Inoue Masaru (井上勝)

Masaru INOUE (August 25, 1843, to August 2, 1910) was a samurai in the Edo Period (a feudal retainer of Choshu Domain) and a bureaucrat in the Meiji Period. He was a viscount in ranks and orders. His common name was Yakichi. He made contributions to the development of railways in Japan and is called the father of the Japanese railways. His statue is in the square in front of the Marunouchi Central Exit of the Tokyo Station.


In 1843, he was born as the third son of Katsuyuki INOUE, a feudal retainer of Choshu Domain, in the castle town of Hagi. Although he was adopted into Nomura family as an heir, he was returned to his own family later. In 1863, he escaped from Choshu Domain and became a lordless samurai. Later he smuggled himself into England and studied until 1868 in London where he learned mining and railway technology at University College of London. After he came back to Japan, he served the new government, working hard as the Minister of Railways for the development of the railway business, including construction of the line between Shinbashi (Shinagawa) and Yokohama and Tokaido Main Line, and establishment of Nippon Railway Company (railways between Tokyo and Aomori). The railway business was later taken over by Takashi HARA and Shinpei GOTO.

He advocated the need for nationalization of the railways from early on, and in 1881 during his time as the Director General of the Railway Agency, he submitted to Takayuki SASAKI, the Minister of Industry then, a written opinion titled 'Argument against Private Railways from Director General of Railway Agency' stating that profit-oriented buisiness and competition of private railways would adversely affect the development of railways. In 1891, he, as the Minister of Railways, submitted to the government a written statement titled 'Opinion about Governmental Project on Railways'. His opinion that the main railroad lines should be owned by the national government later led to the Railroad Construction Law (1892) and the Railway Nationalization Act (1906). Many parliament members were, however, against enactment of the Railroad Construction Law, probably because they were shareholders of railway companies, and Ukichi TAGUCHI (president of Ryomo Railway) opposed INOUE, arguing that it was private railways that would facilitate the development of railways. As a result, the Railroad Construction Law was modified to give room to promotion of private railways, and being furious with this, INOUE resigned from the position of the Minister of Railways in 1893.

Brief Personal History

In 1843, he was born as the third son of Katsuyuki INOUE, a feudal retainer of Choshu Domain, in Hagi.

In 1863, he studied in England with Kaoru INOUE, Kinsuke ENDO, Yozo YAMAO, and Hirobumi ITO.

In 1868, he returned from abroad.
(Kaoru INOUE and ITO returned in 1864.)

From 1869 on, he successively took the positions of Head of the Mint and the Supervisor of Mining, Head of Mining and Railways, Head of Railways, Taifu of Industry (Post of Ministry of Industry), the Director General of the Railway Agency, and the Minister of Railways.

(In 1872, the railway between Shinbashi and Yokohama was started.)

(In 1874, the railway netween Osaka and Kobe was started.)

In August, 1878, construction of the Osakayama Tunnel between Kyoto and Otsu started with Toshinori IIDA as the general director. It became the first tunnel built only by Japanese.

On May 24, 1887, he was given the title of Viscount because of his contributions to the establishment of the Mint and the development of railways.

(In 1889, Tokaido Main Line was completed.)

In 1890, he became the Minister of Railways and a member of the House of Peers.

In 1891, he founded Koiwai Farm (Koiwai Farm,Ltd.) by cultivating fields of volcanic ash soil with Gishin ONO and Yanosuke IWASAKI. The name Koiwai was coined by combining the first kanji letters of the trio's surnames.

(In 1892, the Railroad Construction Law was promulgated and the 'Railway Commitee' was established.)

In 1893, he resigned from the position of the Minister of Railways.

In 1896, he founded Kisha Seizo, a train maker, in Osaka.

On April 1, 1906, he received the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun.
(The railways were nationalized.)

In 1909, he became the third president of the Imperial Railways Association.

In 1910, he died in London during his visit as an advisor for the Railway Bureau. He died at the age of 68. His adopted heir, Katsuzumi INOUE, took over his title as Viscount.

In 1964, his grave at Oyama Cemetry of Tokai-ji Temple in Shinagawa was designated as a monument relating to railways.

Kisha Seizo Goshi Gaisha

After resignation, INOUE founded Kisha Seizo Goshi Gaisha in Osaka. This company had produced various locomotives and passenger and freight carss since the establishment, but in 1912 its name was changed to Kisha Seizo Kabushiki Kaisha (commonly called Kisha Kaisha), and in 1972, it was merged into Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. to end its history.

Museum of Nature and History of Hagi City

The former Hagi station building remaining in the yard of Hagi station of JR Sanin Main Line is currently used as the Museum of Nature and History of Hagi City. The Museum has exhibitions about Hagi and railways, and they show various documents about INOUE as well as about railways.


The expenses required to study in England at that time were about 500 million yen in terms of the monetary value as of 2004, and there is a record describing the four people after the 130-day voyage as starving crows.

[Original Japanese]