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Ito Hirobumi 伊藤 博文 (1841-1909)

Ito Hirobumi

One of the Meiji era's most famous statesmen, Ito was Japan's first prime minister and served a record four times as such (see Japanese prime ministers).

Ito Hirobumi was born in the feudal province of Choshu. In 1863, in gained the title of samurai, and left the same year for England to study sciences. He returned one year later with Inoue Kaoru and warned the Choshu samurai not to go to war with the Western powers over the right of passage through the Straits of Shimonoseki. He became convinced of the necessity of adopting Western ways, and was one of the leader of the Choshu and Satsuma rebellion eventually leading to the Meiji Restoration.

In 1871, he travelled abroad again with the mission led by Prince Iwakura to revise the unequal treaties with the Western powers and study Western technology.

In 1873, was made a full councillor working on the modernization of Japan. He became Home Minister following Okubo Toshimichi's assassination in 1878, then assured his dominance at the government by forcing Okuma Shigenobu to resign in 1881.

Ito travelled to Europe again in 1882 to study foreign government systems. Back to Japan, he established a cabinet and civil service in 1885, and became the country's first prime minister.

He supervised the drafting of Japan's first constitution from 1883 to 1889 and created the Privy Council in 1888. Ito became an intimate advisor to the emperor.

Ito supported the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95, then became the leader of Japan's first political party, the Seiyukai.

Following the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05), Japan occupied Korea, and Ito Hirobumi became its first Resident General, forcing King Gojong to abdicate, and thus giving Japan considerable control over Korea.

Ito was assasinated in 1909 by a Korean nationalist while on a trip to Harbin (Manchuria). This served as a pretext for the full annexation of Korea by Japan in 1910.

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