Japanese Colonial Bureaucrats' Perception of Colonial Rule: What did they learn from the British Empire?

Key information

5:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Russell Square: College Buildings
Khalili Lecture Theatre (KLT)

About this event

This lecture analyzes the careers and activities of colonial bureaucrats who worked in the colonies and spheres of influence in the prewar Japan, and attempts to clarify their perceptions of governance, and to elucidate the colonial governance thought of Japan.

Japan took possession of Taiwan as a result of the Sino-Japanese War in 1895 and became an imperialist country with a colony. Japan, which was incorporated into the international strategy by the Anglo-Japanese Alliance in 1902, won the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, inherited the concession of the Kwantung Province that Russia had leased from the Qing, and from this base came to have a sphere of influence in northeastern China, so-called Manchuria, and in 1910 annexed Korea and further expanded its area of control. 

In World War I, which broke out in 1914, Japan entered the war based on the Anglo-Japanese Alliance and became a victorious country, and increased its international voice. In these colonies and the spheres of influence, the Government-General of Taiwan was established in Taiwan, and the Government-General of Korea were established in Colonial Korea, and the Kanto Governorate was established in Kanto Province to administer the region. The colonial bureaucrats were in charge of the areas. 

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in research from various perspectives, such as the careers and activities of colonial bureaucrats and the roles they played, but it is undeniable that further research is needed.

It is of great significance to conduct research on colonial bureaucrats who are in a middle-management position, so to speak, who were involved in policy making processes based on their experiences while directing local administrations in colonial and sphere of influence. This is because I believe that it is these colonial bureaucrats who most realistically embody the reality of the colonial and sphere of influence rule of the Japanese Empire.

This paper examines three such colonial officials: Ouchi Ushinosuke (1865~1934), who worked for the Government-General of Taiwan and the Kanto Prefecture, Gentaro Yoshimura (1875~1945), who worked for the Kanto Governorate and later became a part-time officer of the Colonial Bureau, and Urazo Tokinaga (1884~1929), who worked for the Government-General of Korea. 

There are several reasons for this. First, it provides an overview of the role of the colonial bureaucrats in the three main governing bodies managed by the Japan Empire: the Government-General of Taiwan, the Kanto Governorate, and the Government-General of Korea. Second, there is a spatial and ideological connection between these three colonial bureaucrats. Ouchi Ushinosuke and Yoshimura Gentaro were colleagues at the Legislative Affairs Bureau and the Kanto Governorate, and Yoshimura Gentaro and Tokinaga Urazo have an influence on the contents of the report of the same name, The Irish Problems, which will be discussed later. In addition, there is about 10 years difference on their years of birth, and I believe that this is effective in seeing changes in the way Japan governs its colonies. Thirdly, they all had lived in the West, which helped them to examine the colonial governance of Western countries. Ushinosuke Ouchi stayed in Germany, Gentaro Yoshimura did in the United Kingdom, and Urazo Tokinaga did in the United States and the United Kingdom. 

By examining their reports and writings, we believe that we can get a lot of clues as to which countries Japan obtained its knowledge and ideas about colonial rule by referring to the Western imperialist countries including the British Empire. As colonial bureaucrats, they were the concrete "authorities" in the field, and they were also "knowledgeable" people who used the governance techniques and ideas they had gained from their experiences of staying abroad in colonial administration. By examining their careers, activities, and writings, and the ideological and professional relationships between the colonial bureaucrats, I would like to clarify the perception of the colonial bureaucrats and the actual state of colonial administration by the Japanese Empire at that time.

About the speaker

Michiya Kato is Professor of Economic History at Osaka Sangyo University, Japan. He obtained BA and MA in Economics from Keio University, Japan and PhD in Economic History from the University of Birmingham, UK. He is currently Visiting Scholar at Japan Research Centre, SOAS. His main interest focuses on the Japanese Colonial Bureaucrats’ Perception of the British Empire and published a lot of articles and book chapters on the Japanese colonial bureaucrats.