Katsura Tarō

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Katsura Tarō
桂 太郎
11 KatsuraT.jpg
Prince Katsura Tarō, c.early 1900s
Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal of Japan
In office
August 21, 1912 – December 21, 1912
Monarch Taishō
Preceded by Tokudaiji Sanetsune
Succeeded by Prince Fushimi Sadanaru
6th Prime Minister of Japan
In office
December 21, 1912 – February 20, 1913
Monarch Taishō
Preceded by Saionji Kinmochi
Succeeded by Yamamoto Gonnohyōe
In office
July 14, 1908 – August 30, 1911
Monarch Meiji
Preceded by Saionji Kinmochi
Succeeded by Saionji Kinmochi
In office
June 2, 1901 – January 7, 1906
Monarch Meiji
Preceded by Saionji Kinmochi (Acting)
Succeeded by Saionji Kinmochi
5th Minister of War of the Japanese Empire
In office
January 12, 1898 – December 23, 1900
Monarch Meiji
Preceded by Takashima Tomonosuke
Succeeded by Kodama Gentarō
Governor General of Taiwan
In office
June 2, 1896 – October 14, 1896
Monarch Meiji
Preceded by Kabayama Sukenori
Succeeded by Nogi Maresuke
Personal details
Born (1848-01-04)January 4, 1848
Hagi, Chōshū Domain, Japan
Died October 10, 1913(1913-10-10) (aged 65)
Tokyo, Japan
Cause of death Stomach cancer
Political party Constitutional Association of Allies (1913)
Other political
affiliations
Independent (1896–1913)
Profession General
Signature

Prince Katsura Tarō (桂 太郎, January 4, 1848 – October 10, 1913) was a Japanese general in the Imperial Japanese Army, politician and the longest serving Prime Minister of Japan, having served three terms.

Early life[edit]

Katsura was born into a samurai family from Hagi, Chōshū Domain (present day Yamaguchi Prefecture). As a youth, he joined the movement against the Tokugawa shogunate and participated in some of the major battles of the Boshin War that led to the Meiji Restoration.

Army career[edit]

The new Meiji government considered that Katsura displayed great talent, and sent him to Germany to study military science. He served as military attaché at the Japanese embassy in Germany from 1875–1878 and again from 1884-1885. On his return to Japan, he was promoted to major general. He served in several key positions within the Imperial Japanese Army, and in 1886 was appointed Vice-Minister of War.

During the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895) Katsura commanded the IJA 3rd Division under his mentor, Field Marshal Yamagata Aritomo. During the war, his division made a memorable march in the depth of winter from the north-east shore of the Yellow Sea to Haicheng, finally occupying Niuchwang, and effecting a junction with the IJA 2nd Army which had moved up the Liaodong Peninsula.

After the war, he was elevated with the title of shishaku (viscount) under the kazoku peerage system. He was appointed 2nd Governor-General of Taiwan from June 2, 1896 to October 1896.

In successive cabinets from 1898 to 1901, he served as Minister of War.

Prime Minister[edit]

Katsura Tarō served as the 11th, 13th and 15th Prime Minister of Japan. He remains the longest-serving Prime Minister of Japan to date.[citation needed]

First administration[edit]

Katsura became Prime Minister for the first time on June 2, 1901, and he retained the office for four and a half years to January 7, 1906, which was then a record in Japan. Japan emerged as a major imperialist power in East Asia. In terms of foreign affairs, it was marked by the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902 and victory over the Russian Empire in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. During his tenure, the Taft–Katsura agreement, accepting Japanese hegemony over Korea, was reached with the United States. Katsura received the Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George from British King Edward VII and was elevated to the rank of marquess by Emperor Meiji.

In terms of domestic policy, Katsura was a strictly-conservative politician who attempted to distance himself from the Diet of Japan and party politics. His political views mirrored that of Yamagata Aritomo in that he viewed that his sole responsibility was to the Emperor. He vied for control of the government with the Rikken Seiyūkai, the majority party of the lower house, headed by his archrival, Marquess Saionji Kinmochi.

In January 1906, Katsura resigned the premiership to Saionji Kinmochi over the unpopularTreaty of Portsmouth (1905), ending the war between Japan and Russia. However, his resignation was part of a "back door deal," brokered by Hara Takashi to alternate power between Saionji and Hara.

On April 1, 1906, he was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum.

Second administration[edit]

Katsura returned as Prime Minister from July 14, 1908 to August 30, 1911. His second term was noteworthy for the Japan–Korea Annexation Treaty of 1910. He also promulgated the Factory Act in 1911, the first act for the purpose of labor protection in Japan.

Katsura was increasingly unpopular during his second term over public perception that he was using his office to further both his personal fortune and the interests of the military (gunbatsu) over the welfare of the people.[citation needed] He also faced growing public dissatisfaction over the persistence of the hanbatsu domainal based politics.

After his resignation, he became a kōshaku (公爵 = prince), Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal of Japan and one of the genrō.

Third administration[edit]

Katsura's brief reappointment again as Prime Minister again from December 21, 1912 to February 20, 1913 sparked widespread riots in what became known as the Taisho Political Crisis. His appointment was viewed as a plot by the genrō to overthrow the Meiji Constitution. However, rather than compromising, Katsura created his own political party, the Rikken Dōshikai(Constitutional Association of Allies) in an effort to establish his own support base.[citation needed]

However, faced with a no-confidence motion, the first successful one in Japanese history, and the loss of the support of his backers, he was forced to resign in February 1913. He was succeeded by Yamamoto Gonnohyōe.

Death[edit]

The funeral carriage leaving Katsura's residence en route to Zōjō-ji in October 1913

Katsura died of stomach cancer eight months later on October 10, 1913, aged 65. His funeral was held at the temple of Zōjō-ji in Shiba, Tokyo and his grave is at the Shōin Jinja, in Setagaya, Tokyo.

Honors[edit]

From the corresponding article in the Japanese Wikipedia

Titles[edit]

  • Viscount (August 20, 1895)
  • Count (February 27, 1902)[1]
  • Marquess (September 21, 1907)
  • Prince (April 21, 1911)

Decorations[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Latest intelligence - Japan". The Times (36703). London. 28 February 1902. p. 3. 
  2. ^ The London Gazette, 14 July 1905

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Saionji Kinmochi
Prime Minister of Japan
December 21, 1912 – February 20, 1913
Succeeded by
Yamamoto Gonnohyōe
Preceded by
Tokudaiji Sanetsune
Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal
August 21, 1912 – December 21, 1912
Succeeded by
Prince Fushimi Sadanaru
Preceded by
Uchida Kosai
Foreign Minister (acting)
December 21, 1912 – January 29, 1913
Succeeded by
Katō Takaaki
Preceded by
Saionji Kinmochi
Prime Minister of Japan
July 14, 1908 – August 30, 1911
Succeeded by
Saionji Kinmochi
Preceded by
Masahisa Matsuda
Finance Minister
July 14, 1908 – August 30, 1911
Succeeded by
Yamamoto Tatsuo
Preceded by
Yuzuru Kubota
Minister of Education
December 14, 1905 – January 7, 1906
Succeeded by
Saionji Kinmochi
Preceded by
Kodama Gentarō
Home Minister
October 12, 1903 – February 20, 1904
Succeeded by
Yoshikawa Akimasa
Preceded by
Itō Hirobumi
Prime Minister of Japan
June 2, 1901 – July 7, 1906
Succeeded by
Saionji Kinmochi
Preceded by
Takashima Tomonosuke
Minister of War
January 12, 1898 – December 23, 1900
Succeeded by
Kodama Gentarō
Preceded by
Kabayama Sukenori
Governor General of Taiwan
June 2, 1896 – October 14, 1896
Succeeded by
Nogi Maresuke