Episode 79 – The Bismarck of the East

Our topic this week is the life and legacy of one of Japan’s greatest political leaders: Ito Hirobumi, author of Japan’s first modern constitution. Born into a low-rank samurai family in Choshu, Ito would wear many hats in his life: radical, terrorist, student, diplomat, leader, and finally — and fatally — as the face of Japanese dominance in Korea. His life and his legacy are central to the story of modern Japan.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Hamada, Kengi. Prince Ito.

Jansen, Marius. The Making of Modern Japan.

Takii, Kazuhiro. Ito Hirobumi – Japan’s First Prime Minister and Father of the Meiji Constitution.

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation unless otherwise noted)

The Choshu Five, samurai sent to study in the UK in 1862 at University College, London.  From left to right: Inoue Kaoru, Endo Kinsuke, Inoue Maoru, Yozo Yamao, and Ito Hirobumi. Courtesy of University College, London.
The Choshu Five, samurai sent to study in the UK in 1862 at University College, London. From left to right: Inoue Kaoru, Endo Kinsuke, Inoue Maoru, Yozo Yamao, and Ito Hirobumi. Courtesy of University College, London.
Ito Hirobumi during his second tenure as Prime Minister.
Ito Hirobumi during his second tenure as Prime Minister.
Ito Hirobumi and Crown Prince Yi of Korea. Ito believed very strongly that his presence could help remake Korea in the image of Meiji Japan. It was a dream that was unrealistic at best and which died with him.
Ito Hirobumi and Crown Prince Yi of Korea. Ito believed very strongly that his presence could help remake Korea in the image of Meiji Japan. It was a dream that was unrealistic at best and which died with him.
An Jung-geun, the Korean nationalist who believed Ito Hirobumi was poisoning the Meiji Emperor and Japan against Korea. His assassination of Ito would ironically remove the one man in the leadership of Japan who strongly objected to annexation.
An Jung-geun, the Korean nationalist who believed Ito Hirobumi was poisoning the Meiji Emperor and Japan against Korea. His assassination of Ito would ironically remove the one man in the leadership of Japan who strongly objected to annexation.
Ito disembarking at Harbin. This photo was taken seconds before Ito was shot by An Jung-geun (who is outside of the frame of this image). Courtesy of Dr. Kenneth Pyle.
Ito disembarking at Harbin. This photo was taken seconds before Ito was shot by An Jung-geun (who is outside of the frame of this image). Courtesy of Dr. Kenneth Pyle.
An's statue in Seoul. As you can imagine, this didn't go over well.
An’s statue in Seoul. As you can imagine, this didn’t go over well.
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