A Japanese Prince was born as Hayashi Risuke, yet he was better known as Ito Hirobumi. He was a statesman who, unlike other Princes, was a London educated samurai.
He belonged to the Choshu Domain which drafted the Meiji Constitution during the 1880s. It was Prince Ito Hirobumi who was inspired by the West when it came to drafting the Meiji Constitution.
He did not really consider the United States Constitution of being too liberal; he was also not impressed by the Spanish Restoration.
However, he patterned the Meiji Constitution from the British and German prototype, specifically the Prussian Constitution of 1850.
Ito Hirobumi Early Life
Ito Hirobumi’s father was Juzo Hayashi – an adopted member of the lower class samurai under the Hagi Clan. He did not take in the name Hagi but instead, assumed the family name Ito.
Hirobumi also offered his services to the Sonno Joi movement that had the goal of respecting the Emperor and running after the Barbarians who were attempting to take control of the country.
Japan’s Prime Minister
Ito Hirobumi became the Japanese Prime Minister four times, which made him the longest-serving Prime Minister in Japanese history.
Aside from this position, Hirobumi also became head of the Meiji government’s Privy Council under the Emperor. He served twice in this position before he died.
The popularity of Ito Hirobumi
As Prime Minister, he was able to aid the country in attaining two vital successes. The first was an agreement to let British nationals in Japan yet were subjected under the Japanese law. Ito was flexible as a politician.
He knew when to compromise with parties. He was a member of a political group that knew when to cooperate with the government.
This was in exchange for cabinet positions and laws that managed to salvage the situation by leaving the government and forming the Rikken Seiyukai.
Roles that He Played
Ito Hirobumi joined Iwakura Missions as vice envoy. He was able to occupy this position since he won the vote of Toshimichi Okubo.
Ito Hirobumi managed to impress Okubo who was a leading figure in the Satsuma government. This was one of the largest powerful domains found in feudal Japan that were known for its anti-Tokugawa sentiment.
Ito Hirobumi Early Career
He was one of the chosen Choshu Five who studied at University College London. He was convinced that Japan had adopted Western ways, so upon returning to the country, he attempted to go at war with what he perceived as foreign powers.
Ito Hirobumi went on to win the right to go through Straits of Shimonoseki. This was the time when he was able to meet Ernest Satow who, after meeting each other for the first time, ended up becoming lifelong friends.
He was ambitious and this shows in the policies that he formulated. He was able to strengthen diplomatic ties with these countries from the West: Germany, United States, and the United Kingdom.
His connections with Kido and Okubo Toshimichi played great roles in the early Meiji period. This enabled him to undertake government assignments in the United States.
Rise to Power
His political career has changed decisively when Okubo was assassinated in 1878 and has succeeded as Minister of Home Affairs. This rise to power cause Ito Hirobumi to gain the ire of an ambitious statesman named Okuma Shigenobu.
Achievements of Ito Hirobumi
- Genro or elder statesman
- He was able to oversee the 1st Sino-Japanese War and has agreed for the Chinese surrender based on terms that were favorable towards Japan
- Annexation of Taiwan
- Release of Korea from the Chinese Imperial tribute-base system
- Diplomatic tour of the United States and Europe. This tour brought him to St. Petersburg
- Arrange a compromise regarding Man-Kan Kokan that later cause tension towards Japans relationship with Russia
- First Japanese Resident-General of Korea
Ito Hirobumi As Elder Statesman
Genro, like Ito Hirobumi, has dominated the Japanese government as a result of the Meiji Constitution from the later 1880s through the early 1930s.
As a Genro, Ito Hirobumi played a leading role in overthrowing the feudal rule. He was not alone in this seat of power since there were other Genro like him. The others were the following, including each of the roles they played:
- Ito Hirobumi who was referred to as a framer of the constitution
- Yamagata Aritomo who was responsible for modernizing the army
- Saionji Kinmochi, the last survivor and was the most liberal among this group
As Genro, their strength lay upon the support of those who were looking towards the Japanese government for support. This governing body ran the scenes for almost 20 years between 1900 and 1920.
Ito Hirobumi was one of the busiest people from the Constitutional government. He was also among the most influential people that were in power during the Meiji government. This constitution under the government was blamed for promoting an authoritarian rule.
Ito Hirobumi was credited for building modern Japan as it is known today. Just like him, those in authority were the reason why Japan is how it’s like today.
His biggest contribution would be the drafting of the Meiji constitution which in turn, had caused the establishment of the bicameral national diet.
Legacy of Ito Hirobumi
Ito Hirobumi was once the president of the Rikken Seiyukai in 1903. He paid his broken elder statesman rank after Yamagata Aritomo became the leading and more powerful Genro than him.
This did not seat well with Ito Hirobumi. It was impossible to deny that among the high-ranking bureaucrats, he was highly respected.
He was a brilliant statesman and some did recognize him as the Father of the Meiji Constitution. He was credited for modernizing Japan based on different valid sources. He was also known as a friend of the Constitutional Government or simply Rikken Seiyukai.
The assassination of Ito Hirobumi
It was his position on the total annexation of Korea that caused his death. He was killed by Korean Independence nationalists and activists.
However, it took another treaty to formalize the Korean annexation with Japan which took place after Ito Hirobumi’s death.