Katsura Tarō

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Katsura Tarō
桂 太郎
11 KatsuraT.jpg
Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal of Japan
In office
21 August 1912 – 21 December 1912
Preceded byTokudaiji Sanetsune
Succeeded byPrince Fushimi Sadanaru
Prime Minister of Japan
In office
21 December 1912 – 20 February 1913
Preceded bySaionji Kinmochi
Succeeded byYamamoto Gonnohyōe
In office
14 July 1908 – 30 August 1911
Preceded bySaionji Kinmochi
Succeeded bySaionji Kinmochi
In office
2 June 1901 – 7 January 1906
Preceded bySaionji Kinmochi (Acting)
Succeeded bySaionji Kinmochi
Minister of War
In office
12 January 1898 – 23 December 1900
Prime MinisterItō Hirobumi
Yamagata Aritomo
Ōkuma Shigenobu
Preceded byTakashima Tomonosuke
Succeeded byKodama Gentarō
Governor General of Taiwan
In office
2 June 1896 – 14 October 1896
Preceded byKabayama Sukenori
Succeeded byNogi Maresuke
Personal details
Born(1848-01-04)4 January 1848
Hagi, Nagato, Japan
Died10 October 1913(1913-10-10) (aged 65)
Tokyo, Japan
Cause of deathStomach cancer
Resting placeShōin Jinja, Setagaya, Tokyo
Political partyConstitutional Association of Allies (1913)
Other political
Independent (1896–1913)
SpouseKatsura Kanako (1875–1940)
ProfessionSoldier and politician
AwardsSee Decorations
Military service
Allegiance Empire of Japan
Branch/service Imperial Japanese Army
Years of service1870–1901
Rank帝國陸軍の階級―襟章―大将.svg 帝國陸軍の階級―肩章―大将.svg General
CommandsIJA 3rd Division
Battles/warsBoshin War
First Sino-Japanese War

Prince Katsura Tarō (桂 太郎, 4 January 1848 – 10 October 1913) was a Japanese politician and general of the Imperial Japanese Army who served as the Prime Minister of Japan from 1901 to 1906, from 1908 to 1911, and from 1912 to 1913.

Katsura was a distinguished general of the First Sino-Japanese War and a genrō of the Meiji government who served as Governor-General of Taiwan and Minister of War. Katsura was appointed Prime Minister in 1901 as a military candidate and positioned himself as a conservative outside party politics. Katsura's first and second premierships oversaw several major events in modern Japanese history, including the Russo-Japanese War and the annexation of Korea. Katsura's third premiership triggered the Taisho Political Crisis, and he resigned three months later after a vote of no confidence.

Katsura is the second-longest serving Prime Minister of Japan, after Shinzo Abe, and served for 2883 days (7 years and 330 days) over his three terms from 1901 to 1913.

Early life[edit]

Katsura was born on 4 January 1848 in Hagi, Nagato Province (present-day Yamaguchi Prefecture) as the eldest son of horse guard Katsura Yoichiemon into a samurai family of the Chōshū Domain. As a youth, Katsura joined the movement against the Tokugawa shogunate and participated in the Boshin War[1] that led to the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

Army career[edit]

The new Meiji government considered that Katsura displayed great talent, and in 1870 sent him to Germany to study military science. He served as military attaché at the Japanese embassy in Germany from 1875 to 1878 and again from 1884 to 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.[2]

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.[2]

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

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

Prime Minister[edit]

Prince Katsura Tarō during his premiership

Katsura Tarō served as the 11th, 13th and 15th prime minister of Japan. His position as the longest-serving prime minister of Japan (total length) was surpassed by Shinzō Abe on 20 November 2019.

First administration[edit]

Katsura became prime minister for the first time on 2 June 1901, and he retained the office for four and a half years to 7 January 1906, which was then a record in Japan.[2] 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.[2]

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

Second administration[edit]

Katsura Taro

Katsura returned as Prime Minister from 14 July 1908, to 30 August 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 21 December 1912, to 20 February 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.[3]


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

Katsura died of stomach cancer eight months later on 10 October 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.


From the corresponding article in the Japanese Wikipedia

A bronze statue of Katsura Tarō on the top of the stairs of Takushoku University in Hachiōji, Tokyo
A memorial stone that commemorates the opening of Sasago railway tunnel. The epigraph was written by Taro Katsura.


  • Viscount (20 August 1895)
  • Count (27 February 1902)[4]
  • Marquess (21 September 1907)
  • Prince (21 April 1911)





  1. ^ "明治宰相列伝 : 桂太郎 | 国立公文書館". www.archives.go.jp. Retrieved 19 February 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d e  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Katsura, Taro, Marquess". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 697.
  3. ^ Public Domain Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Katsura, Taro". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 31 (12th ed.). London & New York: The Encyclopædia Britannica Company. p. 676.
  4. ^ "Latest intelligence – Japan". The Times. No. 36703. London. 28 February 1902. p. 3.
  5. ^ "The London Gazette, 14 July 1905".

External links[edit]

Media related to Katsura Tarō at Wikimedia Commons

Political offices
Preceded by Prime Minister of Japan
21 December 1912 – 20 February 1913
Succeeded by
Preceded by Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal
21 August 1912 – 21 December 1912
Succeeded by
Preceded by Foreign Minister (acting)
21 December 1912 – 29 January 1913
Succeeded by
Preceded by Prime Minister of Japan
14 July 1908 – 30 August 1911
Succeeded by
Preceded by Finance Minister
14 July 1908 – 30 August 1911
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Education
14 December 1905 – 7 January 1906
Succeeded by
Preceded by Home Minister
12 October 1903 – 20 February 1904
Succeeded by
Preceded by Prime Minister of Japan
2 June 1901 – 7 July 1906
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of War
12 January 1898 – 23 December 1900
Succeeded by
Preceded by Governor General of Taiwan
2 June 1896 – 14 October 1896
Succeeded by