Matsukata Masayoshi

Matsukata Masayoshi
Matsukata Masayoshi
松方 正義
4th Prime Minister of Japan
In office
18 September 1896 – 12 January 1898
Monarch Meiji
Preceded by Kuroda Kiyotaka (Acting)
Succeeded by Itō Hirobumi
In office
6 May 1891 – 8 August 1892
Monarch Meiji
Preceded by Yamagata Aritomo
Succeeded by Itō Hirobumi
Personal details
Born 25 February 1835(1835-02-25)
Kagoshima, Satsuma domain (now Japan)
Died 2 July 1924(1924-07-02) (aged 89)
Tokyo, Japan
Political party Independent
Spouse(s) Matsukata Masako
Religion Shintoism

Prince Matsukata Masayoshi (松方 正義?, 25 February 1835 – 2 July 1924) was a Japanese politician and the 4th (6 May 1891 – 8 August 1892) and 6th (18 September 1896 -12 January 1898) Prime Minister of Japan.


Early life

Matsukata was born into a samurai family in Kagoshima, Satsuma province (present-day Kagoshima Prefecture). At the age of 13, he entered the Zoshikan, the Satsuma domain's Confucian academy, where he studied the teachings of Wang Yangming, which stressed loyalty to the Emperor. He started his career as a bureaucrat of the Satsuma domain. In 1866, he was sent to Nagasaki to study western science, mathematics and surveying. Matsukata was highly regarded by Ōkubo Toshimichi and Saigō Takamori, who used him as their liaison between Kyoto and the domain government in Kagoshima.

Knowing that war was coming between Satsuma and the Tokugawa, Matsukata purchased a ship available in Nagasaki for use in the coming conflict. This ship was then given the name Kasuga. The leaders of Satsuma felt the ship was best used as cargo vessel and so Matsukata resigned his position as captain of the ship he had purchased. Just a few months later the Kasuga did become a warship and it fought in the Boshin War against the Tokugawa ships. At the time of the Meiji Restoration, he helped maintain order in Nagasaki after the collapse of the Tokugawa bakufu. In 1868, Matsukata was appointed governor of Hita Prefecture (part of present day Ōita Prefecture) by his friend Okubo who was the powerful minister of the interior for the new Meiji government.

As governor Matsukata instituted a number of reforms including road building, starting the port of Beppu, and building a successful orphanage. His ability as an administrator was noted in Tokyo and after two years he was summoned to the capital.

Financial Reform

Matsukata moved to Tokyo in 1871 and began work on drafting laws for the Land Tax Reform of 1873-1881.

Under the new system:

  1. a taxpayer paid taxes with money instead of rice
  2. taxes were calculated based on the price of estates, not the amount of the agricultural product produced, and
  3. tax rates were fixed at 3% of the value of estates and an estate holder was obliged to pay those taxes.

The new tax system was radically different from the traditional tax gathering system, which required taxes to be paid with rice varied according to location and the amount of rice produced. The new system took some years to be accepted by the Japanese people.

Matsukata became Home Minister in 1880. In the following year, when Ōkuma Shigenobu was expelled in a political upheaval, he became Finance Minister. The Japanese economy was in a crisis situation due to rampant inflation. Matsukata introduced a policy of fiscal restraint that resulted in what has come to be called the "Matsukata Deflation." The economy was eventually stabilized, but the resulting crash in commodity prices caused many smaller landholders to lose their fields to money-lending neighbors. Matsukata also established the Bank of Japan in 1882, which has issued paper money instead of the government since that time. When Itō Hirobumi was appointed the first Prime Minister of Japan in 1885, he appointed Matsukata to be the first Finance Minister under the new Meiji Constitution.

Matsukata also sought to protect Japanese industry from foreign competition, but was restricted by the unequal treaties. The unavailability of protectionist devices probably benefited Japan in the long run, as it enabled Japan to develop its export industries. The national government also tried to create government industries to produce particular products or services. Lack of funds forced the government to turn these industries over to private businesses which in return for special privileges agreed to pursue the government's goals. This arrangement led to the rise of the zaibatsu system.

Matsukata served as finance minister in seven of the first 10 cabinets, and for 18 of the 20 year period from 1881-1901. He also wrote Articles 62-72 of the Meiji Constitution of 1889.

Prime minister

Matsukata followed Yamagata Aritomo as Prime Minister from 6 May 1891 - 8 August 1892, and followed Ito Hirobumi as Prime Minister from 18 September 1896 - 12 January 1898, during which times he concurrently also held office as finance minister.

One issue of his term in office was the Black Ocean Society, which operated with the support of certain powerful figures in the government and in return was powerful enough to demand concessions from the government. They demanded and received promises of a strong foreign policy from the 1892 Matsukata Cabinet.

Matsukata successively held offices as president of the Japanese Red Cross Society, privy councillor, gijokan, member of the House of Peers, and Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal of Japan. Later, he was given the title of prince and genrō.

Awards and honors

Matsukata was named an Honorary Knight Grand Cross of Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG).[citation needed]

Personal life and relatives

Masayoshi had many children (at least 13 sons and 11 daughters) and grandchildren. It is said that Emperor Meiji asked him how many children he had; but Masayoshi was unable to give an exact answer.[citation needed]

Masayoshi's son, Matsukata Kōjirō (1865–1950), invested his significant personal fortune in the acquisition of several thousand examples of Western painting, sculpture and decorative arts. His intention was that the collection should serve as the nucleus of a national museum of western art. Although not achieved during his lifetime, the 1959 creation of the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo was a vindication of this passion for art and a demonstration of the foresight which benefits his countrymen and others.[1]

His granddaughter, journalist Haru Matsukata Reischauer, married the American scholar of Japanese history, academic, statesman and United States Ambassador to Japan, Edwin Oldfather Reischauer.[2]


  1. ^ National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo: NMWA collection
  2. ^ Stewart, Barbara. "Haru M. Reischauer, 83; Eased Tensions With Japan", New York Times. October 5, 1998.


  • Bix, Herbert B. Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan. Harper Perennial (2001). ISBN 0-06-093130-2.
  • Matsukata, Masayoshi. Report on the Adoption of the Gold Standard in Japan. Adamant Media Corporation (November 30, 2005). ISBN 1-4021-8236-8.
  • Reischauer, Haru Matsukata. Samurai and Silk: A Japanese and American Heritage. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1986. ISBN 0674788001.
  • Sims, Richard. Japanese Political History Since the Meiji Renovation 1868–2000. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-23915-7.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Yamagata Aritomo
Prime Minister of Japan
Succeeded by
Itō Hirobumi
Preceded by
Kuroda Kiyotaka
Prime Minister of Japan

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  • Matsukata — (松方) is a Japanese surname. People with the name include: Matsukata Masayoshi (松方 正義) (1835 – 1924), 4th and 6th Prime Minister of Japan. The Matsukata deflation is named after him. Haru Matsukata Reischauer, journalist, granddaughter of… …   Wikipedia

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  • Matsukata Kojiro — Entrance plaza at National Museum of Western Art. In this Japanese name, the family name is Matsukata . Matsukata Kōjirō (松方 幸次郎 …   Wikipedia

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