Ryutaro Hashimoto (橋本 龍太郎 Hashimoto Ryūtarō, July 29, 1937 - July 1, 2006) was a Japanese politician who served as the 82nd and 83rd Prime Minister of Japan from January 11, 1996 to July 30, 1998. He was the leader of one of the largest factions within the ruling LDP through most of the 1990s and remained a powerful back-room player in Japanese politics until scandal forced him to resign his leadership position in 2004. Disgraced, he chose not to stand in the general election of 2005, and effectively retired from politics. He died on July 1, 2006 at a Tokyo hospital.
He was born in Sōja, Okayama. His father, Hashimoto Ryogo, was a cabinet minister under Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. Following his father's lead, Ryutaro received his degree in political science from Keio University in 1960, and was elected to the House of Representatives of Japan in 1963.
He moved through the ranks of the Liberal Democratic Party over the next twenty years, landing a spot as Minister of Health and Welfare under premier Ohira Masayoshi in 1978, and in 1980 became the LDP's director of finance and public administration. He again became a cabinet minister in 1986 under Nakasone Yasuhiro, and in 1989 became secretary general of the LDP, the highest rank short of prime minister.