Kogosho Conference (the meeting held in the presence of the Emperor in the Kogosho Conference Room o (小御所会議)

Kogosho Conference is a meeting on national politics held at Kyoto Palace in Kyoto on January 3, 1868 in the end of Edo Period. It was the first meeting to be held by the three offices (president, legislature, councilor) whose posts were newly-established by the Restoration of Imperial Rule announced on that day. Together with the Decree for the Restoration of Imperial Rule, it is also called 'Coup of the Restoration of Imperial Rule' because the meeting accepted the resignation of Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA, whose power had already been transferred back to the Emperor, as a government official (Minister of the Center) as well as reduced-stipend of Tokugawa Family, thus the resolution of the conference was made in accordance with the plot to overthrow the Tokugawa Shogunate. Meanwhile, it also had an aspect as a goal of controversy over the parliamentary regime promoted by major domains, which had repeatedly emerged and broken down by then.

This section also provides the situation before and after the Kogosho Conference.

Political situation after the Taisei Hokan (transfer of power back to the Emperor)

Learning from the failure of Shiko-kaigi (four major lords' meeting) in May, Toshimichi OKUBO, Kiyokado KOMATSU and Takamori SAIGO from Satsuma Domain gave up the traditional parliamentary regime policy and shifted their policy to overthrowing the Shogunate by military power. Toshimichi OKUBO and others, in cooperation with Tomomi IWAKURA, a court noble who was under house arrest, was beginning to work on the Imperial court to obtain secret Imperial command for overthrowing the Shogunate. Amid the intensifying military tension, Shojiro GOTO in Tosa Domain, who received advice from Ryoma SAKAMOTO (Senchu hassaku [the basic outline of the new regime drawn up by Ryoma Sakamoto]), proposed Taisei Hokan theory which would avoid armed clash to Yodo YAMAUCHI, the former lord of domain. Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA, a shogun who wished to continue to hold his political clout, accepted this theory and convened feudal retainers of local domains living in Kyoto to Nijo-jo Castle on October 13 to consult Taisei Hokan (which was reported to the Emperor next day). The Taisei Hokan took place when the secret Imperial command to attack the shogunate was just about to be given to Satsuma Domain on the same day (it was supposed to reach Choshu Domain the next day), forestalling tobakuha (anti-Bakufu, crushing-the-Bakufu faction).

Nobuyoshi had an ulterior motive that, even after he returned the administration to the Imperial court, he should be able to exercise his political clout as the chairman or as a powerful councilor of the lords conference which was to be organized later, because the Emperor Meiji was too young (in his 16th year) to have the ability to hold the reins of government, so was the Imperial court. Certainly, the power of tobakuha was still weak, so the Imperial court commanded to cancel the secret Imperial command to attack the shogunate on October 21 and issued the notification to recognize that the diplomatic right still belonged to the shogunate on 23. Against such backdrop, Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA submitted his letter of resignation as shogunate on October 24, obviously anticipating to be refused and was, in fact, put on hold by the Imperial court.

Tobakuha issued the order of Imperial court to domains to come up to the capital, Kyoto, but few responded as most of them remained watching the drastically changing political situation. While 3,000 Satsuma troops led by Tadayoshi SHIMAZU (lord of Satsuma domain) went up to Kyoto in December 8, other domains were slow to follow (Choshu Domain of the same tobakuha group was not allowed to enter Kyoto since it had been regarded as the Emperor's enemy after the Kinmon Incident).

Decree for the Restoration of Imperial Rule

Refer to Restoration of Imperial Rule for details.

To break the above-mentioned deadlock, Toshimichi OKUBO and Tomomi IWAKURA secretly plotted a coup. In the Court Council held from the evening of till late in the night of January 2, 1868, it was decided that Takachika MORI (lord of the Choshu clan) and Motonori MORI (Takachika's heir) were allowed to restore their official rank and to enter Kyoto, and the five court nobles, including Sanetomi SANJO who had been expelled since the Coup of August 18, obtained absolution, and also court nobles, including Tomomi IWAKURA who had been under house arrest, were freed from punishment. Before the dawn of the next day, the court nobles left the court and the armies of five domains, such as Satsuma Domain, Geishu Domain and Owari Domain, who had been on standby, guarded the nine gates of the Imperial Palace to prohibit Nariyuki NIJO and other government officials from entering the Imperial Palace, then the Decree for the Restoration of Imperial Rule was announced at the Emperor's study room inside the Imperial Palace under the presence of the Emperor Meiji. It declared the launch of a new administration and the direct rule by the Emperor, and accounted the abolition of Sessho (regent), Kanpaku (chief adviser to the Emperor) and Seitaishogun (commander-in-chief of the expeditionary force against the barbarians, great, unifying leader) and instead, the creation of three offices; president, legislature, and councilor. This led to the deprivation of voices from Sessho Nijo, Imperial Prince Kuninomiya Asahiko and other pro-bakufu court nobles.

Following the Decree, newly-appointed three offices were called to Kogosho Palace to hold Kogosho Conference from around 18:00 on that day.

Constituent Members of Kogosho Conference

Emperor Meiji
Imperial Prince Arisugawanomiya Taruhito (Imperial family)
Imperial Prince Komatsunomiya Akihito (Imperial family)
Imperial Prince Yamashinanomiya Akira (Imperial family)
Tadayasu NAKAYAMA (court noble)
Sanenaru Ogimachi-SANJO (court noble)
Tsuneyuki NAKAMIKADO (court noble)
Yoshikatsu TOKUGAWA (former lord of Owari Domain)
Shungaku MATSUDAIRA (former lord of Echizen Domain)
Nagakoto ASANO (heir of Geishu Domain)
Yodo YAMAUCHI (former lord of Tosa Domain)
Tadayoshi SHIMAZU (lord of Satsuma Domain)
Court noble
Shigetomi OHARA, Hirofusa MADENOKOJI, Nobuatsu NAGATANI, Tomomi IWAKURA, Saneyana HASHIMOTO
Feudal retainer of Owari Domain
Masaru NIWA, Fujimaro TANAKA
Feudal retainer of Echizen Domain
Yukie NAKANE, Junojo SAKAI
Feudal retainer of Geishu Domain
Igaku TSUJI, Yoshiro SAKURAI
Feudal retainer of Tosa Domain
Shojiro GOTO, Kunikiyo KOYAMA
Feudal retainer of Satsuma Domain
Michihira IWASHITA, Takamori SAIGO, Toshimichi OKUBO
These participants were assigned to the three offices (president, legislature, councilor) after the Restoration of Imperial Rule
But the appointment of most of the feudal retainers for the domains came later (January 4-6, 1868); for example, Yoshitomo OZAKI from Owari, Shikanosuke MENJU from Echizen, Heiji KUBOTA from Geishu, and Takachika FUKUOKA from Tosa, who were not present at the Kogosho Conference, were later appointed councilors.

Okubo and Saigo plotted the disempowerment of the Tokugawa Family at the occasion of the Decree for the Restoration of Imperial Rule by demanding Yoshinobu to jikan (resign the government post as the Minister of the Center) and nochi (return the Tokugawa land to the Emperor) by issuance of an Imperial order, but faced protest from Yodo YAMAUCHI and Shungaku MATSUDAIRA, both legislature, so the consideration was suspended until Kogosho Conference.

Development of Kogosho Conference

After the meeting was called to order by Tadayasu NAKAYAMA, Emperor Meiji's maternal grandfather, court nobles raised an agenda saying 'Although Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA returned the administration to the Imperial court, we doubt his genuine royalty. We should reprimand him to show his royalty by actual performance (which indicates Jikan nochi [an order for surrendering the Shogunate post and domains to the Imperial court]).'
But Yodo YAMAUCHI intervened and argued, 'This conference is insidious, not allowing Yoshinobu to participate nor giving him to say, for all the contributions he made until now. This is just a few court nobles' trial to steel the authority backing up an amateur Emperor as their leader.'
Iwakura refuted this, saying 'The Emperor is a rare and distinguished monarch and today's incident is all what he approved. It is absurd to call him amateur,' so Yodo apologized his inappropriate comment. But there is a theory that this conversation between Yodo and Iwakura is an 'episode' created afterward.

Shungaku MATSUDAIRA rescued Yodo from asking again for the attendance of Yoshinobu but Iwakura and Okubo strictly rejected by listing all sorts of Tokugawa Family's guilt. Okubo insisted that Yoshinobu's attendance would be possible only on the premise that he would accept Jikan nochi, and if not, his sin must be brought to light, but Shojiro GOTO sided with Yodo saying that it was important to act fair thus the Conference was insidious. Okubo and Goto had a heated debate. But Yoshikatsu TOKUGAWA and Shungaku MATSUDAIRA supported Yodo. It was only Mochihisa SHIMAZU who assented to Iwakura and Okubo, and the course of the conference was leaning toward permitting the presence of Yoshinobu. When Tadayasu NAKAYAMA was about to consult Sanenaru Ogimachi-SANJO and others to settle the situation, Iwakura reproached, 'What are you thinking about to talk in whispers at the conference in the presence of the Emperor' and adjourned the meeting.

During the break, Iwakura told Nagakoto ASANO that he was prepared to take an extreme action at the last moment because he did not expect the conference to arrive at a compromise, which Nagakuni approved. Shoso TSUJI conveyed this news to Goto and advised him to compromise. Goto who understood that any more protest would end up in vain also persuaded Yodo YAMAUCHI to compromise. Shungaku and Yodo gave in to the resolution at last. This is how Kogosho Conference finally came to conclusion in the middle of the night, which decided that Shungaku MATSUDAIRA and Yoshikatsu TOKUGAWA would deliver Yoshinobu the decision to impose Jikan nochi on him and that Yoshinobu was expected to voluntarily propose to do so for form's sake.

Despite it was the first meeting held between the three offices of the new administration, all the statements were exclusively made by legislatures during Kogosho Conference except for Iwakura, Okubo and Goto as above-mentioned, thus it was substantially very much like a lords conference.

Influence on the Succeeding Political Situation

It is generally thought that tobakuha, led by Satsuma and Choshu, achieved a victory in the coup of Restoration of Imperial Rule because the Kogosho Conference decided to command Jikan nochi to Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA. But the resolution of Jikan nochi was eventually watered down by the persistent resistance of pro-shogunate group, such as Echizen, Tosa and Owari, not to mention Yoshinobu himself, and things did not go as tobakuha planned. It was not until after the Battle of Toba-Fushimi early next year that tobakuha finally grasped the complete initiative.

* The old lunisolar calendar (Tenpo reki [Tenpo calendar]) is adopted for the dates in the following articles.

The Comeback of Lords Conference Group

The Kogosho Conference's decision to impose Jikan nochi was conveyed to Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA by Shungaku MATSUDAIRA and Yoshikatsu TOKUGAWA the next day, but Yoshinobu asked to grant him a respite for the reason that an immediate execution of Jikan nochi would infuriate his vassals. Although Okubo was acting in a strong attitude, gaining momentum by the return of samurai of the Choshu clan to Kyoto just discharged on the same day, there existed a strong call to avoid war from soldiers of Aizu Domain, Kuwana Domain and other domains on Tokugawa side, residing in Kyoto. From here, Shungaku, Yoshikatsu and Yodo, the anti-tobakuha group, began to regain lost ground.

Yodo YAMAUCHI submitted a petition to the new administration on 12, to suggest to delegate the Jikan Nochi issue to the mediation of Shungaku MATSUDAIRA. On 14, Ninnajinomiya (legislature) handed in a written opinion which suggested to raise the status-consciousness in order to control the people of low rank, including Iwakura and Okubo. Even Iwakura developed a hesitant attitude under such situation and took soft stand toward Shungaku MATSUDAIRA when he urged Iwakura to give specific details of Jikan nochi on that day, by answering that it would be enough for Yoshinobu to call himself 'former Minister of the Center' and avoiding to give clear answer for the land issue. Iwakura proposed a collaboration policy to Okubo and Saigo, which would allow to appoint Yoshinobu to legislature only if he accepts Jikan nochi.

Meanwhile, after returning to Osaka Castle on 13, Yoshinobu had audiences with ministers of six countries; Britain, Second French Empire, the Netherlands, the United States of America, Italy, and Prussia to appeal that he still held the diplomatic right even after the Restoration of Imperial Rule, showing no sign of softening his stance. Naoyuki NAGAI, Ometsuke (chief inspector of the Edo shogunate) also insisted to attack the two rebels, Saccho (Satsuma and Choshu). Yoshinobu ordered Yasuchika TOGAWA, Ometsuke, to come up to Kyoto with Johyobun (memorial to the Emperor) to denounce Saccho and also ordered the armies of fudai daimyo (a daimyo in hereditary vassal to the Tokugawa family), staying in Kyoto, to come up to Osaka.

The new administration, in the meantime, issued an imperial edict to foreign countries which was written by Okubo and Munenori TERASHIMA upon consultation with Ernest Mason Satow (interpreter of the British legation) and Charles de Montblanc (French nobleman) in order to win recognition for the new administration from foreign countries and to declare the continuation of diplomacy. But Shungaku MATSUDAIRA and Yodo YAMAUCHI used the phrase in the edict 'the affairs of State shall be discussed at Reppan Conference (conference of many feudal clans)' as an underhanded way and insisted to hold discussion once again because Kogosho Conference was represented by too few domains to call it Reppan (many feudal clans), which further encouraged the lords conference group.

Consequently, Shungaku MATSUDAIRA and Naoyuki NAGAI gathered at the residence of Tosa Domain on 22 to write a draft resolution and Sanshoku meeting (meeting of the three offices) were again convoked on 23 and 24 (Iwakura was absent). The resolution went as soft as saying that the Tokugawa land shall be returned to the Imperial court as 'for the government use', completely losing the aspect of giving a reprimand to Yoshinobu. Also, it stated that the land area to be returned would be decided 'referring to public opinion', that is to say, through discussion at lords conference. Shungaku and Yoshikatsu delivered this decision to Yoshinobu who accepted it. Here, the conclusion of Kogosho Conference was effectively nullified and Jikan nochi issue was watered down, which led, in contrast, the lords conference group, including Yoshinobu, to gain momentum.

The Provocation by Satsuma Domain and Outbreak of Shogun's Retainer

Worried about such circumstance, Saigo took an emergency measure (strategy), in other words, provoking the shogunate side. He ordered Kyunosuke MASUMITSU and Shohei IMUTA in Edo to rally Sozo SAGARA and other roshi (masterless samurai) to carry out arson, looting and violence to throw Edo city into confusion. Shonai Domain, which was responsible for the security of Edo, took offense at this incident and put the residences of Satsuma Domain and Sadowara Domain (Satsuma Domain's branch domain) on fire on January 19, 1868, with the consent of cabinet officials of the Shogunate including Tadamasa OGURI who was kanjo bugyo (commissioner of finance).

Once the news of arson of Satsuma domain residence in Edo was delivered to Osaka Castle on January 22, 1868 by Tomoaki TAKIGAWA, Ometsuke, and Tomogoro ONO, kanjo bugyo-nami (assistant commissioner of finance), the hard-liners in the castle was infuriated. Pro-war argument heated up calling for attacking Satsuma, and Takigawa, who carried with him the statement to the Emperor to avenge Satsuma, encountered samurai of the Satsuma clan at Toba in January 27, 1868 and a war broke out (for more detail, refer to the Battle of Toba-Fushimi). The war ended in defeat of Tokugawa side and Yoshinobu escaped from Osaka Castle and retreated to Edo. Now, Yoshinobu formally became Emperor's enemy and an order to track down and kill him was issued. As a result of this war, the lords conference group, which sided with Yoshinobu, was also forced to turn to tobakuha.

Decline of Lords Conference Argument

After the victory in the Battle of Toba and Fushimi, the new government set up seven departments under the three offices, which were later organized into the Three Offices Eight Bureaus system besides tracking down and killing Tokugawa Family (for more details, refer to Government Organization in Modern Japan, Early Meiji Period). In the meantime, instead of court nobles and lords who nominally held important posts but actually were out of touch with practical works, officials who were convened to the government from each domain gripped the practical work, grew as Restoration bureaucrats, and gradually won administrative initiative. For the draft policy of the new government prepared by Kosei YURI (feudal retainer of Echizen) and had been carried over from January, Takachika FUKUOKA of Tosa Domain who belonged to the lords conference group inserted the phrase 'Establish a council by feudal lords' to the beginning of the Article 1 and amended the title to 'Kaimei (pledge of feudal lords)', and submitted it after Kido's proposal for national policy in March, but the necessity of the council by feudal lords had already been lost by then. Fukuoka's draft was corrected by Takayoshi KIDO of Choshu Domain, Iwakura and Sanetomi SANJO to say "Deliberate assemblies shall be widely established", and its form was also changed from the pledge of feudal lords of domains into the declaration of national policies by the Emperor and his vassals, to be finally announced as the Charter Oath of Five Articles. This is how the major domains' lords conference line died and the way to the Meiji restoration by Yushi Sensei (autocratic government dominated by domain clique [Restoration bureaucrats]) was opened.

[Original Japanese]