|Regent, Sesshô||Chancellor, Kampaku||Dates|
|Regent, Sesshô||Chancellor, Kampaku||Dates|
Stretching from the time of Emperor Charles the Bald to President Andrew Johnson, this list, as few things can, provides a vivid testament to the continuity of custom and tradition in Japan. The offices, originally symbolic of the passing of real power from the Emperors to the Fujiwaras, later become largely symbolic themselves, as power passes to Cloistered Emperors, Shôguns, and even Regents of Shôguns.
Starting in 1158 individuals from branch lines of the Fujiwara appear in the offices. These are the "five regent families" (the gosekke -- Konoe, Kujô, Nijô, Takasukasa, & Ichijô), and they alone would soon be considered for these offices, with the sole exceptions of the two Toyotomis. Also, until very recently, wives for the Emperors were supposed to come from these families.
Down to 1267, the genealogy of the Fujiwara, with the beginning of the regent families, can be examined in a popup diagram. The genealogy is from the Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan, Volume 2 [Kodansha Ltd., 1983, p.369]. This is at present just the stetch of a diagram. The women near the top of the diagram are those who became consorts of Emperors. More women can be added and the Emperors identified to fill out the genealogy. Other Fujiwara, besides those who became Regents or Chancellors, can also be added.
The first Fujiwara is Kamatari. In 644, under the Empress Kôgyoku (642-645), he helped purge members of the Soga clan. With the Soga gone, Kamatari became the supporter of the new Emperor Kôtoku (645-654), ushering in the Yamato Period (645-711). Kôtoku granted Kamatari and his descendants the name Fujiwara. The family divides into a number of branches, the most important of which is the Hokke or Northern house. Yoshifusa (d.872) ushers in the heyday of the Fujiwara. With a sister and daughter married to Emperors, when his young grandson comes to the throne as the Emperor Seiwa, Yoshifusa inaugurates a Regency. Seiwa reigns but Yoshifusa rules. His nephew and adopted son Mototsune (d.891) refines and extends this system. First, an Emperor, like Seiwa himself, can be persuaded to retire, with a Regency then continuing for a new minor Emperor, in this case Yôzei (858). Or, as subsequently with Yôzei, the Regency may be ended but the arrangement of rule continued through a new office, that of Kampaku or Chancellor (in 880 or 882). This becomes the mechanism of Fujiwara power: (1) Fujiwara mothers for the Emperors, (2) early retirement for Emperors, (3) Regencies for minor Emperors, and (4) the Chancellorship for Emperors between their minority and their retirement. This system continued to dominate the government until the Cloistered Emperors began excerising authority in their own right (with Shirakawa in 1086) and then, finally, when the war between the Taira and the Minamoto was ended at Dan-no-Ura in 1185 -- then the samurai Shôguns (or the Hôjô Regents) began exercising the real power of the government. Nevertheless, the institution of Regents, Chancellors, and even Cloistered Emperors continued down to the Meiji Restoration. Only Fujiwaras (and then the five regent families) were qualified for Imperial marriages, Regencies, or, except for the Toyotomis, the Chancellorship.
The maintenance of titular authority while real power is exercised elsewhere becomes a striking characteristic of Japanese government. The assumption by Hideyoshi of the office of Chancellor represented a moment when a traditional office might have been revived with real authority; but then Ieyasu was content to return the Kyôto government to its traditions, while taking for himself the Shôgunate -- from which he quickly retired (1605) but continued to direct events, like the reduction of Osaka Castle in 1615. The Fujiwara regent families thus played out the roles created by Yoshifusa and Mototsune all the way to 1867.
The difference between titular and real power, however, continues as a serious question into the 20th century. Were Emperors like Meiji and Hirohito constitutional figureheads or active and involved rulers? The forms of Japanese government served to enclose and obscure the authority they may actually have been exercising. This is of interest with Meiji but becomes a most important question with Hirohito, whose involvement and responsibility for the policies and actions of the Japanese government leading up and into World War II are a matter now hotly disputed. The post-war representation was that he had always been, consciously, a British style Monarch who merely reigned. Only on the rarest of occasions would he even express an opinion, and he only directed specific policy in one case, when he ordered the War to be ended. Subsequently, charges have been made that the Emperor actually masterminded all of Japanese aggression, directing policy and commanding actions as much as Hitler or Mussolini. This seemed rather wild at the time, but subsequent research has seemed to show that Hirohito, at least, was rather more involved in things than the official story allowed. Be that as it may, the very uncertainty of it is of a piece with Japanese history -- even as we see exactly six hundred years (1267-1867) of relatively powerless Fujiwaras in the table.
In August 1854 the Shogunate decided that Japanese ships would fly a flag with a red sun (the , "circle of the sun") on a white background. This then became the modern flag of Japan.
|Prince Arisugawa Taruhito||Sôsai, President, 1868-1869|
|Sadaijin, Minister of the Left, 1880-1885|
|Sanjô Sanetomi||Udaijin, Minister of the Right, 1868-1874, Dajô-daijin, Prime Minister, 1874-1885|
|Iwakura Tomomi||Prime Minister, 1874; Udaijin, Minister of the Right, d.1883|
|Itô Hirobumi||December 1885-April 1888|
|Kuroda Kiyotaka||April 1888-December 1889|
|Yamagata Aritomo||December 1889-May 1891|
|Matsukata Masayoshi||May 1891-August 1892|
|Itô Hirobumi||August 1892-September 1896|
|Matsukata Masayoshi||September 1896-January 1898|
|Itô Hirobumi||January 1898-June 1898|
|Ôkuma Shigenobu||June 1898-November 1898|
|Yamagata Aritomo||November 1898-October 1900|
|Itô Hirobumi||October 1900-June 1901|
|Katsura Tarô||June 1901-January 1906|
|Saionji Kimmochi||January 1906-July 1908|
|Katsura Tarô||July 1908-August 1911|
|Saionji Kimmochi||August 1911-December 1912|
|Katsura Tarô||December 1912-February 1913|
|February 1913-April 1914|
|Ôkuma Shigenobu||April 1914-October 1916|
|Gen. Terauchi Masatake||October 1916-September 1918|
|Hara Takashi||September 1918-November 1921, assassinated|
|Takahashi Korekiyo||November 1921-June 1922|
|Adm. Katô Tomosaburô||June 1922-September 1923|
|September 1923-January 1924|
|Kiyoura Keigo||January 1924-June 1924|
|Katô Takaaki||June 1924-January 1926|
|Wakatsuki Reijirô||January 1926-April 1927|
|Gen. Tanaka Giichi||April 1927-July 1929|
|Hamaguchi Osachi||July 1929-April 1931, assassinated|
|Wakatsuki Reijiro||April 1931-December 1931|
|Inukai Tsuyoshi||December 1931-May 1932, assassinated|
|Adm. Saitô Makoto||May 1932-July 1934|
|Adm. Okada Keisuke||July 1934-March 1936,|
Ni-niroku Jiken, "2/26 Incident"
|Hirota Kôki||March 1936-February 1937|
|Gen. Hayashi Senjûrô||February 1937-June 1937|
|Konoe Fumimaro||June 1937-January 1939|
|Hiranuma Kiichirô||January 1939-August 1939|
|Gen. Abe Nobuyuki||August 1939-January 1940|
|Adm. Yonai Mitsumasa||January 1940-July 1940|
|Konoe Fumimaro||July 1940-October 1941|
|Gen. Tôjô Hideki||October 1941-July 1944|
|Gen. Koiso Kuniaki||July 1944-April 1945|
|Adm. Suzuki Kantarô||April 1945-August 1945,|
survivor of "2/26 Incident"
|Higashikuni Naruhiko||August 1945-October 1945|
|Shidehara Kijûrô||October 1945-May 1946|
|Yoshida Shigeru||May 1946-May 1947|
|Katayama Tetsu||May 1947-March 1948|
|Ashida Hitoshi||March 1948-October 1948|
|Yoshida Shigeru||October 1948-December 1954|
|Hatoyama Ichirô||December 1954-December 1956|
|Ishibashi Tanzan||December 1956-February 1957|
|Kishi Nobusuke||February 1957-July 1960|
|Ikeda Hayato||July 1960-November 1964|
|Satô Eisaku||November 1964-July 1972|
|Tanaka Kakuei||July 1972-December 1974|
|Miki Takeo||December 1974-December 1976|
|Fukuda Takeo||December 1976-December 1978|
|Ôhira Masayoshi||December 1978-July 1980|
|Suzuki Zenko||July 1980-November 1982|
|Nakasone Yasuhiro||November 1982-November 1987|
|Takeshita Noboru||November 1987-June 1989|
|Uno Sosuke||June 1989-August 1989|
|Kaifu Toshiki||August 1989-November 1991|
|Miyazawa Kiichi||November 1991-August 1993|
|Hosokawa Morihiro||August 1993-April 1994|
|Hata Tsutomu||April 1994-June 1994|
|Murayama Tomiichi||June 1994-January 1996|
|Hashimoto Ryûtarô||January 1996-July 1998|
|Obuchi Keizô||July 1998-April 2000|
|Mori Yoshirô||April 2000-April 2001|
|Koizumi Junichiro||April 2001-September 2006|
|Abe Shinzo||September 2006-September 2007|
|Yasuo Fukuda||September 2007-September 2008|
|Taor Aso||September 2008-September 2009|
|Yukio Hatoyama||September 2009-June 2010|
|Naoto Kan||June 2010-September 2011|
|Yoshihiko Noda||September 2011-December 2012|
|Shinzô Abe||December 2012-September 2020|
|Yoshihide Suga||September 2020-present|
Pre-World War II Prime Ministers who were assassinated are in boldface. Also highlighted are Prince Konoe, a familiar Fujiwara name, who committed suicide after the War rather than be tried as a war criminal, and General Tôjô, who attempted suicide for the same reason but failed, was convicted, and was hung.
Tôjô, it might be noted, resigned in 1944 after the loss of the Battle of the Philippine Sea, after which the Japanese realized that nothing could hold off the Allied advance on Japan.
Unlike Germany, where the Nazi government simply ceased to exist and the Allies divided and directly ruled Germany, a formal Japanese Government never ceased to exist during the Allied Occupation. A new Constitution was written, and Prime Minister Katayama was the first to govern under it. Now the Emperor had no theoretical power at all, not even as much as the Queen of England. He was no longer the Sovereign, and Japan was no longer an Empire. The Prime Minister was responsible to the Diet.
The Emperor is now just the "Symbol of the State," which is a status otherwise unheard of in the history of government. Although the reactionaries who want the Emperor restored as Sovereign have frightening purposes, it is also true that Japan will never return to being a "normal" country until its Consitution is commensurable with traditional norms of government, and Japan again has a proper Army and Navy, another goal of the reactionaries that would be reasonable if their purposes, again, could pass scrutiny.
Most Post-War Prime Ministers (since 1955) have been from the Liberal- Democratic Party, which people like to say is neither liberal nor democratic. Instead, Diet seats have tended to become hereditary, and Japanese government often seems to be little more than a system of influence-peddling. Consequently, corruption and bribery scandals are commonplace. Such a scandal led to the downfall of the familiar 1980's Prime Minister Nakasone, who got to preside over Japan's greatest period of world economic domination.
The 1990's were less good for Japan, whose prosperity turned out to be a little too much of a speculative bubble, with a great deal of capital based on inflated real estate values and fraudulent loans. Since almost nobody really believes in laissez-faire anymore, it always takes a long time for the economy to shake stuff like that off.
This list was originally based on the list of Japanese Prime Ministers at the Mizuho Financial Group site, which is now gone, and on the list in The Making of Modern Japan by Marius B. Jansen [Belknap Press, Harvard University Press, 2000], updated from news sources and Wikipedia.
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