Kawase Hideji (河瀬秀治)

Hideji KAWASE (January 26, 1842 - 1907) was a Japanese samurai and a statesman of the Miyazu clan. After he served the Meiji Government as the governor of Kosuge Prefecture, Inba Prefecture and others, he flourished as a businessperson. He was commonly known as Gaiei, and his Gago (pseudonym) was Unei. His official rank was Fourth Class of Order.

He was born as the third son of Narihiro UMAKUBO (謙下), a stateman. In 1848 he was adopted by Haruyoshi KAWASE, who was Karo (chief retainer), as a son because of his talent and identified himself as 'Hideji,' and given a Chinese character from Munehide HONJO, the lord of domain. Since 1862 he had joined Sonno Joi Movement (the Movement advocating reverence for the Emperor and the expulsion of foreigners). However, in the Battle of Toba-Fushimi of 1868, the Miyazu clan joined the side of the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), which was heavily defeated and became the target of Sanindo Chinbugun (a military unit formed specially for the campaign in Sanindo) the governor of which was Kinmochi SAIONJI. Kawase summarized the discussion among the clan and conveyed a message of obedience to Saionji and others. Thanks to this quick response, Munetake HONJO, the lord of domain and his father Munehide HONJO, former lord of domain (former roju (member of shogun's council of elders)), were not convicted.

After he attended the new government in 1869, he was assigned to Musashi-chikenji (governor of Musashi region), and after it was reorganized to Kosuge Prefecture, he was assigned to be its governor after working as the vice-governor, and worked to found a foreign language school and so on. In 1871 he was transferred to the governor of the Inba Prefecture which was newly founded in accordance with the reorganization of prefectures after Haihan-chiken (abolition of feudal domains and establishment of prefectures). In the Inba Prefecture, he took policies such as the increase of tea production and the invitation of Horace CAPRON in order to found a ranch and was taught by him. In 1873, the Meiji Government established the policy to reorganize prefectures. As a result, Kawase was transferred to the governor of Gunma and Iruma Prefectures, premised on becoming the first governor of the Kumagaya Prefecture which would be newly founded including the Gunma and Iruma Prefectures. In the Inba Prefecture, similarly, Yawara SHIBAHARA, the vice-governor of the Kisarazu Prefecture which was the neighboring prefecture of the Inba Prefecture, was assigned to be the vice-governor of Inba Prefecture, premised on the foundation of Chiba Prefecture. Then, on June 15, the Kumagaya Prefecture was established and Kawase was assigned to be the first governor (on the same day Chiba Prefecture was also established and Shibahara was assigned to be the first governor). In Kumagaya Prefecture, Kawase promoted the building of a modern yarn-making factory as a state-owned Tomioka Seishi-jo (Tomioka Silk Mill), and after its success he founded schools in Maebashi City and Kumagaya City.

In 1874, he entered the Ministry of Interior (Japan) and successfuly achieved the post of naimu daijo (the third highest post in the Ministry of Interor) for the National Industrial Exhibition in 1877 and Kangyoryo gon no kami (an officer of the agency for promotion of industry). After that, based on the experience of his visit to Europe, he set up Tokyo Shoho Kaigisho (Tokyo Chamber of Commerce), the first Chamber of Commerce in Japan, with Eiichi SHIBUSAWA and Tomoatsu GODAI in 1880, and also set up Ryuchi-kai (Ryuchi party) with Tsunetami SANO in the same year and promoted the arts as its vice-president. In addition, he made an effort to set up Kanga-kai (a name of the organization) by supporting Ernest FENOLLOSA.

In 1881 he was transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce as a chief of commerce agency and industrial agency from the Ministry of Interior, but resigned after triggering a conflict with Yajiro SHINAGAWA, who was Noshomushoho (Junior Assistant Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce). While continuing to work as the vice-president of the Ryuchi-kai, Kawase was assigned to be a director of Yokohama Specie Bank the following year, and made efforts to set up the association for tea industry and expand the production and export of tea. In addition, he began to publish 'Chugai Shogyo Shinpo' (Journal of Foreign and Domestic Commerce) with Takashi MASUDA.