Itagaki Taisuke (板垣退助)

Taisuke ITAGAKI (May 21,1387 - July 16, 1919) was a Japanese samurai, a retainer of the Tosa Domain, and a statesman. He was famous as a leader of the Jiyu Minken Undo (Movement for Liberty and People's Rights). His childhood name was Inosuke. Taisuke was originally his by-name, and Masami was his first imina (personal name). Later, he changed his imina to Masakata. Although Mukei is his well-known alias, he also titled himself as Joun. He was a count of Juichii-Kun Itto (Junior First Rank, First order of merit) (insisting on the life-peer theory, he did not take the procedure to inherit ancestral dignity after his death).

No blood relationship existed between him and Seishiro ITAGAKI, who had held various posts including Minister of the Army.


Taisuke ITAGAKI was born on May 21, 1837 as the eldest son of Masashige INUI, a retainer of the Tosa Domain, in Nakajima town near Kochi-jo Castle (present Kochi City). The Inui clan served as Umamawariyaku (body guard) with a stipend of 220 koku, and their social status was Joshi (superior warrior). Shojiro GOTO, another retainer of the Tosa Domain, was Itagaki's childhood friend. They were treated much better than goshi (country samurai), or noncommissioned officers, including Ryoma SAKAMOTO.

The End of the Edo Period

Taisuke ITAGAKI had held various important posts of the Tosa Domain starting from lord chamberlain of Yodo YAMAUCHI, the lord of the Tosa Domain.

Itagaki took part in the anti-Shogunate movement, insisting on overthrowing the Shogunate with military power. In the Boshin War, he was appointed the army commander of the Tosa Domain and a staff officer of the spearhead governor of Tosan-do Road, smashing Shinsengumi led by Isami KONDO in the Battle of Koshu-Katsunuma. Furthermore, during the Tohoku War, he succeeded in capturing some areas including the Sendai and Aizu Domains.

Holding Various Important Posts in the Meiji Government

In 1869, Itagaki became Sanyo (Councilor) in the new Meiji government. He was the one of those who assumed the post of Sanyo of the "first term" in the new government, along with Takayoshi KIDO (Choshu Domain), Takamori SAIGO (Satsuma Domain), and Shigenobu OKUMA (Saga Domain). Namely, in the new government led by the four domain cliques of Satsuma, Choshu, Tosa, and Hizen, these four people including Itagaki were the highest ranking feudal retainers representing each of their domains.

In 1870, he assumed the post of Daisanji (second to a governor) of the Kochi Domain.

Subsequently, he became Sangi (councillor) in 1871.

In 1873, Itagaki advocated Seikanron (debate on subjugation of Korea), but eventually gave in to Tomomi IWAKURA and other returnees from visitation to the West who took a prudent stance considering international relationships with Europe and America, resulting in the split of the new government. Thus, Itagaki and others including Takamori SAIGO fell from power (Meiji roku-nen no Seihen [Coups of 1873]).

Jiyu Minken Undo (Movement for Liberty and People's Rights)

In 1874, Itagaki organized Aikokukoto Party with Shojiro GOTO and others, submitting the "Tosa Memorial" (the petition of 1874 calling for the establishment of a representative parliament) to the government, only to be rejected.

He resumed the post of Sangi in 1875 to take part in the Osaka Conference, but soon resigned the post and concentrated on promoting Jiyu Minken Undo.

In 1881, upon the issuance of the Imperial Decree that the Imperial Diet be inaugurated ten years later, Itagaki formed the Liberal Party (Japan, 1881-1884), one of Japan's first political parties, to become prime minister (party leader).

In April 1882, Itagaki was attacked by a thug named Naobumi AIHARA and was injured while he was campaigning in Gifu City (the Gifu Incident). "Itagaki may die, but liberty never will!" he shouted at that moment. Although this was widely regarded as Itagaki's own remark, the phrase actually came from a speech titled "Itagaki may die, but liberty never will!" made by a journalist Shinsuke KOMURO (also called himself Angaido, 1852 - August 25, 1885) in Gifu prefecture right after the incident. Another theory is that this was shouted on the scene by a person named Roichi NAITO who served as Itagaki's secretary at that time. The doctor who examined Itagaki after the incident was Shinpei GOTO. Itagaki discerned Goto's ability, saying "It's a pity that I cannot make you a politician." True to his words, Goto later became a politician to assume various posts such as Minister of Home Affairs (Japan), Minister of Foreign Affairs (Japan), and the mayor of Tokyo.

In November, Itagaki traveled to the West with Shojiro GOTO.

He returned from the visitation in June 1883.

In October 1884, intensifying Jiyu Minken Undo culminated in the Kabasan Incident (a failed terror attack attempt and subsequent harsh crackdown on activists of Jiyu Minken Undo in Ibaraki and Tochigi Prefectures), prompting Itagaki to dissolve the Liberal Party for the time being.

In May 1887, despite his declinations, Itagaki was conferred the peerage of hakushaku (a count).

After the Inauguration of the Imperial Diet

After the inauguration of the Imperial Diet, in 1890, Itagaki reconstructed the former Liberal Party into the Rikken Jiyuto Party (the Constitutional Liberal Party).

Changing the party name back to the Liberal Party, Itagaki assumed the leadership of the party in 1891.

In 1896, he joined the Second Ito Cabinet and the Second Matsukata Cabinet as the Minister of Home Affairs (Japan).

In March 1897, he resigned as the president of the Liberal Party.

In 1898, merging with Shinpoto Party (Progressive Party, Japan) led by Shigenobu OKUMA who had opposing views against him, Itagaki formed Kenseito Party (the Constitutional Party) and joined the First Okuma Cabinet, Japan's first party cabinet, as the Minister of Home Affairs. Therefore, this cabinet was also commonly called the Waihan Cabinet (representing the combination of each one Kanji character from Okubo and Itagaki, that is "隅" and "板"). However, due to fierce internal conflicts, the cabinet was driven into resignation en masse in a mere four months.

In 1900, with the establishment of the Rikken Seiyukai (the Friends of Constitutional Government Party; a political party organized by Hirobumi ITO), Itagaki retired from politics.

He died (treated as "Kokyo," death of a man of upper rather than Third Rank) on July 16, 1919. His homyo (a posthumous Buddhist name) is 邦光院殿賢徳道圓大居士. On the stone monument that stands next to his gravestone, the phrase "Itagaki may die, but liberty never will" was handwritten by Eisaku SATO.

As a groundbreaker in Japan's democratic politics, Itagaki enjoyed high popularity even after his death, and his portrait was depicted on fifty sen Government and 100 yen Bank of Japan notes.

Public Estimation

While there is no doubt that Itagaki immensely contributed to the growth of Japan's democracy, however, because of his selfless character with no thirst for money and with no wiliness (that is to say, he was simply "a nice person"), he was not necessarily an adept politician, a profession that requires to be broad-minded enough to deal with all sorts of good and evil. While many outstanding people from the Tosa Domain like Zuizan TAKECHI, Ryoma SAKAMOTO, and Shintaro NAKAOKA could not survive into the Restoration, Itagaki entered the center of the Meiji Government as a politician representing the Tosa Domain. However, his defeat on the debate of Seikanron eventually led to an effective downfall of the Tosa Domain clique. Also, when he was the leader of Liberal Party, his attitudes and thoughts were often inconsistent with the Waihan Cabinet. Even members of the Liberal Party that Itagaki himself created left him to switch to the Seiyukai Party established by Hirobumi ITO, leaving Itagaki to live solitarily in his last years.

On the other hand, Itagaki as a military man showed a remarkable performance as a commander in such wars as the Tohoku War and the Boshin Civil War. However, Itagaki gave up the course of a military man and instead chose to be a politician as a representative of Tosa Domain clique, as mentioned above. A novelist Ryotaro SHIBA described Itagaki with such expressions as "Itagaki was far from suitable as a civil officer, (...) no occupation but being a soldier fits him" in his novel "Tobu ga gotoku."

Nonetheless, as a commander of Jiyu Minken Undo, he earned tremendous support from the general public.

As he was the leader of Jiyu Minken Undo, Itagaki has been generally regarded as having the philosophy of modern constitutional liberalism, and also, he has the image of an importer of modern philosophy like Chomin NAKAE, who translated the works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau into Japanese. However, the political situation at that time often tended to be a factional struggle, and Itagaki fought something like a proxy war for his Tosa Domain that was a minority in the cabinet. In that situation, Itagaki, as well as Nakae, based their philosophy on the Restoration of Imperial Rule, and the theory of natural human rights advocated by them were actually based on the Emperor system.


Being a realist, Itagaki in his childhood once dared to throw away his Omamori (a personal amulet) of the Inari-jinja Shrine into the toilet and tried to see whether his action would trigger the divine punishment, which did not occur.

Similarly, he demonstrated groundlessness of a popular superstition at that time that certain combinations of foods like "eel and pickled plums" and "tenpura (Japanese deep-fried dish) and watermelon" would kill you, by collecting people and actually ate those combinations in front of them.

According to their family tradition, the first head of the Inui family Masanobu INUI was "a grandson of Nobukata ITAGAKI, a commanding officer who served Shingen TAKEDA of Kai Province. Because his father Nobunori ITAGAKI was punished by being deprived of his fief and later executed, Masanobu moved to Inui village, Shuchi County, Totomi Province to stay inside his home, and changed his family name to Inui. Later, he became a samurai to serve Kazutoyo YAMAUCHI when Yamauchi was assigned to the Kakegawa Domain." In 1868, while marching his troops as the counselor of Tosando-Road spearhead government-general of the new government, he changed his family name back to Itagaki, the one his ancestors had proclaimed, as February 14, the day they arrived in Ogaki in Mino Province just before seizing Kofu Castle in a shogunal demesne, coincidently marked the 320th anniversary of the death of Nobukata ITAGAKI. With the act, Itagaki intended to gain support from Kai people, by reminding them that he was a member of the Inui clan succeeding the Itagaki clan that derived from Kai-Genji (Minamoto clan). As he expected, the change of his family name earned Itagaki the tremendous support from Kai people, leading to his landslide victory at the Battle of Koshu-Katsunuma.

After winning the Battle of Koshu-Katsunuma, it was said that Itagaki confronted the portrait of Nobukata ITAGAKI housed in Erin-ji Temple, the family temple of the Takeda family in Kai Province, and was so overwhelmed that he directly wrote down "Our Father" on it.

From the standpoint of a Jiyu Minken Undo activist, Itagaki took a negative attitude toward the peerage system and declined twice to accept the imperial decree of granting the peerage. However, admonished by people around him that "the third declination would be irreverent," he was forced to accept the peerage of the count upon the third request.

Denying the hereditary peerage system and insisting on the "life-peer theory," Itagaki led a campaign of sending letters to the peerage nationwide asking for the pros and cons on the argument. True to his belief that "Leave no fortune for one's posterity," he did not allow his children to inherit ancestral dignity.

Although the funeral ceremony of Itagaki was conducted with Buddhist rites in accordance with Itagaki's will, as the religious doctrine of the Itagaki family was the Soto sect of Zen Buddhism, Itagaki himself was a Protestant and greatly affected Kenkichi KATAOKA (the first chairman of the House of Representatives) from the same village as Itagaki with regard to his experience in the religion.

Bronze Statues

At the entrance of Shinbashi Bridge leading to the sando (an approach to the temple) of Nikko Tosho-gu Shrine in Nikko City
This statue commemorates Itagaki's contributions in saving the Nikko-zan Mountains from the fires of war by persuading the former retainers of the shogun, including Keisuke OTORI, who were holed up in Nikko Tosho-gu Shrine, and persuading the Satsuma Domain who had vehemently insisted on destruction.
In Gifu Park in Gifu City, Gifu Prefecture (at the foot of Mt. Kinka, Gifu Prefecture)
The statue was built in 1917 at the site of the Gifu Incident, in which Itagaki suffered the disaster of being nearly assassinated.

At the entrance of Kochi-jo Castle in Kochi City, Kochi Prefecture
The creator of the statue, Hakuun MOTOYAMA (a disciple of Koun TAKAMURA), was a relative of Itagaki.

In the Diet Building
One of the statues located at the four corners of the central hall. The other statues are the ones of Shigenobu OKUMA, Hirobumi ITO, and an empty pedestal.

Martial Arts

Itagaki mastered the battojutsu (the technique of drawing a sword) of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu school Tanimura Sect that had been transmitted in his hometown with Masamichi OE, who later became the seventeenth headmaster. Also, he introduced Yoshimasa HOSOKAWA of Muso Shinden Eishin Ryu school to Hiromichi NAKAYAMA.

He learned the jujutsu (classical Japanese martial art, usually referring to fighting without a weapon) of the Donteki Ryu school kogusoku jutsu from Danzo MOTOYAMA. When Itagaki was attacked by Naobumi AIHARA in Gifu City in 1882 (the Gifu Incident), Itagaki used atemi waza (striking techniques) with his elbow against Aihara's abdomen, getting injured himself, though. Itagaki was said to give a present to Motoyama, saying it had been thanks to his mentor Motoyama that he could narrowly survive the incident, and in return, received the full proficiency from Motoyama.

He was also known as a Sumo lover.

In addition, he was a famous collector of Japanese swords.


Granted the title of count in May 1887

Awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun in September 1896

Awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun with Paulownia Flower in July 1919


The Inui clan (the Itagaki clan) were hereditary feudal retainers of the Tosa Domain during the Edo period, with the social standing of Umamawariyaku (body guard), a Joshi status (superior warrior). Its family crest were the "kayanouchi jumonji"(the end of Sengoku Period [period of warring states] to the mid Meiji Period), and the "tosagiri"(after the mid Meiji Period).

Mt. Azouno (Mt. Itagaki)

The whole mountain is like a big graveyard dedicated to the Inui clan, with the gravestones aligned in a orderly fashion for ten generations from Masanobu, the first head of the family, to Taisuke, whose gravestone stands next to the one of his third wife who was from the Odani clan. All of the gravestones from Masanobu to Taisuke bear the family crest of "kayanouchi jumonji." Exceptionally, the crest of "tosagiri" was inscribed on the pedestal of Taisuke's gravestone. Azouno Higashimachi, Kochi City, Kochi Prefecture.

Anraku-ji Temple

There is a graveyard for the Inui (Itagaki) clan in the temple. 5-3 Horagashima-cho, Kochi City, Kochi Prefecture.

Shinagawa-jinja Shrine

The shrine has gravestones for everyone including Taisuke in the Itagaki clan who had died after the Meiji Period, except for Nobutake, Taisuke's grandfather who died in Edo. The grave of Taisuke stands next to the one of his forth wife who was from the Fukuoka clan. Since those graves had been built after the Meiji Period, all of them bear the family crest of "tosagiri." The graveyard of Shinagawa-jinja Shrine is located at the back of the main building of the shrine, because the shrine site was originally the premises of Tokai-ji Temple. Kitashinagawa 3-chome, Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo Prefecture. The shrine is designated as the historic site of the Shinagawa Ward.

Literary Works

"Itagaki Seihoron," dictated by Taisuke ITAGAKI, written by Emori UEKI, compiled by Shuji GOKO, published by Jiyuro, 1881
"Tsuzoku Mujo Seihoron," planned by Taisuke ITAGAKI, written by Emori UEKI, compiled by Izumi WADA, published by Eiri Jiyu Publishing Co, 1883
"Itagaki Haku Ikensyo," dictated by Taisuke ITAGAKI, published by Kenseito Party publicity bureau, 1899
"Itagaki Nankaiou no Iken," dictated by Taisuke ITAGAKI, published by 郷敏儒, 1890
"Aikokuron," planned by Count Itagaki, compiled by Gosaburo IDEI, published by Yoshida Shobo, 1890
"Jiyuto Shi"(The history of Liberal Party), supervised by Taisuke ITAGAKI, co-edited by Tomoi UDA and Saburo WADA, published by 五車楼, 1910 (also published as Iwanami bunko of Vol.1, 2, and 3, 1958 for the first edition, and revived in 1997 etc.)
"Ichidai Kazoku Ron"(the life-peer theory), written by Count Taisuke ITAGAKI, published by Shakaiseisakusha, 1912
"Senkyoho Kaisei Iken"(Opinions on Revision of the Election Law), written by Taisuke ITAGAKI
"Itagaki Taisuke Sensei Bushido Kan"(Interpretation of Bushido spirits by Mr. Taisuke ITAGAKI), written by Taisuke ITAGAKI, published by Kochi Itagakikai, 1942
"Kensei to Tosa"(Constitutional Politics and Tosa), compiled by Itagakikai, 1941

[Original Japanese]