In 1888 he graduated from the English law course of Tokyo Imperial University and immediately took a position as a judge in the Ministry of Justice.
After serving as head of the Civil Penalties Bureau of the Ministry of Justice, in 1911 he became vice-minister of justice. The following year he became public prosecutor general and president of the Supreme Court. He pursued investigations with utmost severity and was said to have wielded greater actual power than any other person in the judicial field at the time. In recognition of his abilities, he was selected to be minister of justice in the Yamamoto Gombei cabinet in 1923. The same year, when an attempt was made on the life of the crown prince at Toranomon in Tokyo, he accepted responsibility for the incident and
resigned his post. At the same time, he was appointed a member of the Upper House of the Diet. Around this period he began to display a strong spirit of nationalism, heading the Kokuhonsha, a right-wing organization, and engaging in other activities of a similar nature. He also became president of Nihon University.
In 1924 he was made an advisor to the Privy Council, and the following year became vice-president of the Privy Council. During this period, he expressed strong opinions concerning efforts to save the Bank of Taiwan and the ratification of the agreement reached at the London Disarmament Conference, attacking the government for its conciliatory policies.
In 1936 he became president of the Privy Council. In 1939, with the outbreak of the Second World War, he became prime minister and formed his own cabinet, but he lacked an understanding of foreign affairs and was unable to keep up with new developments on the international scene such as the signing of the Russo-German Non-aggression Pact, and as a consequence his cabinet resigned en masse. In the Konoe Fumimaro cabinet of 1940 he served as both home minister and minister of state.
In 1945 he once more became president of the Privy Council and, in spite of clear indications that Japan was heading for defeat, vehemently opposed all efforts to bring the Pacific War to a conclusion. After the war, he was designated an A-class war crim-inal by the Occupation authorities. He was tried by the International Tribunal for the Far East on conspiracy and other charges, was found guilty, and condemned to life imprisonment. He died of illness in prison.