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Kido Takayoshi

(Tokugawa shogunate years)

, also referred as Kido Kōin was a Japanesemarker statesman  during the Late Tokugawa shogunate and the Meiji Restoration. He used the alias   when he worked against the shogun.

Early life

Kido was born in Hagi, in Chōshū Domain (present-day Yamaguchi prefecturemarker) as the latest son of , a samurai physician. He was adopted into the Katsura family at age seven, and until 1865 was known as . He was educated at the academy of Yoshida Shōin, from whom he adopted the philosophy of Imperial loyalism.

In 1852, he went to Edo to study swordsmanship, established ties with radical samurai from Mito domain, learned artillery techniques with Egawa Tarōzaemon, and (after observing the construction of foreign ships in Nagasaki and Shimoda), returned to Chōshū to supervise the construction of the domain's first western-style warship.

Overthrow of the Tokugawa

After 1858, Kido was based at the domain's Edo residence, where he served as liaison between the domain bureaucracy and radical elements among the young, lower-echelon Chōshū samurai who supported the Sonnō jōi movement. Coming under suspicion by the Shogunate for his ties with Mito loyalists after the attempted assassination of Andō Nobumasa, he was transferred to Kyōto. However, while in Kyōto, he was unable to prevent the 30 September 1863 coup d'état by the forces of the Aizu and Satsuma domains, who drove the Chōshū forces out of the city. He was involved in the unsuccessful attempt by Chōshū to regain control of the city on 20 August 1864, and forced into hiding with a geisha by the name of Ikumatsu, who later became his wife.

After radical elements under Takasugi Shinsaku gained control of Chōshū politics, Kido was instrumental in establishing the Satchō Alliance which proved to be critical in the Boshin War and the subsequent Meiji Restoration.

Meiji statesman

Following the overthrow of the Tokugawa bakufu, Kido claimed a large role in the establishment of the new Meiji government. As a san'yo (Imperial Advisor) he helped draft the Five Charter Oath, and initiated policies of centralization and modernization. He helped direct the Abolition of the han system.

In 1871, he accompanied the Iwakura Mission on its round-the-world voyage to the United Statesmarker and Europe, and was especially interested in western educational systems and politics. On his return to Japan, he became a strong advocate of the establishment of constitutional government. Realizing that Japan was not in any position to challenge the western powers in its present state, he also returned to Japan just in time to prevent an invasion of Koreamarker (Seikanron).

Kido lost his dominant position in the Meiji oligarchy to Ōkubo Toshimichi, and resigned from government in protest of the Taiwan Expedition of 1874, which he had strenuously opposed.

Following the Ōsaka Conference of 1875, Kido agreed to return to the government, and became chairman of the Assembly of Prefectural Governors that the Ōsaka Conference had created. He was also responsible for the education of the young Emperor Meiji.

During the middle of Satsuma Rebellion of 1877 he died of an illness that had been plagueing him for a long time already.


Kido's diary reveals an intense internal conflict between his loyalty to his home domain, Chōshū, and the greater interest of the country. He wrote often of having to fight rumors at home that he had betrayed his old friends; the idea of a nation was still relatively new in Japan and so the majority of samurai cared more for securing privileges for their own domain.

Together with Saigō Takamori and Ōkubo Toshimichi, he is counted among what was known as the Ishin-no-Sanketsu (維新の三傑), which means, roughly, "three great nobles of the restoration". His younger sister's grandson was Tokyomarker politician Kōichi Kido (木戸幸一).

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.

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