Ōkubo Toshimichi

Last updated

Ōkubo Toshimichi
大久保 利通
Toshimichi Okubo 4.jpg
Ōkubo Toshimichi
Personal details
Born(1830-09-26)September 26, 1830 [1]
Kagoshima, Satsuma Province, Japan
DiedMay 14, 1878(1878-05-14) (aged 47)
Tokyo, Japan
Cause of deathAssassination
Resting place Aoyama Cemetery, Tokyo, Japan
Nationality Japanese
Hayasaki Masako(m. 1858–1878)
MotherMinayoshi Fuku
FatherŌkubo Toshio
OccupationSamurai, Politician
Known forOne of the three great nobles of the Meiji Restoration

Ōkubo Toshimichi(大久保 利通, September 26, 1830 May 14, 1878) was a Japanese statesman, a samurai of Satsuma, and one of the three great nobles who led the Meiji Restoration. He was regarded as one of the main founders of modern Japan.

Japanese people ethnic group native to Japan

Japanese people are a nation and an ethnic group that is native to Japan and makes up 98.5% of the total population of the country. Worldwide, approximately 129 million people are of Japanese descent; of these, approximately 125 million are residents of Japan. People of Japanese ancestry who live outside Japan are referred to as nikkeijin(日系人), the Japanese diaspora. The term ethnic Japanese is often used to refer to Japanese people, as well as to more specific ethnic groups in some contexts, such as Yamato people and Ryukyuan people. Japanese are one of the largest ethnic groups in the world.

A politician is a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking office in government. In democratic countries, politicians seek elective positions within a government through elections or, at times, temporary appointment to replace politicians who have died, resigned or have been otherwise removed from office. In non-democratic countries, they employ other means of reaching power through appointment, bribery, revolutions and war. Some politicians are experienced in the art or science of government. Politicians propose, support and create laws or policies that govern the land and, by extension, its people. Broadly speaking, a "politician" can be anyone who seeks to achieve political power in any bureaucratic institution.

Samurai military nobility of pre-industrial Japan

Samurai (侍) were the military nobility and officer caste of medieval and early-modern Japan.


Early life

Ōkubo was born in Kagoshima, Satsuma Province, (present-day Kagoshima Prefecture) to Ōkubo Juemon, a low-ranking retainer of Satsuma daimyō Shimazu Nariakira. The eldest of five children, he studied at the same local school as Saigō Takamori, who was three years older. In 1846, he was given the position of aide to the domain's archivist.

Kagoshima Core city in Kyushu, Japan

Kagoshima is the capital city of Kagoshima Prefecture at the south western tip of the island of Kyushu in Japan, and the largest city in the prefecture by some margin. It has been nicknamed the "Naples of the Eastern world" for its bay location, hot climate, and emblematic stratovolcano, Sakurajima. The city was officially founded on April 1, 1889.

Satsuma Province province of Japan

Satsuma Province was an old province of Japan that is now the western half of Kagoshima Prefecture on the island of Kyūshū. Its abbreviation is Sasshū (薩州).

Kagoshima Prefecture Prefecture of Japan

Kagoshima Prefecture is a prefecture of Japan located on the island of Kyushu. The capital is the city of Kagoshima.

Satsuma samurai

Okubo Toshimichi as a young samurai. Toshimichi Okubo.jpg
Ōkubo Toshimichi as a young samurai.

Shimazu Nariakira recognized Ōkubo's talents and appointed him to the position of tax administrator in 1858. When Nariakira died that year, Ōkubo joined the plot to overthrow the Tokugawa shogunate. Unlike most Satsuma leaders, he favored the position of tōbaku (倒幕, overthrowing the shogunate), as opposed to kōbu gattai (公武合体, marital unity of the Imperial and Tokugawa families) and hanbaku (opposition to the shogunate) over the Sonnō jōi movement.

Shimazu Nariakira Daimyo or lord of Satsuma Domain

Shimazu Nariakira was a Japanese feudal lord (daimyō) of the Edo period, the 28th in the line of Shimazu clan lords of Satsuma Domain. He was renowned as an intelligent and wise lord, and was greatly interested in Western learning and technology. He was enshrined after death as the Shinto kami Terukuni Daimyōjin (照国大明神) in May 1863.

Tokugawa shogunate last feudal Japanese military government which existed between 1600 and 1868

The Tokugawa Shogunate, also known as the Tokugawa Bakufu (徳川幕府) and the Edo Bakufu (江戸幕府), was the last feudal Japanese military government, which existed between 1603 and 1867. The head of government was the shōgun, and each was a member of the Tokugawa clan. The Tokugawa shogunate ruled from Edo Castle and the years of the shogunate became known as the Edo period. This time is also called the Tokugawa period or pre-modern.

<i>Sonnō jōi</i>

Sonnō jōi was a Japanese and Chinese political philosophy and a social movement derived from Neo-Confucianism; it became a political slogan in the 1850s and 1860s in the movement to overthrow the Tokugawa shogunate during the Bakumatsu period. It is a yojijukugo phrase.

The Anglo-Satsuma War of 1863, along with the Richardson Affair and the September 1863 coup d'état in Kyoto convinced Ōkubo that the tōbaku movement was doomed. In 1866, he met with Saigō Takamori and Chōshū Domain's Kido Takayoshi to form the secret Satchō Alliance to overthrow the Tokugawa.

Namamugi Incident A samurai assault on British people in Japan on September 14, 1862.

The Namamugi Incident was an assault of British subjects on armed retinue of Shimazu Hisamitsu in Japan on September 14, 1862, which occurred six days after Ernest Satow set foot on Japanese soil for the first time. Failure by the Satsuma clan to respond to British demands for compensation resulted in the August 1863 bombardment of Kagoshima, during the Late Tokugawa shogunate. In Japanese the bombardment is described as a war between the United Kingdom and Satsuma Domain, the Anglo-Satsuma War.

Kyoto Designated city in Kansai, Japan

Kyoto, officially Kyoto City, is the capital city of Kyoto Prefecture, located in the Kansai region of Japan. It is best known in Japanese history for being the former Imperial capital of Japan for more than one thousand years, as well as a major part of the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe metropolitan area.

Saigō Takamori samurai

Saigō Takamori (Takanaga) was one of the most influential samurai in Japanese history and one of the three great nobles who led the Meiji Restoration. Living during the late Edo and early Meiji periods, he has been dubbed the last true samurai. He was born Saigō Kokichi, and received the given name Takamori in adulthood. He wrote poetry under the name Saigō Nanshū. His younger brother was Gensui The Marquis Saigō Tsugumichi.

Meiji restoration

Okubo Toshimichi Toshimichi Okubo 3.jpg
Ōkubo Toshimichi

On January 3, 1868, the forces of Satsuma and Chōshū seized the Kyoto Imperial Palace and proclaimed the Meiji Restoration. The triumvirate of Ōkubo, Saigō and Kido formed a provisional government. Appointed as Home Lord (内務卿 [note 1] ), Ōkubo had a huge amount of power through his control of all local government appointments and the police force.

Kyoto Imperial Palace building

The Kyoto Imperial Palace is the former ruling palace of the Emperor of Japan. The Emperors have since resided at the Tokyo Imperial Palace after the Meiji Restoration in 1869, and the preservation of the Kyoto Imperial Palace was ordered in 1877. Today, the grounds are open to the public, and the Imperial Household Agency hosts public tours of the buildings several times a day.

Meiji Restoration restoration of imperial rule in Japan

The Meiji Restoration, also known as the Meiji Renovation, Revolution, Reform, or Renewal, was an event that restored practical imperial rule to the Empire of Japan in 1868 under Emperor Meiji. Although there were ruling Emperors before the Meiji Restoration, the events restored practical abilities and consolidated the political system under the Emperor of Japan.

Police services of the Empire of Japan

The Police System of the Empire of Japan comprised numerous police services, in many cases with overlapping jurisdictions.

Initially, the new government had to rely on funds from the Tokugawa lands (which the Meiji government had seized in toto). He then was able to appoint all new leaders for this land. Most of the people he appointed as governors were young men; some were his friends, such as Matsukata Masayoshi, and others were the rare Japanese who had gained some education in Europe or the United States. Ōkubo used the power of the Home Ministry to promote industrial development building roads, bridges, and ports—all things that the Tokugawa shogunate had refused to do.

As Finance Minister in 1871, Ōkubo enacted a Land Tax Reform, the Haitōrei Edict, which prohibited samurai from wearing swords in public, and ended official discrimination against the outcasts. In foreign relations, he worked to secure revision of the unequal treaties and joined the Iwakura Mission on its round-the-world trip of 1871 to 1873.

Okubo Toshimichi (right), as a member of the Iwakura Mission Iwakura mission.jpg
Ōkubo Toshimichi (right), as a member of the Iwakura Mission

Realizing that Japan was not in any position to challenge the Western powers in its new present state, Ōkubo returned to Japan on September 13, 1873, just in time to take a strong stand against the proposed invasion of Korea ( Seikanron ). He also participated in the Osaka Conference of 1875 in an attempt to bring about a reconciliation with the other members of the Meiji oligarchy.

However, he was unable to win over former colleague Saigō Takamori regarding the future direction of Japan. Saigō became convinced that some of Japan's new policies of modernization were wrong and in the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877, some Satsuma rebels under the leadership of Saigō fought against the new government's army. As Home Minister, Ōkubo took command of the army and fought against his old friend Saigō.

With the defeat of the rebellion's forces, many Satsuma samurai considered Ōkubo a traitor. On May 14, 1878, Ōkubo was assassinated by Shimada Ichirō and six Kaga Domain samurai on his way to the imperial palace, [2] only a few minutes' walk from the Sakurada gate where Ii Naosuke had been assassinated 18 years earlier.


Ōkubo was one of the most influential leaders of the Meiji Restoration and the establishment of modern governmental structures. From November 1873, when he was made Home Affairs Minister also known as the Lords of Home Affairs (a newly created post), until his death in 1878, he was the most powerful man in Japan. [3] A devout loyalist and nationalist, he enjoyed the respect of his colleagues and enemies alike.

Personal life

Ōkubo was the son of a magistrate, Ōkubo Toshio (1794–1863), and his wife, Minayoshi Fuku (1803–1864). He married Hayasaki Masako (d. 1878), with whom he had four sons and a daughter. His children from this marriage were Toshikazu, the 1st Marquess Ōkubo (1859–1945), Makino Nobuaki (1861–1949), Toshitake, later the 2nd Marquess (1865–1943), Ishihara Takeguma (1869–1943), who was adopted by his wife Yaeko's family, and Yoshiko, who married Ijuin Hikokichi.

Ōkubo's second son, Makino Nobuaki, and his son-in-law Ijuin Hikokichi served as Foreign Minister. [4] Tarō Asō, the 92nd Prime Minister of Japan, and Princess Tomohito of Mikasa are great-great-grandchildren of Ōkubo Toshimichi.

In 1884, Toshikazu was ennobled as a marquess in the new peerage in honour of his father's achievements. He married Shigeno Naoko (1875–1918), but had no children and relinquished the title in 1928 in favour of his younger brother Toshitake (1865–1943). A graduate of Yale and Heidelberg universities, Toshitake successively served as governor of Tottori (1900), Ōita (1901–1905), Saitama (1905–1907) and Osaka (1912–1917) prefectures. He married Kondō Sakae (1879–1956) and had three children, Toshiaki (1900–1995), Toshimasa (1901–1945) and Michitada (1908–????). Toshiaki became a prominent professor of Japanese history and succeeded as the 3rd Marquess in 1943, holding the title until the peerage was abolished in 1947. He subsequently became the librarian of the National Diet Library from 1951 to 1953 and then taught as a lecturer and professor of history at Nagoya University (1953–1959) and at Rikkyū University (1959–1965). He was awarded the Asahi Prize in 1993, two years before his death. He married Yoneda Yaeko (1910–????) and had two children, Yasushi (b. 1934) and Shigeko (b. 1936). Yasushi married Matsudaira Naoko (b. 1940) and had a daughter, Akiko (b. 1965). [5]

Ōkubo also had four illegitimate children by a mistress.

In fiction

In the manga/anime series Rurouni Kenshin , Ōkubo Toshimichi appears to seek Himura Kenshin's assistance in destroying the threat posed by the revolt of Shishio Makoto. Kenshin is uncertain, and Ōkubo gives him a May 14 deadline to make his decision. On his way to seek Kenshin's answer on that day, he is supposedly assassinated by Seta Sōjirō, Shishio's right-hand man, and the Ichirō clan desecrates his corpse and claim they killed him. (Watsuki makes a comparison to President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, with Ōkubo in his notes). [6]

In Boris Akunin's novel The Diamond Chariot , Erast Fandorin investigates the plot to assassinate Ōkubo but fails to prevent the assassination.



  1. The Naimukyo (内務卿, the Lords of Home Affairs), that the post was similar to Prime Minister, and had been the strongest post in Japan until 1885.
  1. Iwata, Masakazu. Okubo Toshimichi: The Bismarck of Japan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1964), 21.
  2. Iwata, Ōkubo Toshimichi, p. 253.
  3. Key-Hiuk., Kim, (1980). The last phase of the East Asian world order : Korea, Japan, and the Chinese Empire, 1860-1882. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 187–188. ISBN   0520035569. OCLC   6114963.
  4. Hui-Min Lo (1 June 1978). The Correspondence of G. E. Morrison 1912–1920. CUP Archive. p. 873. ISBN   978-0-521-21561-9 . Retrieved 8 January 2013.
  5. Genealogy
  6. Watsuki, Nobuhiro. "The Secret Life of Characters (22) Ōkubo Toshimichi", Rurouni Kenshin Volume 7. Viz Media. 186.

Related Research Articles

Kido Takayoshi Japanese samurai

Kido Takayoshi, also referred to as Kido Kōin, was a Japanese statesman of the Meiji Restoration. He was known as Katsura Kogorō during the late Tokugawa period. He is considered as one of the three great nobles who led the Restoration.

Boshin War civil war in Japan, fought from 1868 to 1869 between forces of the ruling Tokugawa shogunate and those seeking to return political power to the Imperial Court

The Boshin War, sometimes known as the Japanese Revolution, was a civil war in Japan, fought from 1868 to 1869 between forces of the ruling Tokugawa shogunate and those seeking to return political power to the Imperial Court.

Satsuma Rebellion revolt of disaffected samurai against the new imperial government, nine years into the Meiji Era

The Satsuma Rebellion or Seinan War was a revolt of disaffected samurai against the new imperial government, nine years into the Meiji Era. Its name comes from the Satsuma Domain, which had been influential in the Restoration and became home to unemployed samurai after military reforms rendered their status obsolete. The rebellion lasted from January 29, 1877, until September of that year, when it was decisively crushed and its leader, Saigō Takamori, committed seppuku after being mortally wounded.

Satchō Alliance

The Satsuma-Chōshū Alliance, or Satchō Alliance was a military alliance between the feudal domains of Satsuma and Chōshū formed in 1866 to combine their efforts to restore Imperial rule and overthrow the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan.

William Willis (physician) British physician

William WillisFRCS, was a British physician who joined the British mission in Japan in 1861..

Satsuma Domain Japanese historical estate in Satsuma Domain

Satsuma Domain, officially Kagoshima Domain, was a Japanese domain of the Edo period. It is associated with the provinces of Satsuma, Ōsumi and Hyūga in modern-day Kagoshima Prefecture and Miyazaki Prefecture on the island of Kyūshū.

Saigō Jūdō Japanese politician and admiral

Marshal-Admiral The Marquis Saigō Jūdō was a Japanese politician and admiral in the Meiji period.

Meiji oligarchy ruling class of Meiji period Japan

The Meiji oligarchy was the new ruling class of Meiji period Japan. In Japanese, the Meiji oligarchy is called the domain clique.

The Battle of Toba–Fushimi occurred between pro-Imperial and Tokugawa shogunate forces during the Boshin War in Japan. The battle started on 27 January 1868, when the forces of the shogunate and the allied forces of Chōshū, Satsuma and Tosa Domains clashed near Fushimi, Kyoto. The battle lasted for four days, ending in a decisive defeat for the shogunate.

Saga Rebellion

The Saga Rebellion was an 1874 uprising in Kyūshū against the new Meiji government of Japan. It was led by Etō Shinpei and Shima Yoshitake in their native domain of Hizen.

Order to expel barbarians

The Order to expel barbarians was an edict issued by the Japanese Emperor Kōmei in 1863 against the Westernization of Japan following the opening of the country by Commodore Perry in 1854.

<i>Atsuhime</i> (TV series) 2008 Japanese TV series. 47th Taiga drama

Atsuhime is a 2008 Japanese television series. It is the 47th NHK Taiga drama. It debuted on January 6, 2008, and aired throughout 2008, completing its run of 50 episodes on December 14, 2008. The story chronicles the life of Tenshōin, based on Tomiko Miyao's 1984 novel Tenshō-in Atsuhime (天璋院篤姫).

Kawaji Toshiyoshi Japanese politician

Kawaji Toshiyoshi, also known as Kawaji Toshikane, was a Japanese statesman and chief of police during the Meiji period. A Satsuma Domain samurai initially tasked to study foreign systems for application in the Japanese military, Kawaji fought against forces loyal to the Tokugawa shogunate during the Boshin War. Later, his work on setting up the Japanese police at the aftermath of the Meiji Restoration, first as rasotsu, and then as keisatsu, earned him the recognition as the founder of Japan's modern police system. Besides his police and military work, he was also noted for his contributions to the development of Kendo, a Japanese martial art.

Chō Tsurahide was a samurai from Ishikawa Prefecture who was instrumental in the assassination of Ōkubo Toshimichi.

History of Kagoshima Prefecture Prefecture in Kyushu, Japan

The outline of the History of Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan is described herein.

Yoshihara Shigetoshi first Governer of the Bank of Japan

Yoshihara Shigetoshi was a Japanese diplomat and first Governor of the Bank of Japan (BOJ).

Segodon (西郷どん) is a Japanese television series starring Ryohei Suzuki. It is the 57th NHK taiga drama.


Further reading