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List of Japanese Prime Ministers since 1885

Written by Maciamo in May 2004 (updated in November 2012)

Introduction

Japanese politics is notoriously unstable. Although the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP) managed to clutch to power for half a century (from 1958 to 2009), this is only a semblance of stability. Factions within the LDP act almost like rival political parties, making governments fall every year and a half in average. Other political parties have changed name, dissolved and reformed new parties with a disconcerting regularity. Japanese Prime Ministers rarely last long in office. Apart from the 7 oligarchs who monopolized the post of PM during all the Meiji and the early Taisho periods, Japanese Prime Ministers have since stayed in office for an average of only 2 years.

Under the Meiji Constitution which lasted from 1885 to 1947, Japan has had 35 Prime Minsters holding 44 offices. 9 Prime Ministers have served more than once, with Itô Hirobumi serving 4 times and Katsura Tarô 3 times.

The longest serving Prime Minister was Katsura Tarô (almost 12 years in office), followed by Itô Hirobumi (7.5 years in office), then Saionji Kimmochi and Yamagata Aritomo (both nearly 4 years).

The average length of office was 21.7 months, with Prime Ministers changing in average 1.5 year.

Under the New Constitution imposed by the Americans after WWII, there has been 31 Prime Ministers, and only one (Junichiro Koizumi) served more than once. 8 Prime Ministers have served for less than a year, including 4 for 3 months or less.

In comparison:

  • The 23 US presidents from 1885 to 2012 have stayed in office for an average of 5 years and 6 months.
  • There has been 25 Prime Ministers in the UK from 1885 to 2012, holding their post for an average of 5 years.
  • France has had 23 presidents from 1887 to 2011 (average 5.3 years so far), 8 from 1947 to 2011 (average 9.2 years) , and only three in the 30 years from 1981 to 2011.

Chronological list of Prime Ministers of Japan since 1885

Name of Prime Minister
Itô Hirobumi
Kuroda Kiyokata
Yamagata Aritomo
Matsukata Masayoshi
Itô Hirobumi
Matsukata Masayoshi
Itô Hirobumi
Ôkuma Shigenobu
Yamagata Aritomo
Itô Hirobumi
Katsura Tarô
Saionji Kimmochi
Katsura Tarô
Saionji Kimmochi
Katsura Tarô
Yamamoto Gonnohyôe
Ôkuma Shigenobu
Terauchi Masatake
Hara Kei (Takashi)
Takahashi Korekiyo
Katô Tomosaburô
Yamamoto Gonnohyôe
Kiyoura Keigo
Katô Kômei (Takaaki)
Wakatsuki Reijirô
Tanaka Giichi
Hamaguchi Osachi
Wakatsuki Reijirô
Inukai Tsuyoshi
Saitô Makoto
Okada Keisuke
Hirota Kôki
Hayashi Senjûrô
Konoe Fumimaro
Hiranuma Kiichirô
Abe Nobuyuki
Yonai Mitsumasa
Konoe Fumimaro
Tôjô Hideki
Koiso Kuniaki
Suzuki Kantarô
Higashikuni Naruhiko
Shidehara Kijûrô
Yoshida Shigeru

Under the New Constitution
Katayama Tetsu
Ashia Hitoshi
Yoshida Shigeru
Hatoyama Ichirô
Ishibashi Tanzan
Kishi Nobusuke
Ikeda Hayato
Satô Eisaku
Tanaka Kakuei
Miki Takeo
Fukuda Takeo
Ôhira Masayoshi
Suzuki Zenkô
Nakasone Yasuhiro
Takeshita Noboru
Uno Sôsuke
Kaifu Toshiki
Miyazawa Kiichi
Hosokawa Morihiro
Hata Tsutomu
Murayama Toichi
Hashimoto Ryûtarô
Obuchi Keizô
Mori Yoshihiro
Koizumi Junichirô
Abe Shinzô
Fukuda Yasuo
Aso Taro
Hatoyama Yukio
Kan Naoto
Noda Yoshihiko
Entered Office
December 1885
April 1888
December 1889
May 1891
August 1892
September 1896
January 1898
June 1898
November 1898
October 1900
June 1901
January 1906
July 1908
August 1911
December 1912
February 1913
April 1914
October 1916
September 1918
November 1921
June 1922
September 1923
January 1924
June 1924
January 1926
April 1927
July 1929
April 1931
December 1931
May 1932
July 1934
March 1935
February 1937
June 1937
January 1939
August 1939
January 1940
July 1940
October 1941
July 1944
April 1945
August 1945
October 1945
May 1946



May 1947
March 1948
October 1948
December 1954
December 1956
February 1957
July 1960
November 1964
July 1972
December 1974
December 1976
December 1978
July 1980
November 1982
November 1987
June 1989
August 1989
November 1991
August 1993
April 1994
June 1994
January 1996
July 1998
April 2000
April 2001
September 2006
September 2007
September 2008
September 2009
June 2010
September 2011
Left Office
April 1888
December 1889
May 1891
August 1892
September 1896
January 1898
June 1898
November 1898
October 1900
June 1901
January 1906
July 1908
August 1911
December 1912
February 1913
April 1914
October 1916
September 1918
November 1921
June 1922
September 1923
January 1924
June 1924
January 1926
April 1927
July 1929
April 1931
December 1931
May 1932
July 1934
March 1935
February 1937
June 1937
January 1939
August 1939
January 1940
July 1940
October 1941
July 1944
April 1945
August 1945
October 1945
May 1946
May 1947



March 1948
October 1948
December 1954
December 1956
February 1957
July 1960
November 1964
July 1972
December 1974
December 1976
December 1978
July 1980
November 1982
November 1987
June 1989
August 1989
November 1991
August 1993
April 1994
June 1994
January 1996
July 1998
April 2000
April 2001
September 2006
September 2007
September 2008
September 2009
June 2010
September 2011
-

Pre-WWII connections of post-war Prime Ministers

Several politicians, including Prime Ministers, of the post-war era had clear involvement with the pre-war militarist government. This was allowed to happen because of the relative lenience of the American victors. Not only did they keep emperor Hirohito rather than trying him as class A war criminal, but they showed great generosity toward war-time politicians and bureaucrats, only executing 7 military leaders (among whom war-time PM Tojo Hideki).

Yoshida Shigeru, who was already ambassador to Italy and the Uk before the war, served as Prime Minister from May 1946 to May 1947, then again from October 1948 to December 1954.

Hatoyama Ichiro, who was a Diet member since 1915, education minister between 1931-34 (heavy brainwashing period) and leader of the prewar Seiyukai party and postwar Liberal party, also became Prime Minister after the war, serving from 1954 to 1956. He had been banned from becoming PM during the American occupation because of his prewar and war-time activities, but was elected PM just 2 years after the Americans left !

But the worst connection I can see with the pre-1945 militarist government is Kishi Nobusuke, who worked for the Ministry of Commerce and Industry from 1920 to 1935, then was appointed by general Tojo Hideki in person as Minister of Commerce and Industry in 1941 - position which he held till the surrender of Japan in 1945. Actually, Kishi was imprisoned as a class A war criminal until 1948, but was found not guilty (despite his fierce nationalistic views). He served as Prime Minister from 1957 to 1960. Note that his brother, Sato Eisaku, was also PM from 1964 to 1972.

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