Hoshi Toru (星亨)

Toru HOSHI (May 19, 1850 - June 21, 1901), was a statesman in the Meiji period (The kanji letter '享' often used for his first name Toru '亨' is incorrect).

Biography

He was born to a plasterer's family in Edo. Since his father went missing and his mother remarried Taijun HOSHI, his family name was changed to HOSHI. At first, he aspired to study medical science, but changed his interest to English; he studied English under Noriyuki GA, and established himself as an English teacher. Although he joined the Meiji government with recommendation from Munemitsu MUTSU after the Meiji Restoration and served as director of the customs office in Yokohama City for a while, he resigned from the post taking responsibility for the 'Queen incident' over Japanese translation for British "Queen" which he insisted on translating it into the Japanese word "女王" (female king) and refused to accept the opinion of British ambassador Harry Parks who protested against HOSHI's translation and insisted on translating it into 女皇(empress). After resigning, HOSHI moved to England to study law, and became the first Japanese to become a qualified barrister. After returning to Japan, HOSHI became the first lawyer under the Ministry of Justice and actively worked in Japan, and in 1881, he became a councilor (as parliamentarian) of the Liberal Party, and took part in building the foundation of party government.

Being critical of the oligarchic government dominated by hanbatsu (domain cliques), HOSHI participated in the political campaign called Sandaijikenpaku Undo (a movement triggered by the petition calling for establishment of three pillars) in 1887, but he was driven out of Tokyo according to hoan jorei (regulations for the preservation of law and order) and then was arrested for violation of publication regulations. After being released, HOSHI ran for the 2nd general election of the House of Representatives in 1892, with a campaign pledge that he would become chairman of the House of Representatives, and was elected as a parliament member. He was appointed as the second chairman of the Lower House, thereby fulfilling his promise. In 1893, the parliament passed a no-confidence motion against chairman HOSHI who was suspected of having received bribes in the Soma Incident. However, since HOSHI refused to give up his position as chairman even after the non-confidence motion was passed, he was expelled from the House of Representatives. He ran in the next election, and won, returning to the political arena.

Munemitsu MUTSU, not a member of hanbatsu, continued to favor HOSHI who was critical of the oligarchic government dominated by hanbatsu, and HOSHI served as law advisor to the Korean government, and also as a minister-counselor to the United States. Although HOSHI was supposed to become Japan's Minister of Foreign Affairs in the first OKUMA cabinet, Prime Minister Shigenobu OKUMA refused it, which caused the Kenseito party to split up. In the fourth ITO cabinet, he took positions such as the Minister of Communication. HOSHI joined Rikken Seiyukai party established in 1900, and gained trust from Hirobumi ITO. He had so aggressive political skills that he was nicknamed "Oshitoru" (to have one's way).

HOSHI took a positive political approach in which he promoted an expansionary fiscal policy to develop pork barrel politics, trying to obtain appropriations for his own district, with an aim to gain support. On the other hand, HOSHI was always rumored to take bribes, and thus he is said to have established the Japan's party politics combined with pork barrel politics, in other words, the money-driven political system.

From the darker side of Japanese history, HOSHI, who brought into the political world rightists of the Liberal Party after the 'Osaka Incident,' including young activists called Santama Soshi such as Tsuneemon MURANO and Sakuzo MORIKUBO, is said to have been heavily to blame for the numerous scandals in Tokyo municipal government.

In 1901, when he was chairman of Tokyo City Assembly, he was stabbed to death by Sotaro IBA (the 10th head of Shingyoto-ryu swordplay school) at the Tokyo city council's room in the city government office. He died at age 51.

Episode

On November 29, 1892, a non-confidence motion against HOSHI who was chairman of the House of Representatives at that time was passed by a vote of 166 to 119. However, HOSHI alleged this as harassment by Koroppa (the hard-line six parties, consisting of Kokumin Kyokai (National Association), the Constitutional Progressive Party and others) opposing him who supports for amendments of treaties, and claimed his own innocence, refusing to give up his position (according to the parliamentary law under the Constitution of the Empire of Japan, the Emperor had rights to appoint and dismiss chairman of the House of representatives). Then, the House voted 152 yea to 126 nay to submit a report to the throne for asking the Meiji Emperor to dismiss HOSHI. The Emperor's reply to this motion, however, blamed the House of Representatives as negligent, saying 'the House itself is unclear and has erred' (it is believed that Hirobumi ITO, who regarded the non-confidence motion as an indirect attack towards Munemitsu MUTSU, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, asked Imperial Household Minister Hisamoto HIJIKATA to issue such a reply). Therefore, HOSHI attempted to continue his duties as Chairman. Against this, the House voted to have him suspended from the parliament for a week on December 5. However, on December 12, the day after his suspension period expired, HOSHI again tried to take the seat on chairman. On December 13, a motion calling for disciplinary action against HOSHI was passed by a vote of 185 yea to 92 nay, approved by 67 % which exceeded two-thirds votes required for expelling him from the parliament and therefore, HOSHI lost his seat in the House, automatically losing his position as chairman as well.

His grave is at Honmon-ji Temple located in Ota ward, Tokyo. There was once a bronze statue of HOSHI in the precincts of Honmon-ji Temple, but since the government collected metals during World War II, the statue was removed from its pedestal. In the post war period, the pedestal was donated to Honmo-ji temple by his relatives, and today, a statue of The Venerable Nichiren can be seen standing on it.

"Toru HOSHI and his era", which spans two volumes, published by Heibonsha, Toyo Bunko, is his biography. The wide version was published in recent years.

Due to numerous corruption scandals HOSHI was involved in, he is reputed to be incarnation of money politics, but it is said that he was humble and honest in private life. Although it is not unusual for politicians in not only his time but also today, to have mistresses, even those who opposed him could not help acknowledging his cleanliness in this respect and it is said that he was affectionate to everyone in his household, including shosei (a student who is given room and board in exchange for performing domestic duties). He seems to have had little interest in his own wealth building, and after his assassination, it was found that he left nothing but a debt a little more than 10,000 yen.