Politics

Prime Ministers Of Japan Through History

The Prime Minister is the Japanese head of government, selected by the National Diet and ceremonially appointed by the Emperor.

History of Japanese Government

Between 1185 and 1868 AD, military lords ruled Japan in a kind of feudal system with the help of the Samurai Warrior class. Their position of power was inherited and proclaimed by the Emperor, who took no active part in administering the government, and let the lords essentially do as they pleased within their respective fiefdoms. This system changed with the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Emperor Meiji took over governing power of Japan thus restoring practical imperial rule. In 1889, the country implemented the Meiji Constitution which created the first parliamentary system. A new constitution, the Constitution of Japan, was implemented in 1947 to promote democracy, and the parliamentary system remained.

Prime Minister of Japan

Under the parliamentary system, the emperor appoints a prime minister who is the head of government in Japan. This position has the power to appoint ministers of other administrative bodies. The prime minister must have support of the House of Representatives in order to maintain his/her appointment. Since 1885, the country has had 64 prime ministers, some of whom have served several terms. This article takes a look at the most notable among them.

Notable Prime Ministers of Japan

The first prime minister of the country was Ito Hirobumi, who served in the role over the course of four separate terms. These terms were from 1885 to 1888, from 1892 to 1896, in 1898, and from 1900 to 1901. He was influential during the Meiji Restoration and helped to draft the first constitution. Between his first and second terms, he remained involved in the government in an advisory committee to the emperor. He helped lead the country into the First Sino-Japanese War with China to gain control of Korea during his second term as prime minister. In 1898, he only served for 6 months because of his forced resignation. Opposing political parties did not agree with his plan for land taxes. He again became prime minister in 1900 and again was faced with political opposition. He resigned in 1901.

The longest serving prime minister of the Taisho Emperor was Hara Takashi. Prime minister Takashi filled the role from September 29, 1918 to November 4, 1921 after his predecessor was removed from office due to increasing rice prices and economic hardship throughout the country. Takashi was the first civilian prime minister having neither military nor bureaucratic experience. He lost popular support when he refused to push a law granting universal suffrage. Under Takashi, Korea gained limited self-ruling power and its military-controlled colonial administration was replaced by civilians. In 1921, a railroad switch-man stabbed him to death.

During the reign of the Showa Emperor, Hideki Tojo was the longest serving prime minister. His term lasted from October 18, 1941 to July 22, 1944. He rose to power by beginning his political career as Army Minister, a position he continued to hold while prime minister. During his term, he was also Home Minister, Foreign Minister, Education Minister, and Minister of Commerce and Industry. He governed under a totalitarian ideology which he promoted in the public education system. Throughout World War II, he held popular support until Japan began to lose the war. It was Tojo who called for the attack on Pearl Harbor, turning the United States against Japan. When the war ended, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East arrested, tried, and sentenced Tojo to death. He was hanged on December 23, 1948.

Emperor Showa maintained control until the year 1989. Since 1989, Japan has been in the Heisei Period under Emperor Akihito. A complete list of the former prime ministers of Japan can be found below.

Prime Ministers Of Japan Through History

Prime Ministers of Japan Term(s) in Office
Itō Hirobumi 1885-1888; 1892-1896; 1898; 1900-1901
Kuroda Kiyotaka 1888-1889
Sanjō Sanetomi 1889
Yamagata Aritomo 1889-1891; 1898-1900
Matsukata Masayoshi 1891-1892; 1896-1898
Ōkuma Shigenobu 1898; 1914-1916
Katsura Tarō 1901-1906; 1908-1911; 1912-1913
Saionji Kinmochi 1906-1908; 1911-1912
Yamamoto Gonnohyōe 1913-1914; 1923-1924
Terauchi Masatake 1916-1918
Hara Takashi 1918-1921
Takahashi Korekiyo 1921-1922
Katō Tomosaburō 1922-1923
Kiyoura Keigo 1924
Katō Takaaki 1924-1926
Wakatsuki Reijirō 1926-1927; 1931
Tanaka Giichi 1927-1929
Hamaguchi Osachi 1929-1931
Inukai Tsuyoshi 1931-1932
Saitō Makoto 1932-1934
Okada Keisuke 1934-1936
Hirota Kōki 1936-1937
Hayashi Senjūrō 1937
Konoe Fumimaro 1937-1939; 1940-1941
Hiranuma Kiichirō 1939
Abe Nobuyuki 1939-1940
Yonai Mitsumasa 1940
Tōjō Hideki 1941-1944
Koiso Kuniaki 1944-1945
Suzuki Kantarō 1945
Prince Higashikuni no miya Naruhiko ō 1945
Shidehara Kijūrō 1945-1946
Yoshida Shigeru 1946-1947; 1948-1954
Katayama Tetsu 1947-1948
Ashida Hitoshi 1948
Hatoyama Ichirō 1954-1956
Ishibashi Tanzan 1956-1957
Kishi Nobusuke 1957-1960
Ikeda Hayato 1960-1964
Satō Eisaku 1964-1972
Tanaka Kakuei 1972-1974
Miki Takeo 1974-1976
Fukuda Takeo 1976-1978
Ōhira Masayoshi 1978-1980
Itō Masayoshi 1980
Suzuki Zenkō 1980-1982
Nakasone Yasuhiro 1982-1987
Takeshita Noboru 1987-1989
Uno Sōsuke 1989
Kaifu Toshiki 1989-1991
Miyazawa Kiichi 1991-1993
Hosokawa Morihiro 1993-1994
Hata Tsutomu 1994
Murayama Tomiichi 1994-1996
Hashimoto Ryūtarō 1996-1998
Obuchi Keizō 1998-2000
Mori Yoshirō 2000-2001
Koizumi Jun'ichirō 2001-2006
(Incumbent) Abe Shinzō 2006-2007; 2012-Present
Fukuda Yasuo 2007-2008
Asō Tarō 2008-2009
Hatoyama Yukio 2009-2010
Kan Naoto 2010-2011
Noda Yoshihiko 2011-2012

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