Saionji Kinmochi, 1849-1940

西園寺公望
Prime Minister 1906-1908, 1911-1912
Ca inet list Saionji Kinmochi I cabinet
Ca inet list Saionji Kinmochi II cabinet
Total Tenure in Office: 1,400 days.
Born in Kyoto.

Born in Kyoto as the second son of court noble Tokudaiji Kin'ito, Kinmochi was adopted at the age of two into the Saionji family. Both his own and adopted families are branches of the Fujiwara family. At age 18, Saionji became part of the new Meiji government and was appointed san'yo (junior councillor). In 1868, during the Boshin Civil War that followed the Meiji Restoration, he took part in fighting as an imperial representative. Saionji then went to France, where he studied philosophy, European institutions and law between 1871 and 1880.
In 1881 he was made president of the antigovernment newspaper Toyo jiyu shimbun (Oriental Free Press) but had to resign under imperial order. In 1882 he accompanied the constitutional investigations group of Ito Hirobumi to Europe.
After his return to Japan, Saionji became a member of the Privy Council and served as vice-president of the House of Peers. As minister of education in Ito Hirobumi's second and third cabinets (189296 and 1898), he advocated and worked for an international standard for Japanese education. When the Rikken Seiyukai political party was formed in 1900, Saionji was a member of the organizing committee. In 1900 Saionji succeeded Ito as president of the Privy Council, and in 1903 he became president of the Seiyukai.
From 1901 until 1913, Katsura Taro and Saionji alternated as prime minister. In 1906 Saionji formed his first cabinet and in 1911 his second, which was brought down by the army (army minister Uehara Yusaku) in 1912. On Saionji's resignation, the emperor accorded him treatment as a genro (elder statesman). In 1918 Hara Takashi became prime minister, with Saionji's support. Saionji was appointed Japanese plenipotentiary to the Paris Peace Conference and was raised in the peerage from marquis to prince.
As genro, with his major function to nominate prime ministers, Saionji favored the political parties only when he thought they could form effective governments and accordingly recommended nonparty governments in 1913, 1923, and 1924. After the outbreak of promilitarist violence in the May 15th Incident of 1932, Saionji again chose 渡eutral nonparty cabinets, attempting to restrain the military's growing power. Saionji's last exercise of a significant role in recommending a prime minister was in 1937, when he supported General Hayashi Senjuro. Saionji died in 1940 at the age of 91.
Saionji is known as the founder of Meiji Horitsu Gakko (Meiji Law School, now Meiji University, Tokyo) and Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto.