Kodama Gentarō

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

Kodama Gentarō
兒玉 源太郎
Gentaro Kodama 2.jpg
General Viscount Kodama Gentarō
6th Minister of War of the Japanese Empire
In office
23 December 1900 – 27 March 1902
Preceded byKatsura Tarō
Succeeded byTerauchi Masatake
Chief of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office
In office
11 April 1906 – 30 July 1906
Preceded byŌyama Iwao
Succeeded byOku Yasukata
4th Governor General of Taiwan
In office
26 February 1898 – 11 April 1906
Preceded byNogi Maresuke
Succeeded bySakuma Samata
Personal details
Born(1852-03-16)16 March 1852
Tokuyama, Suō Province, Japan
Died23 July 1906(1906-07-23) (aged 54)
Tokyo, Japan
AwardsOrder 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
Military service
Allegiance Empire of Japan
Branch/service Imperial Japanese Army
Years of service1868–1906
Rank帝國陸軍の階級―肩章―大将.svg General
Battles/warsBoshin War
Saga rebellion
Shinpūren Rebellion
Satsuma Rebellion
First Sino-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War


A bronze monument statue of Kodama Gentaro

Early lifeEdit

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 careerEdit

Kodama was appointed head of the Army Staff College, where he worked with German Major Jakob Meckel to reorganize the modern Japanese military after 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.[3]

After his service in the Sino-Japanese War (1894–95), 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.[4] 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.[3][5] The postwar historian Shiba Ryōtarō 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.[3][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 Shūnan, Yamaguchi Prefecture, and on the site of his summer home on Enoshima, Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture.


With information from the corresponding article in the Japanese Wikipedia


  • Baron (20 August 1895)
  • Viscount (11 April 1906)

Order of precedenceEdit

  • 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)



  • 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; 2nd Class: 20 August 1895; 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; 3rd Class: 20 August 1895)


On filmEdit

The actor Tetsurō Tamba portrayed Gentarō in the 1980 Japanese war drama film The Battle of Port Arthur (sometimes referred as 203 Kochi).[6] 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. ^ a b c Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Kodama, Gentaro, Count" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 885.
  4. ^ Ching, Becoming Japanese
  5. ^ Connaughton, Rising Sun and Tumbling Bear
  6. ^ The Battle of Port Arthur (203 Koshi) in the Internet Movie Database


  • Connaughton, Richard (2003). Rising Sun and Tumbling Bear. Cassell. ISBN 0-304-36657-9.
  • Ching, Leo T.S. (2001). Becoming Japanese: Colonial Taiwan and the Politics of Identity Formation. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-22553-8.
  • Dupuy, Trevor N. (1992). Encyclopedia of Military Biography. I B Tauris & Co Ltd. ISBN 1-85043-569-3.
  • Kowner, Rotem (2006). Historical Dictionary of the Russo-Japanese War. Scarecrow. ISBN 0-8108-4927-5.
  • Harries, Meirion (1994). Soldiers of the Sun: The Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army. Random House. ISBN 0-679-75303-6.
  • Mutsu, Gorō (1985). "Kodama Gentarō." Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan. Tokyo: Kodansha Ltd.

External linksEdit

Government offices
Preceded by Governor-General of Taiwan
February 1898 – April 1906
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Minister of War
December 1900 – March 1902
Succeeded by
Preceded by Home Minister
15 July 1903 – 12 October 1903
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Education
July 1903 – September 1903
Succeeded by
Military offices
Preceded by Chief of Imperial Japanese Army General Staff
April 1906 – July 1906
Succeeded by