Inoue Kowashi (井上毅)

Kowashi INOUE (February 6, 1844 - March 17, 1895) was a Japanese samurai, a bureaucrat and a statesman. He was a viscount. He successively worked as Director General of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, the Minister of Education, and so on.


He was born into the Iida family in Higo Province, a vassal of a chief retainer of the Kumamoto Domain, Korekata NAGAOKA, and he was adopted by Shigesaburo INOUE afterwards. After he studied at Hitsuyudo (a private school operated by the Yoneda family, a chief retainer of the Kumamoto Domain) and the Kumamoto Domain's school named Jishukan, he traveled to Edo and Nagasaki to study, and he also studied at Kaisei School in 1870. He joined the Ministry of Justice of the Meiji government in the following year, and because he was good at French, he was sent to France to study, and after returning, he was appointed by Toshimichi OKUBO. After Okubo's death, he was appointed to a responsible position by Tomomi IWAKURA, and he emphasized that it was impossible to introduce a parliamentary cabinet system to Japan at the time, where had not been ready for having parties to build a stable administration, and also told about the importance of the establishment of a German-style state system instead. In the Political Change of 1881, he belonged to the faction led by Tomomi IWAKURA and Hirobumi ITO.

He was versed in the study of Japanese classical literature, and he participated with Ito in drafting the Constitution of the Empire of Japan, the Imperial House Act, the Imperial Rescript on Education and the Imperial Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors. He became a privy councilor in 1890, and he joined the Second Ito Cabinet formed in 1893 as the Minister of Education.

Inoue was conservative, and he was committed to the establishment of a centralized government, strongly opposing the party government. However, he valued the principals of a law-abiding country and constitutionalism, and he thought that even the nation could not deprive people of their rights guaranteed by the principals without a justifiable legal basis. It is said that, therefore, he stood against reactionary claims denying these in a resolute attitude. It is said that he also criticized the doctrine of superiority due to its excessive disrespect for the parliament, and he made a lot of judgments in favor of the parliament for his position, Director General of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau.

Chomin NAKAE highly appreciated the personalities of Inoue and Senichi SHIRANE in Nakae's posthumous book 'Ichinen yuhan' (A Year and a Half) as follows, 'They are serious, and they are not lazy or impudent', although Nakane was their opponent.

Hirobumi ITO and Kowashi INOUE

Hirobumi ITO described Inoue as 'the most loyal person I've ever known' in a letter to Sanetsune TOKUDAIJI, and when Ito himself was doubled as the Minister of the Sovereign's Household to confront the conservatives in the imperial court, Ito had only Inoue from the close aides join the Imperial Household Ministry as the Chief Librarian. Thus, Ito appreciated his ability, and also trusted him.

However, Inoue was so true to his belief that he sometimes took a radical approach, for example, in the Political Change of 1881, he took the liberty to insist the construction of a German-style nation to Tomomi IWAKURA and tried to push it through as the government's policy.
When Ito found this out, Ito gave Inoue a bollocking, 'You are just a secretary, so you can not deal with this kind of matter.' (Inoue's letter to Tomomi IWAKURA dated July 5, 1881)

In addition, afterwards, because Inoue, who had opposed Kaoru INOUE's bill to revise the treaty, conveyed Gustave Emile Boissonade's minority report to opponents from various quarters and fueled the movement against the treaty revision, the First Ito Cabinet itself fell into a crisis situation. Thus, Inoue's grandstanding sometimes bothered Ito.

[Original Japanese]