Ito Hirobumi, 1841-1909
First Prime Minister of modern Japan, Prime Minister four times: 1885-1888,
1892-1896, 1898, 1900-1901
Cabinet List, cabinet Ito Hirobumi I
Cabinet List, cabinet Ito Hirobumi II
Cabinet List, cabinet Ito Hirobumi III
Cabinet List, cabinet Ito Hirobumi IV
Total Tenure as Prime Minister: 2,720 days
Born in Yamaguchi (Choshu
Ito was born in 1841 in the feudal domain of Choshu
(present Yamaguchi prefecture) and adopted to a samurai family. He gained
gained samurai status for himself in 1863. A visit to England in the same
year convinced him of the necessity of modernising Japan. Following the
of 1868, Ito served as a junior councillor in a number of different ministries.
He was a member of the mission sent abroad (1871) under Prince Iwakura
Tomomi to revise the unequal treaties with the Western powers and study
Western technology. In 1873, Ito became a member of the ruling council
and worked to modernize Japan and solidify the power of the oligarchs from
Choshu and Satsuma domains. The death of Kido Takayoshi in 1877 and the
assassination of Okubo Toshimichi
in 1878 signaled a change in Japanese political leadership. Ito, now home
minister, and Finance Minister Okuma Shigenobu
emerged as the most powerful figures in government. After the forced resignation
of Okuma Shigenobu
Ito became one of the most powerful personalities in Japanese politics.
In 1883, having returned from nearly one and a half years of study in Europe
(notably in Germany) under leading constitutional scholars, Ito and others
set to work in drafting the Constitution of the Empire of Japan. After
the cabinet system was introduced in 1885, replacing the Dajokan as the
decision-making state organisation, Ito became the first Prime Minister.
In 1885 he negotiated the Convention of Tientsin with Li Hung-chang of
China. He remained head of the Privy council while Kuroda Kiyotaka
and Yamagata Aritomo
were Prime Ministers.
Ito was prime minister again from 1892 to 1896, during which time Japan
defeated China in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895. He represented Japan
in negotiating the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which formally concluded the
war. The victory signaled Japan's emergence as the dominant East Asian
power, but it also marked the point at which Japanese foreign policy began
to emphasize Western-style territorial expansion. In 1901, he became the
first leader of the Seiyukai party. He remained a power in the government
as the premiership alternated between Saionji Kimmochi
and Katsura Taro
In November 1905 following the Russo-Japanese War, Korea was occupied by
Japanese forces and the Korean government was made to sign a Protectorate
Treaty, Ito became the first Resident General (kankoku tokan韓国統監) in
1907. He forced the Korean ruler, King Kojong, to abdicate and he established
a full Japanese protectorate over Korea, thus paving the way for annexation.
Ito resigned as resident general in 1909. However, during a tour of Manchuria
later that year he was assassinated in Harbin by An Chung-gun, a Korean
nationalist, which provoked the annexation of Korea in 1910.
After his death and throughout the prewar period, Ito Hirobumi was on the
1,000 Yen note. In Hagi, Yamaguchi, his birthplace
is now a tourist attraction.