Iwakura Mission (岩倉使節団)

Iwakura Mission was a delegation which was dispatched to the United States of America and European countries from Japan between December 23, 1871 and September 13, 1873. It consisted of a total 107 people including the highest ranks of government and students with Tomomi IWAKURA as seishi (senior envoy).


They left Yokohama Port by ship in 1871, landing on San Francisco. They visited the European countries after crossing the continent of the United States of America and visiting Washington, D.C. They visited as many as 12 countries in Europe which were Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Russia, Denmark, Sweden, Austria, Italy and Switzerland. They also visited Asian countries on their way back, however, they didn't stay in these countries longer than in European countries. They returned to Japan in 1873, 2 years after their departure. While they were away, Japanese government without them called Rusu-seifu (government while heads of government are away) had a debate over Japan's dispatching of troops to Korea, Seikanron, which led to political changes in 1873 after the delegation returned.

Originally,a small delegation was to be dispatched,based on the idea of Shigenobu OKUMA, however, it was changed to be a big one due to political agendas. Although it was unusual for senior government members to leave the government and travel abroad for a long period of time, they are believed to have done so on the basis that it would enable them to directly experience Western civilization and thought, which had a great impact on them. The returned students contributed greatly to Japan's civilization and enlightenment serving in various fields such as politics, economics, education and culture.
On the other hand, they caused political problems such as a conflict with Rusu-seifu due to their attempt to negotiate for treaty revision which was beyond their authority, long delay of their return from overseas and a quarrel between Kido and Okubo, which became the subject of the kyoka (comic [satirical] tanka) that went like this, 'Failed in signing a treaty, threw out money, how can you explain to the world.'

Most members of the delegation had danpatsu (brobbed hair) and dressed in Western style, however, Iwakura wore the topknot and dressed in wafuku (Japanese traditional clothes) when he crossed the sea. There was an illustration of his such appearance in the newspaper of America. He did it because he was proud of Japanese culture, however, he cut off the topknot in Chicago after his son Tomosada IWAKURA, who were studying in America, and others persuaded him that Japan would be insulted as an uncivilized country. He changed to western style after that.


To visit the countries that had a treaty with Japan, and submit the official letters to the heads of these countries. To have preliminary negotiations to revise the unequal treaty (treaty revision) which had been signed between foreign countries and Japan in the late Edo period. To investigate western civilization.

dispatching delegate

It consisted of 46 envoys,18 accompanying personnels, 43 overseas students. Envoys were chosen among people from Saccho (Satsuma Domain and Choshu Domain) and secretaries were among former retainer of shogun.

Tomomi IWAKURA:Tokumei-zenken-taishi (extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador).
Takayoshi KIDO (Kogoro KATSURA):vice-envoy
Toshimichi OKUBO:vice-envoy
Hirobumi ITO: vice-envoy
Naoyoshi YAMAGUCHI:vice-envoy
Taichi TANABE:the first secretary
Genichiro FUKUCHI:the first secretary
Taro ANDO:the fourth secretary
Masatsne IKEDA:the fourth secretary
Kunitake KUME:attache
Nobuyoshi NAKAYAMA:attache
Tadakatsu UTSUMI:attache
Yasushi NOMURA:attache
Yasunaka ITSUTSUJI:attache
Mitsuaki TANAKA:resident
Michitomi HIGASHIKUZE:resident
Akiyoshi YAMADA:resident
Takayuki SASAKI:resident
Fujimaro TANAKA:resident
Hamagoro HIDA:resident
Shimpachi MURATA:attendant
Ichido HARADA:attendant
Chomin NAKAE: student studying in England
Naohiro NABESHIMA: student studying in England
Toshitsugu MAEDA: student studying in England
Mototoshi MORI: student studying in England
Toshiatsu MAEDA: student studying in England and France
Kentaro KANEKO: student studying in America
Takuma DAN: student studying in America
Nobuaki MAKINO: student studying in America
Nagatomo KURODA: student studying in America
Tadabumi TORI: student studying in America
Umeko TSUDA: student studying in America
Sutematsu YAMAKAWA: student studying in America
Shigeko NAGAI: student studying in America
Chokichi KIKKAWA: student studying in America
Takamasa KIDO: student studying in America
Tosuke HIRATA: student studying in Germany
Sensai NAGAYO: student studying in Germany and the Netherlands
Sumihiro OMURA: student studying abroad
Jinjiro TOMONAGA: student studying abroad
Jizaburo NAGAOKA: student studying abroad
Joe NIIJIMA:interpreter
And others

[Original Japanese]