Kojima Iken (児島惟謙, 1837-1908), also known as Kojima Korekata (児島惟謙), was born in the Uwajima Domain (宇和島藩 Uwajima-han), Iyo Province (伊予国 iyo-no-kuni, modern-day Ehime Prefecture), into a family of samurai of the Uwajima clan. Separated from his biological mother at an early age, it is said that he spent a rather unfortunate childhood, working in a brewery. He studied in Kochi and Nagasaki and befriended Ryōma Sakamoto (坂本 龍馬) and Godai Tomoatsu (五代 友厚), under whose influence he fell out with his domain. Once he left Iyo, he adopted the name Korekata (仮名 kemyou, assumed name, pseudonym) and started to support the Imperial forces, which eventually overthrew the Tokugawa shogunate in 1868. He also participated in the Boshin War.
In December 1870 he joined the Ministry of Justice and held a series of judicial positions, such as president of the Appeals Court in Nagoya. He was instrumental in the foundation of the Kansai Law School in 1886 (which later became Kansai University), and in 1891 was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (大審院 daishin-in, until 1947).
In the Ōtsu incident (大津事件 Ōtsu jiken), a policeman by the name of Tsuda Sanzō (津田三蔵) attempted to assassinate the Russian Crown Prince, Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich, on a visit to Japan, close to Kyoto. The Tsarevich escaped almost unscathed but cut short his trip in spite of a personal apology by the Meiji Emperor. The Japanese government consequently applied pressure to the Court to try Tsuda under Article 116 of the Criminal Code, which demanded the death penalty for acts against the emperor, empress or crown prince of Japan (lese majesty). However, Kojima Iken, then Chief Justice, ruled that Article 116 did not apply in this case, and ordered to implement a penal code for premeditated murder attempt against ordinary people. Tsuda was sentenced to life imprisonment instead. Although controversial at the time, Kojima’s decision was later used as an example of the independence of the judiciary in Japan and one of the justifications for the revision of the unequal treaties.
In 1892, he resigned from his post as Chief Justice over of the “Hanafuda Scandal” that involved ministry officials, including judges of the Supreme Court, who engaged in gambling. From 1894 and 1905, he served as a member of the House of Peers (貴族院 kizokuin) and from 1898 to 1902 a member of the House of Representatives (衆議院 shūgiin). He died in 1908 at the age of 72.
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- Irokawa, Daikichi; The Culture of the Meiji Period, Princeton 1988
- Wilson, George M.; Patriots and Redeemers in Japan: Motives in the Meiji Restoration, University Of Chicago Press 1992
Kojima Iken (photo credit)