Kōtarō Tanaka (judge)

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Kōtarō Tanaka (circa 1955)

Kōtarō Tanaka (田中耕太郎) (25 October 1890 – 1 March 1974) was a Japanese jurist, professor of law and politician who served as the last Minister of Education of the Empire of Japan and the second postwar Chief Justice of Japan.

Early life[edit]

Tanaka was born in Kagoshima, the eldest son of judge Tanaka Hideo, who had been born in Takeo, in the present-day Saga Prefecture. After completing secondary school in Niigata, he completed high school in Fukuoka and went on to the Imperial Naval Academy. In 1914, he enrolled at Tokyo Imperial University and passed the advanced civil service examinations. He graduated the following year with honours, and was awarded a silver watch from the Taisho Emperor. He then worked at the Home Ministry until 1917, when he was appointed an assistant professor at Tokyo Imperial University.

Following studies in Europe and the United States, he was promoted to full professor of commercial law at the university in 1923. The following year, he married Matsumoto Mineko, a devout Catholic who converted him to Catholicism. He was baptized in April 1926 by Fr. William Hoffman, the first president of Sophia University. Subsequently, Tanaka endeavoured to discover positive meanings in national laws, which until then had been regarded as a necessary evil, also working on a "theory of world law." He received his Juris Doctorate in 1929 and became dean of the faculty of law at Tokyo Imperial University. In 1941, he was elected as an imperial academician (predecessor to the Japan Academy).

Parliamentarian and Chief Justice of Japan[edit]

In October 1945, Tanaka became the Director of Education in the Ministry of Education, and joined the first Yoshida cabinet the following May as the last Minister of Education of the Empire of Japan. He was appointed to the House of Peers in June of same year, shortly before its abolition. In 1947, he stood for election to the House of Councillors and won. Among the signatories of the new Japanese Constitution, he was instrumental in drafting the Basic Education Law.

After resigning his seat in 1950, Tanaka was appointed Chief Justice of Japan, serving until 1961. He became a dedicated anti-communist in the postwar years.

Later life[edit]

In 1961, Tanaka was appointed as a jurist on the International Court of Justice at the Hague. During his time on the court, he issued two separate opinions, one dissenting opinion and two affirming opinions for the five cases he issued judgement on. In particular, his dissenting opinion on a case in 1966 involving South-West Africa is still quoted today.

Tanaka died in 1974 at St. Mary's Hospital in Tokyo, aged 83.



Order of precedence[edit]

  • Senior second rank (3 March 1974; posthumous)

Foreign honours[edit]