Mutsu Munemitsu

Count Mutsu Munemitsu (陸奥 宗光, August 20, 1844 August 24, 1897) was a Japanese statesman and diplomat in Meiji period Japan.


Mutsu Munemitsu
陸奥 宗光
Count Mutsu Munemitsu
Born(1844-08-20)August 20, 1844
DiedAugust 24, 1897(1897-08-24) (aged 53)
Other namesMutsu Yonosuke
OccupationDiplomat, Cabinet Minister
Spouse(s)Mutsu Ryōko

Early life

Mutsu Munemitsu was born in Wakayama domain, Kii Province as the sixth son of Date Munehiro, a samurai retainer of the Kii Tokugawa clan. His father was active in the Sonnō jōi movement, and Mutsu Munemitsu joined forces with Sakamoto Ryōma and Itō Hirobumi in the movement to overthrow the Tokugawa shogunate.

Meiji bureaucrat

After the Meiji Restoration, Mutsu held a number of posts in the new Meiji government, including that of governor of Hyōgo Prefecture and later governor of Kanagawa Prefecture, both of which were host to foreign settlements. He was head of the Land Tax Reform of 1873–1881, and served on the Genrōin. He conspired to assist Saigō Takamori in the Satsuma Rebellion and was imprisoned from 1878 until 1883. While in prison he translated Jeremy Bentham's Utilitarianism into Japanese.

After he left prison, he rejoined the government as an official of the Foreign Ministry, and in 1884 was sent to Europe for studies. Later he became Japanese Minister to Washington D.C. (1888–1890), during which time he established formal diplomatic relations between Japan and Mexico, and partially revised the unequal treaties between Japan and the United States.

On his return to Japan in 1890, he became Minister of Agriculture and Commerce. He was also elected to the House of Representatives of Japan from the 1st Wakayama District for a single term in the 1890 General Election. In 1892, he became Foreign Minister in the Itō Hirobumi cabinet. In 1894, he concluded the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Commerce and Navigation of 1894, which finally ended the unequal treaty status between Japan and Great Britain.

Mutsu was the lead Japanese negotiator in the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which ended the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895). In the wake of an attempt on the life of the Chinese leading negotiator Li Hongzhang by a Japanese fanatic, the Japanese government voluntarily reduced the size of the indemnity it planned to claim from China, and Mutsu famously remarked, 'Li's misfortune is the good fortune of the Great Ch'ing Empire'.[1] The Triple Intervention by France, Germany and Russia reversed the gains that Mutsu had negotiated from China in the Treaty of Shimonoseki, and the Japanese public blamed Mutsu for the national humiliation. He resigned all government posts in May 1896 and moved to Ōiso, Kanagawa, where he wrote his personal diplomatic memoirs Kenkenroku (蹇蹇録) after the treaty was signed to explain his views and actions. However, his memoirs could not be published until 1923 due to the diplomatic secrets they contained.

Mutsu lived in what is now Kyu-Furukawa Gardens. Mutsu died of tuberculosis in Takinogawa, Tokyo Prefecture in 1897.

Mutsu was ennobled with the title of hakushaku (count) under the kazoku peerage system at the end of the Sino-Japanese War.


Family tree

Count Mutsu Munemitsu
Countess Mutsu Ryōko
Countess Iso Mutsu
Count Mutsu Hirokichi
Ian Mutsu


  1. Cambridge History of China, xi. 107–8


  • Cortazzi, Hugh. Britain & Japan: Biographical Portraits, Volume V. Global Oriental (2004) ISBN 1-901903-48-6
  • Mutsu, Munemitsu. (1982). Kenkenroku (trans. Gordon Mark Berger). Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press. ISBN 9780860083061; OCLC 252084846
  • Perez, Louis. Japan Comes of Age: Mutsu Munemitsu and the Revision of the Unequal Treaties. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press (1999). ISBN 0-8386-3804-X
  • Perez, Louis. Mutsu Munemitsu and Identity Formation of the Individual and the State in Modern Japan. Edwin Mellen Press (2001). ISBN 0-7734-7366-1

Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
Enomoto Takeaki
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Aug 1892 – May 1896
Succeeded by
Saionji Kinmochi
Preceded by
Iwamura Michitoshi
Minister of Agriculture & Commerce
May 1890 – Mar 1897
Succeeded by
Kōno Togama
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