Shinagawa Yajiro (品川弥二郎)

Yajiro SHINAGAWA (November 20, 1843 - February 26, 1900) was a Japanese samurai (a feudal retainer of the Choshu clan) and statesman. He was created a viscount, and was awarded the First Order of Merit. He was also called Seigo or Yakichi. He used Senshu for his go (pen name). He also used pseudonyms such as Hachiro HASHIMOTO and Seiyo MATSUMOTO.

Career

In 1843, he was born first son to an ashigaru (common foot soldier) of Choshu clan, Yaichiuemon SHINAGAWA.
He attended the Shoka Sonjuku in 1857 to study under Shoin YOSHIDA,
Once Shoin was executed in the Ansei no Taigoku (suppression of extremists by the Shogunate) in 1859, Shinagawa joined Shinsaku TAKASUGI and gave himself to the Sonno Joi (reverence for the Emperor and the expulsion of foreigners) movement, involving himself in such actions as fire attacks on the British Legation. During the Kinmon Incident in 1864, he first served as commander of Hachimantai corps and later formed the Mitatetai corps with Akiyoshi YAMADA. In 1865, he moved to Tokyo with Takayoshi KIDO, where he helped realizing the Satsuma-Choshu Alliance by gathering information and acting as a liaison. During the Boshin War, he served as a general staff at Ou Chinbu Sotoku (Commander Office of Ou region suppression campaign), and at the Seibutai corps.

In 1870, after the Meiji Restoration, he travelled to Europe to observe the Franco-Prussian War, and further stayed in Germany and Great Britain for studies. He successively served different positions such as Great Secretary, then Shoyu (Junior Assistant Minister) of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Taifu (Vice Minister) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce, Resident Envoy to Germany, Chief of Imperial Property Office of the Imperial Household Ministry, and Privy Councilor. In 1884, he was created viscount for his contribution during the Restoration.

He was appointed to Home Minister in the first period of Matsukata cabinet in 1891. However, together with vice-minister Senichi SHIRANE, he called out police force to intervene the election forcibly which caused casualities as a result. He was accused of being responsible for this incident and eventually he was forced to resign taking the responsibility. (There are different opinions, however, as to what were possibly behind the incident). He then worked together with Tsugumichi SAIGO and established a political group named Kokumin Kyokai (National Association). He also helped the foundation of schools such as Doitsugaku Kyokai Gakko (School of the Society for German Studies, present-day Dokkyo Gakuen [Dokkyo Group of Academic Institutions]) and Keika Junior High School (present-day Keika Gakuen), as well as credit and industrial cooperative associations.

In 1900, he died of pneumonia. He was 58.

Remarks

He is known to have written the lyrics for the song "Tokotonyare-bushi" (the Go-all-the-way song, also known as "Miyasan, Miyasan" [My Lord, My Lord]), which was popular among the New Government army soldiers during the Boshin War.

As described by Shoin, Shinagawa was a gentle, honest man with full of heart, and plainly unvarnished. Shoin further reckoned Shinagawa as not a figure who shows an outstanding performance, but excelled with his large mindedness.

He built Sonno to, a hall in honor of the royalists who lost their lives during the Restoration, and donated the hall to Kyoto Imperial University. After Shinagawa's death, another was built at Kozan-ji temple, Shimonoseki City, Yamaguchi Prefecture.

A a bronze statue of Shinagawa can be found today in front of Tayasu-mon gate at Kudan-minami, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

He was elected as the first secretary-general (present-day President) of Japan Fisheries Association (and served the position from February 12, 1882 to April 26, 1886).

July 7, 1884: Viscount

February 26, 1900: Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun