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Ministry of Colonial Affairs

The Ministry of Colonial Affairs (拓務省 Takumushō) was a cabinet-level ministry in the government of the Empire of Japan from 1923 to 1942.


Poster encouraging Japanese emigration to South America

The original Ministry of Colonial Affairs was the short-lived Hokkaidō Colonization Office, established in the early Meiji period by Prime Minister Kuroda Kiyotaka to protect Japan's sparely populated northern frontier against encroachment by Imperial Russia by encouraging the settlement of ex-soldiers as militia-farmers in Hokkaidō. This was followed by the even shorter-lived Colonial Administration Department within the office of the Governor-General of Taiwan. Established on 2 April 1896 by General Takashima Tomonosuke, it was intended to encourage Japanese investment and settlement in Taiwan, after the acquisition of that island by Japan as a result of the First Sino-Japanese War. The office was abolished in 2 September 1897.

The Japanese government continued to provide sporadic encouragement of overseas emigration to help relieve overpopulation of the Japanese home islands and to help spread Japanese influence overseas. During the late Meiji and early Taishō periods, large numbers of Japanese emigrated to Hawaii, California and the Philippines, and lesser numbers to China, South America and Southeast Asia. However, the emigration of Japanese to foreign countries did nothing to help secure the peripheral areas of the Japanese Empire itself.

After the acquisition of Korea, Karafuto, and the Kwantung Leased Territory as a result of the Russo-Japanese War, a Colonization Bureau (拓務局 Takumukyoku) was established within the Home Ministry on 22 June 1910. The bureau came under much criticism for its ineffectiveness, and on 10 June 1929, it was elevated into a separate cabinet-level ministry under Prime Minister Giichi Tanaka.

The new ministry was intended to coordinate emigration and settlement in all exterior territories of Japan, and had supervisory responsibility for:

However, the ministry did not actually sponsor emigration to those territories. It only provided advice and cooperated with private emigration sponsorship companies.

The ministry also oversaw operations of the South Manchuria Railway Company, but its authority did not extend to Manchuria due to strong resistance by the Ministry of War, who wanted to keep control over the future economic development of Manchuria to itself.

Likewise, the Governor-General of Korea, who was accustomed to virtual autonomy, rejected the new ministry's control and continued to administer Korea with little interference.

On 1 November 1942, the Ministry of Colonial Affairs was abolished, and its functions divided between the Foreign Ministry and the newly created Ministry of Greater East Asia.

Ministers of Colonial Affairs

Name Cabinet From To
1 Tanaka Giichi Tanaka 10 June 1929 2 July 1929
2 Matsuda Genji Hamaguchi 2 July 1929 14 April 1931
3 Hara Shūjirō 2nd Wakatsuki 14 April 1931 9 September 1931
4 Wakatsuki Reijirō 2nd Wakatsuki 9 September 1931 13 December 1931
5 Hata Toyosuke Inukai 13 December 1931 26 May 1932
6 Nagai Ryūtarō Saitō 26 May 1932 8 July 1934
7 Okada Keisuke Okada 8 July 1934 9 October 1934
8 Kodama Hideo Okada 9 October 1934 9 March 1936
9 Nagata Hidejirō Hirota 9 March 1936 2 February 1937
10 Yūki Toyotarō Hayashi 2 February 1937 4 June 1937
11 Ōtani Sonyu 1st Konoe 4 June 1937 26 May 1938
12 Ugaki Kazushige 1st Konoe 26 May 1938 30 September 1938
13 Konoe Fumimaro 1st Konoe 30 September 1938 29 October 1938
14 Hatta Yoshiaki 1st Konoe 29 October 1938 7 April 1939
15 Koiso Kuniaki Hiranuma 7 April 1939 30 August 1939
16 Kanemitsu Tsuneo Abe 30 August 1939 16 January 1940
17 Koiso Kuniaki Yonai 16 January 1940 22 July 1940
18 Matsuoka Yōsuke 2nd Konoe 22 July 1940 28 September 1940
19 Akita Kiyoshi 2nd Konoe 28 September 1940 18 July 1941
20 Toyoda Teijirō 3rd Konoe 18 July 1941 18 October 1941
21 Tōgō Shigenori Tōjō 18 October 1941 2 December 1941
22 Ino Hiroya Tōjō 2 December 1941 2 November 1942


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