For anybody interested in Japanese history from 1868 (the start of the Meiji era) till the 1930s, and especially the financial aspects thereof, this fascinating biography is a must-read. One curiosity is the mention of Sir Ewen Cameron (1841-1908), head of the London branch of HSBC and great-great-grandfather of David Cameron the present leader of the UK Conservative party, who assisted Takahashi with loans for the Russo-Japanese War, though the link is not specifically stated. I was also personally disappointed that there was only a brief mention of Kaneko Kentaro who travelled from Japan to the U.S. on the same boat as Takahashi in February-March 1904. (See Masayoshi Matsumura, Baron Kaneko and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05): A Study in the Public Diplomacy of Japan which I translated into English.)
It has taken 20 years to produce this book, and the result is a masterpiece. We follow Takahashi Korekiyo (1854-1936) from humble samurai beginnings all the way to the top of the political ladder - seven times finance minister and once briefly prime minister. We learn how he fell in his youth into near-slavery - a three year contract of 'indentured servitude' from which he ran away - in San Francisco, learned English unconventionally but most effectively through direct contact with foreigners in Japan, taught English at his own school and at universities, translated and interpreted, wrote Japan's first patent laws, briefly managed a failing silver mine in Peru, entered the Bank of Japan and helped to construct the Tokyo head office through his organisational skills, raised 47% of the funds needed for Japan's war effort when the country was almost bankrupt during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) and came to be called 'Japan's Keynes' before his assassination by army fanatics on February 26, 1936.
Takahashi was a true 'man of the world', entirely comfortable with foreigners (non-Japanese) and self-educated - he never studied at a university. He led a very full and tumultuous life with many ups and downs, but always - as the author says - managed to pick himself up, learn from setbacks and come back stronger than ever. He fought a hard and lonely battle against militarism in the 1930s and paid the ultimate price. It is a matter for rejoicing that this heroic and important figure is able, thanks to this most readable study, to take his rightful place in Japan's modern history.