Prime Minister 1901-1906, 1908-1911, 1912-1913.
Cabinet list Katsura Taro I cabinet I
Cabinet list Katsura Taro I cabinet II
Cabinet list Katsura Taro I cabinet III
Total Tenure in Office: 2,886 days.
Born in Yamaguchi (Choshu
At age 17, Katsura joined the movement in Choshu
against the Tokugawa shogunate and fought in some of the major campaigns
leading up to the Meiji Restoration
of 1868. In the early 1870s he studied military science in Germany, and
served as military attache to the Japanese embassy in Germany from 1875
to 1878. In 1884 and 1885 he again visited Europe to study military systems.
He served in several key military posts, and in 1896, Katsura was appointed
governor-general of Taiwan and then army minister in successive cabinets
from 1898 to 1900.
In 1901 Katsura became prime minister, and in the succeeding years he presided
over a series of foreign policy moves that established Japan as a major
imperialist power in East Asia: the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902, the
Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, and Japan's annexation of Korea in 1910.
In domestic politics, Katsura engaged in a power struggle for power with
the Rikken Seiyukai, the majority party in the lower house of the Diet.
He sustained his prime ministerships through a compromise with the party
by which he agreed to alternate the premiership with Saionji Kimmochi
, the party's president. Although this period is often referred to as the
Katsura-Saionji decade (Kei-en jidai), it was primarily through Hara Takashi
(Kei), the party secretary, that this compromise arrangement was worked
In 1906, Katsura resigned because of public dissatisfaction with the Portsmouth
Treaty that had ended the war with Russia. As prime minister again (1908-11),
he pushed through the annexation of Korea and engaged in a struggle with
the Diet over expansion of the military budget. Katsura became increasingly
unpopular through the course of the decade, however, as a symbol of domainal
(hanbatsu) and military clique (gunbatsu) politics and as the sentiment
spread that he was using his office to further his personal ambitions and
the interests of the military at the expense of the people. His reappointment
as prime minister in 1912 was widely interpreted as an example of genro
manipulation. The major parliamentary parties united in opposition, organized
mass demonstrations, and passed a nonconfidence motion. Katsura lost support
of the genro when he attempted to form a new party and sought imperial
intervention to rescind the nonconfidence motion. He was nonetheless forced
to resign (Taisho Political Crisis). He died eight months later.
With the 1,681 days of the first Katsura cabinet and the mere 62 days of
the third Katsura cabinet, Katsura Taro headed the most longlived and the
most shortlived cabinet in Japanese history. He is also known as the founder
of what is today Takushoku University
. In his hometown Hagi, Yamaguchi we can find the remains of his birthplace