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In this Japanese name, the family name is Ōkuma.
Ōkuma Shigenobu
大隈 重信

In office
30 June 1898 – 8 November 1898
Monarch Meiji
Preceded by Hirobumi Itō
Succeeded by Aritomo Yamagata
In office
16 April 1914 – 9 October 1916
Monarch Taishō
Preceded by Gonnohyōe Yamamoto
Succeeded by Masatake Terauchi

Born 11 March 1838(1838-03-11)
Saga, Tokugawa
Died 10 January 1922 (aged 83)
Tokyo, Japan
Political party Constitutional Association of Friends (1914–1922)
Other political
Constitutional Reform Party (1882–1896)
Progressive Party (1896–1898)
Constitutional Party (1898–1914)
Spouse(s) Ayako Ōkuma

Marquis Ōkuma Shigenobu (大隈 重信 Ōkuma Shigenobu ?, 11 March 1838 – 10 January 1922); was a Japanese statesman and the 8th (30 June 1898 – 8 November 1898) and 17th (16 April 1914 – 9 October 1916) Prime Minister of Japan. One of the most popular statesmen in Japanese history, Ōkuma was also an early advocate of Western science and culture in Japan, and founder of Waseda University.


Early life

Ōkuma was born Hachitarō, the first son of an artillery officer, in Saga, Hizen Province (modern day Saga Prefecture) in 1838. During his early years, his education consisted mainly of the study of Chinese Confucian literature and derivative works such as Hagakure. However, he left school in 1853 to move to a Dutch studies institution.[1]

The Dutch school was merged with the provincial school in 1861, and Ōkuma took up a lecturing position there shortly afterward. Ōkuma sympathized with the sonnō jōi movement, which aimed at expelling the Europeans who had started to force their way into Japan. However, he also advocated mediation between the rebels in Chōshū and the Shogunate in Edo.

During a trip to Nagasaki, Ōkuma met a Dutch missionary named Guido Verbeck, who taught him the English language and provided him with copies of the New Testament and the American Declaration of Independence. [2] These works are often said to have affected his political thinking profoundly, and encouraged him to support efforts to abolish the existing feudal system and work toward the establishment of a constitutional government.

Ōkuma frequently traveled between Nagasaki and Kyoto in the following years and became active in the Meiji Restoration. In Keiō 3 (1867), together with Soejima Taneomi, he planned to recommend resignation to the shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu[1]. Leaving Saga without permission, they went to Kyoto, where the shogun resided[3]. However, they were arrested and sent back to Saga. They were subsequently sentenced to one month imprisonment.

Meiji period political life

Okuma Shigenobu Full Length.jpg

Following the Boshin War in 1868, Okuma was placed in charge of foreign affairs for the new Meiji government. At this time, he negotiated with British diplomat, Sir Harry Smith Parkes on the ban of Christianity and insisted the government's persecution on Catholics in Nagasaki. [4] He was soon given an additional post as head of Japan's monetary reform program. He made use of his close contacts with Inoue Kaoru to secure a positions in the central government in Tokyo. He was elected to the first Diet of Japan in 1870 and soon became Minister of Finance, in which capacity he instituted property and taxation reforms that aided Japan's early industrial development.[5] He also unified the nation’s currency, created the national mint, and a separate Ministry of Industry; however, he was dismissed in 1881 after a long series of disagreements with members of the Satsuma and Chōshū clique (hanbatsu) and the Meiji oligarchy, most notably Itō Hirobumi, over his efforts to secure foreign loans, to establish a constitution, and especially over his exposure of illicit property dealings involving Prime Minister Kuroda Kiyotaka and others from Satsuma.

In 1882, Ōkuma co-founded the Constitutional Progressive Party (Rikken Kaishintō) which soon attracted a number of other leaders, including Ozaki Yukio and Inukai Tsuyoshi. That same year, Ōkuma founded the Tokyo Semmon Gakko in the Waseda district of Tokyo. The school later became Waseda University, one of the country's most prominent institutions of higher education.[6]

Despite their continuing animosity, Itō again appointed Ōkuma to the post of Foreign Minister in February 1888 to deal with the difficult issue of negotiation revisions to the "unequal treaties" with the Western powers. The treaty he negotiated was perceived by the public as too conciliatory to the Western powers, and created considerable controversy. Ōkuma was attacked by a member of the Genyosha in 1889, and his right leg was blown off by a bomb.[7] He retired from politics at that time.

However, he returned to politics in 1896 by reorganizing the Rikken Kaishinto into the Shimpoto (Progressive Party). In 1897, Matsukata Masayoshi convinced Ōkuma to participate in his second administration as Foreign Minister and Agriculture and Commerce Minister, but again, he remained in office for only one year before resigning.

In June 1898, Ōkuma co-founded the Kenseito (Constitutional Government Party), by merging his Shimpoto with Itagaki Taisuke's Jiyuto, and was appointed by the Emperor to form the first partisan cabinet in Japanese history. The new cabinet survived for only four months before it fell apart due to internal dissention. Ōkuma remained in charge of the party until 1908, when he retired from politics.

After his political retirement, Ōkuma became president of Waseda University and chairman of the Japan Civilization Society, from which scholars' many translations of European and American texts were published. He also gathered support for Japan's first expedition to Antarctica.

Taisho period political life

Ōkuma returned to politics during the constitutional crisis of 1914, when the government of Yamamoto Gonnohyoe was forced to resign in the wake of the Siemens scandal. Okuma organized his supporters, together with the Rikken Doshikai and Chuseikai organizations, into a coalition cabinet. The 2nd Okuma administration was noted for its active foreign policy. Later that year, Japan declared war on Germany, thus entering World War I on the Allied side. In 1915, Okuma and Kato Takaaki drafted the Twenty-One Demands and on China.

However, Ōkuma’s second administration was also short-lived. Following the Oura scandal, Ōkuma's cabinet lost popular support, and its members held mass resignation in October 1915. In 1916, after a long argument with the genro, Ōkuma resigned as well, and retired from politics permanently.

Ōkuma returned to Waseda, and died there in 1922.[8] 300,000 people attended his funeral in Tokyo's Hibiya Park. He was buried at the temple of Gokoku-ji.


  1. ^ a b Borton, p. 91.
  2. ^ Brownas, heading "A Wider Window on the West"
  3. ^ Tokugawa, p. 161. Unlike all 14 previous Tokugawa shoguns, Yoshinobu never set foot in Edo during his tenure as shogun.
  4. ^ The Japanese government removed the ban on Christianity in 1873.
  5. ^ Borton, p. 78.
  6. ^ Beasley, p. 105.
  7. ^ Beasley, p. 159.
  8. ^ Beasley, p. 220.


  • Beasley, W.G. (1963). The Making of Modern Japan. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
  • Borton, Hugh (1955). Japan's Modern Century. New York: The Ronald Press Company.
  • Idditti, Smimasa. Life of Marquis Shigenobu Okuma: A Maker of New Japan. Kegan Paul International Ltd. (2006). ISBN 0710311869
  • Idditti, Junesay. Marquis Shigenobu Okuma - A Biographical Study in the Rise of Democratic Japan. Hokuseido Press (1956). ASIN: B000IPQ4VQ
  • Lebra-Chapman, Joyce. Okuma Shigenobu: statesman of Meiji Japan. Australian National University Press (1973). ISBN 0708104002
  • Oka Yoshitake, et al. Five Political Leaders of Modern Japan: Ito Hirobumi, Okuma Shigenobu, Hara Takashi, Inukai Tsuyoshi, and Saionji Kimmochi. University of Tokyo Press (1984). ISBN 0860083799
  • Tokugawa Munefusa (2005). Tokugawa yonbyakunen no naisho-banashi: raibaru bushō-hen Tokyo: Bungei-shunju
  • Brownas, Sidney DeVere. Nagasaki in the Meiji Restoration: Choshu Loyalists and British Arms Merchants. Retrieved on August 7, 2008.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Hirobumi Itō
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Shūzō Aoki
Preceded by
Kinmochi Saionji
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Tokujirō Nishi
Preceded by
Tokujirō Nishi
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Shūzō Aoki
Preceded by
Takaaki Katō
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Kikujirō Ishii
Preceded by
Hirobumi Itō
Prime Minister of Japan
Succeeded by
Aritomo Yamagata
Preceded by
Gonnohyōe Yamamoto
Prime Minister of Japan
Succeeded by
Masatake Terauchi


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