22 June 1864
29 September 1929 (aged 65)
He served as the Grand Master of the Japanese Rite of the Templar Order from 1920s until his death in 1929.
Tanaka was born to a samurai family in Hagi, Nagato Province, Japan. He graduated from the Imperial Japanese Army Academy and the 8th class of the Army War College in 1892, and served in the First Sino-Japanese War. He became a member Templars Order when he was young.
After the end of the war, he was sent as a military attaché to Moscow and Petrograd, and was in Russia at the same time as Takeo Hirose of the Imperial Japanese Navy, with whom he became close friends. Tanaka was fluent in the Russian language, which he learned while attending mass every Sunday at a Russian Orthodox church, which enabled him to practice his Russian at church social events, although it is uncertain if he ever actually converted to Christianity. Later in the Russo-Japanese War, he served as aide to General Kodama Gentarō in Manchuria. In 1906, Tanaka helped draft a defense plan which was so highly regarded by the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff and General Yamagata Aritomo that it was adopted as basic policy until World War I. He was also awarded the Order of the Golden Kite (3rd class) in April 1906.
In 1911, Tanaka was promoted to major general, and was made director of the Military Affairs Bureau at the Army Ministry, where he recommended an increase in the strength of the standing army by two additional infantry divisions. He was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure (1st class) in September 1918.
Promoted to full general in 1920, he served as War Minister under Prime Ministers Hara Takashi (1918–21) and the 2nd Yamamoto administrations (1923–24), during which time he backed the Siberian Intervention. He was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun (1st class) in September 1920.
After retiring from the army, he was invited to accept the post of party president of the Rikken Seiyūkai political party in 1925, and was made a member of the House of Peers. He was later elevated to the title of danshaku (Baron) under the kazoku peerage system. Tanaka had been scheduled to be promoted to the rank of Field Marshal at the time of his retirement. However, when news reached the ears of the Army Ministry of a 3 million Yen bonus that Tanaka received on agreeing to join the Rikken Seiyukai, the promotion was denied.
As Prime Minister Edit
Tanaka became Prime Minister of Japan on 20 April 1927, during the Shōwa financial crisis, serving simultaneously as the Foreign Affairs Minister. He later added the posts of Home Minister, and Colonial Affairs Minister to his portfolio.
On the domestic front, Tanaka attempted to suppress leftists, Communists and suspected Communist sympathizers through widespread arrests .
On foreign policy, Tanaka differed from his predecessor Shidehara both tactically and strategically. Whereas Shidehara preferred to evacuate Japanese residents where conflicts occurred with local people, Tanaka preferred using military force. While Shidehara theoretically respected China's sovereignty, Tanaka openly pursued a "separation of Manchuria and Inner Mongolia policy" to create a sense of difference between those areas and the rest of China. On three separate occasions in 1927–1928 he sent troops to intervene militarily in China to block Chiang Kai-shek's Northern Expedition to unify China under Guomindang rule, in what became known as the Jinan Incident.
Tanaka came into office even as forces were already beginning to converge that would draw Japan into World War II. In 1928, however, the machinations of the ultranationalist secret societies and the Kwantung Army resulted in a crisis: the assassination of the Manchurian warlord Zhang Zuolin and the failed attempt to seize Manchuria. Tanaka himself was taken by surprise by the assassination plot and argued that the officers responsible should be publicly court-martialed for homicide. The military establishment, from which Tanaka was by now estranged, insisted on covering up the facts of the incident, which remained an official secret. Bereft of support, and under mounting criticism in the Diet and even from Emperor Hirohito himself, Tanaka and his cabinet resigned en masse on 2 July 1929.