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Katsura Taro

Katsura Tarō
桂 太郎
6th Prime Minister of Japan
In office
21 December 1912 – 20 February 1913
Monarch Taishō
Preceded by Saionji Kinmochi
Succeeded by Yamamoto Gonnohyōe
In office
14 July 1908 – 30 August 1911
Monarch Meiji
Preceded by Saionji Kinmochi
Succeeded by Saionji Kinmochi
In office
2 June 1901 – 7 January 1906
Monarch Meiji
Preceded by Saionji Kinmochi (Acting)
Succeeded by Saionji Kinmochi
Governor General of Taiwan
In office
2 June 1896 – 14 October 1896
Monarch Meiji
Preceded by Kabayama Sukenori
Succeeded by Nogi Maresuke
Personal details
Born (1848-01-04)4 January 1848
Hagi, Chōshū Domain, Japan
Died 10 October 1913(1913-10-10) (aged 65)
Tokyo, Japan
Political party Constitutional Association of Friends (1913)
Other political
affiliations
Independent (1896–1913)
Profession General
Signature

Prince Katsura Tarō (桂 太郎?, 4 January 1848 – 10 October 1913), was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army, politician and three-time Prime Minister of Japan.

Early life

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

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 Liaotung 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 2 June 1896 to October 1896.

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

As Prime Minister

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

First Katsura Administration

Katsura became Prime Minister for the first time on 2 June 1901 and retained the office for four and a half years to 7 January 1906, which was a record in Japan at that time. During his four year first term 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 Russia in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. During his tenure, the Taft-Katsura agreement regarding the issue of Japanese hegemony over Korea was reached with the United States. During this term, Katsura received the Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George from King Edward of Great Britain, 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 Seiyukai, the majority party of the lower house, headed by his arch-rival, Marquess Saionji Kinmochi.

In January 1906, Katsura resigned the premiership to Saionji Kinmochi over controversy and unpopularity of the 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 Katsura Administration

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, which was 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 his personal fortune, and the interests of the military (gunbatsu) over the welfare of the people. 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 Katsura Administration

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 overthrown rule by the Constitution. However, rather than compromising, Katsura created his own political party, the Rikken Doshikai in an effort to establish his own support base.

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 and the Diet was held by his new Rikken Doshikai party.

Death

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.

Honors

From the corresponding article in the Japanese World Heritage Encyclopedia

Titles

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

Decorations

References

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

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