Rikken Kaishin-To (Constitutional Progressive Party) (立憲改進党)

Rikken Kaishin-to or Constitutional Progressive Party (effective from April 16, 1882 to March 1, 1896) was one of the major political parties of Japan in the time of Freedom and People's Rights Movement in the Meiji period. The abbreviation was Kaishin-to. The first leader of the party was Shigenobu OKUMA, and the deputy was Togama KONO.


Okuma, who was expelled from the government due to a political upheaval that happened in 1881, got an idea to form a new political party, and he held a ceremony of inauguration at the Meiji Kokaido meeting hall in Tokyo on April 16, after announcing the intent to launch a new party on March 14. Supported by commercial capitalists and intellectuals of big cities, and Mitsubishi, the party maintained the political gradualism with the two pillars of ideas of "flourishing of the imperial family" and "people's happiness," setting a goal to establish the moderate constitutionalism based on British constitutional monarchy, bicameral system, suffrage restricted by property, and the expansion of sovereign right. Okuma took the charge of the party leader, and its deputy was Kono, and Azusa ONO, Gengaku MUTAGUCHI and Yoshiaki HARUKI were appointed as adviser to them. Other major members include Fumio YANO, Morikazu NUMA, Tsuyoshi INUKAI, Yukio OZAKI, Hisoka MAEJIMA, Kazuo HATOYAMA, Saburo SHIMADA, Katsundo MINOURA. Among them, whose backgrounds were different in many ways, complicated webs of personal connections had eventually been formed to provide some groups, such as Keiogijuku group, Omeisha group (later divided when the Liberal party was established), and Azusa ONO (one of the founding members of Tokyo Senmon Gakko, current Waseda University) group.

Around 1883, as the pressure from the government increased, the party looked into the alleged problems of the Liberal party concerning Taisuke ITAGAKI's going abroad, but instead encountered a backlash from the Liberal party to fling mud at each other, with a scandal that insisted Yubin Hochi Shinbun newspaper, the party's official publication, having a strong relationship with Maejima, Ozaki and Inukai, was financed by the government, through a campaign of to denounce "monstrous" Yataro IWASAKI.

In 1884, the party got complicated over an issue of restructuring, and an idea of resolving the party emerged. Losing Okuma and Kono, the party narrowly survived by a collective leadership of seven secretariats consisting of Keiogijuku and Omeisha groups, but was nearly impossible to function as a political party. Okuma later returned to the party. Although the Constitutional Progressive party still played an important role in some cases, along with the Liberal party (both parties acknowledged each other and were referred as people's parties at the time), such as taking actions to present petitions for the three major cases, and advocating a movement to unite for a common purpose, but both parties eventually couldn't get along with each other when they failed the movement to unite, and the Constitutional Progressive party supported a proposal to revise a treaty that Okuma presented as foreign minister of the first Ito government in 1888 (he became foreign minister under the Kuroda government as well). Even so, the party gained 41 seats in the first election for the House of Representatives, and continuously worked together with the Liberal party in favor of reducing land taxes to encourage the private sector.

However, around 1893 onwards, the party started to take the hard-line policy to tackle with foreign affairs, along with Kokumin Kyokai (National Association), and this conflicted with the Liberal party, who had shifted its position to a realistic stance, to lead a full scale confrontation by both parties, over a non-confident vote to Toru HOSHI, the chairman of the House of Representative. The party advocated the nation's sovereign rights should be expanded. By this, it suddenly gained a wide range of supports and bolstered the party's strength, which had been behind the Liberal party. On March 1, 1896, the party finally merged with some groups that advocated the expansion of the sovereignty, including Rikken Kakushin-to and Ote Kurabu, to form a unified party Shimpo-to.

[Original Japanese]