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(gĕn`rō`) [ Jap.,=elder statesmen], a group that exercised collective leadership in Japan from the end of the MeijiMeiji
, 1852–1912, reign name of the emperor of Japan from 1867 to 1912; his given name was Mutsuhito. He ascended the throne when he was 15. A year later the shogun fell, and the power that had been held by the Tokugawa military house was returned to the emperor.
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 period until c.1932. After the Meiji restorationMeiji restoration,
The term refers to both the events of 1868 that led to the "restoration" of power to the emperor and the entire period of revolutionary changes that coincided with the Meiji emperor's reign (1868–1912).
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 (1868), Westernizers from the former Choshu and Satsuma domains came to power, abolishing feudalism and modernizing society. Weakened in number by death and political disagreement, surviving members of this oligarchy (among them Hirobumi ItoIto, Hirobumi
, 1841–1909, Japanese statesman, the outstanding figure in the modernization of Japan. As a young Choshu samurai, he was a xenophobe. In 1863 he visited Europe, studied science in England, and became convinced of the necessity of adopting Western ways.
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, Aritomo YamagataYamagata, Aritomo
, 1838–1922, Japanese soldier and statesman, chief founder of the modern Japanese army. A samurai of Choshu, he took part in the Meiji restoration. He studied military science in Europe and returned in 1870 to head the war ministry.
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, Kaoru InouyeInouye, Kaoru
, 1835–1915, Japanese statesman. He was a leader of the antiforeign movement in his native Choshu fief, and helped set fire to the British legation in Edo (now Tokyo) in 1862.
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, and Masayoshi MatsukataMatsukata, Masayoshi
, 1835–1924, Japanese statesman. A Satsuma clansman and a genro, he was a leading figure in the modernization of Japan. As finance minister (1881–91) his programs stimulated economic activity, increased exports, and laid the basis for armament
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) consolidated power (1881) and established a cabinet form of government (1885). They drafted the Constitution of 1889, creating a diet (1890) to check the cabinet, but making selection of the prime ministers an imperial prerogative. In practice, the oligarchs selected the prime ministers and made many decisions that were constitutionally reserved for the emperor. The term genro, or elder statesmen, came into use in this period. For two decades this small group provided stable leadership, ruling actively as premiers and cabinet ministers until 1901, when they relinquished the premiership to protégés. The political crisis of 1912 over the selection of Taro KatsuraKatsura, Taro
, 1847–1913, Japanese statesman. A Choshu clansman, and a protégé of Aritomo Yamagata, he served as war minister, then (1901–6) as prime minister.
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 as premier was a severe challenge to their authority. Retiring further into the background, the remaining genro in 1918 asked Takashi HaraHara, Takashi (Kei)
, 1856–1921, Japanese statesman, prime minister (1918–21). As secretary-general and later president (1914), Hara established the Seiyukai as the first powerful majority party by compromise with the oligarchs (see genro), distribution of patronage
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, the Seiyukai party leader, to form the first party cabinet. Kimmochi SaionjiSaionji, Kimmochi, Prince
, 1850–1940, Japanese statesman. He took part in the Meiji restoration, then spent 10 years in France, absorbing many democratic ideas. In 1882 he accompanied his friend and patron, Prince Ito, to Europe to study foreign governments.
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, who survived as the last genro from 1924 until his death in 1940, continued to select premiers until 1932 when this power passed to a new group consisting of former prime ministers and court officials.



in Japan from the end of the 19th century to 1940, an extraconstitutional body composed of an imperial retinue of the country’s leading elder statesmen, each of whom was also called a genro. Nine statesmen bore the honorary and lifelong title of genro. The genro recommended to the emperor the individual to fill the post of prime minister and the composition of the cabinet of ministers, and it gave advice on all other matters of great political importance, including the declaration of war and conclusion of peace. The institution ceased to exist after the death of Saionji, the last genro.

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