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Historical Biographies

Historical Biographies

Emperor Hirohito (裕仁) was born in Tōkyō on 29 April 1901 and died there on 7 January 1989. He was the 124th tennō (天皇 ) and ruled from 1926 to 1989. His posthumous name is Shōwa-tennō (昭和天皇), Shōwa (昭和) being the name of his era ("enlightened peace"). Early life He was born at the Aoyama Palace...
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Emperor Meiji (明治天皇 Meiji-tennō, born Mutsuhito, 3 November 1852 – 30 July 1912) or Meiji the Great was the 122nd emperor of Japan according to the traditional order of succession, reigning from 3 February 1867 until his death. He presided over a time of rapid change in Japan, as the nation...
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Yoshihito (嘉仁), the Taishō Emperor (大正天皇, 31 August 1879-25 December 1926, r. 1912-1926), was the 123rd emperor of Japan in the traditional count (which also includes several nonhistorical emperors). He was the surviving son of Emperor Meiji by Yanagiwara Naruko, a lady-in-waiting at the...
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One of the most prominent Meiji statesmen, Itō (1841-1909) was a samurai of the Chōshū domain, four-time Prime Minister of Japan (the 1st, 5th, 7th and 10th), genrō and Resident-General of Korea. Youth Itō Hirobumi (伊藤博文) was born as Hayashi Risuke to Hayashi Jūzō, a farmer in the feudal...
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Yamada Nagamasa (山田長政, 1590–1630) was a Japanese adventurer who engaged in trade between Japan and the Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya. He rose to a prominent position in Ayutthaya and eventually became the governor of the Nakhon Si Thammarat in southern Thailand. Yamada Nagamasa was born in Sumpu in...
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12,494
Born into a samurai family from Choshu (present-day Yamaguchi Prefecture) in 1848, Katsura Tarō (桂太郎, 1848-1913) fought along his clansmen during the Bakumatsu period. He was quickly recognised by Yamagata Aritomo, who later assisted his political rise. Katsura was sent twice to Germany...
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10,509
Chōshū samurai and senior Meiji politician Inoue Kaoru (井上薫, 1836-1915) was a senior member of the genrō, the political oligarchy of the Meiji period and yielded significant influence over the policies and political decisions of Meiji-era Japan. He was born into a gōshi (郷士, lower-ranking...
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The Last True Samurai and True Last Samurai Born in Kagoshima in the Satsuma Domain (present-day Kagoshima Prefecture), Saigō Takamori (西郷隆盛, 1828-1877) was one of the pro-imperial samurai supporting the Meiji Restoration. He has often been called the “last true samurai”. Saigō was the eldest...
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Satsuma samurai and Meiji politician Okubo Toshimichi (大久保利通 (1830-1878) was a Japanese statesman and one of the Satsuma samurai who supported the Meiji Restoration. He is commonly regarded as the progressive driving force behind the new Meiji state, despite his authoritarian and often...
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13,655
The founding father of Waseda University Ōkuma Shigenobu (大隈重信, 1838-1922) was a statesman of the Meiji Restoration, the 8th and 17th Prime Minister of Japan and the founder of Waseda University. In contrast to most other important Meiji figures, Ōkuma did not hail from either Satsuma or...
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8,387
Yamagata Aritomo (山県有朋, 1838-1922) was one of the seven members of the genrō, the group of senior statesmen who shaped modern Japan in and after the Meiji period. He is considered the father of the modern Japanese army and served twice as prime minister. His authoritarian views and autarchic...
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10,144
Japanese aristocrat and Meiji Prime Minister Prince Saionji Kinmochi (西園寺 公望, 1849-1940) was a Japanese aristocrat, politician and twice Prime Minister of Japan. He was the last member of the genrō, the senior statesmen who shaped Japan during the Meiji era. Prince Saionji was born in Kyōto as...
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8,111
Satsuma samurai and Meiji politician Matsukata (松方正義, 1835-1924) was born into a samurai family from Satsuma (present-day Kagoshima Prefecture), started to work as a bureaucrat in the domain administration and then studied western science and surveying in Nagasaki. Ōkubo Toshimichi and Saigō...
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Satsuma samurai and Meiji statesman Born into a samurai family from Satsuma (present-day Kagoshima Prefecture) in the service of the Shimazu daimyō of Kagoshima, Kuroda (黑田清隆, 1840-1900) was one of the retainers involved in the Nagamugi Incident in Yokohama (see text box below). Kuroda also...
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A Chōshū samurai and Meiji statesman Born in Hagi in the Chōshū Domain in 1833 to the samurai physician Wada Masakage (和田 昌景), who served the Hagi clan, Kido Takayoshi (木戸孝允, 1833-1877) was adopted into the Katsura family in 1840 and known as Katsura Kogorō (桂小五郎) until 1865. In Hagi, he...
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Tokugawa retainer, Meiji politician and naval engineer Katsu Kaishū (勝海舟, 1823-1899) was born in Edo (江戸, in modern-day Sumida-ku, Tokyo). Throughout his life he used a lot of aliases and was also known as Katsu Rintarō (勝麟太郎), Katsu Yoshikuni (勝義邦), Awa (安房) from his title Awa-no-kami (安房守) and...
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9,556
Yoshida Shōin (吉田松陰, 1830-1859) was born in 1830 in Matsumoto (松本村), a small village close to the castle town of Hagi (萩), Chōshū Domain (modern-day Yamaguchi prefecture). He was the second son of a lower-ranking samurai named Sugi Yurinosuke (杉百合之介) and was adopted by his uncle, Yoshida Daisuke...
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Takasugi Shinsaku (高杉晋作, 1839-1867) was born in the castle town of Hagi in the domain of Chōshū (modern-day Yamaguchi Prefecture) to Takasugi Kochuta (高杉小忠太), a middle-ranked samurai with a revenue of 200 koku of rice. He also used the name Tani Umenosuke (谷梅之助) as an alias in his activities...
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Oguri Tadamasa was a controversial Tokugawa bureaucrat whose efforts contributed to the modernisation of Japan at the end of the shogunate and the beginning of the Meiji Period and whose insistent calls for resistance against the forces of Satsuma and Choshu would cost him his life. Oguri...
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Tokugawa admiral and Meiji statesmanEnomoto Takeaki (榎本武揚, 1836-1908) was born in Edo into a family of gokenin, direct vassals of the Tokugawa shogun, and attended the prestigious Shōheikō (昌平校と藩学 Shōheizaka School and Domain Studies) academy. In 1853, he went to study rangaku (蘭学, “Dutch...
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12,697
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