Kaiho Rei (Emancipation Edict) (解放令)

Kaiho Rei (Emancipation Edict) is the edict of Dajokan (The Grand Council of State) that mainly announced the abolition of the social status system like Eta (a status of group who were the lowest rank of Japan's Edo-period caste system and usually involved in handling human bodies or animal carcasses) and Hinin (a status of group who were the lowest rank of Japan's Edo-period caste system and often ex-convicts or vagrants) made by the Meiji Government on October 12, 1871. In the catalogue of a complete works book of laws published by the Government whose formal title is not known, it is stated that "names of Eta and Hinin are to be abolished and their status and trades are to be the same as Heimin (commoner)". Therefore the edict is called in various names among researchers, some calling it "edict of emancipation of the class system" or "edict of emancipation of lower class people" and other calling it without the word "emancipation" "edict of abolition of names of lower class people ", "edict of abolition of status names", or "edict of abolition".

Background and progress of Kaiho Rei

The first proposal was the draft on the family register made by Eiichi SHIBUSAWA who was in charge of revision at Minbusho (Ministry of Popular Affairs) in December, 1869 for Shigenobu OKUMA who was Okura no taifu (a senior assistant minister of the Ministry of Treasury), when the both Ministries were unified in effect (according to "OKUMA monjo (written material)," present Institute of social science of Waseda University). It so happened because most of those in charge of revision took service with Meiji Government through being goshi (country samurais) or farmers like SHIBUSAWA and Hisoka MAEJIMA and they were of the stratum who were aware of the necessity of the establishment of human rights and the equality of all people early. And their less variety of social status was functional with regard to office work matter of fact. But this proposal was unsatisfactory mainly because it left old Eta and Hinin at the final end of the status of Heimin.
Following this proposal as it almost was, "Koseki hensei rei moku (family register formation illustration list)" was presented officially by Okurasho (Ministry of Treasury) for Dajokan in March of the next year (1870), but it did not materialized because chihokan (local officials) led by Takato OKI, the Governor of Tokyo Prefecture, who opposed for Okura-Minbusho (commonly called due to the fact that Okurasho and Minbusho were virtually unified) to deal with the family register

Ironically in July, Takato OKI who was the Governor of Tokyo prefecture was inaugurated as Minbu no taifu (a senior assistant minister of the Ministry of Popular Affairs) of Minbusho that was in effect unified with Okurasho because the heads of Okurasho doubled as the corresponding posts of Minbusho, succeeding OKUMA, together with Tomozane YOSHII and Masayoshi MATSUKATA (who was Taijo, Senior Secretary) also assuming office, as a result of the political strife caused by the confrontation between Toshimitsu OKUBO against Takayoshi KIDO and Shigenobu OKUMA. Responding to this, Jo SUGIURA who was a former retainer of shogun and in charge of revision at Minbusho modified "Koseki hensei rei moku" and made a proposal in which he placed the equality of all people to the front, but OKI, accepting Taku OE's suggestion, reached the conclusion that, although he agreed to the keynote of emancipation of Eta and Hinin, the emancipation had to be progressed gradually along with service of life bettering and was not to be connected with the family register formation this time, hence the Family Registration Law was enacted on April 4, 1871 putting off the issue of Eta and Hinin. However, the personnel of taifu and shofu was taken back everything because of the internal trouble again afterwards, Minbusho (Ministry of Popular Affairs) was reintegrated to Okurasho (Ministry of the Treasury) in exchange for the inauguration of OKUBO to Okura-kyo (Minister of the Treasury).

However, now that the land-tax reform rose up in order to levy land tax on all the non taxed land, there occurred the necessity legitimate reason to levy land tax on land owned by Eta and Hinin that had been treated non taxed as untouchable land as a matter of course, and Kaiho Rei (Emancipation Edict) was singled out as a suitable excuse for that reason. Further, backing up Kaiho Rei by Western countries served as a tail wind as well. Most of Western countries had abolished the social class system and advocated equality of status. Therefore Western countries all together demanded Meiji Government to approve Christianity and abolish the class system of lowly people. And Kaiho Rei was proclaimed on August 28, 1871.

This did not emancipate Buraku problem (issue of discrimination against certain hamlets) from discrimination, in reverse the living standard of those Buraku (hamlets) declined because Buraku people lost the exclusive rights of non tax treatment of their demesne and acquisition of carcasses that they had enjoyed since Edo period and the service of life bettering was not carried out which was planned by OKI. Although the Family Registration Law was modified along with Kaiho Rei too, that led up to the issue of notation of "sinheimin (new commoner)" in Jinshinkoseki (the family register drew up in 1872, the year of Jinshin, Mizunoesaru, according to the twelve zodiac signs in Chinese astrology) made up the next year, together with confusion of office work and delayed reform of consciousness. That is to say that both of the opinion of early emancipation based on human rights contention pursuing "shimin byodo (equality of all people)" by SHIBUSAWA and SUGIURA and the opinion of gradual emancipation after a correction of a gap through "bettering of life " by OKI and OE were completely disregarded. Kaiho Rei for Meiji Government at that time was not abolition of the class system based on the philosophy of "shimin byodo" but only a formal abolition of the class system enacted just to proceed "chiso choshu (collection of land tax)". In fact, Meiji Government did not carry out any substantial emancipation policy after Kaiho Rei at all. From the beginning, there were many opinions expressed from the inside of the Meiji Government that the proclamation of Kaiho Rei could be action to directly connect with negation of Emperor system and would conflict with Emperor system, and thus, Buraku emancipation policy, of course, and presence of Kaiho Rei also were intolerable matters for Meiji Government.

[Original Japanese]