G The Rokumei-kan Pavilion (the Deer Cry Pavilion, a palace of social interaction built by the Meiji (鹿鳴館)
Rokumei-kan Pavilion is a place of social interaction built by the Meiji Government in order to receive diplomats and international guests of honor. It is also an existence that represents the rapid westernization of the time. In addition, a foreign policy centering on the Rokumei-kan Pavilion is called 'Rokumeikan Gaiko' (the Rokumei-kan Pavilion Diplomacy).
It is the Gaimu-kyo (called the Minister of Foreign Affairs after the introduction of the cabinet system [in Japan]), Kaoru INOUE, who promoted the plan. The topic of the Japanese foreign policy of the time concerned negotiations to revise unequal treaties, especially to remove the extraterritorial rights of foreigners. However, many of those living in Japan had actually witnessed crucifixion and decapitation, which had been practiced until a few years ago. Foreign governments were apprehensive of a possible punishment of their citizens. And they were vehemently opposed to the abolition of the extraterritorial rights. Thus, Inoue considered it necessary to show it to foreigners that Japan was a civilized country.
Until then, there was no building that was built as a guest house for VIPS from abroad. In 1870, the government was borrowing the Enryo-kan Mansion of the Hama-rikyu Imperial Villa that was repaired in haste, the Hachisuka-tei Residence in Mita, and so on. It was decided to build the Rokumei-kan Pavilion in the once Shozoku-yashiki Premises of the former Satsuma clan in Uchiyamashita Town (where there is Yamato Life Insurance Building next to the present Imperial Hotel in current Uchisaiwai Town, Chiyoda Ward). And the construction began in 1880. The scale was modified (or enlarged) halfway. The construction was finished three years later in July 1883. An employed foreigner, Josiah Conder, designed the Rokumei-kan Pavilion. And Doboku Yotatsugumi (a civil engineering company established by the joint investment of Kihachiro OKURA and Toshinao HORIKAWA) took charge of the construction.
(Taisei Corporation has its root in the construction department of Okuragumi Shokai founded by Kihachiro OKURA.)
It was built of brick. And it had two-storey. It had a dining hall, a common room, a library, and so on, on the first floor and a dancing room on the second floor. And it had a space as big as 100 tsubo (a unit of floor space that is about 330 square meters) when the doors of the three rooms were opened. It was also equipped with a bar and billiards.
The Period of the Rokumei-kan Pavilion
A banquet was held in celebration of the completion of the construction work with 1200 invitees on November 28, 1883. Hiroshi NAKAI (Oshu) named the building Rokumei (a Deer Cry) citing a verse, 'Rokumei no Uta' (the Deer Cry Verse), in Shi Jing (the Book of Songs). The day of the feast was the birthday of Kaoru INOUE.
The Rokumei-kan Pavilion began to be used, not only to receive international guests of honor, but also to convene many domestic events including a celebration of Tencho Setsu (a day to pray for the emperor's long life on November 3, which was also the birthday of the Emperor Meiji). These evening parties, balls, and women's charity galas attracted public attention.
On the other hand, nationalists attacking the Europeanization policy criticized these events as being 'decadent functions leading to competition for lust and luxury and to indulgence in pleasure.'
At the time, Japanese people did not understand the rules and manners of the balls very well. And they clearly acted out of line, drinking the water of a finger bowl thinking it was drinking water, looking shabby in wrinkled clothes, tightening corsets to an extreme, and so on. Thus, the diplomats of Western countries were scoffing at the balls that were being held night after night describing them as 'ludicrous' and so on in their letters, diaries, and so forth, while they outwardly enjoyed the events. Inoue's Rokumeikan Gaiko increasingly came under intense pressure from the public. And it faced a fierce opposition when the proposals for revising treaties (for example, the appointment of foreign judges) became public. Inoue lost face and resigned his position as the Minister of Foreign Affairs on September, 1887.
However, an evening party was still held in the Rokumei-kan Pavilion on Tencho Settsu, even after his resignation, during the period between 1888 and 1890 and in 1893.
Masquerades in the Prime Minister's Official Residence
One of the most famous events of Inoue's Diplomacy, a masquerade (a fancy ball) of April 20, 1887, was not held in the Rokumei-kan Pavilion but in his official residence.
(It is generally believed that it was held under the auspices of Prime Minister Hirobumi ITO and his wife.)
(However, it was actually sponsored by the British envoy and his wife.)
(And it is said that Prime Minister Ito rented his official residence out of goodwill.)
No sooner was this masquerade held than the nationalists reviled it as 'a sign of the ruin of the country.'
Kaishu KATSU deepened his feelings of patriotism. And he submitted a petition citing 21 abuses of the times to the Government.
In 1890 the Rokumei-kan Pavilion was sold to the Imperial Household Ministry. A part of it was used by the Kazoku-kaikan Assembly Hall (commonly known as the Peer's Club). It was struck by the Meiji Tokyo Earthquake on June 20, 1894. After restoration, the land and building were sold to the Kasumi-kaikan Assembly Hall.
The building that used to be the Rokumei-kan Pavilion was preserved, even after it was sold to Chohei Seimei Hoken (Conscription Life Insurance, or the present Yamato Life Insurance Co. Ltd.) in 1927. However, it was destroyed in 1940. Incidentally, the so-called 'Kuro-mon Gate' that was in the once Shozoku-yashiki Premises of the former Satsuma clan and that was used as the main gate of the Rokumei-kan Pavilion was designated as a former national treasure. However, it was destroyed by an air strike in 1945.
The Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shinbun (Tokyo Daily News) published a report on March 9, 1940 as follows.
It is said that Japan Conscription Insurance Company decided to destroy the building because it was a waste and bad economy to let a lot, which was large relative to the building, sit idle in the period, in which there is a dearth of buildings and a sho (a unit of volume that is equivalent to approximately 1.8 liters) of soil is worth a sho of gold.'
It decided informally to build a temporary shack in the site after the building is destroyed and rent it as a branch office of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.'
And it began the construction a few days ago.'
The staircase and wallpaper removed at the time are preserved in the Department of Architecture of the School of Engineering of the University of Tokyo. The chandelier sold then is also kept in the Tomyo-ji Temple in Edogawa Ward.
An architect, Yoshiro TANIGUCHI, wrote an article on the disappearance of the Rokumei-kan Pavilion with a title, 'Lamentation of Meiji,' for the Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shinbun in November 8.
Could not people born in Meiji period gather their belongings to create a small museum?'
It would indeed have been a good memento of Meiji.'
I believe it would have been a truly excellent gift for the future generations from the people of the Meiji period.'
If the new establishment is fired with progressive consciousness, I wish it to be extremely conservative, on the contrary, with regard to the old cultural assets.'
Taniguchi was later instrumental in establishing the Museum Meiji-mura Village. And he became the first director of the museum.
In 1884, 'Tokyo Club' which was based on a membership system was created in the Rokumei-kan Pavilion to foster a harmonious association with foreigners. Only English was used there. And the use of any other languages including, of course, Japanese was prohibited.
Another building, which was also designed by Conder (like the Rokumei-kan Pavilion), was built after its abolition. And Tokyo Club was moved there. Today, the Tokyo Club Building sits next to the Kasumigaseki Building.