Inoue Kaoru

The Marquis Inoue Kaoru GCMG (井上 馨, January 16, 1836 – September 1, 1915) was a Japanese politician and a prominent member of the Meiji oligarchy during the Meiji period of the Empire of Japan. As one of the senior statesmen (Genrō) in Japan during that period, he had a tremendous influence on the selection of the nation's leaders and formation of its policies.


Inoue Kaoru
井上 馨

Inoue Kaoru.jpg
The Marquis Inoue Kaoru
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan
In office
22 December 1885 – 17 September 1887
Preceded bynone
Succeeded byItō Hirobumi
Minister of Agriculture and Commerce
In office
25 July 1888 – 23 December 1889
Preceded byKuroda Kiyotaka
Succeeded byIwamura Michitoshi
Home Minister
In office
8 August 1892 – 15 October 1894
Preceded byKōno Togama
Succeeded byNomura Yasushi
Finance Minister
In office
12 January 1898 – 30 June 1898
Preceded byMatsukata Masayoshi
Succeeded byMatsuda Masahisa
Personal details
BornJanuary 16, 1836
Yuda, Chōshū Domain, Japan
DiedSeptember 1, 1915(1915-09-01) (aged 79)
Shizuoka, Japan

Early yearsEdit

Inoue Kaoru as a young samurai.

Born Yakichi (勇吉) to a lower-ranked samurai family in Yuda, Chōshū domain (present day Yamaguchi, Yamaguchi Prefecture), Inoue attended the Meirinkan domain school with his brother Ikutarō (幾太郎). He was a close boyhood friend of Itō Hirobumi who later became Japan's first prime minister, and he played an active part in the sonnō jōi movement. In 1858, he studied rangaku, artillery and swordsmanship in Edo.

In the Bakumatsu period, Inoue emerged as a leader of the anti-foreigner movement in his native Chōshū. Desiring to rid Japan of foreigners, he and Takasugi Shinsaku set fire to the British legation in Edo in January 1863.

Recognizing Japan's need to learn from the Western powers, Inoue joined the Chōshū Five and was smuggled out of Japan to study at University College, London[1][2] in England in 1863. When he returned with Itō Hirobumi, he unsuccessfully tried to prevent war (the Battle of Shimonoseki) between Chōshū and the Western naval powers over the closing of the Straits of Shimonoseki to foreign shipping. Later, he fought against the forces of the Tokugawa shogunate in the 1864 First Chōshū Expedition, during which he was severely wounded by the attack of the assassins, received a near-fatal injury, appealing to Inoue's elder brother for beheading because of the unbearable pain and finally Ikutaro Tokoro (jp) who was then in hiding from the pursuit of Tokugawa shogunate with Prince Sanjō Sanetomi and rushed to Inoue pulled him through this by putting about 50 stitches of tatami needle in the wounds on the whole body without anesthesia because of emergency during the domestic war time (The story that Inoue's mother holding bloody Inoue then dissuaded her elder son from beheading was introduced in the National Japanese text book of the 5th period as the power of mother).[3] He later played a key role in the formation of the Satchō Alliance against the Tokugawa shogunate.

Statesman in the Meiji governmentEdit

After the Meiji Restoration, Inoue served in several important positions in the new Meiji government. He was appointed Vice Minister of Finance in 1871 and was influential in reorganizing government finances on modern lines, especially in the reform of the land tax system, termination of government stipends to the ex-samurai and former aristocracy and for promoting industrialization. Closely linked to business circles, including the emerging Mitsui zaibatsu, he was also involved in the railway business. These measures created many political enemies, and Inoue was forced to resign in May 1873. Inoue took part in the Osaka Conference of 1875 to support the creation of a representative national assembly.

In 1876, Inoue was asked to assist in the field of foreign affairs, and was involved in the conclusion of the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1876 as vice-ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary. He returned to government as Minister of Public Works in 1878 and Lord of Foreign Affairs in 1879 under the early Meiji Dajō-kan Cabinet. In 1884, he was elevated to the rank of count (hakushaku) under the new kazoku peerage system.

In December 1885, Inoue officially became Japan's first Minister of Foreign Affairs bearing that title in the first Itō Hirobumi cabinet. However, Inoue came under public criticism for his failure to negotiate a revision of the unequal treaties, his building of the Rokumeikan, and support of its Westernizing influences, which forced him to resign in August 1887.

Later he served as Minister of Agriculture and Commerce in the Kuroda administration, as Home Minister in the second Itō administration and again as Finance Minister in the 3rd Itō administration.

From 1901 onwards, Inoue served as most senior of the genrō, and considered himself the government's foremost advisor on financial affairs. He was advanced to the title of marquis (kōshaku) in 1907, and died in 1915 at his summer home at Okitsu-juku, Shizuoka prefecture.


From the article in the Japanese Wikipedia



See alsoEdit


Further readingEdit

  • Akamatsu, Paul. (1972). Meiji 1868: Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Japan (trans., Miriam Kochan). New York: Harper & Row.
  • Beasley, William G. (1972). The Meiji Restoration. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • __________. (1995). The Rise of Modern Japan: Political, Economic and Social Change Since 1850. New York: St. Martin's Press.
  • Cobbing, Andrew (2010). “Inoue Kaoru (1836–1915): A Controversial Meiji Statesman”. in Biographical Portraits. Leiden: BRILL.
  • Craig, Albert M. (1961). Chōshū in the Meiji Restoration. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  • Jansen, Marius B. and Gilbert Rozman, eds. (1986). Japan in Transition: from Tokugawa to Meiji. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691054599; OCLC 12311985

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan
Dec 1885 – Sept 1887
Succeeded by
Itō Hirobumi
Preceded by
Kuroda Kiyotaka
Minister of Agriculture and Commerce
Jul 1888 – Dec 1898
Succeeded by
Iwamura Michitoshi
Preceded by
Kōno Togama
Home Minister
Aug 1892 – Oct 1894
Succeeded by
Nomura Yasushi
Preceded by
Matsukata Masayoshi
Finance Minister
Jan 1898 – Jun 1898
Succeeded by
Matsuda Masahisa