The God of the Japanese Constitution

Qzaki Yukio
Ozaki Yukio (尾崎 行雄, 1858-1954), pen name Ozaki Gakudō (咢堂), was a liberal politician elected 25 times to the House of Representatives of the Japanese Diet. Born into a samurai family in Tsukui, Sagami Province (modern-day Kanagawa Prefecture), he moved to Tōkyō when his father gained a minor government post. He studied at Keiō Gijuku (now Keiō University) and Kōgakuryō, an engineering academy, then briefly taught British history at Kyōkan Gijuku and wrote for Niigata Shinbun before turning to politics.

He entered politics as a protégé of Ōkuma Shigenobu participating in the formation of the political party Rikken Kaishintō (立憲改進党 Constitutional Reform Party) in 1882. Banished in Tōkyō under the Peace Preservation Law (1887), he travelled to the United States and Great Britain. he returned as an elected representative from Mie Prefecture in the first Diet session of 1890. While he vigorously supported Japan's actions in the Sino-Japanese War (1894/95), in his famous oratory, he strongly advocated the expansion of suffrage, party power, and other democratic tendencies.

In 1898, Ozaki mentioned "republicanism" in a speech and was forced to resign from Ōkuma's new and fragile party cabinet. A struggle over naming his successor brought the cabinet down after barely four months in power. Although a former Ōkuma protégé, Ozaki then helped Itō Hirobumi establish the Rikken Seiyūkai (立憲政友会, Association of Friends of Constitutional Government) party in 1900.

While serving as mayor of Tōkyō from 1903 to 1912, Ozaki sent 3,000 cherry-tree seedlings to Washington, DC, planted in the West Potomac Park. During the Taishō Political Crisis of 1912-13, he and Inukai Tsuyoshi (犬養, 1855-1932) led the opposition against the government. Ozaki condemned Prime Minister Katsura Tarō for using the Mitsubishi conglomerate's influence and for "hiding behind the throne" by calling for imperial rescripts. He also denounced bribery attempts by Ōkuma's supporters in the election of 1915.

Although faced with right-wing death threats, he campaigned for the Universal Manhood Suffrage Movement until this right was granted in 1925 and advocated women's suffrage. During the 1930s, he became increasingly isolated from party politics, preferring to criticise the military's growing influence as an independent. He was hailed again as a political hero after World War II; he participated in antiwar and pro-democratic activities until his death at the age of 96. He served as a parliamentarian for 63 years (1890–1953) and is revered as the "God of Constitution" (憲政の神様 Kensei no kamisama) and the "Father of parliamentary democracy".

His devotion to Western-style liberalism was reflected not only in his well-known writings and speeches but also in his private life with his British-educated wife, Yei Evelyn Theodora Kate Ozaki (英子セオドラ尾崎, 1870-1932). His contributions to the development of constitutional government in Japan have been recognised by establishing the Ozaki Memorial Hall adjacent to the Diet building in Tōkyō.


Ozaki as Minister of Justice in 1914

Ozaki as Minister of Justice in 1914

Ozaki's second wife, British-educated Yei Evelyn Theodora Kate Ozaki (英子セオドラ尾崎, 1870-1932)

Ozaki's second wife, British-educated Yei Evelyn Theodora Kate Ozaki (英子セオドラ尾崎, 1870-1932)

Ozaki monument (尾崎行雄記念碑) in Hiroyama Park, Zushi

Ozaki monument (尾崎行雄記念碑) in Hiroyama Park, Zushi


References:

  • Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric, Japan Encyclopedia, Harvard 2005

Links:

Next article in the series 'Historical Biographies': Inage Saburō Shigenari (稲毛三郎重成)
Previous article in the series 'Historical Biographies': Matsudaira Katamori