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Inoue Kaoru

Inoue Kaoru

Born 16 January 1836
Hagi, Japan
Died September 1, 1915 (aged 79)
Shizuoka, Japan
In this Japanese name, the family name is Inoue.

Count Inoue Kaoru (井上 馨 Inoue Kaoru?, 16 January 1836 - 1 September 1915) was a Japanese statesman and a member of the Meiji oligarchy that ruled Japan during the Meiji period (1868–1912).


Early years

Inoue Kaoru as a young samurai.

Born Yakichi (勇吉) to a lower-ranked samurai family in Hagi, Chōshū Domain (present day Yamaguchi Prefecture), Inoue attended the Meirinkan Domain school with his brother Ikutarō (幾太郎). He was a close boyhood friend of Ito 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 antiforeigner 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, he joined the Chōshū Five and was sent to study at University College, London in 1863. When he returned with Ito Hirobumi, he unsuccessfully tried to prevent war (the Battle of Shimonoseki) between the 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 bakufu in the 1864 “First Chōshū Chastisement Campaign”, during which he was severely wounded. He later played a key role in the formation of the Satchō Alliance against the Tokugawa shogunate.

Statesman in the Meiji government

Inoue in 1880

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.

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 Amity as vice-ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary. He returned to government as Minister of Public Works in 1878 and Foreign Minister in 1879. 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 Ito 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 Ito administration and again as Finance Minister in the 3rd Ito administration.

From 1901, he served as most senior of the genrō, and considered himself the government's foremost advisor on financial affairs. He died in 1915 at his summer home at Okitsu-juku, Shizuoka prefecture.

Reference and further reading

  • Akamatsu, Paul. Meiji 1868: Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Japan. Trans. Miriam Kochan. New York: Harper & Row, 1972.
  • Beasley, W. G. The Meiji Restoration. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1972.
  • Beasley, W. G. The Rise of Modern Japan: Political, Economic and Social Change Since 1850. St. Martin's Press, New York 1995.
  • Craig, Albert M. Chōshū in the Meiji Restoration. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1961.
  • Jansen, Marius B. and Gilbert Rozman, eds. Japan in Transition: From Tokugawa to Meiji. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986.

External links

Preceded by
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan
Dec 1885-Sept 1887
Succeeded by
Ito Hirobumi
Preceded by
Kono Togama
Home Minister
Aug 1892-Oct 1894
Succeeded by
Nomura Yasushi

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