The Sawakai (茶話会)

The Sawakai (literally, the Tea Party) was an internal faction within the House of Peers in Japan's National Diet, which was formed under the Meiji Constitution. The Tea Party was initially formed in the Meiji period and lasted into the early stages of the Showa period (specifically, from July 22, 1893 to February 1, 1928, though official notification of its existence as an internal faction of the Diet was not given until March 1, 1894).

On December 22, 1891 Shigemitsu NANGO, Morimasa TAKEI, Gensho UMAYA, Shigeya OHARA and others were chosen by the Emperor to be inducted into the House of Peers, and the following day began to hold discussions at the Hoshigaoka Tea House (located in what was then Kojimachi Park) about forming a union and acting in concert. Two years later, Nango and the others joined with Tosuke HIRATA and Mamoru FUNAKOSHI, who were members of the House of Peers by imperial nomination, originally from government offices and both protegees of Aritomo YAMAGATA, and inaugurated Sawakai with an initial total of 18 members by imperial nomination with a headquarter set up in Saiwai Club in Uchisaiwaicho. It is for this reason that the term "Saiwai Club" became a byword for the Tea Party.

Under Nango and Hirata, Sawakai joined Keigo KIYOURA's Kenkyukai (a study group) in supporting Aritomo YAMAGATA, supporting Yamagata's doctrine of transcendence. In 1899, the Tea Party and the first Mushozoku (Unaffiliated Group) mobilized the supporters of the Saiwai Club in an effort to curb the power of the political parties. When, during Yamagata's second term as cabinet head, Kanetake OURA, Eitaro KOMATSUBARA, and Banichiro YASUHIRO, bureaucrats who were all protegees of Yamagata, were appointed to the House of Peers by imperial selection and thereafter joined the Tea Party, the influence of the Tea Party began to grow, and they managed to acquire members from among the large-scale taxpayers and the barons, and during Hirata's tenure as Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, from the late Meiji period into the early Taisho period, the group possessed 67 members at its largest; the Tea Party supported Taro KATSURA during the Keien period (1905-1912), and its power and influence grew to rival the Kenkyukai's.

But the struggle for power with the Kenkyukai gradually began to produce friction, and after the turmoil of the Manko cabinet, the cooperation between the Kenkyukai and the Rikken Seiyukai (the Friends of Constitutional Government Party, or "Seiyukai" for short) and other challenges, the struggle for influence between the Tea Party and the Kenkyukai gradually developed into open hostility, and when some of the members of Hara's Seiyukai cabinet were chosen from the Kenkyukai, not only did the Tea Party abandon the doctrine of transcendence and join forces with the opposition Kenseikai (Constitutional Government Party), they also formed links with the various other factions among non-Kenkyukai House of Peers members in an effort to isolate and surround the Kenkyukai.

But with the resignation of the barons due to the formation of the Koseikai in 1919, coupled with the swelling of the Kenkyukai's ranks, the influence of the Tea Party gradually began to wane. Thereafter, the Tea Party did at times still take vigorous action, as when they joined forces with the Gokensan faction in an attack on the Kiyoura cabinet, which was largely led by Kenkyukai, during the second movement to defend the constitution. However, in 1928, they lost their Marquis Diet members and, facing total collapse, they were forced to merge with the second Mushozoku (Unaffiliated Group) and form the Dowakai.

[Original Japanese]