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) eras.
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 Park, Tokyo)

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 in 2003)

Yamagata Aritomo (1838-1922)