Itō Hirobumi, first of the genrō

Genrō (元老) was an unofficial designation given to certain retired elder Japanese statesmen, considered the "founding fathers" of modern Japan, who served as informal extraconstitutional advisors to the emperor, during the Meiji, Taishō and early Shōwa periods in Japanese history.

The institution of genrō originated with the traditional council of elders (Rōjū) common in the Edo period; however, the term genrō appears to have been coined by a newspaper only in 1892. The term is sometimes confused with the Genrōin (Chamber of Elders), a legislative body which existed from 1875–1890; however, the genrō were not related to the establishment of that body or its dissolution.

Experienced leaders of the Meiji Restoration were singled out by the Emperor as genkun, and asked to act as Imperial advisors. With the exception of Saionji Kinmochi, all the genrō were from medium or lower ranking samurai families, four each from Satsuma and Chōshū, the two former domains that had been instrumental in the overthrow of the former Tokugawa shogunate in the Boshin War of the Meiji Restoration of 1867-1868. The genrō had the right to select and nominate Prime Ministers to the Emperor for approval.

The first seven genrō were all formerly members of the Sangi (Imperial Council) which was abolished in 1885. They are also sometimes known to historians as the Meiji oligarchy, although not all of the Meiji oligarchs were genrō.

The institution expired in 1940, with the death of the last of the genrō, Saionji Kinmochi.

List of genrō

Saionji Kinmochi, last of the genrō
Name Origin Birth Death
1Itō Hirobumi Chōshū 16 October 1841 26 October 1909
2Kuroda Kiyotaka Satsuma 16 October 1840 23 August 1900
3Ōyama Iwao Satsuma 12 November 1842 10 December 1916
4Inoue Kaoru Chōshū 16 January 1836 1 September 1915
5Saigō Tsugumichi Satsuma 1 June 1843 18 July 1902
6Matsukata Masayoshi Satsuma 25 February 1835 2 July 1924
7Yamagata Aritomo Chōshū 14 June 1838 1 February 1922
8Katsura Tarō Chōshū 4 January 1848 10 October 1913
9Saionji Kinmochi Kuge 23 October 1849 24 November 1940


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