Japanese naval minister (1898–1906) and prime minister (1913–14; 1923–24). Principally remembered for his role in expanding the Japanese navy, Yamamoto also advocated the participation of the military in Japanese government.
Born in Satsuma (now Kagoshima), Yamamoto joined the forces loyal to the crown during the Boshin civil war at the age of sixteen. In 1870 he was assigned to the naval training section and then to the naval training barracks, where he graduated in 1874. Three years later he joined a German warship to further his naval training.
Yamamoto was appointed chief secretary of the ministry of the navy in 1891. When the Sino-Japanese War (1894–95) broke out, he was sent to the Imperial headquarters as an adviser on behalf of the naval ministry. His appointment as a rear admiral (1895) and his skilled leadership gave him great influence within the Imperial headquarters over the navy's role in the war. In 1898 he was promoted to vice-admiral and chosen to become naval minister in the cabinet of Yamagata Aritomo, a position he retained until 1906, by which time he was a full admiral. During this period he initiated steps towards the Anglo-Japanese alliance of 1902, oversaw the Japanese victory in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–05), and initiated Japanese involvement in Chinese Manchuria. In 1913 he became prime minister, with the support of the Seiyukan Party, but resigned the following year over a scandal relating to naval construction. He became prime minister again in 1923, declaring martial law throughout the Tokyo region after the Great Kanto Earthquake. The attempted assassination of the crown prince, for which his cabinet assumed collective responsibility, led to his resignation the same year.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).