, or "elder statesmen
," were a group of pro-West
ern rulers in Japan
following the Meiji Restoration
. Under the Meiji Constitution
, the prime minister
were selected by the emperor
, not by the Diet
. In practice, however, the emperor's seclusion from the physical world
meant that he needed intermediaries to select Japan's rulers in his name: this is how the genrô
came to be.
Japan's genrô included Ito Hirobumi, Yamagata Aritomo, Matsukata Masayoshi, Inoue Kaoru, Katsura Taro, and Saionji Kimmochi. Until the turn of the century, the genrô ruled Japan directly as prime ministers. After 1901, they retired to back room politics, naming others to become prime minister. Kimmochi was the last genrô—the position was closed in 1932, and prime ministerial selection went to a committee of imperial court officials and former premiers.
In Japan, the term is also used to refer to senators of the Roman Empire. (Senators of modern countries are called jôin-giin, literally "upper house delegates.")