Part 3

Author: Teruaki Sueoka

4. Early Life of Teigo Iba and Influence of Yangmingism

This was the world into which Teigo Iba was born and eventually became the leader of Sumitomo. As you may not know much about Teigo Iba, I would like to talk about him in some detail.

Teigo Iba was born in 1847 (4th year of the Koka era) toward the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate in the very house where Saihei Hirose had been born. Teigo’s mother Tazu was a sister of Saihei Hirose. Teigo Iba was 19 years younger than Saihei Hirose and as Saihei was already serving an apprenticeship at the Besshi Copper Mines, the two of them had no opportunity to meet during Teigo Iba’s childhood. Teigo lived at his maternal grandparents’ home until he was seven. Then, he and his mother were granted permission to return to Omi-hachiman where his father Sadataka lived. The exhibition includes the record of the monetary gifts presented to Teigo at the ceremony at which as the heir of the Iba family he was formally introduced to relatives and family acquaintances. The Iba family had been senior retainers of the Rokkaku clan, who were descendants of the Sasaki clan in Omi and once controlled the southern half of Omi. However, as a consequence of Oda Nobunaga’s destruction of the Rokkaku clan, the Iba family led an itinerant existence before finally settling in Nishijuku, Omi-hachiman.

Teigo Iba肖像写真
Teigo Iba
Teigo Ibaの誕生祝儀帳
Record of the monetary gifts presented to Teigo at the ceremony at which he was formally introduced to relatives and family acquaintances as the heir of the Iba family
Teigo Iba生家跡(近江八幡西宿)
The house where Teigo Iba was born (Nishijuku, Omi-hachiman)

The Iba family’s residence in Nishijuku overlooked the Nakasendo, the main road connecting Kyoto and Edo. Travelers passing through Nishijuku would have brought news of what was happening in Japan in the turbulent closing years of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Teigo Iba received training in Shitenryu swordsmanship from Ichiro Kojima. This martial art stresses that those aspiring to govern the nation should be equally well versed in both letters and arms. Teigo Iba also studied the Sonno philosophy that emphasizes revering the emperor. His mentor was Yoshisuke Nishikawa, a dry sardine wholesaler who was a rather radical kokugaku scholar. Jingoro Nishikawa, the heir of the House of Nishikawa (present-day Nishikawa Sangyo), studied together with Teigo Iba under Yoshisuke Nishikawa. Teigo Iba was elected to the House of Representatives in 1890 as the representative of Shiga Prefecture and Jingoro Nishikawa succeeded him in 1898. The most powerful influence shaping the outlook of the young Teigo Iba was Yangmingism. The 17th century scholar Toju Nakae, who was closely associated with Ehime where the Besshi Copper Mines were located, was the leading Yangmingism philosopher in Japan. He had served the Ozu Domain in Iyo Province (present-day Ehime Prefecture) but left to care for his mother in Omi-takashima (present-day Takashima City, Shiga Prefecture), his hometown, where he opened a school. Toju Nakae was known as “the sage of Ōmi” and his disciples included Banzan Kumazawa. The fundamental tenet of Yangmingism is that knowledge and action are indivisible and should be pursued simultaneously, which essentially means that one should act based on one’s convictions. Among those influenced by Yangmingism was Heihachiro Oshio. This would-be social reformer eager to help the poor of Osaka led a rebellion against the Tokugawa shogunate in 1837. Yangmingism shares certain features with Ishin Shishi, a philosophy espoused by political activists in the years leading up to the Meiji Restoration, which shaped the philosophical outlook of Teigo Iba, as is clear from his actions throughout his life.

5. Teigo Iba in the Judiciary

In 1868 (1st year of the Meiji era), at the urging of Yoshisuke Nishikawa who was working as an official in Kaikeikan (predecessor of the Ministry of Finance), Teigo Iba left his hometown to join the Imperial Guard stationed at Kyoto Imperial Palace. Eager for the freedom to pursue his aspirations, Iba sought permission from his mother, asking her, “Please grant me liberty until I become 50 years old.” This was the start of Iba’s career in government service. When Iba returned home on completing his tour of duty in the Imperial Guard, he met his uncle Saihei Hirose who was also at the family residence, having returned from Edo (Tokyo). They spent the New Year together and discussed their views about the nation. Keen to serve the new government, Iba joined Keihokan (predecessor of the Ministry of Justice) in March 1869 (2nd year of the Meiji era). In that year there was an attempt to assassinate Masujiro Omura, the “Father” of the Imperial Japanese Army. The assassins were arrested and sent to Awataguchi to be executed, but Iba and other officials at Danjodai, the organization responsible for the execution site, suspended the execution on the grounds that the necessary procedures had not been followed. Iba and his colleagues were summoned to Tokyo where they were investigated because of their decision to suspend the execution of these notorious assassins. According to the records of this investigation in the National Archives of Japan, Teigo Iba stated, “Although what we did was contrary to the letter of the law, our deed was morally correct and so I do not think there was anything wrong with it.” Having been judged innocent of any offense, Iba was assigned to Tokyo where became a prosecutor in the Ministry of Justice.

In 1873 (6th year of the Meiji era), Iba was concurrently assigned to the Hakodate Local Court. Hakodate, a port, was known for its foreign trading posts. In August 1874 (7th year of the Meiji era), Ludwig Haber, the acting German consul, was murdered by Hidechika Tazaki, a former samurai of the Akita Domain. This incident became a diplomatic issue and Tazaki was beheaded. Teigo Iba was the public prosecutor and a copy of his records of the case, including a statement by Tazaki, are included in this exhibition, the original being retained by the Hakodate Local Court. You can see that it bears Iba’s name and official title. His wife Matsu passed away in Hakodate. Iba left his daughter Haruko, who was one year old, in the care of his mother in Omi-hachiman and remained in Hakodate alone to fulfill his duties. Although the Ministry of Justice promised to transfer Iba, it did not do so, angering Iba who eventually complained directly to Justice Minister Takato Oki. Iba observed, “Complaints must be stated openly. If they are not stated openly, they are not real complaints.” This indicates that Iba was a man who acted on his convictions and pursued fairness. In 1877 (10th year of the Meiji era), Iba returned to Osaka to serve as a judge at the Osaka Superior Court. (To be continued.)

Teigo Iba写真(函館裁判所時代)
Teigo Iba when he was serving at Hakodate Local Court
Letter appointing Teigo Iba a judge at Osaka Superior Court

Proceed to Part 4