Prime Minister from 1889-1891 and 1898-1900.
Cabinet List Yamagato Aritomo cabinet 1
Cabinet List Yamagato Aritomo cabinet 2
Total Tenure as Prime Minister: 1,210 days.
Born in Yamaguchi (Choshu
YAMAGATA Aritomo was a military-politician from the feudal domain of Choshu
(modern Yamaguchi prefecture). He is not only considered the principal
architect of Japan’s modern military, but was also one of the most influential
figures in Japanese politics during the Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-1926)
Yamagata was born on 14 June 1838 into a low-ranking samurai family in
Hagi, the castle town of Choshu
. He became one of the leaders of the radical loyalist movement to overthrow
the Tokugawa shogunate and commanded the Kiheitai, a semimodern militia
unit, in the civil wars of 1867/68. In 1870 he was appointed assistant
vice-minister of military affairs following a year abroad to study European
military systems, and in 1873 he assumed leadership of the Army Ministry.
He is credited with the enactment of the Conscription Ordinance of 1873,
the suppression in 1877 of the Satsuma Rebellion led by Saigo Takamori
, and the 1878 reorganization of the army along Prussian-German lines.
Yamagata resigned as army minister in December 1878 and became the first
chief of the General Staff. He issued a series of regulations culminating
in the Imperial Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors of 1882, emphasizing absolute
loyalty to the emperor and enjoining soldiers to eschew politics. His initiation
of a law (1900) that permitted only generals and admirals on active duty
to serve as service ministers in the cabinet set a pattern of military
life free from outside interference.
In the 1880s, Yamagata started an astonishing political career. He served
as home minister from 1883 to 1889, during which time he reorganized the
ministry, the police, and local government systems. He also served as prime
minister from 1889 to 1890 and again from 1898 to 1900. His two prime ministerships
reflected his conservative view that the government should act as a responsible
servant of the emperor, not of the people, and that political parties should
be prevented from infiltrating the bureaucracy, forming cabinets, or holding
executive power. During his first term, he was the moving force behind
the 1890 Imperial Rescript on Education. In 1899, during his second term,
civil service laws that denied key posts in the bureaucracy to political
party members were issued.
Yamagata's greatest satisfaction came from his contributions to Japan's
achievement of a new place in the international order. A month after the
outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895, he was appointed commander
of the First Army. However, his field service was cut short by serious
illness. In 1896 he led a diplomatic mission to Moscow that produced the
Yamagata-Lobanov Agreement, giving Russia and Japan equal rights and privileges
in Korea. During the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) he served as chief of
the General Staff once again. For his services to the nation he was named
prince in 1907.
During the last 20 years of his life Yamagata was the most influential
member of the group of elder statesmen known as the genro. From behind
the scenes he played an important advisory role in foreign affairs and
virtually dictated the selection of prime ministers until his death. For
many years, as a power base he held the post of the president of the Privy
Council and also headed of a strong political faction, including KATSURA Taro
(1848-1913), TERAUCHI Masatake
(1852-1919), TANAKA Giichi
(1863-1929), and others. Yamagata died on 1 February 1922.
Bronze Statue of Yamagata Aritomo in Hagi (formerly placed in Inokashira
Postcard showing portrait of Yamagata Aritomo (Taisho period) and original
photograph of Yamagata from the Meiji period
Collectors statue of Yamagata Aritomo (offered in a Yahoo Japan auction