Goto Shojiro (後藤象二郎)

Shojiro GOTO (April 13, 1838-August 4, 1897) was a samurai, feudal retainer of Tosa Domain and statesman in Japan. He was a count. He served as the Minister of Agriculture and Commerce, the Minister of Communication, a governor of Osaka Prefecture and so on. His imina (personal name) is Motoharu. Shojiro was his by-name and his other names were Yasuyata and Ryosuke. His Gago (pseudonym) was Chokoku.

Backgrounds

He was born as the first son of Sukeemon GOTO, a Umamawari-kaku (horse guard) (150 koku, crop yields) in 片町 (Katamachi), a Kochi-jo Castle town. During his youth, he studied at Kobayashi-juku, a private school run by his brother-in-law Toyo YOSHIDA. In 1858, with Yoshida's recommendation, he became a Bugyo, a magistrate of Hata district, and in 1861, he was promoted to a Gokinju metsuke (inspector of attendants) and later became a Fushin bugyo (shogunate administrator of activities by a community, such as cleaning or fixing stone wall), however, he fell from power after the assassination of Yoshida. In 1863, he came back to the political arena of Tosa Domain, won the confidence of Yodo YAMAUCHI, a former lord of Tosa Domain, and learned Rangaku (western studies), seamanship and English studies at Kaiseijo (a school run by Bakufu [Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun] for western studies) in Edo. In 1864, he was assigned to Daikansatsu (chief inspector). As the vanguard of Kobu-gattai group, (a party of advocating Kobu-gattai which unites the court and the shogunate) Goto clamped down Tosakinno Party (loyalist clique of Tosa) and carried out punishments of the members, including Seppuku (suicide by disembowelment) of Zuizan TAKECHI.

In 1867, he changed his political attitude and supported the principle of excluding foreigners. He talked with Ryoma SAKAMOTO, a member of the sonno (reverence for the Emperor) group and proposed Taisei Hokan (transfer of power back to the Emperor) based on Senchu hassaku (the basic outline of the new regime made by Ryoma SAKAMOTO), which was advised to Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA, the seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians"), by Yodo. Thanks to these contributions, he was promoted to Churo (officials and advisors for lord of Domain) with 700 koku and later he gained 1500 koku because he received yakuryo (executive allowance) as an official in the position of administration. In 1868, a treasured sword of honor was given to Goto and Hiroshi NAKAI from Victoria (Queen of England) because of his contribution to suppress the incident of the attack on Parkes, a British consul. He was awarded 1000 koku as Shotenroku (premium) for his contribution to the Restoration.

Meiji Period

Although he served in important positions of the new government, such as Sanyo (councilor), chairman of the Council of the Left and Sangi (councilor), he left the new government with Taisuke ITAGAKI and Takamori SAIGO after the defeat in Seikanron (debate on subjugation of Korea) of 1873. Goto set up the Aikokukoto Party with Itagaki, Shinpei ETO and Taneomi SOEJIMA and submitted the political statement for democratic representatives.

In 1881, Goto set up the Liberal Party (Meiji Period) with Itagaki, a leader of the party, but he changed his mind to cooperate with the government. He served as Minister of Communication in the Kuroda cabinet and the first Matsukata cabinet, and as Minister of Agriculture and Commerce in the second Ito cabinet. He contributed to the establishment of Shinpo-to (Progressive Party).

In 1874, he bought Takashima coal mine in Nagasaki Prefecture from the government for about 550,000 yens and established a company called Horaisha. However, the company went bust two years later because of sloppy management, which he resold to Yataro IWASAKI of the Mitsubishi (a financial clique).

Subsequent stories of the Goto family

His legitimate son, Taketaro GOTO served as the first president of Nippon Katsudo Film company (the predecessor of Nikkatsu). Yasuyata GOTO was an heir of Taketaro, and his mother was a geisha in Niigata Prefecture. Since Yasuyata's first son, Shozo GOTO, did not follow the procedures to succeed to the peerage, the Goto family lost the title as a count.

Evaluation

The reason for Goto's high reputation is his great achievement in Tosa Domain and national politics at the end of Edo period. Goto changed his political attitude from Kobu-gattai (reconciliation between the imperial court and the shogunate) to Hisabaku (anti-shogunate) because the movement towards the anti-shogunate was dramatically fostered by Satsuma-Choshu Alliance, which put pressure on the leaders of Tosa Domain. Goto proposed Sakamoto's idea, Taisei Hokan, to Yodo and adopted it as the opinion of Tosa Domain, which contributed to the realization of Taisei Hokan. Because Goto did not mention that Taisei Hokan was Sakamoto's idea, some people criticized him for being an interceptor. However, considering the fact that he had served as a liaison among Sakamoto, Yodo and Yoshinobu, which became the driving force for Meiji Restoration, he should be valued for his contributions.

After Meiji Restoration, Goto held important positions of the government, but he had a low profile and was underestimated compared to other statesmen who had contributed to Meiji Restoration because having left the government to join the Freedom and People's Rights Movement and entered business world made his political attitude look inconsistent, and the existence of the hero 'Ryoma SAKAMOTO' was so prominent that he was little known at the time. Especially, Goto often disappointed the members of the Freedom and People's Rights Movement by having been bought off by the government. This also made his public estimation lower.

In addition, since he was the person who had put Takechi to death, some people criticized him for killing the future Prime Minister.

Others

He is known as the first Japanese who used Louis VUITTON products regularly. He bought a bag at the flagship store in Paris.

While the top of Mitsubishi Zaibatsu (financial clique), Yanosuke IWASAKI and a doctor, Shokichi NAGAYO were Shojiro's adopted son-in-law, Koyata IWASAKI of Mitsubishi, Toshiya IWASAKI, a founder of Asahi Glass company and Teruya IWASAKI, a pioneer of railway enthusiasts were Shojiro's grandchildren. Shoro KAWAZOE, a music producer, Eijiro IWASAKI, a scholar of German language, Michiko INUKAI, a critic, and Yasuhiko INUKAI, a journalist and a former president of Kyodo News are Shojiro's great-grandchildren.

Goto and Taisuke ITAGAKI have been friends since their childhood and studied together at the school of Toyo YOSHIDA.

Based on Senchu hassaku suggested by Ryoma, he proposed Taisei Hokan to Yodo. Ryoma was accused of having left Tosa Domain without permission, but after the proposal of Taisei Hokan, it is said that Ryoma was granted a special pardon because of Goto's help.

Genealogy

It has been said that Matabee GOTO, a Busho (Japanese military commander) of the Sengoku period, is a forefather of the Goto family. Through the Edo Period, the Goto family served as a feudal retainer of Tosa Domain.