Kido Takayoshi (木戸孝允)

Takayoshi KIDO (August 11, 1833 - May 26, 1877) was a Japanese samurai and statesman who had a distinguished career from the end of the Edo period to the early Meiji period. His first name is sometimes read as 'Koin' in Chinese reading.

He was a leading figure of the so-called 'Choshu Oligarchy' of the Choshu clan. (At the end of) the Edo period, he was known as Kogoro KATSURA, and played a central role in the Sonno Joi (Revere the Emperor, Expel the Barbarians) movement. He was counted among 'the Three Heroes of the Restoration,' along with Takamori SAIGO and Toshimichi OKUBO of the Satsuma clan.

Brief personal history

Kido was a disciple of Shoin YOSHIDA and a feudal retainer and reformist of the Choshu clan. He was a great swordsman who served as the head of the Renpeikan dojo in Edo. He was a royalist, eager to study abroad, to open Japan, to abolish the unfair treaties, and to expel the barbarians. He was in charge of foreign affairs in the Choshu government. After he returned from Edo he became chief executive officer of the Choshu administration. When he was engaged in royalist activities he was the constant target of assassination by the shogunate. He nevertheless courageously continued to operate in Kyoto.

At the Meiji Restoration he was full-time advisor to the Office of the Supreme Head (effectively the first prime minister), proposing enlightened policies such as 'the public election of governmental officials' in line with 'the Constitution of 1868' from the very beginning. While promoting civilization and enlightenment, he endeavored to dismantle the feudal system through the return of lands and people to the emperor, the abolition of the feudal domains, and the establishment of prefectures. He paved the way for the Cabinet Councillors System by Satsuma, Choshu, Tosa, and Hizen, called the Big Four. He took the lead in visiting and inspecting Western countries. On his return to Japan, he asked for governmental understanding of the urgent need to implement a constitution and the separation of the three powers of the state as he had previously proposed. At the same time he made efforts to promote public education and to enhance the teaching of the imperial system. He further encouraged the samurai class to work in industry. He was deeply trusted by Takachika MORI, the Lord of the Choshu clan, as well as Emperor Meiji. His wife was Ikumatsu the geisha (Matsuko KIDO) who saved his life and became his comrade during the turbulent period before the restoration.

As an inherently enlightened person, he constantly suffered from mental distress, so much that he became ill, working for the Meiji restoration government where the radicals and the conservatives unceasingly struggled for power. During the middle of the Seinan War, he suffered a serious illness, which seemed a kind of cerebral vascular disturbance, in Kyoto which he visited on business.
Delirious as he was, he criticized Takamori SAIGO, saying 'Saigo, have done with it!'
To such an extent he was concerned about the future of the Meiji government and Saigo's troops. And he breathed his last.

On January 1, 1946 when Emperor Showa issued 'the Imperial Edict on the Construction of New Japan,' he quoted anew 'the Charter Oath of Five Articles' as a principal post-War policy of Japan.


Before Takayoshi adopted the surname 'Kido,' he was 'Wada' up to the age of 15 and became 'Katsura' after that age. He had cognomens such as Kogoro, Kanji, and Junichiro.
At the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate when the government sought to kill him, he used more than 10 pseudonyms, including 'Matsusuke NIIBORI' and 'Kosuke HIROTO.'

Kogoro' came from his great ancestor of the Wada family into which he was born. He was the first son rather than the fifth as the name might suggest.

The surname, 'Kido,' was bestowed on him by Lord Takachika MORI prior to the second Choshu-Bakufu War (1866).
Thereafter he began to use the surname in place of the former 'Katsura.'

His first name, 'Takayoshi,' was not only his imina (real and hence taboo name) but also represented the head of the Katsura family, which he became. In 1868 after the Boshin War, he endeavored to build the Tokyo Shokonsha Shrine (the precursor of the present Yasukuni-jinja Shrine), together with his trusted aide Masujiro OMURA. They wanted to properly commemorate and honor their comrades who had perished in the battles for the construction of a modern nation. Since then he had used 'Takayoshi,' albeit his taboo name, as his official one.

His pen names included 'Mokkei,' 'Byodo,' 'Shogiku,' 'Kido,' 'Kokan,' 'Robaishooku,' 'Kanrei,' and 'Kanrei' (written in different characters).

His names changed roughly as follows: Kogoro WADA (from the time of his coming-of-age ceremony until he officially succeeded to the head of the Katsura family), Kogoro KATSURA (after the age of 15), Kanji KIDO (at 33), Junichiro KIDO (after 33), and Takayoshi KIDO (after 36).
After he died at 43 (his ages are here reckoned in the Western system in which one is added upon one's birthday) he is sometimes referred to as 'Shogiku Takayoshi KIDO,' 'Shogiku KIDO' or 'Lord Shogiku KIDO.'

Early life

On August 11, 1833 Kogoro WADA was born as the first son of Masakage WADA, who was a physician of the Hagi clan, and whose residence was located at Hagi Gofuku-machi, Nagato Province (present-day Hagi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture). The Wada family was descended from Motomasa MORI, the seventh son of Motonari MORI. Kogoro's mother was the second wife of Masakage. He had two elder sisters whose mother was the first wife of his father. Although he was the first son, he was so frail that his parents thought that he could not live long. His eldest sister's husband, Bunjo, was adapted to become the heir. After his eldest sister died, his elder sister became Bunjo's wife. In 1840 at the age of 7 he was adopted, upon the head's deathbed, by the Katsura family, who lived across the street. (His foster father was Kurobe KATSURA (with a hereditary stipend of 150 koku)). He was thus entitled to the samurai rank of 'Okumishi' (middle-ranking retainer) of the Choshu clan as well as a hereditary stipend. When his foster mother of the Katsura family died in 1841, he returned to the Wada family where he was born, and grew up with his biological parents and elder sister.

As a young boy he was a naughty brat though he was delicate. He liked to capsize boats together with boatmen coming and going along the Matsumoto River in the castle town of Hagi. When he succeeded he shouted for joy, which was his favorite prank. When, one day, surfacing from the water, he took hold of the rim of the boat to overturn it, the boatman who had long lost his patience hit him on the head with his oar. Perhaps anticipating such a consequence, he went ashore, grinning with blood running down his forehead. A crescent-shaped scar remained on his forehead as the mark of his mischievous childhood. (The scar is invisible in his pictures).

In his teens he was twice given awards for giving lectures in front of Lord Takachika MORI.
(He improvised a Chinese poem and explicated "The Book of Mencius.")
He was recognized as a young genius of the Choshu clan.

In 1848 his elder sister and biological mother died from diseases one after another. In his grief he became ill. He kept saying to those around him that he would become a monk.

In 1849 he studied military science with Shoin YOSHIDA.
He was praised as a 'promising talent.'
(Later Shoin said, 'I hold Katsura in high esteem.' Being master and pupil, they were also good friends to each other.)

Kogoro KATSURA the great swordsman

In 1846 Kogoro entered a dojo run by Sakube NAITO of the Sinkage Swordplay School, who also served as Assistant Trainer of the Choshu clan. In 1848 Kogoro WADA underwent his coming-of-age ceremony and became Kogoro KATSURA the Okumishi.
His biological father said to him, 'Make every effort to become a samurai since you are not a born warrior.'
After that he had practiced swordplay more than anybody else. Improving his swordplay, he was gradually recognized as a skilled swordsman. In 1852 he decided to go to Edo to improve his swordplay. With the domain's permission, he left for Edo with five other students who all had grants from the domain.

He was very tall by the Edo standard, with a height of about 174 cm. He joined the Renpeikan dojo (3, Kudan-kita), which was one of the Big Three Dojo in Edo run by 'Powerful Saito' (Yakuro SAITO). He attained 'menkyo-kaiden' (full proficiency) in the Shindo-Munen School of swordsmanship. A year later he joined the Renpeikan he became its head.
As tradition has it, the moment tall Kogoro held a bamboo sword over his head as he liked to do so, he 'overwhelmed those around him with his calm fighting sprit.'
He was praised as one of the 'twin jewels of the Renpeikan' alongside Nobori (Noboru) WATANABE from Omura clan who attained 'menkyo-kaiden' around the same time (and who later introduced Ryoma SAKAMOTO to the Choshu clan in Nagasaki).

Around that time the following two also attained menkyo-kaiden: Hanbeita TAKECHI who was the head of the Shigakukan dojo (of the Kyoshinmeichi School of Swordsmanship at 1 Shintomi) run by 'Class Momonoi' (Shunzo MOMONOI) and Ryoma SAKAMOTO who was the head of the Okemachi Chiba dojo (of the Hokushinitto School of Swordsmanship at 2 Yaesu) founded by 'Adept Chiba' (Sadakichi CHIBA).

Kogoro defeated an immediate pupil of Seiichiro ODANI, the president of the Bakufu Kobusho (Shogunal Military Academy). He thus fulfilled his duties as the head of Renpeikan for 5 years until he was ordered by the domain to return. He was renowned for his great swordsmanship during that period. He was often invited to the residences in Edo of the Omura, Torii, and Naito clans as a swordplay instructor.

There is a story in which from November to December 1858 he competed in a swordplay match against Hanbeita TAKECHI and Ryoma SAKAMOTO at the Momonoi dojo. However, both Takechi and Sakamoto had been gone to Tosa Domain in the previous months. (Sakamoto returned to Tosa on October 9).

Kogoro the Royalist, eager to study abroad, open Japan, and advance her position in the world

While working as the head of the Renpeikan dojo, Kogoro was greatly inspired by Matthew Perry's second visit to Japan (in 1854). Through his master Yakuro SAITO, he immediately asked Hidetatsu EGAWA, the governor of five shogunal demesnes including Izu, Sagami, and Kai, for permission to visit these places. (For the people could not travel freely in the Edo period). He observed the Perry squadron as Egawa's attendant.

On Shoin's 'Shimoda tokai' (attempt to stow away on Perry's ship) he volunteered to help him. He was strongly opposed by his master Shoin who cared for him. As a result he was not punished by the government. Yet he and Ryozo KURAHARA, who was his brother in law, jointly asked the domain government for permission to study abroad. They exceedingly surprised the Choshu government, which did not know how to deal with Shoin's attempted stowaway at Shimoda.

The government, which had not yet formed the policy of overthrowing the shogunate, could not possibly and even secretly allow them to go abroad in violation of shogunal isolationism. Kogoro thus continued to work as the head of the Renpeikan as before. At the same time he decided to never stop absorbing cutting-edge information.

He studied Western military science, rifle technique, and battery construction technology with Tarozaemon EGAWA, the governor of Edo and a military strategist.

He learned marine architecture from Saburosuke NAKAJIMA, who was an assistant to Uraga bugyo.

He also studied the shipbuilding of Western-style schooner sailing ships with Denzo TAKASAKI, who was a retainer of HONDA Ecchu no Kami (Governor of Ecchu Province), the Coastal Defense Department of the shogunate.

He learned English from Ritsuzo TEZUKA of the Choshu clan.

Distinguishing himself at the core of the domain government, he adopted Shoin's peaceful trading policy in 1862 together with Masanosuke SUFU and Genzui (Gisuke) KUSAKA. He rejected the expansionist policy of Uta NAGAI, Ometsuke (Chief Inspector) of the Choshu clan, in the belief that it only benefited the shogunate. As a result, the mainstream of the domain decidedly turned to the opening of Japan and the expulsion of the barbarians. It simultaneously dismissed outright the shogunate's principle of isolationism with the expulsion of the barbarians, which contradicted the submissive realities of opening ports to foreign powers in defiance of the imperial edict.

From 1862 to the spring of 1863, the upper echelon of the enlightment school of the domain agreed on the following basic policy: study in and inspect Western countries, absorb Western culture, and then expel the barbarians. (According to Yozo YAMANO's diary) on June 23, 1863 five retainers of the Choshu clan secretly left the port of Yokohama for England.

These secret voyagers called 'the Five Heroes of Choshu' included Kaoru (Monta) INOUE, Hirobumi (Shunsuke) ITO, Yozo YAMAO, Masaru INOUE, and Kinsuke ENDO. Their trip was financed by the domain. This was made possible by Masanosuke SUFU, who appointed Kogoro, who wished to study abroad as a core member of the domain. Kogoro then appointed Zoroku MURATA (Masujiro OMURA), who was versed in Dutch and English, as a core member of the domain. These led to the formation of the enlightment school at the heart of the domain.

Regardless of Kogoro and Shinsaku TAKASUGI, who took a cautious attitude towards the foreign powers (or who regarded the expulsion of the barbarians reckless), on June 27, 1863 the Choshu army under the command of Genzui KUSAKA attacked foreign vessels passing through the Kanmon-kaikyo Straight in Shimonoseki, starting a war against Western countries in accordance with the shogunal declaration of the expulsion of the barbarians at the behest of the imperial court.
(This war that lasted about two years naturally did not result in the abrogation of the unfair treaties and the expulsion of the foreigners.)
(It was settled on the condition that the Edo shogunate that ordered to expel the barbarians should pay reparations to England, the United States, France, and the Netherlands).

In June 1863 Kogoro was ordered by the domain government to go to Kyoto from Edo. In Kyoto he took action to abrogate the unfair treaties and to expel the barbarians, together with Genzui KUSAKA and Izumi MAKI. He sought to restore imperial rule and build a new nation-state through the alliance of the royalist domains.

Ikedaya Incident

In 1864 Shinsengumi (a garrison of Kyoto in custody of the Aizu clan) assaulted royalists. In this Ikedaya Incident, Kogoro arrived at the scene too early, so he returned to his base to kill time. During that time, the incident took place so that he was not involved in it. So the story goes. It is based on his autobiography.
Orie NOMI, who was rusuiyaku (the representative in Kyoto of the lord), wrote in his memoir as follows: 'Kogoro KATSURA escaped from Ikedaya through the roof and returned to the Tsushima residence.'
This suggests that Kogoro was at Ikedaya when the incident took place and successfully ran away.

After the incident he was brave enough to secretly remain in Kyoto. He vigorously persuaded royalists of other domains to unite. He continued to operate with Kusaka and other comrades to reinstate Choshu and pro-Choshu court nobles.

The Hamaguri Gate Incident

On September 30, 1863 a coup took place to expel the Choshu royalists from Kyoto. Protesting in vain against the coup and suffering the damage of the Ikedaya Incident, the Choshu clan dispatched a vanguard of some 300 soldiers to Kyoto, ignoring the objection of Kogoro, Masanosuke SUFU, and Shinsaku TAKASUGI. The troops led by Genzui KUSAKA were positioned in Mt. Tenno in Yamazaki, Matabe KIJIMA led his troops to Tenryu-ji Temple in Sagano, and Echigo FUKUHARA led the army to Fushimi. They requested the imperial court to vindicate the honor of their lord and prince as well as the court nobles who defended their cause. The court granted their request and went as far as to institute the Choshu clan the governorship of Kyoto instead of the Aizu clan.
Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA, however, said to the emperor 'If your highness dares to do so, you shall no longer expect any support from the shogunate.'
Do whatever pleases you.'
The emperor was effectively threatened by the shogunate. Emperor Komei and court nobles who were not prepared to really fight against the shogunate and the Aizu clan quickly retreated. This helped the shogunal supporters, such as Imperial Prince Asahiko of the House of Kuninomiya, to regain their power. The pro-shogunists laid an ultimatum that demanded the withdrawal of the Choshu troops by a specified date, keeping in line with the shogunate's (the Aizu and Satsuma conservatives', including Yoshinobu HITOTSUBASHI) intention to break off the negotiation through the imperial court and pro-Choshu nobles with Choshu, to provoke and defeat the Choshu army once and for all.

It was impossible for the Choshu army, renowned for its military prowess, to retreat without achieving anything, without fighting. The Choshu vanguard, who sought to directly appeal to the emperor and to remonstrate against the shogunate upon their death, rebelled against the Tokugawa government at the Hamaguri Gate after requesting a main army of 2,000 soldiers under the command of Prince Sadahiro of the Choshu clan to retreat from the Seto Inland Sea.

The Choshu troops led by Matabe KIJIMA in Tenryu-ji Temple in Sagano defeated the Aizu troop and nearly approached the Imperial Palace. Yet they were attacked by the Satsuma army from the flank. After Kijima perished in the battle, his troops were vanquished and took flight.

In Fushimi Echigo FUKUHARA with his army could not get to the Imperial Palace and promptly fled to Osaka.

Delayed by the mud in the Yodo-gawa River, Genzui KUSAKA's troops in Mt. Tenno started late. When they reached the Palace the battle was almost over. Based in the residence of Takatsukasa, Kusaka vainly attempted to make a direct appeal to the emperor. As Commander-in-Chief he killed himself while commanding the rest of his army to retreat to Mt. Tenno. Around this time Kogoro attempted to persuade the Tottori clan to take sides with the Choshu camp. He visited the residence of Prince Arisugawa, which was guarded by the Inshu clan, to negotiate with Kagetomo KAWADA, who exerted influence over the royalists of the Inshu clan.

Giving up persuading Kawada, who thought the time was not ripe, he waited for Emperor Komei to take flight from the Palace, seeking to appeal him directly. This also did not materialize. He fought through the battle single-handedly against the backdrop of the Takatsukasa residence in flame. Supported by Ikumatsu and Tomonojo OSHIMA of the Tsushima clan, he went into hiding. He went to Izushi, Tajima Province when it was no longer possible to hide himself in Kyoto, where the Aizu clan fiercely hunted down the remnants of the Choshu clan.

The first conquest of the Choshu clan

The Choshu reformists resigned from the domain government when the shogunate was about to make the first conquest of the defeated Choshu clan, who were considered the imperial enemy. They surrendered without fighting and faced the following consequences: three karo (chief retainers) committed seppuku (a ritual suicide by disembowelment) and other dignitaries either killed themselves or were executed.

The Choshu shogunists began to purge the reformists completely. However, the militant reformists led by Shinsaku TAKASUGI rebelled against the shogunists and pulled off a great coup, terminating the shogunist administration. Kogoro was welcomed as the leader of the Choshu reformists by Takasugi and Masujiro OMURA, who came to know that he was hiding somewhere. Joining the Choshu administration, he devoted himself to the military and political reform of the domain government in order to implement the policy of nominal submission to the shogunate with secret armament as expected by Takasugi and other comrades.

Satsuma-Choshu alliance

The Choshu clan formed a secret alliance with the Satsuma clan through the intermediary of Hisamoto HIJIKATA, Shintaro NAKAOKA, and Ryoma SAKAMOTO of the Tosa clan. On March 8, 1866 the Satsuma-Choshu alliance was formed in Kyoto. As the representative of Choshu, Katsura had since often held discussions with Satsuma leaders such as Tatewaki KOMATSU, Toshimichi OKUBO, Takamori SAIGO, and Kiyotaka KURODA in Satsuma and Choshu, thereby consolidating the alliance. Under the alliance, Choshu bought weaponry and battleships from England in the name of Satsuma. Satsuma obtained rice, which it had ran short of from Choshu.

The Second Conquest of Choshu

The shogunate side (the Aizu clan and Shinsengumi) forcefully made a second conquest of Choshu on the pretext of its nominal submission to the shogunate accompanied by secret armament as well as Omura's secret trading with foreign countries.

The Choshu army was full of fighting spirit, as it had purchased weapons and battleships through secret trading via the Satsuma-Choshu alliance and had undergone military reform.
Ryoma SAKAMOTO, on one of his visits to Choshu, enthusiastically wrote in a letter to Satsuma, 'The Choshu army is the most powerful in Japan.'

The conquest began with a shogunal surprise attack on Oshima-guchi, which was scarcely guarded. Unusually upset by the attack, Kanji KIDO (Kogoro) quickly sent Shinsaku TAKASUGI, who was the commander in Ogura-guchi, to Oshima-guchi. A naval bombardment conducted by Takasugi turned the tide. The second Choshu militia made the Choshu victory definitive.

At Sekishu-guchi and Geishu-guchi, where Masujiro OMURA was commander-in-chief, Choshu won an easy victory, supported by the adjacent Tsuwano Domain and the Hiroshima clan's non-committal policy to the Choshu conquest.

Kaoru INOUE's troops in charge of Geishu-guchi advanced up close to Kokutai-ji Temple in Hiroshima, where the shogunate's main camp took position. They surprised both the shogunal army and the Aki clan.

The battle at Ogura-guchi continued about 8 months as the Higo army fiercely attacked the shogunal troops from on high. It ended undramatically when the Higo army retreated, disappointed with the shogunal battleships and troops that did not dare to fight back even when they were overwhelmed.

The loss of fighting spirit by the Higo army, which defeated the shogunal armies at Oshima-guchi, Geishu-guchi, and Sekishu-guchi in a very short space of time, and which kept attacking the shogunal army from the height of Ogura-guchi, brought a definitive victory to the Choshu side. Consequently, the Hamada Domain (including the shogunal demesne of Iwami Silver Mine) and a major portion of the Ogura Domain were subjected to the Choshu Domain until people and lands were returned to the emperor in 1869.

At the Meiji Restoration government

Kogoro was highly regarded by Tomomi IWAKURA, Vice-President of the Meiji government, as an excellent statesman. He was the only person who was appointed full-time advisor to the Office of the Supreme Head. He was effectively held accountable for political decision-making. After the reform of the Dajokan (Great Councillors of State) system, he took up other positions, such as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, sanyo (councillor of state), sangi (junior councillor), and the Minister of Education, besides advisor to the Supreme Head. Since 1868 he had taken initiatives in proposing enlightened principles and in implementing political agendas. He suggested and implemented the following policies: the Charter Oath of Five Articles, the nurturing and promotion of mass media, the abolition of feudal conventions, the reversion of people and lands to the emperor, the abolition of the feudal domains and the establishment of prefectures, meritocracy, equality of the four classes, the establishment of a constitution, the separation of the three powers of the state, the introduction of the bicameral parliamentary system, the advancement of education, and the establishment of legalism.

He also proposed the following extremely modern and enlightened ideas, which, however, did not materialize until the post-War period in the Showa era: non-appointment of military personnel as cabinet members, democratic local police, and democratic trial system.

Charter Oath of Five Articles

An assembly widely convoked shall be established, and all matters of state shall be decided by public discussion.

All classes high and low shall unite in vigorously promoting the economy and welfare of the nation.

All civil and military officials and the common people as well shall be allowed to fulfil their aspirations so that there may be no discontent among them.

Base customs of former times shall be abandoned, and all actions shall confirm to the principles of universal justice.

Knowledge shall be sought throughout the world and thus the foundation of the Imperial Polity shall be strengthened.

Our country is about to make unprecedented reforms, and the emperor shall, upon oath by God, lay down a national policy before the nation and open a road to national security. The public shall also unite and make efforts according to this intent.

The most important ideas of the Charter Oath of Five Articles, newly inserted by Kido, include the following two: 'An assembly widely convoked shall be established' of Article 1; and Article 4: 'Base customs of former times shall be abandoned, and all actions shall confirm to the principles of universal justice.'

Kido's other contributions

Kido modified Takachika FUKUOKA's following sentence in the Pledge of the Daimyo: 'there should not be discontent among them' as the more refined expression of 'there may not be discontent among them.'
(However, the earlier part of 'All civil and military officials and the common people as well shall be allowed to fulfill their aspirations' was taken directly from Fukuoka's original wording). He placed the following article, 'Knowledge shall be sought throughout the world and thus the foundation of the Imperial Polity shall be strengthened,' at the end; that is, Article 5.
He revised the Charter Oath to impress the nation with the Meiji Restoration's top-priority issue that 'the Japanese should be globalized to establish a great national basis.'

By designating the articles as the 'Charter Oath of Five Articles,' he devised a ceremony in which Emperor Meiji and other nobles swore by God. He thus persuaded the resistant conservatives and inspired Emperor Meiji.

Establishment and collapse of Cabinet Councillors system

In order to resolve 'chorei bokai' (issuing orders in the morning and revising them in the evening) and a state of 'let a hundred schools of thought contend' at the start of the Meiji government, Kido was asked by Saigo, Okubo, Iwakura, and Sanetomi SANJO to be the sole sangi just before the feudal domains were abolished to be replaced by new prefectures in July 1871.
He was requested to build an efficient system where 'everyone follows the orders.'
Respecting a more liberal collegial system, he firmly rejected the request. Urged by Okubo's compromise, however, he agreed to become sangi together with Saigo. In August 1872, he suggested to Saigo that Shigenobu OKUMA from Hizen should become sangi to help Saigo, who was not an expert politician. Saigo then proposed to him that Taisuke ITAGAKI from Tosa should also become sangi. This was how a republican system of Cabinet Councillors came into being, consisting of four councillors from each of the four domains: Satsuma, Choshu, Tosa, and Hizen.

Yet this system of Cabinet Councillors did not last long, as Kido, its progenitor, was absent most of the time, visiting foreign countries as vice ambassador plenipotentiary.

It was decided between those who went abroad for inspection (Iwakura, Kido, Okubo, and Ito) and those who remained in Japan (Sanjo, Saigo, Shinpei ETO, Okuma, and Itagaki et al) that no major political and personnel change should be made without written consent of those abroad until they return to Japan. The government did not respect this decision at all. Those abroad also did not keep their words and could not question the government's accountability. However, they regarded the government's Seikanron (subjugation of Korea) as utterly unacceptable madness.

Kido was the only sangi who went abroad to inspect things in Western countries. Upon his return, his chronic disease, which was a kind of brain attack of unknown etiology, relapsed and rapidly became serious. From that time he became unable to preside in the Meiji government due to his illness.

Iwakura Mission and its impact

Kido toured Europe and America as the vice ambassador plenipotentiary of the Iwakura Mission to abrogate the unfair treaties and to conclude fair treaties as he had hoped for the opening of Japan, the abrogation of the unfair treaties, and the expulsion of the barbarians since the end of the Edo period. He conducted preliminary negotiations while inspecting the Western countries. Observing advanced Western culture, he also realized that democracy was not perfect and even dangerous when he came home. He ceased to be an enlightment radical and became a believer in the gradual modernization of Japan.

And yet Western countries were culturally by far more advanced than Japan. He felt the urgent need to withdraw the former Seikanron to prioritize domestic security. He was a vigorous advocate of a constitution and bicameral parliament. He actively pursued the enhancement of public education and of imperial system teaching. In fact he later became Minister of Education to develop public education. He consistently opposed Saigo's policy of subjugation of Korea and Okubo's military invasion of Taiwan. He tirelessly promoted a land-tax reform and abolished the privileges of the samurai class in order to liberate the farmers from unfair and heavy taxation. He, however, vehemently protested against the implementation of the abolition of the stipend system, which was originally conceived to let the ruling class find new means of earning their own living. In May 1874 he resigned from the office of sangi as a protest against the governmental decision to send troops to Taiwan.

Gradual formation of constitutional government

Wishing to recall Kido and Itagaki to the Meiji government, Toshimichi OKUBO and Kaoru INOUE invited them to the Osaka conference in August 1875. Kido and Itagaki agreed to become sangi again on the condition that a constitutional government be formed, that powers be separated, and that a bicameral parliament be opened. Thereupon the imperial edict on constitutional government was issued. For the parliament, the national assembly (legislature) was instituted, consisting of Genroin (the Chamber of Elders) and a lower house of prefectural governors, which was modelled after the upper and lower houses. For the judiciary, Daishinin, which corresponds to the present-day Supreme Court of Justice, was newly established.

First national assembly

From the start the Meiji government endeavored to create and implement a kind of lower house function such as Shugisho in 1868 and Kogisho in 1869 by the enlightened initiative of Kido.

Yet an assembly of discontent samurai from the countryside with feudalistic consciousness in the Edo period ended in meaningless free speeches and radically differed from the restoration philosophy and its realistic possibilities. It was so premature and nonsensical an attempt that Okubo and others declared that it should be abolished. Such assemblies predated the implementation of the 'Haitorei' decrees abolishing the wearing of swords in public and 'Shimin byodo' (equality of the four classes), and only provided a platform where samurai from domains other than Satsuma, Choshu, Tosa, and Hizen gave vent to dissatisfaction, insisting on the protection of their privileges.

Kido himself did the groundwork for an equivalent of the present-day House of Representatives, as he had been exploring it and arguing for its need. Finding an opportune moment, he opened and presided over the first assembly of the lower house of prefectural governors from June 20, 1875 to July 17, 1875. The assembly adopted five laws to promote the autonomy of prefectures by establishing local police and democratic assemblies. None of them, however, was enforced, as they were adopted due to the subsequent rise of the Ministry of Interior.

Seinan War

In February 1877 the Seinan War broke out. Kido immediately volunteered to conquer Kagoshima. Toshimichi OKUBO wanted to send a delegate to arrest Saigo. Fearing that the Meiji government might collapse, Hirofumi ITO opposed them and dispatched the national army, which was formed through the conscription orders. Kido went to Kyoto with Emperor Meiji.

His brain disease which had increasingly become serious worsened, and Emperor Meiji visited him in his bed.
On May 26 he said in his delirium, grasping Okubo's hand, 'Saigo, have done with it.'
He passed away after he uttered those words of concern about both the Meiji government and Saigo. He died at the age of 45.

He was buried in Kyoto Reizan Gokoku-jinja Shrine with many of his royalist comrades. Kido-jinja Shrine lies on the site of his house in Yamaguchi (Itoyone, Yamaguchi City) during the period of the Choshu reformist administration.

In his later life Kido often invited his close friends to his second house in 1, Komagome, Toshima Ward, present 5, Honkomagome, Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo. His garden is still maintained. There is a slope called 'Kido-saka' that runs from Komagome Station of JR Yamanote Line to his second house.

[Original Japanese]