Home > Publications > NDL Newsletter > No. 220, October 2018

National Diet Library Newsletter

No. 220, October 2018

Materials available in the Modern Japanese Political History Materials Room (5)

Modern Japanese Political Documents Division
Reader Services and Collections Department

This is a partial translation of the article in Japanese
in NDL Monthly Bulletin No. 679 (November 2017).



The Modern Japanese Political History Materials Room at the National Diet Library (NDL) holds approximately 390,000 documents comprising the personal papers of politicians, high-ranking officials, and military officers dating back as far as the closing days of the Tokugawa Shogunate. This article is an introduction to notable documents that have recently been made available for browsing in the Modern Japanese Political History Materials Room at the Tokyo Main Library. We hope you will enjoy this look at the kinds of documents that are essential to researching political events as well as many other aspects of Japanese history. This newsletter will introduce documents related to three generations of the Watanabe family.

Watanabe Kunitake Papers (Part 2)
(870 documents items, available since March 2017)

<<Watanabe Kunitake>>

This collection comprises documents formerly belonging to Watanabe Kunitake,1 who was a bureaucrat at the Ministry of Finance and a politician during the Meiji period. It includes more than 500 letters he received.

During the first Imperial Diet (1890–1891), the Minto opposition parties came to hold a majority in the House of Representatives while a draft budget from the Yamagata Aritomo Cabinet was under intensive deliberation. Controversy arose regarding Article 67 of the Constitution of the Empire of Japan, which stipulates that fixed expenditures based by the Constitution upon the powers appertaining to the Emperor may not be rejected nor reduced by the Imperial Diet without the agreement of the Government. There was considerable debate over the extent to which the provisions of this Article could be applied and the time allocated to gain the agreement of the Government. As the Administrative Vice-Minister of Finance, it was Watanabe Kunitake's responsibility to explain the Government's position to the Imperial Diet.

On February 20, 1891, the ruling party introduced to the House of Representatives a motion describing the Government's position, which was agreeable to some members of the Minto. Two days later, Inoue Kowashi, who was Director-General of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau and had participated in the drafting the Meiji Constitution, sent Watanabe Kunitake a letter, which began "As I read Article 67 of the Constitution humbly and without any preconception," and went on to explain the Government's position by saying that while it would be unconstitutional for the Diet to reduce the budget without the agreement of the Government, the act of demanding agreement from the Government was not itself unconstitutional. As reference, Inoue included with his letter a booklet entitled An Opinion on Article 67 of the Constitution, in which he outlined his own views. A careful reading of these materials reveals the efforts being made to create a harmonious relationship between the Government and the Diet.

<<Letter from Inoue Kowashi, dated February 22, 1891,
NDL Call No. Watanabe Kunitake Papers 1598>>

Watanabe Chifuyu Papers
(333 documents, available since March 2017)

<<Watanabe Chifuyu>>

This collection comprises documents formerly belonging to Watanabe Chifuyu,2 a politician during the Taisho and early Showa periods. It includes a collection of his notebooks and diaries from between 1889 and 1940 (non-comprehensive), as well as the letters he received and materials related to the 10th General Election of the House of Representatives in 1908 and the Banque Franco-Japonaise.

Among these are numerous telegrams regarding the 10th General Election of the House of Representatives, which took place on May 15, in which he debuted as a political candidate, running as an independent for his native Nagano Prefecture. During this election, Ogawa Heikichi, who was a friend of Chifuyu's adoptive father, Kunitake, was also a candidate, and it appears that they had an agreement to divide hometown's votes. As the scramble for votes became severe as the election campaign neared its end, a telegram from Ogawa's office that was delivered on May 7 calls for help: "Ogawa could lose votes due to your candidacy. Please allow me to release a letter of endorsement for Ogawa in your name in the Suwa region." When it was over, Watanabe Chifuyu was the youngest member of the House of Representatives, elected third from the field of 12 candidates that had vied for Nagano's nine seats. Ogawa, who was also elected in fourth place, sent a congratulatory telegram. These documents provide a look at how elections were run at that time.

<<Telegram from the election headquarters of Ogawa Heikichi dated May 7, 1908,
NDL Call No. Watanabe Chifuyu Papers 687>>

Watanabe Takeshi Papers
(110 items, available since March 2017)

This collection comprises documents formerly belonging to Watanabe Takeshi,3 who was a bureaucrat at the Ministry of Finance during the Showa period. It includes a non-comprehensive collection of his diaries and notebooks from between 1913 and 1997.

These images shows pages from Watanabe's diaries, dated December 8, 1941, and August 15, 1945, days on which significant historical events occurred. On the former, Watanabe notes that he learned of the outbreak of war against the UK and the USA from an extra edition of a newspaper distributed at Shinbashi station and went to his office to "discuss immediately emergency measures such as controlling enemy property." On the latter, he notes that he "Listened to the broadcast by His Majesty at noon in the Vice Minister's office. Shed rivers of tears." The broadcast apparently had a tremendous impact on him, even though he had known since the day before that the Emperor reading the Imperial Rescript on the Termination of the War would be broadcast. A comparison of these two pages also illustrates how badly paper quality had deteriorated and bespeaks the severity of the economic situation at the end of the war.

<<Diary, NDL Call No. Watanabe Takeshi Papers 542, 1941 and 547, 1945>>

(Translated by Aiko Umeno)

Related articles from the National Diet Library Newsletter:

  1. Watanabe Kunitake (1846-1919): Born in Nagano prefecture. Enjoying Okubo Toshimichi's patronage during Meiji Restoration, he worked for Ministry of Popular Affairs and Ministry of Finance from 1871 and made promotion as a finance bureaucrat. Served as the Administrative vice Minister of Finance, Minister of Finance and Minister of Communications in the Second Ito Hirobumi Cabinet, and Minister of Finance in the Fourth Ito Cabinet. Died in 1919. His brother, Watanabe Chiaki was a bureaucrat of the Imperial Household Ministry. Kunitake adopted Watanabe Chifuyu, who is Chiaki's son, as his son.
  2. Watanabe Chifuyu (1876-1940): Born in Nagano prefecture. The third son of Watanabe Chiaki. Adopted by Watanabe Kunitake who used to have been his uncle, in 1895. Became Director of the Japan Steel Works, Ltd. and Board member of Banque Franco-Japonaise. Elected as a member of the House of Representatives in 1908, viscount member of the House of Peers in 1920. Served as Minister of Justice in Hamaguchi Cabinet and Second Wakatsuki Cabinet. Became Privy Councilor in 1939.
  3. Watanabe Takeshi (1906-2010): Born as the eldest son of Watanabe Chifuyu, in Tokyo. Started to work for Ministry of Finance in 1930, later, he held posts such as Director of Third Division of Budget Bureau, Director of Planning Division of General Affairs Bureau, and Director of Planning Division of Minister's Secretariat. After the war, he was assigned to Director General of Liaison Office in the Ministry of Finance, and Director General of Minister's Secretariat. Served as Envoy Extraordinary to the United States in 1950, later, the Chief Executive Officer of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), and the President of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).