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Kodama Gentarō

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Subject: Taiwan under Japanese rule, Katsura Tarō, Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office, Empire of Japan, Shinpūren Rebellion
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Kodama Gentarō

Viscount Kodama Gentarō
Japanese General Viscount Kodama Gentarō
Born March 16, 1852
Tokuyama, Sūo province Japan
Died July 23, 1906(1906-07-23) (aged 54)
Tokyo, Japan
Allegiance  Empire of Japan
Service/branch  Imperial Japanese Army
Years of service 1868 - 1906
Rank General
Battles/wars Boshin War
Saga rebellion
Shinpūren Rebellion
Satsuma Rebellion
First Sino-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
Awards Order of the Golden Kite (first class)
Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun with Paulownia Flowers
Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun
Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure
Other work Cabinet Minister

Viscount Kodama Gentarō (兒玉 源太郎, 16 March 1852 – 23 July 1906) was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army, and government minister during Meiji period Japan. He was instrumental in establishing the modern Imperial Japanese military.


Early life

Born in Tokuyama, Suō Province (modern Yamaguchi prefecture), from a samurai class family loyal to the Chōshū domain, Kodama began his military career fighting in the Boshin War for the Meiji Restoration against the forces of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1868. He was appointed a non-commissioned officer on 2 June 1870, advanced to sergeant major on 10 December and promoted to warrant officer on 15 April 1871; he was commissioned a second lieutenant on 6 August and promoted to lieutenant on 21 September. He was promoted to captain on 25 July 1872 and to major on 19 October 1874.

As a soldier in the fledgling Imperial Japanese Army, he saw combat during the suppression of the Satsuma Rebellion. He later enrolled in the Osaka Heigakuryo (大阪兵学寮) military training school).[1] Successive and rapid promotions followed: lieutenant-colonel on 30 April 1880, colonel on 6 February 1883 and major-general on 24 August 1889.

Military career

Kodama was appointed head of the Prussian system.[2]

Kodama went on to study military science as a military attaché to Germany. After his return to Japan, he was appointed Vice-minister of War in 1892.

After his service in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-5), Kodama became Governor-General of Taiwan. During his tenure, he did much to improve on the infrastructure of Taiwan and to alleviate the living conditions of the inhabitants.[3] He was promoted to lieutenant general on 14 October 1896. Having proved himself an excellent administrator, Kodama spent the following decade serving as Minister of the Army under Prime Minister Itō Hirobumi, retaining the post and taking on the concurrent roles of Minister of Home Affairs and Education under the following Prime Minister Katsura Tarō.

On 6 June 1904, Kodama was promoted to full general. However, he was asked by Marshal Ōyama Iwao to be Chief of General Staff of the Manchurian Army during the Russo-Japanese War. This was a step down for him in terms of rank, but he nevertheless chose to take the position; it was a sacrifice which elicited much public applause. Throughout the Russo-Japanese War he guided the strategy of the whole campaign, as General Kawakami Sōroku had done in the First Sino-Japanese War ten years previously.[4] The postwar historian Shiba Ryotarō gives him complete credit for Japan's victory at the Siege of Port Arthur, although there is no historical evidence for this, and Kodama kept quiet about his role in the battle. Following the war, he was named Chief of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff, but he died soon afterwards.

Kodama was raised in rapid succession to the ranks of danshaku (baron) and shishaku (viscount) under the kazoku peerage system, and his death in 1906 of a cerebral hemorrhage was regarded as a national calamity.[1] Following a petition by Kodama's son, Hideo, the Meiji Emperor elevated Hideo to the title of hakushaku (count). Kodama later received the ultimate honor of being raised to the ranks of Shinto kami; shrines to his honor still exist at his home town in Shunan, Yamaguchi prefecture, and on the site of his summer home on Enoshima, Fujisawa, Kanagawa prefecture.


With information from the corresponding article in the Japanese WorldHeritage

  • Baron (20 August 1895)
  • Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure (27 December 1899; Second Class: 26 December 1894)
  • Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun (27 February 1902; 3rd Class: 7 April 1885; 4th Class: 31 January 1878)
  • Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun with Paulownia Flowers (1 April 1906)
  • Grand Cordon of the Order of the Golden Kite (1 April 1906)
  • Viscount (11 April 1906)

Order of precedence

  • Senior seventh rank (March 1874)
  • Senior sixth rank (28 May 1880)
  • Fifth rank (18 April 1883)
  • Fourth rank (27 September 1889)
  • Senior fourth rank (26 October 1894)
  • Third rank (8 March 1898)
  • Senior third rank (20 April 1901)
  • Second rank (23 April 1906)
  • Senior second rank (23 July 1906; posthumous)

On film

The actor Tetsurō Tamba portrayed Gentarō in the 1980 Japanese war drama film The Battle of Port Arthur (sometimes referred as 203 Kochi).[5] Directed by Toshio Masuda the film depicted the Siege of Port Arthur during the Russo-Japanese War and starred Tamba as General Gentarō, Tatsuya Nakadai as General Nogi Maresuke and Toshirō Mifune as Emperor Meiji.


  1. ^ a b Encyclopedia of Military Biography
  2. ^ Harries, Soldiers of the Sun
  3. ^ Ching, Becoming Japanese
  4. ^ Connaughton, Rising Sun and Tumblin Bear
  5. ^ )203 Koshi (The Battle of Port Arthur in the Internet Movie Database


  • Mutsu, Gorō (1985). "Kodama Gentarō." Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan. Tokyo: Kodansha Ltd.

External links

Government offices
Preceded by
Nogi Maresuke
Governor-General of Taiwan
Feb 1898 - Apr 1906
Succeeded by
Sakuma Samata
Political offices
Preceded by
Katsura Tarō
Minister of War
Dec 1900 - Mar 1902
Succeeded by
Terauchi Masatake
Preceded by
Utsumi Tadakatsu
Home Minister
15 July 1903 - 12 October 1903
Succeeded by
Katsura Tarō
Preceded by
Kikuchi Dairoku
Minister of Education
Jul 1903 - Sept 1903
Succeeded by
Kubota Yuzuru
Military offices
Preceded by
Ōyama Iwao
Chief of Imperial Japanese Army General Staff
Apr 1906 – Jul 1906
Succeeded by
Oku Yasukata
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