Formally called 内閣総理大臣 naikaku sôri daijin ("general minister of the cabinet"): informally called 首相 shushô (lit. "neck of the council"). Japan's prime minister (premier) is elected by the Diet and serves as the country's head of government. The first prime minister was elected by the first Diet following the signing of the Meiji Constitution, and although the office has gone through many functional changes since then, it has essentially remained the same. Prime ministers live in the Kantei in Nagata-cho, and get to fly around in a Boeing 747 strangely remniscient of Air Force One.

Before the Allied occupation of Japan, prime ministers were not elected by the Diet: they were appointed, first by a body called the genro, and during the early days of the Showa era, by the ruling military junta. Partisan politics therefore did not really begin until the late 1940's. Those prime ministers that were affiliated with parties are denoted by the following abbreviations:

D = Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan)
DK = Doshikai (Comrades' Assembly)
K = Komeito (Public Light Party)
KC = Kakushin Club (Innovation Club)
KI = Kyokoku Itchi (National Unanimity)
KK = Kokumin Kyodoto (Citizens' Cooperative Party)
KS = Kenseito and Kenseikai (Constitutional Government Party/Assembly)
L = Jiyuto (Liberal Party)
LDP = Jiminto (Liberal Democratic Party)
MS = Minseito (Civil Government Party)
NJ = Nippon Shinto (New Japan Party)
NS = Shinto Sakigake (New Party Sakigake)
P = Shinpoto (Progressive Party)
S = Shakaito (Japan Socialist Party/Social Democratic Party of Japan)
SS = Shinseito (New Life Party)
SY = Seiyukai (Friends of Government Assembly)

Most Japanese political parties are extremely short-lived: only the Liberal Democrats have had any extended reign of political power, and today only half a dozen parties are represented in the Diet.

Note that, as in most parliamentary systems, the premiers of Japan have no term limits or fixed election cycle, so their periods of rule can seem rather random, but tend to reflect the political direction of Japan at the time. Those marked as "provisional" were not elected, but assumed office temporarily following the death of the previous premier: some lists will include them, while others won't. Prince Sanjo is also often left out of official lists.

Names are written in Japanese style with the family name first.


Japanese Empire

Meiji Era (Emperor Meiji)

Name                           From   To   Home      Party
Count Ito Hirobumi             1885  1888  Choshu
Kuroda Kiyotaka                1888  1889  Satsuma
Prince Sanjo Sanetomi          1889 (concurrent with Kuroda for two months)
Prince Yamagata Aritomo        1889  1891  Choshu
Prince Matsukata Masayoshi     1891  1892  Satsuma
Count Ito Hirobumi             1892  1896  Choshu
Kuroda Kiyotaka                1889 (provisional)
Prince Matsukata Masayoshi     1896  1898  Satsuma
Count Ito Hirobumi             1898        Choshu
Okuma Shigenobu                1898        Saga      KS
Prince Yamagata Aritomo        1898  1900  Choshu    KS
Count Ito Hirobumi             1900  1901  Choshu    SY
Saionji Kimmochi               1901 (provisional)
General Katsura Taro           1901  1906  Choshu
Saionji Kimmochi               1906  1908  Kyoto     SY
General Katsura Taro           1908  1911  Choshu
Saionji Kimmochi               1911  1912  Kyoto     SY

Taisho Era (Emperor Taisho)

General Katsura Taro           1912  1913  Choshu
Yamamoto Gombei                1913  1914  Satsuma   SY
Okuma Shigenobu                1914  1916  Saga      DK
Terauchi Masatake              1916  1918  Choshu
Hara Takashi (Hara Kei)        1918  1921  Iwate     SY
Uchida Yasuya                  1921 (provisional)
Takahashi Korekiyo             1921  1922  Tokyo     SY
Admiral Kato Tomosaburo        1922  1923  Hiroshima SY
Uchida Yasuya                  1923 (provisional)
Yamamoto Gombei                1923  1924  Satsuma   KC
Kiyoura Keigo                  1924  1924  Kumamoto  SY

Showa Era (Emperor Showa aka Hirohito)

Kato Takaaki                   1924  1926  Aichi     KS
Wakatsuki Reijiro              1926  1927  Shimane   KS
Tanaka Giichi                  1927  1929  Yamaguchi SY
Hamaguchi Osachi               1929  1931  Kochi     MS
Wakatsuki Reijiro              1931        Shimane   MS
Inukai Tsuyoshi                1931  1932  Okayama   SY
Takahashi Korekiyo             1932  (provisional)
Saito Makoto                   1932  1934  Iwate     KI
Okada Keisuke                  1934  1936  Fukui     KI
Baron Hirota Koki              1936  1937  Fukuoka   KI
Hayashi Senjuro                1937        Ishikawa
Prince Konoe Fumimaro          1937  1939  Tokyo     KI
Hiranuma Kiichiro              1939        Okayama
General Abe Nobuyuki           1939  1940  Ishikawa
Admiral Yonai Mitsumasa        1940        Iwate
Prince Konoe Fumimaro          1940  1941  Tokyo
General Tojo Hideki            1941  1944  Tokyo
General Koiso Kuniaki          1944  1945  Tochigi
Admiral Suzuki Kantaro         1945        Osaka

Allied Occupation of Japan

Prince Higashikuni Naruhiko    1945        Tokyo
Shidehara Kijuro               1945  1946  Osaka

State of Nippon

Yoshida Shigeru                1946  1947  Tokyo     L, P
Katayama Tetsu                 1947  1948  Wakayama  S, D, KK
Ashida Hitoshi                 1948        Kyoto     D, S, KK
Yoshida Shigeru                1948  1954  Tokyo     L, D
Hatoyama Ichiro                1954  1956  Tokyo     LDP
Ishibashi Tanzan               1956  1957  Tokyo     LDP
Kishi Nobusuke                 1957  1960  Tokyo     LDP
Ikeda Hayato                   1960  1964  Hiroshima LDP
Sato Eisaku                    1964  1972  Yamaguchi LDP
Tanaka Kakuei                  1972  1974  Niigata   LDP
Miki Takeo                     1974  1976  Tokushima LDP
Fukuda Takeo                   1976  1978  Gumma     LDP
Ohira Masayoshi                1978  1980  Kagawa    LDP
Ito Masayoshi                  1980 (provisional)
Suzuki Zenko                   1980  1982  Iwate     LDP
Nakasone Yasuhiro              1982  1987  Gumma     LDP
Takeshita Noboru               1987  1989  Shimane   LDP

Heisei Era (Emperor Akihito)

Uno Sosuke                     1989        Shiga     LDP
Kaifu Toshiki                  1989  1991  Aichi     LDP
Miyazawa Kiichi                1991  1993  Hiroshima LDP
Hosokawa Morihiro              1993  1994  Kumamoto  NJ, S, SS, K, D, NS
Hata Tsutomu                   1994        Nagano    SS, NJ, D, K, L
Murayama Tomiichi              1994  1996  Oita      S, LDP, NS
Hashimoto Ryutaro              1996  1998  Okayama   LDP, S, NS
Obuchi Keizo                   1998  2000  Gumma     LDP, L
Mori Yoshiro                   2000  2001  Ishikawa  LDP
Koizumi Junichiro              2001  2006  Kanagawa  LDP
Abe Shinzo                     2006  2007  Yamaguchi LDP
Fukuda Yasuo                   2007  2008  Gunma     LDP
Taro Aso                       2008  ----  Fukuoka   LDP

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