Nagayama Yoshida
ナガヤマ ヨシダ
Timeline: Cherry, Plum, and Chrysanthemum

Portrait of Nagayama Yoshida

1st President of the Republic of Japan
February 16, 1919 – March 17, 1951

Predecessor office established
Successor Matsuoka Komakichi
Vice-President Kita Ikki
Matsuoka Komakichi

Chief of Central Leadership of Japanese Nationalist Party
December 1, 1918 – August 11, 1950

Predecessor office established
Successor Nosaka Sanzo
Second Comrade Kita Ikki

1st Party President of Japanese Nationalist Party
October 17, 1919 – July 25, 1952

Predecessor Inukai Tsuyoshi
Successor office abolished

Member of the National Congress of Japan
February 16, 1920 – July 25, 1952

Constituency Tokyo At-large
Born April 8, 1871
Fuchu, Musashi Province (now part of Greater Tokyo), Empire of Japan
Died July 25, 1952
Tokyo, Republic of Japan
Political Party Japanese Nationalist Party
Religion Shintoism (Kokugaku → Ko-Shintō)
Profession Writer
Minsei Nagayama Yoshida (ナガヤマ ヨシダ; Fuchu, Musashi Province, April 8, 1871 – Tokyo, July 25, 1952) was a Japanese politician, writer, journalist, soldier, and political theorist. He was the leader of Japanese Nationalist Party (1919–1949) and the first President of the Republic of Japan (1919–1951).

Nagayama played an instrumental role in the Japanese Revolution of 1919 that overthrown the eight-century old Japanese Empire and established a new republican Japanese government under the leadership of Nationalist Party in Japan. Under his leadership, Japan went through a series of nationalization of key industrial and agricultural sectors, extensive industrialization, military conflict with China in Korea and Manchuria in 1931, and victory over the Axis Powers during World War II in 1945. He was granted the honorific Minsei (民聖, literally, "People's Sage") by the National Congress of Japan in 1946 for his state, party, and war leadership. His sociopolitical philosophies are collectively known as Social Nationalism.

Nagayama's birthday (April 8) has been designated since 1953 as a public holiday in Japan and is called the "Minsei Day" (Japanese: ミンセイセツ Minsei-setsu). He is also commemorated in 1937 marching song, "Song of Nagayama Yoshida".


Nagayama Yoshida was born in Fuchu, Musashi Province on April 8, 1871, the only son of Nagayama Yoshimasa (永山昌優) and his wife, Ri Seiko (季征子). Yoshida is part of Nagayama clan, one of the prominent gakke families during the Era of Seclusion. His great-grandfather, Nagayama Masahisha (1761–1828), was a disciple of famous kokugaku scholar, Motoori Norinaga, and later serving as the one of elders within the Council of the State in 1811 following the rise of Motoori clan. Yoshida's grandfather, Nagayama Masano (1800–1862), who also a rōju and a leading figure of Kyoto clique, was killed by an assassin sent by the Edo clique during the political crisis in 1860s.

Yoshida's father, Yoshimasa (1838–1900), was the soldier for Kyoto clique forces during the First Japanese Civil War (1865–1867). After the abolition of ancient political institutions in 1868, Yoshimasa was stripped from his bureaucratic post by the new Japanese government and his family estates were expropriated. Yoshimasa moved from his family residence in Kyoto and then lived in Fuchu where he later married his own maid, Seiko, in 1869.

Yoshida's mother, Seiko (1840–1928), was a Korean. Her real name is Yi Jung-hwa (季程華). She was born in Busan, but spent most of her early years in Tsushima. She then moved to Kyoto, followed his uncle to work in Nagayama family's Eisan household residence. Despite being a family maid, Seiko was already very close with Yoshimasa since their childhood and was treated by Masano as his own daughter. After Nagayama family estates being taken over by the government, Seiko decided to follow Yoshimasa instead to return to Tsushima with her family.

Yoshimasa then lived a quiet life in Fuchu and purchased a small piece of land to work as a farmer. Despite this, Yoshimasa and his family lived in a comfortable modest life. During his childhood, Yoshimasa privately tried to pass gakke family heritage to Yoshida by teaching him classical kokugaku texts as well as classical Confucian texts that previously owned by his grandfather started at the age of nine. Yoshida also attended a local temple school (寺子屋 terakoya) at the age of ten.


University years


Nagayama, during his youth days

Although his father desired to continue Nagayama's education, he instead entered the first Imperial Military Academy in Osaka at the age of 15 and formally joined the Imperial Navy of Japan in 1890 at the age of 19. However, he contracted tuberculosis, making him discharged from the Navy and returned to his home town in 1891. Followed his father’s advice, Nagayama began to study law and politics in Keio University in 1892, and later history in Shōheikō University in 1895 while also worked as a part-time editor of Asahi Shimbun.

During his university years, he became interested in works of Western philosophers, such as Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, and Leo Tolstoy and started his interest with the ideas of social justice and republicanism. Nagayama joined a Fabianist think-tank, Society for the Social Study, in 1896 and was one of its active contributors as an editor for the organization weekly journal.

His article that commemorated the first anniversary of the Society showed his sympathy toward the cause of working people and the social and economic reform in Japan.

Our Empire had a step toward a new era of imperialism: the era of international capitalism. We must prepare our working men, either the industrial laborers, the peasants, or the intellectuals in a great effort to bring this Empire as one of the world powers. Both the prosperity of our people and the glory of our Empire alike are our primary priority today.
----- "On the First Anniversary of Society for the Social Study" (1897)

Nagayama also befriended a Chinese revolutionary, Sun Yat-sen, the future first president of the Republic of China when the latter exiled himself after the failure of a revolutionary uprising against the Qing government in 1895. The two quickly became close friends as a result of their common fondness of discussing recent political and social issues at the time and remained on it for the rest of their lives. Later when he became president, Nagayama wrote a deeply emotional eulogy in Daiwa Shimbun following Sun's death in 1925.

Spanish-Japanese War

In 1898, Nagayama joined the Imperial Navy again through the conscription following the Spanish-Japanese War. He was first assigned on the ironclad Fusō and participated in the Battle of Luzon. In 1899, Nagayama was commissioned as an ensign and then served on the cruisers Takachiho and newly launched Asama. Later, he was promoted to lieutenant and stationed at the naval infantry where he would serve for the rest of the war. Nagayama participated in the Battle of Cebu (1899) and the Battle of Mindanao (1900), commanded a group of local recruits that would be called as the "Philippine Legion". He was also assigned as the Japanese military attache to the Philippine rebel army under General Emilio Aguinaldo where he became a communique between Aguinaldo and the Imperial Japanese Navy.

When the war began more unfavorable toward the Japanese forces and the Philippine rebels, Nagayama orchestrated an escape for General Aguinaldo to Japan on January 29, 1901. The war finally ended on May 2, 1901 following the Treaty of Brussels after a three-year prolonged conflict. The treaty formally ended the hostilities between two parties and returned to the status quo ante bellum without any territorial gains for Japan. Nagayama returned to Japan on May 31, 1901, but was only discharged from the Navy effectively on January 1, 1902.

Political activism

After being discharged from the Navy, Nagayama became a full-time columnist for Tokyo Asahi Shimbun. Nagayama, however, became more critical toward the Imperial government and one of his article in Asahi Shimbun criticized the Emperor system and Japan's military policy that overspending the national budget. He also criticized the parliamentary system of government that he considered dividing the nation the most. Due to his articles, Nagayama was arrested by the Imperial government in accordance with the Public Order and Police Law of 1900. He was imprisoned for one year before finally released in 1902 with amnesty from Emperor Keishin.

Shortly after released, Nagayama became one of the founders of National Cultural Movement (コカ ブンク ウンド; Kanji: 國家文化運動, Kokka Bunkwa Undō) that promoted the "Japanese-ness" culture and traditional values over Confucianism, while tried to mix the Japanese values with modern Western ideologies in an effort to strengthen the nation position among other nations in the world. In 1904, Nagayama published his first book, The Renaissance of the Japanese Nation, in which he tried to explain his theory of the struggle of civilization and his view on Japan's then situation according to his theory.

Nagayama raised his voice again in 1905 in the aftermath of Russo-Japanese War where he wrote an article for the left-leaning Shinkigen Monthly that criticized government's overspending on the expansionist military projects and failure to achieve its own military objectives in the American-sponsored Portsmouth Peace Conference. On the same year, Nagayama met with Kita Ikki, a fellow nationalist thinker. Sharing a same political view, the two then became close friends and work colleagues for the rest of their lives. Nagayama and Kita collaborated for the first time in the writing of On the Russo-Japanese War (1906). The book itself considered unique since it brought two contrasting opinions ('for', representing by Kita and 'against', by Nagayama) on the Russo-Japanese War to produce an objective conclusion regarding the issue.

Nagayama attended the founding conference of Socialist Party of Japan in 1906 and joined the newly founded party before it banned by the government shortly afterward. Nagayama and Kita then co-founded a nationalist party, Blue Flag Society (紺旗會 Konkikai). The party's name referred to the old flag of the Japanese Empire as its membership was comprised of low-born intellectuals with gakke family background. In 1910, Konkikai then merged with Kensei Hontō, the loyalists of Ōkuma Shigenobu (ironically one of leading figures in the anti-gakke movement in the 1860s) and other smaller parties to form the Constitutional Nationalist Party (立憲國民黨 Rikken Kokumintō), led by Inukai Tsuyoshi.

Member of Imperial Diet

Tsuyoshi Inukai facing left

Inukai Tsuyoshi (1855-1936), co-leader of Constitutional Nationalist Party

In 1912, Nagayama was elected as the member of Imperial Diet, representing the constituency of Western Tokyo, his hometown. As a legislator, he was actively campaigning for the recognition of the Republic of China and frequently requested the Imperial Japanese government to give financial and military aid to the Republican government of China. In 1913, Nagayama, Inukai, and Kita (who already joined the Chinese revolutionaries four years earlier) later assisted Sun Yat-sen when Sun had to flee to Japan after his attempt to overthrow Yuan Shikai failed.

In January 1913, about half of the Constitutional Nationalist Party defected to join the Katsura Taro's New Constitutional Party (憲政黨 Kenseitō). Nagayama was tasked by Inukai in charge of the re-organization of the party. Under Nagayama, the Constitutional Nationalist Party started to associate themselves with several secret nationalist groups, such as Ryōhei Uchida's Kokuryukai (黑龍會 "Black Dragon Society") and advocated political programs that more popular with the commoners, including universal male suffrage, lower agrarian tax, and improvement of national agricultural policies. Thanks to its popular programs, the party drew solid support from the rural peasants.

In 1914, at the wake of World War I, the party divided into two political factions. One faction, led by Inukai Tsuyoshi and Kita Ikki, supported Japan to join the Allies and declared war to Spain in order to gain the Philippine Islands. Meanwhile, another faction, led by Ryōhei Uchida, supported Japan to join the Central Powers and declared war to Russia in order to gain all Korean Peninsula. Nagayama himself stayed neutral between those divided factions and chose not to support any side within the party. He even abstained during the voting on the Diet regarding the declaration of war against Spain on August 5, 1914, a step that heavily criticized by his colleagues on the Diet and the Nationalist Party.

Kibi Revolution

Japan's participation in World War I and Siberian Intervention brought the country into industrial booming. Exports quadrupled from 1913 to 1918. The massive capital influx into Japan and the subsequent industrial boom, however, led to rapid inflation. On August 1918, rice riots caused by this inflation erupted in towns and cities throughout Japan. Nagayama viewed the riots as a right momentum to launch a revolution. The Russian Revolution of 1917 realized him that the workers and peasants were able to be driving forces of a revolution in Japan that he hoped for. During this period, Nagayama approached the labor unions by forge an alliance with Suzuki Bunji, leader of the Yuaikai (友愛會 "Fraternity"), an organization that advocated more moderate approach to promoting the workers' cause.

On September 11, 1918, Emperor Keishin suddenly died of influenza and it resulted to a panic among the country's elites since the Emperor not bore any male heir which created a vacuum on the throne succession. At the time of the Emperor's death, the riots were increased as many young soldiers deserted and joined the protesters. The riots reached its climax on November 13, 1918. More than 5200 demonstrators gathered in Hibiya Park, Tokyo, in protest against the government's economic policy and overspending on the military investiture. When the demonstrators marched from the park and approached toward the Imperial Palace, the Imperial Guards opened fire on the masses, killed 50 individuals and injured 327 others.

Nagayama and other Constitutional Nationalist members of Diet protested the Hibiya Park massacre. On his speech before the Lower House of Imperial Diet on November 15, 1918, Nagayama denounced the government that underestimated the people's powers that increasingly growing bigger and asked Prime Minister Iwasaki Hisaya to immediately resign from his position. After the speech, Nagayama was kidnapped by the secret police on his way home and detained for almost ten hours. The kidnapping of a major political figure such as Nagayama sparked protests from the Nationalists. Nagayama was released after Inukai Tsuyoshi appealed to the Chief of Tokyo Metropolitan Police to release him.

Upon his abduction, Nagayama gradually leaned toward the protesters and went so far as to call for a revolution to overthrow the Imperial government. Inukai, who previously tried to find a way to mediate the government and the protesters, also finally gave up and by December 1, 1918, he resigned as the president of the Constitutional Nationalist Party to open a way for Nagayama to take over the party. Nagayama was elected as the new president and Kita as new first secretary. On his acceptance speech before the Party Congress, Nagayama stunned his contemporaries by declaring that "the Mandate of Heaven will be replaced by the Mandate of People."

On December 13, 1918, the Constitutional Nationalists merged with Kokuryukai, Rōsōkai, and other smaller nationalist groups to form the Japanese Nationalist Party. Under Nagayama, the Nationalists was organized along the Democratic Centralist lines, similar to the Bolshevik Party in order to become a vanguard party of the peasants and workers. The Nationalists also adopted a deep blue flag with a white star on its center as the new party's symbol. The Nationalists then moved their headquarters to Kyoto by December 21, 1918.

Second Japanese Civil War

The Central Committee of the Japanese Nationalist Party met for the first time in Kyoto on January 11, 1919 and adopted a motion that known as the Kyoto Declaration on January 14. The motion itself called for the formation of the Council of National Salvation as the unified military command of the revolutionary forces and the immediate takeover of national government by the revolutionary movement. Nagayama was elected as its chairman. In response with the formation of Council of National Salvation, the Imperial Diet of Japan established the Supreme Military Command which headed by Prince Kan'in Kotohito to restore law and order in the country as well as to suppress the revolt.

On February 13, 1919, the first National Congress of Japan was convened by the Nationalist Party at the Kyoto City Hall, Kyoto. About 400 delegates represented the workers’ unions, peasant organizations, cooperative movements, youth movements, women's movements, and revolutionary militias throughout Japan, were invited by the Nationalist Party to establish a new government of Japan. On February 16, 1919, coinciding with the date of the traditional National Independence Day of Japan, the National Congress declared the establishment of the Republic of Japan. The Provisional National Government of the Republic of Japan was formed with Nagayama Yoshida as its president and Inukai Tsuyoshi as the first prime minister.

President of Japan

World War II

Final years


Personal life

Nagayama was a half-Korean Japanese from his mother's ancestry. He never hid his Korean ancestry and used to proud himself as an "Asiatic", rather than simply a Japanese. In 1929, Nagayama personally ordered the building of an ancestral temple for his late mother in Busan. He was able to speak Korean with Tsushima accent because of his mother. Nagayama was also fluent in Chinese, Spanish and Tagalog due to his war years in the Philippines. He routinely corresponded with Sun Yat-sen, the leader of Chinese Nationalists, from 1895 until the latter's death in 1925. He also learned and was able to understand English and French during his presidency years, but depended on the translators when he conversed in English with the foreign heads of state, heads of government or envoys.

In the 1930s, a cult of personality developed around Nagayama, elevating him to a "god-like" personality equals to the pre-republican Japanese emperors. He was covered by a mysterious aura of seclusion in the official propaganda. In real life, Nagayama had an introverted personality, who preferred a small circle of trusted colleagues rather than a large crowd. Nagayama rarely gave public speeches, but maintained a strong public presence until his death. He routinely visited towns, villages, factories and hospitals. During World War II, in his seventies, Nagayama personally travelled to the regions most afflicted by the Chinese bombings. He was affectionately referred as "Grandpa" (オジイチャン ojīchan) by children.

Until his death, Nagayama remained unmarried and was officially portrayed by the Party's propaganda during his lifetime as a "celibate" who "dedicated his own life to the Nation and the Revolution". Despite the official propaganda, Nagayama was known having romantic relationships with two women throughout his life. Between 1899 and 1901, he was in a romantic relationship with a Pilipino mestiza, named Bella, when stationed in the Philippines. Nagayama seriously considered to marry Bella, but decided to leave her when he returned to Japan in 1901. His second romantic relationship was with a Kyoto geisha, named Kiyo. Nagayama met Kiyo in 1919 when the republican government resided in Kyoto. Nagayama regularly visited her quarters between 1919 and 1921.

Despite its non-sexual nature, he relationship was controversial since Nagayama was already considered the leader of the revolution and a moral authority to the newly-founded Republic of Japan. Other revolutionary leaders warned Nagayama the inappropriate nature of the relationship with Kiyo and tried to marry him off to women from more prestigious families. Nagayama, however, insisted nobody would told him regarding his personal life, not even the government. By the end of civil war, Nagayama moved to Tokyo, but kept in contact with his favorite geisha


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