- Hara Takashi
name = Hara Takashi
caption =Prime Minister of Japan
birth_date =birth date|1856|2|9|df=y
Morioka, Mutsu Province, Japan
death_date =death date and age|1921|11|4|1856|2|9|df=y
Prime Minister of Japan
29 September 1918
4 November 1921
occupation =Cabinet Minister
footnotes = nihongo|Hara Takashi|原敬 (
9 February 1856– 4 November 1921) was a Japanese politicianand the 19th Prime Minister of Japanfrom 29 September 1918to 4 November 1921. He was also called Hara Kei (or Hara Satoshi) informally. He was the first commonerappointed to the office of prime minister of Japan. His catch phrase as a politician was nihongo|"commoner and prime minister"|平民宰相|heimin saishō.
Hara was born in a village of the feudal
Moriokadomain in Mutsu province, (present-day Iwate Prefecture). He was the son of a " samurai"-class family which had resisted the Meiji Restorationand 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
Tokyoby boat. He failed the entrance examination of the prestigious Imperial Japanese Naval Academy, and instead joined the Marin Seminary, a French-established, free religious school. It was here that he learned to speak French fluently. Soon after that he joined the law school of the Ministry of Justice, 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 was speculated that he became Christianfor personal gain at the time, he remained a Christian in public life until the day he diedFact|date=June 2008. At the age of 19, Hara broke away from his family's nihongo|"samurai" class|士族|shizoku and chose instead the classification of nihongo|commoner|平民|heimin. 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 Kaishinto political partyof Okuma Shigenobu.
In 1882, Hara took a position in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the request of Foreign Minister
Inoue Kaoru. Based on discussions Hara had with him on his views for the future of Japanese politics during a trip both men took to Koreain 1884, Inoue appointed Hara to become consul-general in Tianjin, and the first secretary to the embassy of Japan in Paris. Under Mutsu Munemitsu(1844–1897), Hara served as Vice-minister of Foreign Affairs and as ambassador to Korea. He then left the Foreign Ministry to work as a journalistfor several years, and became the manager of a newspapercompany, the Osaka Mainichi Shimbun.
In 1900, Hara returned to politics and joined the new-founded party "
Rikken Seiyukai" that was founded by Ito Hirobumi. 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 in the Fourth Ito Administration. He later served as Home Minister 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
infrastructureand 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 Seiyukaito replace the outgoing and aging leader Saionji Kinmochi. This period is often called "Taishō democracy", 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.
Terauchi Masatakefell from office due to the Rice Riots of 1918. 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, who was serving as the Japanese representative at the Washington Naval Conference.
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. 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 ultranationists.
During his term of office, Japan participated in the Paris Peace Conference, and joined the
League of Nationsas a founding member. In Korea, Japan used military force to suppress the Samil Rebellion, 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,
Makoto Saito, 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
Tokyo Station. 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 nihongo|Hara Diary|原日記|hara nikki 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.
* Najita, Tetsuo: "Hara Kei in the Politics of Compromise 1905-1915." Harvard Univ. Press, 1967.
* Olson, L. A.: "Hara Kei – A Political Biography." Ph.D.diss. Harvard University, 1954.
* Duus, Peter: Party "Rivalry and Political Change in Taisho Japan." Cambridge/Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1968.
* [http://www2.city.morioka.iwate.jp/14kyoiku/harakei/hara/top/index.html Hara Kei Memorial Hall]
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