Kido Takayoshi

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Kido Takayoshi
木戸 孝允
Takayoshi Kido suit.jpg
Kido Takayoshi in western dress (after Meiji Restoration)
Personal details
Born Wada Kogorō
(1833-08-11)August 11, 1833
Hagi, Chōshū Domain, Japan
Died May 26, 1877(1877-05-26) (aged 43)
Kyoto, Japan
Resting place Kyoto Ryozen Gokoku Shrine, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
Nationality Japanese
Spouse(s) Kido Matsuko (m. 1868–1877)
Relations Katsura Koroheiei (adoptive father)
Children none
Mother Seiko
Father Wada Masakage
Relatives Kido Kōichi (grandnephew)
Residence Kyoto, Japan
Occupation statesman
Profession politics
Known for One of the Three Great Nobles of the Restoration

Kido Takayoshi (木戸 孝允) (born Wada Masakage (和田 小五郎); August 11, 1833 – May 26, 1877), also referred to as Kido Kôin (木戸 こういん), was a Japanese statesman of the Meiji Restoration. He was known as Katsura Kogorō (桂 小五郎) during the late Tokugawa period. He is considered as one of the three great nobles who led the Restoration.

Early life[edit]

Born Wada Kogorō in Hagi, Chōshū Domain (present-day Yamaguchi Prefecture), Japan as the latest son of Wada Masakage (和田 昌景), a samurai physician, and his second wife Seiko. He was later adopted into the Katsura family at age seven and was known as Katsura Kogorō (桂 小五郎).[1] He was educated at the academy of Yoshida Shōin, from whom he adopted the philosophy of Imperial loyalism.

In 1852, Katsura Kogorō went to Edo to study swordsmanship, established ties with radical samurai from Mito domain, learned artillery techniques with Egawa Tarōzaemon, and (after observing the construction of foreign ships in Nagasaki and Shimoda), returned to Chōshū to supervise the construction of the domain's first western-style warship.

Overthrow of the Tokugawa[edit]

After 1858, Katsura Kogorō was based at the domain's Edo residence, where he served as liaison between the domain bureaucracy and radical elements among the young, lower-echelon Chōshū samurai who supported the Sonnō jōi movement. Coming under suspicion by the shogunate for his ties with Mito loyalists after the attempted assassination of Andō Nobumasa, he was transferred to Kyōto. However, while in Kyōto, he was unable to prevent the 30 September 1863 coup d'état by the forces of the Aizu and Satsuma domains, who drove the Chōshū forces out of the city.

Although he supposed to be at the loyalist meeting with the Ishin Shishi at the Ikedaya in July 8, 1864, Katsura was tipped off by his geisha lover Ikumatsu (幾松), real name Matsuko (松子), that the Shinsengumi were coming for him and wisely chose not show up on that night. He spent the next few days in hiding as a beggar. Katsura was later involved in the unsuccessful attempt by Satsuma to regain control of the city on 20 August 1864, and forced into hiding again with his geisha lover, he would later used the name Niibori Matsusuke as an alias in 1865 to continue his work against the Tokugawa bakufu.

After radical elements under Takasugi Shinsaku gained control of Chōshū politics, Katsura was instrumental in establishing the Satchō Alliance which proved to be critical in the Boshin War and the subsequent Meiji Restoration.

Meiji statesman[edit]

Kido Takayoshi
(Tokugawa shogunate years)

Following the overthrow of the Tokugawa bakufu in 1868, Katsura, under the new name Kido Takayoshi, claimed a large role in the establishment of the new Meiji government, as a san'yo (Imperial Advisor) he helped draft the Five Charter Oath, and initiated policies of centralization and modernization. He helped direct the Abolition of the han system; in August 1868, he had his lover Ikumatsu adopted into a samurai family of Okabe Tomitarō, and later made her his wife.

In 1871, he accompanied the Iwakura Mission on its round-the-world voyage to the United States and Europe, and was especially interested in Western educational systems and politics, on his return to Japan, he became a strong advocate of the establishment of constitutional government. Realizing that Japan was not in any position to challenge the Western powers in its present state, he also returned to Japan just in time to prevent an invasion of Korea (Seikanron).

Kido lost his dominant position in the Meiji oligarchy to Ōkubo Toshimichi, and resigned from government in protest of the Taiwan Expedition of 1874, which he had strenuously opposed.[2]

Following the Osaka Conference of 1875, Kido agreed to return to the government, and became chairman of the Assembly of Prefectural Governors that the Ōsaka Conference had created. He was also responsible for the education of the young Emperor Meiji.


Tomb of Kido Takayoshi at Kyoto Ryozen Gokoku Shrine, Kyoto, Japan

During the middle of Satsuma Rebellion of 1877 he died of an illness that had been plaguing him for a long time, he was buried at the Kyoto Ryozen Gokoku Shrine, Kyoto, Japan. His widow survived him and died in 1887 at the age of 43.


Kido Takayoshi was enshrined as the Shinto deity of scholarship and the martial arts at the Kido Shrine[3] at Kido Park, Yamaguchi, Yamaguchi, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan.[4]

Kido's diary reveals an intense internal conflict between his loyalty to his home domain, Chōshū, and the greater interest of the country, he wrote often of having to fight rumors at home that he had betrayed his old friends; the idea of a nation was still relatively new in Japan and so the majority of samurai cared more for securing privileges for their own domain.

Together with Saigō Takamori and Ōkubo Toshimichi, he was known as the Ishin-no-Sanketsu (維新の三傑), which means, roughly, "three great nobles of the restoration". His younger sister's grandson was Tokyo politician Kido Kōichi (木戸 幸一).

In popular culture[edit]

Kido, referred to by his initial name Katsura Kogorō, is among the historical personalities present in the manga and anime Rurouni Kenshin by Nobuhiro Watsuki, as well as its OVA adaptation Tsuiokuhen (Trust & Betrayal). While still portrayed as a ruthless radical leader of the Chōshū clan, he serves as a benevolent mentor of sorts to the young Kenshin Himura, who worked under him as the Hitokiri Battōsai. He nonetheless regrets having Kenshin do the dirty work for him after Kenshin's affair with Tomoe Yukishiro (in Tsuiokuhen, he actively encouraged Tomoe to stand by Kenshin to serve as a calming influence), which ultimately boiled over into a clash with her ties as a shogunate agent and her will to live life anew in the new era of modern Meiji Japan.

Japanese actor Ken Ishiguro portrayed him in the 2004 jdorama Shinsengumi! as the old time friend of the protagonist Kondo Isami and also the leader of the Chōshū han.

Japanese actor Shōsuke Tanihara portrayed him in the 2009 jdorama Ryōmaden as the leader of the Chōshū han.

He is also the basis for the character of Katsura Kotarou in the manga and anime Gin Tama by Hideaki Sorachi.

He also appears in the video game Ryu ga Gotoku Ishin, portrayed by the Yakuza character Shun Akiyama, and voiced by Koichi Yamadera.



Reference and further reading[edit]

  • Akamatsu, Paul. Meiji 1868: Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Japan. Trans. Miriam Kochan. New York: Harper & Row, 1972.
  • Beasley, William G. (1972). The Meiji Restoration. Stanford: Stanford University Press. ISBN 9780804708159; OCLC 579232
  • Beasley, W. G. The Rise of Modern Japan: Political, Economic and Social Change Since 1850. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995.
  • Craig, Albert M. Chōshū in the Meiji Restoration. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1961. OCLC 482814571
  • Jansen, Marius B. and Gilbert Rozman, eds. (1986). Japan in Transition: from Tokugawa to Meiji. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691054599; OCLC 12311985
  • Kido, Takayoshi. (1983). The Diary of Kido Takayoshi (Sidney DeVere Brown and Akiko Hirota, translators), Vol. I (1868–1871), Vol. II (1871–1874), Vol. III (1874–1877). Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press.
  • Nish, Ian. (1998) The Iwakura Mission to America and Europe: A New Assessment. Richmond, Surrey: Japan Library. ISBN 9781873410844; ISBN 0415471796; OCLC 40410662

External links[edit]