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About Shozo Tanaka

Shozo Tanaka

(December 15, 1841-September 4, 1913)
Shozo Tanaka was a statesman in the Meiji period, elected for 7 terms as a member of the Lower House. He is best known for his protest movement against the Ashio Copper Mine. His childhood name was Kenzaburo.


November 3, 1841
Born in Konaka-mura, Aso-gun, Shimotsuke (now, Konaka-cho, Sano, Tochigi).
At the age of 17, officially selected as a village mayor in the Rokkaku clan's domain.
Married to Katsu Osawa.
In the Rokkaku clan's domain, there were autocratic policies such as high-handed personnel administration and a unilateral land tax increase. As a village mayor, Shozo led a reform movement, demanding a reshuffle of the officials.
Imprisoned for his role in the Rokkaku Domain Reform Scandal.
Appointed as an official at Hanawa City Hall, Esashi (now, Kazuno, Akita)
Arrested and imprisoned on the charge of murder of Shinpachiro Kimura, Chief Officer of Hanawa City Hall and Shozo’s superior.
Cleared of the charge, he returned to Konaka-mura.
Elected as a member of the District Committee at the Tochigi 4th Large District 3rd Small District.
Engaged as the editor in chief in the Republication of Tochigi Newspaper (now, Shimotsuke Newspaper) for the purpose of intensifying the demand for democratic rights.
Elected as a member of the Tochigi Prefectural Assembly; selected from this time onward for 4 consecutive terms.
The Rikken Kaishinto (Constitutional Progressive Party) was established in April, and Shozo joined it in December.
Revolting against a despotic government of Michitsune Mishima, Tochigi Prefectural Governor; imprisoned for being involved in the Kabasan Incident.
Elected as a member of the Tochigi Prefectural Assembly.
Elected to the Lower House in the 1st General Election; elected from this time onward for 6 consecutive terms.
In the second Diet session, he submitted questions and demands concerning the Ashio Copper-Mine Poisoning Incident.
A serious flood occurred in the Watarase River basin and poisoned water spread.
Shozo began a protest movement with the victims to demand the closure of the Ashio Copper Mine and repeatedly submitted questions to the government.
Made a speech to oppose the bill to increase the Diet members' annual salary and refuses to receive the salary.
In the midst of the victims' 4th petition, the Kawamata Incident occurred.
Shozo submitted questions in the Diet session: questions as to "ignoring the Diet decision, poisoning the victims, and beating the petitioners to death" and "to kill the people is to kill the nation"; during the speech, he left the Keinsei Honto (Constitutional Center Party).
Sitting in on the trial of the Kawamata Incident, he let out a loud yawn, being indignant at the prosecutor's argument; charged with contempt towards officials and put on a trial.
In October, he resigned from the Lower House; submitted a direct petition to the Emperor Meiji on the 10th of December.
Imprisoned for yawning as contempt towards officials while sitting in on the trial of the Kawamata Incident.
The flood control project of Yanaka Village was proposed.
Engaged in a protest movement against the flood control project; began to live in Yanaka Village.
The 1st collective emigration of Yanaka villagers.
Calling for protest against the Yanaka Village Incident at a regular meeting of Shinkigensha.
The Yanaka Village Council rejected the plan of its merger with Fujioka Town, while the Tochigi Prefectural Assembly announced the merger.
Yanaka Village was forcibly abolished; Shozo continued to live in the Village.
The government announced that the law of Compulsory Purchase of Land was to be applied to the case; remaining Yanaka villagers' houses were forcibly destroyed.
The government designated the whole region of Yanaka Village as a river region.
Watarase River Improvement Project was proposed; Shozo wrote an inquiry about the damage cover-up and submitted it to the Lower House with his friend Saburo Shimada and other members of the Lower House.
A serious flood occurred in the Kanto district; Shozo conducted an on-site survey in the rivers throughout the district to challenge the flood control policy.
Yanaka villagers' emigration to Tokoro-gun, Hokkaido started.
In July, Shozo began to visit old supporters (supposedly for the purpose of fundraising for the activities); on the way, on the 2nd of August, he visited Genpachi Niwata, in Shimohaneda, Azuma-mura, Ashikaga (now, Shimohaneda, Sano); since Genpachi was absent, Shozo visited Kiyoshiro, Genpachi's neighbor, and fell sick there.
Died at Kiyoshiro's on the 4th of September.
At the age of 73, Shozo Tanaka died of stomach cancer, as Shimotsuke Newspaper said.
Shozo died penniless as he had put his entire fortune into his protest activities. In a travel bag, he left 3 diary books, a draft of the river survey report, a portable writing set, a jar of dried laver, copies of the Imperial Constitution, the New Testament, and The Gospel according to St. Matthew, and 3 small stones.