Yamada Akiyoshi (山田顕義)

Akiyoshi YAMADA (November 18,1844-November 11,1892) was a samurai (a feudal retainer of the Choshu Domain), statesman and army military man. His common name was Ichinojyo, imina (real name of a man of position) was Akitaka later changed to Akiyoshi. His ranks and orders were lieutenant general (army), Shonii (Senior Second Rank), medals for merit. His peerage was count.

He was the founder of Nihon University (Nihon Law School) and Kokugakuin University (incorporated educational institution Kokugakuin University), devoting himself to arranging the legal code of modern times in Japan.


In November 18, 1844, he was born first son to a feudal retainer of the Choshu Domain Akiyukishichibei YAMADA (upper-ranked "kumishi" samurai, rokudaka (stipend), head of the domain navy) in Higashibun Tsubakigou Abu gun Nagato Province (Hagi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture) in those days.

In 1856, he studied in Naoe NIIYAMA juku in Matsumoto village. In March, his uncle Matasuke YAMADA made him learn military science from Kuro NAKAMURA and Takemura TAKEUCHI. In April, he entered the Meirinkan Domain school, learning swordplay (Yagyu Shinkage-ryu) under grand master Shohei UMAKI, and received a license to teach it. In July 1857, he entered Shoka-son juku.

In 1858, he was given a fan on which written a song about how to find purpose in life, saying 'To Yamada' 'Don't be afraid to be different from others if you resolve something, Don't follow the public view, Don't think about the suffering after death, Learn that pleasure is fleeting, 100years is only a moment, Please don't waste your time.' by Shoin YOSHIDA.

The End of the Edo period

In the fall of 1862, he went to the capital, serving as a bodyguard of Sadahiro MORI, the successor to the lord of the domain. In January 1863, he put his name on the paper with a seal of blood (of Mitate group) swearing to the expulsion of foreigners along with Shinsaku TAKASUGI, Genzui KUSAKA, Monta SHIDO (later Kaoru INOUE), Shunsuke ITO (later Hirobumi ITO) and Yajiro SHINAGAWA. In May 18,1863, when Emperor Komei went to Kamo-jinja Shrine to pray for the exclusion of foreigners, Akiyoshi attended Sadahiro MORI as a guard in front of the Emperor. On May 28 of the same year, he also attended the Emperor at Iwashimizu Hachiman-gu Shrine. In the Coup of August 18 that happened in the same year, he guarded Sakaimachigomon as a samurai of the Choshu clan, charging a cannon, but cleared off by Kobu Gattai ha (supporters of the doctrine of unity between the Bakufu and the imperial court), he went along with Sanetomi SANJO and other seven Kugyo (high court noble) of Sonno Joi ha (supporters of the doctorine of restoring the emperor and expelling the barbarians) in their Choshu exile (the exile of the Seven nobles from Kyoto). However,he returned to Kyoto from Hyogo on the way, by way of Osaka, hiding away for a while. Then, later returned to Choshu. The Domain assigned him to a commando unit. He learned Western military science under Masujiro OMURA in Fumon-ji juku.

In 1864, he joined the camp of Genzui KUSAKA and Izumi MAKI, which was lining up at Yamazaki, in Kinmon Incident, and Yamada escaped to Choshu with them, as the Choshu army was beaten. In September of the same year, he formed the Mitate party with Ichinoshin ODA and Yajiro SHINAGAWA, fighting hard in the Shimonoseki War as Assitant Deputy General, however, the Choshu Domain was defeated. During December of the same year, he joined Shinsaku TAKASUGI, who rose up to fight against 'conventional party' which was supporting the doctorine of allegiance to Bakufu and ruling the Domain, defeating and removing them.

In 1866, he was appointed as a head of the cannon party of Yang Fire Tiger Maru by Shinsaku TAKASUGI, governor of the Domain navy, in Second conquest of Choshu, making a surprise attack on the warship of Bakufu in June of the same year. In August of the same year, he moved from place to place to fight, heading to Geishukuchi as a commander of the Mitate party, winning many battles. And on August 29 of the same year, a second conquest of Choshu was aborted due to the death of Shogun Iemochi TOKUGAWA.

In June 1867, he assumed Sokan (director) of the Seibu party, which was a coalition of the Mitate party and the Koujo party. In December of the same year,he went into Kyoto by sea along with some 700 people in the spearhead convoy of the expeditionary force to the east, which was under Takumi MOURI, governor of all the army, ordered by the lord of domain Takachika MORI, who had been requested by the Satsuma Domain to dispatch the troops for the movement to overthrow the Shogunate. In January, 1868, he was assigned as vice general staff of Yoshiakira NINNAJINOMIYA, the governor-general of suppression of a new government, in Toba-Fushimi War. He won victories in the Boshin War and the Battle of Hakodate, leading the Imperial army as general staff of the army and of the navy and army.

After the Meiji Restoration

In July, 1869, he was awarded for his distinguished war service, granted audiences by the Emperor along with Kiyotaka KURODA in the Imperial court. He assumed the position of official of national defense as the new government-regulated organization (System of Departments of State) came into effect, dismissed from the position of vice general staff of the army and navy. He also was assigned concurrently as junior secretary of the Choshu Domain. In September, he returned to Yamaguchi with glory. He changed his name to Akiyoshi. In October of the same year, he was permanently granted 600 koku as compensation for his military glory during the Meiji Restoration. However, he immediately went to the capital commanded by the domain due to the assassination attempt of Masujiro OMURA. He received instructions concerning the founding of the Japanese modern military system from ailing Omura, submitting an Outline of the responsibilities of the Ministry of the Military, in which he organized the plan Omura had left behind, cosigning with Michitsune KOGA, Hyobu-shoyu (junior assistant minister of the Hyobusho Ministry of Military), to Departments of State in December. He made an effort to establish Hyobusho (ministry of military) centering on Osaka as a successor to Omura.

In 1870, he spent his days travelling back and forth between Osaka Hyobusho (ministry of the military) branch office constructed in Osaka-jo Castle ruins and the head office in Tokyo, on Omura's plan. Around May, he started appealing to influential person in politics who were in charge of implementation of conscription (Shinbi draft) restricted to Kinai region (the five capital provinces surrounding the ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto). Which was also Omura's plan. In September, he strongly wanted to watch the Franco-Prussian War, denied by Toshimichi OKUBO and others who were concerned about interruption in ministry work because Sumiyoshi KAWAMURA and other members of Hyobusho (ministry of military) also wanted to. In the same year, he married Tatsuko who was the first daughter of Kiemon KASHIMAYA of Yuda onsen (hot spring) Kawaraya and also the adopted daughter of Kaoru INOUE, Okura taijo (Senior Secretary of the Minister of the Treasury).

In February, 1871, even though he started the Shinbi draft in Osaka, it was postponed in May (conscription continued until August in reality). Which was due to poor quality of conscription and fundamental problems such as lack of training officers or facilities. In August, he was assigned as Army Major General attending Hyobusho (ministry of the military), dismissed from Hyobu taijo (Senior Secretary of the Ministry of War), for reasons unclear. In November of the same year, he attended to Europe and American delegates of Tomomi IWAKURA, Minister of the Right as resident of Hyobusho (ministry of military). He reached Washington, D.C. by way of San Francisco, Salt Lake City and Chicago. In March 1872, he parted from Iwakura and others with a party of Hyobusho (ministry of the military) (Ichido HARADA, Fuyuki TOMINAGA, Choujyurou IWASHITA,Fumisuke MATSUMURA), going to France after visiting navy facilities in Philadelphia. He inspected military systems in European countries such as Berlin, the Netherlands, Belgium, Lausanne, Bulgaria and Russia, focusing on Paris. He received the cooperation of Masamoto WATARI, military overseas student in France, and Tokusaburou OTA respectively. All the details of Yamada's work in Europe are not clear. In May 1873, he left for home from Marseilles harbor, having stopped at the world exposition in Vienna.

He returned home in June 1873. In September, he demanded postponement of the Conscription Ordinance implemented during his travels to study, submitting a report (on education in foreign countries), which indicated 'soldiers are lethal weapons'. In July, he was assigned as Commander Admiral of Tokyo chindai (garrison in the Meiji period), and as envoy extraordinary of Qing in November, dismissed from the former. Yamada had no intention to go to Qing himself, and Takayoshi KIDO appealed Yamada's dismissal from envoy extraordinary of Qing to Toshimichi OKUBO. However, in February 1874, before he came to reside in Qing, he was dismissed from the extraordinary envoy of Qing due to the outbreak of the Saga War, travelling to Kyushu to suppress the war. In March of the following year, the war was suppressed. In July of the same year, he assumed Shiho-taifu (post as Ministry of Justice) while continuing as Army Major General, persuaded by Hirobumi ITO, and awarded for distinguished war service in Saga War at the same time. Yamada was in a tenuous position in the government, having no actual status, except the title of Army Major General due to his confrontation between Aritomo YAMAGATA over implementation of the Conscription Ordinance since he returned home, which forced him to change direction.

In September 1875, he assumed the position as Chairman of Penal Code compilation.

It appears he bought a parcel of land of Otowa Bunkyo-ku Ward, on which he built a Western-style house later, before July 1876.
(The house of Yamada was burned down by the Great Tokyo Air Raids and now there is a building of Kodansha Ltd. standing in it's place.)

In March 1877, as the Seinan War broke out, he went to Kyoto by himself, preparing to resign from Shiho-taifu (post of Ministry of Justice), and appealed for departure for the front to suppress it. He was ordered to depart for the front as leader of Betsudo-Daini-ryodan (the second stand-alone brigade), having received the cooperation of Takayoshi KIDO and others. In September of the same year, the Seinan War was over and in November, he was awarded the Order of Second Class for his distinguished war service.

In February 1878, he was engaged on compiling a code of law as a member of Penal Code draft reviewing committee. In November of the same year, he was assigned as Army Lieutenant General.

In December 1879, his first son Kaneyoshi was born. In September, he was assigned as Sangi (councillor) and Koubukyo (head of Koubu Department) at the same time. In November, he handed graduation certificates to each and every one of graduates in the first graduation ceremony at the Imperial College of Engineering.

In February 1880, he was assigned as full-time Sangi (councilor). In March, his first son Kaneyoshi died. In June, he submitted a written opinion on the constitution.

Around August or September of 1881, he showed his original draft of the constitution "A personal proposal constitution" to Taruhitoshinnou ARISUGAWANOMIYA, Minister of the Left, and the revised one to Tomomi IWAKURA, Minister of the Right. In October of the same year, he concurrently assumed the position of Sangi (councilor) and Secretary of Interior.

In April 1883, he ordered the improvement of sewer systems also in Tokyo to Yoshimasa AKIKAWA, the Governor of Tokyo Prefecture, for the reason of hygiene. Shihokyo (administrator of the Ministry of Justice). In December of the same year, he resigned as Secretary of Interior and concurrently assumed the position of Shihokyo (administrator of Ministry of Justice) and Sangi (councilor).

In 1884, he was given the title of count.

In December 1885, as the cabinet system was inaugurated, he assumed the post as the first Minister of Justice in The First Ito Cabinet. After which, he served as the Minister of Justice until The First Matsukata cabinet.

In 1887, he assumed the position as the head of the Dai-Nihon Shiritsu Eisei-Kai (Japan private hygiene society). In October of the same year, he assumed the position as the head of Law investigating, contributing to compilation of Civil Code, Commercial Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure.

In April 1888, he assumed the position as Minister of Justice in the Kuroda Cabinet. In December, he submitted a draft of law of Minpoten (legal code provides for basic stipulation related to Civil Code) and the Commercial Legal Code to prime minister Kiyotaka KURODA and the Cabinet, and in April 1890, property part, acquisition of property part, security for an obligation part and evidence part of the Civil Code and civil action were issued. In October of the same year, the personnel affairs part of the Civil Code, donation covering the acquisition of property part, testamentary bequest, husband and wife and property contract were issued. However, implementation was postponed as the legal code dispute read; 'As Civil Code is appearing, loyalty to one's master and filial piety is dying' was stirred up.

In January 1889, he assumed the position as head of Koten Kokyusho (a research institute for the Shinto sect). On October 4 of the same year, he joined to establish Nihon University (the predecessor of incorporated educational institution Nihon University) in that location during the night. In December of the same year, he assumed the post as Minister of Justice in The First Yamagata Cabinet.

In 1890, he established the incorporated educational institution Kokugakuin University (now Kokugakuin University) in Koten Kokyusho. In December of the same year, he resigned as Minister of Justice, taking responsibility for the postponement of the Commercial Code implementation.

In February 1891, he was reinstated as Minister of Justice. In May of the same year, he assumed the position as Minister of Justice in The First Matsukata Cabinet. In June he resigned from Ministery of Justice saying he was ailing. The fact was because he took responsibility for not having obeyed the orders of Emperor Meiji to execute the perpetrator in the Otsu Incident. After that, he spent his days in medical treatment and house arrest in his villa in Misaki amongst others until the following year.

In January 1892, he assumed the post as Privy Councilor. In November of the same year, he fell unconscious suddenly while inspecting Tajima Ikuno Silver Mine (Ikuno town Asago gun Hyogo Prefecture) and died. His age at death was fourty-nine. His title was Shonii (Senior Second Rank). He was awarded Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun with Paulownia Flower. His homyo (a posthumous Buddhist name used in the Shin sect) is Kenchuin Denshaku Yoshinobu Kusai Daikoji. His funeral ceremony was carried out with Buddhist rites, but he preferred Shinto style while he lived. Taking that into consideration, his funeral was also carried out with Shinto rites by volunteers of Koten Kokyusho as 'Koten Kokyusho funeral'.


His grave is at Gokoku-ji Temple (the location of Nihon University Buzan high school) in Ootsuka Bunkyo-ku Ward Tokyo (Bunkyo-ku Ward).

In 1979, 'Akiyoshi Park' was founded at his birth place in Hagi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture by Nihon University in commemoration of its ninetieth anniversary. A statue of master Akiyoshi YAMADA' was built in the park.

After his first son's premature death, his nephew Hisao succeeded his title of count as the selected heir, but he also died young. Hanei KAWAKAMI, who was the natural father of Hisao and Yamada's own younger brother, returned and succeeded to the Yamada family, becoming the third count. After Yamada's first daughter Umeko (who was six at the time of his death. Brought up by Tastuko) when she came of age, Hideo MATSUDAIRA, the third son of Katamori MATSUDAIRA, was taken for her husband from the Aizu-Matsudaira family.

[Original Japanese]