Yoshida was the first prime minister of Japan
following the Occupation
, and was the backbone of Japan
until the formation of the LDP
in the mid-1950's.
He was born in 1878 in Tokyo, and graduated from the law school at Tokyo Imperial University in 1906. Like many of Japan's future leaders, he entered the foreign service after his graduation, working his way up the ranks of diplomacy and eventually becoming the Japanese ambassador to the United Kingdom in 1936.
Because Yoshida was a pacifist, the ruling junta in Japan forced him to retire in 1939. He was one of the only vocal opponents of Japan's actions during World War II, and for this did time in Sugamo Prison from 1944 to 1945. Douglas MacArthur, however, saw Yoshida as a passable statesman figure for Japan's postwar years, and gave him the post of foreign minister under the first postwar cabinet, that of Shidehara Kijuro.
Yoshida was a member of the Liberal Party, headed by Hatoyama Ichiro. In 1946, the Liberals gained control of the first postwar Diet, but the occupation had temporarily purged Hatoyama, making Yoshida the logical successor in the Kantei. He signed the Japanese Constitution as one of his first acts in office.
While Yoshida's first term lasted for less than a year, it was a very turbulent time in Japan. The government had to rebuild and reimplement many of the structures they were forced to give up following their surrender, including setting up a new National Police Agency and the Japan Self Defense Forces. Yoshida achieved this by ruling in an almost dictatorial fashion, which frustrated many Japanese and led to his ousting in favor of Liberal Katayama Tetsu in 1947.
Two prime ministers later, in 1948, Yoshida was again voted in, this time representing the Liberals as well as the Democratic Party in a coalition. His six-year term, from 1948 to 1954, was the longest in Japanese history to date: its most momentous event was the signing of the San Francisco Peace Treaty that ended the Allied occupation and gave Japan its sovereignty again.
Despite the coalition's name, it was actually very conservative in its policies, following an idea known as the "Yoshida Doctrine," that social reform and military rebuilding would only take place if the economy was rebuilt first. It was under Yoshida's rule that the modern Japanese keiretsu began to regroup.
Yoshida resigned in 1954, and his coalition coalesced into one party, the modern Liberal Democratic Party, under the leadership of a free Hatoyama. The LDP ruled Japan for the next 39 years, until the crash of the bubble economy led to their temporary downfall. Yoshida himself became a modern genro of sorts, hanging out in the political background of Japan until his death in 1967.
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