November 4th, 1921 – Prime Minister of Japan Assassinated!


Hara Takashi was the first commoner appointed to the office of prime minister of Japan, giving him the informal title of “commoner prime minister.” He was also the first Japanese Christian Prime Minister. Takashi served as Prime Minister from September 29th, 1918 until November 4th, 1921 . . . the day of his assassination.

Hara Takashi FormalIn 1918, Terauchi Masatake fell from office due to the Rice Riots of 1918 and Hara was appointed as his successor. It was the first party administration in Japan and the first cabinet headed by a commoner. More important, this marked the only time in pre-1945 Japan that the post of prime minister was held by an elected member of the legislature who was the leader of the largest party therein, not a grandee, a bureaucrat, or a soldier. Also, Hara was the first civilian in Japanese history to become the administrative chief of any of the armed services, when he temporarily took charge of the Navy Ministry, in absence of the Navy Minister, Admiral Katō Tomosaburō, who was serving as the Japanese representative at the Washington Naval Conference.

As prime minister, Hara suffered in terms of popularity, because he refused to use his majority in the lower house to force through universal suffrage legislation. Hara’s cautious approach disappointed liberals and socialists, who accused him of delaying universal suffrage as it would endanger his position in power. As a party politician, Hara had never been the favorite of the conservatives, bureaucrats and military, and he was widely despised by the ultranationalists.

Prime_Minister_Hara_Takashi_photographDuring his term of office, Japan participated in the Paris Peace Conference, and joined the League of Nations as a founding member. In Korea, Japan used military force to suppress the Samil Rebellion, but later began more lenient policies aimed at reducing opposition to Japanese rule.

Particularly following the Samil Uprising, Hara pursued a conciliatory policy towards colonies, particularly Korea. He arranged for his political ally, Saitō Makoto, a political moderate, to take over as governor-general of Korea; he instituted a colonial administration consisting mainly of civilians rather than military; and he permitted a degree of cultural freedom, including (for the first time) a school curriculum that featured Korean language and history. He also sought to encourage a limited amount of self-rule in the country – provided that, ultimately, Koreans remained under Japanese imperial control. His overtures, however, won few supporters either among Koreans or Japanese; the former considered them inadequate, the latter considered them excessive.

As opposed to many of his contemporaries, Hara lived a relatively simple lifestyle in a rented home near Shiba Park in downtown Tokyo which left him vulnerable. On November 4th, 1921, Hara was stabbed to death by Nakaoka Kon’ichi, at Tōkyō Station. Nakaoka was a railroad switchman who held right-wing political views, and was actually released only 13 years after committing the murder.

“Today in History” on The Pandora Society dot com is primarily focused on Victorian and Edwardian history and does not always have a direct connection to Steampunk, Dieselpunk, or whatever punk; in fact it rarely does, but it is our hope that in sharing these historical events they might serve as some inspiration to the writers in our community to create potential alternative history stories which we look forward to reading 🙂


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