Cabinet as it exists in Occidental countries, in 1885, and with it disappeared the title of Dai-jo-dai-jin, or Prime Minister, the head of the Government now being styled Minister-president of State. The earliest efforts of the new government were directed to the abolition of the Kioto Court influence which had for centuries been potent to sway the decisions of the Emperor,[191] especially during the lifetime of Komei Tenno. Dating from the days of Iyeyasu the first Tokugawa Shogun, a sharp distinction had been drawn between the court nobles and the territorial barons (dai-mio), and this it was found to be desirable at once to abolish. Another long stride was taken when the Court decided to remove to Yedo, and renamed that city Tokio, lit.: East Capital, the older metropolis of Kioto being simultaneously renamed Saikio, lit.: West Capital, to prevent confusion. As a matter of fact, however, the title of Saikio never entirely supplanted the older one of Kioto, and it is by the ancient appellation that the capital of the west is perhaps best known at the present day.

It is always believed in Japan that it was on Okubo’s advice that the sovereign, then only sixteen years of age, resolved to appear in public, a departure from established custom which foreshadowed the vast changes that his subjects were to witness within the ensuing few years. Okubo strenuously urged the advisability of assembling the territorial lords to hear from the monarch’s own lips the plans that had been formed in council for the future administration of the empire, and at the memorable meeting which took place in April 1869, with this object in view the Emperor declared himself in favour of the establishment of a deliberative representative body empowered to discuss the management of national affairs, and he also pronounced his intention of providing adequately for the defence of the country by land and sea, and of doing away with all pernicious customs while securing to the individual perfect freedom and liberty of conscience. The hand of Okubo was seen in the regulations for the conduct of debates in the Kogisho, or first deliberative assembly, and he was ever a trusted adviser of the sovereign on matters of both internal and external policy. In the Ko-mon, or advisers of the So-Sai, whose office was almost identical with that in later years of Prime Minister, Okubo found able and willing coadjutors, and it was in no slight measure due to his personal capabilities that the new administration was firmly established at Tokio in 1868.


A memorable mission was that undertaken by Okubo to Peking in 1874. The savages of Formosa had been guilty of most inhuman conduct to some shipwrecked Japanese fishermen, and China, at that time claiming the island as part of her empire, had been appealed to in vain with regard to their punishment or as regards the needful security against cruel practices in the future. Failing redress in any other shape, Japan had despatched an expedition on her own account to the island, and though the Japanese troops had encountered many and great difficulties, owing to the savages retreating to their mountain fastnesses whither it was extraordinarily hard work to pursue them, in the end they had been severely handled by General Saigo Tsukumichi,—afterwards Marquis—and some sort of guarantee exacted for their better behaviour towards shipwrecked persons of whatever nationality in the days to come. China, however, had become not a little alarmed at the progress that the Japanese forces were making with the subjugation of the barbarians, a task that she had not herself thought it worth while to essay, and made proposals for the prompt withdrawal of the invading army. Okubo went to Peking armed with plenary powers to arrange terms, and he arrived there in September 1874. The Chinese wanted to treat with him on the basis of reimbursing Japan for the outlay she had incurred in the expedition, which was what Japan herself desired, and of guaranteeing that there should be sufficient control instituted over the savages in future to ensure that no repetition of the inhuman acts should occur. But the negotiators at Peking sought to cut down the sum-total of the indemnity, and to avoid giving any written pledge as regards the time to come. Okubo, however, was very firm on these points, and told the other side plainly that Japan would not place confidence in his assurances unless they were supported by documentary evidence that the settlement was of the character which he might describe it to have been. “Of course I do not covet the indemnity,” he declared, “but if I cannot explain the steps to be taken and the amount of compensation for expenditure to be paid, with[193] written proof to support my statements, how can I in honour report my mission to the Emperor as having been completed?”

Finding the Chinese to be still reluctant to comply with these terms, he prepared to return to Japan, but at that juncture Prince Kung hurried to the British Legation and besought Sir Thomas Wade to intercede. In the end a treaty was drawn up and signed, between Okubo and Kung, acting on behalf of their respective sovereigns, whereby it was agreed:—

Article I: that the enterprise of Japan was a just and rightful proceeding to protect her own subjects, and China did not designate it as a wrong action,—

Article II: that a sum of money should be given by China for relief of the families of the shipwrecked Japanese subjects maltreated. Japan having constructed roads and built houses, etc.: in that place, and China wishing to have the use of these for herself, she agreed to make payment for them, the amount to be fixed by special agreement.

Article III. All the official correspondence thereunto exchanged between the two states to be returned mutually and be annulled, to prevent any future misunderstanding. As to the savages, China engaged to establish authority, and promised that navigators should be protected from injury by them.

Under a special clause it was agreed that 100,000 taels should be paid to the families of the murdered men, and that in respect of the roads and buildings the sum paid should be 400,000 taels. Japan was to withdraw all her troops, and China was to pay the half-million taels agreed upon by the 20th December following, in that thirteenth year of the reign of the Emperor Tung-Chi.

Japan thus early in her era of Meiji, or Enlightened Rule, vindicated her right to be regarded as a champion of the rights of our common humanity, a position which she has successfully maintained on every occasion since that time.


Okubo never received the title of Viscount, but the rank was posthumously conferred for the benefit of his family. His assassination was attributed to ill feeling engendered among certain adherents of the Satsuma clan by his attitude with regard to the rebellion of 1877, as some thought he ought to have supported his clan in the war. He was a loyal and devoted servant of his Emperor, and placed his duty to his sovereign above all considerations of clan or party connections.



The late Count Goto, who died in 1892, was a trusty retainer of the Prince of Tosa, one of the four provinces into which the island of Shikoku, as its name implies, was of old divided. The chief town of Tosa is Kochi, a well-known port on the east coast, facing the Pacific. The Tosa clan was one of the first to make use of foreign-built vessels, the prince owning more than one steamer officered by Europeans in the “early seventies” when the coasting trade was in its infancy. Goto Shojiro was born in the year 1832, and in his young days was a close student of Dutch books, but the advent of the American “black ships” at Uraga in 1853 led him to turn his attention to marine affairs, and he applied himself vigorously to the acquisition of a competent knowledge of modern inventive progress, becoming convinced thereby of the necessity for a radical change in his own country’s methods if she would hold her own among the nations. It was for his acquaintance with engineering matters that he was chosen to act as Vice-Minister of Public Works when the administration was first set up in the new capital, but he had taken a prominent part in the abolition of the Shogunate from the days when the Shogun Tokugawa Keiki dwelt at the Nijo Castle in Kioto, in 1866, often going thither in company with Komatsu Tatewaki of the Satsuma clan, to discuss politics with his Highness on the Shogun’s special invitation. Goto at all times steadfastly urged the advisability of the formation of an Imperial Government upon the Shogun, and it speaks volumes for the broad-minded unselfishness of the Prince Tokugawa Keiki (as he now is) that he was prepared to listen to suggestions which necessarily involved his own renunciation of the exalted position[196] that he then held, and even, as the sequel showed, to act upon them, though in doing so he deprived himself of rank and power at one stroke. That Goto Shojiro made good use of the opportunities thus presented to him of laying before his Highness the fruit of his own researches into the then dimly comprehended sources of Occidental strength and prosperity is evident, and for that service to his country, if for no other, he deserves to be remembered, but he laid his nation under obligations to him in a variety of ways, and was active in the popular interest to the end of his days, which were all too short for it to reap the full benefit of his matured experience and practical, common-sense application of the knowledge that a busy career had enabled him to amass.


In the year 1867 the prince of Tosa, Yamanouchi, sent Goto Shojiro to Kioto with a letter addressed to the Shogun which he was to deliver personally, and the tenour of this document is stated to have been a strong appeal to Prince Tokugawa Keiki to resign his functions as head of the Bakufu and co-operate in the establishment of an imperial government. The text of the document is quoted in the Kin-sei Shi-riaku, an “Abridged History of Modern Times,” and it amounted to a respectfully worded invitation to take into consideration the existing conditions in the empire and make choice of a line of action which would tend to the restoration of peace and harmony within the nation’s borders and the elevation of the country to a position of importance among the powers of the world. Its keynote was the absolute necessity of doing away with the feudal system which had existed for six centuries under the domination of the Shoguns of the Tokugawa family and their predecessors.

The Shogun received the prince of Tosa’s letter in a most friendly spirit, and promised to consider the matter, continuing to call Goto into consultation at the Nijo castle as before. To what degree his Highness was influenced by the letter it would of course be impossible to judge, but it is certain that at the close of the autumn of that year he had formed the resolution to abdicate[197] definitely his position, though he did not actually quit Kioto until January 1868.

When the new Government was set up at Kioto in 1868 Goto became a Ko-Mon, or adviser to the So-sai, like his friends Kido and Komatsu, and in this position was able to exert considerable influence, as the So-sai, to whom the three ardent reformers acted in the capacity of private counsellors, possessed the confidence of the sovereign, and procured or refused the imperial assent to the proposals of the other heads of departments in the Ministry as then constituted. Subsequently, when the administration was remodelled on a foreign plan, and Prince Sanjo became Prime Minister, Goto still occupied his position of responsibility, more especially connected with the Foreign branch, and he was so engaged when, in March 1868, the various representatives of foreign powers went by appointment to Kioto to pay their respects to the present Emperor, who had a few weeks previously taken in hand the reins of government on the resignation of the Shogun. The British and Dutch ministers left Kobé, then a newly opened port for foreign trade, on the 18th March, accompanied by Ito Shunsuke (now Marquis), who was the Governor of Kobé, and Sir Harry Parkes was to have been received with the other envoys on the 23rd of the month, but for a dastardly attack made upon him and his escort when passing along the streets of the then Japanese capital. The British Minister had been lodged during his short stay in Kioto at a temple in a northern suburb, and he left it at the appointed hour to go to the Dairi (palace) where the interview with the Emperor was to take place. Sir Harry’s mounted escort was leading the way, the inspector riding in front with Mr Nakai Kozo, likewise a Government official, and a Satsuma samurai, when suddenly, at a street corner, a band of Japanese swordsmen sprang out from their hiding-place and began slashing right and left. Sir Harry was riding immediately in rear of his mounted guards, with Goto Shojiro at his side. The attack was so sudden that the escort had no time to use their lances, and the thoroughfare, moreover, was very narrow. The present British Minister in China, Sir[198] Ernest Satow, rode on Sir Harry Parkes’ right, and behind marched a detachment of the Ninth Regiment from the British camp at Yokohama. The desperate character of the attack will be understood by the fact that the British representative was by no means inadequately protected, to judge from previous experience, and though murderous assaults on foreigners were unhappily not infrequent at this period,—the result of political ferment rather than of personal animosity to the strangers,—there was no particular reason to expect any attack on this occasion.

Nakai Kozo at once leaped from his horse and engaged one of the assailants, but having the bad luck to stumble when parrying a stroke of his antagonist he received a severe cut on the head. After their first onslaught some of the swordsmen took to their heels, but two of the number remained cutting at the escort all down the line, and so quick had been their movements that Sir Harry and Goto only heard the scuffle as their horses turned the corner. Goto, instantly dismounting, rushed to the front, and was able to rescue Nakai, but his assailant straightway made for Sir Harry Parkes, whose Japanese groom received the blow, and at the same time Mr Satow’s horse was badly cut. The would-be assassin fell momentarily forward by the impetuosity of his own attack, and Goto at that instant delivered a stroke which severed the ruffian’s head from his shoulders before he could recover his equilibrium. The other man ran off to a back yard where he was captured, after receiving many wounds. The activity displayed by the assailants is best to be realised from the mischief they wrought in a few minutes. Out of eleven men forming Sir Harry’s own escort nine were severely wounded, as was also one man of the Ninth Regiment, and a groom and four horses were more or less badly cut with the terrible two-handed swords that the assailants wielded with such deadly precision.

Goto afterwards said that the Japanese were proud of having had a man like Sir Harry Parkes to defend, for he was quite calm throughout and betrayed not the slightest fear despite the suddenness of the attack. As soon as the affair was over, and it was of very brief duration, the[199] Minister gave the order to return to the temple which he was lodging in, only a quarter of a mile away, and the visit to the Dairi was of necessity postponed. By good fortune Dr Willis of the Legation and two naval surgeons from the British fleet had followed on foot with the intention of going as far as the palace gates, and they were able to stanch the open wounds of the men of the escort.

The immediate result of this outrage by partisans of the Jo-I or “Expulsion of the Foreigners” faction was a proclamation by the Emperor to the effect that attacks of the kind were infamous and detestable, and that a samurai guilty of a like offence in future would be first degraded and then decapitated as a malefactor by the common executioner, the head of the criminal to be exposed to public gaze for a prescribed period. And this proclamation had a wonderful effect, for it not only placed upon record the plain fact that deeds of such a character were abhorrent to the young ruler of the empire, but the punishment entailed by the indulgence in a crime of this kind was to the samurai of so terrible a nature, in respect of the degradation,—not the forfeiture of his own life—that there were subsequent to the issue of the imperial edict hardly any cases of assault on foreigners, and the antipathy to the Kai-koku policy, which favoured the entry of the strangers, gradually diminished with the lapse of time.

On the third day of the third moon,—at that time the old-fashioned mode of reckoning derived from China centuries before was in vogue,—the British minister again set out for the Dairi, and this time the journey was accomplished without mishap, his reception by the Emperor being of the most cordial kind. His Majesty expressed personally his horror of the proceedings which had debarred him from previously receiving the representative of Queen Victoria, and Sir Harry had every reason to be gratified by the evident concern manifested by the sovereign. The day was according to the old calendar a most auspicious one, being the Girls’ Festival or Sekku and the 26th of April by Western reckoning. The Gregorian calendar was adopted in Japan in 1872.


Queen Victoria sent richly mounted swords to Goto and Nakai, bearing the inscription in each case—“From Victoria, Queen of England, in remembrance of the 23rd of March 1868.” As no more appropriate gift to a samurai of Japan than a fine sword could have been imagined, the recipients of these tokens of their prowess were individually delighted, and Count Goto of to-day, who is the son of Goto Shojiro, prizes the weapon in recollection of the skilful swordsmanship which enabled his father to save the British Minister’s life. That the combat was of the most determined character, in which assailants and defenders put forth all their strength and skill may be judged from the account given afterwards of the affair by Mr Nakai Kozo, who was for many years on the staff of the Foreign Office and a most witty and charming companion. “I was only able to see out of one eye, owing to the blood flowing from my wound in the head, but I kept on hacking away at the fellow in front of me, and at last saw that I had cut his head off, which I showed to Sir Harry to let him know that at least one of his assailants was duly accounted for.”

Like Kido, Inouye, and Itagaki, and other “Makers of Japan,” Count Goto was active in the field during the war of the Restoration, which lasted throughout 1868, with more or less intensity, and into the spring of 1869, and made his mark in numberless hotly-contested engagements. Saigo Takamori, as Chief of General Staff to the Prince Arisugawa Taruhito, reached the suburbs of Tokio in April of the year 1868, and the battle of Uyeno was practically the last of the war, but fighting went on in the north for many months after.

Count Goto Shojiro did vast service to the country in the Ministry headed by Prince Sanjo, and it was in 1874, while occupying a high post in the administration that he associated himself with Count Itagaki and Count Soyeshima (who died last autumn) in memorialising the Government to make arrangements at the earliest possible moment for the summoning of a National Assembly, in order that the promise made by his Majesty at the beginning of his reign to the effect that he would eventually[201] rule the empire in conformity with the popular wishes might be realised. But the time was hardly ripe for experiments in Constitutional Government, and the memorial was shelved. Goto and his fellow-memorialists resigned office, but though they were less prominent than some of their compatriots thenceforward in the actual occupation of seats in the Cabinet they were by no means lost to sight in respect of contemporary politics. Count Goto, moreover, was identified with industrial undertakings to a noteworthy extent, and figured conspicuously in a large number of philanthropical enterprises in connection with which he was ever ready to lend a helping hand.

In the year 1882, in company with Count Itagaki, who had just recovered from injuries received in an attempt on his life by a political partisan of the reactionaries, Count Goto visited Europe and America, and they were warmly welcomed both here and on the Continent. In part the object that Count Goto had then before him was the acquisition of information concerning social institutions, as established in the West, though he took the opportunity to study at the same time matters of practical politics with the intention of rendering aid to his fellow-provincial Count Itagaki in support of the Jiyuto, or Liberal Party, with which that prominent statesman was then closely identified.

He was entrusted with the portfolio of Minister of Communications in the First Cabinet formed after the establishment of Constitutional Government in 1890, with Marquis Yamagata as Minister-President. The appointment may be said to have been a recognition of the part taken by him sixteen years before when he joined in the memorial urging the speedy formation of a National Diet. This was his last office, for two years later he died, at the age of sixty, not “full of years,” but “full of honour” won in the service of his country, and respected for his nobleness of character by his fellow-countrymen and by those foreign residents, and they were many, who had under most varied conditions experienced his unfailing courtesy and genuine good will.



In the sense that Japanese history begins with the landing of Jimmu Tenno in Kiushiu, and that many of the greatest events narrated in the annals of the Empire took place in that island of, as its name implies, nine provinces, there should be much to interest the student in connection with this portion of the Ten-shi’s dominions. The nine baronies of the feudal regime were ranged around the coast, their rearmost boundaries meeting on mountain ridges in the interior. The passes in these ridges were in many cases the scenes of desperate battles during the Satsuma War of 1877, as will presently be shown, there having originally been one long dividing line extending almost north and south from Shimonoseki straits to Kagoshima bay, with branch lines like the veins of a leaf splitting one half of the island into five and the other into four portions. Satsuma and Osumi were the two most southerly provinces, with Hiuga adjoining Osumi, and it is in connection with this region in particular that some of the more stirring passages of ancient and modern Japanese history have to be recorded. Marshal Saigo Takamori, who had perhaps more than anyone else to do with the formation of the nucleus of Japan’s great army, was born and died in Satsuma, and he spent most of his life in the immediate neighbourhood of the castle town of Kagoshima. From the extremity of Kiushiu the isles of Loo-Choo (now termed Riu-kiu-to or Okinawa prefecture), stretch in a south-westward direction, linking up Formosa, and to the north-west the islands of Iki and Tsushima form stepping-stones, as it were, to Korea. Excepting in Miyasaki prefecture, where the coast is less broken, facing the Pacific, the shores of Kiushiu are deeply indented with inlets and bays, lofty mountains forming the background, and there[203] is an abundance of good harbours, rendering its populous towns and numerous villages comparatively easy of access. The chain of islets to the south sheltered vessels and aided migration from Malaysia, while Tsushima and Iki,—places made famous by the decisive battle of the Sea of Japan in 1905 which was fought in their vicinity,—doubtless prompted the exploration of the Hizen and Chikuzen coasts by adventurous voyagers from the mainland of Asia. The Nine Provinces are rich in traditions of the imperial ancestors, the reputed landing-place of Jimmu Tenno being Shibushi bay, a few miles south-east of Kagoshima. There is a very ancient Shinto shrine in a cave close by, and on Takachiho-miné, otherwise Higashi Kiri-shima-yama, the easternmost of twin peaks in the ridge which forms the boundary line of Osumi and Hiuga provinces, thirteen miles from the Satsuma stronghold, stood the palace which the founder of the imperial dynasty is believed to have inhabited prior to setting out for the Inland Sea.


Rein tells us that in 1875 he saw on a blunt cone of piled-up stones on the summit of the volcanic peak of Kiri-shima-yama, 5500 feet above sea-level, the famous sword which tradition says Ninigi-no-mikoto, grandson of the Sun-goddess, used. It is clumsy, and obviously of great antiquity. The material is bronze containing a large proportion of copper, the blade is not quite flat, the shaft cylindrical, with several blunt projections, and it originally was sharpened on one side towards the top. The length of this remarkable weapon was fifty inches over all, the blade measuring forty inches from point to hilt. The width of the blade was nearly three inches, and the handle extremely thick. It is evident that the weight of such a sword must have been considerable, and without entering into the question of its origin it may at least be said that the fact of its being preserved so carefully at that spot from what can hardly have been other than a very remote period of Japanese history alone would suffice to account for the store set upon this truly extraordinary relic. Jimmu Tenno is supposed to have spent some years in subjugating the tribes which he found in possession of Southern[204] Japan, but he eventually reached Naniwa (Osaka) and established his capital in Yamato. Naniwa and Takachiho are names which have for the Japanese people historical significance sufficient to have induced the naval authorities to bestow them on two warships built for Japan on the Tyne.

Saigo Kichinosuke, as he was named until he was of full age, was born in Satsuma province in the year 1822. His father was a Samurai, of foot-soldier rank. It is clear, however, that the father possessed an accurate idea of the value of education and training, if only from the prominence which both his sons achieved in the service of their country. Kichinosuke was the elder of the two, his younger brother achieving the rank of Marquis, and figuring in the national annals with a lustre but little inferior to that of the popular hero himself. While yet young Kichinosuke was given the post of gardener to the prince of Satsuma. In days of old this was often a position of trust, for the individual occupying it necessarily came into close contact with his lord when it happened, as it did in nine cases out of ten, that the chieftain of a clan had a taste for horticulture. Trustworthy Samurai of rank were sometimes given the office of gardener for the sake of the opportunities thus afforded for direct communication, between the baron and his faithful retainers, free from the risk of surveillance by emissaries of the Shogun’s Government who under the old regime were to be found in every mansion. That Saigo held this post is a proof of his lord’s confidence in him. When twenty years old Kichinosuke went to Mito and there became a pupil of Fujita Toko—whose history is elsewhere in this volume briefly recorded—and under that profound scholar’s guidance studied Chinese literature so assiduously that Fujita always spoke of Saigo with pride as one of his best pupils. It was from Fujita that Saigo imbibed his rooted hostility to the Shogunate, Fujita being the confidential friend of the old prince of Mito, whose opposition to the Bakufu is always believed to have culminated in the assassination by his followers of the Regent, Ii Kamon-no-kami, at the Sakurada Gate of Yedo Castle, in March 1860. On[205] separating after the lapse of some years from Fujita Toko, Saigo went to Kioto and there became the intimate friend of Gessho, the high priest of the famous Buddhist temple of Kiyomidzu, and during the eventful five years from 1854 to 1859 Saigo was resident either in Kioto or Osaka. It was when the Regent or “Gotairo” Ii-kamon-no-kami came into power in 1859 at Yedo, during the minority of the Shogun Iyemochi, that Saigo, dissatisfied with the course things were taking, and possessing definite views of his own, formed a party opposed to the Bakufu. In the same year, 1859, when he was about to return to Satsuma, his friend Gessho was selected by the Imperial Court to be the bearer of a despatch to the prince of Mito. Gessho, however, pleaded that the honour of being the imperial messenger should be bestowed on Saigo, as being far better qualified for the office, and his prayer was granted. Saigo could not succeed, however, in delivering the secret despatch, owing to the rigorous watch kept by the Mito prince’s retainers over his person,—it is easy to picture the position, knowing as we now do, how exceedingly strict was it needful to be in those stormy days of frequent assassination and widespread feuds,—and in the end the imperial courier had to return to Kioto with his task unfulfilled. Saigo and others opposed to the Bakufu became marked men, but the dread of Satsuma’s vengeance protected them from actual arrest. Gessho also was suspected, and for his safety Saigo resolved to take the priest with him to the south. The priest rode in a palanquin, and Saigo, assisted by a fellow-clansman named Umeda, acted as escort. They were not attacked, though they fully apprehended that they would be, and reached Kagoshima in safety. Saigo acquainted his clansmen with what he had done, but the explanation was coldly received. At this time his opposition to the Bakufu was not shared by the officers of the Satsuma province. Gessho’s hiding-place was soon discovered, and he was in danger, and Saigo went at midnight to the place where he had secreted his friend to warn him. Together they resolved to drown themselves in the bay of Kagoshima, for Saigo, perceiving that the priest’s death was inevitable, deemed it a point[206] of honour to die with him, in despair at the absence of a true chivalric spirit in the clan. They actually threw themselves into the sea, but the act had been observed, and some boatmen recovered the bodies from the waves in time to resuscitate Saigo, though Gessho had expired. The provincial officers were wrathful at the stigma cast on the clan’s hospitality by Gessho’s death, and also at Saigo’s uncompromising hostility to the Shogunate, and they banished him to the island of Oshima, some distance from the Satsuma coast. Here he changed his name to Oshima Sanyemon, the reference in the second word being to the circumstance that this was his third visit to the islet, his previous banishments having been the fruits of similar opposition to the Bakufu, and the result moreover of his being appreciably in advance of the times. It was not long before the entire clan was united with Saigo in his unswerving hostility to the Yedo Government, but meanwhile he suffered for his temerity. On Oshima he studied incessantly, when one not of his indomitable spirit might have broken down under a sense of disappointment and the conviction of wrongs sustained without hope of remedy. His feudal chieftain pardoned him after the expiration of four years, and Saigo returned to Satsuma and became one of the clan officials. When the Shogunate entered into the treaties with foreign powers Saigo opposed it with all the resolution of his unbending character, and during the conflicts which ensued at Kioto he sheltered many who were pursued by the Yedo Government’s officers and helped them to escape. He it was who strongly favoured a reconciliation between his clan and Choshiu and advocated their coalition in opposition to the Bakufu.

Owing to his banishment Saigo was not present in Satsuma during the earlier part of the period of intense military activity which was noticeable in his native province, but he may be said to have been with his fellow-clansmen in spirit, and he was, in all probability, in close touch with them by the agency of mutual friends, despite his enforced absence. There were ways and means even in those days of maintaining communication when necessary.


At this period the policy of the Satsuma clan as a whole was distinctly reactionary, and ample indication of the bent of its chieftain’s inclinations is to be traced in a memorial which he about this time addressed to the Emperor, setting forth his reasons for believing that the administration at the capital was conducting the national affairs without due respect for the traditions of the Empire.

Shimadzu Saburo, author of this uncompromisingly anti-foreign proposal, subsequently held office in the Government which was formed immediately on the restoration of imperial rule in 1868. He had been a great student in early life, and was the father of the real daimio of the Satsuma province. He was also, by the system of adoption which prevailed, uncle to the same person, who had been adopted by the previous daimio, Shimadzu Saburo’s brother. Virtually, though not nominally head of the clan, the uncle wielded immense influence in Kagoshima, and vehemently opposed the Yedo Government, though he was not antagonistic to foreigners or their inventions in the abstract, and had purchased steamers from them and set up a cotton mill in Satsuma itself. His province had indeed benefited hugely by its proximity to Nagasaki, which had for centuries been the only port open to trade of any kind with the Occident, and he had expressed his willingness to throw open the whole of the Satsuma province to Western trade, but the Yedo government had set its face against the proposal, some years before the Restoration of the Imperial power.

In the year 1862 he had purchased the steamer Fiery Cross for his nephew, and went for a trial trip in her, outside Yokohama, and he had otherwise evinced his perfect readiness to avail himself of such novel methods and appliances, and of the services of Europeans in general, as were from time to time offered to the local authorities of Satsuma as a distinctly progressive body. It is requisite that the real attitude of the Satsuma chieftain towards strangers should be made clear, because it was owing to the precipitate action of some of his followers, in attacking a party of Yokohama residents on the highway, for no better reason than that they did not at once alight from[208] their horses and stand at the edge of the roadway while the Daimio’s procession passed on its way back to Satsuma, that the British squadron was ordered to bombard Kagoshima in 1863. The murder of Mr Richardson near Tsurumi was perpetrated, in fact, when the Satsuma chief was returning after escorting to Yedo a high official whom the Emperor Komei had sent in the spring of 1862 to announce to the Bakufu his determination to expel all foreigners from Japan. This was the period when reactionary influences at Kioto were strongest, and even the Shogun Iyemochi, to whom Prince Tokugawa Keiki was at the time the appointed guardian, could do no other than promise obedience to the Imperial mandate. The Emperor Komei’s orders had been to the effect that Iyemochi must at once visit Kioto and there confer with the Court nobles, the avowed intention being that the Shogun should put forth all his strength, in concert with the clans throughout the empire, and restore tranquillity by effecting the complete expulsion of “the barbarians.” So long as the Court influence remained inimical to foreigners it was almost inevitable that there should be a vast percentage of the population averse to the treaties, to the Shogunate which had entered into those treaties, and to everything that was to be regarded as an alien intrusion. Shimadzu Saburo’s relations with the Bakufu were obviously of a nature to preclude the possibility of its calling him to account for the crime perpetrated at Tsurumi, and the British Admiral therefore undertook the duty, with the result that the Kagoshima batteries were silenced and three of Satsuma’s recently purchased steamers were captured. But as so frequently happens after a quarrel, the foes were better friends than ever within a year or two, and on the 27th of July 1866 Sir Harry Parkes, the British Minister, paid Kagoshima a visit at its lord’s special invitation, in the man-of-war Princess Royal, accompanied by the Serpent and Salamis, and received a most enthusiastic welcome. The young Prince, nephew of Shimadzu Saburo, came off in his state barge, and the British visitors were taken to see the foundry, where cannon were being cast, and shot and shell turned out in[209] great quantities, almost within a stone’s throw of the walls of the daimio’s palace. Satsuma’s acquisitions were seen to have included a steam lathe, and there likewise was a glass works in full operation. Saigo Takamori being temporarily in exile, he was not there personally to attend to the training of the Satsuma rank and file, but it was carried on by his lieutenants with ardour, in view of possible eventualities, and the general impression created was that the Satsuma clan had resolved to make the best use of the knowledge that it had gained of the power of modern weapons, and of Western inventions and appliances, and would thenceforward seek by every means at command to maintain its position in the van of Japan’s progress.

In 1865 Saigo was again prominent at Kagoshima, having been restored to favour by his feudal lord, and he seems to have had a great share in the direction of affairs in his native province, more particularly in respect of the preparations that the clan was then making for taking a leading part in the conflict which it was becoming more and more evident would occur in the near future between the followers of the Tokugawa house and the supporters of O-Sei—i.e. Imperial Government. Saigo’s personal efforts were directed to the drilling of a competent force, capable of making the best use of modern weapons, and when, in the first month of 1867, the Emperor Komei died at Kioto, and was succeeded on the throne by the present sovereign, Satsuma was able to place at the service of the new administration a fairly well-equipped contingent of riflemen, under the leadership of Saigo Takamori himself. For a considerable portion of the first year of the Meiji era there was warfare between the troops of the Shogun and the Choshiu clan, and in January 1868 came the coup d’état at Kioto by which the Aidzu clansmen were relieved of the guardianship of the Nine Gates of the capital and the duty was undertaken by the drilled forces of Satsuma and Choshiu combined.

In the memorable battle at Fushimi, seven miles from Kioto on the Osaka road, Saigo was leader of the imperial[210] troops opposed to those of the Tokugawa Shogunate, and exhibited on that occasion marked military genius as well as great personal bravery. His coolness under fire was ever a subject of intense admiration to his comrades, and it was conspicuous in this fiercest of engagements, lasting for three days, at the very outset of the Meiji era.

The Aidzu men had retired northward after the defeat of the Shogun’s army at Fushimi, but at Yedo the forces of the Shogunate still held their ground, and the Emperor’s uncle, Arisugawa-no-miya, was sent, bearing the imperial brocade banner, to suppress them. With him went Saigo Takamori, as his Sambo, or military adviser, a post that would in these days be described as that of Chief of Staff. There was some severe fighting at different points on the road to Yedo, but early in 1868 Saigo Takamori, at the head of the imperial forces reached the southern suburb of the capital at Shinagawa, and the occupation of Yedo by them took place on the 26th of April of that year. The Tokugawa men shut themselves up in the castle and were not subdued until a desperate fight had occurred at Uyeno, in grounds then belonging to the temples, but at the present day forming a beautiful public park. This battle was fought on 4th of July 1868, his Imperial Highness Higashi Fushimi, to whom some reference has already been made as having at a later date visited London, having on that day borne the imperial brocade banner to victory. Though this engagement was in July the Shogun had ceased his connection with the rebellion—for such it had now become, being a revolt against the administration which had received the Emperor’s authority to act,—and after making his submission had been directed to retire for the time being to his original home at Mito, on the east coast. At a later period he finally went into complete seclusion at Shidzuoka, in the province of Suruga.

The dignified manifesto to his adherents which the Shogun issued at the time of his retirement made evident his conviction that unity was absolutely essential to the success of the national policy and that it was the[211] duty of all true patriots to sink their differences and join in unselfish endeavours to promote the influence and supreme authority of the Imperial Court.

While Saigo was at Shinagawa, in the yashiki of the Satsuma clan, which the recent combat and subsequent fire had left in a deplorably ruinous condition, an old friend came to him in the person of Katsu, the lord of Awa,—a province facing Yokohama across the Bay of Tokio,—who pleaded that the capital should be spared the horrors of an assault, and representing the willingness of the Shogun’s supporters to submit. Saigo consented to place matters before his chief, the Prince Arisugawa, and terms of peace were arranged on the lines that Katsu had suggested, namely that the city should be spared in consideration of the vessels belonging to the Shogunate being surrendered, and the castle of Yedo handed over to the imperialists. With men of the type of the Shogun’s supporters, however, it was one thing to make peace on their behalf and quite another to induce them to abide by the bargain when it involved complete submission in token of defeat. A number of them determined to hold out in Uyeno, and the fleet made good its retreat from Yedo bay and was next heard of at Hakodate, where it held out for some considerable time. Another section of the Shogun’s supporters under Otori Keisuke, went northward, and were followed by the imperialists under Saigo, a severe engagement ensuing at Utsunomiya, some sixty miles north of the capital. It is related of Katsu that he persuaded his friend Saigo to accompany him to the top of Atago-yama, a conspicuous hill near Shiba, within the city limits, and from that elevation showed him a great part of Yedo lying helpless, as it were, at his feet. “If we fight, these innocent people will be great sufferers,” said Katsu, and the appeal to Saigo’s humanity was not in vain. Katsu, as the lord of Awa, was on the side of Saigo’s opponents, in virtue of his holding under the Bakufu, and though the Shogun’s Government had been rather severe with him for some of his pro-foreign ideas, imbibed when he navigated the first Japanese vessel of war across the[212] Pacific to San Francisco, some few years previously, he was bound in honour to espouse the Shogun’s side in the struggle then taking place.

On the termination of the War of the Restoration Saigo received a grant, for his eminent services to the State, in the form of an estate of the annual value of 2000 Koku, equivalent, if the present-day price of rice be taken as a guide, to £2500 per annum. He retired to his native province and settled at Takemura, a village close to Kagoshima, his life from that time forward being characterised by extreme simplicity, frugality, and the cultivation of his lands with his own hands, until duty once more called him forth from his eminently peaceful pursuits to take part in matters of administration. Although the idol of the samurai, and constantly mixed up in political affairs, as was indeed almost unavoidable in that stage of the national progress, when every prominent man was intimately concerned with one party or another, it was nevertheless contrary to Saigo’s personal tastes to figure as a Government official, and he would infinitely have preferred to roam the hills of Satsuma or Osumi, gun in hand, than to take part in State functions.

In the Government which was formed in 1872 under the presidency of Prince Sanjo, Saigo held the portfolio of Minister of War, and it was at this time that the army of Japan began to take definite shape, Saigo himself being responsible for the general plan on which the establishment of an adequate military force was based. That Japan’s ambition did not soar very high at that time may be gathered from the subjoined figures, which represent approximately the strength in peace time and in war which was then decided upon:—

In Peace time In War Household
Infantry 26,880 40,320 3,200
Cavalry 360 450 150
Artillery 2,160 2,700 300
Engineers 1,200 1,500 150
Military Train 360 480 80
Marine Artillery 720 900 ...
31,680 46,350 3,880


It was at about this period that the Korean difficulty began to make itself felt in connection with the administration of the Japanese forces, for there arose a strong party in the State which favoured immediate and resolute action with regard to what was loudly proclaimed to be a stealthy but sure advance of Russia toward the coasts of Japan, an approach that even the coolest and the wisest heads in the Empire could not reflect upon without apprehension. Okubo Toshimichi had placed it on record that “Russia, always pressing southward, is Japan’s principal danger.” The conquest of Korea, as affording a complete check to Russia’s advance, was a step that several of the Cabinet Ministers were eager to embark upon there and then. But in Okubo and Iwakura the nation had two cautious statesmen, as prudent as they were patriotic, and their influence carried the day, though Okubo was Saigo’s fellow-clansman. The annexation of Korea was postponed indefinitely, and those who were the strenuous advocates of the forward policy resigned, among them being Saigo Takamori, and Itagaki Taisuke of the province of Tosa. The standard of revolt was speedily raised in the south, not in Satsuma, for Saigo was not then prepared for such a desperate venture, but in Hizen province, to which belonged Yeto Shimpei, who had been one of Saigo’s colleagues in the Cabinet, as Minister of Justice. Yeto Shimpei and his following were soon put down, and the leader of this abortive undertaking paid the penalty with his life.

But although Saigo had not been in a position to render his former friend any active help, had he been disposed at that stage to embark in open hostilities to the existing Government, it is none the less true that he had devoted the bulk of his income of 2000 koku to the upkeep of a school at Kagoshima, named the Shimpei Shi-gakko, or New Army Private Academy, which was in reality a school for young samurai, belonging to his own clan, wherein were taught the science and theory of modern warfare, and the pupils were numbered by the thousand. Among them the idea was prevalent that the honour of their country had been sullied by the failure to exact an[214] apology from either Korea or its suzerain China for the insults, as they were deemed to be, levelled at Japan during the preceding two or three years. The samurai of the south demanded that they should be led against the Koreans to exact reparation, and when this boon was denied them they murmured against the authorities at Tokio.

In the expectation that it would prove a safety-valve for this excessive eagerness to be revenged upon Korea, the Government of Tokio sought to find a vent for the ebullient enthusiasm of the Satsuma warriors in an expedition to Formosa, to demand redress for the ill treatment of some shipwrecked fishermen by the savages, whom China had professed herself unable to control. This resolve was not taken without having exhausted all ordinary means of obtaining satisfaction, and the supreme charge of the undertaking was given to Saigo’s brother, then Minister of the Navy in the Imperial Cabinet. Satsuma being the province nearest to Formosa, the transports set out from Kiushiu, and the bulk of the troops on which the task devolved of maintaining Japan’s prestige in the field on this occasion were men of Satsuma.

In due course the victorious army returned to Japan, on the completion of an Agreement with China whereby the Peking Government bound itself to repay to Japan the expense which it had incurred, but it was not until the British Minister, Sir Thomas Wade, had intervened to prevent a complete severance of relations between Japan and China, consequent upon the indisposition of the Tsung-Li Ya-men to fall in with Japan’s views, that a rupture was avoided. Okubo Toshimichi, Japan’s representative in the negotiations, was actually on the point of taking his departure from the Chinese capital when the Chinese besought the British Minister to rescue them from the predicament into which their procrastination had led them. China paid half a million taels toward Japan’s expenses, and the affair was at an end for the time, Satsuma receiving back the survivors of the contingent that she had sent out a few months before, with regret that fever had decimated their ranks, but with pride that her drilled troops had acquitted themselves so well in the day of trial.


The attitude of Korea continued to be in every way a source of anxiety, however, to the Imperial Cabinet, and though in 1875 an agreement was made whereby Korea was opened to foreign trade, and ratified on the 26th February, of the next year, termed the treaty of Kokwa, the war party in Japan was by no means willing to accept this as a solution of the problem. The Satsuma clan offered strenuous opposition to the extension of the telegraph system of the empire into its own province, and for the time the farthest point of the line southward that the wires could be carried was Kumamoto, seventy-five miles by road short of Kagoshima. It is only now, in 1906, that a State railway is being constructed to the Satsuma stronghold, and for many years the reactionary spirit was strong enough to give pause to both these enterprises of the Department of Public Works. It was Saigo’s wish to chastise Korea and bring her into complete subjection to Japan, but the Government of the day thought otherwise, and meanwhile the Shimpei Shi-gakko persevered with its drills, and the pupils regarded Saigo Takamori as a misjudged man whose most patriotic wishes were being ignored at Tokio.

At last, one day in February 1877, a messenger arrived by boat at Kumamoto and handed in a despatch for transmission by telegraph to Tokio apprising the Government of the departure three days before of 12,000 men, fully armed, on a march to Kioto,—as the leaders put it,—to lay their grievances before the Emperor, who happened to be making a brief stay at his old capital. The despatch speedily reached the Government at Tokio, and action was taken on the instant. The sovereign’s uncle was invested with full powers to punish the rebels, as Saigo Takamori and his companions in this desperate adventure were pronounced to be, and troops were hurried away to Kiushiu as fast as steam could convey them. Prince Arisugawa reached Hakata, which became the base of operations, early in March, and meanwhile the garrison of Kumamoto, which town was on the line of the Satsuma men’s march, placed the castle in a state of defence. Saigo was in command of the rebels, with Kirino, and Shinowara,[216] who were both officers of high rank, as his lieutenants, and the Kumamoto castle was held by a Satsuma man, General Tani, whom nothing would induce to betray his trust. Apart from all question of its prospects of success had it got as far as the main island of Hondo, the chances of the expedition ever completing its projected march to Kioto were destroyed at the outset by its leader devoting his energies to the reduction of the Kumamoto fortress before proceeding beyond that point. Whether he had a sufficient following to admit of his leaving a large proportion of his force in possession of Kumamoto, numerous enough to keep General Tani within the castle walls, while himself pushing on northward, is at least doubtful, but at all events he did not attempt to do so, and the garrison offered so stout a resistance that weeks were lost in a vain effort to capture the place, all the time that the imperial forces were gathering and marching against him from Shimonoseki and Hakata, whither they had been brought by transport. The relief of Kumamoto was effected on the 14th of April 1877. Some very severe conflicts took place in the vicinity, notably at Minami-no-seki (Southern barrier) a pass in the range of hills some miles to the north of the castle, Takase, and Uyeki. A large percentage of the troops employed on the Government side were men from Aidzu and other northern districts wherein the cause of the Shogun had found its strongest support in the war of the Restoration, and in their encounters with the Satsuma men, ten years before, had been worsted. Under the improved military system which Saigo Takamori had had so great a share in establishing these northern men had developed into fine soldiers, but their efficiency was sorely tested by the fierce onslaughts of the Satsuma swordsmen, whose habit it was to fling away the rifles they bore and rush to close quarters on every occasion. Eventually the Tokio police, who are all of samurai birth, were drafted into Kiushiu to take part in the contest with the swordsmen of the south, and there was from that time onward a vast amount of hand-to-hand fighting in the fashion of a bygone era.

After the siege of Kumamoto had been raised the followers[217] of Saigo became somewhat scattered, and were driven back towards their stronghold in Kagoshima. There were sanguinary encounters at Miyako-no-jo, Hitoyoshi, Sadowara, and Nobeoka, all places within a short radius of the Satsuma headquarters, and stage by stage the rebellion was crushed, the final stand of Saigo’s adherents being made at Shiroyama (Castle mountain) within the walls of the daimio’s residence in Kagoshima, of which the rebels had possessed themselves in the absence of their feudal lord. Shimadzu Saburo had been prevailed upon at the outset to discountenance the movement, and his influence had prevailed with his nephew to prevent him likewise from throwing in his lot with the avowed antagonists of the Government. The end was reached on 24th September, when a fierce assault was made by the Government forces on the Castle hill, and Saigo was wounded, the major part of his men falling with him to the bullets of their adversaries. When he saw that all hope was past Saigo bade his faithful friend Hemmi perform the last office that a samurai could undertake for a comrade, and the command was obeyed as soon as Saigo had himself consummated the act of seppuku, the headless body being found at the close of the fighting, but the head remaining for a while undiscovered. Hemmi had fallen also, on his own sword, by his leader’s side. Search was made, and soon the head was found and taken to Admiral Kawamura, who had borne his share in the attack as a loyal subject of the Emperor, though heart-broken at being compelled to oppose his fellow-clansman and life-long friend. The admiral was indeed related by marriage to the dead hero, and having carefully washed the head Kawamura carried it in his own hands to his home, there to be guarded until such time as the body could be decently interred.

However misguided may have been his actions in the opinion of some of his compatriots, Saigo was the idol of the samurai, and almost equally so of the nation at large. It was many years before millions of his countrymen were willing to credit the reports of his death. When at last they were compelled to admit it they insisted that he had taken up his abode in the planet Mars. A man of striking[218] personality,—he stood over six feet high,—he was distinguished by the extreme simplicity of his tastes, his utter repugnance to display of any sort, his bravery and contempt of danger, his complete modesty and unselfishness, evinced in a thousand ways. His innate kindliness and generosity of heart, concealed beneath a certain taciturnity which is not infrequent among Satsuma people in general, gained for him the utmost respect and esteem and won the affections of soldiers of all ranks to a man. When the struggle was at its height in the summer of 1877 a prominent journal thus eulogised him:—

“Though Saigo Takamori is the public enemy of the State,—although his crime, according to the laws of Meiji, is absolutely unpardonable,—he is still a great man. Was it not he who overturned the despotic Bakufu, and restored the ancient imperial authority? Did he not do this with infinite exertion and the most profound indifference to the perils which beset his person?” It is safe to say that up to the time of the revolt of the clan in 1877 he was the most popular of the nation’s heroes.

The Emperor gave one more proof of his extreme magnanimity of mind when he pardoned Saigo’s transgression and ordered a statue to be erected to his memory in Uyeno Park in Tokio. Some years afterwards his Majesty conferred the title of Marquis on Takamori’s eldest son, in recognition of the invaluable support that the father had rendered to the State, in the days prior to Satsuma’s outbreak. Every line of the record of his error has been expunged by his sovereign’s command, and naught remains but the memory of splendid services given to his country with whole-souled devotion and self-sacrifice. He died as became a true and loyal samurai of his race,—died as he had hoped to die,

“... And not disgrace—
Its ancient chivalry.”



Owning allegiance originally to the great Choshiu party, Yamagata Aritomo was from the outset of his career distinguished by his strenuous advocacy of the principle of army reform which even at that early period of the history of modern Japan had come to be recognised by her most ardent patriots as a sheer necessity. The idea of establishing the paramount influence of his native country in the affairs of the Far East by endowing it with a numerous and powerful army seems to have taken possession of his active mind from an early age, and he strove unceasingly to spread the desire of attaining martial supremacy for the clan among his fellow-samurai, who were in the habit, like himself, of devoting much of their leisure to the study of translations of military works from the Dutch. In Yamagata’s young days practically the only accessible writings on fortification and the art of war were in this form, but they were devoured by the Choshiu cadets, who speedily turned to account the knowledge they thereby acquired. The military forces of the Daimio of Choshiu were drilled more or less on the Occidental system after the year 1864, and as a result, on the outbreak of hostilities between the followers of the Shogun and the great southern clans towards the close of the Emperor Komei’s reign the northern men found themselves confronted by troops which had a semblance of skill with the bayonet, and could shoot with some approach to accuracy. The rifles with which the men were armed were of a pattern obsolete in Europe, it is true, but they made the best use they could of these weapons, and the effect on the Aidzu men and other adherents of the Shogun, whose training with modern arms had been of shorter duration and less[220] thorough, was from the first unmistakable. The superiority of Western drill and implements of warfare having been demonstrated in actual combat on the battlefield, it became the Choshiu leader’s ambition to establish a national army, fit to defend the Imperial possessions and to enable Japan some day to take her fitting place among the great powers of the world. To Yamagata, in the opinion of his countrymen, more than to any other person, belongs the credit of having established his country’s military effectiveness and laid the foundations of her martial success in later years.


Yamagata was born in 1838, in Nagato, or Choshiu (lit.: the Long Province), his grade as a samurai being that of the lancers, which was superior to the ashigaru (or “light of foot”) rank of retainer. His father had achieved local renown as a poet and philologist, but Aritomo’s own tastes inclined him towards the study of the arts of war, and he entered the service of the clan in his boyhood, rising by degrees from the position of a common soldier to the command of a regiment. The headquarters of the Choshiu daimio were at Hagi, a town picturesquely situated on the west coast fifty miles from the Shimonoseki Straits. The seat of the present prefectural government is at Yamaguchi, an inland town standing on the highroad which connects the Inland Sea, at Mitajiri, with the Sea of Japan on the west coast of Niphon. Yamaguchi was itself a place of much importance in pre-Restoration days, and enjoys some fame for the excellence of its thermal springs.

Yamagata was very active in the War of the Restoration, leading the Choshiu forces with distinction in the campaign under Marshal Saigo against the Shogunate forces at Fushimi and elsewhere, and when the new Administration was formed in 1868 he was appointed Under Secretary of the War Department at Tokio. There he at once set to work to reorganise the new Imperial army, partly made up as it was of the forces which the feudal barons had themselves maintained and handed over to the Imperial Government after the cessation of hostilities in Oshiu, North Japan. For the ability he displayed[221] in the campaign in that region he received signal marks of the Emperor’s approval, and a few months later he was despatched on a journey to Europe, in order that he might study more closely the art of war as there practised. He was a little over a year absent from Japan, but during the interval he had been present at most of the important engagements of the Franco-German War, and returned to his own country in the spring of 1871.

It is interesting at this stage to recall the actual constitution of the first army on the European model which Japan possessed. It was planned by the Government of the Shogun in 1861 (the first year of the Bun-kiu era), and as a first attempt was undoubtedly the nucleus of the tremendous force that the country is now able to place in the field. The intention was that it should comprise:—

6 regiments of heavy infantry:
4 battalions of light infantry:
6 battalions of heavy cavalry:
2 battalions of light cavalry:
6 batteries of light field artillery:
batteries of heavy field artillery for protection of castle gates.
13 additional companies of heavy infantry for protection of castle gates.
4 additional battalions of light infantry as bodyguard for the Shogun.

But though planned this army was never completely organised, because it was only the hatamoto or other retainers of the Shogun himself who could be called on to contribute, other retainers (samurai) being already in the service of their respective feudal lords. The Hatamoto and others directly controlled by the Shogun had to provide according to their incomes as under:—

Those having incomes of 500 koku (about £625 at the present day) were required to supply one soldier.
Those in receipt of 1000 koku three soldiers.
Incomes of 3000 koku or more were assessed at ten men.


Those whose incomes were under 500 koku paid a tax in rice or its equivalent.

The men to be supplied had to be between the ages of 15 and 45, and served for five years, with liberty to renew their engagement if they so chose.

Each regiment of heavy infantry—6 in all—was composed of 2 battalions, each of which contained 10 sections of 40 men. Then the guard for the Shogun’s castle gates (there were 13 gates in all) was made up of 40 men at each—520 in all. Thus the total of the heavy infantry force was 5320 men.

The light infantry was to protect artillery and convoys, and consisted of 4 battalions, each with 8 sections of 32 men in each. The bodyguard or rifle brigade,—the first to carry modern rifles—numbered 890 men. The heavy cavalry had swords and carbines, and numbered 888 men. The light cavalry carried lances, and were only 192 in number.

The artillery had 6-pounder guns, and 12-in. howitzers,—8 guns to a battery, the men numbering in all 384.

The heavy field artillery (416) men had 12-pounder guns and 15-in. howitzers, and there was half a battery at each gate,—6½ batteries altogether. In the coast defences, including the forts at Shinagawa, Yedo, there were some 2000 artillerymen.

In the staff of the army were 1406 men, many being junior officers, chosen for training for military duties under the eyes of staff officers.

The total effective force of the Shogunate was thus supposed to be about 13,500 men. In reality it did not muster more than 7700 men and 64 officers when the “standing army” was called on to support the waning fortunes of the Shogunate in 1867.

At the time that this nucleus of the modern Japanese army was formed the intrusion, as it was deemed, of foreigners was bitterly resented by the party of exclusion, which had its centre in the Court of Kioto; the Shogun, on the other hand, day by day became more convinced of the futility of such efforts as Japan could make in opposition to the fulfilment of the treaties. There remained[223] to be considered the probable attitude of the great feudatories, who were almost independent of the Shogun though nominally his subordinates, and by whom it was to be anticipated, in not a few instances, that the occasion would be seized for divesting themselves of a yoke which had begun to be burdensome. This factor in the problem was at all events one which no one could with safety ignore. Affairs were further complicated by the circumstance that in 1860, when the discussion was at its height, the two strong chieftains of the south, Mori of Choshiu and Shimadzu of Satsuma, were at variance, and as a result when Mori advocated the out-and-out adoption of a policy of expulsion his powerful opponent in the extreme south of Kiushiu preferred to see an understanding arrived at between the Imperial party and the adherents of the Bakufu, which was responsible for the signature of the treaties with foreign powers. At this time the Shogun Iyemochi was but a youth and politically he was unable to render more than the minimum of service to his party, but it was hoped that a fusion of interests might be brought about by a marriage between his Highness and a sister of the reigning Emperor, which took place in the autumn of 1860. But the scheme conspicuously failed to bring the rival factions into line, and instead of presenting a united front against the “barbarians” the clan enmities and jealousies continued to thrive and in the views entertained on the subject of the admission of strangers there remained as complete a divergence as ever. And not only was there this conflict of opinion prevailing between two well-defined parties in the State but the Shogun’s side grew to be a house divided against itself, for dissensions arose within the Mito clan, thereunto the strongest pillar of the Tokugawa regime, and one of the branches of that family in which the office of Shogun was hereditary. One half of the Mito clan were for the expulsion of foreigners, the other half favoured the strict fulfilment of the Shogun’s bargains. Feeling on these matters at one time ran so high at Mito that the samurai of the clan fought desperately among themselves, and it is possible to trace the decline of the[224] Shogunate’s power to this lamentable internecine strife which sapped the strength of the Tokugawa house and paved the way to its final fall. Another peril to the Shogunate was created by the antagonism of the Lord Mori of Choshiu. His uncompromising hostility to the treaties led him into a direct quarrel with the Bakufu, and he was directed to return to his own province from Kioto. His abrupt dismissal from Court was calculated to arouse the keenest antagonism to the Shogunate on the part of his followers, who carried the news to Hagi, his castle town in the west of Choshiu, and there was from that time war between the clan and the adherents of the Tokugawa house. Thus arose the anomaly that while the Choshiu clan had at that time in its ranks those very men by whose endeavours Japan was ultimately to be induced to abandon a policy of seclusion and to enter the comity of nations, their influence was insufficient to prevent, until a considerably later period, the adoption of an attitude by their feudal chief which was distinctly reactionary. And the reformers, finding themselves in a minority, were compelled to wait their time. The Choshiu men gathered in their strength and marched upon Kioto, resolved to wipe out the disgrace which they conceived attached to them through the unavenged insult to their lord, and as at that date the Choshiu troops were by far the better armed, victory would have rested with them in the battle which ensued within sound, and, indeed, within rifle shot, of the Imperial residence, but for the inadequacy of their numbers. Yamagata, Takasato, and many others who were presently to achieve distinction in their country’s cause, were engaged in this contest, and were ranged under the Jo-I banner, though their presence there as supporters of the principle of expulsion was due to their loyalty to their feudal lord, and in defence of his rights as opposed to the Shogun, rather than to any unwillingness that the country should be opened to international trade and the introduction of Western arts and sciences.

In writing of the pre-Restoration days himself, in 1887, Count Yamagata, as he was then, described the time of[225] the Tokugawa Shogunate as that when, all foreign intercourse being limited to China and Holland, people in Japan knew little of the civilisation of other nations. “Peace,” he said, “universally reigned. The swords were kept in their sheaths, and the arrows lay untouched in their quivers. Luxury and effeminacy followed in the wake of peace. The sudden appearance of the problem of foreign intercourse in the sixth year of Ka-yei [1853] resulted in the universal cry for exclusion. The power of the Shogunate was gradually undermined by this event. It is not to be wondered at that this cry was raised on every side, for people were kept in ignorance of things outside of their own country. Their condition was that of the proverbial frog in the well.

I no naka no kawadzu
Dai Kai wo shiradzu.
(The frog in the well
Knows naught of the ocean.)

Things outside were completely shut off from their view. Along with this perplexity the advocates of the virtual authority of the Throne assailed the Shogunate. Baron Ii Naosuke was the person who had to face these great problems. Confident in the wisdom of his policy, he bravely opposed public opinion, and was hated even by his relations. The result was that he had to sacrifice his life for his perseverance in the policy that he followed. Yet this sad event not only saved our country from the misfortune that befell our neighbour, China, but opened the pathway of civilisation in our own land. The merit of this is attributable to no one but Baron Ii Naosuke.” This powerful championship of a nobleman to whom Japan owes much—further reference to the part which he took in connection with the foreign treaties and the manner of his death will be found in this volume in the chapter devoted to Prince Tokugawa Keiki—does justice to the memory of one whose fate it was to be much maligned during life, and also to Marshal Yamagata’s goodness of heart, and there must have been many of the former adherents of the Tairo who read this eulogy of their murdered chieftain with genuine satisfaction.


It was on Yamagata’s return from France in 1871 that the reform and expansion of the military system were definitely taken in hand, the barons of Satsuma, Choshiu, and Tosa presenting their provincial armies to the Emperor, and it was then that four military centres were formed for the troops that likewise were drafted into the imperial service from the military establishments of the other feudal lords. In 1872 conscription became the law of the land. Six divisions of the army were formed, and regular drill and instruction were provided for. Several French officers were engaged to give tuition in military subjects. Yamagata himself occupied the post of Minister of War, and to the army he appointed as Commander-in-chief General Saigo Takamori. General Yamada ranked next, and other appointments to high command were those of Kirino, the close friend of Saigo in the events of 1877, General Tani, who in that year defended Kumamoto, and Generals Toriwo, Miura, Nodzu, Asa, Miyoshi, Nishi, Osawa, etc.: all capable men who in after years greatly distinguished themselves, some having taken part prominently in the war, now happily at an end, with Russia.

The first regulations promulgated remain in most of their essential features but little changed, notwithstanding the lapse of thirty-five years, and this is testimony in itself to the soundness of the system for which Marquis Yamagata was mainly responsible. All Japanese subjects on reaching the age of twenty were to be liable for three years’ active service in the army or the navy. The officers of the lower grades were to be chosen by the officers of the corps. Commissions were to be granted only after a course of instruction and rigid examination. After their three years’ term conscripts were to form a first reserve, assembling once a year for drill. On the expiration of two years in the first reserve they were to be placed in a second reserve, only liable to be called out in case of a levy en masse. The militia was to be formed of all males between the ages of seventeen and forty, who had been otherwise exempted from service, and these were to be formed into troops for district protection whenever[227] a general levy might take place. The term in the first reserve has been extended far beyond that originally contemplated, but in practice the service in the first and second reserves is merely nominal, and in the militia or national army likewise, as the men are only called out once a year for manœuvres, save in case of war or emergency. The six provincial divisions, inclusive of the Imperial Guards, who were maintained at the capital, were stationed in the first place as under:—

Headquarters Brigade Headquarters Regiment Quarters
Provincial Division I. Tokio I. Tokio I. Tokio
XV. Takasaki
II. Sakura II. Sakura
III. Tokio
Do. II. Sendai III. Sendai IV. Sendai
XVI. Shibata
IV. Aomori V. Aomori
XVII. Sendai
Do. III. Nagoya V. Nagoya VI. Nagoya
XVIII. Toyohashi
VI. Kanazawa VII. Kanazawa
XIX. Nagoya
Do. IV. Osaka VII. Osaka VIII. Osaka
IX. Otsu
VIII. Himeji X. Himeji
XX. Osaka
Do. V. Hiroshima IX. Hiroshima XI. Hiroshima
XXI. Hiroshima
X. Matsuyama XXII. Matsuyama
XII. Marugame
Do. VI. Kumamoto XI. Kumamoto XIII. Kumamoto
XXIII. Kumamoto
XII. Kokura XIV. Kokura
XXIV. Fukuoka

In addition to the six divisions detailed under the earlier scheme of military organisation—viz. those having their headquarters at Tokio, Sendai, Nagoya, Osaka, Hiroshima, and Kumamoto—divisions were subsequently established at Asahigawa in the island of Yeso, at Hirosaki in Northern Hondo, at Kanasawa on the west coast, at Himeji, near Kobé, close to the Inland Sea, at Kokura, facing Shimonoseki across the Straits, and at Marugame in the island of Shikoku.

All the divisional headquarters are now served by public or State railways, and practically the same may be said of the various Brigade headquarters, numbering twelve more.


The establishment comprised 36 regiments including artillery, 22 battalions, 20 companies, 12 corps (inclusive of colonial troops in Yeso, and the gendarmerie), 228 General and Field officers, 2267 officers, 484 cadets, 5835 sub-officers, and 54,555 rank and file. Total 63,369.

These were the figures of the standing army at the end of 1893, and at that time the nominal strength of the reserve rank and file was 193,949 of all arms, made up of 107,222 infantry, 1923 cavalry, 10,182 artillery, 4373 engineers, 2035 commissariat, and 68,214 miscellaneous, including transport-soldiers, firemen, ambulance attendants, etc.: all these passing into the “landsturm” or national army on the expiration of their 12 years with the colours or in the reserves.

By the ordinance of July 1894, a divisional regiment consists of 3 battalions or 12 companies, each company comprising 136 officers and men. A Bodyguard regiment has only 8 companies. The cavalry battalion is of 3 companies, each of 159 officers and men. A Field artillery regiment includes 693 officers and men in a division, or 465 if of the Bodyguard.

In time past only the “Samurai” of Japan were entitled to bear arms, and as the sum-total of these “Samurai” families was comparatively small, it was evidently impossible in 1871 to create a large army of this class alone. Thus it became needful as a first step to throw open the ranks of Japan’s new military organisation to “heimin” as well as to the “ancient warrior caste,” if what was in reality the knighthood of the realm may properly be so designated. The “heimin” were complimented by such a direct recognition of their ability to wield weapons of war, and flocked to the standards; the nucleus of a huge fighting machine was speedily formed, and the necessary steps were taken to provide tuition for its officers and competent instruction for the rank and file. At first the intention was to take France as the model, as it had already been determined to copy Britain in all matters naval. But France having come somewhat badly out of the war of 1870 it was in the end decided to base the system chiefly on that of Germany. The Household[229] Troops were at first an exception to this rule and held more or less for a time to the French system.

Yamagata’s ambition did not extend very far at first, for the army was to consist of only 20,000 men, all told. But it was intended that these should be well drilled, with additions to their ranks later on, and in gaining proficiency in military exercises they served to leaven the whole mass of the male population, and imbue it with a notion of the high standard of efficiency which defenders of the realm were expected to attain. Not until after the war with China, however, which will be referred to in detail in its proper place, was the Japanese army really formidable in point of numbers. But under the plan for which Marshal Yamagata was directly responsible, there grew up an enormous reserve, far in excess of anything for which the rest of the world was prepared to give Japan credit. Parenthetically, it may be mentioned that even down to the end of 1904 the tremendous strength which Japan is able to put forth had not, save in a very limited circle, been in the faintest degree appreciated, and least of all, perhaps, in Russia.

At the time of the outbreak of war in the island of Kiushiu in 1877 General Yamagata was at headquarters in Tokio, and it may well be comprehended that there was some anxiety in his mind concerning the behaviour of the new army when confronted by the redoubtable swordsmen of the great southern clan. The heimin of whom the imperial army was largely composed were comparatively unaccustomed to the use of weapons of warfare, and it remained to be seen how they would comport themselves in the face of a peculiarly strong and agile foe. The Satsuma onslaught was famed for its irresistible vigour and determination. It was at least open to question if the men who had only recently begun to handle the bayonet would with it be a match for swordsmen whose tactics were to come to close quarters on every occasion and to some extent despised musketry as an art unworthy of their knightly training. But the outcome of the struggle justified the sanguine anticipations[230] which the military authorities at Tokio had formed regarding the value of the new force, and increased confidence was felt in its future development. It was not the first trial that it had undergone in actual warfare, for some regiments had been through a rather severe campaign,—not in respect of the fighting that they had to do, but in regard to the climate and the character of the country—in the island of Formosa three years before the contest with Satsuma occurred, yet the civil war in Kiushiu was a test of a far more rigorous nature, and one on which the fate of the Government’s scheme of reform in no small degree depended. Suffice it to say that the confidence Yamagata had placed in his military system was amply warranted by events, and as references are to be found elsewhere to the incidents of the campaign it would be superfluous to enter into detail concerning them here.

By 1883 the available strength of the imperial army had risen to some 105,110 men, of all arms, not counting non-combatants, and at the end of the year 1888 there were 150,000 drilled men, with 120 guns, and a cavalry force of 500 sabres, ready for service at short notice, and a serviceable army of 25,000 troops could have been sent away to Korea or China at any time, on three days’ notice being given to the War Department.

In December 1889 Marshal Yamagata, as he had now become,—having previously held the office of Nai-mu-kio or Home Minister, in the Cabinet, was called upon, owing to the resignation of Count Okuma, to form a Ministry, and he continued to fill the post of Minister-President of State until April 1891, when he gave way to Count Matsukata, who had held under him the portfolio of Finance.

The following year, the Marquis Ito having meanwhile become head of the Ministry, a very extensive scheme of army extension and reorganisation was brought forward, encountering no inconsiderable opposition from the Radical party in the House of Representatives, and the year ended with stormy debates in Parliament on questions of military and naval expenditure. Marshal Yamagata was of course mainly responsible for the project as far as it related in[231] detail to the enlargement of the nation’s military resources, but that it had the entire approval and support of the Crown was clear from the imperial rescript which appeared in 1893, when matters had reached a deadlock in the Diet owing to the obstacles placed in the Cabinet’s path by the irreconcilable elements of the Opposition. In the course of his message to the Diet the Emperor declared that “the progressive force of various countries of the world becomes more apparent day by day: at this period if time is squandered in disputes and ultimately the great objects in view become neglected, so that the opportunities of promoting the nation’s welfare and extending its influence are lost, the desire that we cherish in view of meeting the spirits of our ancestors will be frustrated, and the way to reap the fair result of constitutional government will be missed. The items of expenditure referred to in the 67th Article of the Constitution are already guaranteed by the terms of those articles, and therefore must not be a matter of dispute now. As to the military defences of the State, a single day’s neglect may result in a hundred years’ regret. We shall Ourselves economise in the expenditure of Our household, and We call on Our officers to do the same....” His Majesty’s efforts brought about a temporary understanding, and in the meantime affairs in Korea were assuming so threatening a shape that all the energies of the War Office were directed into the channel of urgent and complete preparation for what it was feared could not long be averted, namely, a desperate struggle with China, whose policy had been growing more and more inimical to Japan’s interests in the adjacent peninsula.

The culmination was reached when news arrived in Japan that a large reinforcement of the Chinese army in Korea was on the eve of being sent from Tientsin, and that foreign vessels had been chartered to convey the troops across the Yellow Sea to points on the Korean littoral. The bargain had been that neither Japan nor China was to increase its strength in the peninsula without giving due notice to the other interested power, for Korea, under the existing agreement, was independent, though China still insisted on claiming a rather shadowy suzerainty.[232] Japan ordered her fleet to intercept the Chinese vessels, and hostilities began when the Naniwa Kan, a cruiser at that time commanded by the now famous Admiral Togo, fired upon and sank a British-owned steamer which had been chartered for the express purpose of carrying Chinese soldiers to the vicinity of the Korean port of Chemulpo. Admiral Togo’s orders were to prevent a landing, and when he had taken on board the Naniwa Kan all the foreign officers of the transport, the Chinese on board refused to surrender, in spite of fair warning, so he considered that he had no alternative but to put an effectual stop to the vessel’s career. Already large numbers of Chinese had been thrown into Korea, and a first collision between the rival forces took place at Asan, a port to the south of Chemulpo, in the Nam-yang or Empress Gulf. The decisive battle of the 15th September 1894, at Ping-Yang, north of Seoul, at which spot Hideyoshi had fought the Chinese at the end of the sixteenth century, settled the question of the supremacy on Korean soil, and the Chinese withdrew in haste beyond the river Yalu frontier. Marshal Yamagata at this stage arrived from Japan to take command in person of the Japanese army in Manchuria, in the campaign on which it was now about to enter, and a second army, under the command of Marshal Oyama, was called out for the invasion of the peninsula known as the “Regent’s Sword,” at the extremity of which lay Port Arthur, for until this fortress should be captured the Chinese fleet could not be said to have been rendered absolutely useless, whilst its possession would give Japan the control of the Gulf of Pechili and enable her to interrupt communications with the Chinese ports in those waters.

At the end of 1893 the strength of the Japanese army was as follows:—

Peace Establishment 70,892
First Reserve 92,252
Second Reserve 106,020
Yeso colonists 4,104


The peace establishment and the First Reserve constitute the First Line on a war footing, so that the forces which Japan was able under Marshals Yamagata and Oyama to place in the field were 163,144 in all. Roughly the peace strength of a Japanese division is 9000, but in time of war its total rises to about 27,000 men, all told. In the Japan and China war, under the arrangements which Marshal Yamagata had made, each division was a complete unit in itself, and, comprised 2 infantry brigades, 1 artillery regiment, 1 engineer battalion, 1 cavalry battalion, 1 train battalion, a medical corps, and an intendant, accountant, veterinary and legal staff.

Each infantry brigade had 2 regiments, and each regiment 3 battalions,—(save in the Guards, which had 2 battalions to a regiment)—a battalion at war strength averaging 800 rifles. The weapon was the Murata rifle of the 1889 pattern (embodying the improvements effected in the original type which was the invention of Captain Murata, as he was then, of the Japanese army, in the early years of the Meiji era,—he is now General Murata) the rifle being a single-loading breech-loader of 8 millimetres calibre. Each man carried 100 rounds of ammunition, and there were 80 rounds per man in the battalion transport and ammunition column. A new magazine rifle—since brought to great perfection—had then just been issued to the Guards and to the Osaka (4th) division. An artillery regiment comprised 6 batteries of 6 guns each, and a cavalry battalion consisted of 2 squadrons of 100 sabres each. The engineer battalion had 2 field companies of about 200 combatants each, and also furnished the bridging and telegraph sections. The train battalion supplied the personnel, ponies, and so forth for all regimental and divisional transport, a pack pony being able to carry about 250 lbs., but during the campaign great use was made of hand-carts, each drawn by 3 coolies, and conveying about 350 lbs. Each division had 3 supply columns and 5 ammunition columns, and in all 8 days’ rations were carried. The medical corps formed 2 bearer companies and 6 field hospitals. The men of the First Reserve formed depots for each corps and augmented the[234] units from peace to war strength, whereas the Second Reserve, on territorial mobilisation, formed additional units for garrison work, and for the preservation of the lines of communication for the army in the field.

It is needful to supply these details in order to show how Marshal Yamagata had taken cognisance, in his scheme, of the requirements of modern warfare, and that the confidence with which Japan entered on the contest with China was thoroughly well based. By Yamagata’s efforts the army of Japan had already been brought to a high standard of efficiency, and it more than fulfilled the expectations that he had been led to form of its capabilities in the field. Its discipline was from the first perfect. Had they been needed, there was a vast reserve of men in Japan who, given medical fitness, were liable to be called out, if between the ages of seventeen and forty, for service in the National Army, but up to that period no demand had ever been made on them, and they had not been organised into a fighting force.

The Japanese headquarter staff, at the beginning of the war, removed from Tokio to Hiroshima, in the south-west, and thence directed operations. The Emperor went likewise to Hiroshima and took up his residence in the barracks without the ancient castle of the former daimio of Aki province, as Dai-Gen-Sui, or Supreme Commander-in-chief of Army and Navy. At his Majesty’s side were Prince Komatsu, Chief of Staff for the army, with General Kawakami, as his assistant, and Admiral Kabayama, as Chief of Staff for the Navy.

It was noted by military critics of the campaign that “the conduct of the war by the Japanese was marked by a very complete decentralisation.” The commanders of armies or detached forces were given definite objectives (one at a time), and then allowed a free hand in carrying out their work, the same system being followed within the armies or their divisions.

The telegraph, of which Japan had learned the value during the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877, was turned to the best account in the war of 1894-5, for orders were sent by cable from Japan to Fusan, and thence by telegraph[235] through Korea to Marshal Yamagata, and for the Second army they were sent by wire to Ping-Yang and thence by steamer to the Liao-Tung peninsula. After the end of December 1894 the line of telegraph was built around the coast to the vicinity of Port Arthur, so that Marshal Oyama was also in direct touch with the imperial headquarters at Hiroshima.

The approximate strength of the Chinese army when it took its stand at Kiu-lien-cheng, on the west bank of the Yalu, was 20,000, and there was a further contingent of 4500 men, who had come south from Tsi-tsi-har, posted ten miles upstream. The advanced guard of Marshal Yamagata’s army arrived at Wiju, on the south side of the river, on the 10th October, and the main body on the 23rd. Just above Kiu-lien-cheng the Yalu is joined by the Ai-ho, and in the angle formed by the two rivers stands a prominent hill called Hu-shan, or Tiger Mount. The Chinese held this as an advanced position in front of their left flank, their main position extending along the right bank of the Yalu as far south as An-Tung-hsien. In front of this main Chinese position the river was broad and deep, and the country on the opposite bank was flat and open, so Marshal Yamagata, realising the difficulty of making a direct attack, determined to capture Hushan first, and then by fording the tributary stream to turn the Chinese left. The attack was planned to take place at daylight on the 25th October. The main obstacle to the advance of the Japanese forces was the principal channel of the Yalu, which at that time of the year was 11 feet deep and about 200 yards wide. The bridge had to be constructed by night, the pontoon equipment at that time with the army was not sufficient, and the water was so ice-cold that the men could only work in very short reliefs. By dawn however, the principal work had been done, and, the attack was delivered, the Chinese abandoning their Hushan positions before 8 A.M., though the main position continued to give trouble. The Japanese bivouacked on the right bank of the Ai-ho above Kiu-lien-cheng, and next morning it was found that their foes had evacuated both that city and An-Tung during the dark hours,[236] and had fallen back, part in the direction of Feng-hwang-cheng, and part towards Siu-Yen.

The maxim that history repeats itself was so accurately borne out in the events of a decade later at Kiu-lien-cheng that the temptation to allude briefly to them at this point becomes irresistible. In the Russo-Japanese war of 1904 the Japanese commander General Kuroki had to force the passage of the Yalu in a precisely similar fashion, the attack being commenced by the crossing of the twelfth division at dawn on the 30th of April, and the Russians vainly attempting to hold the heights facing Hushan against assault. General Sassulitch fell back on the 1st of May, on Feng-hwang-cheng, which the Japanese occupied five days afterwards. In 1894 the troops under Marshal Yamagata entered Feng-hwang-cheng on the 29th October, the fifth day after the commencement of the attack on Hushan, the Chinese having retreated to the Mo-tien pass, thirty-eight miles to the north-west. Two columns were sent by different roads towards Taku-shan, afterwards meeting at Siu-Yen, and General Nodzu executed a brilliant combined movement against Sai-ma-tsui and defeated the Chinese at Tsao-ho-kao, on the 30th of November. Meanwhile General Sung, taking with him Ma Yu-kun as his chief of staff, had gone south by way of Kai-ping to attack the Japanese Second Army, which was reported to be marching on Port Arthur. At this time the Chinese opposing Marshal Yamagata in Manchuria numbered approximately 22,000 men.

After the capture of Port Arthur by the Second Army on the 21st of November, Marshal Yamagata was directed to proceed to the taking of Hai-cheng, which the Chinese were then holding in considerable strength, but his health, which had never been good during his stay in that region, quite broke down, and he was invalided home, his place in the field being taken by General Nodzu. At this period the marshal was so feeble that he could only with difficulty mount his charger, but he held on until the Emperor’s own physician, who had been sent with him to Manchuria, made a resolute appeal to him to desist. Very reluctantly Yamagata returned to Japan,[237] abandoning the hope of winning glory on the field of battle, almost at the moment when fame seemed to be within his grasp.

The end of the war came in April 1895, and Marshal Yamagata had recovered sufficiently to be able to resume his place at the War Office, and even to journey to Europe, to attend the coronation of the Tsar Nicholas II. at Moscow, as the delegate of the Japanese Emperor. He did not succeed in getting as far as London, for he was obliged by illness to return direct to Japan from Russia, after concluding the Treaty of 9th June 1896.

On resuming his duties some months later at Tokio a scheme of expansion of the military forces was elaborated under his supervision which promised to confer upon Japan by the year 1902 a military power just double that which she possessed in the summer of 1895, and providing for an army of not less than 500,000 men, at an annual cost of 26,000,000 Yen (roughly £2,654,000).

In January 1898 the Emperor decreed the formation of a Supreme Military Advisory Council, consisting of four members—viz. Marquis Yamagata, holding the position at that time of Inspector-General of the Army,—Prince Komatsu, Chief of the Staff,—Marshal Oyama,—and Marquis Saigo (since deceased). On the failure of the attempt to form a Party Government, which ended in the resignation of the Cabinet in November 1898, Marquis Yamagata was once more commanded by the Emperor to form a Ministry, and he became Minister-president with Marquis Saigo as Home Minister, Count Katsura as Minister for War, Count Matsukata at the Finance Department, and Baron Aoki at the Foreign Office. The Cabinet so constituted remained in office until September 1900, when Marshal Yamagata made way for Marquis Ito, who, as the retiring Minister-president declared, was far more skilled than himself in matters concerning China, and Chinese questions were then becoming exceptionally prominent.

Marquis Yamagata held during 1904 and 1905 the position at headquarters of Chief of the General Army Staff, and politically he is one of the Gen-Ro, or Elder[238] Statesmen, to whom Japan looks for counsel and guidance in the hour of trial. During the recent war with Russia he was ever at the helm at Tokio, silently arranging and directing everything pertaining to the conduct of the campaign in Manchuria, while his colleague Marshal Oyama was active in the field.

Ten years ago Marshal Yamagata realised to his intense mortification not only that the Government of St Petersburg wished to deprive Japan of the legitimate fruits of her successes in the war with China, but that Russia intended to appropriate Manchuria herself. From that time his thoughts were occupied with the development of his country’s military strength, that at least she might not again be subject to the indignity which she had to suffer in 1895. It has already been shown how he gradually and surely raised the total of Japan’s resources in men and material until she was in possession of an army that would enable her to challenge with success the further advance towards her own shores of a power whose progress southward had ever constituted,—and as Minister Okubo had declared thirty years before,—a grave peril for Japan.

The disposition of Western observers had always been to accept the published figures of the standing army as indicative of the Empire’s military power. Never, perhaps, were figures so altogether deceptive, for the nominal muster of the regular forces bears but little comparison with the real strength which the nation is capable of putting forth in time of war.

Japan’s army is based on conscription, and all male subjects of the Ten-shi become liable when full seventeen, and remain liable until full forty years of age. In actual practice they are never called on until they are twenty, but even then their term of service may extend over twenty years, only three of which it is compulsory that they shall spend with the colours. We have in the Japanese system, therefore, a short service with the colours, but followed by a prolonged liability to be called out in emergencies and annually for practice, and its effects in relation to the military power of a nation are conveniently[239] to be studied in the history of Japan since about the year 1890 when its possibilities first began to be realised by the people at large. At the end of his third year the Japanese soldier of the first selection—which is of men of superior physique—passes into the First Reserve, to which he is attached for four years and four months. But as there is a superabundance of men who are physically fully qualified for the Active army, the conscripts have to draw lots for the three years’ service with the colours, and when one of them is unlucky enough to be debarred from the active service—(this is the view which, as is, of course, only natural, the Japanese youth’s patriotism induces him to take of the fact that he has drawn a blank)—he is commiserated by his friends, and passes to the depot, where he will serve seven years and four months, and thus equal in the duration of his term his more fortunate comrade on whom the lot fell for active service at the outset. At the expiration of their term of seven years and four months the men of both classes are passed into the territorial army for ten years, and thence to the territorial reserve until they reach the age of forty. Up to a certain point the same course is followed with those who were at first rejected as being of inferior physique,—they serve seven years and four months in depot, but they then pass to the Territorial Reserve direct until they are forty years old. One-year volunteers are accepted, as in Germany, provided they are youths of the prescribed educational attainments and undertake to maintain themselves (and to mount themselves in mounted branches of the service) during their term. They then pass for six years and four months into the Active Reserve Army, and next for ten years into the Territorial Army as usual, completing their term in the Territorial Reserve until forty. There is a special plan of service in force in the island of Tsu-shima owing to its strategical position, whereby all the male population may be mobilised, but with the changed circumstances resultant on the altered status of Korea it seems possible that Tsushima may eventually be brought under the operation of the ordinary regulations.


The general effect of the provisions for service was to equip Japan down to the end of 1904 with an army on a peace footing of 8000 officers and 152,000 men, which was capable of being raised on a war footing to 14,000 officers and 630,000 men, but that was before the law increasing the term of service in the Territorial Army to ten years, promulgated in September 1904, came into operation. The term had previously been five years only. The lengthening of the term will have had the result of vastly adding to the possibilities of the army in numbers on a war footing. The budget appropriation for this large army was for the fiscal year ending with March 1906 as nearly as possible £4,000,000.

It may be useful to insert here for the sake of comparison the cost of some other armies to their respective countries:—

Russia £38,330,000
Germany 31,674,000
Great Britain 28,600,000
France 27,000,000
Austro-Hungary 13,150,000
Italy 11,160,000

In Japan the service is universal and compulsory, with exemption only for physical disability. At a rough estimate 410,000 youths reach the prescribed age annually, but less than one-third of this number are selected for the maintenance of the standing army, as men of superior physique, a term which palpably is elastic enough to admit of the choice of precisely the number required from the vast assemblage of youths presenting themselves every year for enrolment.

To judge of Japan’s strength, then, by her standing army would be a huge mistake, or even to wholly estimate it from the figures given as that of her army on a war footing, as was proved by the last campaign, for there were vast numbers of men who had completed their twelve (now 17) years and four months’ service in the active army, the first reserve, and territorial army, who[241] were still liable until they became full forty. Moreover, the territorial army and its reserves are composed of men who are as a rule in good marching condition, for they are in the majority of cases engaged in normal times in agriculture or other industries, and physically equal to any tasks they may be called on to undertake. Conscription has made of Japan the great military power that she may, with strict justice, claim to be, but owing to the light in which military service is there regarded it is never a burden on the population. On the contrary, the system is really a voluntary one, since it is every youth’s hope and ambition to be among those first chosen to enter the ranks of the active army and a source of grief to him when he is drafted into the depot corps.

It was, then, not simply with a nation possessing a powerful army but with veritably a nation in arms that Russia had to contend when the war was begun in February 1904, and no more definite, straightforward history of that mighty contest has been given to the world than the brief account of its origin, progress, and conclusion which, according to a journal published in the Far East, fell from Marshal Yamagata’s own lips not long ago. Referring to the events of the spring of 1904, he said:—

“Russian aggression in the Far East became so notorious, and took on such serious dimensions after Russia obtained the lease of Port Arthur and Talienwan that it was felt that a conflict of the interests of Japan and Russia was imminent. I considered most carefully measures to counteract this aggression, and took counsel with all my colleagues and friends. We came to the decision to forestall Russia in Korea, as the historical and geographical relations of Korea with our Empire demanded that we should have the peninsula in our power, rather than it should fall into that of Russia. To attain this object we decided to construct the Seoul-Fusan railway, and did not neglect to elaborate any other necessary measures, as circumstances required, to oppose Russia. In the meantime Russia steadily augmented her naval strength in the[242] Far East, and by about March 1903 her naval force here was almost equal to our own. Russia failed to fulfil her promise to evacuate Manchuria, and by steadily reinforcing her army and navy her designs came to be generally acknowledged. The Japanese Government, therefore, decided to protest against these designs, and entered upon negotiations in July 1903, with a view to arriving at an arrangement diplomatically. These negotiations proved very difficult, and towards the end of November the situation became desperate. By this time we were determined that Korea should under no circumstances be left in the hands of Russia. Frankly I may say that we were not confident of defeating Russia, for she was considered to be one of the greatest powers of the world. We had some hope, however, in our navy. The naval forces of the two countries were almost equally balanced, but fortunately our navy had had experience in fighting in the past ten years, while Russia had had none. As to the strength of the army, there was great disparity, the Russians having 4,000,000 men and Japan only 500,000. There was certainly a limit in the strength of the army that could be sent by Russia’s one line of railway, but the Russian equipment in arms was in no way inferior, even if it was not superior, to that of our army, and the education of the officers was almost equal. We had, therefore, no advantage over the Russian army, with the exception, as we thought, of the skill of our troops in fighting in such hilly country as Korea and Manchuria. Thus we had very little prospect of success in land fighting, it having been altogether impossible to assure ourselves of success in the way that the lay mind is apt to think. It was a critical and anxious time when hostilities were commenced, but the army was determined, we knew, to fight to a man in defence of the Empire. On the campaign being opened, however, we were able to obtain a success far beyond that which we had hoped for. This was to be ascribed to the virtue of the Emperor and to the[243] valour of the officers and men, and the army and navy are to be congratulated thereon.

From about the time of the great victory at Mukden a suggestion was made in Europe and America that for the sake of humanity peace should be restored, and shortly after the defeat of the Russian fleet in the battle of the Sea of Japan, President Roosevelt, acting from humanitarian motives, advised the two belligerents to make peace, with the result already known.

Some of the people appear to be strongly opposed to the terms. Each man has a right to his own opinion, and it is only natural that opinion should be divided upon so momentous a question. In deciding to conclude peace the Government carefully investigated the present financial capacity of the Empire,—the plans made for its future development,—the general political situation of the world,—as well as the fact that Russia was constantly aggressive and warlike. After full consideration the Government then came to the conclusion that if hostilities were continued any longer it would hardly be possible to obtain compensation for the vast expenditure involved, and no better result could be secured than was to be obtained by concluding peace there and then. The continuation of the war, it was thought, would require a further heavy sacrifice and the only result would be to exhaust the funds required for the promotion of works in Korea and Manchuria. Thereupon the members of the Government agreed without a dissenting voice to conclude peace without delay. There was no difference, as alleged, among the members of the Government—no ‘strong party.’ If the peace be condemned by some people, I am for my part quite willing to accept the name of being a member of the ‘weak’ party, and all the other Elder Statesmen and Cabinet Ministers will share my view.”

Marshal Yamagata emphatically repudiated the allegation that he had advocated peace on the ground of the[244] difficulty of further continuing the war because of the inadequacy of the country’s military strength. “The assertion,” he said, “reflects upon the prestige of the army and cannot be passed over unnoticed. The Government prosecuted the war with the greatest determination, and is still competent to carry it on. I have been in the military service over forty years, and have been through several wars. We have experienced greater difficulties in other wars than in the one with Russia, though the wars of the past were of less magnitude. We have always managed to overcome difficulties.”

It will be admitted that this speech was not conceived in any spirit of boastfulness, but that it was a plain unvarnished statement of fact. Japan was by no means exhausted by the struggle with Russia,—on the other hand, nothing was to be gained by prolonging it to exhaustion point.

The combination of soldier and politician is not so uncommon that it need occasion remark to find it exemplified in the case of Marshal Yamagata, whose abilities as a leader in the field have been almost equalled, though they could not be surpassed, by his talents as chief of a numerous and powerful party in the State. He is the acknowledged head of the Japanese Conservatives, and has served his country as Prime Minister with signal success. He always displayed a perfect genius for organisation, and in the Parliamentary arena he shone as brilliantly as in the “tented field.” But for all that it is not for one moment to be imagined that he is in the usually accepted meaning of the word a parliamentarian. He is not, strictly speaking, a politician or party man at all. When he was originally invited to form a Ministry he accepted the task, not from a desire to achieve political success, but in order that he might, if possible, be the means of removing from the arena of party conflict those great questions that were at the period alluded to becoming daily of real importance to the nation at large. He has ever set his face sternly against the subordination of national interests to the ambitions of a party. He is essentially a soldier, and his heart is with the army, on which he bases his hopes for the[245] future eminence among the powers of that country which it was called into being to protect. And Marshal Yamagata has every right to be proud of that magnificent force the enrolment of which he so strenuously advocated from the very first, and to the complete organisation of which he has entirely devoted his energies for forty years. True it is that he received the utmost help in this great work,—one surely worthy of a life’s continuous effort,—from those military and other experts from the Occident whose services he had known how to secure, and that this loyally rendered assistance was at all times recognised by him. It was none the less a result of his personal and unflagging zeal that the course of training for the army, once entered on, was never suffered to deviate a hair’s-breadth from the plan on which it had been determined that the vast structure should in the main be raised.

Two maxims have always had weight with him, and he has steadfastly inculcated their observance by every individual in the army in which he takes such justifiable pride: they are:—

Gi wo mite, nasazaru wa, yu naki nari.
(Duty recognised, but unfulfilled, means lack of courage.)
Gi wo omonzuru koto tai-san no gotoku
Shi wo karonzuru koto, ko-bo no gotoshi.
(Duty should weigh (with us) as the mass of a lofty mountain:
Against it, our lives resemble in lightness the swan’s down.)

There are six kinds of decorations in Japan, that of the Golden Kite being the Japanese equivalent of the Victoria Cross. Its first grade carries an annuity of £150. The Grand Cordon of the Rising Sun and Paulownia is the Order of Merit, held by very few. Marshal Yamagata has both, and in February 1906, he was invested with the British Order of Merit, at the hands of Prince Arthur of Connaught, an honour which was universally appreciated in Japan. His heir is Mr Yamagata Isaburo, his adopted son, who took office as Minister of Communications in 1906.



Very few of those who have been prominent as Statesmen in Japan have wholly escaped the personal dangers which there appear to be inseparable from a political career, and though the attacks have not always been fatal they have been painfully frequent in the past forty or fifty years. Count Okuma was maimed by the explosion of a bomb hurled at his carriage as he drove past on his way to the Finance Department one morning in 1889, and has but one leg. The marvel was that he survived the attempt on his life at all, for the fanatic who was guilty of the crime unquestionably intended to murder him outright and did succeed in killing his coachman and groom. Count Okuma, who was raised to the peerage in 1887, is a native of Hizen, having been born in that province, at Saga, in February 1838. He is a big, broad-shouldered man, endowed with a bright, cheery disposition, possessed of most genial manners, and is brilliant and entertaining to a degree in his ordinary conversation. It is generally conceded that in the qualities which go to form a successful politician Count Okuma and Marquis Ito have much in common, for in respect of their prestige as party leaders, and the remarkable mental vigour and activity by which these renowned statesmen have ever been distinguished, there can be no doubt that they both take exceptionally high rank in the public esteem. Both have been the consistent advocates of progress, and both date their service to the Crown from the very beginning of the present reign. In one sense the Count’s success in politics was more noteworthy than that of his colleagues among the Elder Statesmen, since his clan took by no means the leading part in the course of events immediately antecedent to the Restoration of 1868 that fell[247] to the share of Satsuma, for example, or of Choshiu. Hizen nevertheless was a progressive province and its feudal chieftain had set up an ironworks in his territory, and had commenced coal-mining upon a practical basis, long prior to the establishment of foreign industries in the Empire on a large scale. Thus it was that Okuma Shigenobu, who had studied at Nagasaki, came early to the front in connection with the dissemination of foreign ideas, and it was perhaps as much by his energy as that of Marquis Ito that arrangements were made for the construction of the first line of railway connecting Tokio with the port of Yokohama, immediately that the Central Government was removed to the new Capital.


The capital for that railway was found in England, and its Engineers were engaged partly there and partly in India. It seems difficult nowadays to imagine Japan paying 9 per cent. for a Loan, yet that was the rate at which she procured the means of developing the Scheme of Public Works on which the Government embarked, and it is matter of history that the short railway of eighteen miles by which the Japanese metropolis was joined to the chief treaty port in 1872 was phenomenally expensive. In recent times it has been feasible to build railways and execute other works of public utility in Japan on the most economical and satisfactory terms, but thirty-five years ago economy in construction was, owing to the novelty of the undertaking, practically out of the question.

Count Okuma is, in his native tongue, a fluent and effective speaker, and he has a most retentive memory. Early in his life he closely studied Finance, and was an able Minister of that department in the seventies, prior to the institution of the Cabinet, which dates from 1885. In 1881 there were serious differences of opinion between the Count and his colleagues in the Dai-jo-Kwan, and he resigned office, forming a united party named the Shim-po-to, by the amalgamation of several smaller ones, in opposition to the Government of the day. Latterly it has borne the title of Kai-shin-to (from Kai = to alter or correct,—shin = to advance,—to = a party) in Chinese Kai-chin-tang,—and thus it is literally the progressive party[248] in Japan, in contradistinction to the Sei-Yu-Kai or Constitutional party, now headed by Marquis Saionji, but formerly by Marquis Ito. In the Cabinet of Count Kuroda, of 1888, which was replaced by that of Marshal Yamagata within two years, Count Okuma acted as Minister for Foreign Affairs, and it was during his tenure of this post that the Constitution was promulgated in 1889, and Okuma received the congratulations of the Yokohama Chamber of Commerce on the auspicious event and on his personal endeavour to effect a satisfactory revision of the Treaties. He was succeeded at the Foreign Office in the late autumn by Viscount Aoki, and, having just become Minister of Finance, was attacked in the manner already described, for no other than the fancied reason that he was willing to give away too much in respect of concessions to foreigners.

Okuma’s return to ministerial life after seven years spent in retirement, between 1881 and 1888, was a source of general satisfaction to the nation, for the fusion brought about between the Government and the Kai-shin-to by his taking office was regarded as a valuable massing of strength at a critical time, when supreme efforts were being made to secure the abolition of the extra-territorial privileges thereunto enjoyed by the subjects of other nations. On this much-vexed question an undercurrent of discontent had agitated the nation for many years, the obnoxious clause in the proposed new treaty with which Count Inouye was identified in 1887, and which led to his resignation of the post of Foreign Minister which he then held, being one relating to the suggested establishment of mixed Courts, like those in Egypt, or that at Shanghai which has in recent times been the object of much hostile criticism on the part of the Chinese population of that port. Count Okuma in 1889 was anxious to remove this source of irritation from the path of his own countrymen, and sought to minimise the objections to the clause by restricting its application to the Supreme Court, whereas Count Inouye had been ready to admit foreign judges to the lower tribunals also. The misguided “patriot” who threw the bomb which[249] shattered Count Okuma’s limb was not even well posted in regard to the circumstances of the case.

When in 1891 the Privy Council was instituted as the Sovereign’s “last resort of counsel” and Marquis Ito became its president, Count Okuma issued a manifesto to his followers in which he strongly advocated the spread of education and the perseverance by the entire nation in a policy of enlightened tolerance of innovations which make for the industrial and political welfare of the country. He is a firm believer in the advantages of Free Trade, and his experience in former days at the Finance Department, coupled with a marvellously retentive memory for figures, directly tended to enlarge his views upon matters relative to international commerce, a subject on which he is always listened to with the keenest attention. He is ever in sympathy with the national hopes and desires and enjoys for that reason immense popularity with the masses of his countrypeople, but although there is everywhere the highest appreciation of his eminent qualities, singularly enough, Count Okuma has not shone particularly as a Statesman when holding office. He is, on the other hand, great in opposition, and to his untiring endeavours to stimulate the energies of the Government of the day, at any time during the past quarter of a century, may be ascribed no little of the success which has attended the efforts of those Cabinets which have been most conspicuous for effective legislation. But if his attitude, in the ordinary way, has consistently been that of an opponent of the Government, he has given it most loyal support in national crises, putting aside all considerations of party and rendering to the Ministry the invaluable assistance which he alone, as leader of a practically united Opposition in the Diet, has of late years been in a position to offer. At the Election in February 1891 the Yamagata Ministry was defeated and Count Matsukata took office, but Count Okuma remained outside the Cabinet until 1896 when his party joined hands with that represented by the Second Matsukata Administration and Count Okuma accepted the portfolios in it of Foreign Minister and Minister of Commerce and[250] Agriculture. But the alliance was destined to be very short-lived, and in June 1898 a Coalition was brought about between the Jiyuto, or party of Freedom, headed by Count Itagaki, and the Kai-shin-to, or party of progress. In the Cabinet then formed Count Okuma was Minister-President, but it existed no longer than the following October, and after being Premier four months the Count gave way to Marshal Yamagata. The official career of the great progressive leader may be said to have terminated at that point, but he has continued to wield an immense political influence and he is above all things interested in educational projects and has striven might and main to promote the spread of Western knowledge in his own land. Where Marshal Yamagata may be credited with the development of a military power that has made of Japan a nation to be envied for the perfection with which her sons have been trained to fight her battles, and Marquis Ito has striven successfully to secure for the country the blessings of constitutional Government, Count Okuma has made it all his life the one aim of his existence to promote the adoption of an educational system throughout the Empire which shall be effective and thorough, and if he has in this way led successive Governments to regard the work of education as a pressing duty laid upon them, and to expend large sums in its fulfilment, he has not hesitated to devote large sums from his own purse to the attainment of his ideal. As a rich man he has been able to do a great deal to further the cause which he has always had at heart, and he certainly has displayed a most commendable readiness to add practice to precept when advocating the allocation of Government funds to the endowment of schools and colleges. The University of Waseda, which he founded in 1882, has prospered exceedingly, and is numbered among the most valuable of those institutions,—and they are many,—which afford facilities to the Japanese youth for the acquisition of a liberal education. The Japanese name of the College is Semmon Gakko, and Waseda is the suburb of Tokio in which stands the Count’s mansion, adjacent to the institution in which he takes a natural pride. It aims[251] at the higher education of girls as well as boys, and among other things it possesses an extensive publishing bureau, designed to provide for the efficient translation into Japanese of foreign works of an educational character. Here his own articles for foreign magazines have at times been rendered into English, for though the Count is fairly conversant with our tongue he does not attempt to speak or write it save on very rare occasions.

In March 1904 there was a gathering in Tokio to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the treaty made between Japan and the United States of America, consequent on the visits of Commodore Perry in 1853 and 1854. Count Okuma, in giving a sketch of the Educational progress achieved by Japan in recent years, made some thoughtful remarks which showed how thorough is his grasp of the teachings of history as well as his breadth of view. Alluding to the circumstances which had compelled Japan to close her doors to Western nations early in the seventeenth century, he remarked that for a long period prior to that time she had been in free and unfettered intercourse with Europe, particularly with Spain and Portugal. That intercourse led to the introduction of a new religion, which made such rapid progress that tradition put the number of converts at several millions within a hundred years. “The first religious propagandists,” he said, “were men of noble character. But they were soon followed by men of inferior quality. These began to meddle with politics. People began to suspect that the real object of missionary work was to conquer the country. The home Governments at Lisbon or Madrid might possibly have been innocent of any evil designs, but their missionaries in the Far East behaved in such a manner that the rulers of Japan came to the conclusion that the object and presence of foreign missionaries was inimical to the peace and tranquillity of the country. At the time Japan adopted this policy it so chanced that Europe was also grappling with a religious trouble. It was the harassing period of the Thirty Years’ War. But during the seclusion of 216 years which followed Japan was not altogether out of[252] touch with the West. The light of Western Civilisation was all the time penetrating Japan through the little port of Nagasaki, where the Dutch, alone of all Occidental nations, were permitted to reside and trade. The result was the spread of a knowledge of medicine, astronomy, botany, and other branches of Western learning among the people long before the advent of Perry. Preparations had thus been steadily made during the period of seclusion for the reception with advantage of the full flood of Western Civilisation. As to Perry’s mission in 1853, the Pacific Coasts had been touched by more than fifty Japanese fishing craft driven across the ocean from their own islands by storms. And in 1860 Japan herself sent the Oguri Mission to the United States, in a warship of her own, commanded by Count Katsu, at that time the lord of Awa province, at the entrance to Yedo bay,—a mission which received as much attention, if not more than was accorded in America to the Iwakura Embassy a dozen years afterwards. One of the many beneficial results of the Oguri Mission was the discovery which the members of it made of the importance of studying the English language. At that time Dutch was the only prevalent European tongue cultivated in Japan.” Count Okuma’s opinion has always been that the adoption of English as the standard foreign language,—it is a compulsory subject in the national schools, while all other Western languages are merely optional,—had wide reaching effects on the mental bias of the people and in the direction given to national development. Coming down to very recent times, Count Okuma spoke of the fact that Japan was at the moment unfortunately entangled in war with a great power. In that conflict his country represented, he said, the aspirations of the civilised world, since she was striving in support of the great principle of the open door. She had had to draw her sword to sweep away a great obstacle in the path of the practical realisation of that principle. Her success in the struggle would therefore be the triumph of the common policy of the Commercial Powers.

In one of Count Okuma’s best speeches, made not long[253] since in connection with the rise of Japan, he claimed that the whole nation had acted from the beginning on the principle which was so clearly enunciated in the Imperial Rescript at the time of the Restoration in 1868 of “seeking knowledge throughout the world.” The Emperor’s words, in the fifth clause of the Rescript were:—

“We shall endeavour to raise the prestige and honour of Our Country by seeking knowledge throughout the world.”

The intention was to copy what was worth copying in every country and to enter into an honourable rivalry in culture and civilisation with all nations. It is the fundamental principle which accounts for Japan’s rise: she has never hesitated to adopt anything that she has found to be good; she has ever tried to swim with the current of human progress; she has never shrunk from any sacrifice in eradicating that which she has found to be bad. The voice of the people can make itself heard in the management of public affairs and it was the same Rescript, as Count Okuma always declares, which gave to the country the keynote of a liberal form of administration, when the Emperor bade his subjects “settle affairs by public opinion.” If the principle of swimming breast-high on the tide of human progress is to be adhered to in its entirety, the intellectual faculty, as Count Okuma urges, should be applied to all the concerns of daily life, and that cannot be done without education. For more than thirty years the Government of Japan has devoted much attention and energy to the question of education, and the best training that could be procured has been given with a generous hand to students of political, social, and military affairs, as well as for those preparing themselves for humbler but no less important walks of life in commerce, industry, and agriculture. The country, declared Count Okuma, has also stepped out into the wider area of the world of reality and has become a formidable competitor in the field of international trade and commerce, her policy during the last thirty years having greatly assisted her development along this[254] line. The Japanese nation is not merely a nation of fighters,—it has no mean skill in agriculture and commerce, for the statistical tables which are available show that the national wealth has increased six or sevenfold during the last thirty years, and if one compares the present revenue of the country with what it was at the conclusion of the Japan-China War only ten years ago it is seen to have already more than trebled itself.

In 1899 Count Okuma expressed himself publicly as being very anxious for Great Britain’s co-operation with Japan, and the Anglo-Japanese Agreement of 1902 had no more zealous supporter of the policy involved, nor is there a more thorough admirer of British institutions, though he has never visited our shores, than Count Okuma. Indeed he has not, so far, quitted his own land, yet he knows from close study of contemporary literature as much about the countries and peoples of the Occident as he would probably have acquired in years of travel. In private life his hobby is horticulture. At Waseda he has a magnificent collection of orchids and tropical plants in general, sheltered within huge conservatories which stand in the spacious gardens attached to his residence, and he is a great lover of the chrysanthemum, of which he cultivates many new varieties. The mansion itself is in two parts, one purely Japanese in style and construction, the other European, and he entertains his friends accordingly, the privileged visitor being received in the Japanese apartments even though he may be a foreigner. In adopting this plan of building Count Okuma has followed a practice that is becoming almost general among the Japanese nobility.



Born sixty-four years ago at Kagoshima, the chief town of the famous province of Satsuma, in Kiu-shiu, Marshal Iwao Oyama is a nephew of the renowned Marshal Saigo Takamori, and a type of the bushi of which the nucleus of the army of Japan was largely composed. He was in his twenty-fifth year when the war of the Restoration took place, a contest that it will be remembered arose between the followers of the Sho-gun and those of the Dai-mios or feudal chieftains who had practically ruled their own provinces in the south and west. On the side of the Sho-gun were ranged the Tokugawa barons, and the northern clans generally, while for the south and progress there stood the men of Satsuma, Nagato, Hizen, and Tosa. By Japanese Nagato is commonly known nowadays as Cho-shiu, and Satsuma is officially styled Sasshiu. Satsuma had taken the lead in many respects in introducing the arts and sciences of the Occident into Japan, for she had not only established a cotton mill at Kagoshima some years before, and owned several very useful steamers of small tonnage, but had drilled a body of troops on the western system. It was this foreign-drilled corps that took so prominent a part in the operations near Kioto, in which the Shogun’s adherents were signally defeated and the opposition of the northern clans finally overcome. Oyama took his share of the hard work entailed in this memorable struggle, and was head of one of the Satsuma companies that shone conspicuously in the engagement at Fushimi, a village situated midway between Osaka and Kioto, close to the existing main line of railway. When the civil war was over, and the reign of Mei-ji had fairly begun under the beneficent[256] auspices of the present occupant of the throne, the organisation of a regular army on an Occidental model occupied the attention of all who were interested in the rise of their country to power and wealth. If she would take her place among the nations of the West, skilled as they were in all the arts of modern warfare, Japan must provide herself, it was seen, with the means of securing peace within her borders to develop her energies and call up all her resources. Peace, as no people were better able than the Satsuma clansmen to perceive, was only to be attained by making the most complete preparations for war. Satsuma was foremost in advocating the adoption and assimilation of every improvement in the mechanical arts and the earnest study of every science that would be likely to promote the welfare of the nation, more especially those that might lead to military success if ever the country should be plunged into hostilities with either an Eastern or a Western Power.


Marquis Oyama was in part educated in France, and after the Restoration had been accomplished and the existing Mei-ji era of Enlightenment had been inaugurated, he was sent to Paris as Military Attache, and was in Europe throughout the Franco-German War, his sympathies, no doubt from early association, having been keenly aroused in favour of France. Naturally he was greatly disappointed with the result of the campaign, and there can be no doubt that he laid to heart the lessons which the failure of the French arms in this gigantic struggle were well calculated to impress upon his receptive mind. Immediately on his return to Japan he received a command in the army, and he had opportunities at this comparatively early period of turning to account the knowledge that he had acquired of Occidental systems of warfare, though as yet he held no position of paramount responsibility that admitted of his putting his ideas into actual practice. The ball was not yet at his feet: his consummate ability was yet to be manifested.

The year 1877 is especially memorable in the annals of Japan as being that in which clan dissensions, despite the genuine endeavours of able statesmen, culminated in[257] a disastrous internecine strife. It is not necessary to enter into a consideration of all the events which led to that deplorable result, for they have been set forth at length in connection with the life story of Marshal Saigo Takamori, elsewhere recorded in these pages, and it is only necessary for the moment to refer to the part which Marshal Oyama took in the suppression of the rebellion. He was despatched to Kiushiu at the outbreak of hostilities and his division was conspicuous among the Imperial forces that landed at Hakata, the chief town of the province of Chiku-zen, in March, some five weeks after the Satsuma men had marched out of Kagoshima 12,000 strong. An ardent believer in the efficacy of military training, and a most enthusiastic supporter of the principles of universal military service, as the sole security of a nation against foreign aggression, Oyama now found himself, by the force of circumstances, compelled to take the field against one to whom he was closely related, and who had been the consistent upholder of an identical policy, if not, indeed, its originator,—as far as Japan was concerned,—and who had himself occupied the post of Minister of War in the first State Council of the Meiji era.

General Oyama, as he was then, distinguished himself in connection with many engagements at Minami-no-seki (South Barrier), Takase (High Rapids), Kawajiri (River’s end), and Kumamoto (Bear’s origin), and on other fields of battle, being present at the final scene at Kagoshima, late in the year 1877, when the remnants of Saigo’s troops were annihilated and their leader met a soldier’s death, fighting to the last.

At the close of this regrettable civil war General Oyama was sent to Europe specially to study the working of the military systems then in operation, and he visited the principal capitals and made himself master in every instance of the needful details. He spent much time in Berlin during this later visit to Europe, for the German system had been definitely adopted in Japan as the most suitable to the needs of the nation. But he did not wholly dissociate himself from his former friends in France, and in the course of his stay took opportunity more than once[258] to pass a day or two in Paris, combining pleasure with profit, for he continued to find in the methods of the French most valuable features, admirable from every point of view, but especially so when applied under given circumstances to the peculiar needs of the Japanese army. It was designed that the studies to which he had to devote himself in Berlin should be of a character to enable him to render Marquis Yamagata the maximum of assistance in the grand work of reorganising the army and providing adequately for military education. When, therefore, his mission in Europe was deemed sufficiently accomplished he was recalled to Tokio and made Chief of the Staff under General Yamagata, and when in 1890 Marquis Yamagata was the Minister-president of State in the First Cabinet formed after the proclamation of the New Constitution, Marshal Oyama, as he had by that time become, held the portfolio of Minister for War. That administration lasted until April 1901, and was followed by the Matsukata and Ito Cabinets, in both of which Oyama Iwao was War Minister, and when in 1894 the great conflict with China began, he begged to be relieved of his post in the administration with all speed in order that he might be able to take part in the actual fighting in Manchuria. He was given the command of the Second Army Corps, Marshal Yamagata being at the time with the First Army in Liao-tung, and while the preparations for despatching the Second Army over-sea to the capture of Port Arthur were in progress, the Commander of it dwelt at the town of Hiroshima, in south-west Japan, close to the port of embarkation, named Ujina. While organising the expedition he took up his quarters in a very unpretending little shop in Hiroshima, and there the final arrangement of the campaign was planned in company with the late General Kawakami, by common consent esteemed the greatest of Japan’s strategists.

The Second Army consisted of the First Division, and a mixed brigade of the Sixth, with a siege train, and it was despatched in part at the end of September 1894, to Chemulpo, and partly to the Ping Yang inlet in the middle of October, the Japanese fleet being there already,[259] keeping watch on the movements of the Chinese squadron and reconnoitring the coasts of the Liao-tung peninsula for a suitable landing-place for Marshal Oyama’s force. There was little cause to apprehend interference from the vessels of Admiral Ting’s fleet after its defeat at the mouth of the Yalu in September, however, and on the evening of the 23rd October the first convoy of sixteen ships steamed over from the Ping Yang inlet to a point on the coast at the mouth of the river Hwa-yuan. Ten Japanese men-of-war acted as escort, but the Chinese made no attempt to interfere with the landing of the troops. At this time the Chinese held Ta-lien-wan and the adjacent walled city of Kinchau with some 6000 men, and Port Arthur was garrisoned with 10,800 men after the 6th of November.

On that date the Japanese captured Kinchau and next day Ta-lien-wan forts fell into their hands, and the port was thenceforward their base of operations against the fortress at the extremity of the “Regent’s Sword.”

Marshal Oyama’s army remained in the region of the Talienwan isthmus until the 18th, and then the advance towards Port Arthur was commenced. On the 20th the Marshal issued orders for the attack to be made at daylight the next day, his whole force at that time numbering 25,700 combatants. The Chinese had 4050 men in the coast forts in addition to the 10,800 men before mentioned in the various land forts which formed the semicircle of the defences, of about two and a half miles radius. These land forts were armed with a great variety of ordnance, including Krupp, mountain, field and siege guns, 40-pounder Armstrongs, 10-barrelled Gatlings, and even Chinese pieces of antique design. Long before daylight on the 21st November the assailants were on the move, and had reached their assigned positions by 7 A.M. without encountering the least opposition. The famous Itsushan forts were taken in the first onset, and General Hasegawa, commanding the mixed brigade, speedily took the positions on the Two-dragons’ hill and adjacent heights, the fighting being practically over by noon. At 3 P.M. the Japanese were in possession of the town, and though the[260] coast forts continued to fire at the fleet, which took no notice of them, the positions were evacuated during the night, and Marshal Oyama, with the headquarters of the First Division, returned to Kinchau.

The Chinese fleet lay at Wei-hai-wei, a danger to any expedition which might cross the gulf of Pechili, and as it was part of the Japanese plan to march to the Chinese capital, the capture or destruction of the ships became imperative. It was therefore resolved that Marshal Oyama should lead his army to the assault of the Shantung fortress. For this purpose it was decided to reinforce him to the extent in all of 24,000 combatants, and the fleet of transports with the men on board left Ujina early in January 1895, and steamed to Talienwan, where the bulk of the troops which had been victorious at Port Arthur were likewise embarked and the whole expedition set sail for Yung-cheng Bay, at the extreme north-east point of the Shantung peninsula, which was reached on the early morning of the 20th January. By degrees all the men were landed, with provisions for six weeks. From Yung-cheng the advance was made by two roads, six days after the landing was commenced, and the ridges to the south of the harbour were carried without any difficulty on the 30th. It was part of the Japanese plan to turn the guns of the Chinese land forts, as soon as they could be taken, against the men-of-war in harbour commanded by Admiral Ting, and it is to this officer’s credit that he had foreseen this and had even begun to dismantle the eastern forts in good time, but he was over-ruled, and the guns replaced in their positions in obedience to peremptory orders from Tien-tsin. So confident was Marshal Oyama that he would be able to turn these heavy guns to account that he had brought bluejackets with him to man them, with sundry stores and fittings from Port Arthur to replace similar articles which it was thought probable the Chinese would either remove or destroy. There was somewhat hard fighting on the 1st of February, but next day the Japanese forces entered Wei-hai-wei unopposed, and it was found that the guns in the western defences had been rendered useless. The cold was at this[261] time so intense that the ships were covered with ice, and blocks of ice three inches thick were frozen into the muzzles of the guns. Marshal Oyama’s army had, however, completed the work assigned to it, and it only remained for the fleet to bring about the reduction of the forts on the island of Liu-kung-tao, and the destruction or surrender of the Chinese vessels. It was effected by a series of daring torpedo-boat attacks, in the first week of February, followed by a systematic bombardment of the island positions, and the surrender of Admiral Ting took place on the 12th of that month.

Having captured Wei-hai-wei and removed the danger to the Peking expedition which the presence of a Chinese fortress on its flank would have created, the next step of the Japanese was to prepare for the march to the Chinese capital itself. Marshal Oyama returned to Talienwan, and the troops were disposed between there and Port Arthur, or at the fortress itself, in readiness for the final concentration.

On the 14th of April the Guard and the Fourth Division passed through the Straits of Shimonoseki in fifty transports on their way to Talienwan to unite with the troops under Marshal Oyama. Prince Komatsu accompanied them as Commander-in-chief of the Land and Sea Forces, intending to set up his headquarters in Port Arthur. The entire Japanese forces now included seven divisions, and the Chinese had massed practically an equal number between Shanhaikwan and Peking, in addition to the army they still had in Manchuria. But on the 17th of April the treaty of peace was signed, and an armistice established until the 8th of May, when ratifications were exchanged at Chifu and the war of 1894-5 was at an end.

In the course of the war the total losses on the Japanese side were:—

Killed 739
Died of wounds 230
cholera 1602
other diseases 1546
Total deaths 4117
Wounded 3009
Cholera patients 2689
Invalids from other causes 51,164
Total loss, 60,979


In the settlement with China it had been agreed that she should cede the peninsula of Liao-tung to Japan. But Russia, France, and Germany stepped in to deprive her of these legitimate spoils of war, in order that Russia, and at no distant date, might seek to permanently occupy the territory herself. The wrong done was never forgiven nor forgotten in Japan, and when Marshal Oyama took up his position as Chief of the General Staff in Tokio, shortly after the conclusion of peace, both he and Marshal Yamagata set about the task of making Japan’s military power sufficient to secure her against the peril which they foresaw would continue to menace their land while the advance of Russia southward might remain unchecked.

Marshal Oyama held the post indicated, at the General Staff, during the intervening years down to 1904, and it was a period of steady and eager preparation for the inevitable, by reorganisation of every branch of the military system, and by paying very particular attention to the education and training of the Japanese military officer. What that training is may be ascertained from the Kinkodo Company’s excellent history of the late war.

In Japan the law is that all citizens are under the obligation of military service for a certain term of years, and therefore the necessity of complying with its provisions is as great as that of the payment of taxes. In practice the duty is accepted as just as much a matter of course as any other feature of citizenship. It was adopted at the outset and no one seriously offers an objection to it. He would be deemed a most unpatriotic man who did not revel in the thought that he might be chosen to serve his country, and every man in Japan rejoices to think that he knows how to handle a weapon and take his share of the task which may some day be that of the Emperor’s loyal subjects to defend the island empire against a foe. Mere drilling and parades are not so much valued as rifle practice, fencing, the bayonet exercise, skirmishing, and gymnastics. Work begins at 6 A.M. and with little appreciable interval, never more than five minutes, goes on until the midday meal is served. Afterwards it is resumed for four hours, then bath, supper, recreation, and bed betimes.[263] The officers share in all the exercises of the men, very little being left to non-commissioned officers, sergeants, and corporals. The officers are always on duty. It is in this way that complete harmony has been established between all ranks and the dread of a martinet sergeant is unknown among the men in Japanese barracks. Promotion from the ranks, however, is not possible as no one is eligible for a commission who has not entered himself in the first place as a candidate, and to do so he must be either a graduate of the Cadet school, or have graduated from a middle school licensed or recognised by the Government, public or private, or be able to show that his education has brought him up to the standard needed in order to obtain the certificate granted on leaving a middle School. And in either of the two latter cases the candidate must have a letter from the Commanding officer of the regiment he wishes to join, signifying that officer’s willingness to accept him eventually as an officer in that regiment.

As soon as he is accepted as a candidate he joins his regiment as a private, spending one year in the ranks as an “officer candidate,” thus gaining a practical acquaintance with all the duties of a common soldier, and then he is sent for one year more of study to the Military College in Tokio. Next he returns to his regiment as an aspirant, to learn the duties of a subaltern, and at last, when about two years and a half have elapsed from the time when he first entered as a candidate, he is, if approved of at a meeting of the officers of the regiment, accepted and commissioned as a sub-lieutenant. He can choose whichever arm he prefers, when he goes to the Military College, as there are departments for infantry, cavalry, field artillery, fortress artillery, Engineers, and military train. He may select his own regiment, subject to the consent of the commanding officer of that regiment, and should the number of candidates exceed the number of vacancies the choice falls on those who have won most marks, in rotation. Every year on the 1st of December the batches of candidate officers are distributed to the regiments, as privates. They receive their uniforms, food, arms, etc., from the State but no money allowance. They must drill and go through[264] their exercises just like other men in their company, but they enjoy certain privileges, for example, they have special rooms in barracks, and mess with the officers, this association with their superiors in rank being regarded as part of their education. During the year they may be promoted to lance-corporal or non-commissioned officer grade, and they receive lessons in military science from the regimental instructors.

The Military College stands on a wide plateau in Tokio, at Ichigaya, where there is excellent air, and abundance of space. The students are divided into three companies each under the command of a captain of infantry. Each company is in six sections, of twenty-five to thirty students each, a lieutenant of infantry in charge of each section. The studies prescribed are the same for all arms—viz. Tactics, Artillery, Science, Fortification, Topography, Military administration, Field hygiene and farriery, Foreign languages, Surveying, and Practical work. For exercise the students have drill (distinct for each arm), gymnastics, fencing, sabre exercise, riding, and shooting. Study and exercise together keep the youths at work the whole day, save for half-an-hour after supper, when they unbend. The school year begins on the 1st of December, to agree with conscription arrangements, and the first examination is in April or May, the second in September or October. At the end of October there are annual manœuvres, and the graduation ceremony is in November, when the Emperor makes a point of being present. There is a Military staff college, designed to give further instruction in the higher branches of military science to junior officers of promise. Its students are lieutenants and sub-lieutenants of all arms who have been at least two years with their regiments or battalions, and whose physical health, intellectual qualifications, morals, diligence, and general conduct have shown them to be suitable recipients of the higher training. Here the course is for three years, and for about ten weeks the students are with regiments different from their own arm, participating in the annual manœuvres. Graduates receive diplomas, and a badge which they wear like a medal, and one year after graduation[265] they are eligible for staff appointments, instructorships, and other more or less coveted posts. Artillery and Engineer Lieutenants are eligible for the College of Artillery and Engineering, wherein special instruction is given on subjects required in these two arms, the course including strategy, equitation, mathematics, chemistry, drawing, and foreign languages. At the gunnery school for fortress artillery, and for field artillery, practical instruction is given for periods of two or three months to students who comprise captains and lieutenants from each of the field artillery regiments, or of fortress artillery, or they are lieutenants or sub-lieutenants who have just graduated from the College. At the cavalry training school the course lasts eleven months, and includes practical testing of all sorts of riding material and harness. It may, in fact, be claimed that the system of military instruction in the army of Japan is as complete as that of the armies of Europe, but the government still sends annually some dozens of promising young officers abroad to perfect themselves in their studies in the Occident.

The value of the system of military education on which Japan relied for her safety was amply demonstrated in the war with Russia which came to an end in the autumn of 1905, having lasted a year and a half. The negotiations which had been proceeding throughout the year 1903 concerning Korea and Manchuria proved barren of satisfactory result, and being convinced that nothing more could be hoped for in the shape of a pacific settlement of the points in dispute, while on the other hand Russia was protracting the discussion only to gain time for further military preparations, the Tokio Government at last announced through the Japanese Minister at St Petersburg the rupture of diplomatic relations, on the 6th of February 1904, and forthwith commenced hostilities. At the outset the operations were principally of a naval character, designed to cripple the Russian fleet and make the landing of troops on the coast of Korea and Manchuria secure, the first land skirmish taking place at Cheng-ju, in Northern Korea, on the 28th of March. Wiju was occupied on the 6th of April, and a three days’ encounter at the river Yalu ended[266] on the 1st of May in the complete defeat of the Russians under General Sassulitch by General Kuroki, and the capture of Kiu-lien-cheng. Up to this stage the operations in the field had been under the control of General Kuroki, but in May Marshal Oyama arrived from Tokio to take supreme command of the armies in Manchuria, and a series of important engagements then took place, notably the storming of Nanshan near Kinchau, close to Port Arthur, which opened the way to the investment of that fortress, and the occupation of Feng-hwang-cheng and Dalny. The Russian General Kuropatkin sought to relieve the growing pressure on Port Arthur by sending an army southward through the Liao-tung peninsula, but Marshal Oyama sent General Oku to meet it and a desperate battle was fought at Wa-fang-kou and Telissu, adjoining villages to the north of Kinchau, on 14th and 15th June, and ten days later a beginning was made with the attack on the fortress on the Regent’s Sword which nine years before Marshal Oyama had taken from the Chinese. The same month he was personally engaged with the First and Third armies in the mountainous region between Feng-hwang-cheng and Liao-Yang, where severe fighting occurred at the passes in the Mo-tien-ling, Feng-shui-ling and other ranges, on the route to the capital of Manchuria. Kaiping, on the coast of the Gulf of Liao-tung, was captured on the 9th July, and a week afterwards a determined attempt on the Japanese positions at Mo-tien-ling was repulsed, with great slaughter. The second Japanese army forced back the Russians on Ta-shi-chiao, when they again sought to break through to the South, and at Port Arthur itself there was a severe struggle for the possession of Wolf Hill, ending in a complete success for the Japanese forces. Meanwhile General Oku was executing Marshal Oyama’s plan of campaign in the direction of Newchwang, and that port and Haicheng were in Japanese hands by the 3rd of August. Port Arthur’s outer defences fell at about the same date, and for five days, from the 19th to the 24th of that month, a fierce attack was delivered on the fortress, while at the same time the assault of Liao-Yang, which proved to be a ten days’ affair altogether, was begun on the[267] 24th of August and lasted well into September. In that long and terrible contest there were more than 20,000 casualties on both sides, and during its progress the assault on Port Arthur was renewed with tremendous energy, from the 27th to the end of August. A week’s heavy fighting again took place from the 19th to the 26th September at Port Arthur, and meanwhile Marshal Oyama had been developing his advance on Mukden, at that time the headquarters of the Russians, and the ancient seat of the Manchu dynasty. General Kuropatkin announced on the 2nd of October that he was strong enough to attack, and a Russian advance actually began, leading to the series of battles at the Sha-ho or Sand River, in mid-October, and ending in a Russian retreat to the northward with a loss of forty guns. The fighting continued intermittently for many weeks, the Russians losing on an average three to one Japanese. At Port Arthur the assailants took 203-metre Hill on the 30th of November, and fort after fort fell during December, until on the 1st of January 1905 the surrender of the fortress was proposed by General Stoessel and by General Nogi accepted. Severe battles took place subsequently in Manchuria, including that of Hei-kau-tai, from the 25th to the 29th of January, when the Russians under Gripenberg attacked the Japanese left but were hotly repulsed, and Mistchenko’s raid on Newchwang,—the old city,—brought about severe fighting in that vicinity, but in March the operations against Mukden terminated in a clear victory on the 10th, and the Russian forces fell back to the northward. Tieh-ling was taken six days later, and on the 17th General Kuropatkin was superseded by Linievitch. Kai-yuen was next to fall into Oyama’s hands, and though there was fighting on the 18th and 19th to the north of Kai-yuen, nothing serious was afterwards attempted as the peace negotiations had been commenced at Washington.

Marshal Oyama returned to Tokio in December, and resumed his post of Chief of Staff. He holds the Grand Order of Merit and the Golden Kite, and, like Marshal Yamagata and Admiral Togo, received the British Order of Merit in 1906 from King Edward VII., to the great joy of his fellow-countrymen throughout Japan.



No list purporting to be that of the Makers of Modern Japan would be complete were the name of Fukusawa Yukichi, the pioneer of Western education in his own land, to be omitted. His claims to remembrance are manifold and irrefutable, not the least of them being his right to be esteemed the founder of the leading Japanese journal, the Jiji Shimpo, of Tokio. But his fame will rest chiefly on his achievement in establishing the Kei-o-gi-juku College, wherein a large percentage of the leading men of the Japan of to-day graduated, and by not a few of whom he is revered as having been in no small degree the architect of their fortunes.

Mr Fukusawa,—as he preferred to remain despite the offer of a peerage in his later years,—was born in Osaka, on the 12th of December 1834, that being the year which corresponds to the fifth of the Tempo era, and while yet an infant was taken to his father’s native province of Buzen, in Kiushiu, the family residence being in the town of Nakatsu, a port on the north-east coast of that island. The elder Fukusawa had been staying at Osaka for a time in the service of his feudal chieftain the lord of Buzen. Yukichi dwelt at home, pursuing the customary studies of youths of his age, but with a decided bent towards foreign literature, until in the first year of the Genji period (1854), he went to Nagasaki, and there began the study of Dutch. Prior to this he had been conspicuous as a hard-working scholar in Chinese, which to the Japanese was then, and is still, what Greek and Latin are to us. Yukichi was a whole year at Nagasaki, and then he removed to Osaka, and became a pupil of the celebrated doctor of medicine Ogata Ko-an, under whose guidance he continued the study of the Dutch[269] tongue, and in 1858, the fifth year of the An-sei era, he went to Yedo, and began to impart to a few beginners the knowledge he had thus far acquired of the foreign language. It must be remembered that during Japan’s long seclusion from the rest of the world there were always a few Dutchmen dwelling at Nagasaki, and that Dutch was, as a consequence of that isolation, the only foreign tongue spoken down to the advent of Commodore Perry in 1853. Although by 1858 people of other nations had begun to make their appearance in the country, English was as yet almost an unknown tongue, and Dutch was still the only medium of communication with the Occident.


In Yedo Mr Fukusawa occupied quarters in a mansion at Teppodzu which belonged to his feudal chieftain the lord Okudaira of Buzen, and it was while the scholars were immersed in their study of Dutch works that the opening of Yokohama to foreign trade brought about a change in their ideas, and led their tutor to enlarge the field of his own researches. For by the year 1859 the treaties with five foreign powers had been concluded, and the first steps were taken by Japan to fully acquaint herself with what had been the progress of other nations during the period of her voluntary severance of all communication with them. Yukichi was only twenty-five years old when he paid his first visit to an open port and saw something of the British people of whose characteristics he had read a great deal but had had previously no personal experience. He had at that time no knowledge whatever of English as a language, but he set himself diligently to work, and with the aid of a dictionary compiled in English and Dutch he sought, by private study, to master the difficulties of a tongue which he perceived would afford him the key to learning of the kind that his ambitions prompted him to seek. It was impossible at that time for him to procure an English teacher, or in all probability it would have been his choice to obtain his information direct rather than by the roundabout fashion in which he was compelled to acquire it—by Dutch intervention, as it were,—and, as it was, the[270] burden of the task of procuring a competent knowledge of so complex a language as ours was rendered vastly more onerous by the nature of the method that he was driven to adopt in his studies. It is due to the memory of this eminent scholar to declare that he surmounted all the obstacles in his path and became the first of Japanese teachers of the Western tongue.

But in the meantime, towards the close of 1859, he sailed for the United States of America, in the suite of Kimura, the lord of the province of Settsu, who was despatched on a mission to America by the Government of the Shogun. The party voyaged in the little man-of-war Kan-riu-maru, commanded by Katsu, the feudal lord of Awa, and Yukichi was in the United States for some months. The following year he returned to his own land, and his first act was to publish in book form a translation of a work which he had brought with him from the other side of the Pacific. This was the beginning of a long series of similar educational works from his pen for which Japan is deeply indebted to him.

In the year 1861 Mr Fukusawa voyaged to Europe on a British man-of-war, being entrusted at that time with a government mission to make literary researches, and he travelled through England, Holland, Prussia, Russia, and Portugal. On his return to Japan in the ensuing year he translated and published many of the English and other books which he had brought back with him, thereby adding immeasurably to the store of information then possessed by his countrymen on the subject of foreign lands and peoples. After occupying himself in this useful work more or less until 1867 he was despatched in that, the third year of the Kei-o era, to the United States, taking his passage this time in an American mail-boat for San Francisco. His object accomplished, he returned to Yedo just at the beginning of the Meiji period, and established in 1868 the College with which his name will for ever be associated.

The Kei-o Gi-juku school was first set up in the temple of Shinsenza, in the Shiba quarter of the capital, but in the fourth of Meiji (1871), it was transferred to more[271] spacious and convenient premises at Mita, still in the Shiba district, the curriculum including law, mathematics, and political economy. Not less than 14,000 students claim to have passed through this college, and at the present time fully 2500 are entered on its books.

It is impossible to convey an adequate idea in so many words of the extent of Mr Fukusawa’s influence and the share which he had in building up the fabric of modern Japan, for at one time and another by far the major portion of her leading men derived their education either by direct training at his school or by the perusal and study of the English works which he translated. He was an ardent advocate of the early opening of the Diet, and was a resolute opponent of those ancient customs that tended to hinder Japan’s progress, strongly insisting, for one thing, on monogamy and the equality of rights of the sexes, having accomplished much in his lifetime towards raising the status of womanhood throughout the Japanese dominions. He vigorously opposed Confucianism in his “General laws of the doctrines of Morality,” a work which had for its primary object the enforcement of the principle of the independence and justification of the right of prudent self-government of man.

The value of Mr Fukusawa’s work was enhanced by the circumstance that it was perseveringly carried on in spite of opposition and almost contumely, and in days when the utility of a sound commercial education could not be discerned, for the samurai abhorred of all things the contamination of trade, and those who devoted themselves to the acquisition of other than classical knowledge, equally with those who might seek to impart it, were openly scoffed at. It has been pointed out with much force by one of his contemporaries that long before the Jo-I and Kai-koku parties in the State had adjusted their differences concerning the retention or abandonment of a policy of isolation, Mr Fukusawa was enjoining on his pupils the benefits to be derived from a study of Smith’s “Wealth of Nations,” and that while feudalism was still in the ascendant his students were deep in the mysteries of the standard work on “Representative Government”[272] by John Stuart Mill. The greater the opposition that he encountered, the more determined was Mr Fukusawa to fulfil the task which he had set himself, and he no doubt imbibed during his stay in America not a few ideas relative to the spread of education that were of use to him later in life. Mr Fukusawa seemed to be marked out for the post of Minister of Education whenever that post might fall vacant, but he consistently declined to take office, preferring to carry on his school rather than to aim at rank and station. And when it is remembered that he was mentor to half the statesmen who have risen to power in the Meiji era, the extraordinary influence that he exerted indirectly on the affairs of his country will readily be comprehended.

Mr Fukusawa died in 1900, and his second son Sutejiro, who—together with his elder brother, Mr Fukuzawa Ichitaro,—went to America in 1883, to prosecute his studies, and entered at Yale University, remaining there until 1890, now edits the Jiji Shimpo in Tokio, and married the daughter of Viscount Hayashi, the Japanese Ambassador to Great Britain.



Dying, as he did, prior to the adoption of the Western system of orders of nobility, Kido Koin—better known as Kido Takakoto, or still earlier in his career as Kido Jiunichiro,—won during his lifetime a title to the esteem and everlasting gratitude of his fellow-subjects of the Japanese Emperor far above any rank that he could have been rewarded with even had he lived to see his aspirations for his country’s welfare realised, as they have in great measure been, during recent years. He was a Choshiu man, a native of the same province as those other Makers of Japan—Ito, Inouye, and Yamagata,—and he was active throughout that troubled period in which his clan came to the front in affairs, and participated in all those stirring events in which it was engaged. As became a samurai of the great southern province, he was an expert swordsman, and he was likewise one of the most profound scholars of his time. The two things did not always go together, even in Japan, and it suited those knights of old whose tastes ran primarily in the direction of falconry or the chase, or who were given to fencing and drill, to somewhat undervalue culture, as scarcely deserving of their serious attention. Every fief had its college for the education of the youthful samurai, but they rarely aspired to literary excellence or renown, preferring the more robust accomplishments of archery and swordsmanship to the ability to pen an essay or compose a stanza, even though it were but one of the orthodox thirty-one syllabled kind that every gentleman was supposed to be able to produce at will. Kido’s energy was unbounded, his patriotism unquenchable. There was no risk that he would not cheerfully run if it afforded a prospect of adding to his store of knowledge of a character[274] likely to enhance his ability to serve his country or the imperialist cause with which he was always identified. Dangers and disguises were for years inseparable from his daily life, as he never missed an opportunity of acquiring information that would the better qualify him for the services that he sought to render to the nation. How much he accomplished in his comparatively brief span of life is matter of common knowledge in Japan, though perhaps, for lack of information, his talents have hitherto met with but scant appreciation outside the borders of the Japanese Emperor’s dominions.


Entering the military service of the Nagato province at a very early age, Kido Jiunichiro proceeded to acquire a competent acquaintanceship with all those arts in which skill was demanded of the young samurai of the time, and in some he soon excelled. He was with the Choshiu men when they made their assault on Kioto, and was daring enough to remain behind at that capital and headquarters of his lord’s political opponents after the rest of the Choshiu forces had been compelled to beat a retreat to their own territory. It was at Kido’s house, on a later date, that the reconciliation which had such stupendous consequences for Japan as a nation between the clans of Satsuma and Choshiu was quietly arranged to the satisfaction of all parties, the two Satsuma leaders Kuroda and Oyama going to him and consulting with him, as the representative of Choshiu, in reference to joint action which had for its object the overthrow of the Shogunate and the re-establishment of the imperial regime.

When the new government was set up Kido, together with Goto Shojiro, of Tosa, and Komatsu Tatewaki, of Satsuma, were made Ko-mon, or advisers, of the So-Sai,—the title then conferred on the official head of the administration, but which is now applied to the president of a board,—and as it rested with the So-Sai to give or refuse the imperial consent to all measures proposed by the other departments of State, the position of Ko-mon was one of great power and responsibility.

It will be understood that at this time the present sovereign had only just come to the throne, and that the[275] establishment of the imperial government at Kioto was the outcome of the resignation of his office of Shogun by the present Prince Tokugawa Keiki, who had a few weeks before surrendered his rights and privileges and retired into private life, though his adherents were still fighting beyond Tokio, and the war of the Restoration was not yet over. The Emperor, of course, was still in residence at the Kioto Dairi, or palace, and Kido realised that before a settled order of things could be hoped for the feudal system must be abolished, root and branch. He clearly perceived the necessity for centralisation as a first step in the direction of the introduction of a constitutional regime, and, with Kido, to see his duty before him was to act.

The daimio of Choshiu, his own chieftain, was then at Yamaguchi, and by way of estimating the chances of success for the bold proposal by which he was resolved to stand or fall, Kido set out for that distant town, determined to ascertain first of all how the lord Mori might be disposed to view so audacious a proposition as that to be submitted for the consideration of the territorial magnates.

Arriving at Yamaguchi, which stands at a distance from the coast, in a hilly district—as its name, lit.: “mountain’s mouth,” might imply—Kido lost no time in procuring an interview with the baron, and endeavouring to prove by every argument at his command how fatally feudalism was obstructing the progress of the empire. In conclusion he respectfully invited the lord of Choshiu to divest himself of his inherited estates and make a present of them to the Emperor!

Baron Mori listened to this astounding suggestion of his retainer with composure, and remained silent, Kido wondering, in all probability, what would be the nature of the punishment that would descend upon him for his temerity.

But to his everlasting honour the daimio raised his head and said, after a while,—“Let it be so: act as you think best.”

Although Kido knew that his lord’s patriotism was of a[276] kind that would prompt him to make enormous sacrifices, and that with Choshiu as with Satsuma, the overwhelming superiority of foreign armaments had been so effectively demonstrated as to make it clear that unless Japan was to fall a prey to some enterprising foe she must bestir herself and reform her institutions to a degree that would enable her to present a united front to an aggressor, it was with a feeling of intense gratitude that Kido received his chieftain’s answer. He had had no expectation of obtaining so ready a consent to his excessively venturesome proposition.

As he was retiring the baron called Kido back and warned him, “You must be careful, for the samurai are excited with their recent achievements and may not take it quietly. You had better watch for a convenient opportunity before making my decision known.”

Kido’s joy at this initial success was great beyond measure, and he forthwith made his way to Kioto, where he found Okubo Toshimichi, and they entered deeply into the question of approaching the other daimios with a similar suggestion. Okubo thoroughly shared Kido’s views as to the imperative need of abolishing the feudal system, and was not less surprised than Kido himself had been at the willingness shown by the lord of Choshiu to relinquish his possessions. He accepted it, however, as a good augury in his own case when he should attempt to convince the lord of Satsuma, to which province he belonged, of the wisdom of adopting a course similar to that taken by baron Mori.

Representations were made most cautiously to one daimio after the other, and Kido drew up a paper in the form of a memorial to the Emperor, which the feudal chiefs were asked to subscribe to, and to which four of them at once appended their seals, they being those who had been most active in bringing about the situation which culminated in the fall of the Shogun from power. The very essence of this epoch-making document, conveying an unequivocal renunciation of their possessions and entire submission to the imperial will by the leading daimios throughout the land, was patriotic devotion to the[277] sovereign and repose in his wisdom and virtue as their restored monarch. “We hereby offer up our possessions, our men, and ourselves to his Majesty,—let the imperial commands issue for the remodelling of the clans,—let everything henceforward be done exclusively in his sovereign name, and let the internal affairs of the country be so regulated and placed on a true and safe basis that the empire shall be able eventually to take its place side by side with the other enlightened countries of the world.” Such was the tone and in great measure the phraseology employed when the grandees of Japan spontaneously relinquished their positions as lords of the soil and unconditionally bowed themselves before the throne in readiness to conform to their ruler’s mandate, relying implicitly, for their future, on his justice and benevolence.

To Kido Koin, in the first place, must be assigned the credit of this truly diplomatic triumph, and in a second place to Okubo. Though Choshiu was willing, it would have been impossible without the approval of Satsuma to carry the proposal through, nor would it have been probable that some, at all events, of the less prominent daimios could have been induced to renounce their all but for the brilliant example set them by the powerful barons of the first rank (kokushiu) of the south.

To the memorial the Emperor replied that the proposal should be debated in Council, and in the course of a few weeks the scheme was definitely adopted which provided for the change from daimiates or Hans to provincial administrations, and the appointment of the former lords of those territories as Chiji or Governors. The entire revenues, it was arranged, should go to the imperial exchequer, and on the other hand the sovereign took it upon himself to provide for the samurai who had thereunto been the retainers of their feudal chiefs. The daimios were themselves invited to return to their territories for the last time and send in statements of their possessions, which they did, and ultimately, when their own incomes had been apportioned in accordance with a settled basis of commutation, they evacuated their old castles and went to dwell in retirement whithersoever their tastes led them.[278] Some entered into trade, with a part or all of the capital obtained by commutation of their assigned incomes, but the majority, realising their total inaptitude for commercial pursuits, having been accustomed all their lives to leave such matters to their factors, were warned in time and refrained from embarking in enterprises for which they were obviously unfitted.

Meanwhile Kido Koin was called to the post of Minister of the Interior in the newly established Government. In 1871 he left Yokohama in company with Prince Iwakura, Ito Hirobumi, and others on the Embassy to Europe and America, elsewhere referred to, and returned to Japan with them in the autumn of 1873. Resuming his position at the Home Department, he continued to fulfil his arduous duties until increasing illness obliged him to withdraw, and he died of consumption in 1875, at the age of thirty-seven, regretted by the whole Japanese nation. His monument at the Aoyama Cemetery is all that visibly reminds this generation of one who was a patriot and a statesman of the highest ability, but Japan at large acknowledges its indebtedness to his unselfish devotion and keen perception of the requirements of the age in which he lived.

The rank of Marquis was posthumously conferred on Kido Koin, and the present holder of the title is a nephew of the great statesman.



Though necessarily less active by reason of advancing age than he was a quarter of a century ago, when he succeeded in forcing the hand of the Government of the day to the extent that he extracted a promise of the establishment of a Diet in 1890, and though nominally he has retired from active political life, Count Itagaki Taisuke is still a power in the land of his birth, highly respected for his strict integrity of purpose, absolute sincerity, and wide philanthropy. As one of the leading spirits in the development of the project of Restored Imperial Rule he was particularly energetic in the years immediately preceding the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate, and displayed military ability of a high order in the War of the Restoration.


Born in the province of Tosa on the 17th of April 1837, of Samurai parents, he applied himself as a youth with much ardour to martial exercises, and was proficient in all the arts that the youth of the warrior caste was, in the palmy days of the Tokugawa Administration, expected to excel in. At Kochi, the chief town of Tosa, he devoted himself to military studies, and devoured such works on strategy as were then available, with the result that when the stupendous struggle of 1868 took place between North and South he was given the command of a division, in the army of the Imperialists, and displayed invincible talent in the leadership of his men throughout the campaign under Prince Arisugawa Taruhito and Marshal Saigo Takamori. The Tosa men were conspicuous for their steadiness, and were pronounced, in respect of drill and discipline, to be in the front rank of the forces that overcame the adherents of the Shogunate and made practicable the entire abolition of that long-cherished feudal system which so greatly retarded Japan’s progress.


As a reward for the eminent services rendered by him in the war, Itagaki Taisuke was made a Sangi in the new Government, this being a position comparable to that of a Cabinet Minister at the present day. When, in the discussion of Korean affairs a sharp divergence of opinion was manifested in 1873-4 among the members of the Dai-jo-kwan or Governing Council, and the war party led by Saigo Takamori was outvoted, those who sided with him, one of whom was Itagaki, resigned office, and from that time forward Tosa, whither Itagaki promptly returned and vigorously applied himself to the formation of a democratic party, became known as the nursery of advanced political aspirations and the primary source whence sprang an irresistible undercurrent of opinion tending towards representative government.

As a matter of fact Itagaki had himself sent up a memorial to Government at the time he quitted the Council, urging the institution of a national assembly, and when he retired from the capital he found ready to his hand the nucleus of the political association that he had it in mind to form in the shape of the Ri-shi-sha, a Society which had been organised for the purpose of promoting the interests of those who espoused the popular cause. Though the Government rejected his memorial, Itagaki had reason to think that his plea had not been wholly unnoticed, inasmuch as an edict appeared summoning the Local Governors to consult at headquarters on matters of provincial administration, the improvement of communications, the regulation of public meetings, and so on, and in 1875 the Gen-Ro-In, or Senate (lit.: Congress of Elders), was established and discharged its functions as a legislative body until it was superseded by the Diet in 1890. The Local Governors met again in 1878, and meanwhile the Satsuma clan had revolted and the country had been plunged into civil war. Itagaki and his friends had seized the right moment to point out how beneficial in allaying internal dissensions would be the institution of a Parliament which should voice the opinions and hopes of the nation. A memorial addressed by them to the Emperor urged that there could be nothing that would[281] more directly lead to the welfare of the people than for the sovereign to signify once for all his disapproval of despotic measures and to emphasise his wish that public opinion should be consulted in regard to the conduct of affairs of State. The effect of this action on the part of the Emperor, pleaded the memorialists, would be that concurrently with the establishment of a representative assembly the people would show greater zeal in regard to the country’s vital concerns and would be able to take a genuine interest in its affairs, while with the disappearance of all traces of despotism the aspirations of the masses would rise to a higher plane and civilisation would be advanced simultaneously with the increase of national wealth and the cessation of internecine jealousies and antagonism.

The leaven had been introduced into the mass of the more reflective section of the population, it was clear, and Itagaki, in his retired home at Kochi, became the acknowledged head of the Jiyuto, or Party of Freedom, a term which has come into general use as signifying the Liberal Party as distinct from the Progressive Party originated by Count Okuma some fifteen months later. Tosa had long been the centre, in fact, of an agitation which in 1881 assumed truly formidable proportions, and its endeavours bore fruit in the autumn of that year in the form of an Imperial Rescript, dated the 12th October, in which his Majesty announced the grant of a constitution, to take effect in 1890, and his intention of convoking a Diet for the discussion of national affairs.

Throughout the preceding period of eight years the party headed by Itagaki Taisuke had never wavered in its resolute advocacy of the popular cause, though its members were often the objects of violent opposition from reactionary zealots, whose antagonism in the case of Itagaki himself took the form of a desperate assault, perpetrated by a youth whose imagination had become fired with a mistaken notion of serving his country, and who at Gifu stabbed, almost to death, the Jiyuto leader who at the time was engaged in making his first tour of the provinces after the establishment of the party on a definite basis.[282] Fortunately the intending assassin’s aim was disturbed, for he failed to strike in a vital spot, and after a time Itagaki recovered, but he was perilously near sharing the fate of so many of his fellow-countrymen who have at various times suffered for their prominence in national politics. As has often been the result of political crimes, too, the foul deed had precisely the opposite effect to that which its perpetrator doubtless intended, for the exclamation of Itagaki as he fell to the ground,—“I may die, but freedom never!”—rang through the land, and did more to knit together the bonds of Liberalism than even floods of oratory could possibly have achieved.

The following year Itagaki journeyed in company with his life-long friend and fellow-clansman, Goto Shojiro, to America and Europe, and his subsequent career was inseparably connected with the spread of Liberal ideas among his countrymen, and of preparation for the exercise of those rights and privileges guaranteed to them by the Constitution. Eventually the control of the Jiyuto passed in great measure to Count Ito, and the party was dissolved, to be resuscitated on a new footing in connection with the Constitutionalists. But this did not occur until various attempts had been made in the direction of Government by party, a system which, from one cause or another, seems in Japan to be doomed to failure. Itagaki was Home Minister in the Third Ito Cabinet, which fell in August 1896, and when in June 1898 Marquis Ito went out of office, he recommended that a trial should be given to party Government, and that the formation of a Cabinet should be entrusted to Counts Itagaki and Okuma. The experiment was in no sense to be regarded as satisfactory, and the rivalries that had formerly existed, and had merely been temporarily suppressed, were revived in an aggravated form. In less than six months the internal disagreements found vent in an open quarrel, and the idea of establishing Government on a party basis was abandoned if not for ever at least for an indefinite period. There was a brief repetition of the experiment in 1900-1, extending over seven months in all, when Marquis Ito headed his fifth Cabinet, but the result was no better, and[283] save for that short interval the administration has been for the past seven years avowedly conducted on non-party lines.

The Jiyuto formed by Count Itagaki (who received his title in 1887) no longer exists, for it was abolished, to all intents and purposes, in 1900, and its place has been occupied more or less by the Sei-yu-kai, or Constitutional party, which was headed until July 1903 by Marquis Ito, and since that date has had as its president the Marquis Saionji. Count Itagaki has ceased to figure on the political stage in anything approaching the degree to which he at one period of his career filled the public eye, but there is ample ground for the conviction that his influence is yet very appreciable in Liberal circles, albeit many younger men than himself have recently come to the front. Close upon seventy years of age, he surely has earned the right, after a strenuous life, to retire from the political arena, and it is indisputable that he enjoys the respect and confidence of the entire nation in those minor enterprises which have of late received a large share of his attention, and which have as their object, for the most part, the amelioration of the lot of the poor of his own province, or are kindred efforts in the cause of humanity at large.



Born in Satsuma in the year 1835, the son of a Kagoshima samurai, the statesman whose name will for all time be identified with the adoption in Japan of a gold standard has played a very distinguished part in the affairs of his country, for it is to his untiring efforts that must in a peculiar degree be ascribed the circumstance that, in all Asia, his is the only nation which bases its financial system on gold monometallism. The Coinage law which brought about the great change that has had so vast an influence on the economic and financial conditions prevailing in Japan came into operation on the 1st October 1897. The hope which Count Matsukata entertained that capital at a low rate of interest might be attracted from gold standard countries, to help on the industrial growth of the country, has already to a very appreciable extent been realised. That in the long run the advantages of the gold standard would be deep and abiding, conducive to the healthy industrial growth of the country, was Count Matsukata’s firm and expressed conviction.

Matsukata Masayoshi when quite young entered the service of his Han and took part as a Satsuma clansman in the events which preceded the downfall of the Tokugawa Shogunate. He was a fervent advocate of the establishment by the Satsuma Chieftain of a provincial navy, and in this proposal he met with some success, as his clan purchased several ships which at a later date carried the Satsuma flag (a circle with a cross in it) into action against vessels of the Tokugawa squadron under Admiral Enomoto, though without achieving any substantial victory. The knowledge which Matsukata acquired in his young days of matters naval was mainly[285] obtained at Nagasaki from the Dutch, and he was in this way brought into contact with Western people at an early age. This was prior to the opening of the Treaty ports, when the Dutchmen were the only foreigners allowed to reside in the Japanese Empire. Nagasaki was reopened to general foreign trade and intercourse on the 1st of July 1859, under the terms of the Elgin treaty of the previous year.


The monetary system in vogue in the last days of the Tokugawa Shogunate was based on an obsolete plan established as far back as 1600 A.D. and various causes had combined to bring the currency of Japan into the utmost disorder. His course of study led Matsukata to appreciate the necessity of action long before the opportunity came to him to put his ideas into practice. The coins in circulation had become debased, having lost in quality and quantity by successive recoinage, to which the Shogunate had resort as a relief measure at times of financial distress. Some of the feudal lords, moreover,—of whom there were in all some 270,—had secretly coined money, and counterfeits had become numerous. Most of the Hansi.e. baronial administrations—had issued paper money for circulation within their respective jurisdictions, and the value of such notes had undergone great depreciation. The Shogun’s administration was prompt to realise, on the opening of the country to trade with Western nations under the treaties, the serious loss which the country was sustaining on account of the disordered state of the coinage, but before any adequate steps were taken towards reform the Shogunate regime came to an end and an new era dawned for Japan under the beneficent influences of the reign of Meiji.

The imperial government even instituted a scheme of monetary reform while yet the revolutionary war was in progress, for a system of recoinage was drawn up and adopted in April 1868, and steps were taken to found a Government Mint. At the end of 1869 it was resolved to base the new coinage on the metric system, making silver the standard unit of value and gold subsidiary. The Hong Kong Mint was purchased outright, on the[286] Colony ceasing to coin for itself, and many members of the British staff were engaged by the Tokio Government to supervise the operations of the establishment, which it was found expedient to set up at Osaka. It began to coin silver in November 1870.

While this substantial progress was being made by the newly formed imperial government Ito Hirobumi (the present marquis) was travelling in the United States,—he then occupying the post of Vice-Minister of Finance,—and from what he saw he was induced to write home strenuously advocating the establishment by Japan of a gold standard. His memorandum is quoted at some length elsewhere, but its salient points may be briefly summarised here, because its cogency appealed to Matsukata, who made it practically the chief aim of his official life to procure the adoption of a gold standard for his country, and finally triumphed over the many and vast obstacles that lay in the path of its successful introduction. Ito Hirobumi’s memorandum referred to the opinions of economists the world over displaying a decided bent towards the choice of gold as the fittest metal for standard, and mentioned that the fact that Austria, Holland, and some other countries were still maintaining a silver standard was probably due to the difficulty met with in making a change. He urged that it would be a wise policy for Japan, in her new coinage, to profit by the teachings of modern times. He admitted the necessity of provisionally making silver the standard, but insisted that Japan should keep in view the time when gold might be adopted as the more suitable basis of her monetary system.

At the time when the Satsuma men were contending at Fushimi, near Kioto, with the adherents of the Shogun the future Count Matsukata was residing in Nagasaki. The Governor of the town happened to be a northern man, one whose sympathies were wholly with the Tokugawa side, to which, indeed, he had been indebted for his appointment to the post he held. At Nagasaki the trend of opinion was of course anti-Shogunate, and the Governor, recognising that his rule must necessarily[287] be somewhat unpopular, decided, it would seem, to take his leave rather abruptly, for he hastily quitted his official residence and sought safety in flight. The administration of the treaty port could not be left unprovided for, and therefore Matsukata and a few other young men who were on the spot at this crisis resolved to take matters into their own control. As soon as the upheaval of 1868 had subsided and affairs were beginning to run their normal course, Matsukata was offered a position under the newly established government at Tokio, but he was for a short time placed in charge of its interests at Nagasaki as Local Governor. In 1871 he was attached to the Department of Finance, for it had been discovered that he possessed exceptional qualifications for dealing with problems of the knotty character which were at that period of transition apt to present themselves. The connection with the national finances thus auspiciously begun in the fourth year of the Meiji era has never ceased, since he is still frequently consulted on points of policy in which it is considered that his matured judgment will be of benefit to the nation.

In the year 1874, when Japan was about to embark on an expedition to Formosa, to avenge the deaths of several of her sons at the hands of the savages whom China professed to be unable to control, the Count was made Vice-Minister of the Department of Finance, and began a series of fiscal reforms among which the conversion of the pensions granted to the lords and their retainers of the old regime into public loan bonds was one of the most important. The 7 per cent. Foreign Loan raised in 1873, and which was entirely redeemed in 1897, was devoted in the main to the supply of funds to those samurai who had of their own accord surrendered their hereditary pensions and who were at that time entering, in not a few instances, on a business career. In 1874 the Voluntarily Capitalised Pension Bonds were issued for granting relief in the form either of cash or bonds to the samurai in order that they might be enabled to carry on their commercial pursuits. In 1876, when the old hereditary pension system was entirely[288] abolished, a systematised plan of compounding the pensions with capitalised pension bonds was at once instituted, it being the intention of the government that these bonds should be made the capital of National Banks, and that those banks should be authorised to issue notes. In this way it was believed that the poorer samurai would at once be placed in funds, while the economic market would be supplied with much wanted capital in the form of bank notes. As Count Matsukata has remarked, “it is needless to note that these ideas were based on an erroneous notion that capital and currency were interchangeable terms.”

Meanwhile almost unlooked for and wholly insurmountable difficulties had been encountered in the effort to establish in Japan a gold standard, as defined in the coinage law of May 1871, based on Ito Hirobumi’s recommendations, the intrinsic merit of which was not disputed though it had most reluctantly to be confessed that the time was not propitious for their entire adoption. Situated as Japan was in the midst of the silver countries of the East, it was found impossible to uphold the gold standard, and the Government had been driven, moreover, to the expedient of issuing paper money to meet its financial needs at a time when it was hampered by having, in addition to other embarrassments, to take over all the notes issued by the former daimios who had been dispossessed—voluntarily, it must be added—of their fiefs on the restoration of a central imperial government. Paper money was at a heavy discount for a long time, partly because the people could not overcome their repugnance to notes due to the sad experience they had had in years gone by of the inconvertible “satsu” of feudal times. The crisis had been partly met by the issue of 6 per cent. Government bonds (kin-satsu, lit.: gold note) given in exchange for the paper money in order to decrease its amount, and by degrees the hatred of paper money wore off. The Satsuma rebellion in 1877, however, once more placed the Government under the necessity of issuing a large amount of inconvertible notes, which brought about a new depreciation, prices rose[289] rapidly, gold and silver left the country, as imports vastly exceeded the exports, and in 1880-1 there was great financial distress. As Count Matsukata in his work on the “Adoption of the Gold Standard in Japan” has said,—“that disastrous results would inevitably follow if convertible paper money were made the standard of value” might easily have been foreseen, but it appeared that an idea prevailed that the difference between the price of silver and paper was an indication, not of the depreciation of paper, but of the appreciation of silver. The attempt was made to stop the rise of the price of silver by increasing the amount of its circulation. The Government sold silver coins, opened places for the exchange of Mexican dollars, and established the Yokohama Specie Bank in order to call forth the coins hoarded by the people. But the more these measures were resorted to the more rose the price of silver.

It was while matters remained in this awkward fix that Matsukata Masayoshi received the portfolio of Finance in October 1881. “It was at this crisis,” he states in his Report, “that it occurred to me as I studied the case that in order to effect the object in view the Government should, side by side with the redemption of a portion of the paper money in circulation, take steps to increase the specie reserve of the Government preparatory to the resumption of specie payment. Moreover, in order to put the country’s finance on a sound basis and relieve the pressing distress of the time, I felt the need of a central bank having the sole privilege of issuing convertible notes. I submitted a scheme for the establishment of such a central bank to my colleagues. In the Cabinet Council which followed my suggestions were approved, and in June 1882 the Nippon Ginko (Bank of Japan) was established. Two years later it was empowered to issue convertible notes. After the necessary foundations were in this way laid, the Government used every means in its power to raise thereon a sound financial superstructure. The method of receiving and disbursing the State revenue was changed, and the strictest economy was practised in the expenditures of the different departments. One half of the surplus[290] obtained in this way was devoted to the redemption of paper money, while the other half was added to the specie reserve of the Government. Besides, after the latter part of 1881 this reserve fund was employed for discounting foreign bills of exchange, with a view to encourage the export trade of the country, which in its turn would lead to the importation of specie.”

Something more was done, however, in the way of accumulating specie besides the transaction of foreign exchange. Count Matsukata proposed as an important adjunct to the scheme that the Government should engage in the direct exportation of rice and seaweed, and his memoranda on the subject, dated November 1882 and February 1883, only adopted by the Cabinet in June 1883,—a clear proof that there was no undue haste in any of the steps taken in this pre-eminently momentous national affair,—took in part the form given below. It should serve in its tone to explain with what solicitude the Government of Tokio views all questions that hinge upon the successful cultivation of Japan’s most valuable staple.

“Rice being the greatest of our national products, the abundance or scarcity of its harvest and the fluctuations in its price naturally affect to no small extent the financial condition of the country. As to the contingency of a bad harvest, there is already in operation the Law of Storing, and ... I shall confine myself to providing means of disposing of surplus rice in a year of abundance. For should there occur an extraordinary depreciation in the price of rice, it would not only make it difficult to raise the revenues, but it would interfere with the development of agricultural enterprises, affecting thereby the general trade and commerce of the country. For this reason it seems to me that the best means to prevent such a contingency would be to export rice to foreign countries. It so happens, however, that work of this kind, owing to shrinkage from rotting and other causes, and the time involved in transport over wide seas, can hardly ever pay in private hands. If the Government undertakes it these apprehensions need not be entertained. When specie is as scarce as it is to-day, the Government must still provide[291] it for the payment of unavoidable expenses, such as the army and navy, and it seems to me that every effort ought to be made to absorb specie by enlarging the list of exported commodities. The export to foreign countries of the surplus rice will be like killing two birds with one stone, for it will provide specie for the Government and protect the income of the farmer. There seems to be a growing increase in the demand for Japanese rice in Western markets, owing to the gradual recognition of its superior quality. As it is an urgent necessity to draw in specie, let what has hitherto formed the Reserve Fund (of the Department of Agriculture) be turned into capital for making yearly purchases of rice in suitable quantities according to conditions of crop and market price, in order that it may be sent abroad, and let the Finance Department be charged with the duty of keeping accounts.”

The actual quantity of rice exported under this arrangement amounted to some 6,000,000 bushels, and in selling the rice British and American coins were taken in payment, and the various earnings were transferred to Japan through the agency of the Yokohama Specie Bank in the form of draft or of gold and silver bullion. Altogether the specie accumulated by the Government, by its several measures, was in English money value about £28,750,000 sterling, the total disbursements from this huge sum having been £23,500,000, leaving a margin of £5,250,000 to be applied to the redemption of paper money.

In this way and on the recommendations of Count Matsukata the needful redemption was brought about, and at the close of 1885 the difference between the value of silver and paper money had almost disappeared. Notice was given by the Government, therefore, that on and from the 1st of January 1886 specie payments would be resumed. The actual amount of specie held at that time in the State coffers was of the value of £4,500,000 sterling.

The adjustment of the paper currency thus accomplished prepared Japan to reap the benefits of a scientific system of coinage. The rate of interest fell,—commercial and industrial enterprises began to expand,—the volume of[292] the country’s foreign trade increased greatly. Count Matsukata had rid his nation of one serious impediment to its progress, but in the process Japan had become de facto a silver standard country. Sooner or later, as he well knew, she would have to enter the international economic community, and to do this she would have to adopt a gold standard.

Prior to 1873 the price of silver had not shown any great variations, the ratio between gold and silver having been as a rule 1 of gold to 15½ of silver. Count Matsukata attributed the immense fall which took place in subsequent years to a number of causes, (a) the vastly increased annual output of the metal, (b) the action of the German Government in selling large quantities of silver when unifying the coinage of the Empire, (c) the adoption of a gold standard by the United States of America, and (d) the various limitations imposed on the coinage and in other forms by Continental nations. None of the measures adopted were sufficient to check the fall. In 1879 the ratio became 1 to 18,—in 1891 it was 1 to 20·92,—in 1892 it was 1 to 23·72,—and in 1893 it had become 1 to 26·49. But this was eclipsed by the figures for 1897, which at one time were as 1 to 39·70 and the average for that year was but 1 to 34·35. In Japan the consequences were most serious, for the price of commodities rose rapidly and a spirit of speculation became rampant.

It is necessary to go back a little, to the period of Count Matsukata’s initial efforts to pave the way for the introduction of a gold standard. That his financial policy led at first to Japan becoming a silver standard country was owing mainly to the immense difficulty of at once accumulating a large gold reserve necessary for the establishment of gold monometallism. It was deemed advisable to defer this essential, all but vital, alteration to some more favourable time, but Count Matsukata never relinquished for one moment the hope of being able to effect it. When it is remembered that in April 1881, 1 yen in silver fetched on an average 1 yen and 79½ sen of paper, and at one time the proportions were as 1 to[293] 1·815,—the lowest point ever reached,—and yet four years and a half later paper and silver were on a par, the magnitude of Count Matsukata’s achievement becomes apparent. The imperial ordinance authorising the Bank of Japan to issue convertible notes was obeyed when, on the 9th of May 1885, the first of such notes were put into circulation, and the moment was seized by Count Matsukata to urge on the Government, as Minister of Finance, the advisability of taking the opportunity then presented for redeeming the whole of the inconvertible paper, and of entrusting the business of the exchange entirely to the Bank of Japan, to be effected in the ordinary way of circulation, so that the reform might be quietly and smoothly carried out. “If,” he concluded, “these suggestions shall happily receive the August Sanction, not only will the Government be able to accomplish its original purpose in regard to paper money, but the credit of the Government at home and abroad will thereby be assured, the national finance placed on a firm basis, and the future happiness of the people greatly enhanced.”

In the year 1884 Mr Matsukata, as he then was, received the rank of Haku, or Count, continuing to hold the portfolio of Finance until 1891, when he was appointed Prime Minister, but without relinquishing his post at the Okurasho, and he only quitted it, after a service of nearly twenty years in that department of State, when he resigned the Premiership also in 1892.

In the office of Premier of the third administration since the institution of Constitutional Government Count Matsukata had for one of his colleagues Count Enomoto, who had represented his country at the Courts of Russia and China, and had previously been Minister for the Navy. He now held, in the Third Cabinet, the portfolio of Foreign Affairs. Count Matsukata’s occupancy of the position of Prime Minister lasted on this occasion from May 1891 to July 1892, there having been a general election in February of that year which had resulted in a victory for the opposition, followed by Cabinet disruption, and the advent of Count Ito, as he was then, to a long lease of power.


At the period of the outbreak of war between Japan and China, Count Matsukata was in private life, pondering his all-important scheme for the permanent settlement of Japanese finance, but the successful floating of the War Loan was in a measure ascribable to his influence, for the nation had learned to couple his name with not a few judicious measures of national finance that had given relief to commercial enterprises in a very marked degree. And as the end of the campaign in Shantung and Liaotung was seen to be approaching the Emperor expressly decreed the Count’s assumption of the duties of Finance Minister, in order that he might undertake the adjustment of the country’s finances on the termination of the war. He remained in office long enough, with Marquis Ito as Premier, to initiate a movement which in effect carried him a great way towards the realisation of that cherished plan on which he had expended so much mental labour and close application both when in and out of office. He says that when India, the greatest silver country in Asia, took steps in 1893 to reorganise her currency system, the sudden fall in the price of silver had most noticeable effects in Japan, and the need of the adoption of gold as the basis of her coinage was more and more impressed on her financiers. The reform was, however, very difficult to undertake. Quite unexpectedly, however, the receipt by Japan of a large indemnity from China seemed to offer the long-desired opportunity.

“It occurred to me then,” wrote Count Matsukata afterwards, “that on account of the unstable price of silver, as well as in view of the possible adoption of a gold standard by our country, it would be greatly to our advantage to receive payment of the indemnity in British, instead of Chinese money. The Minister-president of State, Marquis Ito, acting on my suggestion, negotiated with the Chinese authorities, which led to our receiving the indemnity money in pounds sterling.”

In September 1896 Count Matsukata was appointed Minister-president, for the second time in his career, and he forthwith directed his endeavours to the realisation of his highest ambition. A bill was drawn up in February[295] of the ensuing year, to the passing of which through the Diet there was in reality but little opposition. Some critics of the proposal said that the fall in the price of silver would rather encourage trade with gold countries, while the adoption of a gold standard by Japan would tend to decrease the amount of her exports to those countries. Others said that Japan, situated as she was in the midst of the silver countries of the East, would be placed in a position of much disadvantage in her trade with these countries if she adopted gold monometallism. Again, some said that Japan could not produce a sufficient amount of gold to be able to maintain permanently a gold standard system. This was not all. It was by many urged that the silver yen coins exported to foreign lands exceeded 100,000,000, and that if all these came back for exchange, as might possibly be the case, the national treasury would have to suffer an immense loss. Count Matsukata had no notion, however, of allowing himself to be influenced by those dismal prophecies. His Cabinet stood firm in its purpose, and in March 1897, after having been passed by both Houses of Parliament, the bill received the Imperial sanction, and was promulgated as Law No. XVI. on the 29th day of the same month. The stability of Japanese finance during the nine years which have passed since that Law came into force, and especially throughout the terrible ordeal that it has lately undergone during the time that Japan has been at war with one of the Great Powers of Europe, affords an incontestible proof of the soundness of Count Matsukata’s judgment, and the nation is indebted to him for the perseverance and fortitude that he displayed in carrying his scheme, despite all opposition, to a successful conclusion. No doubt every precaution that financial skill could suggest was taken by the Government of which he was a member. One of the earlier instalments of the indemnity was converted in London into gold bullion and conveyed to Japan as fast as steam could transport it, to be minted into coins in the Government mint. In buying bullion, too, care was taken to secure it without much disturbance of the market or loss to the Government. The gold thus turned into[296] coins between July 1897, and April 1898, as a reserve for the exchange of silver yen, amounted to roughly £7,500,000 sterling. The process of exchanging began on the 1st of October 1896, and closed on the 31st of July 1898.

It is not a little instructive to learn to what degree the foreboding as to the national treasury being swamped by the number of yen silver coins that would come back for exchange, in which some critics indulged, proved to lack solid foundation. The total number of one-yen pieces coined at Osaka from the date of the opening of the Mint was 165,000,000. Of these the number actually exchanged during the ten months specified for gold coin was 45,500,000, including 10,750,000 sent back from abroad for that purpose: the rest were in circulation in Japan. It is estimated that 99,500,000 of yen coins were exported to foreign lands and never returned. 11,000,000 of these coins were taken abroad at the time of the China-Japan war,—5,750,000 were taken to Formosa after the cession of that island to Japan by China and were never brought in for exchange,—about 500,000 were recoined at Osaka into subsidiary coins,—and about 2,750,000 could not be traced, and must have been lost or worn out, or taken away by visitors to Japan, when leaving the country. Count Matsukata was not moved by sinister prophecies, for one thing because he had had the most careful inquiries made as to the numbers of these coins circulating in Shanghai, Hong Kong, the Straits Settlements, etc.; and it was found that no inconsiderable proportion of them either bore the marks of some private stamp or “chop” which unfitted them for circulation in the land of their origin, or had been turned into Chinese taels. Then it was known that a fairly large quantity was in use as a medium of exchange in the Straits Settlements and neighbouring islands, and that there was but little prospect of any of these coming back to Japan. Altogether Count Matsukata’s estimate of the number that would have to be provided for was 10,000,000, and this was within a trifle of the true number presented for exchange. The people were invited to pay taxes and make other public settlements[297] in Yen coins, a vast number of Government treasuries and sub-offices were opened all over the country to facilitate the work of exchanging the silver, and that no report was ever received that any failed to get exchanged went to show that the process was effectually completed.

The next thing was to dispose of the silver that had been brought in, and a large part of it was recoined into subsidiary coins, a large proportion sold in Hong Kong, Shanghai and elsewhere, and much sent to Korea. The whole amount was disposed of in a year and a quarter after the new coinage law was promulgated in Japan. The total expense incurred by the State in effecting the change was roughly £500,000 sterling, but this was more than made good by the Mint profit on the subsidiary coinage. As fast as they could be produced the ten-sen, twenty-sen, and fifty-sen pieces were put into circulation, in lieu of the paper money of small denominations, and it is estimated that the sum-total of the subsidiary coinage in actual circulation,—silver, nickel, and copper,—would be of the value of 4s. per capita, if calculated in English money. This is considered to be ample for the economic needs of the people to-day.

In October 1898 Count Matsukata was for the fourth time called upon to take the portfolio of Finance, with Marshal Yamagata as Minister-President, and in May 1899 he presented to the Premier a masterly report on the financial progress of Japan, entitled the “Adoption of the Gold Standard,” which was issued in book form, and it was followed in March of the next year by a “Report on the Post-Bellum financial administration of Japan, 1896-1900,” both affording emphatic testimony to the Minister’s untiring zeal and industry.

In October 1900 Count Matsukata retired into private life, and in the ensuing summer he visited London and the capitals of Europe. In recognition of his long and valuable services to the State the Emperor accords him as much consideration as if he were a Cabinet Minister still. He has received the Grand Cordon of the Paulownia Imperialis, and other decorations, and many foreign honours. He was twice Premier, and fourteen years Finance[298] Minister. His achievements include land-tax reform, centralisation of fiscal administration, the redemption of the paper money, the establishment of the Bank of Japan, post-bellum finance, the adoption of the gold standard, the establishment of the Industrial Bank,—and he has rendered many other services to his sovereign and his countrymen of which it is needless to give details here. His part in the Making of Japan has been most ably and conscientiously performed, and he has won the respect and admiration of all classes of his fellow-subjects of the Japanese Emperor.



Born on the 25th of August 1836 at Yedo, Enomoto Buyo was sent by the Tokugawa Government as a young naval officer to study in Holland, and he was in Europe for several years, ultimately returning to Japan on board the Kai-yo Maru, as she was named, a corvette built at Amsterdam to the order of the Shogunate. With him returned several of the students who had been despatched in 1862 and 1863 to Europe for purposes of study, some sent by their clans, and some by the Bakufu. Ito Shunsuke and Inouye Bunda, two of the number, had, as is elsewhere recorded, returned some years previously, in consequence of trouble in their native province of Choshiu. The Kai-yo Maru reached Japan in 1866, and she was a formidable addition to the fleet of six vessels already possessed by the Shogun’s Government. Being a native of Yedo he was of course one of the Bakufu supporters, and when the troubles of 1867 began, and which were to culminate in the fall of the Tokugawa family from power, Admiral Enomoto was loyal to his chief, Prince Keiki, and fought strenuously for his side in the War of the Restoration.


When, on the result of the battle of Fushimi between the Tokugawa men and the Imperialist regiments belonging to Satsuma and Choshiu becoming known at Osaka, the Shogun recognised the impossibility of retrieving the fortunes of the day, his retainers procured a small boat for him at an adjacent wharf and he made his way to the vessels belonging to him,—three in number,—lying off Tempo-san, at the mouth of the river Yodo, on which the city of Osaka stands. He was quickly taken on board the Kai-yo Maru, Admiral Enomoto’s flagship, and she was next seen entering Kobé harbour with her consorts on the 26th January 1868, Prince Keiki being on board.[300] Lying in Kobé were three Satsuma steamers, and the Kai-yo Maru challenged them to combat by steaming round them and leading the way to the open sea. The contest took place in “Awa Bay” as it is termed, in reality the indentation of the coast facing Tokushima, the chief town of Awa province, close to the southern extremity of the island of Awaji, a few hours’ steam from Kobé. One of the Satsuma ships was sunk and another took fire. The three ships under Admiral Enomoto, one of which was the steam-yacht Emperor which Queen Victoria had sent out as a present to the Shogun some time before, escaped with slight damage, and subsequently steamed to Yedo, where the Prince Tokugawa Keiki landed a week after the battle. The Emperor yacht was best known by her Japanese name of Banrio Maru. Several of the clans at this period possessed foreign-built steamers, and the chieftain Shimadzu Saburo of Satsuma had purchased the Fiery Cross in Yokohama as far back as 1862, as a present for his nephew the daimio of Kagoshima. She had been handed over to her new owners in Yedo bay and navigated by them to the headquarters of the clan. The ships belonging to the several territorial barons were ultimately surrendered to the Central Government, after the Restoration, as well as those belonging to the Shogunate, and formed the nucleus of the splendid navy that Japan may now rightfully pride herself on having established.

The eight ships which had been lying in Shinagawa waters, and which were to have been given up to the Imperial Government when Yedo was finally surrendered, suddenly left there, however, on October 4th, 1898, under the command of Admiral Enomoto, and it became known that he had stolen away to Hakodate. There, in conjunction with three other supporters of the Shogun’s lost cause, he presently proclaimed the “Republic of Yeso,” the other signatories being Otori Keisuke (subsequently pardoned, and at a later date the faithful and energetic representative of Japan at the Court of Korea) Matsudaira Taro,—a relative, as his name implied, though in this case a distant one, of the Tokugawa family, and Arai Ikunosuke, subsequently appointed to an office under the Colonisation[301] Department in Yeso, and in which he evinced no little talent as an organiser.

Admiral Enomoto declared that his reason for going to Hakodate with his squadron was that he and his friends had resolved to guard the Northern Gate for the Emperor, and to till the soil, as yet wholly uncultivated, of the island of Yeso.

“Men who have the hearts of Samurai,” they pleaded, “cannot turn into farmers or merchants, so it appeared to us that there was nothing for us but to starve. And considering the untilled state of the island of Yeso we petitioned the Government that we might remove thither, but all in vain.” In sheer despair they had sailed north at their own risk, using force only against the fortified places, Hakodate and Matsumai (now Fukuyama). “The farmers and merchants are unmolested, going about their business without fear, and are sympathising with us, so that already,” they added, “we have brought some land under cultivation. We pray that this portion of the Empire may be conferred upon our late lord, Tokugawa Kamenosuké, and in that case we shall repay your beneficence by our faithful guardianship of the Northern Gate.” The newly appointed head of the Tokugawa clan, here alluded to as Kamenosuké, now Prince Tokugawa Iyesato, President of the House of Peers, was ordered to go to Yeso and restrain his clansmen, but it was asked that as this young prince was then only a child of five years old, the ex-Shogun Keiki might be given control. This, however, was refused, lest his prestige might still be employed by his followers to incite others to rebellion and thus prolong a useless struggle.

“Why should we quit this spot?” asked Enomoto afterwards, when told he must surrender: “If his Majesty the Emperor will take pity on us and give us a portion of this barren northern region, our men shall guard the gate till death, whilst for the crime of having opposed the Imperial army, we two [Matsudaira and himself] will gladly suffer capital punishment.”

It was not until the following spring that the newly formed Central Government at Yedo found itself able[302] to turn its attention seriously to the subjugation of the little band of malcontents up north, and then the Imperial fleet steamed away from the anchorage at the head of the bay, off Shinagawa, intending to rendezvous at Hakodate where the rebels were making a last stand. The chief hope of the Satsuma officers lay in their recent acquisition, the Stonewall, to which had been given the Japanese title of Adzuma. She had been employed in the American Civil War before she came into Japanese hands, as one of the Federal Squadron in the assault on Vicksburg.

The Adzuma though of small tonnage, was an ironclad, and with her mighty ram she presented a most sinister appearance. Altogether the collective fleet made a very good beginning, and the Imperialists were justly proud of it as marking an appreciable advance on the agglomeration of war junks with which the nation’s sea-fighting had been done under the old conditions.

The Stonewall (or Adzuma) had been bought in America by the agents of the Shogunate, and she dropped anchor in Yokohama on the 24th of April 1868, only a few days before the Prince Tokugawa Keiki resigned his office. She was never delivered to the Shogun’s government, but was, by order of the American Minister, retained in port at Yokohama under the Stars and Stripes ensign, though as a matter of fact she had flown the flag of Japan on her voyage thither from the United States. There was some little heart-burning at this, for it was thought that had she been available for use by the Shogunate party which had bought her, she might with her far greater power have made short work of the imperial fleet. But, as we have seen, the Shogun was then ready to resign, and all prospect of success vanished with his submission to the Emperor five days after the ironclad’s arrival in Japanese waters.

With the resignation of the Shogun she naturally came into the hands of the Imperialists, to whom the United States authorities were no doubt justified under the circumstances in delivering her, and she set out bravely enough with the remainder of the imperial squadron for[303] the north in 1869. But less than twenty-four hours had elapsed before she was in difficulties with her engines, and it was with much trouble and anxiety that she was navigated as far towards Yeso as the harbour of Miyako, a little to the north of Sendai Bay, and about half way to Hakodate. Here she might have been captured, but for good luck, for she had entered to coal and her crew were ashore, not scenting danger, as they had no expectation that any of Admiral Enomoto’s vessels were in the vicinity. While she was lying at anchor the Eagle, flying the Shogunate ensign, steamed in, and catching sight of the ram, charged her at full speed. It was magnificent, but it was not war, and the Eagle’s bow was severely damaged by the exploit. There was a tussle on the deck of the Adzuma, and several were killed on either side, but numbers were with the Imperialists, and the Eagle was obliged to seek safety as best she could in flight. She ultimately reached port at Hakodate, though her consort, the Ashuelot gunboat, which was waiting for her outside Miyako, contrived to run ashore, it being rather a foggy time of year, and was captured with all hands, by the Imperial fleet, which followed as soon as steam could be got up, and went to Aomori Bay, on the south side of the Straits of Tsugaru, opposite to Hakodate.

The engagement which shortly afterwards took place on land and sea at Hakodate itself was described by eye-witnesses as a splendidly contested affair from first to last. The besiegers advanced under a very heavy and well-sustained fire, and Admiral Enomoto’s defence of his vessels, on the other hand, was skilful and resolute. The Kwan-gun or Imperialist forces, which had come to the straits overland from Tokio, were landed on Hakodate Head in the rear of the town of Hakodate, while the rebels held the battery at Benten, and the villages of Chiyoga-oka and Goriokaku. They were under the command of Matsudaira Taro, Otori Keisuke, and Arai Ikunosuke, while Admiral Enomoto was afloat, one of his captains being the present Ambassador in London, Viscount Hayashi. Despite their undoubted[304] bravery, the Tokugawa men were overmatched, for the Imperialists acquired a position which dominated the fortifications of the town from the hill behind, and when at last he saw that it would merely prolong the strife and cause useless bloodshed if he persisted in his opposition, Admiral Enomoto, yielding to the earnest remonstrances of the Imperialist Army, surrendered, and the Shogun’s followers finally laid down their arms.

Admiral Enomoto and many of those with him were imprisoned for a time, but there was no desire to treat harshly those who had been loyal to the party which had a claim on their services, notwithstanding that they had of necessity been classed as rebels, and Enomoto was himself given a high post as Minister of the Colonisation Department then newly established under the title of the Kai-taku-shi, its operations being specially directed to the development of this northernmost island of the Empire. Thus in some degree Enomoto had his wish gratified, of being entrusted with the guardianship of the Northern Gate, but in 1874 he was despatched to St Petersburg on a mission to arrange with the Russian Government for the exchange, in conformity with Russia’s request, of the southern half of Sakhalin island for the northern half of the chain of islets forming the Kuriles Archipelago. When he returned from Russia he was again occupied with the work of Colonisation, and in 1882 he went to China as Japan’s representative at the Court of Peking.

He has occupied a seat in the Cabinet on several occasions, having held the portfolios, at various times, of the Navy, Foreign Affairs, Education, Communications, and Agriculture and Commerce. The last-named office he occupied in the Second Ito Ministry at the close of 1896, and was similarly placed in the Second Matsukata Ministry which fell in December 1897.

It was characteristic of him that when the conflict was over at Hakodate in 1869 he sent to the Imperialist Generals two volumes on Naval Tactics which he had studied while in Holland prior to 1866. They were very valuable books, he said, and were otherwise unobtainable[305] in the Empire and he could not bear that they should be destroyed. The Imperialist leaders acknowledged the gift, and in return sent to the Admiral five kegs of saké, the native wine. Enomoto and Matsudaira were both resolved on putting an end to their lives by the traditionally honourable act of seppuku, but they were closely watched and were prevented from doing so, and they finally surrendered and were taken prisoners to Yedo, where, as already explained, their punishment was only of brief duration.

Happily, Admiral Enomoto, though no longer on the active List of the Navy, is still in the enjoyment of good general health at seventy years of age. He is rightfully regarded by the younger men as the father, to all intents and purposes, of the Japanese Navy, and his exploits at the beginning of the Meiji era certainly entitle him to a high place in the affections of those who recognise in the fleet as it exists to-day a bulwark of defence against invasion and a force which has proved itself capable of making the flag of the Rising Sun Empire everywhere respected.



If Admiral Enomoto was the first to obtain the title by having handled a modern Japanese fleet in actual warfare, it will be acknowledged that Admiral Togo has caused his own doings to be for ever associated with the later developments of Japan’s sea-power, and that it is his name which will descend to posterity as that of the commander who, by his skilful leading and marked ability, combined with personal attributes of a kind to inspire the loftiest esteem and even affection in all those who came into contact with him, made the Japanese fleet the tremendous fighting machine that it is to-day. It is true that the late Count Katsu (known in the pre-Restoration days as Katsu Awa-no-Kami, the personal friend of Saigo Takamori) was Minister of the Navy under the Shogunate, and commanded the first Japanese steamship that ever crossed the Pacific Ocean from Yokohama, an armed vessel which took out the Oguri Embassy to America in 1859, but the rise of the Navy must be attributed to a somewhat later period, when the rival forces fought in Awa Bay in 1868, and at Hakodate in the next year, and the leader who on those occasions most distinguished himself was Admiral Viscount Enomoto, whose adventures have been recorded. Admiral Togo represents the polished and perfected machine: Enomoto was answerable for the quality of the metal employed in its construction. Togo has all the credit of having given impetus and direction, by the force of his own example, to the studies of the Japanese naval officer and thus contributed extensively to the making of the Navy as it now exists.


The Admiral is a Satsuma man, born in the castle town of Kagoshima on the 6th of December 1847, and[307] comes of Samurai stock, his father being one of the retainers of the daimio Shimadzu Saburo. When only sixteen he was placed aboard one of the small war vessels then owned by the principality, and was in the engagement with Admiral Kuper’s Squadron when the British bombarded Kagoshima in 1863. As is elsewhere explained, the Satsuma men realised that modern Western appliances gave great power to those who wielded them as weapons of warfare, and with the conviction uppermost that they had made as good a fight as could have been expected with rather antiquated guns, they forthwith prepared to be good friends with their late antagonists, and to learn all they could with the object of making the Satsuma clan a tower of strength in view of the Restoration of Imperial rule.

In 1868 Togo Heihachi was an officer aboard one of the three Satsuma ships that then came to Kobé, and fought with Admiral Enomoto’s squadron in January in Awa Bay. She was the Kiang-Su, later named Kasuga-Kan, and she routed her enemy, the Kwai-Ten. The Kasuga-Kan had originally been Admiral Sherard Osborn’s flagship when the “Lay flotilla” was taken out to China, and as the Chinese did not want her, she was sold to the prince of Satsuma. She was a fairly fast vessel of the paddle-wheel type, and did good service for the Imperial Government after the Restoration. In the year 1871 Togo Heihachi came to England and was for the ensuing seven years in H.M.S. Worcester at Greenhithe, and the Royal Naval College at Greenwich. In 1878 the Kon-go Kan and Hi-yei Kan composite corvettes were completed in Great Britain for the Japanese Government to the designs of Sir Edward Reed, and Togo Heihachi went out in the Hiyei.

From that time nothing was heard of him until the famous affair of the Kowshing, at the commencement of the Japan and China War, in 1894, when he commanded the Naniwa Kan, a Second-class Cruiser built at Elswick-on-Tyne in 1885. During the long interval he had been steadily climbing the ladder, and had gone through all the stages to the attainment of the rank of Commander. A[308] thorough seaman, he did not disdain to personally instruct those under him in the most ordinary duties, translating naval technicalities from English text-books into Japanese for the puzzled junior officers who had not been out of Japan for their education. Later, the Naniwa was one of the flying squadron of four ships under Admiral Tsuboi that preceded the main squadron under Admiral Ito into action with the Chinese fleet off Hai-Yang Island, the engagement being known as the Naval Battle of the Yalu. After the fight was over the Naniwa was sent westward to reconnoitre Wei-Hai-Wei, Chifu, and Port Arthur.

When the prospect of war with Russia in 1903 necessitated much preparation at Tokio, Togo was summoned by Admiral Yamamoto, his old friend and schoolfellow, to the Capital, and he rose from a sick-bed to go, replying to his wife’s remonstrances, “I shall be well the moment I set foot on deck and drink in the salt-laden air.” It is recorded of him that while stationed at Maizuru, the naval depot on the west coast of the main island, facing Korea, he practically lived in his office, and scarcely spoke to any of his officers, merely saluting as he passed in and out. His taciturnity is proverbial, yet children in Japan find nothing forbidding in him and crowd round him with delight. He resides in an exceedingly modest dwelling-house in a Tokio suburb, its furniture and decorations being of the simplest kind. So imperturbable is he that had he been aboard his flagship the Mikasa when she went down recently in harbour at Sasebo it is certain that he would not have lost his self-possession for an instant, and to those who know him best he is the “silent one,” who loves to be alone with his tiny silver tobacco pipe. His recreations are hunting game with his breech-loader and his dogs, or trout-fishing in some mountain stream. Madame Togo has said that when he went to join the United Squadrons a short time prior to the outbreak of hostilities in 1904, he merely asked her to be kind enough to take care of his dogs.

Even for a Japanese the Admiral is short, and rather stout, of figure, and people marvel when they see him that[309] he can be “the great Togo, the Nelson of Japan.” But the energy of the man is revealed in his quick, piercing glance. He is a strict disciplinarian, and a hater, above all things, of display, or of public homage. A story is current at Sasebo that before the fleet sailed for Port Arthur he called all his officers on board the Mikasa and briefly addressed them to the effect:—“We sail to-night, and our enemy flies the Russian flag.” On a tray in front of him lay one of those short daggers which in former times were used to commit Seppuku. As the officers filed past him he looked each one in the eyes, and all of them understood his meaning. None would have survived the disgrace of a defeat. It is his practice, it may be added, as showing his indifference to danger, to direct operations during an engagement entirely from the bridge, and he has had some narrow escapes.

The incidents of the Naval campaign of 1904-5 are so fresh in everyone’s memory that it would be tedious to go into minute details. On the night of the 8th of February 1904, the Russian fleet, which lay conveniently for Admiral Togo’s purpose outside the harbour of Port Arthur, found itself attacked. Two Russian battleships and one cruiser were torpedoed, and next day the assault was renewed with the result that another battleship and three more cruisers were badly damaged. Five days later Admiral Togo sent his destroyers to the attack in a snowstorm, and another Russian cruiser was torpedoed. On the 24th of the month an attempt was made to seal Port Arthur by sinking steamers which officers of Admiral Togo’s fleet navigated, and on the 9th and 10th March there was another destroyer attack, followed by a bombardment on the 21st and 22nd.

Five days later another desperate effort was made to block Port Arthur by sinking steamers, and on the 13th of April a Russian Squadron was decoyed out of harbour and the Petropavlovsk, with the Russian Admiral Makharoff on board, was sunk by a mine. At last on the 3rd of May Port Arthur was at all events temporarily blocked, for battleships and cruisers, but on the 15th Admiral Togo had the misfortune to lose two of his finest battleships, the[310] Hatsusé and Yashima, both built on the Tyne, having run upon drifting torpedoes. There was a naval sortie on the 23rd June, which was easily repulsed by the Japanese fleet, and on the 10th of August took place the memorable battle in the Yellow Sea, when the Russian fleet, issuing from Port Arthur, was defeated and dispersed, some of the ships getting back to harbour at the fortress, but others making for neutral ports, where they were interned until the conclusion of the war. On this occasion the Russian Admiral Vitoft was killed in action. There was a long running fight in which the Mikasa greatly distinguished herself, and at 6.12 P.M. a 12-inch shell came aboard her and burst close to her bridge on the port side. Admiral Togo, with his Chief of Staff, and the captain of the ship, with five others, were on the bridge at the time, and four of the eight persons were hit by fragments, but the admiral was untouched. He had been on the bridge throughout the action, from the first exchange of shots at one o’clock, but his subordinates were resolved that he should stay there no longer, and by efforts little short of an application of physical force, he was induced to enter the conning-tower. At 8 P.M. the Russian ships had fallen into inextricable confusion, and it was left to the Japanese torpedo craft to continue the fight, with what result was never precisely ascertained. The Russian vessels at Port Arthur were ultimately sunk by their Commanders prior to the Capitulation of the 2nd January 1905, but most of them have since been raised and taken over to Japan.

On the 12th of April Admiral Rojdestvensky arrived at Kamranh Bay in Indo-China, and on the 22nd left there under pressure from France after Japanese protests had been lodged against infractions of neutrality. The battle of the Sea of Japan was fought on the 27th and 28th of May 1905, and Admiral Togo succeeded in annihilating the Russian Baltic Fleet.

After peace was made the Japanese vessels remained for a time at Sasebo, where an explosion occurred on board the Mikasa and she sank at her moorings, but was not wholly submerged, the work of refloating her being one[311] that it was fully expected would be completed early in 1906. In October the Combined Fleet was reviewed by the Japanese Emperor at its moorings, drawn up in seven lines, in the bay of Tokio, extending from the mouth of the Rokugo river at Kawasaki to the vicinity of Hommoku Point, near Yokohama. Prior to the fleet’s arrival in Tokio Bay it had paid a visit to Isé Bay, which opens out of the Pacific in lat. 34° 30´ North, and was formerly known as Owari Gulf. The assembly of the combined squadrons in the bay was an imposing spectacle, and Admiral Togo, with his staff-officers, visited the sacred shrines of the Imperial ancestors, at Yamada, which is near Toba harbour. Hundreds of thousands of the people had assembled from far and near. Admiral Togo was the recipient of the greatest honours that his admiring countrymen could pay, both there and afterwards at Tokio, where they gathered absolutely to the number of a quarter of a million to bid him welcome on his safe return to his home.

On the 29th of October he visited the beautiful Cemetery at Aoyama, in the Capital, to take part in an impressive Shinto Ceremony in honour of the departed naval heroes of the war, the spot chosen being close to that where lies Captain Hirosé, the officer who lost his own life while trying to succour a subordinate in the second attempt to block Port Arthur. The central figure of the gathering was Admiral Togo, who was escorted by a detachment of his sailors, unarmed. After the religious rites had been solemnly performed, he moved to the altar, and standing alone while all the officers and men present came to the salute, he read an address to the spirits of the dead. It ran somewhat as follows:—

The clouds over land and sea have dispersed, children welcome us and their parents await us at the gates. Looking back we recall the heat and cold of the times when we fought side by side with you against our powerful foe. The result could not then be foreseen. The bravery you showed brought us splendid victories in all our combats. Now that the[312] contest is over, we who are at home feel it deeply that our rejoicings cannot be shared by you. Yet your deaths have made this day possible. Your fidelity and bravery shall remain with our navy for ever, and inspirit it to protect perpetually this, the Imperial Land. I have prepared this ceremony to your manes, as worthy of all honour, and I take leave to say to you: Be at peace,—Accept our offerings.

There was no sound but that of the Admiral’s voice, and in profound silence all those present made their obeisances before the Altar of Memory.

It may be useful here to give some idea of the character of the training that the Japanese Naval Officer undergoes.

Most Japanese youths intended for the sea begin their naval training at the Etajima College, close to the arsenal of Kure, near Hiroshima, in the “Inland Sea,” which separates the main island from Shikoku and Kiushiu. The entrance to this college is by competitive examination, and students come from all parts of the country, though not a few of the successful ones are prepared at a special school in Tokio,—the Higher Naval College. The Etajima establishment is open to every male subject between the ages of fifteen and twenty, but marriage is a bar, likewise bankruptcy or previous subjection to any serious punishment. Everything is done at Government expense. Failure to pass the physical examination disqualifies the youth for the educational tests, which cover a wide field. There are three foreign languages which are optional as studies—viz. French, German, and Russian, but English is compulsory. The course lasts three years, and a cadet who is once entered must not change his mind, but must continue his studies unless disqualified in some recognisable way. Sea duties are taught aboard one of the several tenders attached to Etajima. The daily programme is:—


5.30 A.M. Rise, sweep room, make bed, arrange clothes, wash and dress.
6.10 Inspection by officer on duty.
6.30 Breakfast.
7.45 Second inspection by the captain.
8.0-12.0 noon. Lessons.
12.5-1.0 P.M. Dinner.
2.15-3.30 Special studies—e.g. fencing, wrestling, bayonet drill, rowing, sailing, hygiene, history, law, etc.
3.30- 5.30 Recreation.
5.30 Supper.
6.30-9.30 Preparation.
10 Bed.

Though Etajima is an out-of-the-way spot, and there is nothing on the island but the college and its grounds, there are three training ships and five launches at the disposal of the institution, so that life is not by any means dull or uneventful.

After midshipmen quit the college they continue their work at sea, and the sister ships Matsushima, Itsukushima, and Hashidate, all of which were prominent in the war with China of 1894-5, and are each 4200 tons, are employed for this purpose. At the end of two months from joining the captain examines a sub-lieutenant in ships’ stations, regulations, etc., and subjects are set for essays, for which rewards are given.

From the practical training given at Etajima it is possible to select officers who go to Tokio for further theoretical training at the Naval Academy. There the courses are four in number, the first,—of two years—being intended to equip the lieutenants with a knowledge of strategy—naval and military,—tactics—naval and military,—fortification, torpedoes, shipbuilding, navigation, and the higher education of the general course. The officers are sent out to take part in manœuvres or visit forts and naval stations. The next year is devoted to special studies of gunnery, torpedoes, and navigation, and then the officers pass to a three months’ practical course at the[314] gunnery or torpedo schools. Side by side with these there are the practical courses for officers and men at Yokosuka. In all that she has done Japan has closely followed the example of Britain, and in other branches than that referred to here, which is of course the executive of the navy, the same care is taken that the training shall be of a thorough kind, in faithful adherence to the principles on which the instruction first derived from Admiral Douglas and his staff, in 1873, was based.

In his own country Admiral Togo Heihachi is esteemed above everything for his absolute sincerity and singleness of purpose, his overwhelming sense of duty which prompts him to make complete sacrifice of personal considerations, and his observance of strict courtesy towards all men. His services entitled him to a rest, and he has been given the post of Chief of the Naval Staff. In his farewell address to the officers and men of the Combined Fleet which he had commanded he emphasised the need of incessant training, pointing to the example of the British navy, and concluded thus:—

“Providence will confer honour on those who work hard in the study of their duties, and thus virtually win the victory before fighting, whilst denying honour to those who are satisfied with a temporary success only, and seek personal pleasures in time of peace instead of devoting their leisure to useful research. An ancient adage warns us:

“Katte, kabuto no O wo shimero!”
(If victorious, tighten your helmet-cords!)

In other words, “Never relax your efforts,—on the contrary, be prepared to exert yourselves still more!”



In the making of a nation its commerce must be fostered and facilities given for the legitimate expansion of all branches of trade, since it is in proportion to the prosperity of its industries and resultant wealth that its political influence will in the main be appreciated. Baron Shibusawa’s career has been essentially that of a business man, for although he occupied at one time a prominent position as an official of the Finance Department, and ranked next to Count Inouye, circumstances ordained that his energies should be applied to tasks more or less directly associated with commerce and the financial progress of his country. If it may be said that the Bank of Japan (Nippon Ginko) owes its existence to Count Matsukata, the First National Bank (Dai-ichi Ginko) was established by the efforts of Baron Shibusawa. Eichi Shibusawa was brought up in the metropolitan province of Musashi, having been born in the village of Chi-arai-jima, in the county of Hanzawa, about forty-five miles from the capital, in 1840. The village is one of many in that region whereof the population is occupied partly in sericulture and substantially in agriculture, millions of cocoons being annually produced in the cottages of the husbandmen, and a great variety of crops gathered from the fields, including some indigo. The Shibusawa family was concerned with both these industries, and had been so for generations. Saitama district, indeed, which comprises in great part what was formerly the province of Musashi, was in the days of the Shogunate, like the neighbouring districts to the west and north, devoted to the rearing of the silkworm, and for the reason that good paddy land is scarce thereabouts a large percentage of the inhabitants still regard sericulture as their most[316] profitable occupation. The industry dates in Japan from the fourth year of the Emperor Chuai’s reign, corresponding to A.D. 195, when a Chinese prince named Koman went over to Japan and was naturalised there, at the same time introducing the Chinese species of silkworm, which from that period was largely cultivated in the Japanese empire. In 283 A.D., while the Emperor Ojin sat on the throne (he was deified as Hachiman, the god of war) a number of Chinamen settled in Japan and taught silk-weaving, the Court itself taking great pains to encourage the industry, by causing mulberry-trees to be planted, and rearing the worms. The taxes were then paid to some degree in silk fabrics. At a later date silk raising and weaving had grown to be the principal productive industry of the country, and was almost universal, though some regions were especially famous for the quality of the output, among them that which is to-day known as Saitama Ken. During the “age of wars” which lasted from the middle of the tenth century to the beginning of the seventeenth, the work could only be carried on in secluded and out-of-the-way places comparatively free from the ravages of fire and sword.


Under the Tokugawa regime the prosperity of sericulture revived, for the feudal chiefs were anxious to see their people engaged in settled occupations, and recognised the value of this industry in particular.

Throughout that region in which Baron Shibusawa spent his boyhood the silkworm is an object of the keenest interest to the people, for everything hinges upon its preservation in a good state of health, and at certain stages of the worm’s existence it is regarded, even at the inns where travellers have to put up for the night when on the road, as a creature whose interests it is necessary to study far more carefully than those of a guest. The “Kaiko-sama” must on no account be disturbed. Shibusawa Eichi received the rudiments of education at his home, and was a close student of history. He read the Chinese classics with a scholar residing in an adjoining village, and helped his father in the manufacture and sale of indigo. By the time he was nineteen years old the cry of Jo-I (Out with[317] the barbarians) which then was being raised in Yedo, little more than a long day’s tramp away from him, had penetrated to the remote village in which he dwelt, and by degrees the whole region grew to be in an uproar. Shibusawa soon betook himself to the capital, to see for himself what it all meant. There he continued his studies under the famous Gyo-son Kai-ho, a classical scholar of repute, and he was a pupil of the no less celebrated fencing master, Chiba Shusaku. From Yedo he travelled to the then seat of learning, Kioto, where he made many friends and finally was received into the Hitotsubashi clan, one of the branches of the Tokugawa family, and from which the last dynasty of Shoguns sprang. The Hitotsubashi branch was that into which the present Prince Tokugawa Keiki, “the last of the Shoguns,” was adopted,—though really a scion of the Mito house—and whose name he bore in the days immediately antecedent to the Restoration of Imperial Rule. The head of the Hitotsubashi house when Shibusawa owned allegiance to it was a very distinguished nobleman, who was instrumental in founding a modernised military system for the Tokugawas and did good service in connection with its finances. Soon afterwards Prince Keiki was called upon to succeed Iyemochi as Shogun at Yedo, and removed thither from Kioto, taking with him Shibusawa Eichi, who became an officer of the Shogunate Government or “Bakufu.” In 1867, the prince Mimbu-taiyu, a younger brother of the Shogun, was sent to France to study Western sciences and institutions, and in his suite was Shibusawa, at that time twenty-seven years of age. The opportunity was one of which he availed himself to the uttermost, and he diligently acquired all the information possible on matters that it had been his main ambition to know more about, passing no inconsiderable portion of his time in England. His stay in Europe lasted until the close of 1868, and he reached home only to find his former chief, the Shogun Tokugawa Keiki, taking up his residence in retirement at Shidzuoka, in Suruga province, 100 miles from the capital. The Restoration had been effected a few months previously.


Shibusawa received the appointment of Chief treasurer of the Shidzuoka household, under the prince Kamenosuké, who had been installed as chief of the clan, and who is now the President of the House of Peers. In this post Shibusawa found ample employment in rearranging the finances of the Tokugawa family, but he presently relinquished it on being made tax controller in the department of Finance under the newly formed Imperial Government at Tokio. In the same service he was next promoted to be Assistant Vice-minister of Finance, and also Chief Inspector of Trade, and in the performance of his duties in these offices he supervised the establishment of several joint-stock enterprises, the first of their kind undertaken in Japan. The members of these companies were merchants of Kioto and Osaka, and their enterprises extended to shipbuilding, land reclamation, etc.; the joint-stock principle thus early in the history of New Japan having begun to find favour. Soon afterwards Shibusawa was appointed Junior Vice-Minister of Finance to Inouye Bunda, as he then was—the present Count Inouye—and in 1873 both resigned in consequence of their views relative to the apportionments to different departments of the public service in the budget estimates not meeting with the support of the Ministry headed by Prince Sanjo Sanetomi. Count Inouye subsequently resumed his place as Vice-Minister of the department but Shibusawa Eichi retired altogether from the Government service, and applied himself to commercial pursuits.

Prior to the Restoration Japan possessed no institutions exactly corresponding to the modern bank. There was what was termed a “rice bank” which advanced rice to the retainers of the Shogun, and this, it is declared, dated back at least as far as the days of Iyemitsu, in 1724. The plan of operations was for certain business houses in Yedo to receive the grain as it came from the domains under the direct control of the Shogunate, and to distribute it among the Shogun’s officers in remuneration for their services. In this way the houses in question were often called on to advance sums on account of the forthcoming crops, the liabilities of the retainers to be met out of the[319] proceeds of the grain when received from the farmers and sold. Needless to say, the normal condition of many of the samurai was one of indebtedness to the “rice banks.” When, in 1870, the present Marquis Ito was authorised to proceed to the United States to investigate financial affairs in America, especially with respect to the public debt, banking, and the monetary standard, he aroused extraordinary interest by his report on the National Bank Act of the United States, a copy of which he sent to Tokio for perusal. The need of some such system was much felt in the then existing crisis in monetary matters, and though the proposal made at that time could not be adopted in its entirety, the financiers were led to consider the advisability of setting up a bank on those lines in the near future. The reception of the idea was quickened by the cumbersome method in vogue of paying taxes in rice, a plan which not only caused delay, but resulted in loss owing to difficulties attendant on the transport of large quantities of grain from places at a distance. The question arose, should the tax be still paid in rice or in legal currency according to the market price of the commodity? If it were allowable to pay in money, then there ought to be some institution at which rice could be exchanged for ready cash. The necessities of the hour pointed to a bank as the medium which must forthwith be established.

But there was another thing that made the notion additionally attractive, and this was the position of the country’s finances in respect of the inconvertible paper currency termed “Da-Jo-Kwan Satsu”—notes issued by the Government, which were depreciated, though not to any great extent so far, and it was deemed unwise to keep them floating so long as thirteen years, the period assigned for their redemption. It had been ascertained that the United States had established a National Bank to facilitate the management of the inconvertible notes issued at the time of the Civil War, known as “Greenbacks,” and the similarity of the situation at the moment in Japan to that of America in 1860 struck everyone.

Messrs Inouye and Shibusawa, then together in the Finance Department at Tokio, cordially agreed with the[320] proposals of Ito Hirobumi, as conveyed in his reports from America, and began to take the needful steps for establishing a National Bank of Japan on a small scale. Mr Shibusawa was made Chairman of a Committee of Investigation into the system of national banks, and after careful study the Committee framed regulations which were put into force by the Government under the National Bank Act in November 1872.

The Dai-Ichi Ginko, lit.: No. 1 Bank, prospectus appeared in December 1872, the proposers—two of them members of the renowned house of Mitsui, two of the firm of Ono, and Minomura Rizayemon, five well-known men, subscribed 2,000,000 yen, and offered 1,000,000 yen for public subscription. It illustrates the change which has come over Japan in more recent years that, notwithstanding every effort, in 1873, when the list closed, only 4408 shares had been taken in the new venture, and the capital of the bank was reduced to 2,440,800 yen, equal at present rates to about £250,000 sterling. The public had not sufficient understanding of the corporation system to be able to appreciate the new enterprise. A few years later the joint-stock concerns were numbered by the hundred. The Dai-ichi Gin-ko began business on the 20th July 1873, in the picturesque block at Nihonbashi, in Tokio, which had belonged to the Mitsui Company, and had been bought from them for 128,500 yen, and it continued thenceforward to transact a general banking business, and to act as accountant of the Finance Department, for at that time every department of the Government had its own accountant and kept its own independent set of accounts.

Mr Shibusawa,—as he was then,—on resigning his post of Junior Vice-Minister of Finance, was elected General Superintendent of the Dai-ichi Gin-ko, and discharged the duties of president.

Speaking some time ago of those early days of banking in Japan, the Baron explained that “It was the 1st day of August 1873 when the First National Bank received the certificate of authorisation. From that time we issued the new bank-notes for circulation, little by[321] little, but there were none who came to make demands for the redemption thereof. It was our idea to have them circulated in the country districts rather than in the cities and open ports. The people of the country districts, although they were very unfavourably impressed by the old Government paper, were now better disposed to circulate the notes issued by a bank under strict Government inspection, and the general public began to put more confidence in these notes than in those which had been issued before. But we were very careful not to put too many of them into circulation, because we were well aware of the possibility of fluctuation in the price of gold and silver that would seriously affect the value. So, at first we kept back a large quantity of the paper in our vaults....” And thus by prudent management the First National Bank passed its first year with a record of 112,000 yen net profit, out of which 11,000 yen were carried at once to a reserve fund.

At the end of 1874 the bank received a severe blow by the failure of the Ono firm, which had been one of the largest shareholders, and owed the bank a considerable sum. At a general meeting it was resolved that the Ono house’s obligation would be met by the shares of 1,000,000 yen which it owned, and consequently the capital was reduced by that amount. Mr Shibusawa was elected first president of the bank, and as the Government had been a little alarmed by the Ono affair, and was determined thenceforward to establish an accountant bureau in each department of State under its own charge, the First National Bank had to hand over all Government moneys left in its control, and seek to extend its business solely among the people. It was believed that no fears need be entertained of the result, and it has, as a matter of fact, done well. In recent years it has been the chief financial organ of the Japan-Korea trade, and has floated loans for the Imperial Household and Government of Korea with complete satisfaction. The Dai-ichi Ginko notes are the recognised medium of circulation in Korea still and are facilitating the commerce of that country.

It was in May 1900 that a peerage was conferred on[322] Baron Shibusawa, and it was the first instance in which such a mark of imperial favour had ever been extended to a business man in Japan, the rank being in his case accorded in recognition of his past services to the State. It was on his initiative, supported by Marquis Ito and Count Okuma, that the Tokio Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1878, with himself as its president, an honour which he still enjoys. He has played a distinguished part in connection with the municipal affairs of Tokio, and was mainly instrumental in establishing an Asylum for the Poor. When at a later date the Tokio municipality abolished this useful institution, he took upon himself the work of raising a fund for an asylum to exist purely as a private establishment, and to be maintained wholly independently of official aid. In the end it was taken over by the municipality, with Baron Shibusawa as its president, and he continues to be the head of the institution, which is the largest and best equipped of its kind in the land.

Before he quitted the Government service in 1873 he had taken the first steps to establish a mail steamship service to China and Korea, and around the Japanese coasts. The Company formed to undertake this work was afterwards amalgamated with the Mitsu-Bishi (Three diamonds) Shipping Company, and subsequently, when another concern was started and a fierce competition arose for the coastwise trade, Baron Shibusawa induced the opponents to make terms with each other and unite in one Company which is now among the great Shipping Organisations of the world, and known as the Nippon Yusen Kaisha, or Japan Mailboat Company. He is still one of its directors, and has helped, moreover, very materially to establish a trans-Pacific line,—the Toyo Kisen Kaisha,—which runs mail steamers from Yokohama to Hong Kong and San Francisco.

In the cotton-spinning industry he is prominent, having founded the Osaka and Miye Spinning Mills, and he has either promoted or started numerous undertakings for the supply of gas or electric light, for silk or cotton weaving, hemp and rope manufacturing, brickworks,[323] cement factories, sugar refining, and many other enterprises for the utilisation of the knowledge which modern science has conferred on his fellow-countrymen. He is deeply concerned with railway extension, not only in Japan but in Korea, he is interested in harbour construction, and reclamation works, in farming, the breeding of horses and cattle, the manufacture of artificial manures, hat-making, and a variety of other ventures that need not be particularised. Altogether, including several banks other than the Bank of Japan of which he is president—e.g. the Yokohama Specie Bank, the Industrial Bank, and the Japan Credit Mobilier—the Baron is connected with upwards of thirty companies in the capacity of either president or director. He founded the Tokio Clearing-House, the Commercial Agency, and other business institutions, and in Korea he has from the outset taken a leading part, the construction of the railway from Fusan to the Capital, and between Seoul and Chemulpo, having been due principally to his efforts. When the railway development of Southern Manchuria is seriously undertaken this line from Fusan to Seoul, and thence to Wiju, is destined to form a link in the long chain of railway communication which will stretch from London to Tokio, with short breaks at the Straits of Dover and the Straits of Korea which divide Fusan from Shimonoseki in South-west Japan. There are incomplete links, notably between the Yalu river and Liao-Yang, but a military line exists, which needs only to be strengthened, so the permanent establishment of that section should present correspondingly fewer difficulties. Ultimately it is to be expected that England will be brought within a fortnight by rail of Japan.

Baron Shibusawa was nominated by the Emperor as a member of the newly formed House of Peers in 1890, when the Imperial Diet was first opened, but he resigned that post a year later, and afterwards occupied the chair of the Higher Council of Agriculture, Commerce, and Industry, and he has served on many commissions appointed by the Sovereign to make investigations on various subjects of importance to the nation.


In the domain of philanthropy Baron Shibusawa’s exertions have tended materially to the establishment and support of schools, orphanages, reformatories, hospitals, and kindred benevolent institutions designed to confer public benefit, on the directorates of which his name is frequently to be found, for he has ever been an active worker in the cause of charity.

In 1902 he again visited England, and was entertained by the London Chamber of Commerce, his speech on that occasion containing the happiest allusions to the growth of commercial relations between Japan and Great Britain. He was able to point with satisfaction to the existence in his own country of no fewer than 2534 banks possessing an aggregate paid-up capital of £35,000,000 sterling. After the Chino-Japan war the number of joint-stock companies rose, as he explained, with phenomenal rapidity, for in 1900 the total number was not less than 6176, and their paid-up Capital amounted to 440,476,000 yen, or over £44,000,000 sterling. The volume of the export and import trade, as he was able to assure his audience, had risen from 50,000,000 yen in 1877 to 138,330,000 in 1890, and 506,160,000 in 1901. Though Japan has since been at war with Russia the volume of her trade for the year 1905 will in all probability show a very appreciable increase over any intervening year, and with the immense commercial activity which she has developed subsequent to the conclusion of peace the figures for the fiscal year ending with March 1907 must inevitably exhibit a degree of progress and an expansion of international trade in which her people may justifiably take the utmost pride.

Speaking as a business man to men of business, Baron Shibusawa proceeded to refer in his speech to the then recently concluded Anglo-Japanese Agreement of 30th January 1902. His remarks may be said to apply with equal force to the extended form of that Agreement entered into on the 12th of August 1905.

“It is true,” he said, “our manners and customs are so different from yours that it would be impossible[325] to make them common to both nations; but, as judging from past experience we are getting ever nearer to and assimilating with each other, and especially as there is no racial or national distinction in economic affairs, I firmly believe that the future development of commerce and industry in our country must be cosmopolitan in its character, that is to say, we should freely invite the co-operation of knowledge, experience, and capital from the most advanced nations of the West, not only for the further development of industry and commerce in Japan, but also for the opening up of the great natural resources of China and Korea. Our country is geographically so near to these countries and has so much of literature and art in common with them that we can understand the manners and desires of their people much better than you do, and your country has the advantage of being rich in capital as well as in the knowledge and experience of modern scientific appliances. There is no reason, it seems to me, why we should not co-operate in the Far East to our mutual advantage, since we have so many interests in common, and especially now that we are so closely knit together by the Anglo-Japanese Agreement of Alliance.

“Just as I was planning to leave Japan on my present tour, the United Chambers of Commerce were holding their General Meeting in Tokio, and they passed a resolution requesting me to convey their unanimous desire to bring the business world of Japan into closer relation with that of Europe and America, and to reach a better understanding of the real business conditions of each other’s countries. Vague as such a resolution must sound, its ultimate aim can be no other than what I have stated,—the co-operation of Japanese and foreign capitalists for the industrial and commercial development of the Far East,—and I trust that if there be anything in our business methods and customs which will obstruct the realisation of this happy union, our people will[326] not spare their utmost efforts to remove it. I sincerely hope that not only will your Chamber take note of this desire on the part of the Japanese business world, but that it will kindly help to convey this desire to all other Chambers of Commerce in your country as well as to the business world at large. It is more than thirty years since I first visited your land, as a petty government official, but I now am here as a business man, and I cannot but admire the wonderful development of industry and commerce which is here exhibited. May the Anglo-Japanese Alliance be the means of realising the richest results in the pacific expansion of commerce and industry in the Far East, and may it thus be a source of inestimable blessing to the nations of the world!”

The wish to which Baron Shibusawa gave utterance in 1902 is one that finds its echo in the hearts of the people of both nations to-day, and one with which this humble effort to spread a knowledge of Japan and her affairs may fittingly conclude.