Shinzō Abe was a Japanese politician who became the longest-serving prime minister in the history of Japan after serving as prime minister of Japan from 2006 to 2007 and then from 2012 to 2020. Aged 52 at the time of assuming office as the prime minister, Abe was also the youngest Japanese post-war prime minister.
Japanese samurai and daimyō Toyotomi Hideyoshi of the Sengoku period, also known as the second Great Unifier of Japan, became the Chancellor of the Realm (Daijō-daijin) and Imperial Regent (kampaku). He constructed the Osaka Castle, banned slavery, and established the Tokugawa class system and the Council of Five Elders.
Once a reputed Japanese martial artist and wrestler, Antonio Inoki grew up in Brazil, where he won several contests of shot put, discus, and javelin. At 17, he went to the Japanese Wrestling Association and was mentored by Rikidōzan. He later established the New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Son of an Austro-Hungarian diplomat father and a Japanese mother, Richard Nikolaus Graf Coudenhove-Kalergi, also known as Aoyama Eijiro in Japan, grew up to be a skilled politician and established the Pan-European Union. He was the first to receive the Charlemagne Prize and also had citizenships of Czechoslovakia and France.
Takeda Shingen was an influential daimyo, or feudal lord of the Takeda clan, in Japan, apart from being an able military leader. Also known as the Tiger of Kai, he had long military conflicts with Uesugi and other leaders. His life inspired legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa’s Kagemusha.
The 121st tennō, or emperor, of Japan, Emperor Kōmei, had a tumultuous reign, which witnessed Japan being pushed to open to the Western world. He was the last Japanese emperor with multiple nengō, or era names. He was known for imposing an order of killing and persecuting foreign traders and officials.
Beginning his career as a civil servant, Nobusuke Kishi entered politics as a vice minister of the Manchukuo government and later served in the Cabinet of Tōjō Hideki. Imprisoned for three years by the Allied Occupation authorities after the war, he eventually became the Prime Minister of Japan. As Prime Minister of Japan, he signed a new U.S.-Japan security treaty.
Akie Abe is the wife of former Japanese prime minister Shinzō Abe. The daughter of a confectionery magnate, Akie has previously worked for Dentsu Inc. She has also been a DJ, using the pseudonym Akky. She once partnered with Michelle Obama to promote classroom education for girls worldwide.
Uesugi Kenshin was one of the most influential 16th-century Japanese military figures and a daimyō of the Sengoku period. His military prowess earned him the nickname Dragon of Echigo. Born Nagao Torachiyo, he changed his name after defeated leader Uesugi Norimasa took refuge in his home and adopted him.
One of the most significant figures behind the modernization of Japan, Itō Hirobumi had led his country as its first prime minister and was also a genrō. Born to an adopted son of a samurai family, he contributed to the Meiji Restoration and the formation of the Japanese constitution.
Born into the aristocratic Konoe family of Japan, Fumimaro Konoe grew up to become the Japanese prime minister. He led his nation during the second Sino-Japanese War and resigned just before World War II. Suspected of war crimes by the U.S., he eventually committed suicide by consuming potassium cyanide.
Born into a family of politicians, Junichiro Koizumi had been the prime minister of his country and a Liberal-Democratic Party leader. The London School of Economics alumnus became hugely popular among the masses for his reforms, such as inclusion of more women in the cabinet and speaking against nuclear weapons.
Minamoto no Yoritomo is remembered founded the shogunate, a system of feudal lordship, which reigned over Japan for over 7 centuries. Part of the prestigious Kawachi Genji family, Yorimoto was hard-hearted enough to kill his relatives for gaining power. He also led the uprising known as the Gempei War.
Born into a family of politicians from Hiroshima, Fumio Kishida graduated in law and then stepped into politics. The Liberal Democratic Party member has been the minister of foreign affairs and is the current representative from Hiroshima 1st district. He is also associated with the nationalist group Nippon Kaigi.
Yasuhiro Nakasone was a Japanese politician. He served as the president of the Liberal Democratic Party and prime minister of Japan from 1982 to 1987. For over five decades Nakasone served as a member of the House of Representatives. He is remembered for his work which helped reinvigorate Japanese nationalism, which plays a major role in the success of Japan.
Apart from being a regent of Japan, Taishi Shōtoku, or Prince Umayado, had also enriched Japanese literature, chronicling the history of the country. He introduced the Seventeen-article constitution and also promoted Buddhism and Confucianism. He improved Japan’s diplomatic and cultural ties with China, by resuming sending envoys to the country.
Born to a paratrooper, Democratic Party leader and former Japanese prime minister Yoshihiko Noda grew up amid abject poverty and was not related to the political elite of Japan. He eventually grew unpopular for his decision to reopen the nuclear plants that had been shut down after the Fukushima disaster.
The current Japanese deputy prime minister and finance minister Taro Aso has also previously led the country as its prime minister. The Stanford alumnus is known for making controversial and racist statements. He also gained the nickname His Excellency Rozen for his love for the manga series Rozen Maiden.
Born to a factory manager, Naoto Kan was not related to the Japanese political elite. He grew up to form his own patent company and later became Japan’s prime minister. As the country’s health minister earlier, he had admitted the government’s fault in distributing HIV-tainted blood to patients of hemophilia.
Born into a family of Japanese politicians that has been compared to the Kennedy family of the U.S., Yukio Hatoyama has served as Japan’s prime minister and as the Democratic Party president. An engineer, who later obtained a PhD from Stanford, he has also taught at a few universities earlier.
Shigeru Yoshida had been the prime minister of Japan in the face of Allied occupation after World War II. Born to an entrepreneur and a geisha, he had later been adopted by a friend of his father’s. He is best known for the Yoshida Doctrine, which ushered in economic prosperity.
Considered as one the Four Heavenly Kings of the Tokugawa, Honda Tadakatsu was an important samurai general of the Sengoku and a veteran of over one hundred battles. Known for his loyalty to Tokugawa Ieyasu, he was later rewarded with the fief of Otaki and the domain of Kuwana. Also known as Honda Heihachirō, he never suffered any major wound.
Tokugawa Hidetada was the second shōgun of the Tokugawa dynasty. Named to the shogunate by his father Tokugawa Ieyasu because of his even temper, he not only consolidated his family’s rule, but also banned Christianity and Christian literature in Japan, executing many missionaries and converts. To protect Japan from foreign influence, he also took steps to ban foreign trade.
Kantarō Suzuki was the last leader of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association and the last premier of Japan at the time of World War II, following which he surrendered to the Allied powers. He had previously gained accolades for his role in the Russo-Japanese War and the First Sino-Japanese War.
Japanese Socialist Party leader Inejiro Asanuma was singlehandedly raised by his father after his mother’s death at childbirth. He was against the U.S. and strongly supported the Chinese Communist Party. A 17-year-old nationalist stabbed him to death, using a samurai sword, during a televised on-stage event.
Born to former Prime Minister Takeo Fukudu, Yasuo Fukuda worked at a petroleum company before entering political arena as his father’s political secretary. Later he served as chief cabinet secretary to two more prime ministers before being elected to the position himself. He pledged to improve Japan’s relationship with China and North Korea; but resigned out of frustration a year later.
Son of Emperor Jimmu, Emperor Suizei is largely regarded as the second legendary Japanese emperor, and many historians debate his existence. He killed his half-brother, Tagishimimi, who had plotted his murder, to become the emperor. He later married his aunt and had a son with her.
Genki Sudo is a Japanese MMA fighter, singer, dancer, and politician. Known for his unorthodox fighting style and elaborate ring entrances, Sudo was a kickboxer before focusing on his career in the Japanese entertainment industry. He then became a member of a prominent political party in Japan in 2019. Sudo is currently serving as a Member of House of Councillors.
Considered the Father of Parliamentary Politics in Japan, Yukio Ozaki was a revered member of the House of Representatives, who served as Education Minister, Minister of Justice and also as the Mayor of Tokyo. Today, he is best remembered for his struggles to establish universal manhood suffrage and a governmental system responsible to the majority party in the Diet.
Kuniaki Koiso had served as Japan’s prime minister during the final stages of World War II but died in prison after being convicted of war crimes. Born into a family of samurai descendants, he grew up to become an army general. He had also been the governor general of Korea.
Born to a poor cattle dealer, Kakuei Tanaka started his own construction firm after quitting school at 15. After gaining immense wealth as a businessman, he stepped into politics and rose through the ranks to become the prime minister of Japan. He eventually resigned amid a bribery scandal.
Nobel Peace Prize-winning Japanese prime minister Eisaku Satō is remembered for his stance against nuclear weapons, which led Japan to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. While he improved trade with China, he was also criticized for letting the U.S. army stay in Okinawa even after its return to Japan.
Founder of the Nihon Shintō, or the Japan New Party, Morihiro Hosokawa was born into a political family and was a descendant of the Japanese royalty, the Kumamoto-Hosokawa clan. A qualified lawyer, he had also worked as a journalist before stepping into politics. He later resigned amid bribery charges.
Hōjō Tokimune served as the regent to the shogun of Japan during the Kamakura shogunate. He is remembered for his resilience in the fight against the Mongol invaders of Kublai Khan, which ended in a typhoon killing thousands of invaders. He also promoted Zen Buddhism in Japan.
Apart from serving as the governor of Tokyo, Japanese right-wing politician Shintaro Ishihara has also been an accomplished writer. He wrote the Akutagawa Prize-winning novel Season of the Sun when he was still in school and later contributed to various plays and screenplays, too.
A court scholar, Sugawara Michizane had held various significant posts, such as the governor of Sanuki and the minister of the right. He redefined Chinese literature, particularly Kanshi poetry, but was later exiled to an island for suspected treason. He is revered as the deity of learning and literature, Tenman-Tenjin.
A descendant of the noble Imagawa clan, Imagawa Yoshimoto was a prominent daimyo, or feudal lord, of the Sengoku period. It is believed he lived a kingly life, and was carried around in a palanquin. He was killed by his enemies while celebrating an early success in the Battle of Okehazama.
Orphaned at the age of three, Ii Naomasa was initially groomed by his foster mother, Ii Naotora, a daimyō of the Sengoku period. He was later sent to Tokugawa Ieyasu, under whom he began his career, rising swiftly through ranks to become Hyōbu-dayū. Considered one of the Four Heavenly Kings of the Tokugawa, he was also a favorite of Tokugawa Ieyasu.
Born in Hiroshima, Genda Minoru grew up to be one of the most influential naval officers of Japan. He was chosen by Japanese admiral Isoroku Yamamoto for strategizing and drafting the plan to attack the Pearl Harbor, which resulted in the U.S.’s entry into World War II, the following day.
Mamoru Shigemitsu had been the foreign minister and the deputy prime minister of Japan and an ambassador to several countries. He ratified Japan’s surrender to the Allies after World War II, following which he was convicted of war crimes. Hereceived a 7-year sentence but was paroled after 4 years.
After graduating in English literature, Keizo Obuchi stepped into his father’s shoes, becoming the youngest legislator in the Japanese parliament. His short-sighted policies are largely held responsible for Japan’s economic failure in his time. In his youth, he went on a world tour, taking up odd jobs, such as dishwashing.
The son of a brewer, Noboru Takeshita had initially been a high-school teacher. He later stepped into politics and joined the Liberal Democratic Party, eventually becoming the prime minister of Japan. He was forced to resign following his involvement in a corruption and insider trading scandal.
Son of a stonemason, Kōki Hirota grew up to graduate in law. Stepping into politics, he eventually became the prime minister of Japan. He had previously been an ambassador to Russia, too. He resigned amid army pressure and was executed by hanging for war crimes during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
Son of a brewer from Moriyama, Sōsuke Uno was a martial arts champion in school. He later served the Japanese army in World War II, before stepping into politics and eventually becoming the prime minister of Japan. He resigned in the wake of a scandal involving a geisha.