National / History

Liberal Party founder Itagaki favored Louis Vuitton goods, 1883 purchase record shows

Kyodo

Louis Vuitton bags and purses are among the most luxurious brands beloved in Japan. But a recent purchase record shows that Itagaki Taisuke, a historic politician who pushed for democracy in the late 19th century, was also a Louis Vuitton fan.

A record unearthed by Louis Vuitton in France showed that Itagaki (1837-1919) bought a suitcase over 130 years ago, apparently in January 1883, while traveling through Europe for about six months to see how prevalent democracy was in the West.

The actual suitcase has been donated by his descendants to Kochi Liberty and People’s Rights Museum in the city of Kochi. Go Kumon, an executive of a nonprofit group that aims to spread Itagaki’s ideals, had been urging Louis Vuitton to check for records of his purchases.

The unearthed records, made public earlier this month, contained Itagaki’s name and his initials I.T., as well as 7720, the same serial number as the one on the suitcase. It also had Jan. 9 written in French — the day he apparently bought it.

According to Kumon, there was also a record of Sameshima Naonobu, Japanese ambassador to France, purchasing a suitcase five years before Itagaki did. A similar record was found for Goto Shojiro, a native of the Satsuma domain, but attempts to find both suitcases have failed.

The museum is planning to put Itagaki’s suitcase on display in October.

Itagaki, a native of the Tosa domain, or what is now Kochi, founded the first political party in modern Japan, the Liberal Party, in 1881.

In 1882, Itagaki was almost assassinated by a right-winger to whom he allegedly said, “Itagaki may die, but liberty never will!”