Kenkyukai (in the House of Peers) (研究会 (貴族院))
Kenkyukai (a study group) was a faction within the House of Peers under the Constitution of the Great Empire of Japan. It was founded on November 4, 1891, originating from Seimukenkyu-kai which was born when the Imperial Diet was established. It remained to be the biggest faction and competed with party powers in the House of Representative until the abolition of the House of Peers following the promulgation of the Constitution of Japan on May 2, 1947.
Prior to the establishment of the Imperial Diet in 1890, members of the House of Peers were elected, among which, members selected from viscounts including Toyoshige YAMAUCHI, Hisayoshi KANO, Masayasu HOTTA formed a group named Seimukenkyukai, which was mainly composed of viscount councilors, to study political affairs and to promote mutual friendship on September 22, 1890, and that was the origin of Kenkyukai. Lter, as the Imperial Diet began, Seimukenkyukai won over small groups and independent members and changed its name to Mokuyokai (on January 9, 1891, the name came from the fact that the meeting was held every Thursday (Mokuyo) at Kasumi Building) and from Mokuyokai to Doshikai (on March 12, 1891), and Kenkyukai was founded with 40 members on November 4, 1891. After the foundation, imperial nominees such as Keigo KIYOURA and Nagamoto OKABE joined the faction and the number of the members reached 70 a year later.
(Some members of Doshikai who opposed when Kenkyukai was formed moved to Konwakai.)
The faction had no specific single representative but adopted council system (nine standing committees were to be appointed according to Kenkyukai regulations in 1916) organized with multiple members called 'Tokumuin' (special committees) or later called 'Jomuin' (standing committees), but later, Keigo KIYOURA, a aide to Aritomo YAMAGATA, gradually became influential as a leader of Kenkyukai. Kiyoura belonged to Kenkyukai as a member of the House of Peers and made efforts to develop the faction as a stronghold to compete with political parties until 1906 when he became a Privy Councillor.
At that time, the main force of Kenkyukai, count, viscount and baron members were all elected from among themselves and their tenure of office was seven years.(The election law for Count, Viscount and Baron members of the House of Peers (Article 78 in 1889))
Led by KIYOURA who used to be a bureaucrat of the Internal Ministry and Justice Ministry and therefore was versed to the assembly law, Kenkyukai formed a non-Diet group called 'Shoyukai' in 1892 to organize the election campaign embroiling peers from outside the Diet. The alloted number of seats for viscount councillors was 70 then, but Kenkyukai won 45 seats in the first election in 1897, and in 1911, they won another 66 seats and the total number of their seats topped 100, which overwhelmed the other factions and made them secure the position as the biggest faction.
Kenkyukai adopted a policy of denying party politics, supporting the nonparty doctrine advocated by YAMAGATA and KIYOURA. At the time of the first OKUMA Cabinet based on Kensei-to Party and the fourth ITO Cabinet based on Rikkenseiyu-kai Party, they played a leading role in the movement to overthrowthe cabinets by denying bills submitted by the governments. However, Kenkyukai faced problems one after another: the leadership struggle with Sawakai led by Tosuke HIRATA, another aide to YAMAGATA; withdrawal from the faction by the group led by Takatomi SENGE (in 1898) because of the opposition to the policy of absolute adhesion to the faction decision called 'Ketsugi kosoku shugi' under which all members had to follow the faction decision and were not allowed to support bills proposed by non-kenkyukai members without resolution by the faction, and those who broke the rules were expelled from the faction; and the stifle over the expulsion of a founding member, Masayasu Hotta after his entry into the first SAIONJI Cabinet (Seiyu-kai Party) followed by the withdrawal from the faction by members who opposed to the expulsion (in 1909).
After the resignation of the first YAMAMOTO Cabinet en mass, KIYOURA was given an imperial command to form a cabinet, but he was forced to decline it (Menko Cabinet).
Kenkyukai held grudge against it and broke away from Sawakai, saying that Sawakai's noncooperation prevented KIYOURA from becoming a prime minister (but it is considered to be a false accusation because there were no facts that supported the case.)
Later, young members such as Mitsunobu AOKI (viscount) and Naoshi MIZUNO reviewed existing policies and brought up a plan called 'Dai Kenkyukai' (Great Kenkyukai) aiming at further expansion of the faction through cooperation with Seiyu-kai Party, coalition with other factions and inviting hereditary, nominated and large-tax-paying members to join the faction. Taking the situation into consideration, Takashi HARA, the president of Seiyu-kai Party, established his own cabinet and appointed members of Kenkyukai to cabinet positions and important posts. Kenkyukai, on the other hand, merged Koin Club, to which many count members belonged, to control most count members in 1919, and in 1922, received count Fumimaro KONOE, who was regarded as a future leader in the House of Peers (and became a prime minister later), as a member and appointed as the leader of the standing committee, and kept expanding powers. As a result, Kenkyukai always occupied more than 140 seats (maximum 174 at the end of 1923) in the House of Peers whose full number was about 400 (that changed over time). This was a surprising number in the House of Peers because large increasing in the number of seats through election was unlikely due to the presence of duke and marquis members whose positions were secured for life by heredity and members directly nominated by the Emperor. After HARA Cabinet, Kenkyukai sent its members into the Cabinet without concerning whether it was a party cabinet or a non-party one. However, such an attitude was seen as 'power oriented' by other groups, and Sawakai, Doseikai and Koseikai, which were dissatisfied with the expansion of Kenkyukai, cooperated to counter it.
In 1924, with the record number of 174 seats occupied by members of Kenkyukai, KIYOURA Cabinet led by Keigo KIYOURA was born. Members of the House of Peers occupied all the cabinet posts except Ministry of Foreign affairs, Ministry of Army, and Ministry of Navy.
From the fact that Kenkyukai sent three members into the cabinet while the other groups sent one each, it was virtually 'the Kenkyukai Cabinet.'
In response, political parties such as Seiyu-kai, ordinary people and Doseikai (one of saiwai-sanpa) which refused to send its member to the cabinet, and even Sawakai and Koseikai which sent their members to the cabinet started to condemn KIYOURA Cabinet and Kenkyukai. In spite of the movement, when the KIYOURA Cabinet collapsed after five months of administration, Kenkyukai approached three advocates of protection of the Constitution, and received the offer to the post of parliamentary vice-minister in exchange for the passing of the bill establishing universal suffrage.
Responding to it, Fumimaro KONOE described Kenkyukai as 'eternally-official party in the House of Peers.'
But on the other hand, people began to call for reform in the House of Peers and some Kenkyukai members made a move to go along with it. This was called Kakusei undo (a clean-up campaign). The mainstream group in the Kenkyukai relaxed regulations of the group in 1927 to admit special cases to which Ketsugi kosoku shugi was not applied, but refused radical reform. Therefore, the intra-group supporting the clean-up campaign seceded from the group twice in 1924 and 1927. Especially since the latter one was led by Fumimaro KONOE, Kenkyukai suffered a great loss of prestige (in the connection, later, members of Kenkyukai were excluded from the three KONOE Cabinets.
Kenkyukai remained to be the biggest parliamentary faction, but without capable political leaders, it lost political influence. Still, they sent their members into many successive cabinets as a representative force in the House of Peers. Kenkyukai played an important role in the formation of Yokusanseijikai in 1942 (unlike political parties in the House of Representative, factions in the House of Peers were not asked to dissolve), and due to the contribution, Kenkyukai sent its members into all the cabinets after TOJO Cabinet till the abolition of the House of Peers. However, that worked against the group, and after the defeat in the Pacific War, 76 members were purged from public service.
Later, it recovered the number of seats due to the new participation by supplementary councilors, but was dissolved on May 2, 1947 as the abolition of the House of Peers due to promulgation of the Constitution of Japan (Shoyukai was dissolved on May 27)
At the time of dissolution, Kenkyukai occupied 142 seats out of 373 quota (roughly a little less than 40%).