Sanjo Sanetomi (三条実美)

Sanetomi SANJO (March 13, 1837 - February 18, 1891) was a noble and a politician who was active from the end of the Edo period to the Meiji period. He was the last Dajo Daijn, or Grand Minister of State. He was a duke given the rank of Naidaijin (Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal of Japan) and awarded the Order of the Chysanthemum, Japan's highest order.

He was born into the Sanjo family, the main branch of Kanin line of the Northern House of the Fujiwara clan and one of the Seiga family, who had been entitled to take the post of Dajo Daijin. His father was Sanetsumu SANJO, who wasposthumously made Udaijin (Minister of the Right), and his mother, Noriko, was the daughter of Toyokazu YAMAUCHI, the lord of Tosa domain. He called himself Rido.

Biography

He became head of the family when his elder brother Kinmutsu died young in 1854. Like his father, Sanetsumu SANJO, who had been killed in the Ansei Purge of extremists by the Tokugawa Shogunate, he was one of the court nobles of the Sonno-joi-ha (a group of activists who admired the Emperor and advocated expelling foreigners from Japan) and, in 1862, went to Edo as an imperial envoy to urge the fourteenth Shogun, Iemochi TOKUGAWA, to expel foreigners, and in the same year, he became a member of the Kokuji goyo-gakari, a policy development council. Maintaining a close relationship with activists from the domain of Choshu, Sanetomo and Kintomo ANEGAKOJI, as court nobles of the Sonno-joi-geki-ha (a group of Sonno-joi extremists), urged the Shogunate to stage a war against foreigners and planned Emperor Komei's trip to Yamato (Yamato Gyoko).

However, in 1863, he left Kyoto for Choshu in an incident known as Shichikyo-ochi, where seven nobles were banished from the imperial court following the August Eighteenth Coup, which was staged by court nobles including Imperial Prince Kuninomiya Asahiko and warriors from the Satsuma and Aizu domains, who supported the policy of uniting the Shogunate and the Court (Kobu Gattai). Although having been harbored by the domain of Choshu, he was transferred to Fukuoka Domain when the Shogunate launched the punitive First Choshu Expedition (Baku-cho war) in 1864. He was then transferred to Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, where he spent three years of confinement. On the way, he stayed for a month at Akama-juku, an inn town located along the Karatsu-kaido road in Munakata City. During his one-month stay, he was visited by Takamori SAIGO of Satsuma Domain and Shinsaku TAKASUGI of Choshu Domain and discussed with them in what direction things had been moving.

He stepped out of the shadows and into the limelight when the monarchy was restored in 1868 and took the post of Gijo (minister) in the newly established government. The following year, 1869, he was appointed Vice President. During the Boshin War, he went to Edo as the Kanto Kansatsu-shi (Inspector of the Kanto Region). Throughout his life, he stayed in the mainstream of politics; in 1869, he was designated Udaijin and in 1871, Dajo Daijin and Naidaijin.

In 1873, when the government divided over the Seikan-ron, the debate over whether to send troops to Korea or not, he was torn between the people who supported it, like Takamori SAIGO, and those who opposed to it, like Tomomi IWAKURA and Toshimichi OKUBO, finally choosing Iwakura as his representative. In 1882, he received the Grand Cordon of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum. In 1885 when the Dajo-kan System of Departments of State was abolished and the cabinet system was put in place, he took the post of Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal of Japan. In 1889, he served as acting Prime Minister (while serving as Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal) for two months after Kiyotaka KURODA resigned as prime minister.

He died in 1891 at the age of fifty-five. He was awarded Shoichii (Senior First Rank) immediately before he died. He was given a state funeral. In the Taisho period, he was enshrined in Nashinoki-jinja Shrine, which is located at the site of the Sanjo residence next to Kyoto Gosho (Old Imperial Palace).

Chronology of Ranks and Posts

* Dates up until 1871 are based on the lunar calendar.

January 31, 1850 (December 19, 1849 in old lunar calendar): He was granted Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade).

1854

July 4: He was given a higher rank, Jugoinojo (Junior Fifth Rank, Upper Grade).

September 29: He was appointed Grand Chamberlain.

October 18: He had his coming of age ceremony and was allowed to wear Kinjiki (colors only the imperial family and high-ranking nobles were permitted to wear) and to access the imperial court.

February 1, 1855 (December 15, 1854 in old lunar calendar): He was given a higher rank, Shogoinoge (Senior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) while retaining his position as Grand Chamberlain.

1855

May 22: He received a higher rank, Jushiinojo (Junior Fourth Rank, Upper Grade) while retaining his position as Grand Chamberlain.

October 27: He was transferred to the office of Ukone no Gon no shosho (Provisional Minor Captain of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards).

January 29, 1856 (December 22, 1855 in old lunar calendar): He received a higher rank, Shoshiinoge (Senior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade) while retaining his position as Ukone no Gon no shosho.

1862

October 14: He was designated Sakone gon no chujo (Provisional Middle Captain of the Left Division of Inner Palace Guards).

November 6: He was given a higher rank, Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank) while retaining his position as Sakone gon no chujo.

November 19: He was transferred to the office of Gon Chunagon (a provisional vice-councilor of state).

February 14, 1863 (December 27,1862 in old lunar calendar) : He became a member of the Kokuji Goyo-gakari when the council was set up in the imperial court while continuing to serve in his other posts.

October 6, 1863: He was removed from office, including that of the Kokuji Goyo-gakari.

1867

January 2, 1868 (December 8, 1867 in old lunar calendar): He was again granted Jusanmi.

January 21, 1868 (December 27, 1867 in old lunar calendar): He took the post of Gijo in the Meiji government.

1868

February 2: He was designated the Vice President of the Meiji government (hereafter referred to as the Government) and served the post only for the year.

February 10: He took the office of Seifu Gaikoku Jimu Sotoku (Minister of Foreign Affairs) while continuing in his other posts.

February 13: He left the office of Seifu Gaikoku Jimu Sotoku.

February 24: He was transferred to the office of Gon Dainagon (a provisional chief councilor of state).

May 14: He was appointed Sakone no daisho (Major Captain of the Left Division of Inner Palace Guards) while continuing to serve other posts.

June 11: He was transferred from the office of Vice President to that of Hosho (administrator) due to organizational changes in the Government. In these changes, Gijo became Jokyoku Gijo in the upper chamber of the bicameral Giseikan system.

June 12: He was given a higher rank, Juichii (Junior First Rank) while retaining his positions as Gon Dainagon, Sakone no daisho, Hosho, and Gijo.

July 13: He was transferred to the office of Udaijin. He retained his positions as Sakone no daisho, Hosho, and Gijo.

1869

May 13: He left the post of Gijo.

July 8: He was transferred from the office of Hosho to that of Udaijin due to organizational changes.

1871

August 13: He was designated Jingihaku (Chief of Jingikan, the Department of Worship) while serving other posts.

September 13: He was transferred from the office of Udaijin to that of Dajo Daijin due to organizational changes.

September 24: He left the office of Jingihaku.

December 29, 1876: He received the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun.

April 11, 1882: He received the Grand Cordon of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum.

July 7, 1884: He received the title of duke.

December 22, 1885: He was transferred from the office of Dajo Daijin to that of Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal of Japan as the cabinet system started.

1889

October 25: He was named acting Prime Minister as the then-Prime Minister, Kiyotaka KURODA, resigned.

December 24: He withdrew from the post of acting Prime Minister when the Aritomo YAMAGATA cabinet took office.

February 1890: He became a member of the Kizokuin (the House of Peers) while continuing to serve other posts.

February 18, 1891: He was given Shoichii (Senior First Rank). He died on the same day. He was given a national funeral on February 25.

Character

Although he was active as a court noble of Sonno-joi-ha towards the end of the Edo period, he is said to have been calm and warm, carrying the aura of a typical court noble. Thanks to his personable character, he also served as a mediator to settle confrontations within the Government.

Although most nobles were given sinecures in the new government, he had an extraordinary career. As the last Dajo Daijin, he supported the System of Departments of State to the last moment, although he took the post of Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal without any opposition, knowing that it was an honorary office created for him, and congratulated Hirobumi ITO on becoming the first prime minister.

While staying in Choshu Domain after being exiled from Kyoto, he composed a waka poem, which was engraved in a monument placed near Myojin-ike pond in Hagi City. In Akama, there stands 'Gokyo Seisen no Hi,' a monument commemorating the month long stay of five court nobles in the Akama inn town located along the Karatsu-kaido Road in Munakata City.