After studying Chinese, he entered the Yogakko (School of Western Learning) in Kumamoto. He studied under Niijima Jo at Doshisha College in Kyoto, but left school before completing his degree.
In 1881 he returned to Kumamoto and opened a private school. With such men as Yamaji Aizan and Takekoshi Yosaburd on his staff, he also began publication of a magazine called Kokumin no Tomo. In 1890 he founded a newspaper called Kokumin Shimbun and until 1929 continued to act as both president and chief editor of the paper.
In 1896 he accepted an appointment as a councilor to the minister of the interior, but in doing so incurred popular criticism for betraying his earlier democratic principles. In 1898 he suspended publication of Kokumin no Tomo. Meanwhile, the newspaper Kokumin Shimbun had become little more than a voice for the old domain cliques that dominated the government, and its offices were twice attacked and burned by angry mobs of citizens, in 1905 because it supported the government's moderate demands with regard to the Portsmouth Treaty and again in 1913 when popular sentiment was aroused against the Katsura cabinet. The same year, with the death of Katsura Taro, the statesman to whom he had been so closely tied, he withdrew from political life and devoted all his time to writing, particularly works of history.
His fifty-volume work entitled Kinsei Nihon kokumin-shi received a Japan Academy prize, and his thinking, which focussed upon loyalty to the imperial house, assured him a position of prominence in intellectual circles in the early Showa and wartime periods. He was given a Cultural Medal in 1943. After the war, he was purged from public life, and renounced all his previous honors and positions, including the seat in the Upper House of the Diet, which he had held since 1911. He was a member of the Japan Art Academy and the author of works running to over three hundred volumes.
He was converted to Christianity by a teacher, a retired American army officer named Lieutenant Janes, and received baptism.
At first he advocated a liberal form of democracy, but after the Triple Intervention of Russia, Germany, and France following the conclusion of the Sino-Japanese War in 1895, he became increasingly nationalistic in outlook.