No. 311.
Mr. Bingham to Mr. Evarts.

No. 796.]

Sir: It is with sorrow that I have to report that on Tuesday, the 14th instant, his excellency Okubo Toshimichi, His Imperial Japanese Majesty’s minister of the interior and councilor of state, was assassinated on a public street of this capital by six men armed with swords. The minister was, at the time, in his carriage, on his way to the imperial palace. One of the horses to the carriage was first killed and the other wounded by the assassins, and the coachman, having fallen from the carriage, was then also killed, when, falling upon the doomed minister, who was unarmed, each of the assassins inflicted wounds until the minister was dead. The six criminals then surrendered themselves to the imperial guard.

Having been told of this great public calamity a few hours after its occurrence, I immediately addressed a note on the subject to the foreign office, expressing the hope that the minister had survived the assault; and on being notified by the foreign office of his death, I called with the secretary of this legation at the house of Mr. Okubo, and expressed in person my sympathy for his family in their bereavement, and also addressed a note to his excellency the minister of foreign affairs.

I have the honor to inclose herewith a copy of Mr. Terashima’s note to me and of my reply thereto.

For your information I also inclose four articles in relation to the assassination, published in and translated from the Hochi Shimbun, the [Page 492] Nichi-Nichi Shimbun, the Choya Shimbun, and the Akebono Shimbun, each having been issued on the 15th instant.

His excellency Mr. Okubo was one of the foremost of the Emperor’s counselors and officials and in the prime of life; his place cannot be readily filled. Having a personal acquaintance with Mr. Okubo, I greatly esteemed him. He was manifestly sacrificed by some of the aiders and abettors of the late rebellion, of which I had occasion to say heretofore in my dispatches that it was a rebellion “which should not have begun” and which was “without justification or excuse.” Its suppression was a patriotic duty, and his excellency Mr. Okubo having done his duty in that behalf is now on that account murdered.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 796.—Translation.]

Mr. Terashima to Mr Bingham..

Sir: I have the honor to hereby inform you that this morning, at 8 a.m., Okubo Toshimichi, councilor of state and minister of the interior, while on his way to call on the Emperor, was attacked and wounded by assassins, at Kirvaricho Kojimachi, and has since died.

With respect and consideration,

His Imperial Japanese Majesty’s Minister for Foreign Affairs.

His Excellency John A. Bingham,
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States in Japan.

[Inclosure 2 in No. 796.]

Mr. Bingham to Mr. Terashima.

Sir: Your excellency’s communication of the 14th instant is received, wherein you acquaint me of the death on that day, by the hands of assassins, of his excellency, Okubo Toshimichi, councilor of state and minister of the interior, while on his way to call upon His Imperial Majesty the Emperor.

The loss of this greatly esteemed and valuable minister of state is deeply deplored by me.

Accept, I pray your excellency, the assurance of my high consideration.


His Excellency Terashima Munenori,
His Imperial Japanese Majesty’s Minister for Foreign Affairs.

[Inclosure 3 in No. 796.—Translation.]
[Extract from the Japan Daily Herald, May 15, 1878.]


From the Hochi Shimbun of May 15, 1878.

We have heard the following particulars with regard to the assassination yesterday, the 14th instant, of Mr. Okubo Toshimichi, Sangi and minister of the home department, aged 42 years:

At about 8.20 a.m. his excellency left his house in a carriage drawn by two horses to go to the imperial residence. Just as he arrived at a place commonly known as Shimid-zudani, being lot No. 1 in the Kioi-cho, there came up from the opposite direction a young man dressed in clothing of light blue cotton cloth, holding in one of his hands some [Page 493] flowers and singing a snatch of a song. He drew near to the carriage, and then, as a signal, threw down his bunch of flowers, and drawing a sword he had concealed on his person, tried to hamstring the near horse, whereupon, in a moment, five assassins sprang forth through an old wooden paling at the side of the road, brandishing swords, with which they struck blows around. The horses plunged forward and reached the front of the Kakuzensha site, when, the carriage being thrown backwards, the driver, named Yoshizo, was flung headlong to the ground, and at once cut down and killed. The carriage was then hemmed in both on the right and the left, and blows were struck, when his excellency received a cut across the eyebrow and several wounds on the face; as, however, he was not even then quite dead, he was dragged forth, and dispatched by a thrust through the neck. The groom who was riding behind the carriage ran off in haste to give the news at the police station, when some police inspectors and constables rushed to the spot, but all was over before they arrived. The assassins flung away their swords then and there, and ran off, with the intention of giving themselves up at the household department. There, however, they were surrounded by the men on guard, and in the mean time a number of police coming up bound and took them away. We hear that the names of the assassins are Cho Rengo, aged 18; Shimada Ichiro, aged 29; Matsumoto Otokiku, aged 24; Wakida Koichi, aged 25; Sugimura Bunichi, aged 24, all five being shizoku of the Ishikawa ken; and Asai Hisa-atsu, aged 23, a shizoku of the Shimane ken.

We are informed that the man called Shimada Ichiro is an officer of the Chikokusha (patriotism-advocating society) in the Ishikawa ken; and that Cho Rengo lived at Kagoshima up to the time of the rising of the insurgents in the west last year, after which affair he went back to that ken.

From the Nichi Nichi Shimbun of May 15, 1878.

The following notification was, on the 14th instant, issued by the Daijo-kwan to all the Kwan, In, Sho, Shi, and Fu:

“It is hereby notified that Sangi Okubo Toshimichi was, at 8 a.m. on the 14th instant, so severely wounded by assassins whilst on his way to the imperial palace, as to cause his death.

“The assassins—Shimada, Sugimoto, Cho, Wakita, and Sugimura, shizoku of Ishikawa ken, and Asai, shizoku of Shimane ken—were captured at the same time.”

Look at the above-mentioned notification issued by the Daijo-kwan! What day was it, the 14th May, 1878? H. E. Okubo Toshimichi, an officer of the senior third rank, and decorated with the first class of the Japanese order, a member of the privy council and minister of the interior, has been assassinated at Kioi-machi (commonly called Shimizu dani), on his way to the imperial palace. It was the day appointed for distributing the decorations amongst the officers of the army and navy at the Daijo-kwan, and therefore his excellency left his house at Ura-Kasumigaseki at 8 a.m in a carriage drawn by two horses. The carriage was approaching Kioi-machi, and it was just at a spot where the rear of H. I. H. Kita-Shirakawa-no-miya’s mansion is on the right, and the house of Mibu, the kwazoku, on the left, where there are some small mounds on either side of the road. Near Mibu’s house mulberry trees had been planted, and the weeds had grown to such a height as to form a complete shelter for any one, and there were never many passengers in the neighborhood. On this occasion the scene had a peaceful aspect, the day was rather cloudy, threatening rain, and no one was in sight except two young men who were dressed like students, and who carried branches of a tree with flowers upon them. They stopped, and were playing with one another when a betto named Yoshimatsu came running along, and immediately after appeared the minister’s carriage, driven by a coachman named Taro. The carriage passed just in front of the Akasaka gate and turned to the left, and just when it was opposite the side of Mibu’s house, four men made their appearance from behind a little wooden building on the left-hand side of the road. They took off their coats and tied the sleeves of the garments very tightly around their waists, when they appeared in white shirts, and were all armed with long swords. They suddenly approached the carriage, and wounded the horses in the fore-legs, and these latter became unmanageable and fell to the ground. The coachman, greatly surprised, cried out Robbers! robbers! and letting the reins fall was about to jump down from the carriage, when the assassins advanced near, and with one blow cut him down from the shoulder to the breast. Immediately the two men with flowers in their hands, who had been walking together, had turned back, but were now armed with swords in place of the flowers, and the six men together ran up to the carriage, and as H. E. was about to get out from the left-hand door, and was trying to stand up on the ground, one of the assassins came forward and, aiming at his excellency’s head, gave an awful blow which cut from the top of the head to the eyes, and at the same time cut off one of Okubo’s hands which he had raised in his defense. They then drew the minister out from the carriage and inflicted several wounds in various parts of his [Page 494] body, and one of them, taking up a short sword, stabbed him through his throat, to give him the coup de grace, and left the sword sticking in the wound. They then threw the rest of their swords into the carriage (or as some say into the weeds, which grow to a great height there), and went quickly away in the direction of Kojimachi.

Now the betto, having witnessed this wonderful scene while making his escape, immediately proceeded to the gate of the imperial palace, where he reported the matter to the guard. From thence he went to the police station outside Akasaka gate, and the news arriving at the same time from the imperial household department, sergeants and policemen were at once sent to the place. General Saigo Yorimichi, who was at the imperial palace, having received information of the event, immediately proceeded in his carriage to Kioi-machi with all speed. When he arrived there he found much blood in three places; there were two or three sword-cuts in the interior of the carriage, and the remains of the minister were still lying there while the policemen were making an inquisition into the affair. The general descended from his carriage, and, finding that the official inquiry had been finished, he ordered the remains to be covered with a blanket and to be placed in his own carriage, and the general himself conveyed them to his excellency’s mansion.

On receipt of the news which the betto brought to the palace, the imperial household immediately placed extra guards at every gate. Meanwhile six men were seen coming from the direction of Kojimachi, towards the main entrance to the palace. On being asked who they were, two of them, who seemed to be the leaders, came forward, and in the calmest and most quiet manner spoke together in the following terms: “We have just now assassinated Okubo, Sangi, at Kioi-machi, on his way to the imperial palace, having awaited him there. Please report the matter to the authorities, and we will receive the punishment.” The guards took the six men inside the gate, and forwarded their report to the authorities, and also sent word to the police station, from whence a police sergeant came directly with several policemen, to whom the six men were handed over, and were taken in jinrikisha first to the head station and afterward to the third section, where they have been examined. Their names are as given in the foregoing notification. A copy of a petition was found on them. Cho and Shimada look a little over thirty years of age, and the other four about twenty, or over. Two of the four had their hakama stained with blood.

We are as yet unable to give particulars of the examination, but it is said that Cho was a chief shizoku in the late Kanazawa han, who had a pension of 300 koku, and that Shimada was, until lately, a barrister. It is also said that all six were amongst the rebels at the time of the last Satsuma rebellion, but had returned to their homes about the middle of the insurrection.

His Imperial Majesty the Mikado, on hearing of this sad event, was exceedingly grieved, and sent his attendant, Tomikoyi, on a message of condolence to the home minister’s house. The two Empresses did the same, and forwarded various presents. All the high officers of all the departments also visited the late minister’s residence, and thus carriages were continually running about, and there was, for a time, great confusion. Mr. Kiriyama, the governor of Ishikawa ken, who is now in Tokio, proceeded to the police department at 4 p.m., and had not left at a very late hour of the night. A body of policemen were also detached to guard Okubo’s house.

His excellency was one of the originators of the late restoration, and had a very onerous office imposed upon him as sangi and minister of the interior. His Majesty trusted in him, and the people placed their dependence on him, but now his life has been cut short by the swords of assassins. Alas! this is indeed a great sorrow for our country!

So many rumors have been current about this unfortunate event that it is impossible to say exactly what is true and what is false. It is possible, therefore, that there may be some wrong statements in the above; if so, we beg our readers to excuse us. We have only to add that his excellency’s funeral will take place at two p.m. on the 17th instant, and that he will be buried at Awoyama, Tokio.

The Choya Shimbun, in mentioning the assassination of his excellency Okubo Toshimichi, says: “When we opened our letter-box about 3 p.m. yesterday, we found a letter addressed to us by Umemoto Rokuske, No. 6, Suido-cho, Koishikawa. On opening it, it proved to be ‘the tale of a traitor’s assassination,’ in which the names of Shimada Kazuyashi, Cho Rengo and others were mentioned. It said: ‘To-day we are going to assassinate Okubo Toshimichi in the public street, and we want our tale of a traitor’s assassination published in all the newspapers. His crimes are the following: First crime, he scorns and oppresses the people, and his administration of public affairs is arbitrary; second crime, he confuses our laws and is always bent on increasing his personal influence and wealth; third crime, he wastes the finances of the empire on useless public works and superfluous public buildings; fourth crime, he dislikes the patriots and causes civil wars; fifth crime, he loses sight of the national dignity in his intercourse [Page 495] with foreigners.’ The letter consisted of thirteen sheets, written in a very good hand, and in a good style. We forwarded it to the police authorities, who have kept it until now. The letter also said that the persons mentioned in it at the time of the southwestern rebellion tried to join Saigo in defense of the righteous cause, but that they failed to accomplish their object. It is reported that Shimada, Cho, and the others were members of the Chiu-koku-sha (a patriotic society) in Ishikawa ken, and we hope shortly to be able to place more complete information before our readers.”

The Akebono Shimbun says that the assassins have handed in a long petition, in which they state “that they were willing to sacrifice themselves on behalf of their country for the purpose of killing those high officers on whom the responsibility rests, and that Okubo sangi is not the only one who is to be killed, but he is the first one.” When they were asked by the examining officer, “Why they killed the coachman?” they replied smilingly that “they felt it a pity to kill that coachman, but that they were obliged to do so because he attempted resistance.”

The same paper says that immediately after the attack, an army officer from the barracks at Azabu happened to pass and asked the assassins, “what they had been doing?” They calmly replied that “what they had been doing was not for him to know, but that they were going to deliver themselves up and at the same time hand in a memorial, in which the reasons of their acts were plainly set forth.” It is said that these six men have all been studying in Kagoshima for some years. These are, however, only rumors, the truth of which we cannot guarantee.