Kuki Ryuichi (九鬼隆一)

Ryuichi KUKI (September 12, 1850 to August 18, 1931) was a Japanese bureaucrat and a baron. He served as Shoyu (a Junior Assistant Minister) of the Ministry of Education (the present deputy secretary of the Ministry of Education), the first chief of the Imperial Museum (the present National Museum), a member of Kizokuin (the House of Peers), as well as an imperial court councilor of Sumitsu-in (Privy Council) (Japan).

He especially had a lot of knowledge of fine art, and was the founder of the Sanda Museum which used to be in Sanda City (but is closed now). His son, Shuzo KUKI, was a philosopher.


The time in the Sanda Domain and the Ayabe Domain

In 1850, he was born in Yashikimachi, the Sanda Domain (current, Sanda City, Hyogo Prefecture), as the second son of 星崎貞幹 who was a vassal of the Sanda Domain and was granted 180 koku (a volume measure for rice [approximately, 180 liters]). His childhood name was Teijiro (貞次郎). When his mother, 龍, died in 1860, he was adopted by 九鬼隆周, a chief retainer of the Ayabe Domain who was looking for a successor, through the intercession of the lord of domain, Takayoshi, KUKI. In 1866, he took over the family estate and became the head of the Kuki family.

When Yukichi FUKUZAWA, who was involved in the reformation of the duties of the Sanda Domain, came to Kyoo (a banquet) in the domain residence in Edobori, Osaka, Kuki attended the same Kyoo and met him there. When he went to Tokyo with Takayoshi, KUKI on June 28, 1869, he visited Yukichi FUKUZAWA again with the recommendation of the domain and got permission to enter the Gakko Hojin (incorporated educational institution) Keio Gijuku. In December of the same year, he was assigned to be a company commander of the Western style military drill court as well as a Junior Councillor of the Ayabe Domain, and he became in charge of Tukaharaguchi of the Tanba Kaido Road, as Sanin Chinbu-sotoku (the general of placating Sanin).

Entering a private school and serving at the Ministry of Education

In March 1870, he entered Koumin KAWAMOTO's private school and studied there for several months until the school closed. In December of the same year, he retired as Junior Councillor, and entered the Gakko Hojin Keio Gijuku in March of the following year and studied English and other subjects there. He started calling himself Ryuichi around this time. In May 1872, he started working for the Ministry of Education as the eleventh class, and became the inspector of Daigaku Nanko (the predecessor of the University of Tokyo) and an office manager at Daigaku Toko (the Eastern College of the University).

At that time, fourty percent of the national budget for education went into the overseas education expense of 260 people dispatched abroad, and the Ministry of Education was thinking of aborting their overseas education and using the expense to invite foreign teachers (foreign residents in Japan employed to teach new techniques). Since people studying abroad were mostly the children of high officers from Satsuma, Choshu, Tosa and Hizen, or the children of people who made a great contribution to the Meiji Restoration, Kuki strongly agreed to the government policy in order to prevent the social classes from cementing due to privileged overseas education as well as to provide opportunities to all gifted students.

Consequently, Kuki went to Europe in 1873 in order to see the actual situation of overseas students as well as to explain and convince them to come back to Japan. Kowashi INOUE and Kazuro INOUE, who were studying abroad at that time, showed strong opposition at first, however, Tokusuke NAKAE (later, Choumin NAKAE) understood the situation, leading to the consent of everyone in the end. The first government-sponsored overseas students after the revision of the system included Kazuo HATOYAMA who became a statesman and Jutaro KOMURA who became a diplomat, which shows that Kuki eventually achieved his goal.

Promotion in the Ministry of Education

Due to his success in convincing the overseas students, he became Shojo (Junior Secretary) of the Ministry of Education in 1874 after he came back to Japan. In April 1876, he was promoted to Soninkan (a senior officer originally selected as a candidate by the Prime Minister), a Senior Secretary of the Ministry of Education as well as the first class legal system officer, and in January 1877, the following year, he was promoted to the Great Secretary of the Ministry of Education as well as the secretary of Daijokan (Grand Council of State). In October, he was sent to Paris for the Paris World Exposition which was going to be held in the following year (1878), and came back to Japan in May 1879. During his stay in France, he met Masayoshi MATSUKATA, the vice-director of the exhibition, and since then their relationship grew.

Since he was exposed to western art and its art administration in France, he became interested in those fields. After that, he met Ernest Fenollosa and Tenshin OKAKURA, and started supporting their art research. Fenollosa, with Kuki's support, effectively conducted the investigation on the cultural properties in the temples and shrines or other places of all over Japan including Kyoto and Nara.

In 1880, he became Shoyu of the Ministry of Education, and in November of the same year, he became the vice chief of audition and the councilor of the National Industrial Exhibition. Since the domain cliques had strong power at that time, it was rare for a person from a small domain to be promoted that quickly.
Since Monbukyo (the chief of Ministry of Education [present, the Minister of Education]), Togama KONO was not very interested in administration, Kuki dominated the Ministry of Education and it was called 'Kuki's Ministry of Education.'

Meiji juyonen no seihen (the failed Meiji-14 coup of 1881)

In the next year, 1881, in order to stop the Freedom and People's Rights Movement, Hirobumi ITO and others initiated Meiji juyonen no seihen and expelled Shigenobu OKUMA from the government. On this occasion, due to the suspicion that Okuma and Yukichi FUKUZAWA were trying to set up a new cabinet to replace the han-dominated government, many government officials who graduated from Keio Gijuku and were greatly influenced by Fukuzawa left their positions. Tsuyoshi INUKAI and Yukio OZAKI were included in those government officials.

However, Kuki, holding the line against them, stayed in the Ministry of Education, and tried to implement the education policy based on the traditionalism which was against the Fukuzawa's idea of civilization and enlightenment. As a result, the relationship between Kuki and Fukuzawa became extremely tense, and when a clerical officer sent an invitation of Fukizawa's meeting to Kuki by mistake, Fukuzawa warn the officer by using the following rabid expressions: "Having Kuki in the meeting is the same as having a stupid dog in the meeting." Kuki, in the end, apologized to Fukuzawa, leading to their reconciliation.

Retirement from the Ministry of Education

Setsurei MIYAKE mentioned that Kuki lost his power in the Ministry of Education since Takato OKI, who became Monbukyo in December 1882, did not trust Kuki very much, and his great supporter Tomomi IWAKURA died the following year. Moreover, due to Hirobumi ITO who was promoting the westernization of Japan, Arinori MORI became the first Minister of Education in 1884. Accordingly, Nagazane MOTODA and Kuki, whose ideals were Confucianist, left the Ministry of Education in May of the same year, and Kuki went to Washington, D.C. as the envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary.

In Washington, D.C., he displayed a few hundreds of Japanese paintings in the guest room in order to introduce Japanese art, and also proposed the Ministry of Education that the antiquities should be preserved as national treasures in order to prevent them from going to foreign countries. Ernest Fenollosa, whom Kuki had known for some time, seems to have suggested this to Kuki. In 1887, he met Fenollosa and Tenshin OKAKURA again for the first time in years, when they had completed the inspection in Europe and stopped in America. Since Kuki's wife, Hatsuko was pregnant, Tenshin left with her for Japan and arrived at Yokohama Port in October. After she came back to Japan, Shuzo KUKI was born on February 15, 1888. Kuki came back to Japan in February of the same year.

Kunaisho (Ministry of the Sovereign's Household)

After returning to Japan, Kuki became Zusho no kami (the Director of the Bureau of Drawings and Books) at Kunaisho (the Ministry of the Sovereign's Household). Here, he set up a bureau for provisional national inspection of treasure where he became its chairman and Fenollosa and Tenshin became its members, to inspect and preserve cultural properties. From May to September in 1888 and from October in 1888 to February of the next year, he visited Kyoto Prefecture, Osaka Prefecture, Nara Prefecture, Shiga Prefecture and Wakayama Prefecture in the Kinki area with Fenollosa to investigate the shrines and temples and the arts there.

When the Imperial Museums (present, National Museum) were established in Tokyo, Kyoto and Nara in 1889, he became the first chief of the Imperial Museum and served until 1900. In the same year, the Tokyo School of Fine Arts (present Faculty of Fine Arts of Tokyo University of Arts), which Kuki supported, was established and Fenollosa became the principal.

At the third National Industrial Exhibition held in Ueno in 1890, he was the chief of audition. In the same year, he was involved with the establishment of Teishitsu Gigeiin (Imperial art experts), and he was also appointed to the member of Kizokuin (the House of Peers) when the Imperial Diet was established. In April 1891, the following year, he was assigned by the Minister of Agriculture and Commerce, Munemitsu MUTSU, to create an organization for the preparation of the World's Columbian Exposition (1893) which was going to be held two years later, and became the vice-director, who was practically in charge.

Supporting general election

At the second general election of members of the House of Representatives held in 1892, he was requested by the Prime Minister, Masayoshi MATSUKATA to support the government-affiliated candidates in Kinki area and Setouchi area from January to February. His position at that time was the envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary which he had been since going to America, but he was excused from it in September of the same year.

It is well known that Yajiro SHINAGAWA and Senichi SHIRANE strongly interfered this election and ordered police officers to use force, causing death in Kochi Prefecture. On the other hand, Kuki's plan was relatively moderate, like he ordered police officers to control Soshi (political activists) supporting government-affiliated candidates. Instead, he focused his energy to unify the government-affiliated candidates; to ask for support from Zaibatsu (company syndicates) including the Mitsui family and the Sumitomo family as well as from Hongan-ji Temple which he had gotten to know during the art investigation; and to manage the budget effectively.

Since Kuki took a business trip without a legal position, the governor of Kyoto Prefecture, Kunimichi KITAGAKI, went a different way from Kuki. As a result, the number of seats of government-affiliated candidates increased by ten seats in the areas where Kuki conducted election campaigns, including four seats in Nara, and Kuki also succeeded in making a big-shot politician from the Liberal Party (Japan), Kentaro OI, lose the election. However, after the election, he was not even selected as a candidate for a minister, and thus he left Matsukata and started befriending Hirobumi ITO.

Advancement in social status and later years

At the World's Columbian Exposition held in 1893, due to the wishes of Kuki and Tenshin, the exhibition of Japan was traditional and focused on Nihonga (Japanese-style Painting). It greatly differed from the previous one in that a Hoo Palace (Phoenix Palace) copy of Hoo-do Hall (Phoenix Hall) of Byodoin Temple was built as a Japanese pavilion, and the exportation of artifacts was promoted.

At the fourth National Industrial Exhibition held in Kyoto in April 1895, he again became the chief of audition. At that time, a nude portrait painted by Seiki KURODA, 'Chosho' (Le Lever) became a subject of discussion, but Kuki permitted the exhibition of the portrait. In June of the same year, under the Second Ito Cabinet, he was appointed to Imperial Court Councilor of Sumitsu-in.

To honor great achievement, he was conferred baron in 1896. The following year, he was involved with the establishment of the law for preserving old temples and shrines, which specified the first cultural property in Japan. In 1898, so-called the Turmoil of the Art School occurred, which disclosed the affair between Tenshin OKAKURA and Hatsuko, Kuki's wife. In the same year, Tenshin resigned the principle of Tokyo School of Fine Arts as well as the directorship of the art department of the Imperial Museum.

In 1900, he was divorced from Hatusko. After that, he devoted himself into the art administration, and in 1914, he founded the Sanda Museum by using the administrative institution of the old Arima County to store his own collections. In 1920, he became Gijo-kan (an official post in Decoration Bureau). He died in Kamakura on August 18, 1931 while he was serving as Gijo-kan as well as the Imperial Court Councilor of Sumitsu-in.

Personality and Hobbies

He was discribed to be arrogant and not to condescend easily. He also enjoyed sexual relations with many women, which is said to be one of the reasons why his wife had an affair with Tenshin OKAKURA. His personality was considered not to be very good as he received harsh criticism from his master, Yukichi FUKUZAWA as mentioned above.

In his later life, he collected hundreds of paintings about Dharma, and he also favored to paint on them by himself, but he was too modest to give his paintings to anyone when he was asked. He used Gago (a pseudonym), 'Narumi' from Shiki (a Chinese history book), Rishi-den.

Relationship with Tenshin OKAKURA

Tenshin's personality was also raffish, and it is thought that their personalities did not match. However, their interests coincided: Kuki, who could not belong to any domain clique, wanted to establish his area of specialty and Tenshin needed someone with authority to conduct his research with temples. Moreover, they had extraordinary prowess, which maintained their relationship for more than twenty years.

[Original Japanese]