"Thoughtlessly mobilizing troops does not boost national prestige. . . . All policies of aggression should be shunned."
- Hamaguchi Osachi
Hamaguchi Osachi (1870-1931), known as "The Lion Prime Minister," was the 27th Prime Minister of Japan. A career politician, Hamaguchi rose through the ranks of the progressive Minseito Party in the 1920s, serving as finance minister (1924–26) and home minister (1926–27) before becoming president of the Minseito in 1927.
When Hamaguchi took office as Prime Minister in 1929, he declared that he was "ready to die if necessary" for the good of the country. His words would prove prophetic. One of the last great Taisho Democrats, Hamaguchi immediately announced his political policy of 10 major principles, under the slogan "strong, just, and enlightened politics." He lambasted what he saw as the rampant political corruption of the day, and promised "clean politics."
Unfortunately, Hamaguchi had the bad luck to preside during the advent of the Great Depression. His failure to lift the gold embargo was blamed for deepening Japan's economic woes and increasing unemployment, and Hamaguchi's initial popularity quickly waned.
Moreover, Hamaguchi soon found himself in trouble with the right-wing militarists. In the tradition of most of the Minseito premiers, Hamaguchi was a pacifist. He remonstrated against what he saw as foolish warmongering, and called for cuts in military spending, and a reduction of government debts. Most galling to the militarists, however, were Hamaguchi's decision to pull Japanese troops out of China and his accession to a reduction of the Japanese Navy at the London Naval Conference of 1930.
On November 14, 1930, Hamaguchi was shot by a right-wing youth on the platform of a Tokyo train station. The assassin was Sagoya Tomeo, a member of the Aikokusha (Love of Country Society), a secret sect of ultranationalists. Hamaguchi was mortally wounded, but took almost a year to die, finally passing away on August 26, 1931. Supposedly he claimed that by being shot, he had attained his highest ambition as a man. With Hamaguchi's death passed the last significant resistance to Japan's increasing militarism. Just a few weeks later, the Japanese Kwantung Army would stage the Mukden Incident as a pretext for conquering Manchuria, setting Japan on the path to 15 years of near constant warfare.
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