Goto Shinpei (後藤新平)

Shinpei GOTO (July 24, 1857 - April 13, 1929) is known as a doctor, a high-rank official, and a politician who played active roles in various fields through Meiji, Taisho and early Showa Period.

Career and personal profile

He was raised to the peerage, and his final title was a count; he was given a title of a baron in 1906, a viscount in 1922, and a count in 1928. His rank and order were Shonii (Senior Second Rank), the First Order of Merit. He served as the Civil Administrative General of the Governor-General of Fermosa. He was the first president of the South Manchuria Railway Company. He successively held positions as the Minister of Communications, the Minister of Home Affairs (Japan), and the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Japan). He also served as the seventh mayor of Tokyo City (current Tokyo Prefecture), and the first chairman of the Boy Scouts of Nippon. He was the first chairman of Tokyo Broadcasting System (currently NHK, the Nippon Hoso Kyokai, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation). He was the third university president of Takushoku University.

While he was given the nickname of 'furoshiki' (a Japanese wrapping cloth; the word is often used for talking big and bragging about something) for his large-scale projects, he was actually a capable manager of colonial administration as well as talented city planner. He successively took the positions of the Civil Administrative General of the Governor-General of Formosa and the President of the South Manchuria Railway Company to assist Japanese intrusion into the Eurasian continent, and also contributed to developing the national railway system as chief of the Japan Railway Bureau.

Furthermore, he held positions of the Minister of Home Affairs and the President of the Imperial Capital Reconstruction Department concurrently to draft out the Tokyo reconstruction plan after the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923.

GOTO as a doctor and his background

He was born in Shiogama Village, Isawa County, Mutsu Province (present Mizusawa Ward, Ohshu City). He was the eldest son of Sanetaka GOTO, a vassal of the Rusu clan. Choei TAKANO, a scholar of the Western studies (rangakusha) of the late Edo Period, was his granduncle, a politician Etsusaburo SIINA, his nephew, the politician Yusuke TSURUMI, a son-in-law who married with his daughter, and a sociologist Kazuko TSURUMI, a philosopher Shunsuke TSURUMI, a theatrical director Seki SANO are his grandchildren.

When he was thirteen years old, he received much recognition from Yasukazu YASUBA, the Great Secretary of Isawa Prefecture, and became Yasuba's live-in student with Makoto SAITO, who later became the Admiral of the Imperial Japanese Navy, while he worked at the Prefectural office by recommendation of Yasuba; GOTO moved to Tokyo when he was fifteen year old, to work as a gatekeeper and chore manager under Shozo SHOMURA, the junior clerk of the Grand Council of Tokyo,. The relationship with Shinpei and Yasuda continued, and when YASUBA became the governor of Fukushima Prefecture after participating in the delegation of Tomomi IWAKURA and homecoming, Shinpei returned to Fukushima to count on Yasuba and entered Fukushima International Study School when he was sixteen years old.

Although Shinpei himself intended to become a politician in early years, the influence of Choei TAKANO (his granduncle of his mother's side) and the oppression againstChoei affected many others to convince Shinpei to become a doctor. His benefactors, Yasuba and Mitsuhiro OKADA (later changed to AGAWA), also recommended him to become a doctor, thus he reluctantly entered the Sukagawa Medical School when he was 17 years old. Yet his school record was excellent at this school, and he got a position in a hospital in Tsuruoka City of Yamagata Prefecture, but as Yasuba became the Governor of Aichi Prefecture, he decided to follow him and became a doctor at Aichi Municipal Medical School (current the medical department of Nagoya University) in Aichi Prefecture. He was rapidly promoted here, and became the principal of the school and concurrently director of the attached hospital at the age of twenty-four, administrating the general management of the school and the hospital. While he was in this position, he examined the wounds of Taisuke ITAGAKI who was stabbed by a hoodlum while he was canvassing in Gifu City. After a medical check-up done by Goto, Itagaki noted that he was disappointed for not being able to make him into politics. Also during this period, GOTO got married with the second daughter of YASUBA, Kazuko for his wife.

While he was highly regarded as a doctor, he himself was said to be suffering from a strong inferiority complex for becoming a doctor without receiving a standard Western medical science education at an advanced organization.

His achievements at the Aichi Municipal Medical School were well-recognized, and he was appointed to the staff of the Hygienic Bureau of the Ministry of Home Affairs in February, 1882.

In 1890, he went abroad to study in Germany. While he strongly recognized the superior points of Western civilizations, he also noticed his inferiority complex when confronted with the West. When he returned to Japan, he was awarded a medical doctorate for the results of his study in Germany, and he was installed as the chief of the Hygienic Bureau of the Ministry of Home Affairs in December, 1892 on the recommendation of Sensai NAGAYO.

In 1893, he was implicated in a plot of the Sohma Incident and imprisoned for five months; although he was finally declared not guilty, he was given a leave of absence as Chief of Hygienic Bureau, and he fell into obscurity for a while.

The role of Shinpei GOTO in Taiwan

After suffering hardship from the Sohma Incident, he came back to public service in April 1, 1895, on the recommendation of his friend. He worked for the quarantine service performed on returning soldiers from Sino-Japanese War at Nino-shima Island near the Port of Hiroshima, Hiroshima City, as the administrative director of the Temporal Quarantine Department of the Imperial Army of Japan; his skilful administration was recognized by his superior officer, the Staff Officer of the Imperial Army of Japan, Gentaro KODAMA.

In March 1898, he was appointed the Civil Administrative General of the Governor-General of Formosa by the nomination of Gentaro KODAMA who became the Governor-General of the Governor-General of Formosa. He conducted thoroughgoing research and investigation of local conditions to carry out economic reform and infrastructure construction.
He explained his methodology following the 'principles of biology,' (giving a metaphorical example for explanation, 'the eyes of a flounder can not be transformed into the eyes of a sea bream.")
He meant that any social custom or system is similar to that of nature, while they have been derived from proper reasoning and necessity, therefore unreasonable attempt at changing them would inevitably lead to a strong resistance. In conclusion, he noted that an administrative body has to know local conditions and situations thoroughly, and conduct the administrative activities based upon that knowledge.

Research project in Taiwan

First, he founded the Special Taiwanese Custom and Practice Research Board, and invited Santaro OKAMATSU, a jurist and professor of Kyoto Imperial University, while he became the chairman of the board himself. At the same time, he directed the research project for the law system of the Qing Dynasty by setting up another group led by Yorozu ODA, who was also a jurist and professor of Kyoto Imperial University, Naoki KANO, who was still a research student at that time but later became the scholar of Chinese philosophy, and Shigeru KATO, a historian of Chinese history. Research results of this group was gathered as a report titled "The Administrative System of the Qing Dynasty," and its exhaustive study content became the essential material for studying the modern history of China.

Invitation of skilled people

It was also Shinpei's method to invite talented people to work on the development of a project. When he invited Inazo NITOBE from the United States, Nitobe once declined the offer because of his sickly condition, but he presented special conditions, such as bringing a bed into the office, and finally succeeded to persuade Nitobe to accept the offer. Recruiting Nitobe produced fruitful results as the Chief of the Production Development Bureau of the Governor-General of Formosa to spread and improve the production of sugarcane and sweet potatoes throughout Taiwan. It was also during the Governor-General of Formosa period when he met with Yoshikoto NAKAMURA, who later became the trusted assistant throughout his life.

Gradual prohibition scheme against opium

In those days, it was a big social problem that smoking opium was a popular habit among people in Taiwan, which was also a common issue in mainland China. One of the triggers of the anti-Japanese movement came from the impending fear that the Japanese administration was trying to ban opium. Contrary to such an atmosphere in Taiwan, Shinpei did not choose a hasty prohibition of opium usage. He first imposed a high tax rate on purchasing opium, and secondly he enforced a licensing system for using opium, both intended to gradually reduce the number of opium users. This method showed a successful result and the number of opium addicts gradually decreased. According to the data of the Governor-General of Formosa, the number of opium addicts were 169,000 in 1900, and 62,000 in 1917, and 26,000 in 1928. In 1945, Taiwan completely discontinued issuing an opium usage license. There is a point of view that the enforcement of Shinpei's policy succeeded to eradicate opium usage in Taiwan and put away those backdoor groups who had dealt with opium as an income source, although some also suggest that Shinpei himself gradually deepened his relationship with those backdoor groups and also the concessions related with opium involved Shigemaru SUGIYAMA and others as the partners.

Goto as the President of the South Manchuria Railway Company

In 1906, Shinpei became the first president of the South Manchuria Railways Company, and played an active role in the administration of Manchuria based in Dalian City. He recruited such talented people fromwhen he served in Taiwan, such as Yoshikoto NAKAMURA and Santaro OKAMATSU, and also many capable young people in their thirties and fourties to develop the infrastructure of the Manchurian Railways, expand hygienic facilities, and construct cities in Manchuria including Dalian City. He considered research projects indispensable for pursuing his 'biological development,' therefore he once again founded a research department inside the South Manchuria Railways Company.

Around that time, the Peiyang militarists with Yuan Shikai as the central figure had great interest in Manchuria among bureaucrats of Qing Dynasty, and many of Yuan's trusted followers were put in important positions for establishing the Dongsansheng Provinces (the North-East Three Provinces). The Peiyang militarists disliked the condition where concessions in Manchuria were monopolized exclusively by Japan, thus The Peiyang militarists actively tried to involve the USA because of it's economic power to construct railway lines equally matched with Japan's South Manchuria Railway lines. This movement was a large threat to Japan pushing the development and the management of the South Manchuria Railways from Dalian City.

Shinpei forwarded a letter directly to Yuan, stating that the activities of the Peiyang militarists constructing railways would be in violation of a treaty, and succeeded in checking this project. However, he approved other options, such as the assist the construction of connecting lines to the South Manchurian Railways, the permission of obtaining the company stock by Qing citizens, and the admission of Qing citizens becoming executives of the company, in order to conciliate anti-Japanese influences. He also tried to restore the relationship with Russia, as Russia had still maintained its influence in Northern Manchuria, by importing the rails of the South Manchuria Railways from Russia, and by setting up a meeting between Hirobumi ITO and Russian political executives, (but this meeting was not realized because Ito was assassinated in Harbin).

Although mainstream idea in the Japanese government at that time was to protect vested preferential interests in Manchuria, he tried to establish cooperation between the Qing government, Russia, and Japan to share the benefits of Manchuria among the three countries.

The background of becoming the president at Takushoku University

In 1919, he became the president of Takushoku University, (the predecessor of the School of Taiwan Association established by Taro KATSURA), (period of service: from August 2, 1919 to April 13, 1929). When he was in the position of the Civil Administrative General of the Governor-General of Formosa, he was an sympathetic supporter both materially and spiritually for the newly founded 'The School of Taiwan Association,' and he often gave speeches at the entrance or graduation ceremonies of the school; in 1919, he became the third university president of Takushoku University to directly work on the management of the school. He started preparation to solve various issues in order to raise the status of this school to become a 'university' (university under the prewar education system) in accordance with the imperial edict of the university system enacted around that time, and finally raised to university status in June 1922, while he continued to stay on as the university president until he died in April, 1929, establishing the foundation of Takushoku University.
The record of the school suggests that he was sincerely adored by students, as illustrated by the comments in a record saying, 'president Goto was kind to students and full of affection, and students also felt familiar with a university president as if he were an affectionate father.'

The Great Kanto Earthquake and the reconstruction project of the Imperial capital, and his death

He successively took the following positions, Minister of Communications and first president of the Railways Bureau in the second Katsura Cabinet (period of service: July 14, 1908 to August 30, 1911), Minister of Home Affairs of Japan (period of service: October 9, 1916 to April 23, 1918) and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan (period of service: April 23, 1918 to September 28, 1918) in the Terauchi Cabinet, and then left the government position for a while, Mayer of Tokyo City (period of service: December 17, 1920 to April 20, 1923), but Minister of Home Affairs of Japan again in the second Yamamoto Cabinet (period of service: September 2, 1923 to January 7, 1924, the details later).

During the presidency of the Japan Railway Bureau, he promoted large-scale personnel reshuffle. This reform stirred strong criticism from both inside and outside of the company, and his conduct was ridiculed as 'the train shakes goto-goto, (this is onomatopoeia that often describes the sound of rattle, which also sounds similar to the pronunciation of Goto) thus I am so shinpei' ('shinpei' here is 'shinpai' spoken with regional accent, which actually means 'worry,' while shinpai here is the homonym of Shinpei indicating the name of Goto). Today, there is a tourist train on the Hisatsu Line of the Kyushu Railway Company, named 'Isaburo' and 'Shinpei' derived from the name of Goto.

While he was serving in the second Yamamoto Cabinet established right after the Great Kanto Earthquake, he held positions as Minister of Home Affairs and President of the Imperial Capital Reconstruction Department to draft out the city revival plan. His original plan including a large-scale land rezoning and provision of parks and arterial roads demanded so enormous budget of 1.3 billion yen in those days (roughly equal to the national budget for a year) that this plan was opposed by financial circle fiercely, and the original plan had to be reduced in scale, (and the final approved budget was 575 million yen). Still, his administration devoted to establishing a framework for the urban planning of Tokyo, and developing parks and public facilities throughout Tokyo is generally well-regarded. This reconstruction project was one of the world largest urban reform projects carried out for an existing urban condition, recognized as a splendid achievement in the history of city planning throughout the world.

Regarding road construction, he strongly insisted on the necessity of both radiating roads from the central Tokyo and beltways, and put this plan in to effect, while the original plan was reduced in scale. This lofty original plan suggested that the width of a road should be 70 to 90 meters including a broad sidewalk and a green strip be set up between roads or a road and a sidewalk, and it is a matter of course that such plan could not be accepted in those days before the spread of cars. Today, we can find the traces of road construction based on his plan at Wadakura-mon Gate or Babasaki-mon Gate areas near the outer garden of the Imperial Palace. It is possible to say that the road network of Tokyo today was mostly produced by him, especially those roads in Shitamachi district, (or traditional working-class area in Tokyo), where any new streets were constructed newly since his urban revival project of the imperial capital, therefore, the legacy of the reconstruction project is still used today as the essential infrastructure that supports the capital.

He left some examples which are highly regarded today for his foresight, such as the underground construction of additional lines for Showa-dori Street, which made the construction possible witout road-widening work or eviction of residents, and if he had carried out the construction of Yasukuni-dori Street or Meiji-dori Street (Tokyo) or Yamanote-dori Street, there might not be so terrible and frequent traffic jams in Tokyo. On the other hand, there is also criticism that his reconstruction project eliminated the traditional atmosphere of Tokyo reflecting the culture of the Edo Period, in exchange for expanding the urban functionality of Tokyo. Still, some would argue against this criticism saying 'eliminating the traditional atmosphere of the Edo period' is irrelevant considering the following points; the areas rebuilt under the Reconstruction Project of the Imperial Capital were limited to those areas which were reduced to ashes by the great fire after the earthquake, so there retained little atmosphere of the Edo culture; and the Tokyo city before the Great Earthquake had full of urban problems similar to today, such as traffic and hygienic problems. It is needless to say that it is too early to draw a conclusion without considering the following points. It is also a common knowledge that Tokyo had experienced various damages from earthquakes and fires even before the Great Kanto Earthquake, and under the budget cuts of the project, the reconstruction committee utilized common lands of shrines and filled up old canals without costing any money. Although it is not inappropriate to blame him for the fact that there are incomparably less green in Tokyo than London, New York, or Paris, we can not overlook his error that the aspects to unify a local community, the core to solve urban problems, were destroyed by the person who was describing himself as professional of self-government, yet in reality simply followed the fashion of the day.

In 1923, when he was the Tokyo City Mayer, as the standard-bearer of people's diplomacy, he held a meeting with Adolph JOFFE in Atami of Izu to initiate eagerly-hoped normalization of the diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. Joffe was sent by the recommendation of Sen KATAYAMA who had been staying in Moscow at the time as a member of the Communist Party of the USA, and the meeting was mediated by Tamiji NAITO and Unzo TAGUCHI, socialists who organized the Reimei-kai Organization. He was sometimes called the 'Red Baron,' and advocated friendship between Japan and Russia through the viewpoint of common people, considering that communist ideology was only a nationalistic ideology of Russia and not worth worrying about, and that the normalization of diplomatic relations was desirable in order to soften the Soviet Union.

In 1924, he became the first president of the Tokyo Broadcasting System Corporation upon its establishment. After the experimental broadcasting, Tokyo Broadcasting System Corporation began the first trial radio broadcasting in the year following its establishment, on March 22, 1925. He made a speech announcing the start of the service as president (and in 1926 Tokyo Broadcasting System Corporation merged with Osaka Broadcasting Corporation and Nagoya Broadcasting Corporation to be consolidated into Nihon Hoso Kyokai [NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation]).

In 1928, he visited the Soviet Union and met with Joseph Stalin, while he was received as a state guest. He visited the Soviet Union as chairman of the Boy Scouts of Nippon, and when he received rice balls made from rice sent from Boy Scout members who gave one grain of rice per boy, he ate them with tears in his eyes. The importance of connection among Japan, China, and Russia was his passionate political belief, about which he told Hirobumi ITO just before his assassination, and it is considered that he tried to make approach to discuss the ideas of the mandatory administration of Manchuria or the foundation of a buffer state there, behind the scenes of the plan of the cabinet of Giichi Tanaka to establish the Department of Overseas Affairs. However, the details of his intentions have not been clarified yet. Yosuke MATSUOKA, who later became the president of the South Manchuria Railways Company, shouted out loud saying, 'it is I who succeeded the spirit of Shinpei GOTO,' when he visited Soviet Union for signing the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact, even though he knew that the conversation was listened in by the Soviet side.

Soho TOKUTOMI mentioned that the reason why Goto was not chosen to become the prime minister even though he had been often named as a candidate largely depended on the fact that he was disliked by Kinmochi SAIONJI, the last senior statesman (genro), because he orchestrated the downfall of Saionji, the former prime minister and chairman of the Constitutional Party of Political Friends (Rikken Seiyukai), when he was the Minister of Communications in the third KATSURA Cabinet promoting the Constitution protection movement.

In his later years, he toured throughout Japan to advocate ethics in politics. In 1929 he had a cerebral hemorrhage in a train heading for Okayama during his campaign tour, and on April 13 he died in a hospital in Kyoto City.

His last words

According to the "The Ten Stories of Scouts" written by Michiharu MISHIMA, his last words left to MISHIMA on the day of his collapse was, "Listen carefully, those who die leaving money behind are lowly,"
"those who die leaving work behind is at the intermediate level,"
"and those who die leaving capable people behind is of the highest grade,"
"that is what you should remember in your heart."

Anecdote told of Shinpei GOTO

Shinpei became the first chairman of the Boy Scouts of Nippon, and deeply engaged in the development of Boy Scout culture and its activities in Japan. He donated a large sum of 100 thousand yen, (roughly about 775 million yen in today's value), from his pocket money to popularize Boy Scout activities, and also held many lecture presentations for promotion throughout Japan. A photograph is left today, showing him in the uniform of Boy Scout wearing their short pants. When he in Boy Scout uniform appeared at the meeting, boys who adored him began to sing, "our favorite chairman with white mustache and a pair of pince-nez, wearing uniform and walking with a cane, is always cheerful and smiling."

In his later years, externally he made an effort to normalize the diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, while internally he criticized the party politics of Japan controlled by the logic of the majority, and he toured throughout Japan advocating purification of elections through establishing the ethics and morals in politics.

He is also known for naming the brand for a watch company, CITIZEN Watch Co., Ltd., (as the president of the company was his friend and asked for a name of a new pocket watch, he gave the name CITIZEN to the watch "to be loved by citizens of Japan."

When he was the Minister of Home Affairs, he was the superior of Matsutaro SHORIKI, and when Shoriki was later blamed for the Toranomon Incident and left the ministry to begin the business of the Yomiuri Shinbun Newspaper, he lend fund money to Shoriki without any conditions by mortgaging his own house. When the business became successful and Shoriki wanted to return the debt, he had already passed away. Then Shoriki showed his gratitude for his kindness by donating almost twice the amount of debt to Mizusawa Town (current Mizusawa Ward, Ohshu City), Goto's hometown. By using this donation, the town built the first community center in Japan in 1941.

Goto was also one of the supporters sympathetic to the project of Tokuji HAYAKAWA, who hoped for building subway lines throughout Tokyo, and today Hayakawa is known as the father of the subway system in Japan (Tokyo Subway Co., Ltd.).

Today, the Embassy of China stands on the lot where the house of Shinpei used to be.

His literary works

"The theory on the effective usage of sea water; seaside medical treatment" (1882)
"The principles of the natilnal hygienic system" (1889)
"Opinion on the expansion of Japan" (1924)
"The moralization of Japanese politics" (1926)