Iwamura Michitoshi (岩村通俊)

Michitoshi IWAMURA (July 8, 1840 - February 20, 1915) was a Japanese samurai and a statesman. Michitoshi held posts such as governor of Kagoshima Prefecture and the first director of the Hokkaido Agency.

Personal Profile

In the Meiji Period, Michitoshi served as an official of No-Shomusho (Japanese Agriculture and Commerce Ministry), an imperial court councilor and the director of the Hokkaido Agency (1886-1947). Michitoshi, who had been transferred to Hokkaido as a government official in charge of development of Hokkaido and had surveyed the place, appealed to the national government to set up a prefectural government of Hokkaido and was appointed as the first director of the Hokkaido Agency. His rank and order of merit was Baron of Shonii (Senior Second Rank) with the Grand Cordon of the Order. Michitoshi called himself Kando and used the haimei (haiku poet's pen name) "Sosui."

His immediate younger brother, Yuzo HAYASHI, held the posts of Teishin daijin (Minister of Communication) and No-shomu daijin (Minister of Agriculture and Commerce), and his third younger brother, Takatoshi IWAMURA, served as governor of prefectures of Saga, Ehime, Ishikawa, Fukuoka and Hiroshima and was conferred the title of Baron. Michitoshi's eldest son, Hassaku IWAMURA, succeeded him to become Baron and dedicated his life to development of Hokkaido. Michitoshi's second son, Toshitake IWAMURA, served as vice admiral and Michitoshi's fifth son, Michiyo IWAMURA, became Homu daijin (Minister of Justice), and later was arrested as a class-A war criminal. One of his nephews, Joji HAYASHI (statesman), served as chairman of House of Representatives and Kosei daijin (Minister of Health and Welfare).


Michitoshi, born as the eldest son of baishin (indirect vassal) serving for Tosa Domain, Hidetoshi IWAMURA, was given academic education under Nanrei SAKAI while he learned art of swordplay under Izo OKADA. He participated in the Battle of Hokuetsu in 1868, and won fame in the battle. In 1869, he came to work for the national government and later became a judge of Chosho-shi (court for civil suits), gonhanji (assistant judicial officer) of Hakodate-fu government and kaitaku hangan (magistrate of Hokkaido Development Commissioner).

National Government Official Responsible for Hokkaido Development

Succeeding to Yoshitake SHIMA who was chief magistrate of the Hokkaido Development Commission (alternatively, Hokkaido Colonization Commission), Michitoshi took office in 1871, and continued development of Sapporo City. Following an example set in Kyoto City, he divided the city into sections "jo" and subsections "chome" and embarked on removal of hatched huts for the purpose of preventing fires which were considered as major disasters of the time. His approach for this project was to first make an announcement of the removal of the huts and then set fire to them. Therefore, the fire is called "fire of official business," namely, arson fire, and it is said that Michitoshi was resolutely prepared for resignation from office at that time. Sapporo Fire Brigade was, however, first established after this incident and it is said that thereafter the number of fires decreased.

In the meantime, he was promoted to kaitaku daijo (literally, development inspector) and embarked on establishment of yukaku (red-light district) for immigrants and civil engineering workers increasing in number. He ordered his subordinate Tatsuyuki USUI to set up an entertainment town and named the place "Susuikino Yukaku" after one of Kanji letters used in USUI's family name. Namely, it is the origin of the town now called "Susukino" (but there is, however, another theory about the origin of the town name).

Served As Governor of Various Prefectures

In July 1874, Michitoshi was appointed governor of Saga Prefecture and achieved success there. When he was summoned to the central government which decided to transfer him to the Ministry of Industry, he recommended his younger brother Takatoshi IWAMURA as his successor for the governor of Saga Prefecture and the national government approved it.

In 1876, Michitoshi became head of Yamaguchi District Court and in 1877, when the Seinan War occurred, he was transferred to Kagoshima Prefecture to serve as the prefectural governor there. It is said that during this period, Michitoshi, with an approval of the military, entombed with courtesy the dead body of his enemy, General Takamori SAIGO, at Kagoshima Jokomyo-ji Temple.

Michitoshi, after achieving success as the governor of Kagoshima Prefecture, was promoted to councilor of Genroin (senate) and then to Commissioner of the Board of Audit, and in 1882, he was appointed governor of Okinawa Prefecture.

Establishment of the Hokkaido Agency

After serving as the governor of Okinawa Prefecture for two years, Michitoshi became Shiho-taifu (active minister of the Ministry of Justice) and persuaded the national government about importance of developing Hokkaido and establishing the Hokkaido Agency (1886-1947). His appeal was accepted and in 1886, the Hokkaido Agency was established, and Michitoshi was appointed as the first director of it. As the director, he worked for developing Hokkaido, and conceived a plan to make Asahikawa City a "Hokkyo" (northern state capital) following Tokyo and Kyoto.

Raised from Minister to Peer

In 1888, when the post of the director of the Hokkaido Agency was succeeded by Takeshiro NAGAYAMA, Michitoshi became a councilor of the Genroin. After serving as No-shomu jikan (undersecretary of Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce), he became the Minister of Agriculture and Commerce under the First Yamagata Cabinet on December 24, 1889. After retiring as the Minister, he held prominent posts of an imperial court councilor, a member of Kizokuin (the House of Peers), head of the Imperial Property Department, and Kinkei-no-ma shiko (privileged attendant at the Kinkei-no-ma Hall of Kyoto Imperial Palace). In 1896, Michitoshi was conferred the title of Baron for his achievements, thereby being raised to the peerage. On December 28 in the following year, he was awarded with the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure. In 1900, the Chosen Keifu Railway Company was established in Korea and Michitoshi assumed the post of an executive board member. On June 23, 1904, Michitoshi was awarded with the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun. On February 20, 1915, he died at home in Maruyama-cho Town, Koishikawa-ku Ward, Tokyo. His grave is in Yanaka Cemetery, Tokyo.

In honor of his achievements, Michitoshi is enshrined at Kaitaku-jinja Shrine which is a subordinate shrine of Hokkaido-jinja Shrine, and at Kamikawa-jinja Shrine, and his bronze statues were built in Tokiwa Park of Asahikawa City, and Odori Park and Maruyama Park of Sapporo City. There is a monument commemorating Michitoshi at the former residence of the IWAMURA family in Sukumo City, Kochi Prefecture.

[Original Japanese]