Okubo Toshimichi (大久保利通)

Toshimichi OKUBO (1830~1878):Japanese warrior, feudal retainer of Satsuma, a statesman
Ranks and orders: Junior First Rank and the First Order of Merit

A Statesman Who Contributed to the Meiji Restoration
He is called one of "the three contributors to the Meiji Restoration" along with Takamori SAIGO and Takayoshi KIDO.

Birth and childhood

He was born on September 26th, 1830, in Korai Town near Kagoshima Castle, Satsuma Province (present: Korai Town, Kagoshima City, Kagoshima Prefecture) as the eldest son of Toshiyo OKUBO, feudal retainer of Satsuma, attatched to the Ryukyu palace, and his wife Fuku, the second daughter of Hotoku MINAYOSHI (his childhood name was Shokesa). The social standing of the OKUBO family was that of a lower-ranked feudal retainer referred to as the Okoshogumi (escort of the lord) family rank. The original name refers to the Fujiwara clan, but it is uncertain as to whether or not this is true. In his childhood, his family moved to Kajiya Town. He pursued his studies with Takamori SAIGO, Tomozane YOSHII and Nobuyoshi KAIEDA.

When he was 15 years old, he celebrated his coming of age and assumed the first name Shosuke and common name Toshisada, though he changed his name afterwards.

End of Edo Period

From 1846, he served as an assistant writer at the Land Record Office of Satsuma Province. In 1850, he was implicated in the Oyura-sodo (the Kaei Hoto incident; family feud over Narioki SHIMAZU's heir) and was dismissed and put under house arrest. But when Nariakira SHIMAZU became the lord of the domain in 1853, OKUBO was reinstated as an officer for okura (the rice store of the Edo shogunate) at the Land Record Office of the domain. In 1857 he was appointed the superintendent officer of foot soldiers. He served as the leader of Seichugumi Organization and after the death of Nariakira in 1858, he approached Hisamitsu SHIMADU, father of Tadayoshi SHIMADU (new lord of the domain) with the assistance of Atsushi SAISHO, instead of Saigo who lost his position. It is said that the beginning of his approach to Hisamitsu was placing his letter in Hisamitsu's hands through Jogan Kissho-in, brother of Atsushi, since Jogan, was the Igo partner of Hisamitsu. He met Hisamitsu for the first time on March 11th, 1860. In 1861 he was elected to okonanndo yaku (the post of assistant to the lord of the domain), whereby his family status rose to ichidai shimban (the new escort of the lord of the domain within one generation). During the period between 1861 and1862 he was given the first name of "Ichizo" by Hisamitsu. In 1862 he was promoted to the post of chief of assistants to the lord. In 1863 he was promoted to osoba yaku (the personal attendant to the lord) serving concurrently as chief of attendants.

In 1865 he changed his first name to "Toshimichi".

Supporting Hisamitsu, he got involved in politics in Kyoto, planning the reconciliation between the imperial court and the Shogunate with Tomomi IWAKURA, and promoting the assumption of Shogun-guardian post by Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA and the post of office of the president of political affairs by Yoshinaga MATSUDAIRA (the lord of Fukui Domain). He was a pivotal person in politics along with SAIGO and Kiyokado KOMATSU. When Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA, shogun of the Edo shogunate, transferred political power back to the Emperor in 1867, he planned and carried out a coup d'etat for the restoration of Imperial rule with anti-shogunate forces of court nobles including IWAKURA. After the Restoration of Imperial Rule, he was assigned to the post of Political Consultant and insisted on an imperial palace meeting with Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA surrendering both the post of Shogunate and parts of his territories.

After the Meiji Restoration

In 1868 he requested the transfer of the capital to Osaka. On August 29th, 1869, he assumed the office of State Councilor and executed the establishment of the centralization of administrative power by the Meiji Government, including the return of lands and people to the Emperor, the abolition of feudal domains and establishment of prefectures. In 1871 he took the office of Finance Secretary and made a trip abroad as the Vice Commander of a mission headed by IWAKURA. While heads of government including Okubo were away for official travel abroad, Japan's dispatch of troops to Korea became a dispute within the country. In the dispute he was opposed by Takamori SAIGO and Taisuke ITAGAKI, and he brought down SAIGO and ITAGAKI in a coup d'etat in 1873.

After the Assumption of Secretary of Interior

In 1873 he established the Ministry of Home Affairs, took charge by assuming the post of Secretary of Interior for himself and executed land-tax reform and a conscription ordinance. He promoted a policy of encouraging new industry with the slogan "rich country". In 1874 he also carried out an expedition to Taiwan and on September 14th went to Qing (China) as the general commander-in-chief to solve problems after the war. As the result of negotiations on October 31st, Qing recognized the Taiwan expedition as a noble undertaking and signed a treaty between Japan and Qing in which Qing was prescribed to pay 500,000 ryo (the old Chinese currency) to Japan for indemnities.

It is generally said that OKUBO was aiming for a state such as Germany, but others say that in reality he was aiming for a state of constitutional monarchy like England. The period between 1873 and 1878 was called the "OKUBO government", because the political administration centered around OKUBO.

In those days, OKUBO's domination of political authority was criticized as "despotism by a domain-dominated government". In addition, the bureaucratic organization (Kasumigaseki bureaucracy) which exists in Japan up to the present day is also said to have been established by OKUBO.

In the Seinan War of 1877, he commanded the government army in Kyoto. After that, he assumed the post of Secretary of the Imperial Household by the request of an aide and had a plan to integrate the Meiji government and the Emperor. But on May 14 th, 1878 he was assassinated at the Kioi-zaka Slope (Kioi-cho Town, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo) by Ichiro SHIMADA (a descendant of samurai in Ishikawa Prefecture) and others in the Kioizaka Incident (he was 47). His graveyard is in Aoyama Cemetery in Minato Ward, Tokyo.


His hobby was Igo. It is reported that he learned Igo in order to approach Hisamitsu SHIMADU, but this is false. According to a diary entry he wrote in 1848, he had a three-game match of Igo and was defeated. He was a heavy smoker, fond of smoking rich Ibusuki tobacco (cultivated for the first time in Japan) and his pipe was easily clogged unless his children cleaned it in the morning and in the evening (he also had separate pipes for morning and evening use). As for tea, he was fond of dark Gyokuro (refined green tea). He was also fond of pickles and would be in a bad mood at mealtimes if several kinds of pickles were not served at the table.

He took one year starting in 1875 to build a wooden Western-style residence in Sannen-cho, Koji-machi Town (it is said that expenses for architecture were covered by Imperial money and a debt from Atsushi SAISHO, his intimate friend)
Later this residence was used as the Belgium legation. The residence was a Western-style house, rare as a personal house in those days, but it was not expensive to maintain. Furthermore, he was very upright about money, not accumulating any personal fortune; instead, he even tried to cover a national debt with his own money, thereby leaving behind a debt of 8,000 yen after his death. As the result of a conference, the government recovered 8,000 yen which he had contributed to the Kagoshima prefectural government when he was alive and raised another 8,000 yen, deciding to support his bereaved family with this 16,000 yen.

When OKUBO was guided to Hamadera park by Tomoatsu GODAI, he knew that Atsushi SAISHO, Sakai prefectural governor planned to cut pine trees and use the park for a residential area, so he composed a haiku (Japanese poem) saying "Even the pine trees on the famous Takasi sands are not able to escape noisy ripples in the world, opposing the residence plan". When SAISHO learned about this haiku, he withdrew his development plans for Hamadera park. Furthermore, the monument named "Sekisho-hi" inscribed with this haiku composed by OKUBO stands at the entrance of Hamadera park now.

It is said that he was taciturn, possessed an air of dignity, and was a calm theorist, therefore few people could put forth their own opinions to his face. It is said that Toshiaki KIRINO could not normally have a talk face to face with him, therefore KIRINO drank sake heavily first and then tried to reprove him, but he was yelled at by OKUBO and drew back. Moreover, it is said that even Gombei YAMAMOTO, who was famous for his dauntless courage, could not express his opinion to him freely.

When OKUBO came to the Ministry of Interior, the staff who heard the sound of his footsteps stopped their private conversations, and the inside of the Ministry building became very quiet.

After the death of OKUBO, Hideji KAWASE, who was the head of the business promotion bureau and a subordinate of OKUBO, bemoaned the luxury and corruption within the Ministry, such as in the room of Hirofumi ITO, Secretary of Interior, where Tsugumichi SAIGO and Hiroshi NAKAI, influential persons, were talking about the night before while waitresses from traditional restaurants were going in and out.

It is said that OKUBO was a very gentle and devoted father to his family. In the short time of 10 to 15 minutes before heading off to the Ministry, he showed affection to his only daughter, Yoshiko, by lifting her in his arms. When OKUBO returned home, he was delighted to see that his children, including his third son, Toshitake, would rush to the entrance hall to see him and tried to take off his shoes for him, falling over on their backs.

He led a western-style life, rare in those days, using a wash basin made of blue glass, wearing western clothes and living in a western room. He also set his hair with pomade.

When Shinpei ETO and Yoshitake SHIMA raised an army in the Saga War, he made an expedition, leading soldiers in garrisons and suppressed the riot. In his diary in those days, he wrote that ETO was an irrelevant, ludicrous and trivial person.

When the rebellion occurred in Kagoshima, he wrote a letter to Hirofumi ITO and expressed his opinion that they would be able to easily wipe out the rioters, saying "I think that this rebellion has the aspect of good fortune in an unfortunate event and I am laughing at this rebellion in my sleeves". Moreover, concerning SAIGO, he wrote to ITO that he did not think SAIGO conformed to the Shigakko (school mainly for warriors) party and would not act rashly and blindly. In addition, before the Seinan War, when he knew that SAIGO participated in the rebellion, he wanted to go to Kagoshima to have a talk with SAIGO. But Hirofumi ITO and others opposed his going because they were afraid that OKUBO might be killed, and his wish was not realized.

When OKUBO was informed of SAIGO's death, he wept bitterly, walking around inside of his house and hitting his head on the lintels of the rooms (at that time it was reported that he said "a new Japan will be born with your death; a strong Japan will be born"). strong Japan will be born").

After the end of the Seinan War, he said there was nobody who knew SAIGO better than him, and he asked Yasutsugu SHIGENO to write SAIGO's biography. Further, Tomonosuke TAKASHIMA reported that OKUBO had a letter from SAIGO with him when OKUBO was assasinated.

In the morning of the day of the assassination, he told Morisuke YAMAYOSHI, governor of Fukushima Prefecture, about his future plan, in which "the rebellions of many years will have been suppressed and peace will be returned to Japan". "Therefore I plan to carry out the spirit of the Meiji Restoration, but it will require a period of 30 years. If divided in 3 periods, the first period was from 1868 to 1877; this was the foundation period with many battles. The second period would be from 1878 to 1887 for putting domestic politics in order and promoting private industry; I would like to do my utmost in domestic affairs until the beginning of this period. The third period would be from 1888 to 1897 in which there will be making way for the next generation and awaiting their development". Thus he told the governor about his future plans.

There is an OKUBO Shinto shrine which deifies OKUBO as a God of Water and Rain in Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture.

Height: 178 cm, Weight: 65 kg
Blood type: O

Pen name: Koto
Mottos: "clean and bright politics", "indomitable perseverance."

Family and Descendants

He married Masuko, the second daughter of Shichiroemon HAYASAKI, the feudal retainer of Satsuma, in 1857. With Masuko, he had Toshikazu OKUBO, the first son; Nobuaki MAKINO, the second son; Toshitake OKUBO, the third son; Okuma ISHIHARA, the fifth son; and Yoshiko, the eldest daughter. Yoshiko married Hikokichi IJUIN, later a foreign minister. Besides his wife, he had a favorite concubine named Oyuu (Yuu SUGIURA) and with her, he had Toshio OKUBO, the fourth son; Sukuma OKUBO, the sixth son; Shichikuma OKUBO; the seventh son; and Toshikata OKUBO, the eighth son.

Toshikane OKUBO, one of his grandsons, was a scholar of Japanese modern history and an honorary professor of Tokyo University. Another grandson, Toshiharu OKUBO, was a senior managing director of a big trading company, Marubeni, but he was arrested and prosecuted for a bribery case in the Lockheed scandal, and was found guilty. They say that he used to say "I am too ashamed to see my grandfather".

Great-grandchildren include Kenichi YOSHIDA (scholar of American and English literature; writer), Toshiaki OKUBO (administrative director of a radiation influence research institute, former president of an industrial medical university), great-great-grandchildren include Princess Nobuko, the wife of Imperial Prince Tomohito; Tsutomu MAKINO (deputy secretary of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry), Taro ASO (prime minister) and Keizo TAKEMI (former member of the House of Councilors).


Okubo clan

Although the connection is not clear, they call themselves descendents of the Fujiwara clan.
Family crest: three wisteria tomoe
Although they say that their ancestors moved from Kyoto at the end of the Sengoku period, the genealogy begins from Nakabei, who moved to Ichikigo Kawakami in the Jokyo era.

Toshimichi OKUBO's personal history of official ranks and honors

Junior Fourth Rank in 1868: declined
Junior Third Rank, eternal premium 18,000 goku in 1869.
Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun in 1877
Conferral of a posthumous rank: Senior Second Rank, Chief of the Imperial Japanese Council of State in 1878
Heir Toshikazu was conferred a marquis in 1884.

Postmortem promotion to Junior First Rank in 1901

[Original Japanese]