Hara Takashi
was a Japanese
Japanese people
The are an ethnic group originating in the Japanese archipelago and are the predominant ethnic group of Japan. Worldwide, approximately 130 million people are of Japanese descent; of these, approximately 127 million are residents of Japan. People of Japanese ancestry who live in other countries...

A politician, political leader, or political figure is an individual who is involved in influencing public policy and decision making...

 and the 19th Prime Minister of Japan
Prime Minister of Japan
The is the head of government of Japan. He is appointed by the Emperor of Japan after being designated by the Diet from among its members, and must enjoy the confidence of the House of Representatives to remain in office...

 from 29 September 1918 to 4 November 1921. He was also called Hara Kei (or Hara Satoshi) informally. He was the first commoner
In British law, a commoner is someone who is neither the Sovereign nor a peer. Therefore, any member of the Royal Family who is not a peer, such as Prince Harry of Wales or Anne, Princess Royal, is a commoner, as is any member of a peer's family, including someone who holds only a courtesy title,...

 appointed to the office of prime minister of Japan. His catch phrase as a politician was .

Early life

Hara was born in a village of the feudal Morioka domain in Mutsu province
Mutsu Province
was an old province of Japan in the area of Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate and Aomori prefecture and the municipalities of Kazuno and Kosaka in Akita Prefecture...

, (present-day Iwate Prefecture
Iwate Prefecture
is the second largest prefecture of Japan after Hokkaido. It is located in the Tōhoku region of Honshū island and contains the island's easternmost point. The capital is Morioka. Iwate has the lowest population density of any prefecture outside Hokkaido...

). He was the son of a samurai
is the term for the military nobility of pre-industrial Japan. According to translator William Scott Wilson: "In Chinese, the character 侍 was originally a verb meaning to wait upon or accompany a person in the upper ranks of society, and this is also true of the original term in Japanese, saburau...

-class family which had resisted the Meiji Restoration
Meiji Restoration
The , also known as the Meiji Ishin, Revolution, Reform or Renewal, was a chain of events that restored imperial rule to Japan in 1868...

 and the establishment of the very government which Hara himself would one day lead. Due to his association with a former enemy clan of the new Imperial Government, which was dominated by the feudal clans of Chōshū and Satsuma, Hara for long remained an outsider in the world of politics.

He left home at the age of 15 and went to Tokyo
, ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...

 by boat. He failed the entrance examination of the prestigious Imperial Japanese Naval Academy
Imperial Japanese Naval Academy
The was a school established to train officers for the Imperial Japanese Navy. It originally located in Nagasaki, moved to Yokohama in 1866, and was relocated to Tsukiji, Tokyo in 1869. It moved to Etajima, Hiroshima in 1888...

, and instead joined the Marin Seminary, a French-established, free parochial school
Parochial school
A parochial school is a school that provides religious education in addition to conventional education. In a narrower sense, a parochial school is a Christian grammar school or high school which is part of, and run by, a parish.-United Kingdom:...

. It was here that he learned to speak French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 fluently. Soon after that he joined the law school of the Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Justice (Japan)
The is one of Ministries of the Japanese government.-Meiji Constitution:The Ministry of Justice was established under the Constitution of the Empire of Japan in 1871 as the .-Constitution of Japan:...

 (later University of Tokyo
University of Tokyo
, abbreviated as , is a major research university located in Tokyo, Japan. The University has 10 faculties with a total of around 30,000 students, 2,100 of whom are foreign. Its five campuses are in Hongō, Komaba, Kashiwa, Shirokane and Nakano. It is considered to be the most prestigious university...

), but left without graduating to take responsibility for a student protest against the school’s room and board policy.

At the age of 17 he was baptized as a Roman Catholic, taking the name of ‘David’, and even though it was speculated that he became Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 for personal gain at the time, he remained a Christian in public life until the day he died. At the age of 19, Hara broke away from his family's and chose instead the classification of . At various times later in his political career, offers were made to raise his rank, but Hara refused them every time on the basis that it would alienate himself from the common men and limit his ability to gain entrance to the House of Representatives.

In 1879, Hara worked as a newspaper reporter for three years. He quit his job in protest over efforts of his editors to make the newspaper a mouthpiece for the conservative Rikken Kaishintō
Rikken Kaishinto
The was a political party in Empire of Japan. It was also known as simply the ‘Kaishintō’.The Kaishintō was founded by Ōkuma Shigenobu on 16 April 1882, with the assistance of Yano Ryūsuke, Inukai Tsuyoshi and Ozaki Yukio. It received financial backing by the Mitsubishi zaibatsu, and had strong...

 political party
Political party
A political party is a political organization that typically seeks to influence government policy, usually by nominating their own candidates and trying to seat them in political office. Parties participate in electoral campaigns, educational outreach or protest actions...

 of Ōkuma Shigenobu
Okuma Shigenobu
Marquis ; was a statesman in the Empire of Japan and the 8th and 17th Prime Minister of Japan...


Government bureaucrat

In 1882, Hara took a position in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Japan)
The is a cabinet level ministry of Japan responsible for the country's foreign relations.The ministry is due to the second term of the third article of the National Government Organization Act , and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Establishment Act establishes the ministry...

 at the request of Foreign Minister
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Japan)
The of Japan is the Cabinet member responsible for Japanese foreign policy and the chief executive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.Since the end of the American occupation of Japan, the position has been one of the most powerful in the Cabinet, as Japan's economic interests have long relied on...

 Inoue Kaoru
Inoue Kaoru
Count , GCMG was a member of the Meiji oligarchy during the Meiji period Empire of Japan. As one of the senior statesman in Japan during that period, he had a tremendous influence on the selection of the nation's leaders and formation of its policies.-Early years:...

. Based on discussions Hara had with him on his views for the future of Japanese politics during a trip both men took to Korea
Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

 in 1884, Inoue appointed Hara to become consul-general in Tianjin
' is a metropolis in northern China and one of the five national central cities of the People's Republic of China. It is governed as a direct-controlled municipality, one of four such designations, and is, thus, under direct administration of the central government...

, and the first secretary to the embassy of Japan in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

. Under Mutsu Munemitsu
Mutsu Munemitsu
Count was a statesman and diplomat in Meiji period Japan.-Early life:Mutsu Munemitsu was born in Wakayama domain, Kii Province as the sixth son of Date Munehiro, a samurai retainer of the Kii Tokugawa clan...

 (1844–1897), Hara served as Vice-minister of Foreign Affairs and as ambassador to Korea
Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

. He then left the Foreign Ministry to work as a journalist
A journalist collects and distributes news and other information. A journalist's work is referred to as journalism.A reporter is a type of journalist who researchs, writes, and reports on information to be presented in mass media, including print media , electronic media , and digital media A...

 for several years, and became the manager of a newspaper
A newspaper is a scheduled publication containing news of current events, informative articles, diverse features and advertising. It usually is printed on relatively inexpensive, low-grade paper such as newsprint. By 2007, there were 6580 daily newspapers in the world selling 395 million copies a...

 company, the Osaka
is a city in the Kansai region of Japan's main island of Honshu, a designated city under the Local Autonomy Law, the capital city of Osaka Prefecture and also the biggest part of Keihanshin area, which is represented by three major cities of Japan, Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe...

 Mainichi Shimbun
Mainichi Shimbun
The is one of the major newspapers in Japan, published by .-History:The history of the Mainichi Shimbun begins with founding of two papers during the Meiji period. The Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shimbun was founded first, in 1872. The Mainichi claims that it is the oldest existing Japanese daily newspaper...


Political career

In 1900, Hara returned to politics and joined the new-founded party Rikken Seiyukai
Rikken Seiyukai
The was one of the main political parties in the pre-war Empire of Japan. It was also known simply as the ‘Seiyūkai'Founded on September 15, 1900 by Itō Hirobumi , the Seiyūkai was a pro-government alliance of bureaucrats and former members of the Kenseitō. The Seiyūkai was the most powerful...

that was founded by Itō Hirobumi
Ito Hirobumi
Prince was a samurai of Chōshū domain, Japanese statesman, four time Prime Minister of Japan , genrō and Resident-General of Korea. Itō was assassinated by An Jung-geun, a Korean nationalist who was against the annexation of Korea by the Japanese Empire...

. Hara became the first secretary-general of the party.

He ran successfully for the lower house as a representative from Iwate Prefecture, and was appointed Minister of Communications
Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications
The ' or Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is a cabinet-level ministry in the Government of Japan. The English name Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications was used prior to 2004...

 in the Fourth Ito Administration
Ito Hirobumi
Prince was a samurai of Chōshū domain, Japanese statesman, four time Prime Minister of Japan , genrō and Resident-General of Korea. Itō was assassinated by An Jung-geun, a Korean nationalist who was against the annexation of Korea by the Japanese Empire...

. He later served as Home Minister
Home Ministry (Japan)
The ' was a Cabinet-level ministry established under the Meiji Constitution that managed the internal affairs of Empire of Japan from 1873-1947...

 in several cabinets between 1906 and 1913. Hara was also able to effect many reforms from the powerful position of Home Minister. Hara realized that a fundamental political issue in Japan was the tension between the elected government and the appointed bureaucracy, and his career was dedicated to weakening the power of the non-elected bureaucrats. As Home Minister, he systematically dismissed local bureaucrats in local governments in every capacity from Governor down to high school principal. Any public employee who fell under his power, would be replaced by someone in whom he saw real ability instead of a mere useful recipient of a favor. Thus, he created a system in which people with talent could rise to the top of the bureaucracy, regardless of their background or rank. Hara also understood that maintenance of the supremacy of the elected leaders depended on the government’s ability to develop the Japanese national infrastructure
Infrastructure is basic physical and organizational structures needed for the operation of a society or enterprise, or the services and facilities necessary for an economy to function...

 and on a long-term economic plan that would address regional as well as national interests.

In 1914, after heated debate, he was appointed the president of the Rikken Seiyūkai
Rikken Seiyukai
The was one of the main political parties in the pre-war Empire of Japan. It was also known simply as the ‘Seiyūkai'Founded on September 15, 1900 by Itō Hirobumi , the Seiyūkai was a pro-government alliance of bureaucrats and former members of the Kenseitō. The Seiyūkai was the most powerful...

 to replace the outgoing and aging leader Saionji Kinmochi
Saionji Kinmochi
Prince was a Japanese politician, statesman and twice Prime Minister of Japan. His title does not signify the son of an emperor, but the highest rank of Japanese hereditary nobility; he was elevated from marquis to prince in 1920...

. This period is often called Taishō democracy
Taisho period
The , or Taishō era, is a period in the history of Japan dating from July 30, 1912 to December 25, 1926, coinciding with the reign of the Taishō Emperor. The health of the new emperor was weak, which prompted the shift in political power from the old oligarchic group of elder statesmen to the Diet...

, which represented the move away from Japan's traditional system of government and toward something that could be called a real parliamentary democracy. Under Hara's leadership, the Rikken Seiyukai gained supporters steadily and in 1917, it became the largest party in the Diet
Diet of Japan
The is Japan's bicameral legislature. It is composed of a lower house, called the House of Representatives, and an upper house, called the House of Councillors. Both houses of the Diet are directly elected under a parallel voting system. In addition to passing laws, the Diet is formally...


Hara held strong views about his opponents, the military powers and politicians who originated from the Kagoshima
Kagoshima Prefecture
is a prefecture of Japan located on the island of Kyushu. The capital is the city of Kagoshima.- Geography :Kagoshima Prefecture is located at the southwest tip of Kyushu and includes a chain of islands stretching further to the southwest for a few hundred kilometers...

 and Yamaguchi
Yamaguchi Prefecture
is a prefecture of Japan in the Chūgoku region on Honshū island. The capital is the city of Yamaguchi, in the center of the prefecture. The largest city, however, is Shimonoseki.- History :...

 Prefectures, i.e. the former Satsuma and Chōshū clans.

Prime minister

In 1918, Terauchi Masatake
Terauchi Masatake
, GCB was a Japanese military officer and politician. He was a Field Marshal in the Imperial Japanese Army and the 18th Prime Minister of Japan from 9 October 1916 to 29 September 1918.-Early period:...

 fell from office due to the Rice Riots of 1918
Rice Riots of 1918
The ' were a series of popular disturbances that erupted throughout Japan from July to September 1918, which brought about the collapse of the Terauchi Masatake administration.-Causes:...

. Hara was appointed as his successor on 28 September 1918. It was the first party administration in Japan and the first cabinet headed by a commoner. More important, this marked the only time in pre-1945 Japan that the post of prime minister was held by an elected member of the legislature who was the leader of the largest party therein, not a grandee, a bureaucrat, or a soldier. Also, Hara was the first civilian in Japanese history to become the administrative chief of any of the armed services, when he temporarily took charge of the Navy Ministry, in absence of the Navy Minister, Admiral Katō Tomosaburō
Kato Tomosaburo
Viscount was a career officer in the Imperial Japanese Navy, cabinet minister, and Prime Minister of Japan from 12 June 1922 to 24 August 1923.-Biography:...

, who was serving as the Japanese representative at the Washington Naval Conference
Washington Naval Conference
The Washington Naval Conference also called the Washington Arms Conference, was a military conference called by President Warren G. Harding and held in Washington from 12 November 1921 to 6 February 1922. Conducted outside the auspices of the League of Nations, it was attended by nine nations...


As prime minister, Hara suffered in terms of popularity, because he refused to use his majority in the lower house to force through universal suffrage legislation
General Election Law
The ' was a law passed in Taishō period Japan, extending suffrage to all males aged 25 and over. It was proposed by the Kenseito political party and it was passed by the Diet of Japan on 5 May 1925.-Background:...

. Hara's cautious approach disappointed liberals and socialists, who accused him of delaying universal suffrage as it would endanger his position in power. As a party politician, Hara had never been the favorite of the conservatives, bureaucrats and military, and he was widely despised by the ultranationalists.

During his term of office, Japan participated in the Paris Peace Conference
Paris Peace Conference, 1919
The Paris Peace Conference was the meeting of the Allied victors following the end of World War I to set the peace terms for the defeated Central Powers following the armistices of 1918. It took place in Paris in 1919 and involved diplomats from more than 32 countries and nationalities...

, and joined the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 as a founding member. In Korea, Japan used military force to suppress the Samil Rebellion
March 1st Movement
The March 1st Movement, or Samil Movement, was one of the earliest public displays of Korean resistance during the occupation of the Korean Empire by Japan. The name refers to an event that occurred on March 1, 1919, hence the movement's name, literally meaning "Three-One Movement" or "March First...

, but later began more lenient policies aimed at reducing opposition to Japanese rule.

Particularly following the Samil Uprising, Hara pursued a conciliatory policy towards colonies, particularly Korea. He arranged for his political ally, Saitō Makoto
Saito Makoto
Viscount was an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy, two-time Governor-General of Korea from 1919 to 1927 and from 1929 to 1931, and the 30th Prime Minister of Japan from May 26, 1932 to July 8, 1934.-Early life:...

, a political moderate, to take over as governor-general of Korea; he instituted a colonial administration consisting mainly of civilians rather than military; and he permitted a degree of cultural freedom, including (for the first time) a school curriculum that featured Korean language and history. He also sought to encourage a limited amount of self-rule in the country - provided that, ultimately, Koreans remained under Japanese imperial control. His overtures, however, won few supporters either among Koreans or Japanese; the former considered them inadequate, the latter considered them excessive.

In 1921, Hara was assassinated (stabbed) by a right-wing railroad switchman Kon'ichi Nakaoka at Tōkyō Station
Tokyo Station
is a train station located in the Marunouchi business district of Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan, near the Imperial Palace grounds and the Ginza commercial district....

. Nakaoka was released only 13 years after committing the murder.
As opposed to many of his contemporaries, Hara lived a relatively simple lifestyle in a rented home near Shiba Park in downtown Tokyo. In his will, he left very few assets behind but among these was his diary. He wrote "After a period of some years my diary must be made public. It is the most valuable of all my possessions, so it must be protected." According to the will it was made public and what came to be called the turned out to be one of the most valuable first hand accounts of the political scene in that era. Most of his daily activities are written along with opinions and thoughts regarding the political figures of the time. The diary itself is thousands of pages long but reveals, in depth, a broad range of information previously unknown to historians.

External links

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