Kaneko Kentaro (金子堅太郎)

Kentaro KANEKO (March 13, 1853 - May 16, 1942) was a bureaucrat and a politician in the Meiji period. He served as the Minister of Justice, Minister of Agriculture and Commerce, and a member of privy councilor. His court rank was Juichii (Junior First Rank), supreme order count. He was the first head of Nihon Law School (currenlty Nihon University) and a principal of Nishogakusha school (Nishogakusha University).

Personal Profile

As a close adviser of Hirobumi ITO, he took part in drafting the Constitution of the Empire of Japan. Moreover, during the Russo-Japanese War, he went to the United States of America to conduct diplomatic negotiations and enact strategies to bring an end to the war that would favor Japan. He was the first head of Nihon Law School (currently Nihon University) and greatly contributed to the foundation of Senshu University (Senshu School at that time). He studied in the US around the same time as Tanetaro MEGATA and Nagatane SOMA did. He learned law at Harvard Law School, and he got deeply involved in founding and running Senshu School after returning to Japan. Afterwards, he devoted himself to promoting Japan-U.S. friendship, and, in his later years, he deeply concerned about the Pacific Wars.

He heard about Edmund Burke in remarks of Senator Charles Sumner when he was at Harvard. Later he translated and published "Seijigairon," the first Japanese translation of Burke's book.

He submitted the government a petition about reclamation of Hokkaido, proposing to engage the prisoners of the Abashiri prison in reclamation and road construction works. This proposal was put into practice based on the concept that deaths of prisoners help reduce expenses of the prison. As a result, many prisoners were forced to work in cruelly harsh conditions and died. This also indirectly led to harsh forced physical labor in Hokkaido in later years.


He was born on February 4, 1853, in Aza Yontanda, Torikai Village, Sawara County, Chikuzen Province (present-day Toorikai, Chuo Ward Fukuoka City), as the first son of Kiyozonaomichi KANEKO, a feudal retainer and accountant of kanjosho (finance ministry). His childhood name was Tokutaro.

He studied under Kazuzo KANEYAMA in 1860, and Shoyo MASAKI in 1861. He started the study of the Chinese classics.

In January 1863, he started to study at Shuyukan, a han (domain) school established by a daimyo.

In April 1868, he lost his father Seizo and succeeded his father as the head of the family. Since Seizo's samurai status was on a lifelong basis, Kentaro lost the status and was assigned to Jutegumi (military unit of gunners). He became tsukaiban (a person responsible for order and patrol in the battlefield) of Jutegumi, and chuban two month later, and subsequently he was promoted to kyuji (server) of kanjosho (finance ministry). He purchased the license for the head of Jutegumi and obtained four fuchi (stipends) and 12 goku crop yields.

In February 1869, he was granted the permanent samurai status because of his outstanding achievements in Shugakukan, and was ordered to go to study in Akizuki Domain.

In July 1870, he was ordered by the chief retainer to study in Tokyo.

In January 1871, he was admitted to a private school of Chinese classics run by Masahira FUJINO, Daisanji (second to a governor) of Matsuyama domain and former professor of Shoheiko (Shohei School). In November of the same year, he became a retinue of Feudal Lord Nagatomo KURODA, who joined the Tomomi IWAKURA Mission to Europe and the US, and went to study in the US.

In February of 1876, he began preparations to enter Harvard University. He studied under lawyer Oliver Wendell Holmes (later a professor of Harvard university and the Supreme Court justice of Massachusetts State, then the Associate Justice) and also worked for study in a law firm run jointly by Henry Swift and Russell Clay. He entered Harvard University in October of the same year and graduated in June 1878. He shared loggings and worked hard with Jutaro KOMURA, a fellow student at University, and he also associates with well-known politicians, congress people, writers, philosophers and journalists off campus. He spoke by telephone with Shuji IZAWA, who was also a foreign exchange student; they are the first Japanese in history to use telephones.

In June 1878, he graduated from Harvard University. He received a bachelor degree in law. In September of the same year, he came back to Japan. He became a member of Toshiminkenseisha. In December of the same year, he became an English teacher in Preparatory School of the University of Tokyo (Tokyo Yobimon). In those days, he belonged to Kyozondoshu and Omeisha and was actively involved in the civil rights movement; he wrote a paper about the Anglo-American legal system, proposed the adoption of the juror system, drew up a draft constitution, and made speeches at both oratorical and lecture meetings.

In January 1880, he was employed at Genroin (the Chamber of Elders) through the introduction of fellow members of Omeisha--Sukeyuki KAWAZU, secretary of Genroin, and Morikazu NUMA, former senior secretary of Genroin. He became a lower-ranked secretary of Genroin in April of the same year. In those days, he was encouraged by Genroin Vice-chairman Takayuki SASAKI's.to outline the theories of conservative politics mainly on Edmund Burke's theory into a book titled "Seijigairon" (outline of politics). In November of the same year, he married Toshiko, the second daughter of Aomori prefectural governor Shusuke YAMADA. He also got involved in the establishment of Senshu School (Present-day Senshu University), which was founded in September 1880. He went to the US to study law at Harvard., like Tanetaro MEGATA and Nagatane SOMA. He got deeply involved in founding and running Senshu School after returning to Japan.

He was involved in Hokkaido colonization assets scandal in 1881 and Meiji juyonen no seihen (the failed Meiji-14 coup of 1881).

In December 1882, he assumed office as Executive Secretary to the prime minister in Genroin (the Chamber of Elders). He was promoted to Senior Executive Secretary.

In April 1884, he assumed concurrently Daijokan (Grand Council of State), Senior Executive Secretary of Genroin (the Chamber of Elders), and Goyo-gakari (a general affairs official) of Bureau of Institutional Investigation.

In 1885, he visited Hokkaido and proposed a petition about its reclamation. In December, he became an Executive Secretary to the Prime Minister.

In May 1886, he worked with INOUE, Miyoji ITO et al., to draft the constitution and the Imperial House Act, and legal codes under Prime Minister Hirobumi ITO.

In April 1888, he became the Executive Secretary and concurrently served as a secretary of the Chairman in the Privy Council

In July 1889, he made an official visit to western countries
He became the first head of Nihon Law School (currently Nihon University) (and resigned in 1893).

In June 1890, he came back to Japan. In October, he became a member of Kizokuin (the House of Peers) and the first Chief Executive Secretary of the house.

In June 1892, he attended the international conference in Geneva, Switzerland as a member of International Public Law Society. On his way home, he visited the US and came back in November of the same year.

In January 1894, he assumed the position of undersecretary of Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce of the second Hirobumi ITO Cabinet.

In April 1898, he assumed the position of the Minister of Agriculture and Commerce of the third Hirobumi ITO' Cabinet.

In May 1899, he visited the US and received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree (LLD) from Harvard University for distinguished services, such as the establishment of the Constitution. In July of the same year, he returned to Japan. After the return, he released "Interests of Trust," "U.S. Economy and Industrial Bank of Japan," based on the findings of his investigations during his visit to the US. He assumed the position of the chief director of Tokyo Stock Exchange.

In May 1900, he was granted a baron for his distinguished contributions to the establishment of the Constitution. In October, he assumed the position of the Minister of Justice of the fourth Hirobumi ITO Cabinet. He became the president of American Friends Association.

In February 1904, he visited the US and had diplomatic talks with President Theodore Roosevelt (who had been contemporarily at Harvard University) about the Russo-Japanese War (and returned to Japan in October of the following year).

In January 1906, he became a privy councilor.

In 1907, he became a viscount. He assumed the position of the Presidents of Japan World Exhibition and Japanese Stenography Association.

In 1908, he assumed the position of the President of Linguistic Association and Tokyo Exhibition.

Since 1910, he was involved in inaugurating an association to compile a history of Restoration.

In 1914, he became the President of temporary Imperial Editorial Office.

In 1915, he became the President of Editorial Office for compiling "Meiji Tenno ki" and the President of an association to compile historical materials of the Restoration

In 1917, he assumed the post of the President of America-Japan Society.

In 1922, he became the President of Imperial Editorial Office.

He was listed as a promoter of Suiseki OHASHI Exhibition held by Japan Art Association in Ueno Tokyo in 1927.

On November 10, 1928, he received Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun, Paulownia Flowers.

In 1932, he became the principal of Nishogakusha school (later Nishogakusha University).

In 1938, he was awarded a higher title of Hakushaku (count) for his services to "Meiji Tenno ki,." which had been completed in the previous year. He worked with Toyohiko KAGAWA (engaged in a social movement), Takechiyo MATSUDA (a parliamentarian of Rikken Minsei-to political party, who became the Chairman of House of Representatives after the Second World War), Takeo MIKI (a parliamentarian who became the Prime Minister after the Second World War), etc. to found "Japan-U.S. Fellow Association," and he became the first chairman.

IN 1941, he presented "Ishinshi" to the Emperor. He received a letter from Kanichi ASAKAWA wishing to avoid an outbreak of war between Japan and the United States.

May 16, 1942, he passed away (at the age of 89) and was awarded Juichii (Junior First Rank) and Grand Cordon of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum.