Rusu-seifu (government while heads of government are away) (留守政府)

Rusu-seifu refers to the Establishment organized to protect the nation in early Meiji Period while Iwakura Mission, which consisted of leaders of the Meiji government, was visiting Europe and America (December 23, 1871 - September 13, 1873).


The Iwakura Mission project came up before the completion of Haihan-chiken (abolition of feudal domains and establishement of prefectures) that had been set about on August 29, 1871, in the project Tomomi IWAKURA, Toshimichi OKUBO, Takayoshi KIDO and many other leaders of the Meiji government finally joined the great delegation, and therefore the Establishment was organized by Grand Minister Sanetomi SANJO at its head, Takamori SAIGO, Kaoru INOUE, Shigenobu OKUMA, Taisuke ITAGAKI, Shinpei ETO and Takao OKI in order to protect the nation and to settle the affairs of Haihan-chiken while the Iwakura Mission was traveling abroad officially.

Just before the delegation departed, government officials in higher rank than taifu of each ministry entered into a treaty ('Treaty of ministers, sangi (councilors) and taifu').
Article 6 of the treaty stipulated that large-scale reforms should not be carried out during the absence of government leaders, saying 'A big reform for inland business is to be made after taishi (commander-in-chief) returns to Japan, so it is not necessary to pursue a new reform immediately,' while Article 7 stipulated that affairs of Haihan-chiken should be wound up quickly, saying 'Since accomplishing Haihan-chiken is essential to carry out inland business, it should be done reasonably and effectively.'

After the delegation departed, Rusu-seifu carried out reforms positively such as introduction of an educational system and Conscription Ordinance, land-tax reform, adoption of the solar calendar, improvement of the judicial system, a halt of Christian oppression, but confrontation between Rusu-seifu and Iwakura Mission was aggravated over personnel affairs and Seikanron, which led to the political change in 1873.

Haihan-chiken (abolition of feudal domains and establishment of prefectures) and Rusu-seifu (government while heads of government are away)

Rusu-seifu had been said to carry out reforms in an arbitrary, disorderly and self-serving manner against Article 6 of the 'Treaty of ministers, sangi and taifu,' ignoring members of Iwakura Mission, and as a result to cause various contradictions, the political change in 1873 within the government, and Shizoku no hanran (revolt by family or person with samurai ancestors) and peasant uprisings outside the government.

Although introduction of an educational system and Conscription Ordinance and land-tax reform are certainly considered a large-scale reform and seem to be against the treaty at a glance, today they are thought to be part of work of accomplishing Haihan-chiken that was stated in Article 7 and Iwakura Mission had approved on the whole.

In the first place, because traditional administrative and judicial systems were totally dissolved due to Haihan-chiken, it was necessary to establish alternative systems quickly. The new educational system and Conscription Ordinance were made as alternatives to old hanko (domain school) and hanhei (domain samurai) and as some of educational and military systems, and had been in preparation before the delegation's departure. The policy of land-tax reform ('Chisyobaibai-houkinbunnitu-syuzeisisetunogi-seiinshi') was presented by Toshimichi OKUBO (Minister of the Treasury) and Kaoru INOUE (Vice-minister of the Treasury) to the Central State Council in October, 1871, when abolition of denpataeitaibaibaikinshirei (a ban on buying and selling fields) was decided, and its draft plan had been already made by INOUE and Kiyonari YOSHIDA just before the delegation's departure (Among early measures of the Meiji government, only Chitsuroku-shobun (Abolition Measure of Hereditary Stipend) was elaborated by INOUE and YOSHIDA after Iwakura Mission departed and formulated as a policy after the Mission returned to Japan). In addition, since accomplishing Haihan-chiken and land-tax reform meant to destroy hundreds-year-long feudalism and the way the lands should be ruled, there was a high possibility in pursuing those reforms that samurai and peasants might have rebelled against the government. As the government at this time stayed this course, any leaders could not avoid Shizoku no hanran (revolt by family or person with samurai ancestors) and peasant uprisings consequently.

And among policies made by Rusu-seifu, the only one that had not been worked over before the delegation's departure was 'Kenkan (sending an ambassador to Korea) issue of Takamori SAIGO,' which resulted in confrontation between the delegation members and Resu-seifu.

Personnel affairs and Rusu-seifu

It was financial and personnel affairs besides political issues that brought about more dispute and confrontation. Rusu-seifu had promised to freeze personnel affairs during the absence of Iwakura Mission and Takamori SAIGO had been greatly expected to work as a coordinator, but SAIGO placed 'kyohei (powerful army)' as one of the top priorities of the Restoration, supported Aritomo YAMAGATA, who was promoting 'kyohei,' to establish a plot of the conscription system instead of realizing SAIGO's own idea of the warrior-class-centered volunteer system, and persuaded people from Satsuma not to throw YAMAGATA out of power even when YAMAGATA came to a crisis of being forced to step down due to the Yamashiroya incident. At the same time, he had deep distrust toward Ministry of Finance (led by Shigenobu OKUMA, Kaoru INOUE, Eichi SHIBUSAWA and others), that promoted 'fukoku (rich country),' and did not stop letting INOUE and SHIBUSAWA resign at their crisis of being forced to step down when they were opposed to the Central State Council and government offices over financial affairs (INOUE was also looked at suspiciously due to his involvement in the scandal of Osarizawa copper mine). In addition, he himself assumed a post of marshal after YAMAGATA resigned from the post (In this case, a marshal meant a commander in chief who is considered to seize military power). Furthermore, he added Shojiro GOTO, Shinpei ETO and Takato OKI to Sangi (the Councilor) in order to make up the loss of political power (although it was not totally unreasonable because GOTO became chairman of Council of the Left, only ETO and OKI were exceptionally not incumbent councilors among kyo of ministries at that time, and a policy of holding two posts of kyo and sangi concurrently was hammered out after OKUBO returned to Japan), which raised distrust of OKUBO and KIDO as well, who had only limited information while being away from home.

[Original Japanese]