Balkans on the Verge of Armistice without Greece; The Taishō Era Begins in Japan; Suffragette Hysteria Continues in Britain

  • At Çatalca, Turkey signed an armistice with Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro, but Greece did not participate. The ceasefire took effect at 7:00 pm local time, temporarily halting the fighting. Part of the ceasefire was to hold a peace conference in London, but the discussions failed and hostilities would resume on February 3, 1913

In Japan, the resignation of the War Minister Uehara Yūsaku (上原 勇作), whom we will hear more of at the time of the Russian

Young Kinmochi Saionji (西園寺公望, 1849-1940) stud...

Young Kinmochi Saionji (西園寺公望, 1849-1940) studying in Paris. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Civil War, precipitated the fall of the ministerial government of Saionji Kinmochi (西園寺 公望), the last of the Genrō (元老) or “founding fathers” of modern Japan and leader of the Rikken Seiyūkai (立憲政友会), the “liberal-minded constitutional” party. This was the final alteration in holding the office of Prime Minister with the military-oriented Katsura Tarō (桂 太郎), protege of the arch-conservative militarist Yamagata Aritomo (山縣 有朋), who like all Genrō with the single exception of Saionji, were from two regions, Chōshū and Satsuma, and indeed Katsura and Yamagata hailed from the same Chōshū town.

This marked the end of an era in Japan and opened an extended period of political instability, called the Taishō Seihen (大正政変) at the very beginning of the Taishō Era (大正時代, 6-30-1912 to 12-25-1926), commencing upon the death of the preceding Emperor, Meiji (明治天皇, 1868-1912), an instability that was to see an entry of the masses onto the political scene culminating in 1918, as over one million people took to the streets in the single largest mass demonstration in Japanese history.

General Katsura Tarō in 1886 Blue uniform

General Katsura Tarō in 1886 Blue uniform (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As mentioned in this blog, Uehara had resigned in protest over the refusal of the Japan Diet (Kokkai, 国会), or parliament, to fund an expansion of the Army in Korea, then recently annexed to Japan in 1911. Katsura tried to force through funding for Army expansion, but the Navy feared being left out of the financing and witheld support for a Minister of Navy in Katsura’s government. Katsura responded by suspending the Kokkai to prevent a majority bloc of the Seiyūkai and the Kokumintō (Nationalist Party, a pro-Navy party) from voting no-confidence in his government. This invited mass demonstrations into the streets, pelting pro-government buildings with rocks and marching on the Kokkai to demand the reopening of the Diet.

Katsura was to eventually cave-in to the pressure, and was followed as Prime Minister by an Admiral of the Imperial Navy, Yamamoto Gonbee, (山本 權兵衛), also from Satsuma but not of the Genrō, though his military experience went all the way back to the Anglo-Satsuma War (薩英戦争 Satsu-Ei Sensō), when the British Navy laid waste to Kagoshima harbor in 1863, a pivotal moment in the Bakumatsu Era (幕末) that forced Satsuma to realign with the anti-Tokugawa Chōshū, whom the British were beginning to support into power.

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Crowd attacking offices of the Dōshikai (同志会), 1913

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