- Iwakura, Tomomi
- (1825-1883)A powerful modernising statesman of the Meiji restoration. Born a member of the lower nobility in Kyoto he rose through study and ability to become a chamberlain of the emperor Komei. In 1858 he was among a group of 88 nobles who protested against leaving responsibility for Japan-US commercial relations in the hands of the shogunate. However in 1860-61 because of his work to improve relations between the imperial court and the shogunate he was branded a traitor and harrassed by the then-influential anti-shogunate party and he retired to become a shaven-headed Buddhist monk for a period. During this time he went over to the anti-shogunate side and plotted with others to restore the new Meiji emperor to power, taking part in the coup d'etat of 1868 with the Satsuma samurai which overthrew the shogun. He held several key positions in the new government, became minister of foreign affairs and then envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary for the 'Iwakura mission' to Europe and the United States in 1871-73. Influenced by Tamamatsu, Misao's national learning (kokugaku) outlook Iwakura initially supported the establishment of the jingikan in the Meiji restoration but soon distanced himself from anti-foreign Shinto extremism in order to accommodate religious toleration, which had become a prerequisite for the renegotiation of unequal trade treaties with the Western powers. Iwakura remained firmly opposed to the people's rights movement and fought to preserve the status of the nobility and oligarchic rule, as reflected in the Meiji Constitution of 1889. He had a state funeral and was promoted posthumously to the office of dajo-daijin (premier). On his death, large sums were collected to build a shrine and install him as a kami. Instead, the money was used to build a school, so he is not a kami.
A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Brian Bocking.