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Japanese Aggression and the Emperor, 1931–1941, from Contemporary Diaries

  • Charles D. Sheldon (a1)

In 1971, David Bergamini, a journalist, published a very large book, Japan's Imperial Conspiracy, which sought to prove that the Emperor was virtually the sole cause and instigator of Japanese aggression in the 1930s and 1940s. Bergamini even believes the Emperor planned, among other skullduggeries, several political assassinations. The book is a polemic which, to our knowledge, contradicts all previous scholarly work, whether in English or in Japanese. It also contradicts the facts upon which this previous scholarship rested. Specialists on Japan have unanimously demolished Bergamini's thesis and his pretensions to careful scholarship.

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1 Bergamini, David, Japan's Imperial Conspiracy (New York and London, 1971), 1, 239 pp. My own interest in this subject dates back to 1946–7, in Tokyo. As Chief of the Defense Language Section, International Military Tribunal for the Far East (I.M.T.F.E.), I supervised translations of many documents, including the entire diary of Marquis Kido, a principal adviser to the Emperor.

2 Bergamini writes: ‘… the essential facts of the story which I have told come from written diaries, memoranda, and memoirs.’ ProfCrowley, James (New York Times Book Review, 24 10 1971), and ProfShumpei, Okamoto (Journal of Asian Studies, 02 1972), have shown how Bergamini grossly misused the Memoranda of General Sugiyama and the Kido Diary through mistranslation and distortion, but mostly by adding incriminating statements of his own fabrication. Prof. Okamoto dismisses Bergamini's obsessive thesis as ‘fiction’. See also Storry, Richard (Pacific Affairs, Summer, 1972, pp. 272–6), Coox, A. D. (American Historical Review, 10 1972, pp. 1169–1970), and Webb, Herschel (Pacific Historical Review, 02 1973, pp. 124–5). Prof. Webb points out that Bergamini's written sources, when tracked down, ‘in every single case say something different from what he says they say’. As for oral sources, only one of those many persons reported as saying something scandalous is identified, and Bergamini was quite safe in doing so, because he is dead. Prof. Webb adds that the picture of the Emperor's personality is ‘utterly incompatible with everything previously written about him. If the total immunity from scruple or pity is not beyond known limits of human depravity, one at least supposes that some inkling of it would have come to light before David Bergamini's privileged sources told him about it’.

3 The only proven falsifications would appear to be those of Bergamini himself. In the introductions to the published versions in Japanese of both the Kido diary (Kido Kōichi nikki, Tokyo University Press, 1966, 2 vols, plus one of miscellaneous papers), and the Saionji-Harada memoirs (Kumao, Harada, Saionjikō to seikyoku, Prince Saionji and the political situation, Tokyo, 19501956, 8 vols, plus one) a panel of well-known Japanese scholars including, in both cases, Maruyama Masao, who is justly critical of the Imperial institution, and, if anything, too critical of government leaders, states that both were written initially as private records, with no evident thought of publication (Kido nikki, Vol. I, p. 1, and Saionji, Vol. I, pp. 23). On p. 304, Saionji, Vol. I, Professors Maruyama and Hayashi Shigeru state, ‘We know of few records of the highly confused movements in the background of our political scene, and of the words and deeds of the participants therein, that are made in such detail, and with such sensitive, almost stubborn, faithfulness.’ (Quoted in MayerOakes, T. F., Fragile Victory: Prince Saionji and the 1930 London Treaty Issue, from the Memoirs of Baron Harada Kumao (Wayne State University, 1968), pp. 48–9. This book is an elegant and accurate, annotated translation of the first year of the published memoirs, contained in Vol. I, with an excellent introduction. (See esp. pp. 44–65, for details on the memoirs.) We hope further volumes will be forthcoming.

4 Japanese names are given in Japanese order.

5 The Prosecution in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (I.M.T.F.E.), commonly called the Major War Crimes Trials, made good use of the huge translation of these joint memoirs. This not very satisfactory mimeographed translation, classified confidential, was made for the I.M.T.F.E. (not for the Defense, as Bergamini says) by G.H.Q., Far East Command, Military Intelligence Service. It has now been declassified, and is available in full at the Hoover Library, Stanford, in part at the University of California Library, Berkeley, and in microfilm in the Library of Congress (SP 161).

6 See Mosley, Leonard, Hirohito, Emperor of Japan (London and New York, 1966). This is a sympathetic and reasonable, popular account, but not always accurate. My review, in Journal of Asian Studies, 02 1968, I now feel, having read Bergamini, may have been a shade too severe. Evidences of the Emperor's friendly feelings towards Britain recur in the diaries. For example, in September 1940, the Emperor told Kido he was ‘deeply concerned over the destruction of culture resulting from the German air raids on the British Museum’, reported in the newspapers. ‘Can we not make representations to Germany and England?’ Kido advised the Emperor to wait ‘until the actual facts are confirmed’, suggesting it might hinder the reconciliation of the Army and Navy over the Tripartite Pact (Kido nikki, II, 820, 10 09 1940).

7 Kido nikki, I, 159, 2 05 1932.

8 The Navy and Army Ministers (War Minister is the more common, though freer, translation) reported to the Emperor on administrative matters either indirectly, through the Prime Minister, or directly, and thus had a dual responsibility, to the Cabinet and to the Emperor. On the other hand, the Supreme Command, ostensibly led by the Army and Navy Chiefs of Staff, although expected to cooperate with the Cabinet, had a direct responsibility only to the Emperor, in the sense that it was expected to report directly to the Emperor on important matters of strategy, planning and operations. The Chiefs of Staff used the concept of ‘Supreme Command’ to bypass the Cabinet at will. This often forced the Emperor and his advisers into the role of go-between. The diaries kept by advisers like Saionji, Harada and Kido are therefore of great importance, because negotiations between the military services and the government were at the heart of Japanese politics in these years. See Nobutaka, Ike, Japan's Decision for War: Records of the 1941 Policy ConferencesStanford University,1967, pp. xviii–xix. By resigning, the Army or Navy Ministers could bring down a Cabinet, and there were cases where they were forced to do so by the ‘Supreme Command’ establishment. Rivalries and antagonisms between the Cabinet and the ‘Supreme Command’ were complicated by Army-Navy jealousies and in-fighting, and by warring factions within the Ministries. Narrow loyalties were almost always stronger than wider ones. See also Maxon, Yale, Control of Japanese Foreign Policy, A Study of Civil-Military Rivalry, 1930–1945 (California, 1957), pp. 22 ff.

9 Saionjikō to seikyoku (cited henceforth as S.T.S.), I, 85, 13 June 1930. (Where the translation has been of use, it will be cited simply as Saionji.) Article XI simply states: ‘The Emperor has supreme command of the Army and Navy’. The fullest treatment of the London Treaty–supreme command issue is Mayer-Oakes's very valuable Fragile Victory (see note 3, above). See also Crowley, James, Japan's Quest for Autonomy, National Security and Foreign Policy, 1930–1938 (Princeton: 1966), pp. 3581, for an excellent analysis.

10 S.T.S. II, 52–3; Saionji, 65, 23 September 1931.

11 Ibid.The same story is told in Kido nikki, I, 98, 10 09 1931. Kido adds that Abo ‘promised the Emperor to maintain and tighten control’. Cited in Ogata, Sadako N., Defiance in Manchuria (California, 1964), p. 58, a very good study of the Manchurian ‘Incident’. (The interview with Abo was on 9 09 not 10 09, as Miss Ogata has it.)

12 S.T.S. II, 53–4, 67. Later, Harada and Saionji wondered whether an Aide-de-Camp or the Navy Minister had prepared Minami for this audience.Ibid., pp. 53, 66–7. In reply to Saionji's lecture, Minami said that he had already been scolded by Premier Wakatsuki and warned by the Emperor, and that he would take responsibility and exercise caution. Ibid.

13 S.T.S. II, 61–2; Saionji, 74–5.

14 S.T.S. II, 62; Saionji, 75. For details, see Ogata, , Defiance in Manchuria, pp. 58–62. Miss Ogata's formulation of the contents of the letter, ‘to caution the Kwantung Army against rash action and to warn that support could not be expected from the government’, is no doubt an accurate summary (although the letter itself was evidently destroyed). The Emperor's distrust of General Tatekawa was one reason why Tatekawa was forced to resign after the February 26th Incident in 1936. S.T.S. V, 144–5; Saionji, 1582, 3 September 1936.

15 Ogata, , Defiance in Manchuria, p. 66; S.T.S. II, 6971; Saionji, 85–87, 28 September 1931.

16 S.T.S. II, 6971; Saionji, 87–8, 28 September 1931.

17 S.T.S. II, 71–2; Saionji, 88, 28 September 1931.

18 Reijirō, Wakatsuki, Kofūan kaikoroku (Kofūan Memoirs) (Tokyo, 1950), p. 378, quoted in Ogata, Defiance in Manchuria, p. 66.

19 S.T.S. II, 72; Saionji, 88, 28 September 1931.

20 Kido nikki, I, 101, 22 September 1931. Later, Saionji followed this cautious policy towards the Army in north China (see fns 95, 97, and pp. 26–7, below).

21 S.T.S. II, 160 (24 12 1931). The Emperor continuously warned the Army leaders about discipline, non-interference in politics, and the need to oppose expansionist schemes and faits accomplis by young officers overseas. See, for example, ibid., and S.T.S. IV, 346 (27 09 1935); Shigeru, Honjō, Honjō nikki (Tokyo, 1967), pp. 171–2, 181, 187, 218–19, 228.

22 Crowley, , Japan's Quest for Autonomy, p. 151. This writer was unable to find in S.T.S. the reaction of Inukai, no doubt given as described by Crowley. The Emperor continued his efforts to limit the conflict. He told Prince Higashikuni: ‘If we return Mukden to Chang Hsüeh-liang, our problem will be simply solved’. Then, he told General Shirakawa to end the conflict as quickly as possible. Higashikuni told Harada that this Imperial interference was improper. S.T.S. II, 338–9 (4 September 1932).

23 Kido nikki, I, 224, 8 03 1933. The Emperor asked Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, Makino (abbreviated henceforth to Privy Seal) if it was still necessary to withdraw from the League, as there had been a ‘favourable solution to the Jehol problem’. Makino replied: ‘although your Majesty's words are reasonable, our Plenipotentiary [Matsuoka Yōsuke] is already acting on the decision to withdraw… If we should now suddenly change our attitude, foreign countries would consider us vacillating and internally the people would become utterly confused’. Ibid.

25 S.T.S. III, 46; Saionji, 565–6, 3 April 1933.

26 S.T.S. III, 47; Saionji, 565. Saionji was puzzled and amused that Araki should have opposed something so necessary for the Army.Ibid.

27 Kido nikki, I, 228, 24 03 1933.

28 Ibid., I, 228–9, 27 March 1933. Kido adds that ‘the Foreign Minister was very awed’ by the Emperor's strong stand.

29 This was a very pointed question, as in the most recent of many such examples, hopes for a negotiated settlement only a month earlier had been sabotaged by the outbreak of hostilities in Shanghai. See Borg, Dorothy, The United States and the Far Eastern Crisis, 1933–1938 (Harvard, 1964), pp. 444–8.

30 S.T.S. VI, 87–8; Saionji, 1978, 9 October 1937. The Foreign Minister, who had already issued such a statement, told Harada: ‘It's too bad the Army didn't do this earlier’;. S.T.S. VI, 111 (20 10 1937).

31 S.T.S. VI, 87–8. Makino was Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal until 1935, when Saitō replaced him. When Saitō was assassinated in 1936 in the February 26th Incident, Yuasa replaced him. Kido replaced Yuasa in June 1940. By this time Saionji, the last of the Genrō, was 91 and ailing, and the more flexible and compromising Kido took over his functions increasingly. Saionji died in November 1940.

32 S.T.S. VII, 32; Saionji, 2169, 14 July 1938; Honjō nikki, p. 203.

33 S.T.S. VII, 97; Saionji, 2242, 7 September 1938. Konoye (Konoe, in the alternative transliteration) often had difficulties in communicating with the military leadership (he had a way of seeming to agree with everyone—happō bijin), and sometimes asked the Emperor to speak to them.

34 The German Ambassador who had been acting as a ‘post office’ for the negotiations with Chiang, said to Hirota when the Foreign Minister informed him of this decision:’… a protracted war against China… would alienate the Anglo-American countries, lead to the Bolshevization of China, and weaken Japan vis-à-vis the Soviet Union’. Crowley, , Japan's Quest for Autonomy, p. 375.

35 S.T.S. VI, 203–4, 206 (19 01 1938). For background and details, see Crowley, , Japan's Quest for Autonomy, esp. pp. 358–78, and Borg, , The United States and the Far Eastern Crisis, pp. 442–76.

36 Crowley, , Japan's Quest for Autonomy, pp. 370–2. After the Imperial Conference, the Chiefs of Staff, stressing the need to prepare against the U.S.S.R. (see the next section), worked to reverse the decision by having the Emperor pronounce his own views against a war to the finish with China. This proposal was strongly opposed, even by Navy Minister Yonai, as a decision already taken and transmitted to the Chinese government. S.T.S. VI, 292, 206–7 (19 01 1938).

37 S.T.S. VI, 207; Saionji, 1991, 19 January 1938.

38 S T.S. VI, 248–9 (4 03 1938). Harada does not specify when this question was put, but as the Emperor did not attend Liaison Conferences, the question to Sugiyama, which occurs in the paragraph after the report of the Conference, must have been put to him afterwards. Cf.Crowley, , Japan's Quest for Autonomy, p. 378.

39 Kido nikki, II, 840, 2 12 1940. The Emperor often pressed for a scaling down of Japan's military commitment in China and the avoidance of involvement with the axis powers. S.T.S. VII, 325, 333–4, 346–7 (11, 18 04, 5 05 1939).

40 Yanaga, Chitoshi, Japan Since Perry (New York, 1949), p. 576.

41 S.T.S. VII, 49; Saionji, 2189, 28 July 1938. Saionji, hearing this, remarked pessimistically: ‘I believe the Emperor's observation is wrong. Their eyes won't be opened no matter how far it goes’. Ibid., 50; 2190.

42 Ibid., 50.

43 S.T.S. VII, 50–1; Saionji, 2189–90, 28 July 1938. Later the Emperor relented a bit, and told Konoye that he hoped they would not resign. Konoye relayed this message to Itagaki, and added, ‘There is absolutely no reason to say that the Emperor lacks confidence in the Army. It was just that he becomes suspicious every time an incident occurs. He spoke critically about that point and he probably meant for you to be careful hereafter’. Ibid., 51–2; 2190–1.

44 Yanaga, , Japan Since Perry, p. 576. Yuasa told Harada that for the Army to use force in this way (he says on the 29th) after the Emperor had absolutely forbidden it, was ‘outrageous’ (hanahada keshikaran). S.T.S. VII, 73; Saionji, 2218, 13 August 1938.

45 S.T.S. VII, 298–9; Saionji 2457, 25 February 1939; S.T.S. VIII, 1011; Saionji 2571, 11 July 1939.

46 Yanaga, , Japan Since Perry, p. 577. Although the Foreign Minister had told the Emperor he was opposed to the use of force, when Itagaki told him it ‘might be used against the Soviet troops’, he remained silent. After hostilities began, Itagaki told the Emperor that force had been ‘inevitable.’ He was severely reprimanded. S.T.S. VIII, 1011; Saionji 2571, 11 July 1939.

47 S.T.S. VII, 193Saionji, 2339, 11 November 1938; Ibid., VII, 325–6; Saionji 2486–7, 11 April 1939. Hiranuma asked the Foreign Minister to prepare the document. It was in very general and vague terms, and was signed by the five Ministers of the Five-Ministers' Conference (Prime Minister, Army, Navy, Foreign, and Finance Ministers). Yuasa blamed Hiranuma for supporting the Army out of fear for his own safety. Ibid., VII, 360 (16 May 1939).

48 In this context, ‘participation’ would normally be interpreted to mean ‘in hostilities’.

49 No doubt grave difficulties with the Army.

50 S.T.S. VII, 335–6; Saionji, 2496–7, 18 April 1939. Angered at this effort of the Army General Staff to reverse the decision of the Five-Ministers' Conference, Privy Seal Yuasa said to the Deputy Chief of the Army General Staff: ‘The Army is absurd! Also, the actions taken by Ōshima are beyond reason. He has violated the Emperor's prerogative in diplomacy. In the central circles, the colonels and lieutenant-colonels make their own decisions and force them on the Minister and the Chief of the General Staff. Furthermore, they even force them on the Emperor! What kind of attitude is this? It is insincere and lacking in loyalty. Shouldn't you think more carefully?’ S.T.S. VII, 281; Saionji. 2438–9, 7 February 1939. Kido complained that Yuasa ‘decides everything according to law, and forces the law on the Chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau and others. This shows that he does not understand the situation… government cannot be carried out just by the application of laws'. S.T.S. VII, 108; Saionji, 2253, 16 September 1938. Ambassador Ōshima, a Lieutenant-General, often called by his opponents ‘the German Ambassador’, tended to follow Army rather than Foreign Ministry orders. He and Shiratori functioned less as ambassadors than as traditional go-betweens, by neglecting their roles as communicators between governments and reformulating the positions taken on both sides to make them more acceptable to the other side. In this way, neither government really knew the real position of he other until confonted with proposals which were not of their own making. This technique was also used, to deleterious effect, by Nomura in the Japan–U.S. negotiations in 1941. See ‘The Role of Japan's Foreign Ministry and its Embassy in Washington’, by Chihiro, Hosoya, in Borg, Dorothy and Okamoto, Shumpei (eds), Pearl Harbor as History (Columbia, 1973), pp. 149–64. Due in part to Ōshima's Army connexions, the luckless Army Minister, Itagaki, did not escape the Imperial wrath. The Emperor told Itagaki that to commit the nation to a war policy was an infringement of the Imperial authority, and charged him not only with supporting the Ambassadors, but ‘covering up for them at Cabinet conferences’. Again, this required some heasty smoothing over by the Privy Seal afterwards. S.T.S. VII, 334; Saionji, 2495–6, 18 April 1939.

51 S.T.S. VII, 338–9; Saionji, 2499, 24 April 1939. Harada was surprised and indignant at Kido's attitude, and launched a strong attack on the rightists, concluding, ‘… although it is extreme of me, I am thinking of possibly killing five or six of these men who will become obstacles in the future’. Kido said: ‘I'll think about it some more so don't worry’. S.T.S. VII, 339–40; Saionji, 2501, 24 April 1939. The difficulty about concluding the Tripartite Pact was that Germany refused to limit its applicability to the U.S.S.R., insisting on a commitment against Britain and America. The Court, the Navy, and the Foreign Ministry opposed these terms. From the German viewpoint, the difficulties of the Japanese about making up their minds may have contributed to Hitler's dislike of them. In a secret speech made in 1939 to army officers, he called the Japanese ‘the half-monkeys of Asia’. Dallin, David J., Soviet Russia and the Far East (New Haven, 1948), p. 150.

52 S.T.S. VII, 359–60; Saionji, 2521–2, 2524, 16 May 1939.

53 These conferences, comprising the Prime Minister, Army, Navy, Foreign and Finance Ministers, subsequently reviewed this decision several times, and reaffirmed it. S.T.S. VII, 384; Saionji, 2547, 15 June 1939.

54 Lu, David, From the Marco Polo Bridge Incident to Pearl Harbor (Washington, D.C., 1961), pp. 51–2. Yonai explained to Harada his compromise with the Army, in which he agreed Japan should assist Germany and Italy should the U.S.S.R. or France be involved in a war with them, but if Britain and/or France were involved, Japan might help from the first, from some later date, or not at all, depending on how the situation should develop. S.T.S. VII, 382; Saionji, 2547, 15 June 1939.

55 Reischauer, E. O. and Craig, A. M., East Asia, the Modern Transformation (Boston, 1965), p. 607. For details, see Lu, , Marco Polo Bridge Incident, pp. 54–8.

56 Fumimaro, Konoye, Heiwa e no doryoku (My struggle for peace) (Tokyo, 1946), p. 118; S.T.S. VIII. 62 (1 09 1939) has the Emperor's actual words.

57 Lu, , Marco Polo Bridge Incident, p. 106. Admiral Okada, in his memoirs, states that because Admiral Yonai had been able to stave off the Tripartite Pact during his Premiership, the Emperor expressed his gratitude to him, saying; ‘Through the good efforts of the Navy, Japan has been saved’. Keisuke, Okada, Kaikoroku (Tokyo, 1950), p. 196.

58 Kido nikki, II, 801, 8 07 1940. The Emperor expressed his doubts about Konoye to Kido, who encouraged him to give his approval. Ibid., II, 809, 22 July 1940.

59 See Ibid., II, 804–5, 16 July 1940 for details. The Emperor asked Kido to convey to Yonai his ‘gracious intentions’. Kido waited to do so until after the resignation. Yonai was ‘deeply moved’. Ibid., II, 805. The Emperor told Kido that when the Yonai Cabinet had been formed, General Hata had promised to cooperate with Yonai. At the time of his resignation, the Emperor ‘did not give any gracious message to Hata’. Ibid., 805. The Emperor later told Hata that although he profoundly regretted the Yonai Cabinet resignation, ‘It was a blessing in disguise in the sense that it shed light on where the responsibility lay’. Hata, knowing it was the Army, shed tears. Ibid.

60 Kido nikki, II, 809–10, 22 07 1940.

61 Lu, , Marco Polo Bridge Incident, p. 113. Lu's account of this episode (pp. 106–19) is very good, but some may consider his book's treatment of Matsuoka rather too sympathetic. Masao, Maruyama, Thought and Behaviour in Modern Japanese Politics (London, 1963), p. 91, considers Matsuoka to have been a borderline psychopath.

62 Kido nikki, II, 822, 14 September 1940.

63 Ibid., 15 September 1940. Kido reported to Konoye only the Emperor's worries that Konoye might resign ‘if there was something he didn't like’. Kido passed on to the Emperor Konoye's assurances on that point. S.T.S. VIII, 346; Saionji, 2946, 22 September 1940. According to Okada, the Emperor warned Konoye that because of this treaty, ‘America may soon stop shipments of oil and pig iron to Japan. If this occurs, what will become of Japan's freedom of action? After this, over a long period of time we may be plunged into darkness and difficulty. Are you prepared to endure this?’ Konoye pledged that he would do his utmost. Kaikoroku, pp. 198–9.

64 Kido nikki, II, 822, 16 09 1940. Prince Saionji was not informed about Matsuoka's negotiations with Stahmer, and learned from Harada only ten days later, on 26 September although he had heard something from Konoye. He strongly opposed the Pact, and was ‘very worried’. S.T.S. VIII, 354 (4 10 1940). When Harada scolded Kido for not keeping Saionji informed, Kido replied, ‘I felt too sorry for Prince Saionji, and it would have been just too painful’.Ibid.

65 S.T.S. VIII, 346–8; Saionji, 2946–7, 22 September 1940. Kido recorded a short summary of this conversation. Kido nikki, II, 822, 16 09 1940. Kido writes (Nikki, II, 825, 24 09 1940) that the Emperor's opposition to any celebration of the conclusion of the Pact, and his request to Kido to arrange a visit to the Imperial Shrine ‘to pray for the help of the gods’, moved him ‘deeply’. On the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor fifteen months later, Matsuoka was ill in bed, and was visited by Dr Saitō, his aide in the negotiations with Stahmer which produced the Tripartite Pact. Matsuoka said to Saitō: ‘The Tripartite Alliance was my worst mistake. I hoped to prevent the United States from entering the war. I wanted to adjust our relations with Soviet Russia through this Alliance. I hoped peace would be maintained and Japan would be placed in a secure position. Instead we see face to face the present calamity which indirectly resulted from the Alliance …’. In tears, Matsuoka begged the forgiveness of his Emperor. Saitō, Yoshie, Azamukareta rekishi (Tokyo, 1955), p. 88, quoted in Lu, , Marco Polo Bridge Incident, p.119. It was rather late for Matsuoka to have qualms. It was his adamant blockage of the U.S.–Japanese negotiations in 1941 that caused Konoye, prompted by the Emperor, to drop Matsuoka as Foreign Minister in July. See Fumimaro, Konoye, Memoirs (Asahi Shimbun, 1946), p. 18. On 25 June Matsuoka reported to the Emperor, ‘Now that war has been opened between Germany and the Soviet Union, Japan should cooperate with Germany and attack the Soviet Union… In the end Japan will have to fight the Soviet Union, the United States and Britain as our enemies’. Konoye continues, ‘Of course, the Foreign Minister did not consult any member of the Cabinet.… His Majesty, astounded at Matsuoka's talk, summoned me at once…’. At the Imperial Conference on 2 July the decision was taken not to take action against the U.S.S.R. Ibid., pp. 25–6.

66 Levy, Roger, Lacam, Guy, and Roth, Andrew, French Interests and Policies in the Far East (New York, 1941), p. 161. Earlier, Kido justified to the Emperor the ultimatums to the French command in Indo-China in terms of the fear that the French there, encouraged by England and America, might decide to ally with China against Japan. Kido nikki, II, 821–2, 14 September 1940. See Butow, R. J. C., Tojo and the Coming of the War, pp. 192–8, for an excellent summary of Japanese–French relations over Indo-China.

67 Konoye makes the rather astounding admission that his government's decision to move into Indo-China was made as a sop to the extremists in the Army who were angry about having lost the opportunity to attack the U.S.S.R., their ‘natural enemy’ (Maxon, , Control of Japanese Foreign Policy, p. 166). The avoidance of trouble seems to have been a way of life for Konoye.

68 Kido nikki, II, 826, 26 September 1940. War Minister Tōjō took immediate steps to punish those responsible, in contrast to the usual acceptance of Army indiscipline (Butow, , Tojo and the Coming of the War, p. 194). This furthered Tōjō's reputation for willingness and ability to control the Army hotheads.

69 Kido nikki, II, 854, 3 02 1941.

70 The Emperor Meiji was anxious to establish a rule of law based on the Constitution, and in foreign relations favoured peaceful methods as far as possible. Viscount Kaneko, who was given the responsibility for publishing Emperor Meiji's Chronicles, found that Meiji ‘Was not too much in favour of starting wars. He had a strong desire to solve problems peaceably’. He suggested to the Emperor that this be left out ‘for the present’. The Emperor objected, saying: ‘I think it is this which should be passed on to future generations’. S.T.S. III, 136 (8 09 1933); Saionji, 682–3.

71 S.T.S. II, 288; Saionji, 349–50, 23 June 1932.

72 See Shillony, Ben-ami, Revolt in Japan: The Young Officers and the February 26, 1936 Incident (Princeton, 1973), pp. 51–5; the standard study of the ‘right wing’, earlier and more general, is Storry, Richard G., The Double Patriots: A Study of Japanese Nationalism (London, 1957).

73 Kido nikki, I, 148, 9 03 1932.

74 Two typical examples are given in Maxon, , Control of Japanese Foreign Policy, p. 101: In September 1935, when War Minister Hayashi told Premier Okada that about 1,000 young officers had organized and were planning something, Hayashi proposed that either the government should denounce Minobe's Emperor-organ theory, or he (Hayashi) would resign. The possibility of disciplinary action ‘seems not to have occurred to him.’ Again, in 1937, Terauchi, the Commander-in-Chief in China, was having trouble with subordinate officers who were indignant that the government was not getting on with economic measures expected by the ‘rightists’. ‘In order to console the combatants in North China he has made some very strong statements’.

75 Shillony, , Revolt in Japan, p. 106.

76 Ibid., p. 111.

77 Ibid., pp. 50–1. The Emperor told Honjō that the opponents of the organ theory were trying to deprive him of his freedom and were placing him in an extremely difficult position, spiritually and physically. Honjō nikki, p. 203.

78 S.T.S. IV, 345–6; Saionji, 1330–1, 27 September 1935.

79 Shillony, , Revolt in Japan, pp. 135–41, 171–2.

80 S. T.S. V, 67 (14 03 1936); Kido nikki, I, 465, 26 02 1936; Honjō nikki, pp. 271–2. See also Shillony, , Revolt in Japan, p. 149. The meaning of ‘silk rope’ is that they did not intend violence, gaining their ends by other means, while professing loyalty to the Emperor.

81 S.T.S. V, 7 (14 03 1936); Kido njkki, I, 464, 26 02 1936; Honjō nikki, p. 272.

82 Kido nikki, I, 464–5, 26 02 1936.

83 Shillony, , Revolt in Japan, p. 150.

84 Ibid., pp. 152–66.

85 Kido nikki, I,464–5, 467, 26–7 02 1936; S.T.S. V, 29, 307 (12, 26 03 1936); Honjō nikki, p. 272. On the Navy's role, see Shillony, , Revolt in Japan, pp. 169–71. Yonai planned, if necessary, to rescue the Emperor and escort him to a battleship. Ibid., p. 170.

86 S.T.S. V, 7; Saionji, 1427, 14 March 1936.

87 Kido nikki, I, 465, 26 02 1936; Honjō nikki, pp. 275–6.

88 Of 1,483 rebels, 3 officers committed suicide. After secret and rapid military trials, 13 officers and 6 civilians were sentenced to death; 12 officers and one civilian, as well as 44 non-commissioned officers and soldiers, were given prison sentences. In addition, Aizawa, whose interminable trial had earlier been turned into a propaganda marathon, was given a new trial in April and executed on 3 July. Shillony, , Revolt in Japan, pp. 198, 201–2, 206, 291. It appears that many Japanese would have agreed with General Ugaki, who wrote in his diary, ‘How disgusting it is to watch these rascals, holding in one hand the matches and in the other the water hose, setting fire and putting it out at the same time, inciting the pure young officers, pleading their cause and then claiming credit for having put them down’. Cited in , p. 203.

89 Ibid., p. 218.ibid.

90 For example, Col. Hashimoto Kingorō, a prominent hothead, threatened, after the February 26th Incident to kill the Genrō and the senior statesmen. He blamed them for blocking a supposed Imperial amnesty for the rebels. S.T.S. V, 123; Saionji, 1560, 13 Auguest 1936. After the May 15th Incident, Saionji frustrated an attempt to obtain an amnesty for the culprits. Shillony, , Revolt in Japan, p. 104. In 1937, Prince Konoye, as Premier, attempted to obtain one for those involved in the February 26th Incident. He thought his Cabinet agreed, but the Emperor knew they did not. According to Yuasa, ‘The Emperor hesitated to voice his opposition to Konoye… but, the other day he told him, “On the whole, I am opposed to an amnesty”, and moved on to another subject’. S.T.S. VI, 122; Saionji, 1912, 25 October 1937. The amnesty was dropped.

91 S.T.S. V, 264; Saionji, 1718, 19 02 1937.

92 This was an indirect criticism, by Konoye, of Saionji, who had helped to instill such ideas.

93 S.T.S. II, 248; Saionji, 297, 3 April 1932.

94 S.T.S. VII, 339–40; Saionji, 2501, 24 April 1939. For Harada's angry reply to Kido, who had just advocated the Tripartite Pact, see fn. 51, above.

94 For example, in early 1933, when the Premier tried to obtain an Imperial Rescript ordering the Kwangtung Army to halt its advance into north China, Saionji opposed it on the ground that the Army might disobey. S.T.S. II, 420–1; Saionji, 493, 15 January 1933.

96 S.T.S. II, 47 (14 09 1931), III, 133 (29 08 1933). See also Shillony, , Revolt in Japan, pp. 102–3. Those who killed Inukai used their trial to air criticisms of the Court, comparing it to the Romanovs in their last days. S.T.S. III, 113 (10 08 1933).

97 S.T.S. II, 420–1 (15 01 1933); Saionji, 493.

98 S.T.S. VII, 298; Saionji 2457, 25 February 1939. Harada comments that although there were other times when Chief Aides-de-Camp did not follow Imperial instructions, this was the first admission of it. See, for another example, S.T.S. VII, 152 (25 10 1938); Saionji, 2297. Later, there were troubles with Honjō's successor, Gen. Usami, who failed to transmit, or to transmit accurately, the Emperor's messages to the Army, and divulged what the Emperor had told him in confidence, apparently trying to play the traditional role of go-between. S. T.S. VII, 311 (23 March 1939). Usami was replaced by Hata on 15 May 1939. S.T.S. V, 343.

99 See Shillony, , Revolt in Japan, esp. pp. 95–109. The Emperor himself reduced the political influence of all those not in offices of responsibility to him by simply refusing to discuss politics with them. See Kido nikki, I, 346, 13 07 1934, Honjō nikki, 163, and Shillony, for examples, mostly concerning Prince Chichibu.

100 S.T.S. IV, 1619; Saionji, 945–7, 20 July 1934. For details of the circumstances, see Sei'ichi, Imai, ‘Cabinet, Emperor, and Senior Statesmen’, in Borg, Dorothy and Okamoto, Shumpei (eds), Pearl Harbor as History, p. 65, and note 17. The Emperor complained to Foreign Minister Hirota, asking why the Navy was suddenly pressing for parity with the powers. S.T.S. IV, 20; Saionji, 947, 20 07 1934.

101 S.T.S. IV, 47–8; Saionji, 978, 20 Auguest 1934. Navy Minister Ōsumi threatened Harada with a ‘grave situation’ if the Emperor frustrated the Navy's desires for parity. Ibid.

102 S.T.S. IV, 4950; Saionji, 979–80, 19 August 1934.

103 See Butow, , Tojo and the Coming of the War, pp. 77–8.

104 S.T.S. VIII, 1314; Saionji, 2573, 11 July 1939. Terauchi later visited Germany ‘in a private capacity’. S.T.S. VIII, 86; Saionji, 2651, 2 October 1939.

105 S.T.S. VIII, 14; Saionji, 2574, 11 July 1939.

106 Ibid., 15.

107 Ibid., 45; 2607, 14 August 1939.

108 S.T.S. VIII, 61–2 (1 September 1939); Saionji, 2624–5. Hata had been Chief Aide-de-Camp, and the Emperor apparently thought he had some sympathy with the Emperor's position. The tears Hata is reported to have shed when opposing the Emperor give some idea of the extent of his sympathy. See fn. 117 for a more extreme example of the strains of double loyalty.

109 Butow, , Tojo and the Coming of the War, pp. 255–7, and Maxon, , Control of Japanese Foreign Policy, pp. 170–1 differ slightly, relying largely on the account by Konoye, who was present. In ‘The role of the Japanese Army’, in Pearl Harbor as History, Fujiwara Akira points out that until 1939 the Army made virtually no plans for a war against the U.S.A., but concentrated on the Russians, the ‘natural enemy’ since the 19th Century, and the Army authorities were extremely poorly informed about the U.S.A. Even after 1939, and even during the Pacific war, the Army continued to think of the war against the U.S.A. as a matter for the Navy, and competed for men and materials for use in China (see pp. 189–95). The Navy leaders were doubtful about the chances of ultimate success in a war against Britain and America, but after about June 1941, the prospect of Naval power languishing for lack of oil greatly increased their willingness to ‘enter the tiger's den’. Again, national interests were seen in the distorting mirror of narrower loyalties.

The Emperor proposed to ask questions at the Imperial Conference on the decision for war, but Kido advised him to let Hara, the President of the Privy Council, ask the questions, after which the Emperor could make a plea for a diplomatic solution if at all possible. Maxon (p. 171) goes on to wonder whether Kido was moved by fear for the safety of the Emperor, the Imperial institution, or whether he thought, after all, the Axis powers might win the war. It may well have been some kind of combination of these considerations, plus, perhaps, fear for his own skin.

110 Shillony, , Revolt in Japan, p. 105.

111 S.T.S. VII, 278–9; Saionji, 2437, 7 February 1939.

112 Kido nikki, II, 811, 25 07 1940.

113 An example, Okada's fear of civil war, is cited in Maruyama, , Thought and Behaviour, p. 124. Okada actually congratulates himself and the senior statesmen on having saved Japan from civil war by not blocking the trend toward war abroad! On the other hand, in February 1945, Konoye wrote a memorial to the Emperor, at his request, advocating a negotiated peace, making the point that there might be a Communist revolution in Japan if the war was permitted to continue. See Butow, R. J. C., Japan's Decision to Surrender (Stanford, 1954), pp. 4750.

114 Even the dead were invoked. General Matsui, who had been the Commander-in-Chief at the ‘rape of Nanking’, wrote: ‘If we were now to settle the China Incident by compromising with England and America and co-operating with the Anglo-Saxons, how would we be able to face the myriad spirits of our war dead?’ (Quoted in Maruyama, , Thought and Behaviour, p. 113).

115 See Chihiro, Hosoya, ‘Twenty-five Years after Pearl Harbor: A New Look at Japan's Decision for War’, in Goodman, Grant K. (comp.), Imperial Japan and Asia: A Reassessment (New York: 1967), pp. 5264, for an argument that the decision for war was not inevitable. See also Usui Katsumi's chapter in Pearl Harbor as History, ‘The role of the Foreign Ministry’, pp. 127–48, in which, by analyzing the inner factional struggles, he disproves the theory that the Foreign Ministry worked for peace and against the military.

116 One example Maruyama gives (p. 104) is Ōshima, who, when asked if he had supported the Tripartite Pact, justified his position as having conformed to the national consensus (which he, in fact, did much to create).

117 S.T.S. VIII, 42–3 (14 08 1939). A more striking example is War Minister Anami, who held out against acceptance of the terms of surrender, but committed suicide after accepting the Emperor's plea for peace. Admiral Nomura's comments are interesting: ‘As a member of the Cabinet he knew the real situation, but as head of the Army he knew that there was a strong feeling in the Army for continuing the war. Therefore he was in a dilemma, and after signing… he killed himself. He was in a very difficult position…. he acted truly like a gentleman’. Maxon (p. 211) adds, comparing Hata's resignation in 1940 and Anami's suicide in 1945, ‘… both acts illustrated the peculiar nature of Japanese loyalty, which was in essence a loyalty to group or class and not a loyalty to constitutional or legal principles’.

118 Maxon, , Control of Japanese Foreign Policy, p. 97. Early in 1936, the Emperor told Honjō that he tried to inform responsible officials of his position on an issue before a decision was made, because afterwards, ‘the question of political responsibility arises’. Honjō nikki, p. 235. This proved difficult in practice.

119 S.T.S. VI, 136–8; Saionji, 125–31, 18 November 1937.

120 Shillony, , Revolt in Japan, pp. 123–4. Early in 1937, Yuasa said the sole reason why the court officials could stand up to the attempt by the ‘right wing’ to undermine them was the presence of Saionji. S.T.S. V, 262 (19 02 1939).

121 S.T.S. II, 115 (24 10 1931).

122 Ibid., VI, 202–4 (19 January 1938).

123 Admiral Suzuki, who had broken the deadlock over surrender, criticized Konoye after the war for not having had the courage to oppose the military in 1941 and then ask the Emperor to break the resulting deadlock. See Maxon (p. 175) who is convinced it would have been too late: ‘Under the circumstances…, an appeal to the Emperor… would have risked reprisals which might possibly have decimated the advisory personnel surrounding the Emperor and even endangered the Emperor himself’.

124 Konoye, , Memoirs, p. 62. I have adapted the English somewhat. Maruyama (p. 124) agrees with Konoye that the Emperor could have been more decisive. But although he says one reason was the Emperor's ‘weak character’, he does not seem to blame him for being a ‘portable Shrine’, representing authority, held aloft by the Official, representing power, who was pushed to action by the Outlaw, representing violence and irresponsibility, prodding the Official from behind, because this was a pervasive and traditional pattern of Japanese society. See Maruyama, Thought and Behaviour, pp. 128–9.

125 Shillony, , Revolt in Japan, p. 95.

126 Shōwa no dōran (Upheavals of the Shōwa period) (Tokyo, 1952), I, 148. Shigemitsu records that he heard military men criticizing the Emperor and saying they would depose him if he opposed reform and put an Imperial Prince (probably Chichibu) in his place. Ibid., I, 102.

127 See Butow, , Japan's Decision to Surrender, pp. 189209.

128 Hisanori, Fujita, Jijūchō no kaisō (Reminiscences of a Grand Chamberlain) (Tokyo, 1961), pp. 202–5.

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Modern Asian Studies
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