Matsukata Masayoshi (松方正義)

Masayoshi MATSUKATA (March 23, 1835-July 2, 1924) was a Japanese samurai (feudal retainer of Satsuma) and a statesman. His childhood name was Kinjiro. His common name was Sukezaemon. He was a financier representing the modern Japan, held various posts such as a Naimu-kyo (Minister of Interior) in 1880 and a Okura-kyo (Minister of Treasury) in 1881, and established the Bank of Japan in 1882. He was the 4th and 6th prime minister of Japan. He held various posts such as a Minister of Treasury, a Minister of Interior and so on. He was a Genro (elder statesman), and awarded the titles of juichii (Junior First Rank), the Supreme Order, and Prince.


He was born as the fourth son of Masaki and Kesako MATSUKATA in present-day Kagoshima Prefecture. Both of his parents died when he was only 13. In 1847, he entered the Zoshikan, hanko (domain school) for samurai children in Satsuma.

In 1850, he began working as a clerk accountant in the treasury (office of the domain government), and earned 4 koku of Fuchimai (salary rice). After that, he became a clerk at the treasury, and while he had served for seven years, he had several chances to have an audience with the domain lord, and was awarded 130 ryo of gold as special compensation for his diligence.

As a close adviser of Hisamitsu SHIMAZU, he was concerned in the Namamugi Incident and the Teradaya Incident. At the age of 29, he was appointed a giseisho-gakari, a member of the chief policy-making body of the domain. His unusual rise from humble beginnings gave rise to envy as well as admiration.

In 1866, a Navy of the Military Affairs Bureau was founded, and he was appointed assistant commissioner for ships and placed in charge of the warship. In 1867, he was placed in charge of military preparation as well, and traveled back and forth between Nagasaki and Kagoshima, purchasing warships.

Years as a Minister of Treasury

He was appointed a councillor of the Nagasaki Court by the restoration government, and later transferred to Hita Prefecture. In Hita, MATSUKATA detected that huge amount of counterfeit bills of Dajokan-satsu (the government's paper money) were circulated, and after investigation, he revealed the domain-wide involvement of forging them in Fukuoka Domain, which was admired by Toshimichi OKUBO, and OKUBO's recommendation made him assume the posts of Minbu taijo (Senior Secretary of the Ministry of Popular Affairs) and chief of taxation.

Since then, he had specialized in financial affairs as a bureaucrat of Ministry of Treasury and engaged in the land-tax reform under the Minister of Interior OKUBO. However, he came into conflict with the Minister of the Treasury Shigenobu OKUMA over financial policies. MATSUKATA was in direct opposition to OKUMA's policy of seeking foreign loans to adjust government-issued bills. As a result, he left the Ministry of Treasury and was reassigned a Minister of Interior due to Hirobumi ITO's thoughtfulness. But he returned to the Ministry of Treasury as a Councillor and the Minister after OKUMA resigned because of the Meiji-14 coup of 1881. MATSUKATA worked on implementation of monetary policy centered on the adjustment of government-issued bills, which was later called the MATSUKATA finance, and after he established the Bank of Japan, he abolished government-issued bills and started to issue the Bank of Japan notes as convertible currency. This policy made treasury budget improved substantially, but it caused a serious deflation which was called the 'Matsukata deflation,' and resulted in public antipathy.

In 1891, after the First Yamagata cabinet resigned, he was appointed as prime minister (the First Matsukata cabinet). But, lasting disagreement among cabinet members and unstable Diet management forced him to resign in a little over a year. After that, MATSUKATA was ordered to form a cabinet again by the Emperor in1896, following the Second Ito cabinet, and he achieved a return to the gold standard system which had been a pending problem, but he failed to be in liaison with the Shinpo-to (Progressive Party) led by Shigenobu OKUMA and forced to resign in a year and several months again.

Public Estimation

In terms of his age and career, he could have been a key figure in Satsuma clique, but he didn't have adequate political skills except finance (his first and second cabinets both collapsed easily because of internal division), which caused him being underestimated, and for that reason, he is said to have failed to hold factions together.

However, he had gained considerable credibility with the Emperor Meiji, during the period of MATSUKATA finance, he received an imperial rescript entrusting financial affairs to him in the face of opposition from the cabinet members and genkun (the statesmen who contributed in Meiji Restoration), and he moved forward with his financial policy. At the time of the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War, opposing negative group including ITO and Kaoru INOUE, he insisted on start of the war, saying that he could resolve financial concerns, and led the Council of Genro. This great achievement received recognition of the Emperor Meiji, and he was awarded the title of the Supreme Order, which was unprecedented in the post war period. After ITO and Aritomo YAMAGATA died, he entered the position leading Genro, and contributed to establishing the Tomosaburo KATO cabinet.

Family members

Wife : Masako (the oldest daughter of feudal retainer of Satsuma, Sukehachiro KAWAKAMI)
She gave birth to four boys and one girl, and brought up the children of concubines together.
The oldest son : Iwao MATSUKATA (businessman, banker), representative of the Jugo bank
His wife was a daughter of a medical scientist Sensai NAGAYO and a younger sister of Shokichi NAGAYO.
Second son : Shosaku MATSUKATA (diplomat)
His wife was a daughter of the second sosui (commander-in-chief) Yanosuke IWASAKI (former president of the Bank of Japan) who was a younger brother of the Mitsubishi Zaibatsu founder Yataro IWASAKI.
Third son : Kojiro MATSUKATA (businessman, statesman) president of the Kawasaki Shipyards, a member of the House of Representatives
His wife was a daughter of the last lord of the Sanda Domain Takayoshi KUKI.
Fourth son : Masao MATSUKATA (the first owner of the Hanshin Tigers who got into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986)
Fifth son : Goro (businessman) president of the Tokyo Gas Electric Engineering Co., Ltd.
Sixth son : Torao
Seventh son : Otohiko
His wife was a daughter of the former prime minister of Japan, Gonbei Yamamoto.
Eighth son : Shokuma
His wife was a daughter of Ryoichiro ARAI, and Shokuma's daughter Haru MATSUKATA REISCHAUER married Edwin O. REISCHAUER.
Ninth son : Yoshisuke
Tenth son : Kinjiro
Eleventh son : Torakichi
He was an adopted son of Jutaro MATSUMOTO.
Twelfth son : Yoshiyuki
He was an adopted son of Ichizaemon MORIMURA.
Thirteenth son : Saburo MATSUKATA (alpinist, businessman), executive director of the Kyodo News, and so on
He was the third head of MATSUKATA family. Shigeharu MATSUMOTO was his grandson. Professional figure skater Junko YAGINUMA is one of the MATSUKATA descendants (Otohiko's great-granddaughter).

Pedigree record

The MATSUKATA family

The MATSUKATA family came from Togoku (the eastern part of Japan, particularly Kanto region) accompanying Mr. SHIMAZU in the 12th century. Since after Izuminokami MATSUKATA at the age of 15 went to Nagasaki to learn the manufacturing of guns at the behest of the lord in the 17th century, the family had gotten salaries by supervising the gun manufacturing. Shichiemon was the thirtieth head of the family. Masaki MATSUDA who was born into a goshi (country samurai) family and had been engaged in business was adopted by a feudal retainer of domain Shichiemon MATSUKATA who appreciated his ability, and when Shichiemon died in 1818, he inherited the position as the head of the MATSUKATA family, and changed his name to ''Masaki MATSUKATA'' which he had used ever since. As Masayoshi had many children (24 children of 13 sons and 11 daughters), one day, when he was asked by the Emperor Meiji how many children he had, he couldn't remember, and answered that he would research and report it later. Shosaku's wife Shigeko was the oldest daughter of the second sosui of Mitsubishi Zaibatsu Yanosuke IWASAKI, which means that the MATSUKATA family was allied with the Mitsubishi founding family, IWASAKI family through marriage. In addition, the MATSUKATA family forms a family club called 'Kaito-kai' which has hundreds of members today.

[Original Japanese]