Soejima Taneomi (副島種臣)

Taneomi SOEJIMA (October 17 1828 - January 31 1905) was a Japanese samurai, feudal retainer of the Saga clan, bureaucrat and statesman. He was a recipient of the First Order of Merit. He was also a hakushaku (count). He went by the common name of Jiro. His pen-names were Sokai and Ichiichi Gakujin. He was also a calligrapher, leaving behind many great works.


His father was Nango EDAYOSHI, a Japanese literature scholar who taught at Kodokan, a school in the Saga Domain. His older brother Shinyo EDAYOSHI was also a scholar of Japanese literature. Later he became the adopted child of Toshitada SOEJIMA, also of the Saga Domain. He became aware of the sonno joi (revere the emperor, expel the barbarians) doctrine early on through the influence of his father and brother. He studied at the Kodokan school, and during this time associated with Shinpei ETO and Takato OKI.

In 1850 he joined the Nankogisai Alliance where his older brother Shinyo EDAYOSHI was central in its formation.

In 1852 he travelled to Kyoto to study Sinology and Japanese literature. During this time he associated with people such as Harumichi YANO. In 1864 he became the director of English studies at the Yogakko (School of Western Studies) Chienkan, which was set up by Saga Domain in Nagasaki City, and studied English. In 1867, along with Shigenobu OKUMA he abandoned his domain and was active in the Shishi movement that promoted the sonno joi doctrine and loyalty to the emperor, but he was apprehended and sent back to Saga to serve house arrest.

After the Meiji Restoration, in 1868 he became a junior councilor (sanyo) and an officer of the Seido Torishirabekyoku (Department for Institutional Investigation) in the new government, and assisted Takachika FUKUOKA in drafting "The 1868 Constitution." In 1869 he became a Sangi (councilor) and in 1871 became the chief of the Foreign Ministry where handled the Maria Luz Incident.

In February 1873, he was dispatched to the Qing Dynasty capital Beijing as the envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to handle the Mudan Incident (refer to the Taiwan Expedition) which occurred two years earlier in Taiwan, and was successful in negotiating for the ratification of the Japan-Qing Treaty of Friendship and passing on a sovereign message of congratulations to the Qing emperor. During this trip he exchanged Chinese poetry with a Qing high officer and received high praise.

Due to being defeated in the Seikanron (debate to conquer Korea) in October 1873, he retired from public office and with people such as Taisuke ITAGAKI published the Minsen Giin Setsuritsu Kenpakusho (a political statement for democratic representatives). However, he did not participate in the Freedom and People's Rights Movement after this. During the Seinan War he travelled to central and southern China.

In 1878 he became a first class imperial tutor at the Imperial Household Department. In 1884 he became a hakushaku (count). In 1887 he served as an advisor to the Imperial Court, in 1888 he served as an advisor for state secrets, in 1891 became the vice-chairman of the Privy Council, and in 1892 served as Home Minister in the first Matsukata Cabinet.

Three volumes of "The Complete Works of Taneomi SOEJIMA" (edited by Yoshitaka SHIMA, Keibunsha) were published in recent years, and a biography by Kanji MARUYAMA (the father of Masao MARUYAMA) called "Count Taneomi SOEJIMA" was reissued at Misuzu Shobo publishing company. There is currently an on-demand version and "Soejima Taneomi" by Akio OHASHI (Shin-Jinbutsuoraisha Co.,Ltd. 1990).

Further, critic and specially appointed professor of Tokoha Gakuen University, Takahiko SOEJIMA, is a descendent of Taneomi SOEJIMA.

Taneomi SOEJIMA the Calligrapher

His achievements as a calligrapher are detailed in "Sokai: Soejima Taneomi Sho" (compiled by Kyuyo ISHIKAWA, Nigensha, 2003), but is out of print. His main works are introduced in "Sho no Uchu 24 - Sho no Kindai no Kanosei, Meiji Zengo" (compiled by Kyuyo ISHIKAWA, Nigensha, 2000). In 2005, NHK show 'Shin Nichiyo Bijutsukan' televised a closeup report on Soejima as a calligrapher. He was also introduced in a "Geijutsu Shincho" article on 'the writing of patriots in the Meiji Restoration' (Shinchosha Publishing Co., September 1999 edition), and there was also a book published by Seito Shobo in 1972 titled "Sokai Sensei Tenshojo."

Shinichi KUSAMORI wrote 'Shijin Soejima Taneomi no Shogai' (the biography of poet Taneomi SOEJIMA) for literature magazine 'Subaru' (Shueisha) (July 1991 to December 1996, 65 editions) and 'Shobi Kosho Soejima Taneomi no Chugoku Manyu' (about Soejima's trip to China) for 'Bungaku Kai' (by Bungeishunju) (February 2000 to May 2003, 40 editions), but they remain unpublished. From 2007 Kyoto Seika University's Organization for Human Contact had begun publishing 'Torinezumi - Meiji 11-nen no Bunjin Seijika Soejima Taneomi no Yukue' in its magazine "Hyogen" (Human Contact) but was discontinued after only two issues. Before its discontinuation it had apparently reached about a quarter of the total.
"Aura na Hitobito" by Yamato SHIINE (Matsurika Sha, 2009)

Exhibitions commemorating the one-hundredth year since the death of Taneomi SOEJIMA called "Sokai - Taneomi SOEJIMA 'Calligraphy of the Soul'" were held at the Saga Prefectural Art Museum in 2006 and at the Gotoh Museum in 2007. Saga Shimbun Co.,Ltd published an illustrated book by Kyuyo ISHIKAWA, Shinichi KUSAMORI, and Yoshitaka SHIMA. A revised edition was republished by Shutsumondo in his hometown.

Representative works include 'Kiunhiu,' 'Momiji-kan' (紅葉館) (stored at the Saga Prefectural Art Museum). There are many such as 'Shinhi Shujin Jinjitsu Shujin' (神非守人 人実守神) and 'Kasugaki Shiku' (春日其四句).


In 1881 he was honored with the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun.

In 1905 he was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun with Paulowina Flower.

[Original Japanese]