The Ministry of Public Works (工部省, Kōbushō) was a cabinet-level ministry in the Daijō-kan system of government of the Meiji period Empire of Japan from 1870 to 1885. It is also sometimes referred to as the “Ministry of Engineering” or “Ministry of Industry”.[1]


The Cabinet officially announced the establishment of the Public Works on December 12, 1870, by the advice of Edmund Morel, chief engineer of the Railway Construction to achieve rapid social and industrial development. After long arguments of 10 months, on September 28, 1871, the Meiji government completed arrangement of organization of 11 departments, which were mostly transferred from the Ministry of Civil Affairs. It included railroads, shipyards, lighthouses, mines, an iron and steel industry, telecommunication, civil works, manufacturing, industrial promotion, engineering institution and survey.[2] Each department had to be relied on the foreign advisor and officer for a while,[3] but gradually replaced them with Japanese engineers, who received training in the Engineering Institution. Main function of the Engineering Institution was to manage the Imperial College of Engineering (the predecessor of the Tokyo Imperial University College of Engineering). One of the key roles of the ministry was locating, and if necessary, reverse engineering overseas technology. For example, in 1877, only a year after the invention of the telephone, engineers employed by the ministry had obtained examples and were attempting to create a domestic version.[4] By the mid-1880s, many of the industries created by the Ministry of Industry were privatized. With the establishment of the cabinet system under the Meiji Constitution on December 22, 1885, the ministry was abolished, with its functions divided between the new Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce and the Ministry of Communications.

Ministry hierarchy
Minister and Vice Ministers[5]
Name Kanji in office out of office
Minister (工部卿, Kōbu-kyō)
Itō Hirobumi 伊藤 博文 October 25, 1873 May 15, 1878
Inoue Kaoru 井上 馨 July 29, 1878 September 10, 1879
Yamada Akiyoshi 山田 顕義 September 10, 1879 February 28, 1880
Yamao Yōzō 山尾 庸三 February 28, 1880 October 21, 1881
Sasaki Takayuki 佐々木 高行 October 21, 1881 December 22, 1885
Vice-Minister (工部大輔, Kōbu-taifu)
Yamao Yōzō 山尾 庸三 October 27, 1872 February 28, 1880
Yoshii Tomozane 吉井 友実 June 17, 1880 January 10, 1882
Inoue Masaru 井上 勝 July 8, 1882 December 22, 1885



  1. ^ Morris-Suzuki. The Technological Transformation of Japan. page 73.
  2. ^ Hideo Izumida: Reconsideration of Foundation of Ministry of Public Works, Transaction of Japan Institution of Architecture, 2016.
  3. ^ Fukasaku. Technology and Industrial Growth in Pre-War Japan. Pages 18, 40
  4. ^ Nelson. National Innovation Systems. Page 95
  5. ^ "太政官時代". Archived from the original on 2012-07-10. Retrieved 2014-01-09.