Tsuyoshi Inukai

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Tsuyoshi Inukai

Tsuyoshi Inukai (1855-1932) was a Japanese journalist, politician, and statesman. His premiership in 1931-1932 climaxed the trend toward responsible party government, but his assassination by ultranationalists brought this development to a halt.

Tsuyoshi Inukai, whose personal name has alternate readings in Japanese (Ki, Takeshi, Tsuyoki), was born to a samurai of the Niwase han (fief) in Okayama Province. His family had traditionally stressed Confucian learning, and he might have ended up a teacher of the classics had not a book on international law aroused his interest in Western learning.

In 1876 Inukai made his way to Tokyo, got a job with the newspaper Hochi, and studied political philosophy under Yukichi Fukuzawa. Fukuzawa's support enabled Inukai to found Tokai, a financial newspaper, together with Ryohei Toyokawa, who was related to the Mitsubishi; this explains Inukai's close connections with the powerful zaibatsu family throughout his political career.

Inukai first entered politics when Shigenobu Okuma resigned from the government and started the Kaishinto (Progressive party) in 1881. Four years later Inukai ran for the Tokyo City Assembly under its label, and in 1890 he won a seat for Okayama in the Diet, a position he held for the rest of his life.

Inukai's political goal was to break open the narrow political elite to ever wider participation in the decision-making process. His first—short-lived—victory was engineering the coalition Okuma Cabinet of 1889, in which he became minister of education. He accepted the education portfolio in Yamamoto's Cabinet of 1913 on the rationale that, by supporting this Satsuma faction of the ruling oligarchy, he would be weakening Choshu domination. He was accused of being bought off by the elite. To regain his reputation, he struggled to put together the Kato coalition Cabinet of 1924, dedicated to "protecting the constitution" and passing "manhood suffrage." Thereafter, at age 70, he attempted to retire from active politics, but his constituents would not let him, and upon Tanaka's death he was elected president of the Seiyukai party.

After the September 1931 Manchurian incident, which he supported, Inukai was made premier in December. The elder statesman Kimmochi Saionji recommended him in the hope that he could find a diplomatic solution based on his long-time personal connections with Chinese nationalists who had stayed in Japan. As premier, Inukai dissolved the Diet and got the largest party majority in Japanese history, but he still was not able to control the military or get a secret agreement with Chiang Kai-shek before being shot by young army and navy officers in what was known as the "May 15 Affair."

Further Reading

With no biography of Inukai available in English, one must rely on the biographies of others whom he knew well, or else on the more general histories, such as A. Morgan Young, Japan in Recent Times, 1912-1926 (1929) and Imperial Japan, 1926-1938 (1938), and Chitoshi Yanaga, Japan since Perry (1949). For an overview of the movements of which Inukai was a part see George O. Totten, ed., Democracy in Prewar Japan: Groundwork or Facade? (1965). For Inukai's relations with Asian nationalist revolutionaries see Marius B. Jansen, The Japanese and Sun Yat-sen (1954). □