Osachi Hamaguchi

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Osachi Hamaguchi
濱口 雄幸
Hamaguchi Osachi 1.jpg
Prime Minister of Japan
In office
10 March 1931 – 14 April 1931
Monarch Hirohito
Preceded by Kijūrō Shidehara (acting)
Succeeded by Wakatsuki Reijirō
In office
2 July 1929 – 14 November 1930
Monarch Hirohito
Preceded by Tanaka Giichi
Succeeded by Kijūrō Shidehara (acting)
Personal details
Born (1870-04-01)1 April 1870
Kōchi, Japan
Died 26 August 1931(1931-08-26) (aged 61)
Tokyo, Japan
Resting place Aoyama Cemetery, Tokyo, Japan
Political party Rikken Minseitō (1927–1931)
Other political
affiliations
Kenseikai (until 1927)
Spouse(s) Natsuko Hamaguchi
Alma mater Tokyo Imperial University
Signature

Osachi Hamaguchi (濱口 雄幸 Hamaguchi Osachi, also Hamaguchi Yūkō?, 1 April 1870 – 26 August 1931) was a Japanese politician, cabinet minister and Prime Minister of Japan from 2 July 1929 to 14 April 1931. He was nicknamed the "Lion Prime Minister" (ライオン宰相?) due to his physical features.[citation needed]

Early life and career[edit]

Hamaguchi was born in Nagaoka District, Tosa Province (now part of Kōchi city, Kōchi Prefecture on the island of Shikoku). He was the third son of Minaguchi Tanehira, an official in the local forestry department, and took the Hamaguchi name on his marriage to Hamaguchi Natsuko in 1889. Hamaguchi graduated from the Law College of Tokyo Imperial University in 1895 and began his career as a bureaucrat in the Ministry of Finance.[1] In 1907, he rose to the position of Director of the Monopoly Bureau. He became Vice Communications Minister in 1912 and Vice Finance Minister in 1914.

Political career[edit]

Hamaguchi joined the Rikken Dōshikai political party led by Kato Takaaki in 1915, which became the Kenseikai in 1916. Hamaguchi was elected to the lower house in the Japanese Diet in 1915 from the Kōchi Second District, and was to hold onto this seat until his death in 1931.

In June 1924, Hamaguchi served as Finance Minister under the first Katō administration, holding the same portfolio under the 1st Wakatsuki administration from January–June 1926. As Finance Minister, he pursued fiscal retrenchment, and proposed reducing government spending by 17 percent and laying off tens of thousands of government workers; however, his policies had to be scaled considerably back due to strenuous opposition from government bureaucrats.[2]

Hamaguchi was subsequently Home Minister in the Wakatsuki cabinet from June 1926 to April 1927. In a continuation of his efforts while as Finance Minister, Hamaguchi promoted a moral campaign through sponsorship of movies which emphasized thrift and reduced public consumption, with the goal of helping reduce Japan’s trade deficit.[3]

In 1927, Hamaguchi became the chairman of the new Rikken Minseitō political party formed by the merger of the Kenseikai and the Seiyu Hontō.

The 1st Hamaguchi administration[edit]

After the collapse of the administration of Tanaka Giichi in June 1929, Hamaguchi was selected to become Prime Minister of Japan and formed a cabinet based largely on Minseitō party members, which supported domestic economic reforms over overseas military adventurism.[4] With a strong sense of his own rectitude and a tough, stubborn temperament, Hamaguchi inspired trust, promising that he was "ready to die if necessary" for the good of the country during his inaugural speech and promising an administration free of corruption.

Hamaguchi's primary concern was the Japanese economy, which had been in an ever-increasing recession since the end of World War I, and had been greatly weakened by the devastation caused by the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake. Hamaguchi promoted retrenchment, deflation and the rationalization of industry. The 1929 Great Depression, starting soon after he took office, put further pressure on the economy.

Initial public confidence and strong support from Emperor Hirohito and his entourage, including the genrō Saionji Kinmochi allowed Hamaguchi to implement fiscal austerity measures, which included ratification of the London Naval Treaty of 1930, which curtailed military spending. However, his measures to help stimulate exports, such as maintaining the Japanese yen on the gold standard, proved disastrous.

The failure of Hamaguchi's economic policies played into the hands of right-wing elements, already enraged by the government's conciliatory foreign policies and Japan’s increasing unemployment problems. The opposition Rikken Seiyūkai joined forces with the vocal anti-Treaty faction within the Imperial Japanese Navy to accuse Hamaguchi of infringing of the military's "right of supreme command" as guaranteed under the Meiji Constitution.[5]

The spot at Tokyo Station where Osachi Hamaguchi was shot
Plaque at Tokyo Station commemorating the shooting of Osachi Hamaguchi

Hamaguchi's initial popularity quickly waned, and he fell victim to an assassination attempt on 14 November 1930 when he was shot inside Tokyo Station by Tomeo Sagoya, a member of the Aikoku-sha ultranationalist secret society. (Nine years earlier another Prime Minister, Hara Takashi, had been assassinated near the same place.) The head of the Aikoku-sha was headed by Seiyūkai politician Ogawa Heikichi.[6] The wounds kept Hamaguchi hospitalized for several months.

The 2nd Hamaguchi administration[edit]

Hamaguchi was reelected to a second term as Prime Minister of Japan in March 1931. However, with his health continuing to deteriorate, he was unable to attend the 59th Session of the Imperial Diet, which opened with Foreign Minister Kijūrō Shidehara as acting Prime Minister. The Seiyūkai immediately attacked the government on the grounds that the Prime Minister was not physically present, and that Shidehara was not even a member of the Minseitō. When Shidehara further created an uproar with a comment concerning Emperor Hirohito's support of the London Naval Treaty, the Seiyūkai refused to participate in budget deliberations until Hamaguchi could attend. Despite his failing health, Hamaguchi was forced to attend the Diet, but resigned a month later to be replaced by Wakatsuki Reijirō.[7] He died on 26 August of the same year, and his grave is at the Aoyama Cemetery in Tokyo.

In 1931 Hamaguchi's cabinet sponsored a bill on women's suffrage. It would have granted women over the age of 25 the right to vote in local elections and stand for office given their husbands' approval. The bill passed the lower house, but it was defeated in the House of Peers in March 1931 by a vote of 184 to 62.[8]

Honours[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Jansen. The Making of Modern Japan. Page 510
  2. ^ Lever of Empire, p. 155.
  3. ^ Metzler, page 155
  4. ^ Hirohito, p. 208-209.
  5. ^ Bix. Page 210
  6. ^ Bix. Page 211-212
  7. ^ "3-18 Shooting of Prime Minister HAMAGUCHI Osachi". Modern Japan in Archives. National Diet Library of Japan. 2006. Retrieved 12 January 2013. 
  8. ^ Nolte, Sharon H. "Women's Rights and Society's Needs: Japan's 1931 Suffrage Bill," Comparative Studies in Society and History, October 1986, Vol. 28, No. 4, p. 690-714.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Kijūrō Shidehara (acting)
Prime Minister of Japan
10 March 1931 – 14 April 1931
Succeeded by
Wakatsuki Reijirō
Preceded by
Tanaka Giichi
Prime Minister of Japan
2 July 1929 – 14 November 1930
Succeeded by
Kijūrō Shidehara (acting)
Preceded by
Wakatsuki Reijirō
Home Minister
3 June 1926– 20 April 1927
Succeeded by
Suzuki Kisaburō
Preceded by
Kazue Shōda
Finance Minister
30 January 1926 - 20 April 1927
Succeeded by
Seiji Hamaya