Sawayanagi incident (沢柳事件)

The Sawayanagi incident was an internal conflict that occurred at Kyoto Imperial University (current Kyoto University) from 1913 to 1914 in which the president of the university confronted the faculty council. It is also called the "Kyodai incident" and a well-known incident that led to the establishment of faculty council autonomy.


In July 1913, the president of Kyoto Imperial University Masataro SAWAYANAGI, who was appointed by the Ministry of Education two months before, ordered seven professors (one for the medical school, five for the science and engineering school, and one for the literature school) to submit resignation letters because they called for the education reform, and dismissed them in August. Tomeri TANIMOTO, a professor of the literature school (current literature department of Kyoto University) (pedagogy) who had been advocating university autonomy for some time, was one of them.

When they learned of the dismissal of seven professors, professors/assistant professors of the law school of Kyoto Imperial University (current law department of Kyoto University) stood together with the principal of the school, (current dean) Kamematsu NIHO being in the center, arguing that authority over personal issues of professors should belong to faculty councils. The president of the university, Sawayanagi, countered their argument saying that the positions of professors should be maintained by ones ability, rather than by the system, and that the approval of the faculty council is not required for reshuffling professors even under the existing system.

When confrontation intensified between the president and the law school, professors/assistant professors of the law school jointly resigned from their posts in January 1914, and students also supported them. The head of the law school of Tokyo Imperial University supported the law school of Kyoto Imperial University, and then Minister for Education Yoshio OKUDA also supported the law school of Kyoto Imperial University by saying "in the case of the appointment and dismissal of professors, it is all right and appropriate for the president to conclude the agreement with faculty councils." As a result, professors etc. withdrew their resignation. Under such circumstances, the president of the university, Sawayanagi, was driven into a corner and was forced to resign from his post in April of the same year (Kenjiro YAMAKAWA, the president of Tokyo Imperial University, was concurrently appointed as a successor).

Significance of the incident

As the Minister for Education approved a practice under which faculty councils held essential authority over personnel issues of professors, academic freedom as well as university autonomy became solid. One year after the resignation of Sawayanagi, Torasaburo ARAKI, a professor of the Medical Department, was selected as the president of Kyoto Imperial University, and since then successive presidents were selected from among professors.

Kyoto Imperial University, which was regarded as "the center of university autonomy" thanks to the development and conclusion of the Sawayanagi incident, came to be regarded as an enemy by people who intended to place universities under the government's control under the wartime regime in 1930's. Some people say that the above led to the attack on the autonomy of faculty council, which was seen in the Takigawa incident.