Katsura Taro, 1847-1913

桂太郎
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 out.
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.