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Itō Hirobumi

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Itō Hirobumi

Itō Hirobumi
伊藤 博文
1st, 5th, 7th, and 10th Prime Minister of Japan
In office
October 19, 1900 – May 10, 1901
Monarch Meiji
Preceded by Yamagata Aritomo
Succeeded by Saionji Kinmochi (Acting)
In office
January 12, 1898 – June 30, 1898
Monarch Meiji
Preceded by Matsukata Masayoshi
Succeeded by Ōkuma Shigenobu
In office
August 8, 1892 – August 31, 1896
Monarch Meiji
Preceded by Matsukata Masayoshi
Succeeded by Kuroda Kiyotaka (Acting)
In office
December 22, 1885 – April 30, 1888
Monarch Meiji
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Kuroda Kiyotaka
Resident General of Korea
In office
December 21, 1905 – June 14, 1909
Monarch Meiji
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Sone Arasuke
Personal details
Born (1841-10-16)October 16, 1841
Tsukari, Suo Province, Japan
Died October 26, 1909(1909-10-26) (aged 68)
Harbin, Manchuria, China
Nationality Japan
Political party Friends of Constitutional Government (1900–1909)
Other political
Independent (Before 1900)
Spouse(s) Itō Umeko
Alma mater University College London
Occupation Government

Prince Itō Hirobumi, (伊藤 博文, October 16, 1841 – October 26, 1909, also called Hirofumi/Hakubun and Shunsuke in his youth) was a samurai of Chōshū domain, Japanese statesman, four time Prime Minister of Japan (the 1st, 5th, 7th and 10th), genrō and Resident-General of Korea. Itō was assassinated by Korean nationalist An Jung-geun.[1] The politician, intellectual, and author Suematsu Kenchō was Itō's son-in-law, having married his second daughter, Ikuko.


Early years

Letter of Itō Hirobumi

Itō was born as the son of Hayashi Jūzō. He was originally named Hayashi Risuke. His father Hayashi Jūzō was the adopted son of Mizui Buhei who was an adopted son of Itō Yaemon's family, a lower ranked samurai from Hagi, Chōshū Domain (present-day Yamaguchi prefecture). Mizui Buhei was renamed to Itō Naoemon. Mizui Jūzō took the name Itō Jūzō, and Hayashi Risuke was renamed to Itō Shunsuke at first, then Itō Hirobumi. He was a student of Yoshida Shōin at the Shōka Sonjuku and later joined the Sonnō jōi movement ("to revere the Emperor and expel the barbarians"), together with Kido Takayoshi. Itō was chosen to be one of the "Chōshū Five" who studied at University College London in 1863, and the experience in Great Britain convinced him of the necessity of Japan adopting Western ways.

In 1864, Itō returned to Japan with fellow student Inoue Kaoru to attempt to warn Chōshū Domain against going to war with the foreign powers (the Bombardment of Shimonoseki) over the right of passage through the Straits of Shimonoseki. At that time, He met Ernest Satow for the first time, later a lifelong friend.

Political career

After the Meiji Restoration, Itō was appointed governor of Hyōgo Prefecture, junior councilor for Foreign Affairs, and sent to the United States in 1870 to study Western currency systems. Returning to Japan in 1871, he established Japan's taxation system. Later that year, he was sent on the Iwakura Mission around the world as vice-envoy extraordinary, during which he won the confidence of Ōkubo Toshimichi, one of the leaders of the Meiji government.

In 1873, Itō was made a full councilor, Minister of Public Works, and in 1875 chairman of the first Assembly of Prefectural Governors. He participated in the Osaka Conference of 1875. After Ōkubo's assassination, he took over the post of Home Minister and secured a central position in the Meiji government. In 1881 he urged Ōkuma Shigenobu to resign, leaving himself in unchallenged control.

Itō went to Europe in 1882 to study the constitutions of those countries, spending nearly 18 months away from Japan. While working on a constitution for Japan, he also wrote the first Imperial Household Law and established the Japanese peerage system (kazoku) in 1884.

In 1885, he negotiated the Convention of Tientsin with Li Hongzhang, normalizing Japan's diplomatic relations with Qing Dynasty China.

As Prime Minister

In 1885, based on European ideas, Itō established a prime minister of Japan.

On April 30, 1888, Itō resigned as prime minister, but headed the new Privy Council to maintain power behind-the-scenes. In 1889, he also became the first genrō. The Meiji Constitution was promulgated in February 1889. He had added to it the references to the kokutai or "national polity" as the justification of the emperor's authority through his divine descent and the unbroken line of emperors, and the unique relationship between subject and sovereign.[2] This stemmed from his rejection of some European notions as unfit for Japan, as they stemmed from European constitutional practice and Christianity.[2]

He remained a powerful force while Kuroda Kiyotaka and Yamagata Aritomo, his political nemeses, were prime ministers.

Statues of Count Mutsu (Right) and Prince Itō (Left) at Shimonoseki

During Itō's second term as prime minister (August 8, 1892 – August 31, 1896), he supported the First Sino-Japanese War and negotiated the Treaty of Shimonoseki in March 1895 with his ailing foreign minister Mutsu Munemitsu. In the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Commerce and Navigation of 1894, he succeeded in removing some of the onerous unequal treaty clauses that had plagued Japanese foreign relations since the start of the Meiji period.

During Itō's third term as prime minister (January 12 – June 30, 1898), he encountered problems with Rikken Seiyūkai in 1900. Itō's womanizing was a popular theme in editorial cartoons and in parodies by contemporary comedians, and was used by his political enemies in their campaign against him.

Itō returned to office as prime minister for a fourth term from October 19, 1900, to May 10, 1901, this time facing political opposition from the House of Peers. Weary of political back-stabbing, he resigned in 1901, but remained as head of the Privy Council as the premiership alternated between Saionji Kimmochi and Katsura Tarō.

Toward the end of August 1901, Itō announced his intention of visiting the United States to recuperate. This turned into a long journey in the course of which he visited the major cities of the United States and Europe, setting off from Yokohama on September 18, traveling through the U.S. to New York City (Itō received an honorary doctorate LL.D. from Yale University in late October[3]), from which he sailed to Boulogne, reaching Paris on November 4. On November 25, he reached Saint Petersburg, having been asked by the new prime minister, Katsura Tarō, to sound out the Russians, entirely unofficially, on their intentions in the Far East. Japan hoped to achieve what it called Man-Kan kōkan, the exchange of a free hand for Russia in Manchuria for a free hand for Japan in Korea, but Russia, feeling greatly superior to Japan and unwilling to give up its ability to use Korean ports for its navy, was in no mood to compromise; its foreign minister, Vladimir Lamsdorf, "thought that time was on the side of his country because of the (Trans-Siberian) railway and there was no need to make concessions to the Japanese."[4] Itō left empty-handed for Berlin (where he received honors from Kaiser Wilhelm), Brussels, and London. Meanwhile, Katsura had decided that Man-Kan kōkan was no longer desirable for Japan, which should not renounce activity in Manchuria. When Itō reached London, he had talks with Lord Lansdowne which helped lay the groundwork for the Anglo-Japanese Alliance announced early the following year. The failure of his mission to Russia was "one of the most important events in the run-up to the Russo-Japanese War."[5]

It was during his terms as Prime Minister that he invited Professor Yale University to serve as a diplomatic adviser to promote mutual understanding between Japan and the United States. It was because of his series of lectures he delivered in Japan revolutionizing its educational methods, that he was the first foreigner to receive the Second Class honor (conferred by the Meiji Emperor in 1907) and the Third Class honor (conferred by The Meiji Emperor in 1899), Orders of the Rising Sun. He later wrote a book on his personal experiences in Korea and with Resident-General Itō.[6][7][8] When he died, half his ashes were buried in a Buddhist temple in Tokyo and a monument was erected to him.[7][9]

As Resident-General of Korea

Prince Itō and the Crown Prince of Korea Yi Un.

In November 1905, following the Russo-Japanese War, Japan–Korea Treaty of 1905 was made between the Empire of Japan and the Empire of Korea,[10][11] making Korea a Japanese protectorate. After the treaty had been signed, Itō became the first Resident-General of Korea on December 21, 1905. In 1907, he urged Emperor Gojong to abdicate in favor of his son Sunjong and secured the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty of 1907, giving Japan its authorities to control Korea's internal affairs. Itō's position, however, was nuanced. He was firmly against Korea falling into China or Russia's sphere of influence, which would cause a grave threat to Japan's national security. But, he was actually against the annexation, advocating instead that Korea should remain as a protectorate. When the cabinet eventually voted for annexing Korea, he insisted and proposed a delay, hoping that the annexation decision could be reversed in the future.[12] His political nemesis came when the politically influential Imperial Japanese Army, led by Yamagata Aritomo, whose main faction was advocating annexation forced Itō to resign on June 14, 1909. His assassination is believed to have accelerated the path to the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty.[13]


Itō arrived at the Harbin Railway Station on October 26, 1909 for a meeting with Vladimir Kokovtsov, a Russian representative in Manchuria. When he arrived and proceeded to meet his Russian colleague, An Jung-geun, a Korean nationalist[13] and independence activist,[14][15] fired six shots at him. Three of those shots hit Itō in the chest and he died shortly thereafter. Itō's body was returned to Japan on the Imperial Japanese Navy cruiser Akitsushima, and he was later accorded a state funeral.[16]


A Series C 1,000 yen note of Japan.

A portrait of Itō Hirobumi was on the Series C 1,000 yen note of Japan from 1963 until a new series was issued in 1984. His former house is preserved as a museum near the Shōin Jinja, in Hagi city, Yamaguchi prefecture. However, the actual structure was Itō's second home, formerly located in Shinagawa, Tokyo.

The publishing company Hakubunkan was named after Itō, based on an alternate pronunciation of his given name.

Evaluation in modern Korea

According to the Annals of Sunjong, Gojong said on October 28, 1909 that Itō Hirobumi made great efforts to develop civilization. However, the Annals of Gojong and of Sujong are regarded as unreliable by the National Institute of Korean History, given that these two Annals or sillocks are not designated as National Treasures of South Korea and UNESCO's World Heritage unlike other silloks due to Japanese influence exerted on them.[17]

The 1979 North Korean film, An Jung-gun Shoots Ito Hirobumi, is an account of Hirobumi's assassination from the North Korean perspective. The 1973 South Korean film Femme Fatale: Bae Jeong-ja is the life of Itō's adopted daughter Bae Jeong-ja (1870–1950).

Itō proclaimed that if East Asians did not closely cooperate with each other, all three would fall to the victims of Western imperialism. Gojong and the Joseon government believed these claims and agreed to help the Japanese military.[18] However, the opinion of Joseon soon turned against Japan over Japanese actions, including confiscation of lands, drafting civilians for forced labor, and executing those that resisted.[18] Ironically, his assassin, An Jung-geun, strongly believed in a union of the three East Asian nations in order to counter and fight off the "White Peril",[13] since the European countries engaged in colonialism. He hoped the union would restore peace in the region.


  • Hayashi family
 ∴Hayasi Awajinokami
 ┃    ┃    ┃Hayasi Magoemon ┃     ┃     ┃    ┃     ┃
Michimoto Michiyo Michisige     Michiyoshi Michisada Michikata Michinaga Michisue
           ┃Hayasi Magosaburō
           ┃Hayasi Magoemon
 ┃Hayasi Magoemon ┃     ┃    ┃
Nobuaki      Sakuzaemon Sojyurō  Matazaemon
 ┃                    ┃
 ┃                    ┃
 ┃Hayasi Hanroku            ┃
Nobuhisa                 Genzō
 ┃                    ┃
 ┣━━━━━┓              ┃
 ┃     ┃              ┃
Sōzaemon  Heijihyōe          Yoichiemon
       ┃              ┃
 ┏━━━━━┻━━━┓       ┏━━━┫
 ┃Hayasi Hanroku ┃      ┃   ┃
Rihachirō     Riemon    Masuzō Sukezaemon
                      ┃adopted son of Hayasi Rihachirō
      ┃Itō ┃Hayasi Shinbei's wife ┃Morita Naoyoshi's wife
     Jyuzō woman          woman
 ┃Itō   ┃Kida  ┃Itō   ┃   ┃
Hirokuni Humiyoshi Shinichi woman woman
 ┃Itō   ┃Shimizu ┃Itō     ┃Itō  ┃Itō   ┃Itō   ┃Itō   ┃Itō    ┃Itō   ┃Itō    ┃   ┃  ┃
Hirotada  Hiroharu Hiromichi  Hiroya Hirotada Hiroomi Hironori Hirotsune Hirotaka Hirohide woman woman woman
 ┃Itō   ┃   ┃  ┃   ┃  ┃
Hiromasa  woman woman woman woman woman
 ┃Itō   ┃
Tomoaki  woman
  • Itō family
Itō Yaemon
Itō Naoemon (Mizui Buhei)Yaemon's adopted son
Itō Jyuzō (Hayashi Jyuzo)Naoemon's adopted son
Itō Hirobumi (Hayashi Risuke)


From the Japanese WorldHeritage article



See also


  1. ^ Dudden, Alexis (2005). Japan's Colonization of Korea: Discourse and Power. University of Hawaii Press.  
  2. ^ a b W. G. Beasley,The Rise of Modern Japan, pp. 79-80 ISBN 0-312-04077-6
  3. ^ "United States" The Times (London). Thursday, October 24, 1901. (36594), p. 3.
  4. ^ Ian Nish, The Origins of the Russo-Japanese War (Longman, 1985; ISBN 0582491142), p. 118.
  5. ^ Nish, The Origins of the Russo-Japanese War, p. 116.
  6. ^ Topics of the Week: "George Trumbull Ladd," New York Times. February 22, 1908.
  7. ^ a b "Business: Japanese Strip," Time Magazine. May 8, 1939.
  8. ^ "American Honored by the Japanese," The New York Times. October 22, 1899.
  9. ^ "Great Head Temple Sôjiji". 2007. Retrieved July 29, 2009. 
  10. ^ 이토 히로부미는 직접~ :한계옥 (1998년 4월 10일). 〈무력을 앞장 세워 병탄으로〉, 《망언의 뿌리를 찾아서》, 조양욱, 1판 1쇄, 서울: (주)자유포럼, 97~106쪽쪽. ISBN 89-87811-05-0
  11. ^ Lee Hang-bok."The King's Letter," English JoongAng Daily. September 22, 2009.
  12. ^ Umino, Fukuju (2004). Hirobumi Ito and Korean Annexation (Ito hirobumi to kankoku heigou) (in Japanese). Aoki Shoten.  
  13. ^ a b c  
  14. ^ "What Defines a Hero?". Japan Society. Retrieved January 29, 2008. 
  15. ^ An, Jung-geun, Naver encyclopedia
  16. ^ Nakamura, Kaju (2010) [1910]. Prince Ito - The Man and Statesman - A Brief History of His Life. Lulu Press (reprint).  
  17. ^ Yu Seok-jae (유석재) (January 14, 2007). 고종·순종실록의 '찜찜한' 인터넷 공개 [Questionable contents of Annals of Gojong and Sunjong exposed to public] (in Korean).  
  18. ^ a b Lee Jeong-sik (이정식) (May 2001). 긴급대특집, 일본 역사교과서 왜곡파문 [Special report on Japan's history textbook issue.] (in Korean).  
  19. ^ "Latest intelligence - Germany" The Times (London). Monday, 16 December 1901. (36639), p. 6.
  20. ^ "Latest intelligence - Russia and Japan" The Times (London). Saturday, November 30, 1901. (36626), p. 7.
  21. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27397. p. 295. 14 January 1902.
  22. ^ "Court circular" The Times (London). Friday, 17 January 1902. (36667), p. 8.


  • Nish, Ian. (1998) The Iwakura Mission to America and Europe: A New Assessment. Richmond, Surrey: Japan Library. 10-ISBN 1873410840/13-ISBN 9781873410844; 10-ISBN 9780415471794/13-ISBN 0415471796; OCLC 40410662

Further reading

  • Hamada Kengi (1936). Prince Ito. Tokyo: Sanseido Co.
  • Johnston, John T.M. (1917). World patriots. New York: World Patriots Co.
  • Kusunoki Sei'ichirō (1991). Nihon shi omoshiro suiri: Nazo no satsujin jiken wo oe. Tokyo: Futami bunko.
  • Ladd, George T. (1908). In Korea with Marquis Ito
  • Nakamura Kaju (1910). Prince Ito, the man and the statesman, a brief history of his life. New York: Japanese-American commercial weekly and Anraku Pub. Co.
  • Palmer, Frederick (1910). Marquis Ito: the great man of Japan. n.p.

External links

  • Biographical material at the Notable Names Database.
  • About Japan: A Teacher's Resource Ideas about how to teach about Ito Hirobumi in a K-12 classroom
Political offices
New office Prime Minister of Japan
Succeeded by
Kuroda Kiyotaka
New office President of the House of Peers
Succeeded by
Hachisuka Mochiaki
Preceded by
Matsukata Masayoshi
Prime Minister of Japan
Succeeded by
Kuroda Kiyotaka
Prime Minister of Japan
Succeeded by
Ōkuma Shigenobu
Preceded by
Yamagata Aritomo
Prime Minister of Japan
Succeeded by
Saionji Kinmochi
New office Resident General of Korea
Succeeded by
Sone Arasuke

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