150 years from Meiji Restoration (5) 2019/07/28

Iwakura Mission


The mission left Japan on December 23rd in 1871 (Meiji 4th) and returned on September 13th in 1873 (Meiji 6th).

The leader of the mission was Iwakura Tomomi who was one of the most powerful members of Meiji new government. The mission was composed of 46 official members, 16 sub members and 43 students including 4 girls.

Total 107 members were leaders of the government or young elites expected to become next leaders. Among them, there were Kido Takayoshi and Okubo Toshimichi who were two of three giants at Meiji Restoration and Ito Hirofumi who became the first Prime Minister of Japan.


The purpose of the mission was to prepare for future negotiation of removing unequal treaties with America and European nations which were forced to sign at the end of Edo period. And secondary purpose was to observe and study modernized western industries and cultures.


It was not the first delegation from Japan to western nations but several delegations had been already sent since the last part of Edo period when Japan started to be aware of western power and advanced technologies.

However the mission surprised the people because of it’s composition. Iwakura, Kido, Okubo were active key persons of Meiji new government which was facing to various difficult situations after restoration from 260 years reign of Edo government. The new government was yet neither strong nor stable. The government which was composed of several powerful clans from Edo period, was not united yet. People were afraid of turbulence during absence of those key persons as long as two years


It is difficult to understand their real intension why they decided to go and were away from Japan for such a long period during such extremely unstable situation.

However they decided to go and returned with numerous information and precious experience which gave enormous influence to Japanese society of early Meiji.