Born in Hagi, Yamaguchi, Prince Itō Hirobumi (伊藤 博文 Itō Hirobumi 1841–1909, also called Hirofumi/Hakubun) was a Japanese politician and the country's first Prime Minister (and the 5th, 7th and 10th).
He was a Choshu samurai's adopted son and gained samurai status for himself in 1863, but a visit to England in the same year convinced him of the necessity of modernising Japan by adopting Western ways. In 1864 he returned to Japan with Inoue Kaoru to attempt to warn the Choshu clan against going to war with the foreigners over the right of passage through the Straits of Shimonoseki. At that time he met Ernest Satow for the first time, later a lifelong friend. Suematsu Kencho married his second daughter, Ikuko.
After the Meiji Restoration, Ito served as a junior councillor in a number of different ministries. In 1873, Ito was made a full councillor and following the death of Okubo Toshimichi in 1878 he was home minister and dominated the government, by 1881 he forced Okuma Shigenobu to resign and gain the key role for himself. He headed a number of missions to study foreign governments. Based on the European ideas he established a cabinet and civil service in 1885, replacing the Dajokan as the decision-making state organisation, and became the first Prime Minister. The idea of constitutional governance was the strong influence he received as a member of Iwakura mission. He founded one of the earliest political parties of Japan, Rikkenseiyukai . In 1885 he negotiated the Convention of Tientsin with Li Hung-chang. He supervised the drafting of the Meiji Constitution of 1889. He remained head of the Privy council while Kuroda Kiyotaka and Yamagata Aritomo were Prime Ministers.
As Prime Minister again (1892-96) he supported the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and negotiated the Treaty of Shimonoseki in March 1895 with his ailing foreign minister Mutsu Munemitsu. After the war he became the first leader of the Seiyukai party , opposing Yamagata Aritomo. Prime Minister twice more (1898-1899, 1900-1901) he tried to negotiate a settlement with Russia before being forced from office by more militaristic politicians. He remained a power in the government as the premiership alternated between Saionji Kimmochi and Katsura Taro.
In November 1905 following the Russo-Japanese War Korea was occupied by Japanese forces and the Korean government was made to sign the Protectorate Treaty , Ito became the first Resident General there in 1906. He forced the Korean ruler, King Gojong, to abdicate in 1907 in favour of his son King Sunjong and pushed through the Japanese-Korean Convention (1907) giving Japan considerable control of Korean internal affairs. Despite resigning as Resident-General in 1909 Ito was assassinated at Harbin in Manchuria by a Korean nationalist An Jung-geun. His death provoked the full annexation of Korea in 1910 with the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty.