2009 Volume 118 Issue 4 Pages 589-614
After the inauguration of the Imperial Diet in 1890, the Meiji State, the oligarchic Government called hanbatsu 藩閥, needed to reorganize itself in its relationship with the popular parties, which were seriously attacking the hanbatsu in order to retrench administrative expenditure. In this situation, the Hokkaido Reform was one of the most symbolic issues of the hanbatsu's self-reformation, because there had been the image of administrative waste in Hokkaido which was ruled by Kuroda Kiyotaka 黒田清隆, the leader of the Satsuma clan 薩派, who had long resisted the Diet System. In May 1891, the Matsukata Masayoshi 松方正義 Cabinet was set up and tried to overcome the problem of these maladies, which was a weakness of the hanbatsu Government. His "expansionist policies" 積極主義, including the Hokkaido Reform, were epochmaking in that the oligarchs could face the parties by using the excess revenue left over from the first Diet session for the manifestation more attractive than the parties', although that surely meant great damage for the Satsuma clan. The Hokkaido Reform by the Matsukata Cabinet progressed in two phases: staff reform and administration reform, both meant to protect Hokkaido from the parties' advance. First, at the initiative of the Minister of Interior Affairs Shinagawa Yajiro 品川弥二郎, large-scale personnel reduction, including the Director General of Hokkaido Government of the Satsuma clan, was carried out before the second session of the Diet. While Shinagawa and the new Director General Watanabe Chiaki 渡辺千秋 failed to reform Hokkaido sufficiently, the popular parties still attacked the Government through the Hokkaido problem. As the second reform, Shinagawa and Watanabe gradually planned to vest great authority in the Director General and the Hokkaido Government, compelling the cabinet to make the latter independent from the Department of the Interior before the third session of the Diet. In spite of the agreement of Ito Hirobumi 伊藤博文, however, the administration reform project unfortunately collapsed with the resignation of the Matsukata Cabinet, in July 1892, activating political conflict about the bargaining chip of Hokkaido. But, throughout this process, the Satsuma clan failed to mention their special interests in Hokkaido decisively. Instead, the popular parties, especially the Jiyuto 自由党, advanced on Hokkaido. This was in parallel with the Satsuma clan's fall in the Government and the parties' rise in the central political situation. In the face of Diet System, the oligarchs' monopoly of power in the Hokkaido was denied, and the fundamental political restructuring, namely the hanbatsu's self-reorganization, occurred.