Aoki Shuzo (青木周蔵)

Shuzo AOKI (March 3, 1844-February 16, 1914) was a diplomat and a statesman during the Meiji and Taisho era. His medal for merit was the First Order of Merit. His peerage was viscount.

Background

He was from Ikuta-mura, Asa County, Yamaguchi Prefecture (present Sanyo Onoda City). His childhood name was Danshichi SANPO. He was born as the first son of Haruakira SANPO, a village doctor in the Choshu Domain. At the age of 22, he was adopted by Kenzo AOKI (1815-1870) who was the director of Meirinkan Koseido (a medical institute) and later became the chief imperial doctor, and Danshichi became shizoku (warrior class). Kenzo AOKI was the younger brother of Shusuke AOKI (1803-1863), who was the court physician of the Takachika MORI and conducted the vaccination for the first time in Japan. In this occasion, he changed his name to Shuzo after the two, Kenzo and Shusuke.

Studying abroad

After studying at Meirinkan, he learned medical science in Nagasaki, then went to Germany to study medical science as an overseas student of his domain in 1868. While he was in Germany, he changed his major from medical science to politics and economics without permission, which became a problem. But he solved the problem by having a direct talk with Aritomo YAMAGATA who was visiting Germany at that time. In 1872 he became the representative of the overseas students in North Germany and aroused much controversy by intervening in the decision of the major subjects of the students in Germany. This is because the major subjects of the overseas students centered in military and medical science at the time. Aoki's true intention was to appeal the necessity of decentralizing the major subjects for the modernization of Japan. With Aoki's recommendation, some people succeeded by specializing in the areas of forest industry, paper manufacturing, beer brewing and manufacturing carpets (thick woolen carpets).

Bureaucracy

He entered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1873. Through serving as the first secretary of Foreign Ministry, he became the minister-counselor in Germany the following year. Later he doubled as the minister-counselor in Austria and Netherlands. In 1886 he became the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs in the first Ito cabinet.

Political World

He served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the first Yamagata and the first Matsukata cabinet. He made strenuous efforts to negotiate on the revision of the treaty with the Britain to abolish the counselor jurisdiction. Aoki's plan to revise the treaty was, unlike the conventional ones at the time, to aim 'taito goi' (agreement on equal basis), (not adopting foreign judges to the Daishin-in (Predecessor of the Supreme Court of Japan), and not admitting the possession of real estate by foreigners unless the counselor jurisdiction was abolished were specified).

Blessed with the conditions of the time including the Britain's favorable stance toward Japan due to the anxiety of the Imperial Russia's advancement to the East Asia, the negotiations almost succeeded. However, on the edge of the concluding the treaty, the Otsu Incident happened and Aoki took responsibility by resigning, so the negotiations were halted. In addition, the Russia's ministry-counselor visited Aoki after the incident and protested against the indefinite imprisonment of the culprit Sanzo TSUDA, although his death penalty had been promised. Aoki explained to the ministry-counselor that it was because he had been instructed to do so by Hirobumi ITO and Kaoru INOUE, which created their animosity toward him.
(Aoki, who was the Minister, had the right to decide what content would be noticed finally to the minister-counselor of the counterpart nation.)

Aoki was committed to revising the treaty as the minister-counselor in Britain with the Foreign Minister Munemitsu MUTSU, and succeeded in revising the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Commerce and Navigation in 1894. In addition Aoki dealt with Hokushin (North China) Incident as the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Second Yamagata Cabinet, and tried to intervene aggressively in the incident, detecting the movement of the powerful countries. After serving as a privy counselor, he was conferred the title of viscount. In 1906 he was engaged in solving the immigration problem as the Japanese Ambassador to the United States.

Political measures

Aoki was deeply involved for a long time in the negotiations of revision of treaties, as a diplomat during half his life. As for diplomatic measures he strongly insisted on beating Russia and advancement to Korean Peninsular from the beginning. After the Russo-Japanese War, he promoted Japan's advancement to the Chinese continent.

He spent as long as 25 years in Germany, as an overseas student and a minister-counselor. He promoted introducing the German political system and culture as the most well-versed expert on Germany in Japan.

Family

Taisuke SANPO, the president of Kobu Railway Company, was his own younger brother. The adopted child Umesaburo AOKI was a son of Magoshichiro SUGI (who held various posts including kotaigo gu no daibu [Master of the Empress Dowager's Household]). Morihisa AOKI, who was the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary at the time of the Japanese embassy hostage crisis in Peru is Shuzo's great-grandchild.

In June, 1890

Conferred the Imperial Decoration of Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure.

In August, 1894

Conferred the Imperial Decoration of Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun.

In February, 1914

Conferred the Imperial Decoration of Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun with Paulownia Flower.

Literary work

"Biography of Shuzo AOKI," collation editing by Yoshihisa SAKANE

(Heibonsha, Toyo bunko in 1970) ISBN 4-582-80168-4

(Heibonsha Wide Toyo bunko in 2004) ISBN 4-256-80168-5