Iwakura Tomomi (岩倉具視)

Tomomi IWAKURA (October 26, 1825 - July 20, 1883) was a Japanese court noble and a politician. His childhood name was Kanemaru and his nickname was Taigaku. His Buddhist name during this probation period was Yuzan. His rank was Shoichii (Senior First Rank).


Tomomi IWAKURA was born in Kyoto as the second son of Yasuchika HORIKAWA who was formerly Gon Chunagon (a provisional vice-councilor of state). In 1838, he was adopted by Tomoyoshi IWAKURA. The Iwakura family at the time was having a hard time making ends meet; therefore, they offered their own residence as a gambling house and barely lived on the rent. He joined the sect led by the Kanpaku (chief adviser to the Emperor) Masamichi TAKATSUKASA and submitted a report with his opinion about reform of the Imperial court. In 1854, he became a jiju (chamberlain) of Emperor Komei.

In 1858, when the Roju (member of Shogun's council of elders) Masayoshi HOTTA visited the capital to obtain a charter for signing the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the United States and Japan, Tomomi IWAKURA gathered Court nobles who were against the treaty and attempted to stop the signing of the treaty (so-called the 'Teishin hachiju-hachi kyo ressan jiken' (Demo of eighty-eight retainers of Imperial Court)). After Naosuke II was assassinated in the 1860 Sakuaradamon-gai no hen (incident outside Sakurada-mon Gate), he recommended kobu gattai (integration of the court and the shogunate) and marrying Kazunomiya off to someone outside the Imperial family. This event made the supporters of the idea of reverence for the Emperor and the expulsion of foreigners perceive Tomomi as being in the sabaku-sect (in support of the shogunate); therefore, they pressured the Imperial court to eliminate him. As a result, Tomomi entered the priesthood at the Reigen-ji Temple in Kyoto City in 1862. He lived at the Reigen-ji Temple and the Saiho-ji temple, and then led his retired life in the Iwakura-mura Village located in the Rakuhoku area in Kyoto.

He continued his own activity even during his retired life by sending his reports to the Imperial court or his fellows of the Satsuma Domain. By aligning himself with the Satsuma clan, he successfully made the han change their goal, which was to overthrow the shogunate. In 1866, he tried to summon personnel of various domains in the name of the Imperial court when Iemochi TOKUGAWA died, but this attempt failed. When Emperor Komei died, there was a rumor that he was poisoned and Tomomi was suspected of killing him (there has been a theory that Tomomi assassinated Emperor Komei in order to raise his own position so that he could make young and easily manipulable Emperor Meiji take over the throne). On January 3, 1868, he issued the Declaration of Restoration of Imperial Rule and also issued an order to Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA to resign his government post, and return his land to the Emperor, marking the first step toward realization of an emperor-ruled country.

After the Meiji Restoration, Iwakura continued to be promoted in the order of Sanyo (Councilor), Gijo (Decision Maker), Fuku-sosai (Vice-President of the new Meiji government), Ho-sho (Chief Administrative Officer), Dainagon (Chief Councilor of State), Gaimu-kyo (Chief Foreign Minister), and Udaijin (Minister of the Right). In 1871, he established the Iwakura shisetsudan (Iwakura Mission) as a Tokumei-zenken-taishi (extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador) together with Takayoshi KIDO and others, and studied foreign cultures and systems. After returning to Japan, over the Seikan-ron (debate over conquering Korea), he opposed the idea of dispatching Takamori SAIGO to Korea as an ambassador and then postponed the dispatch indefinitely (as a result, Takamori resigned as Sangi (Royal Advisor) and Konoe-totoku (Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Guard)). In 1874, near the Kuichigaizaka Hill in Tokyo, he was attacked by Kumakichi TAKECHI, a samurai descendent in Kochi Prefecture, and others who were not satisfied with the result of the Seikan-ron debate and was injured (the Kuichigai Incident).

Although he originally opposed the idea of a constitution, he changed his policy in response to the growing movement for civic rights and freedom and also to the opinion of Kowashi INOUE. He also devoted himself to the establishment of the Constitution of the Empire of Japan. In 1881, he disagreed with Shigenobu OKUMA who was a radical. He allied with the moderate Hirobumi ITO to expel Shigenobu OKUMA from the government (The Failed Meiji-14 Coup of 1881). Then he devoted himself to reservation of Imperial family assets and protection of the new peerage, and also, he was involved in establishment of Kasumi-kaikan, Gakushuin school, and Nippon Railway.

He was informed that he had cancer by Erwin von BAELZ. Tomomi IWAKURA was the first Japanese who was 'informed' that he had cancer. In 1883, when he was 59 years old, he died of throat cancer. A state funeral was held for him. His grave is at the Kaian-ji Temple in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo.


*Dates are based on the lunar calendar up to 1871.


December 14: He was appointed to the Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade).

January 25, 1839 (December 11, 1838 in old lunar calendar): He came to the age of maturity and was permitted to enter the Tenjo no ma room in Seiryo-den.

July 21, 1841: He was promoted to the Jugoinojo (Junior Fifth Rank, Upper Grade).

February 18, 1845: He was promoted to the Shogoinoge (Senior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade).


April 17: He was appointed to Jiju.

July 4: He was promoted to the Jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade) while being concurrently appointed to Jiju.

February 8, 1861: He was reassigned as Ukone no Gon no shosho (Provisional Minor Captain of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards).

February 14, 1861: He was promoted to the Shoshiinoge (Senior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade) while being concurrently appointed to Ukonoegonshosho.


June 12: He was reassigned as Sakone gon no chujo (Provisional Middle Captain of the Left Division of Inner Palace Guards).

September 13: He resigned as Sakone gon no chujo and started his retirement life.

September 15: He entered the priesthood.
Buddhist name: Yuzan


January 3, 1868 (December 9, 1867 in old lunar calendar): He was also appointed to Sanyo of the Meiji government.

January 21, 1868 (December 27, 1867 in old lunar calendar): He was reassigned as Gijo while still being Sanyo of the Meiji government.


February 2: He was additionally appointed to Vice President of the Meiji government (written as 'the Government' only for this year).

February 20: He was additionally appointed to Seifu-kaikei-jimu-sotoku (General Manager of Government Accounting) and Kairikugun-jimu-sotoku (General Manager of Navy and Army Affairs).

February 24: He was promoted to the Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank) and appointed to Uhyoe no kami (Captain of the Right Division of Middle Palace Guards) (at the time, he was the Vice President, Gijo, Seifu-kaikei-jimu-sotoku, and Kairikugun-jimu-sotoku of the Government, at the Jusanmi rank, and was the Uhyoe no kami).

March 13: He resigned as Seifu-kaikei-jimu-sotoku and Kairikugun-jimu-sotoku.

June 10: He resigned as Vice President of the Government.

June 11: After the government system changed, he was appointed both to Jokyoku Gijo of Gisei-kan (upper decision maker at the lawmaking organ) and Ho-sho.


February 17: He resigned as Ho-sho.

March 7: He was promoted to the Shonii (Senior Second Rank) and was reassigned as Gon Dainagon (a provisional chief councilor of state). He retained his position as Jokyoku Gijo.

August 15: Due to the revision of the system, he was reassigned from Jokyoku Gijo to Dainagon.

November 23 (by the lunar calendar): He was additionally appointed to Goyo-gakari of Hyobu-sho (Ministry of Military).


August 29: Due to the revision of the system, he was reassigned from Dainagon to Gaimu-kyo.

November 20: He was reassigned as the Udaijin and Kengai-shisetsudan-tokumei-zenken-taishi (extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador of the overseas mission).

December 23: The ship carrying the mission left Yokohama.


September 13: The ship returned to Yokohama.

October 20: He was additionally appointed to the Deputy Dajo-daijin (Grand minister of state). This assignment was effective only on that day.


April 19: He as additionally appointed to the President of Kazoku-kaikan.

May 18: He was promoted to the Juichii (Junior First Rank).

May 26: He was additionally appointed to the Head of the Kazoku Management Department.

December 29: He received the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun.


November 1: He received the Grand Cordon of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum.

November 15: He resigned as the Head of the Kazoku Management Department because of abolishment of the post.

December 4: He resigned as the President of the Kazoku-kaikan.


April 7: He was additionally appointed to Kunai-sho-hensan-kyoku-sosai-kokoroe (Acting President of the Editorial Office of the Imperial Household Ministry).

July 20: Tomomi IWAKURA died.

July 23: He was raised to Dajo-daijin after his death.

July 25: A state funeral was held.

July 20, 1885: He was raised to the Shoichii (Senior First Rank) as a posthumous honor.

Tomomi IWAKURA's Old Retirement House

It was near the Jisso-in Temple in the Rakuhoku area in Kyoto, and it is now surrounded by houses. Removing himself from the government post and entering the priesthood at the age of 38, Tomomi IWAKURA was given an old house from a local carpenter and lived there for over five years. He had two one-story simple houses, and one of them was added after he moved into the original one. The roofs have been partly changed from thatched roofs to tiled roofs, but most of them still exist as they originally were. Although leading a retired life, Tomomi was still politically active and was therefore followed and targeted by warriors. On his property there is a small museum called 'Taigaku-bunko' and his personal articles are on display.

500-Yen Note

A portrait of Tomomi IWAKURA was used on 500 Yen Japanese banknotes that began circulation in 1951 (B) and also on 500 Yen notes that began circulation in 1969 (C). The 500 Yen note (C) was manufactured until 1985 even after 500 Yen coins began circulation in 1982.

[Original Japanese]