Saturday, November 25, 2006

Japan-US Relations Before WWII

Japan in the Modern Era: Invasion and Response

By Adam Corson-Finnerty Submitted November 19, 2006



Why Did the United States and Japan have a war in the middle of the twentieth century? Ask most Americans this question and they will say it was because Japan attacked us at Pearl Harbor. Our national psyche seems to require no further elaboration.

Being a curious person, I decided to tackle this question for myself. The object was to fill one of the many holes in my understanding of modern history, and not because I thought the question had any particular relevance to the twenty-first century.

It came as a surprise, then, to come across historian Bruce Kuklick’s new book, Blind Oracles, and discover in his introduction this passage:

The [foreign policy] specialists of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s discounted the context that formed the background to Pearl Harbor. They paid little attention to the economic competition in the Far East, or the economic diplomacy that the United States used to mold international politics in Asia. With the experts, as for many Americans, the only issue was deceit.[1]

Kuklick argues that this was a fundamental misconception of the intellectuals who framed the terms of the Cold War. Ignoring America’s aggressive history in the Pacific, they combined moral outrage at Japan’s sneak attack with moral outrage at Hitler’s evil reign, and looked no further for explanation or insight. While it is no surprise that the general public would reduce a complex story to a one-line bit of folklore, it is somewhat astonishing that policy intellectuals would do so. Foreign Policy historian Walter Russell Mead has observed that even policy intellectuals seem to believe that “Year Zero” is either 1945, or 1941, as though nothing of current importance happened before those dates. Thus it may of some value to examine the US-Japan relationship in the 1853-1941 period, and ask ourselves "what went wrong?"

This historical period may seem quite ancient to modern Americans, but the Pacific Conflict is very much alive in the minds of current leaders in China and Japan. These two countries have passionately revisited a struggle now 70 years old in what one journalist termed a “political and intellectual cold war.”[2]

It is with some trepidation that I introduce a paper on the background to the Pacific conflict that evolved into WWII. I can state at the outset that I have not undertaken the research to answer fully the question that I posed in my first sentence. My research focus has been on the Japanese view of the conflict, as seen through the eyes of some of the players. I have only taken a cursory look at what US players—like Woodrow Wilson and the two Presidents Roosevelt—thought was going on.

Since I do not read Japanese, I perhaps should have stayed close to home. Yet there are enough primary and secondary sources, especially biographies, to be able to scratch the surface. Even a little scratch takes off a lot of dead varnish.

Two People, Two Dates

Every year, when Americans wake up on December 7, they are reminded by broadcasters that this is “Pearl Harbor Day,” the day when Japan attacked the US fleet at Pearl Harbor.

If the Japanese wished to pick a day to remember American aggression, they would likely choose July 2, 1853. On this day, U.S. Navy Commodore Matthew C. Perry steamed into Tokyo harbor with four enormous black-hulled battleships. These “black ships” (kurofune) carried 61 cannon and almost a thousand warriors. They were six times the size of any Japanese vessel.

If we were to reduce the history of US-Japanese conflict from the contemporary Japanese viewpoint, we would start with Perry. Perry was unwelcome and unwanted. Had he arrived in anything less daunting, he would have been repulsed or taken prisoner. He knew that.

In 1853 Japan wanted to be left alone. Its leaders did not want extensive trade or extensive diplomatic contact with the West. But Western nations found this policy unacceptable. They were determined to “open” Japan to the benefits of modern exchange—even if it took war to achieve this goal. This was Perry’s mission, and with additional pressure from Russia, Britain, and France, the West was successful.

So here is the thumbnail version of the story: After Perry’s assault the Japanese modernized their country, assembled a strong army and navy, and attacked Pearl Harbor. If one were Japanese, one might think of this story as a tale of insult and calculated revenge, like the famous Japanese tale of the 47 Ronin. But that is not quite how the story unfolded.

During the 88 year period between Perry’s assault on Japan and the Japanese assault on the U.S. fleet, Japanese-American relations transmuted from mutual ignorance to mutual curiosity, then to mutual admiration, then estrangement, and finally to mutual hostility. As we explore the reasons for this trajectory it will be helpful to keep in mind the opening act in the drama: Perry’s aggressive entrance into Japanese territory.

Commodore Perry had already decided that a lofty and threatening tone should be taken with the Japanese. He signaled this by sending white flags to the Japanese negotiators, along with a personal letter. If his demands were not met, he told them that war would result, a war which they would certainly lose. Thus the flags might come in handy.

To the Western observer, Perry’s officially-sanctioned demands seem quite modest: the provision of aid for ships in distress, succor (rather than imprisonment) for shipwrecked sailors, the right to stop at selected Japanese ports to obtain supplies. Perry also pushed for permission to set up a coaling station, and to allow trading through one or more ports.[3]

To the Japanese, these demands were a direct attack on a 200 year old policy that they felt had served them well. Since the Seclusion decrees of the 1630s, Japan had been closed (sakoku) to Westerners. Simply put, Japan’s rulers had seen enough of Western behavior through the actions of the Dutch, the Spanish and the Portuguese. And they didn’t like what they saw.

In 1825 Aizawa Seishisai, an advisor to the Shogun, summarized Japan’s long-held view of the West:

…[T]he West, where every country upholds the law of Jesus and attempts therewith to subdue other countries. Everywhere they go they set fire to shrines and temples, deceive and delude the people and then invade and seize the country. Their purpose is not realized until the ruler of the land is made a subject and the people of the land subservient. As they have gained momentum they have attempted to foist themselves on our Divine Land, as they have already done in Luzon [the Philippines, occupied by the Spanish in 1565] and Java [Indonesia, first occupied by the Portuguese in 1511, later occupied by the Dutch].[4]

One should not go too far into this tale without mentioning Japanese arrogance. (Later we will discuss American arrogance.) I use the term arrogance rather than pride, because for many centuries the Japanese had seen themselves as the center of the world. The Japanese were aware that they had drawn from the more ancient traditions of the Chinese, and had at times even admired Korean scholars, whose learning was closer to the Chinese source, but when the Japanese compared themselves with the West the gap was insurmountable. It is very important to keep Japanese self-pride and arrogance in mind as we explore the period from 1853-1941. This attitude never quite goes away, and in some hearts quietly smolders, leaping to flame at the first opportunity.

To cite Aizawa on this subject:

Our Divine Land is where the sun rises and where the primordial energy originates. The heirs of the Great Sun have occupied the Imperial Throne from generation to generation from time immemorial. Japan’s position at the vertex of the earth makes it the standard for the nations of the world. Indeed, it casts its light over the world, and the distance which the resplendent imperial influence reaches knows no limit. Today, the alien barbarians of the West, the lowly organs of the legs and feet of the world, are dashing about across the seas, trampling other countries underfoot, and daring, with their squinting eyes and limping feet, to override the noble nations. What manner of arrogance is this! [5]

From this widely-held view, Western acts of intrusion were not just annoying—they were arrogant, insulting, and ultimately humiliating. Humiliation was not something to be borne.

The Japanese were particularly offended—and threatened—by Christian evangelism. In the 16th and 17th centuries the proselytizers were Catholic—Jesuits, Franciscans, Augustinians—and they made earnest attempts to convert the local people, high and low. They achieved early success in Japan, claiming to have over 150,000 converts by 1582.[6] Their converts even included some of the regional nobility, the daimyo. These local lords had their own soldiers, and keeping these warlords in line was a major task for the central ruler. In the late 16th century, that central ruler was Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi decided that the barbarians’ religion was a threat to his control, and in 1587 he ordered all priests out of Japan. Some priests attempted to stay in Japan, and to reinforce his point, Hideyoshi had 26 Franciscan missionaries executed in Nagasaki.[7] In the ensuing years, other priests and native Christians suffered similar fates.

This gave a business opportunity to the Dutch, for whom evangelization was not a priority. The Dutch concentrated on trade—were, in fact, the leading trading nation of Europe—and they were quite ready to use this differentiator to gain favored status with the Japanese. They were rewarded with exclusive trading rights in Japan in 1641. These rights were very limited; their traders were confined to an island in Nagasaki harbor and only allowed to negotiate with officially sanctioned middlemen.

This arrangement continued right up to the time of Perry. Under this policy, direct contact between Westerners and Japanese was almost non-existent. In fact, if any Dutch trader seemed to be developing too much knowledge of Japanese ways, he was sent packing. The Japanese would have closed even the Dutch trading enclave but for one thing: visiting captains were required to provide a written account of what had happened in the wider world since their last visit. This modest amount of “foreign intelligence” was considered useful and sufficient by the ruling authorities.

“Like Flies on a Bowl of Rice”

The Western nations were persistent in their effort to open “normal” relations with Japan. In 1804, the Russians sent a delegation to Nagasaki harbor to request trading rights. Their representative cooled his heels for six months before a reply came back from Shogunate officials in Edo (now Tokyo): the answer was no.

In 1808, a British ship arrived in Nagasaki and requested supplies. When this was denied, the captain seized what he wanted by force and sailed away. The dishonored port official committed seppuku. In 1811, when the Russians showed up again, the ship and captain were seized and held for two years.

Foreigners were becoming so annoying that the government issued orders to fire immediately upon any Western ship attempting to enter Japanese ports. In 1838, the American merchant ship Morrison arrived with seven Japanese sailors who had been rescued from a shipwreck. The captain thought that this act of mercy would earn a hearing. The Morrison tried to enter two different ports, but got the same response, a cannonade.

Then came shocking news from China. The English had humiliated the Chinese in what came to be called the “Opium Wars.” In the peace settlement they imposed a treaty that required certain ports be opened for trade, that a regular and modest tariff be charged in place of arbitrary taxes and bribes, that British subjects be exempt from Chinese courts and tried in special British courts (“extraterritoriality”), and that every other Western trading nation would have the same rights as were won by the most-favored-nation.[8]

The handwriting was on the wall. Western nations were buzzing around Japan “like flies on a bowl of rice,” and someone must do something about it.

That “someone” was supposed to be the Shogun. After all, shogun was the shortened form of Sei-I tai shogun, or barbarian-fighting generalissimo. For two centuries the Tokugawa line of shoguns had maintained peace and order in Japan. Under them, the emperor became a weak and symbolic figure, ensconced in a palace in Kyoto and uninvolved in affairs of state.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Japanese arms were the equal of others. Early firearms had been purchased and deployed by Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugowa line, in the civil war battle of Sekigahara (1600). His predecessor, Hideyoshi, had felt so powerful that he decided to invade China by way of Korea. This invasion bogged down and was ultimately unsuccessful; nevertheless, Japan had no problem defending itself.

By 1840 many things had changed. The shogunal state was too weak to fight the barbarians. The historian Marius B. Jansen puts it well:

The long interval of peace in Japan contrasted with an almost unbroken series of wars in the west. In the process dramatic changes in military technology made the weapons Japanese carried as obsolete as the class structure of those who carried them. Intellectual, political, and economic transformation in America and Europe had led to the participatory state with its citizen soldiers, while in Japan ordinary people took little interest in the activities of the samurai. [9]

If Commodore Perry had not forced the issue, some other Western power would have. The British certainly had the strength to undertake such a mission, but were quite content to allow the United States to have the honor (or opprobrium), since under the most-favored-nation doctrine, they would reap any rewards that the Americans gained.

Before the Perry mission, the United States had made one attempt to press its views diplomatically. In 1845 Captain James Biddle was sent in two ships to Edo harbor to launch negotiations, but when he was informed that all foreign discussions occurred only in Nagasaki harbor, he politely withdrew. Biddle may have been too polite by Japanese standards. While he was ashore, a Japanese soldier treated him rudely. Biddle ignored it and did not demand an apology or act of contrition. The Japanese took this as a good sign: the Americans were weak.

Perry decided not to make that mistake. He sailed into Edo harbor, demanded that negotiations take place there and then, arrogantly stated his demands and then sailed away, saying that he would return for a reply--with an even larger fleet. When he came back in February, 1854, the Japanese had decided to placate the Americans. American ships would be allowed to stop for supplies and coal in two harbors, shipwreck survivors would be treated humanely, and a slight opening was made for trade. The Commodore sailed away happy. The Japanese were furious.

Tokugawa Nariaki, the lord of Mito, expressed what most Japanese leaders felt about the Perry invasion:

[T]he Americans who arrived recently… were arrogant and discourteous, their actions an outrage. Indeed, this was the greatest disgrace we have suffered since the dawn of our history.[10]

In 1853, Nariaki and all of the 260 daimyo were consulted by the central government about what Japan should do in response to Perry. Nariaki’s response was simple: declare war on the Americans. “[E]ven if we sustain an initial defeat we will in the end expel the foreigners….” However, the ruling cadre decided to ignore his advice. Figuring that concessions to the Americans were preferable to a military defeat and the imposition of a Chinese-modeled treaty, they decided to play for time.

What to Do?

For several decades prior to Perry, a critical question had been debated at the highest levels of Japanese government as well as among regional lords and their advisors: what to do about the militarily more powerful West? When Perry arrived, the Japanese still had not figured out the answer.

We have already heard from one school of thought, as exemplified by Nariaki’s advocacy of armed struggle. This school rallied around the slogan “revere the emperor, repel the foreigners” (sonno-joi). It was characterized by a violent rejection of all things Western.

A second school advocated a temporary compromise while studying Western methods to build Japan’s military infrastructure. This had been the counsel of many of the daimyo, one of whom, Ii Naosuke, noted that the Americans and Russians had only modernized their fleets in recent times, and observed that “I do not see how the people of our country, who are clever and quick-witted, should prove inferior to Westerners if we begin training at once.”[11]

This group recommended that the central government be strengthened so that it could lead the drive toward modernization. They further held that “eastern ethics and western science” should be combined. Japan would keep its superior culture, and its superior beliefs, while adopting practical and useful measures from the West.

A third school of thought was far more embracing of the West. The “opening” of Japan might just be a good thing. Its foremost advocate was Fukuzawa Yukichi, a fascinating and iconoclastic figure about whom more will be said. Fukuzawa thought that Japan should abandon its old beliefs and its old structures, and embrace the modern. “…[T]here can be no other policy than to move on with the rest of the world and join them in dipping into the sea of civilization, joining them in creating the waves of civilization, and joining them in the pains and joys of civilization.”[12] Fukuzawa was no less a patriot than the others. He advocated such a policy as the only way that Japan could keep its independence.

It is worth noting these three schools of thought. Variations on them will be played over the next 90 years. In this paper I will focus on several key leaders who embody these differing opinions. One of them, Ishiwara Kanji, can be seen as heir to the combative Tokugawa Nariaki, lord of Mito. Two others, Yamagata Arimoto and Prince Konoe Fumimaro, can be characterized as followers of the middle road advocated by Ii Naosuke. The final figure, Prince Saionji Kinmochi, is the most liberal and “pro-Western” of the group, in the mold of Fukuzawa.

One might characterize the three views as Fight the West, Compete with the West, Join the West. All three views had their day in Japan, but by 1941 the “Fight” school had triumphed.

The Meiji Revolution

In the 1860s, Japan went through a revolution. This period is called the Meiji Restoration, since the revolutionaries claimed they were “restoring” the Meiji emperor to his rightful place at the head of the state. The Meiji revolutionaries were drawn primarily from the Satsuma and Choshu clans, and thus the conflict had the hallmarks of a civil war. However, the final result was not only the takeover of the old system by a new elite but the wholesale remaking of Japanese society. Once the rebels had consolidated their power, they embarked upon the reform of all national institutions, including local and national government, the military, the educational system, the police system, and even the religious “system.” They also largely succeeded in abolishing the clan system, opening the military, the schools and government to citizens based upon merit.

The revolution was a complex affair, played out over more than a decade, and can be shown to have a multitude of personal, clan, and social ingredients. However, Perry’s “invasion” was a key factor in the instigation of this upheaval.

Commodore Perry was followed by the American diplomat Townsend Harris in 1856. Harris was there, he thought, to negotiate the details of the treaty that Perry had proposed. Foremost on his agenda was trade; indeed, the United States wanted to forge a treaty that would give it all the privileges that the Western powers had won through force in China: limited tariffs, removal of trade restrictions, extraterritoriality for U.S. citizens—the whole nine yards. The Shogunal state was in no rush to make such agreements and left Harris to cool his heels like many a previous envoy. Harris lamented that “no negotiations could be carried on with them unless the plenipotentiary was backed by a fleet, and offered them cannonballs for arguments.” [13]

Harris soon got his cannonballs. England and France combined their fleets in a war with China that left them in control of Canton and Peking by 1858. This allowed them to wrest even deeper concessions from the weak Chinese government. Harris convinced the government leader, now Ii Naosuke, that it would be better to make a peaceful arrangement with the U.S. than to have one imposed by the British and French fleets. Ii decided to sign the treaty, even though it meant that the other Western powers would expect the same deal, and even though the emperor was opposed (and communicated his feelings through the daimyo grapevine). Opposition to the treaty was widespread, and in 1860 Ii was assassinated by a force of Mito clan samurai. This was the opening act of the civil war that followed.

The slogan “revere the emperor, expel the barbarians” can be thought of as the motto for the entire Meiji Revolution. The Meiji rebels wanted was to destroy the power of the Shogun and establish a stronger government under the leadership of the emperor. Then they would abrogate the treaties and repel the foreigners. They succeeded in their first goal, but Japan was too weak to expel the foreigners. It would take a while before Japan could put the West in its place; and the only way to achieve this goal was to acquire enough military prowess—enough “cannonballs”—to regain its sovereignty. The new Meiji leaders were forced to conclude that the treaties must be endured and that Japan must learn from the West—exactly the policy for which Ii Naosuke had forfeited his life.

We will soon trace this evolution through the career of Yamagata Arimoto, the foremost military figure of the Meiji era. But here let us pause to cite the Charter Oath. This document was issued by the newly “restored” and heavily “advised” young Meiji emperor in April 1868. It was intended to be a statement of direction, and an appeal to hostile daimyo to join the new system:

  1. Deliberative councils shall be widely established and all matters decided by public discussion.
  2. All classes, high and low, shall unite in vigorously carrying out the administration of affairs of state.
  3. The common people, no less than the civil and military officials, shall each be allowed to pursue his own calling so that there may be no discontent.
  4. Evil customs of the past shall be broken off and everything based on the just laws of Nature.
  5. Knowledge shall be sought throughout the world so as to strengthen the foundations of imperial rule. [14]

The Charter Oath points toward the reforms that followed. These reforms will be covered in the section on Yamagata, but for the moment let us focus on item #5, which launched a remarkable period in Japanese history. In the pursuit of knowledge, Japan organized government missions to travel and study the “secrets” of the West. The best ideas were to be brought back for implementation. A pioneer in this regard is Yukichi Fukuzawa, who began his travels under the Shogun, and became the foremost advocate of westernization during the Meiji era.

Yukichi Fukuzawa

Yukichi Fukuzawa’s life (1835-1901) spanned the period when Japan transited from a closed, backward, feudal society to the first rank of modern states. He himself played no small role in this transition, and is considered to be the most important figure in bringing Western ideas into Japan. He began life as a low-level member of the samurai class, required to grovel for anyone above him in rank. He ended life as a wealthy, outspoken, and respected educator and writer.

Fukuzawa was an iconoclast in a time of conformity. In his autobiography, he tells of his early challenges to conventional thought. Told that divine retribution would follow any sign of disrespect to the gods, he pilfered a small paper charm on which a sacred name was written, and stepped on it when no one was looking. Nothing happened. So then, to put superstition to a stronger test, he dropped a charm into the privy! Again, no divine punishment followed. These two attitudes—independence of thought, and the willingness to experiment—were to become the hallmarks of his teaching.

Fukuzawa left his village at an early age to study Dutch in one of the few schools that were allowed to teach it. Soon after, he learned English. When the shogunal leaders decided to send a study mission to America in 1860, he was allowed to go along as a translator. Upon his return he began to write about the West, advocating a broad acceptance of Western notions, including freedom of thought, equality, and the importance of science and mathematics. By 1866 his book Seiyo Jijo (Things Western) sold 250,000 copies—a record figure. The book made such an impact that soon all books about the West were called Fukuzawa-bon. In the forward to the Autobiography, Carmen Blacker writes:

Its immense success was due to the fact that it gave the Japanese public exactly the information about the West that it needed. Seiyo Jijo described Western hospitals, schools and newspapers, museums, the taxation system, and other ordinary social institutions. It gave the Japanese public for the first time a picture of what the Western countries were like to live in.[15]

While writing about the West proved profitable, it also was a very dangerous occupation. Many Japanese thought that scholars of the West were traitors, and as a result Fukuzawa lived most of his life in fear of assassination. Anti-Western feeling was so high that on his return voyage from America, when the Japanese captain of the ship showed his countrymen an umbrella that he had purchased in San Francisco, all agreed that he could never take it out in public for fear of being cut down in the street.[16]

Due to his financial independence, Fukuzawa did not need to rely upon a wealthy patron or a government position. He opened his own school to teach Western knowledge and philosophy and started his own newspaper. Throughout the remainder of his life he continued to advocate acceptance—even embrace—of Western ideas and institutions. Yet his goal was always the same, to strengthen Japan. In his own words:

The purpose of my entire [life’s] work has not only been to gather young men together, and give them the benefit of foreign books, but to open this “closed” country of ours and bring it wholly into the light of Western Civilization. For only thus may Japan become strong in the arts of both war and peace and take a place in the forefront of the progress of the world.[17]

Fukuzawa is certainly one of Japan’s Founding Fathers, probably closest in profile to Benjamin Franklin. He is a self-made man, a writer, a publisher, and his autobiography, like Franklin’s, is filled with humor and sage advice. Unlike Franklin, he avoided any form of government service, preferring the role of educator and public intellectual. I have profiled him because he both represents and helped shape Japan’s movement from ignorance of the West, to curiosity, and even admiration.

Like Franklin he was also a patriot, and for all of his seeming universalism, he could at times sound a jarring nationalist note. Thus, in his essay on “De-Asianization,” he engages in a rather startling assault on the neighboring nations of China and Korea:

The people of those two countries do not know how to go about reforming and making progress…. …[T]heir emotional attachment to ancient manners and customs has changed little for the past hundreds and thousands of years. …[O]ur country cannot afford to wait for the enlightenment of our neighbors and to co-operate in building Asia up. Rather, we should leave their ranks to join the camp of the civilized countries of the West. Even with dealing with China and Korea, we need not have special scruples simply because they are our neighbors, but should behave toward them as the Westerners do. [18]

This comment seems all the more chilling in light of subsequent developments. Japan did indeed adopt an imperious and imperial attitude toward its Asian neighbors, and was soon to occupy Formosa, annex Korea and gain a foothold in Manchuria. But the road to this policy had many twists and turns.

Yamagata Aritomo (1838-1922)

As Fukuzawa was Meiji Japan’s foremost educational leader, so Yamagata Aritomo was the foremost political and military leader. Indeed, it is not difficult to draw a straight line from Yamagata’s views on foreign policy to Japan’s entry into World War II.

Yamagata was born in 1838, the son of a very minor member of the samurai ranks of the Choshu clan. His biographer notes that approximately 50,000 people would have comprised the Choshu samurai class—in a total population of 550,000. The samurai were divided into dozens of divisions and subdivisions, each mindful of their place in the hierarchy. This young man’s place was very low indeed:

Yamagata’s father had inherited the rank of chugen, the lowest of twenty-three ranks among the lower category of direct vassals of the daimyo. Although in the military organization of the han to which all ranks and duties were theoretically geared the chugen were trained to bear arms and serve as common soldiers, generations of unbroken peace had accorded them the role of handymen, minor clerks, or even janitors in the various offices of the han government. Economically then members of the chugen were poor, often poorer than land-owing peasants. [19]

The peace of this era was thanks to the 200-year reign of the Tokugawa shoguns. Their method of control had been honed over time. Every daimyo—and there were 260 of them—was required to live every other year in their capital of Edo, and the daimyo’s family was to live there full-time, as hostages to good behavior. Furthermore, the daimyo were not allowed to approach the emperor in Kyoto, nor were they allowed to deal directly with each other. All government was conducted by the bakufu, a bureaucracy under the personal control of the Shogun. Nevertheless, in this decentralized system the local lord had considerable sway in his own domain. Thus the fiefs of Choshu and Satsuma, soon to seize power, were allowed to develop strong economies and bureaucracies on their own.

At age twenty Yamagata was given permission by his clan to study with the scholar Yoshida Shoin. The time was 1858, and the bakufu had just agreed to sign the unpopular treaty with the United States. Shoin was an arch opponent of this policy, and his school was dedicated to the principle of sonno joi (revere the emperor, expel the barbarian). The school also subscribed to the idea of adopting useful western technology while rejecting western culture. After the signing of the treaty, Shoin had concluded that the capitulation of the Shogun meant that the entire bakufu system should be overthrown. Since most schools were teaching a bland combination of Confucianism and the Chinese classics, Shoin’s school was the ideal place for young radicals to gather. Yamagata was one of them, and after his teacher was imprisoned and executed (1859), he became a revolutionary.

Yamagata was a healthy, aggressive young samurai at a time when Japan was repeatedly humiliated by western arms. Not surprisingly, his reaction was that of the warrior. In 1860, he expressed his anger in a poem:

With many warriors with their bows and arrows

we will defeat

the impudent, ugly barbarians.

When we unsheathe our swords and kill them

they will suffer the force

of the divine wind from Isuzu shrine

and will be thrown into the deep sea

like bits of seaweed.[20]

But arrows and swords were no match for the rifles and cannon of the westerners. Yamagata personally experienced this imbalance when, in July 1863, a combined American and French naval action forced his small group of defenders from a Choshu fort, sank several Choshu ships, and spiked the fort’s few guns. One year later, an allied squadron attacked Choshu forts along the coast and Yamagata was again confronted with western firepower. He later wrote that “…[T]he enemy’s fire was far more severe, shells landing on the side embankment throwing earth and rocks skyward and causing much suffering.” [21]

In the meantime, the lord of Choshu had taken a dramatic step. He empowered one of his vassals, Takasugi Shinsaku, to organize a new fighting force. This force would utilize both Western and Eastern arms and strategies, and would enlist any willing volunteer—regardless of rank or standing. Yamagata was one of the first to enlist, and was soon given command of a Kiheitai (“surprise”) unit. Years later, Yamagata was to reorganize the entire Japanese Army on this same citizen-soldier basis.

In the meantime, these new forces helped the Choshu during their open rebellion against the bakufu. By 1868 the combined Choshu-Satsuma forces had routed all major resistance, and Yamagata had become a recognized and battle-hardened military figure. His repeated encounters with Western arms, however, had modified his views on foreign policy. Japan must learn from the West: “…[W]e must select able people, send them abroad in order to become intimately acquainted with world conditions and to acquire practical knowledge about warships, artillery, military systems and administration.” [22]

Within a year, Yamagata had the opportunity to be one of the first “able people” to be sent by the Meiji government to study the West. Sailing from Nagasaki in August, 1869, he traveled extensively in France, England, Belgium, Holland, Prussia and Russia. Everywhere he went he was eager to learn about government, personal customs, the organization of the military, military spirit, and military history. He came to admire Napoleon, and the modern German army. He was shocked to learn that “even in England,” the king had relatively little real power, and that representative government prevailed. He resolved that such a thing should never happen in Japan—the emperor’s new authority was far too important.

After a year abroad, Yamagata returned and became the first person of such low rank to appear before the emperor to provide a personal briefing. He accepted the post of assistant vice minister of military affairs and quickly set about the task of reorganizing the army. He was aided by a remarkable revolutionary spirit among the new group of leaders. By 1871 they had convinced the emperor to issue an edict abolishing the han (clan) system. All domain lines were erased, and new governing units were decreed. All government finance was centralized. In 1872 the government announced that universal military service was to be established, and that “the samurai is no longer the samurai of former times and commoners no longer the commoners of the past; all are now equal in the empire and without distinction in their duty to serve the nation.” [23]

Yamagata, now promoted to vice minister of military affairs, created a conscription system that drafted all males at age twenty. This was followed by two years of service, and four years in the reserve. He envisioned an educational path that produced ideal citizen-soldiers:

If boys enter grammar school at six, high school at thirteen and graduate at nineteen, after which, from their twentieth year, they spend a few years as soldiers, in the end all will become soldiers and no one will be without education. In due course, the nation will become a great civil and military university. [24]

Yamagata’s biographer asserts that the conscription law “became the basis of Japan’s modern military power.”[25] This seems true enough, but one must add that only a determined and centralized government, willing to spend an enormous portion of public funds on building a modern army and navy, could have brought Japan to the first rank of military nations in the few decades between 1872 and 1905. Yamagata was the visionary, the leader, and the firm backbone of this policy.

Yamagata quickly rose from vice minister and commander of the Imperial Guard to Army Minister. As he rose, he placed Choshu men in positions of command. These men later became important generals and public figures in their own right, and they always remained loyal to Yamagata. Thus, as each year went on, the power of his “faction” increased.

One of the members of his faction was Katsura Taro, a young Choshu soldier who spent six years in Europe studying the German military system. Japan had begun its military reorganization along French lines, but with the defeat of the French by Germany in 1870, Yamagata was open to Katsura’s proposal that Japan should switch to the German model. In 1878 a General Staff Headquarters was created, and Yamagata assumed the title of Chief. This made him the foremost military advisor to the emperor, above the Army Minister, who reported to him and not directly to the throne. Yamagata believed that this would help to shield the army from involvement in political affairs. He was also determined to keep individual officers and soldiers from plotting against the government, and when one such incident occurred in 1878, he issued an order that stressed duty, loyalty, and obedience to orders. “Such behavior as questioning Imperial policies, or expressing private opinions on important laws,… runs counter to the duty of a soldier.” [26]

Two years later the government issued a regulation forbidding active or reserve soldiers from joining any political party or attending “any meeting where politics form the subject of address or deliberation.” Remarkably, this order also applied to police officers, teachers in public or private schools, all students, and apprentices! I cite this, not to begin a discussion of civil liberties in Meiji Japan, but to indicate that the government, like Yamagata, envisioned a civil-military-educational system that served the emperor and followed the Imperial “line.”

The expectation of proper behavior was sanctified in an imperial edict of 1882, the “Precepts to Soldiers and Sailors.” This document was issued at Yamagata’s request. It stressed the virtues of loyalty, proper comportment, courage, morality, and austerity. While aimed at the military, it was in fact speaking of the ideal male in a male-dominated society. In the ensuing years, whenever Japanese politicians or intellectuals spoke of the “decline” of public morals, they were measuring against the standard of the rescript. Yamagata’s biographer, Roger F. Hackett, emphasizes that “This compound of the traditional samurai ethic and imperial nationalism might well be identified as the ‘Meiji spirit.’” [27]

Yamagata and the other Meiji leaders recognized that the “secret” of western power did not lie in its advanced weaponry. Rather, it was the combination of economic development, education, centralized and efficient government, and a patriotic citizenry prepared to fight and die for the country. They learned from Europe—then in the thrall of social Darwinism--that nations competed, and the weaker went under. Therefore, they united around the slogan fukoku, kyohei (rich country, strong army) in order to build what Yamagata described as “a veritable floating fortress.”

Yamagata was not only to be the father of Japan’s army, he was also to become the “father” of the police and of local government. From 1882 until 1889 he served as President of the Legislative Board, and then Minister of Home Affairs. Using the German model and German advisors (notably Albert Mosse), he undertook a sweeping reorganization of the police and local government, and he was a key participant in the formulation of a new Constitution. Thus the entire system of government and its related bureaucrats and officers was guided by his hand. People in key leadership positions owed their appointments to him; Yamagata loyalists were everywhere.

Thus Yamagata had become extremely powerful by 1890. But Yamagata was a true founding father. His aim was not personal aggrandizement, nor was it to seize control of the government—to become the new Shogun. Like America’s founding fathers, he and the other Meiji leaders were seized with the idea of “restoring” Japan to greatness. They thought of themselves as shishi, “men of high purpose”[28] who would serve the emperor and the ideals that he represented.

To these men of high purpose, the emperor’s position as both head of state and as embodiment of the Japanese nation was of paramount importance. Their ideal government was to be top-down, not bottom-up. As Hackett observes, “He [Yamagata] conceived of government as master, not as servant, of the people; of bureaucracy as a servant of the state, not as representative of the people.” [29]

In 1888 and 1890, new laws were promulgated which structured government from the village level to the prefectural. At the top of this pyramid stood the Home Minister, who reported to the emperor. In this new system, the Home Minister could overrule the prefectural governor and prefectural assembly; the governor could overrule the town and village assemblies. This authoritarian system was designed to transmit orders down the line, not to transmit the wishes of the people up to the leaders. To Yamagata, service in local government was similar to army service—it was to be undertaken in the interest of the emperor and thus the nation. This system stayed in place until the end of World War II.

In 1889 a new constitution was proclaimed for Japan. In the new system, the emperor was enshrined as head of state and commander-in-chief of the military. The emperor appointed the prime minister and the other ministers. This cabinet advised the emperor and carried out his policies. There was also a court bureaucracy, headed by the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal. A new peerage was established in order to populate an appointed House of Peers, and an elected lower house was provided for; together they formed the Diet, which had the power to approve laws and taxes, but no authority over war and foreign affairs. The emperor had the power to dismiss the Diet and impose taxes and laws directly. Even so, the constitution provided that new elections must be held, and within a few months a new assembly would again have the power of the purse.

This arrangement may sound familiar to students of early English government. Actually, the new constitution was based upon the model that Bismarck had developed for Germany. Bismarck was greatly admired, even personally imitated, by the man credited as the father of Japan’s constitution, Ito Hirobumi.

Ito and Yamagata were the two leading figures of the Meiji era. While they differed on a variety of issues, they were both united in their vision of a nation led by the emperor, and a polity that carried out his will—without being subject to the whims of the masses.

Like America’s founding fathers, the Meiji leaders had a low regard for “democracy,” and a loathing of political parties. The government was to be above party and faction. Quoting Ito, the goal was to create a system whereby government power would not “fall into the hands of the uncontrollable masses; and then the government will become powerless, and the country will be ruined.” [30] Yamagata agreed wholeheartedly with these sentiments. In 1889, when the new constitution was adopted, he was on another study tour of Europe. He wrote from Germany that he was seeing the bad effects of too much power being seized by European legislatures which advanced “selfish policies doing untold damage to the state.” [31]

Given these sentiments, it is surprising that the new constitution gave any power to the assembly. Indeed, some Meiji figures had argued that the assembly should be purely advisory, but Ito and the majority felt that the people needed some sense of participation, or they would not go along with the new system.

There is another part of the new system that needs to be mentioned. This was an extra-constitutional body that came to be called the genro. The term genro might be thought of as being something like a “council of elders.” It reflected a practice that began in the Meiji era and continued until the early 1930s. The Meiji emperor had been restored to power because of the actions of certain men. Not surprisingly, he came to rely upon these men for guidance. Ito and Yamagata were two such figures, and scholars generally agree that nine individuals can be counted as full members of this group. The last person to be invited by the emperor to serve as genro was Saionji Kinmochi, an important figure who will be discussed in the next section.

The genro had two important functions. First, they were asked to recommend who the emperor should appoint as prime minister. Second, they were to advise on foreign policy. All recommendations were to be made by consensus, and from the 1880s until the death of Yamagata in 1922, consensus was usually achieved. (After 1922, Saionji continued as the sole genro.)

The net effect was that an un-elected, un-appointed, and secretive group of men held enormous sway in the new government. The ability to designate the prime minister became the ability to directly influence the composition of the entire cabinet. This “informal” authority placed tremendous power in their hands. [32]

Yamagata agreed to serve as prime minister in 1889. He considered his cabinet to be “above” politics. All cabinet deliberations were conducted in secret, and all decisions expressed through the emperor. One of the cabinet’s most important acts was to draft a rescript on education. Issued in 1890, and used as the basis for all education, it in fact was a directive on the proper comportment of people and the ideal relationship between citizen and state. Addressed to “Ye, Our subjects,” it urged filial piety, friendship, mutual respect, modesty, benevolence, and the pursuit of learning. It also called for loyalty. Subjects should “advance public good and promote common interests; always respect the Constitution and observe the laws; should emergency arise, offer yourselves courageously to the State; and thus guard and maintain the prosperity of Our Imperial Throne coeval with heaven and earth.” The statement concluded by claiming that “The Way here set forth is… infallible for all ages and true in all places.” If this begins to sound religious, that was certainly the intent. As Hackett observes, the rescript not only guided education, “it became the leading text of Japan’s state religion.” [33]

The cabinet also presided over the first election for the House of Representatives. On July 1, 1890, 300 representatives were chosen by an electorate of 450,000 males over age twenty-five who met certain economic criteria. The population at the time was 40,000,000, so one can certainly wonder why the elite worried about control by the “masses.”

Conflict over the budget began immediately. Not surprisingly, the House contained many figures who were not part of the Choshu-Satsuma group. Members of this “opposition” had promised the voters that they would reduce taxes. Yamagata wanted to increase expenditures in order to build the army and navy. Reluctant to dissolve the first elected parliament, Yamagata chose to compromise behind the scenes and a budget was passed which contained token cuts, but gave the military what he wanted for it. This struggle was to continue each time a budget was drawn.

Yamagata’s first address as Prime Minister confirmed the Meiji line. Japan was to improve itself economically and militarily, so that it could assure its independence and enhance its international standing. A strong army and a strong navy were essential to a strong defense. Yamagata added a concept that presaged Japanese expansionism. Japan, he said, must at all costs defend its “line of sovereignty,” which is to say its imperial borders. It must also be prepared to defend its “line of advantage,” which meant the buffer areas around Japan. Yamagata had Korea in mind, then an area of contest between Japan and China—but also a country that might fall under Russian domination.

It is easy to see how a “line of advantage” could in time become a new line of imperial sovereignty—which would call for a further line of advantage for its protection. Thus when Japan gained control of Korea, it looked to southern Manchuria as a possible line of advantage. As it consolidated its control of Manchuria, it began to think about portions of China to the south, as well as Mongolia to the west. As it came to occupy the major cities of China, the line of advantage moved to Burma and French Indochina. There is another name for this type of defense—its called expansionism. Every empire has known its allure. Every empire has discovered its potential for military and economic overextension—even to the point of ruin.

Yamagata’s speech was given in 1890. By 1905 Japan had fought a successful war with China (1894-5) and a stunningly successful war with Russia (1905). She had acquired control of Korea and a very strong foothold in Manchuria. She had also picked up Formosa, and the southern half of Sakhalin island. In a few more years, Japan was to join the winning side in World War I, invade Siberia, consolidate its hold on Manchuria, and begin a slow expansion into China. The Western nations had wakened a sleeping tiger.

As we consider Japanese foreign policy, and the progression to the attack on Pearl Harbor, we must keep in mind the complex nature of the Imperial government of Japan. The emperor was in supposed command, but unlike the Russian Czar and the German Kaiser, he was largely a figurehead whose “decisions” were shaped by a council of senior advisors. The bureaucracy was strong, the government was centralized, yet it could be influenced and even thwarted by the actions or inactions of factions and cliques. While the Diet was weak, it still controlled taxation and the national budget. That was enough power to attract ambitious men, and in time political parties emerged. While the masses were regulated and policed, they were also capable of disruption through demonstration and riot.

One more point should be made. Over time, the positions of Army Minister and Navy Minister came to depend upon the agreement of the ruling clique in each of the respective military services. If the Army or Navy wanted to, it could bring down the government by having its minister resign. This political power, plus the power of assassination and armed coup, gave the military increasing sway in the new system. By 1931, that power had become paramount.

Expansion and War, Part I

We can stop right here and give a simple explanation of how Japan and the United States became involved in World War II. Japanese expansionism ran into U.S. expansionism in the Pacific, and Russian expansionism in Asia. A weak China, wracked by misgovernment and civil war, played the role of bait—a “ripe melon” suitable for carving. A series of military conflicts ensued. Ultimately, Japan was defeated and brought within the boundaries of the U.S. Empire. Indeed, one might think of Japan (and South Korea) as the American “line of advantage” in East Asia today. China was brought under the sway of the Soviet Union, until it embarked upon an independent course and became a U.S. rival in its own right.

All true enough, as far as simple explanations go. Yet if “expansionism” can explain wars, then why didn’t the United States and Britain have a war or two with each other in the 20th century? And why not a “hot” war between the U.S. and Russia? More to the point of this paper—was a Japan-U.S. war inevitable because of each nation’s expansionist tendencies? The answer is no. From the vantage point of 1905, a major return match with Russia was far more likely. This continued to be true right up until Japan attacked the U.S. in 1941.

Russia had been expanding eastward throughout the nineteenth century. Tsar Nicholas II and his ministers thought that Siberia held great promise for his empire, and that nothing would bring out its potential better than a railroad line. The young tsarevich had personally set the foundation stone for the Vladivostok station at the proposed terminus of the trans-Siberian line in 1891.[34] Vladivostok served as the Pacific port for the Russian Navy, but it froze over in the winter. Further south, in Chinese and Korean territory, there were tempting ports that stayed open year-round. Even better, the Chinese and Koreans were building railroads that might link with the trans-Siberian line.

Ian Nish has written extensively on Japanese history and foreign policy. In his book, The Origins of the Russo-Japanese War, he notes that the Russians were considered the most skilled at plying the waters of Chinese diplomacy. In the late nineteenth century, Russian diplomats had “succeeded in convincing at least some of the potentates of the Middle Kingdom that Russia was the true friend and protector of China, despite the evidence that she was, on the contrary, the most expansive of outside countries.” [35]

Yamagata and the other Meiji leaders watched Russia’s approach with alarm. He was convinced that once the railway was completed, Russia would waste no time in occupying Manchuria and then move to the south. Japan did not want to have a strong continental power in its immediate neighborhood. Yamagata advocated building enough military power to attack Russia when the time was right.

In the meantime, divisions within the Korean ruling family gave both China and Japan an opportunity to try to install a government to their liking. After a series of incidents, plots, and counterplots, including the dispatch of Chinese troops to Seoul, the Japanese declared war on China in 1894. Yamagata was given command of the invasion.

The Japanese achieved rapid victories over Chinese troops, driving them out of Korea. The Army also occupied the Liaotung Peninsula, and demolished the Chinese navy. The Japanese public was elated, and Yamagata himself declared that commanding the troops was “the happiest moment of my life….” [36] He developed plans for an assault on Peking, but the alarmed European powers pressed for a peace settlement. The Japanese leadership, including Yamagata, agreed to a negotiated settlement—in large part due to the fear that one or more of the European powers might step in militarily.

When the Japanese and Chinese sat down to negotiate, Japan held all the cards. The resultant “Treaty of Shimonoseki” gave enormous concessions to Japan. Korean “independence” (from China) was acknowledged; Formosa was handed over, as was the Liaotung Peninsula, home of Port Arthur and Darien. China also agreed to a war indemnity of three million yen, and granted new trade and manufacturing concessions to her triumphant neighbor. So here was the payoff for Japan’s effort to re-make itself: money, power, territorial gain and prestige.

To the Japanese leaders, a gain in prestige was every bit as valuable as territory. The Meiji leaders had come to realize that there was an international pecking order. At the lowest end were outright colonies; slightly above them were countries like China and Japan. Throughout the period of this essay, we come again and again to the Meiji aspiration to be a “first-class” nation, and the fear of being relegated to second or even third class status. Meiji Education Minister Mori Arinori stated the goal clearly when he assumed his post in 1885:

Anyone who is the least bit Japanese must try to advance Japan from the third rank, where she now stands, to the second; and when she achieves the second rank, then to the first; and finally to the foremost position in the entire world. [37]

Russia was not prepared to accept Japan’s easy gains. Japan’s military walkover had given her the advantage in areas the Russians coveted, particularly the warm water ports of Darien and Port Arthur. Therefore Russia organized a countermove, enlisting Germany and France. All three nations sent diplomatic notes to Japan, saying that the Liaotung Peninsula should be returned to China. Faced with a threat from three naval powers—what has come to be called the “Triple Intervention”—Japan felt it had to concede. The public was outraged:

Japan’s emotions had gone full cycle: from cool determination before taking on the Chinese in war; through euphoria over victories in all aspects of the war combined with concealment of reverses; to a sense of humiliation that she could not withstand pressure from the three world bullies.[38]

Army officers were also upset, enough so that Yamagata was dispatched to the front to sooth tempers. He shared with Army leaders his opinion that Japan would probably be at war again in ten years, this time with Russia. Better to accept the tactical advantages that Japan had obtained than to get into a conflict with the West prematurely. As he noted in a private letter to a colleague, Japan would have to strengthen its military to hold on to what it had gained, not to mention extending the line of advantage and “being dominant in the Far East.” [39]

Japanese leaders and the Japanese public seemed to draw several lessons from the war and its conclusion. First, that investments in the army and navy were worthwhile, and even paid a handsome dividend. Second, that the West did not intend to “play fair” in the great imperialist game. After all, Japan had simply done what many Western nations had done—wrung concessions from a weak China—but the Western powers did not seem prepared to admit her to their club. The third lesson, then, was that Japan must continue her buildup in order to advance and defend her status.

A fourth lesson was that China was even weaker than Japan had thought. This once haughty neighbor was shown to be a hollow empire, incapable of defending itself. Professor Marius Jansen sees the war as a critical turning point in Japanese-Chinese relations. The Japanese began to feel superior to their ancient neighbor, and the Chinese resented Japanese aggression, spurred by the violent treatment of civilians in Port Arthur.[40]

John King Fairbank recounts a telling exchange between Chinese regional military leader Li Hung-chang and Japan’s Ito Hirobumi during the treaty negotiations:

Li: China and Japan are the closest neighbors and moreover have the same writing system. How can we be enemies? … We ought to establish perpetual peace and harmony between us, so that our Asiatic yellow race will not be encroached upon by the white race of Europe.

Ito: Ten years ago I talked with you about reform. Why is it that up to now not a single thing has been changed or reformed?

Li: Affairs in my country have been so confined by tradition that I could not accomplish what I desired. … I am ashamed of having excessive wishes and lacking the power to fulfill them. [41]

Russia followed its 1895 diplomatic victory with additional gains. A new pact was negotiated with China, the Li-Lobanov Treaty, which created a secret alliance against Japan, allowing Russian ships to use Chinese ports, pledging mutual aid in case of Japanese aggression, and granting railway concessions in Manchuria.[42] Russia also contested Japan’s influence in Korea, so skillfully playing off the palace factions that by 1897, she was given full control of Korea’s finances. And if that wasn’t enough, Russia used the tumult of the Boxer rebellion (1900) to invade and occupy China’s three northern provinces of Manchuria.

Great Britain and the United States viewed these Russian advances with alarm. Britain was eager to contain Russian expansionism across the whole of Europe and Asia—the better to protect her own interests in Europe (where Russia was allied with France), as well as those in India and Afghanistan--and Britain wanted to maintain its position in China. The Japanese were also eager to strengthen their position, and gain one or more allies against Russia. In 1900, Yamagata proposed that Japan pursue a formal alliance with Britain or Germany, “to contain [Russia’s] southern advance.”[43] This mutual concern led Britain and Japan to sign a treaty in 1902 that pledged mutual defense if any fourth nation joined in aggression with Russia. This allowed Japan to tackle Russia without fear of any double or triple alliances. War followed two years later.

In the war of 1905 Russia was arrogant, disorganized, and stretched thin on the ground. Japan was incisive, daring, and concentrated its full force where needed. Even so, the war was no walkover. Japan lost 58,000 soldiers in recapturing Port Arthur from the Russians and in the Battle of Mukden sacrificed 70,000 men to win a decisive victory. At sea, Japan bottled up the eastern fleet in Port Arthur and Vladivostock, and then sank the Baltic fleet that had sailed to the rescue.

Most historians, as well as contemporary observers, believe that Japan would not have been able to win an extended war with Russia. Even with the destruction of its fleets, Russia had vast reserves of manpower that would in time have worn down the Japanese on the ground. Yamagata and the other leaders realized that their victory could be short-lived. Japan had relied upon American loans to pay for the war, and would have to go further in debt to finance its continuation; six more divisions would need to be formed; and there was a critical shortage of officers due to battlefield deaths. Yamagata once again made a trip to the front lines in order to persuade the generals and officers that a negotiated settlement was best. Both sides secretly urged President Theodore Roosevelt to broker a peace agreement, which he did, setting the location in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

As a result of the negotiations, Japan’s “line of advantage” was extended. Russia’s recent lease on the Liaotung peninsula was transferred to Japan, along with the railroad concessions in Manchuria, and the southern half of Sakhalin Island. Russia conceded Japan’s predominance in Korea, an action that allowed a complete Japanese takeover in 1910. However, Russia did not agree to pay an indemnity. This made the war a fairly costly affair, and left Japan with a new load of debt.

The Japanese press and the Japanese people had not been made aware of Japan’s military limitations, and saw only battlefield triumph. The government had made no effort to prepare the public for a less-than-triumphal treaty. When the Treaty of Portsmouth was announced, the public was shocked that Russia would pay no indemnity. They felt that, once again, the leadership had sold the nation short. Riots broke out in Tokyo and other cities. In Tokyo over 250 buildings were burned to the ground, including nine police stations. Police and civilian casualties numbered over 1,000, with 17 dead.[44] These riots are worth bearing in mind as we consider later Japanese diplomacy, for when negotiators say that “the people will be upset,” they are not just being rhetorical.

Despite the public’s immediate reaction, the gain in Japan’s international stature was considerable. If modernizing, westernizing, industrializing, and defeating China did not earn First Class status, then the 1905 triumph against Russia surely would.

“What wonderful people these Japanese are!” exclaimed President Roosevelt after the 1905 war. “They are quite as remarkable industrially as in warfare.” [45] Roosevelt was echoing the growing respect of the American public for Japan. U.S. newspapers had for years been referring to the country as “the Great Britain of Asia,” and “the Yankees of the East.” [46]

Expansion and War Part II

The U.S. had itself begun to be more aggressive outside its continental borders, and that included the Pacific. In 1878, a treaty with Samoa swapped a modicum of American protection for permission to establish a coaling station. When German ships came calling in 1888, a conflict with the locals erupted, leading to a near battle between American, British, and German warships. This rivalry was settled by treaty in 1889, with the three nations forming an uneasy "protectorate" over the islands.[47]

The Samoan islands were considered useful, located as they were in the south Pacific. But the Hawaiian Islands were far greater prizes. Half way to the orient, the islands were important stops for American ships. So important that in 1842, when the U.S. thought that Britain was casting an acquisitive eye on Hawaii, the administration declared that Hawaii fell within the vague footprint of the Monroe Doctrine. By 1854, the Pierce administration had concluded a treaty of annexation with the kingdom. However, this was scotched by the Senate because immediate statehood was included in the bill. In 1875 a treaty with Hawaii stipulated that the kingdom would make no territorial concessions to any other foreign power. In 1887, America secured the right to establish a naval base at Pearl Harbor. Despite all this treaty-making, Hawaii was still recognized as an Independent kingdom, or in 1893, a queendom.

Queen Liliuokalani was not happy with some of the terms of the treaties made by her predecessors, nor was she comfortable with the political and economic dominance of the American sugar barons who controlled vast tracts of valuable Hawaiian land. In January, 1893, she attempted to create a new constitution by royal decree. The American elite conspired with the U.S. ambassador and local U.S. naval forces to overthrow the Queen. In 1898, in the imperialistic excitement that followed the Spanish-American War, the U.S. formally annexed Hawaii. [48] [It is both gratifying and ironic that in 1993, a less bellicose Congress passed a joint resolution apologizing "to Native Hawaiians on behalf of the United States for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii."[49]]

Meanwhile, the United States was getting itself worked up over the oppressive rule of the Spanish in Cuba. A violent insurrection had begun in the island in 1895. Spain responded with harsh military measures, including herding rural civilians into "reconcentration" camps where tens of thousands died of disease. Meanwhile, the Hearst and Pulitzer newspapers found that inflammatory journalism made for tremendous newsstand sales. A sample from Pulitzer's New York World reads:

Blood on the roadsides, blood in the fields, blood on the doorsteps, blood, blood, blood! The old, the weak, the young, the crippled—all are butchered without mercy…. Is there no nation wise enough, brave enough, and strong enough to restore peace in this bloodsmitten land?[50]

President McKinley was no fan of war, nor of imperialism, and was not a great admirer of the Cuban insurgents, who were quite capable of their own atrocities. He resisted pressure from both the press and from Congress to declare war on Spain, but with the disastrous explosion of the Battleship Maine, in Havana Harbor to "protect" American residents, his resistance was overwhelmed. It is unlikely that the Spanish authorities would have blown up the Maine, since they were giving concession after concession on the diplomatic front in order to avoid a war. More likely, the cause was an encounter with a mine, or even a boiler room explosion. But it was too late for such logical considerations. In April 1898 Congress declared Cuba to be free, demanded that Spain withdraw, authorized the use of force, and declared piously that the U.S. had no intention of annexing Cuba.

In short order, an American squadron sank the Spanish fleet in Manila, American troops occupied Cuba and Puerto Rico, and a Spanish fleet was devastated near Santiago, Cuba. Spain sued for peace, and when all was said and done, the United States emerged with control of the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the island of Guam. Cuba was to be freed, of course, but kept under America's watchful eye. The Philippines were another matter. Debate raged in Congress over whether to keep the Philippines or turn them loose for the tender mercies of Germany (which had a large fleet in the area) or another European power.

There seemed to be general agreement that the Filipinos could not govern themselves, despite the existence of an organized rebel movement in the islands. Republicans and the yellow press called for annexation, Democrats railed against "imperialism," and President McKinley decided to pray. As he later told a group of fellow Methodists, "…I am not ashamed to tell you, gentlemen, that I went down on my knees and prayed Almighty God for light and guidance…." God answered his prayers by revealing to him that "there was nothing left to do but for us to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and to uplift and civilize and Christianize them…. And then I went to bed … and slept soundly."[51]

Warren Zimmerman's popular book, First Great Triumph, chronicles this heady period of American expansionism through portraits of five contemporary leaders: Theodore Roosevelt, John Hay, naval strategist Captain Alfred T. Mahan, Elihu Root, and Senator Henry Cabot Lodge. If I were to parallel my approach to Japanese history but could pick only one figure for this period, it would have to be Roosevelt.

As Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Roosevelt got McKinley's approval for the assault on the Philippines. He then resigned and fought with the Rough Riders in Cuba. The Republicans chose him to run as McKinley's Vice President in 1900, and when the President was assassinated in 1901, Roosevelt stepped into his place.

One naval historian sums up the naval situation in 1901 as follows: A rising Germany was undertaking a rapid buildup of its navy; this challenged Great Britain, whose government responded by drawing down its fleets in the Pacific and the western Atlantic. Britain encouraged the U.S. to patrol the Caribbean, and ceded Japan's naval strength by its 1902 treaty with that country. Upon taking office, Roosevelt declared to Congress that the U.S. must build its navy or accept "secondary" status in world affairs. At that time the U.S. had the fifth-ranked navy, consisting of only nine first-rate battleships with supportive smaller vessels, and scattered throughout the world. The Navy was considered undermanned, inefficient, and riddled with incompetent officers.

By 1905, the President reported his satisfaction. He now had twenty-eight battleships at sea or under construction, along with twelve armored cruisers. Not only that, Roosevelt had supported a 1903 revolt in Panama (then part of Colombia) and got an agreement from the new government to build a canal that would link the two oceans. One day American ships would easily transfer from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Roosevelt was happy to be on a par with the French, German, and Japanese fleets—until Japan crushed the Russian fleet in 1905. By 1906 the President was urging that two ships be built for any one ship built by America's rivals.[52] After all, Roosevelt had a lot of territory to defend. To use Yamagata's phrase, America's "line of advantage" now extended from Alaska to the Philippines, and from the coast of Maine to the southern tip of South America.

The Philippines. Roosevelt had been eager to conquer them, but came to regard them as America's Achilles Heel. These islands with their 7.4 million inhabitants were many, many thousands of miles from America's west coast, but only 1200 miles from Japan. Roosevelt conceded that the Philippines could never be defended from a concerted Japanese attack, and by the end of his presidency was convinced that they should be granted independence. The Filipinos themselves may have had something to do with this change of heart.

In 1896 the Filipinos had begun a major insurrection against the Spanish. By the time Commodore George Dewey had destroyed the Spanish fleet, the insurrectos had gained control of most of the country. Under their leader, Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy, brought from exile to the Philippines by Dewey, they declared independence on June 12, 1898. The U.S. decided to ignore this declaration, and dispatched more troops to help "uplift and civilize" the natives. A general war ensued, one in which U.S. troops won every formal confrontation, but in which many Americans were struck down by guerilla actions and disease. By 1902, some 126,000 troops had served in the Philippine wars, with a loss of 4,234 dead. This was quite a contrast with the Spanish-American War, in which only 379 American lives were lost. During the course of the war, U.S. troops gathered over 300,000 natives into concentration camps, undertook scorched earth drives in which any Filipino male over the age of 10 was considered fair game, shot and tortured prisoners, and eventually triumphed. Max Boot, from whose book The Savage Wars of Peace this account is taken, says that over 200,000 civilians died "victims of disease and famine and cruelties of both sides."[53]

Anti-Japanese Sentiment

By 1905, both Japan and the United States had established themselves as Imperial powers. Theodore Roosevelt might well admire the Japanese for their pluck, but he also recognized that an expansive Japan could one day clash with an expanded United States. American military strategists began to include Japan in their threat analysis, and the reverse was true in Japan.

One year earlier, a British observer, Alfred Stead, had been so taken by Japan’s progress that he gushed:

In the History of the world there has been no such wonderful development in so short a space of time as that of Japan. Less than forty years ago she was a nation at the mercy of the great Powers of the world, who on more than one occasion took advantage of her weakness. Japan has the advantage that her people can think as thoroughly as do the Orientals, and act on the result of her thoughts as decisively as do the Occidentals. To no other race in the world, as far as can be seen at the present moment, have both these gifts been given. And therefore it may be safely said that the future of this remarkable nation, equipped with every element of perfection, pulsating with loyalty and patriotism, and thorough in every detail, cannot fail to be brilliant. [54]

After Japan's stunning defeat of Russia, both Britain and the U.S. were not so sure that a proven military power, pulsating with patriotism, was such a good thing. As the fear of Russia's power subsided, the fear of Japan began to rise. From the very beginning of the Russo-Japanese war, Roosevelt had hoped for a negotiated settlement that would leave neither side triumphant, and both parties with enough strength to check the ambitions of the other. He hoped that he had achieved that end through the Portsmouth agreement, but he wasn't sure.

One thing Roosevelt was sure of was his desire to not provoke Japan. Believing that the U.S. navy was in poor condition, aware that the Philippines were indefensible, he exerted considerable effort to keep relations amicable. To this end, he sent his Secretary of War, William Howard Taft, to negotiate an agreement on certain spheres of influence. It was agreed that Japan would respect American control of the Philippines in exchange for U.S. acceptance of Japan's predominance in Korea.[55]

Unfortunately many of his countrymen were not so diplomatically inclined, particularly the white population of California. Between 1905 and 1924, Californian activists and politicians, with the aid of other western states, had managed to effect repeated public insult to the Japanese. The political issue of Asian immigration began with protests against Chinese workers who had been invited to the west to help build the railroads. White workers objected that the Chinese undercut their wages, were clannish, and lived in squalor. Agitation against the Chinese began as early as 1852. By 1870, some ten percent of California's population was Chinese, and "anti-coolie" clubs had sprung up in San Francisco and elsewhere. In 1882, politicians had succeeded in getting Congress to pass a Chinese exclusion law. It was initially imposed for a ten-year period, but was constantly renewed.

Japanese immigrants were far fewer in number, only 275,000 for the entire country in the period from the Civil War to 1924—as contrasted with over 30,000,000 European immigrants. California could count only 41,000 Japanese residents among its populace by 1910, but that did not keep white Californians from turning against their neighbors.

Japanese immigrants had been welcomed in California in the late 19th century. Their hard work, clean habits, and entrepreneurial spirit were admiringly contrasted to the Chinese. However, in time these very traits began to rankle. Japanese farm workers engaged in collective labor actions when they felt they were being cheated. The Chinese had never done this. Even worse, Japanese laborers quickly moved from contract labor to sharecropping and then to outright purchase of land. Japanese businesses, like restaurants, began to compete with white-owned businesses. Some Japanese began to accumulate wealth. One, George Shima, amassed 28,000 acres of land, and was dubbed the "potato king" of California.[56]

The series of insults began in 1905 with a unanimous resolution by both houses of the California Legislature that asked Congress to limit Japanese immigration. The resolution asserted that Japanese laborers "by reason of race habits… are undesirable," that the Japanese added nothing to the prosperity of the state, and that:

Now not less than five hundred [Japanese] each month [are] landed at the port of San Francisco [and] we cannot but regard with the greatest sense of danger and disaster, the prospect that the close of the war between Japan and Russia will surely bring to our shores hordes, to be counted only in thousands, of the discharged soldiers of the Japanese Army, who will crowd the State with immoral, intemperate, quarrelsome men, bound to labor for a pittance, and to subsist on a supply with which a white man can hardly sustain life.[57]

The most blatant racism surrounded the agitation in California, which had the support of labor unions and the "progressive" community. The Asian Exclusion League, which included the Building Trades Council of San Francisco as well as the Sailors Union, declared that "It should be against public policy to permit our women to intermarry with Asiatics…." and a speaker at one of their public meetings asserted that "an eternal law of nature has decreed that the white cannot assimilate the blood of another without corrupting the very springs of civilization."[58]

In 1906 the San Francisco School Board announced that Japanese school children would be removed from the white schools and transferred to the schools for Oriental children. The news quickly spread to Japan, bounced back to the American press, and alerted President Roosevelt to this insulting action. Roosevelt, already upset with the "idiots" on the California legislature, was deeply disturbed by this action. He had already assured Japanese diplomats that the U.S. would take no action prejudicial to the Japanese, and when the School Board decision was discovered he quickly conveyed his dismay. He publicly dispatched a member of his cabinet to investigate the action; he told his Secretary of State to use Army troops if necessary to protect Japanese citizens, and he used his Annual Message to Congress to denounce the troublemakers:

[O]ur people cherish a lively regard and respect for the people of Japan…. But here and there a most unworthy feeling has manifested itself toward the Japanese [such as] shutting them out of the common schools of San Francisco…. [It is wrong that] the mob of a single city may at any time perform acts of lawless violence which would plunge us into war…. It is unthinkable that we should continue a policy under which a given locality may be allowed to commit a crime against a friendly nation.[59]

There had indeed been acts of lawless violence against Japanese in America, including the stoning and general harassment of Japanese representatives in San Francisco, there to inspect how their country's large donation for earthquake relief had been used.

Unhappily, Roosevelt's message only furthered agitation in California, and his Cabinet representative (a native Californian) was denounced as a traitor. Frustrated, the President summoned the entire California Congressional delegation to Washington. He had begun to work behind the scenes to see if he could get Japan to voluntarily limit migration of its nationals to the U.S. After a lot of parlaying and arm-twisting, the President got California's leaders to withdraw the School Board action, and he in turn got the Japanese to accede to a "gentleman's agreement" to restrict emigration to America. A diplomatic crisis had been managed well, and compromise had been reached. Nevertheless, Californians came to feel that loopholes in the agreement—especially the right of Japanese men to bring in brides from the home country—had defeated the intent. Their discontent did not go away.

Through the next several years agitation against the Japanese continued in California. Anti-Japanese resolutions were introduced in each session of the California legislature, some attempting to further restrict Japanese land purchases, some to press Congress for an outright exclusion bill. In 1912, candidate Woodrow Wilson was pressed on his views by San Francisco politician James Phelan. Phelan worried that Wilson was not sound in his views, since he had praised the Chinese in his History of the American People for having skill, intelligence, and a "hardy power of labor."

Wilson replied by telegram that "in the matter of Chinese and Japanese coolie immigration I stand for the national policy of exclusion. We cannot make a homogeneous population out of a people who do not blend with the Caucasian race." He added "Oriental coolieism will give us another race problem to solve and surely we have had our lesson."[60]

While this public stance may have helped candidate Wilson, it was not an area where President Wilson wished to be compromised. Like Roosevelt, he discovered that the actions of the California legislature could create diplomatic headaches. In May 1913, California passed an "Alien Land Law" that purported to be non-discriminatory because it restricted land holdings by those not "eligible to citizenship." Everyone knew that this was code for the Japanese, including the Japanese government, which felt insulted yet again. The Japanese protested, Wilson made feeble excuses, and the tension continued.

Wilson had plenty to think about in 1913, including the growing likelihood of war in Europe, and problems with Mexico. Surprisingly, this southern border state makes a guest appearance in the deteriorating relationship between Japan and the U.S., just exactly as anti-Japanese agitation was strongest in California.

It all starts with Kaiser Wilhelm II. In 1895 he had a vision, and he commissioned his court painter fill out his hasty sketch. He called it Die gelbe Gefahr!, the Yellow Peril! In the picture a Buddha figure rides upon a dragon, leaving devastation in its wake. Seven fair maidens in armor, representing the nations of Europe, stand ready to repel the attacker, led by a blonde-tressed Germania. He had copies made and sent them to ambassadors, fellow royals, and other special friends. It may be that the Kaiser was stimulated by Japan's defeat of China, and sensed an awakened Asia. In any event, the idea ought to be good for something, if only for alarming other white nations to rally round the Kaiser's leadership.

Then again, perhaps the Japanese menace could be used diplomatically. He wrote to his cousin Nicky, Czar of all the Russias, to urge him to defend Europe against Japanese aggression. This pointed Russia eastward, he thought, leaving more play for Germany. When Nicky was humiliated, and Japan appeared all the stronger, the Kaiser began to imagine a Japanese-American war. Perhaps Japan would attack through Mexico, or even in partnership with Mexico. After all, Mexico had been humiliated by the U.S. and might want its territories back. This lurid script actually became the basis for German propaganda in the U.S., and shaped a diplomatic initiative that eventually exploded in Germany's face and helped bring America into the war.

This lively tale is well told in Barbara Tuchman's The Zimmerman Telegram.[61] One hates to spoil the plot, but the Zimmerman Telegram was secretly sent in January, 1917. It was intercepted and decoded by the British. The telegram was sent by German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmerman to the German Ambassador to Mexico. The telegram informed the Ambassador that Germany would resume unrestricted submarine warfare against allied and neutral ships on February 1. Zimmerman said that Germany was certain that she would quickly reduce Britain by this strategy, but that if not, the Ambassador should propose to the Mexican President "joint action" against the United States, and that Germany would help that country "to regain by conquest her lost territory in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico." The telegram suggested that the joint action might include Japan, if the Mexican President could help bring her in to the deal.[62]

To make Tuchman's long story short, the British released the telegram to the Americans just after the Germans began their U-boat offensive. Wilson was still trying to effect a negotiated settlement, and keep the U.S. out of the war. He was aided by a significant "peace lobby" in the Senate. Meanwhile, hawks like Senator Henry Cabot Lodge and Theodore Roosevelt were fuming about Wilson's lack of manliness. "I don't believe Wilson will go to war unless Germany kicks him into it," complained Roosevelt to Lodge in a letter. Two weeks later the Zimmerman telegram was presented to Wilson and released to the public. The peace lobby began to crumble. When Zimmerman confirmed that, yes, he had indeed sent the telegram, and after a few more American ships were sunk, Wilson opted for war.

At least, that's how Tuchman relates the story, and she has done her research. What is most interesting in her tale—for our purposes—is her coverage of the growing fear of Japan in the United States. This fear can be traced back to a rising fear of Asians and Asian power. Californians were not the only Americans who worried about yellow hordes. The reformer Henry George advised shortly after the Civil War that easterners should support their California brethren in resisting Chinese immigration. The Chinese in the west were the "thin edge of the wedge," he asserted, "which has for its base the 500,000,000 of Eastern Asia."[63] A strange belief grew that the "superior" Anglo-Saxon race was being threatened by undesirable southern European immigrants on the east coast, and Asians on the west coast. A group of Harvard and other New England men formed the Immigration Restriction League, whose purpose was to restrict "elements undesirable for citizenship or injurious to our national character." And in 1906, publisher William Randolph Hearst began what one historian calls "his thirty-five year 'war' with Japan."

In December 1906, just as the School Board crisis was blooming, Hearst's San Francisco Examiner warned that Japan was considering an invasion of the United States. The paper passed along the completely false rumor that Japanese soldiers, disguised as workmen, were slipping into the U.S. and secretly doing military drill at night.[64]

In 1907, Spanish-American war hero Admiral Richmond Pearson Hobson wrote a two part article for the Hearst press, assuring his fellow Americans that Japan was "rushing forward with feverish haste stupendous preparations for war" and that once Japan conquered China, it would "command the military resources of the whole yellow race." It would then turn its attention to the seizure of the Pacific Slope.[65]

In 1908, Kaiser Wilhelm gave several interviews in which he predicted war between the U.S. and Japan "within a year or two." He also denounced the British as traitors to the white race because of their alliance with Japan. The Kaiser was also busy spreading the rumor that Japan and Mexico were negotiating a deal for a naval base, and that Japan intended to stop the United States from building the Panama Canal.

Japan was not above exploiting these fears to strengthen her own diplomatic position. In 1911, Admiral Yashiro made a state visit to Japan and proclaimed at a dinner with his Mexican counterparts that the Japanese and the Mexicans were of "the same blood" (referring to a Japanese notion that their sailors had washed ashore many years ago and started the Mexican race), and that they had a common enemy against which they were building their armies and navies to resist insults to their national honor. In March of that year, President Taft mobilized 20,000 troops on the Mexican border to press home a point about rebel seizures of American property. He kept his reasons from the public, allowing a field day for the press, which pumped a German-instigated story that the U.S. had discovered a "secret treaty" between Japan and Mexico whereby a coal fueling station was granted to Japan, along with railroad rights across the country.

Rumors, press speculation, and wild alarms only fed a mood of distrust on both sides. When to this was added actual government action, such as the School Board decision, and the Alien Land Act, harmonious relations with Japan were strained. The U.S. was not the only country to have intemperate hotheads. In April, 1913, a rally of 20,000 occurred in Tokyo. The crowd loudly applauded speakers who denounced the United States for its mistreatment of Japanese residents, including a member of the Diet who urged that the Japanese fleet be sent to California to protect its citizens.[66]

One might have thought that the advent of WWI, with Japan firmly allied to Great Britain, would have damped down the distrust. Hearst seemed determined to keep the tension going, and his papers regularly carried stories that tried to fan the flames. In 1916, one of his companies produced a serialized film that depicted a joint Japanese-Mexican attack on the United States, complete with evil villains and a delicate heroine threatened with rape. The script of the film was serialized in every one of his newspapers. When Wilson heard about the first few issues of the serial, he demanded that Hearst edit out any references to Japan. Hearst's people then gave the Japanese characters Mexican names, but kept them in Japanese uniforms. No one missed the point.[67]

The culmination of Anti-Japanese agitation came in 1924, when Congress passed a law that effectively excluded all Japanese immigration to the U.S. In the prior year, 1923, total Japanese entry into the U.S. had been only 5,652 and out-migration had totaled 2,844.[68] This was hardly a flood.

Saionji Kinmochi (1849–1940)

As we consider Japanese responses to American expansionism and American racism, it will be useful to introduce Saionji Kinmochi, the foremost liberal of this era. Saionji came from one of the great noble families in Japan. He grew up in the Imperial court, was educated at the school for the sons of court nobles, and played with the future Emperor Meiji as a child. In this rarified world where meritocracy had no meaning, he was given his first court appointment at age four, and was made a “senior official” at age thirteen!

We should recall that the court had no real power at this time, so his court titles were honorific. The Tokugawa Shogun was in real command, and his officials in the bakufu made all decisions. When the Satsuma and Choshu clans rebelled against the Shogun, Saionji sided with the rebels, and urged the court to support their drive to “restore” the power of the Emperor.

The other half of the sonno joi slogan was, of course, to “expel the barbarians,” and presumably reject all things Western. Saionji had other ideas. In 1867, at age 18, he read Fukuzawa’s Seiyo Jijo and became fascinated with European culture. In 1870, at age 21, he obtained permission to study in France. He spent the next ten years of his life there, acquiring fluent French, participating in the heady intellectual environment, developing friendships with writers and artists, and even became acquainted with the future French Prime Minister, Georges Clemenceau. He also received a degree in law from the Sorbonne.

Saionji returned to Japan in 1880 and started up a liberal newspaper, but he stepped back from his activism when the Emperor expressed his displeasure. Soon he was appointed to the drafting committee for the new Constitution, and it was there that he became associated with the “father” of the Constitution, Ito Hirobumi. Saionji was also awarded the rank of Marquis under the new arrangements, a rank that was above that of Yamagata, even though the latter held tremendous power in the Meiji government. When Ito decided to travel to Europe, Saionji accompanied him, and in the eighteen months of their travel they became very close. After his return to Japan he was appointed to the Foreign Office, and soon was sent as a diplomat to Austria.[69]

Thus by the time Saionji was 41, he had spent the majority of his adult life abroad. He was well-traveled, worldly, liberal, and his political future seemed assured. Even in “revolutionary” Japan it helped enormously to be born with silver chopsticks.

Saionji was adept at court diplomacy as well as international diplomacy. He became active in politics, even heading a political party, the Seiyukai; served twice as Prime Minister; and in 1913 he was asked by the Emperor to join the genro. He was the last to be so recognized, and he continued as a key advisor to the Emperor until his death.

The reader may recall that Ito Hirobumi and Yamagata Aritomo were the leading figures in the Meiji government. Saionji was Ito’s protégé, and when Ito was assassinated in Korea in 1909, he assumed his mantle. There were considerable differences between the political vision of Ito/Saionji and that of Yamagata. Saionji believed in the principle of constitutional monarchy, with the Emperor as a figurehead. Yamagata believed in the Emperor as ruler, aided by a strong cadre of advisors. Saionji believed that political parties were a good thing, that they would make the government more responsive to the people, and agreed to become the nominal head of the party that Ito formed, the Seiyukai. Yamagata abhorred political parties. Saionji thought that Japan could assume her place through economic development and cultural advance, and that the development of democratic values would unite the country. Yamagata felt that a strong military was the sine qua non for achieving first class status, and the people should serve the state and the nation—rather than the other way around.

Having established this admittedly simplistic contrast, I would like to now turn to the aftermath of the Sino-Japanese war and follow Saionji’s involvement in foreign policy, on through to 1905 and the Treaty of Portsmouth.

In 1895 he was appointed Foreign Minister, and was involved with the return of the Laiotung Peninsula to China, subsequent to the “Triple Intervention” led by Russia. Saionji’s biographer does not explore his reactions to the intervention, or to the jockeying with Russia in Korea. But he does cite a personal observation about Japanese nationalism:

There is great insistence on ‘Japanism’ and ‘an aggressive fighting spirit’, but behind these are lies and greed. There will be no end to the misery which arose without warning from victory in the war, unless we develop adequate countermeasures. [70]

By 1903, as Japan vied with Russia for dominance in Korea, Saionji became even more alarmed at the upsurge of militaristic spirit among the public. He worried that various anti-Russian factions were making inroads into the Seiyukai party. He was asked to provide guidance to the party, and he did that in a directive that was printed and distributed widely. This was followed by a major speech on foreign policy. Excerpts from that speech provide a good picture of his views:

It is obvious from history that a country whose politics develop in accordance with these [democratic] principles prosper whilst those who do not, decay. … All the civilized nations have followed the same difficult path…. I am sure that Japan as a nation possesses characteristics to enable her to pass successfully through this period to which we have only recently come. The general world trend is one of continuing progress and there is no reason why Japan should be an exception.

...[T]o reach the ranks of the advanced nations, the people too must be composed and discreet. We will not win the respect and sympathy of other nations if we are hot headed and discourteous. … I am not worried about any general lack of patriotism, but am afraid of where an abundance of patriotism might lead us.

Our people have a big fight coming. … This war is a total war, but it is also a peaceful war where guns are not heard, a war of civilization, an economic war. [71]

Interestingly, the thrust of both the pamphlet and the speech are that the Japanese people needed to calm down and allow the government to manage foreign affairs. Ever the diplomat, and aware of the need for secrecy in negotiations, Saionji—like Yamagata—felt that the people should trust the government to strike the best deal possible. Neither leader had much appreciation of the necessity to manage public expectations—what today we would call “spin control.”

Even so, after the very successful campaigns against Russia’s armies and its navy in 1904-05, Saionji felt compelled to pen a statement about the soon-to-be-published Treaty of Portsmouth. We don’t know the terms of the Treaty, he told his readers, but we should not be obstinate or “call for the continuation of war.” He then tried a little “spin,” which also happened to be the truth:

This is very different from the situation where a defeated nation sues for peace from a victor … and we must recognize the dangers in ignoring the wishes of the powers … [T]he slightest error of direction could bring Japan to the verge of diplomatic and economic crisis. [72]

As it happened, many Seiyukai leaders had opposed the publication of this statement, and after the public riots in Tokyo and elsewhere, further attacks were directed at Saionji. However, this did not keep him from being appointed Prime Minister, the first Prime Minister to head a “party” government, and due to this fact, very much to Yamagata’s distaste. Yamagata, now President of the Privy Council, set about drafting a new national defense policy for the empire. Saionji set about calming the public and improving foreign relations.

Yamagata’s plan, adopted by the cabinet, included these key points:

1. Russia should be considered Japan’s main adversary

2. If war broke out, the Army would attack in Manchuria, and seize Harbin; the Navy would attack Vladivostok

3. If Britain should get into a war with Russia in Central Asia, Japan would observe its alliance responsibilities and attack Russia

4. Japan’s “efforts to expand our National sovereignty and enhance our interests in China must excel others”

5. If war with China came, Japan would attack in the south, across from Formosa (which now belonged to Japan) [73]

Naturally, such a policy meant that more money would be needed for the Army and the Navy.

The Saionji cabinet made real progress in the field of diplomacy. The pact with Great Britain was renewed in 1905, and an agreement with the US was reached, recognizing Japan’s dominant role in Korea. The military governors in Manchuria were replaced by civilian administrators, much to the relief of the Western nations. In 1907, Japan forged a treaty with Russia that recognized Japan’s dominance in Korea and Russia’s in Mongolia. Both nations publicly pledged to respect China’s territorial integrity, but secretly agreed on zones of influence in Manchuria. They also secretly agreed to cooperate to restrain the US and other powers from getting any economic foothold in Manchuria. [74]

Japan continued to consolidate her hold on Korea, forcing the Korean Emperor to abdicate in 1907, and appointing a Resident General to run the country—none other than Ito Hirobumi. Ito was assassinated by a Korean nationalist in 1909, and Japan used this as a reason to annex the country. In light of later tensions around Japan’s military expansionism, it will seem surprising that the takeover of Korea occurred without any opposition from the United States or Great Britain. In fact, when Japan established its governance in 1907, the American and British papers were filled with praise for Japan’s stabilizing affect on Korea.[75]

The rivalry between Saionji and Yamagata took on a new tone when Ito was assassinated. Yamagata now became the dominant figure in the government. It is difficult to say how this rivalry might have played out, since three years later the Meiji emperor died. Both men had established their influence with the old Emperor, who had occasionally intervened to restore harmony or force a decision. The new emperor was young (33), inexperienced, and mentally unstable. This presented the genro and the rest of the political elite with a major problem.

Added to the mix was the 1911 revolution in China, dividing that land into warring factions and stirring the Japanese Army to dream of new opportunities for advance. Saionji was determined to resist both military expansion and military expansionism. He wanted to cut the military budget. However, Yamagata was in favor of adding two new Army divisions, in partial fulfillment of his master plan to add eight divisions in total.

This conflict came to a head in the fall of 1912. Saionji’s Army Minister--with Yamagata’s backing--resigned rather than implement a 15% cut in military expenses. In Japan’s cabinet system, this move brought down the entire government.

Yamagata then took the lead in proposing a new cabinet, headed by his old protégé, Katsura Taro. The public was outraged. The two major parties united in a “Society for the Protection of the Constitution.” At public meetings, speakers denounced the elite nature of the government, saying that “Government by bureaucracy is like government by eunuchs in China.” Farmers were encouraged to drop their spades, merchants their abacus, and join the “war of political independence.” This finally culminated in a riot:

Enraged mobs stormed the residences of Cabinet ministers, demolished pro-government newspaper plants, overturned and burned police boxes. After several people had been killed and widespread damage had been caused, military reinforcements were called out to quell the disturbances. [76]

The immediate crisis was resolved by Katsura’s resignation and the appointment of Admiral Yamamoto Gombei to head the cabinet. In Japan’s factional politics, the Navy was loosely allied with Saionji, so a slight shift had taken place. This shift was amplified by a revision of the law, allowing retired military men to serve as Army and Navy ministers in the cabinet. The potential to appoint non-active generals and admirals to these posts took away some of the power of the services to bring down cabinets.

World War I

The outbreak of World War I provided a unique opportunity for Japanese expansionists. With Russia, France, Germany, and England all embroiled in a stupendous European conflict, the “Far East” was largely abandoned. U.S. attention was also largely focused on Europe. The Western “cats” were distracted; leaving only one cat to attend the Chinese mouse.

When the war ended, Japan emerged with new economic power, new territorial gains, and new military standing (Japan’s navy became the 3rd largest in the world, following the UK and the US). As historian Walter Lafeber notes, “Between 1914 and 1918, European civilization nearly destroyed itself. No nation gained so much so cheaply from the carnage as Japan.” [77]

With the European nations tied up in a war, the Japanese had the luxury of considering what policy to adopt with regard to China. There were those, including Saionji, who favored caution, stability, and careful alignment with the UK—as provided for in the Anglo-Japanese Treaty. There were those who favored more aggressive action to gain power and privilege on the mainland. One might assume that Yamagata was among the second group, but his biographer, Roger F. Hackett, argues that Yamagata had a more sweeping view of the opportunities—and the dangers—presented by the European conflict.

According to Hackett, Yamagata’s greatest fear was that the white nations would one day band together against Japan. He felt that Japan must pursue a strategy of alignment with one or more European powers in order to make sure that a potential racial war was avoided. He counseled that Japan should strengthen its ties with Britain, come to an understanding with Russia, and develop a mutually-beneficial friendship with China. He worried that overly aggressive action with regard to China would destroy the chance for an alliance of “the colored peoples of the Orient” for mutual self-protection. When the Chinese revolution broke out, he expressed hope that a strong modern government would emerge—one capable of partnership with Japan. In August, 1914, he wrote an extended essay on foreign policy and circulated it to several government ministers. In his paper, he argued that Japan must settle on a clear policy with regard to China:

The advantages of Japan enjoyed in Manchuria and Mongolia are of the greatest importance, acquired at the sacrifice of 200,000 lives and the expenditure of almost two billions. But to make these advantages secure and develop them further it is necessary both to maintain friendly relations with Russia and harmonize our relations with China by eliminating areas of conflict. Our present plan should aim primarily at improving Sino-Japanese relations and inspiring in China a feeling of abiding trust in us. … Should we fail to dispel China’s previous doubts … she will turn away from us and more to America….[78]

Yamagata’s policy of friendship might conceivably have worked out--had there been a Chinese government to make friends with. Unfortunately, China began to fall apart. The strongman Yuan Shih-kai consolidated his power by selective assassinations and drove revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen from the country. He then declared himself president-for-life, then emperor, and promptly died in 1916. Sun Yat-sen was unable to establish his own government, and died in 1925. China did not begin to pull itself together until 1928, under the leadership of General Chiang Kai-shek.

Meanwhile, Mongolia declared itself independent (1911) and with Russia’s backing negotiated a deal with the weakened Chinese that left Mongolia under nominal Chinese suzerainty but de facto Russian control. Tibet declared independence (1913) and Britain intervened to support its autonomy, recognizing it as an independent country (a point which China did not concede, but could do nothing to change). Japanese troops pushed Germany out of its toehold in China’s Shantung Province, and settled into place.[79]

In 1915, Japan spelled out its idea of “friendship” with China with a diplomatic document that came to be known as “the Twenty-one Demands.”[80] The trigger for these demands was the request from the government of Yuan Shih-kai for all foreign troops to withdraw from Chinese territory. This request was aimed at the Japanese, who had seized the German holdings in Shantung Province, ostensibly on behalf of the Chinese, and with the public promise to return the area to Chinese control at some undefined future date. The Japanese government at this time was led by Okuma Shigenobu--a candidate reluctantly proposed by the genro, since Okuma was opposed to genro meddling in government affairs. Okuma’s Foreign Minister was Kato Takaaki, formerly Japan’s ambassador to England. Kato believed that the genro should not interfere with the conduct of foreign affairs, and offended Yamagata and the others by withholding diplomatic correspondence from them, and only consulting on broad foreign policy issues in a token manner.

Yamagata rallied the genro for a concerted effort to reassert their authority. In September, 1914, an extraordinary meeting with Okuma took place in Tokyo. The genro castigated “their” Prime Minister, and he agreed that he would rectify his practices, and bring Kato into line. The genro brought with them a policy statement on foreign policy that closely mirrored Yamagata’s earlier memo. It stated that the first priority in foreign policy was to come to an understanding with Yuan Shih-kai’s government. A special emissary should be sent to China, with the offer to return the German holdings in return for a general understanding on “political and economic problems that might interfere with the principle of equal opportunity….” Other priorities included the formation of an alliance with Russia, the seeking of loans and economic partnerships with France, and the promotion of friendly relations with the US. The overarching goal was to imbed Japan in the Anglo-French-Russian alliance that had formed against Germany, while also solidifying Japanese gains in Manchuria.

The Japanese leadership group was in agreement on the desire to extend its concessions in Manchuria. The various leases that Japan had acquired from Russia in 1905 were due to expire between 1923 and 1940. Japan wanted not only the renewal of these leases, but their permanent extension. Foreign Minister Kato felt that he had Britain’s backing for this notion, and that the time was ripe to put forward a list of Japanese demands for a settlement.

The list of demands was worked out in the Foreign Ministry, and not specifically vetted with the genro. In the end, Kato overreached himself by adding a set of “requests” that included a set of exclusive rights: China was to agree to take on Japanese “advisors” in government ministries; China was to allow joint Japanese-Chinese administration of the police force; Japanese churches and schools should be allowed to own land in China, and to proselytize; new railway construction rights were to be granted; China was to agree to purchase at least half of her armaments from Japan; and finally, China was not to make any further grants of rights to third powers. If these “requests” appear to the reader to add up to Japanese hegemony over China, then the reader is in good company with the Chinese, the British, and the American government of Woodrow Wilson. Nevertheless, Kato was determined to press forward, even proposing that Japan issue a 48-hour ultimatum to China after negotiations had slowed.

Yamagata was outraged at this clumsy attempt at diplomacy. Kato appeared to be undermining the very goals that had been agreed upon. America was becoming alarmed at Japanese aggression, Britain was backing away from its “understanding” of Japan’s Manchurian goals, and Chinese “friendship” was becoming ever more distant. In the end, the genro forced Kato to drop the hegemonic “requests” and stick with the Manchurian “demands.” Backed by a Japanese ultimatum, and by the expansion of military forces in Manchuria, a settlement was reached on this basis by May, 1915. The Japanese government appeared to be satisfied, and the British were relieved, but the Chinese declared the day of forced acceptance to be “National Humiliation Day.”

The Americans became even more convinced of Japan’s aggressive intentions. According to historian Marius Jansen:

World War I had diverted the attention of the European powers, but that was not the case with the United States, still at peace, and inclined to welcome the developments of “young China,” which was, many thought, the product of American missionary and education work. This was particularly true of President Woodrow Wilson and his secretary of state William Jennings Bryan. Japan thus gained its minimal objectives during World War I, but at considerable cost. It had lost whatever opportunity there was to exert leadership in China, and it had awakened—or, for some, confirmed—distrust of its policies in the United States. [81]

Unfortunately, Saionji’s biographer has little to say about his subject’s views on the twenty-one demands. From 1912 until 1919, Saionji lived in a self-imposed exile in Kyoto. He absented himself from the genro during Cabinet negotiations, as he had when they nominated Okuma in the first place—having pleaded illness. [82]

Yamagata’s biographer would appear to have us believe that this remarkable figure, even in his declining years, could have pulled off a diplomatic coup if only he had been more closely consulted. While it is possible that Yamagata’s hand would have been more supple, it seems unlikely that either China or America would have been pleased with any outcome that would have satisfied Japan.

For all of his wisdom, Yamagata evidenced a blind spot with regard to China—one that most Japanese leaders shared. He seemed convinced that the Chinese would welcome Japanese leadership of an Asian coalition. He also thought that the Japanese dominance of Manchuria was critical for the Japanese economy, Japanese defense, and an outlet for Japan’s growing population—and that China would come to accept the logic of this position. As he wrote in a private letter,

…[I]f Japan had not fought and repelled the encroachment of Russia in Manchuria, isn’t it logical to suggest that even Peking might not be in Chinese territory today? The spread of Japan into Manchuria is for the advantage of our nation and our people, but isn’t it also necessary for realizing the principle of the self-protection of Asians as well as for the co-existence and co-prosperity of China and Japan? [83]

The struggle to control Manchuria plays a pivotal role in the run-up to the Pacific War (1937-45), which became folded into World War II. It will be useful to note one historical fact that is often overlooked in describing Japanese aggression on the Chinese mainland: Manchuria was not exactly “Chinese.” Indeed, one might say that China was “Manchurian” from 1644-1911, since the ruling families were descended from the Manchu invaders who seized the throne as the Ming dynasty declined. [84] While the Manchus adopted Chinese customs and used Chinese bureaucrats to run their empire, they kept the military and the imperial court in Manchu hands.

The Manchus took strong steps to make sure that Manchuria did not become “Chinese.” Historian John King Fairbank aptly describes why Manchuria was therefore “in play” during the 19th and early 20 centuries:

In order to preserve their identity as a racial group they closed their homeland to Chinese immigration and maintained North Manchuria as a hunting land outside the Chinese agricultural economy. They organized Manchuria under a Manchu military government. In spite of a periodic overflow of Chinese settlers in times of famine, they succeeded on the whole in checking further Chinese settlement. North of the Chinese basin in the south, Manchuria remained a sparsely populated vacuum down to the late nineteenth century—a tempting prize for Russian and Japanese Imperialists. [85]

The struggle for control of Manchuria in the first half of the 20th century involved four players: Russia, Japan, China, and the United States. Not surprisingly, Chinese leaders regarded Manchuria as part of a greater Chinese sphere of influence. Prior to 1644, the Manchu were vassals of the Ming rulers, and China’s long history was deeply intertwined with its Manchu and Mongol neighbors. To the Chinese, the Russians and the Japanese were both newcomers to this game.

The Russians wanted back into Manchuria, for the same strategic reasons that had drawn them there in the late 19th century. The United States became a player beginning with the Treaty of Portsmouth in 1905. American businesses hoped to have access to Manchuria’s natural resources, and they wanted to participate in the development of the rail system. More broadly, the United States wanted to establish an “open” Chinese market, and American leaders feared that the Japanese would exclude the U.S. from any area that it controlled.

Versailles, 1919

The Japanese military effort in WWI was very modest. In August 1914 the British had requested Japanese aid in defending its ships from German attack. The Japanese readily complied, providing escort service in the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific. In addition to occupying the Shantung Peninsula, Japan seized German island holdings in the Pacific. And that was about all, despite British requests for military involvement in the Mediterranean and on the European battlefield.

Economically, the war proved a great boon. Japan’s merchant marine doubled in size; trade with the US and Britain doubled; trade with China quadrupled. [86] Japan emerged with the third largest naval fleet, and was one of only five countries to be able to meet all its needs in the production of steam locomotives. Small wonder that Canada’s Prime Minister, Robert Borden, asserted that with the war ending there were just three major powers: the US, Britain, and Japan. [87]

If these factors were not enough to win Japan a seat at the negotiating table at Versailles, there was one additional factor: Japan had 20,000 or more troops in Siberia.

The November 1917 revolution in Russia brought an end to the Russian war effort, allowing Germany to transfer 2,000,000 men from the eastern front to the western front. It began to look like Germany might win the war. France asked Japan to intervene in Russian Asia against the Bolsheviks hoping that a pro-war Russian government could be reestablished, but Japan demurred, waiting to see what attitude the British and the Americans might take. In July, 1918, President Wilson invited Japan to participate in a joint military expedition to rescue Czech army units trapped in Siberia. Wilson wanted the Japanese to keep their actions limited to the Vladivostok area, but Japan had bigger ideas, and moved into Northern Manchuria and northern Sakhalin Island.

January, 1919: the beginning of the Peace negotiations at Versailles. The British delegation is headed by Lloyd George; the American by Woodrow Wilson; the French by George Clemenceau, and the Italian by their Prime Minister, Vittorio Orlando. The Japanese delegation is publicly represented by veteran diplomat Baron Nobuaki Makino, but on his way is Saionji Kinmochi, former Prime Minister, diplomat, member of the genro, and a fluent French-speaker. Despite Saionji’s appearance in March, Japan is largely sidelined by the four-power cabal that deals in private with the trickiest questions.

The Japanese were divided on the extent to which they could expect real gains from the Versailles Conference. Indeed, Baron Makino was convinced that Japan would lose out in the negotiations and that the delegation would have to withdraw in protest. For that reason, he made his service dependent upon the agreement of Saionji to serve. [88]

MacMillan says that the Japanese had three goals: to keep the Pacific Islands it had seized from Germany (the Marshalls, Marianas and Carolines); to keep its hold on Shantung, and to have a racial equality clause inserted into the League of Nations covenant. In the end, they achieved two of their goals, receiving a “mandate” over the islands, and an indefinite hold on Shantung.

During the war, Japan made strenuous diplomatic efforts to retain its position in Shantung. In 1917 it obtained secret agreements from France, Britain and Italy to keep its economic privileges and position on the peninsula (considered a gateway to Peking). Japan also strong-armed the Chinese government into a similar concession in 1918. However, Woodrow Wilson came to Versailles with the position that “secret agreements” were invalid, and that every agreement was to be openly negotiated. Therefore the whole matter of Shantung was up for debate.

Italy walked out of the conference after its demands for control of Fiume were rejected. Wilson feared that if Japan also withdrew over Shantung, his hopes for creating the League of Nations would be dashed. Therefore in the end, and with great consternation from the Chinese and from his own delegation, he gave in to the Japanese demands. In the final agreement, Japan retained its rights with only a vague commitment to one day withdraw its occupation forces.

The Chinese delegation to the conference was balanced between two competing governments, one based in Peking and the other in Canton. Despite their differences they were united in their opposition to the Shantung agreement. Shantung was the birthplace of Confucius, and it was of great economic and strategic value. When the Versailles “deal” became known demonstrations broke out all over China. Many young nationalists came to feel that their idealism had been betrayed by Wilson, and that, in the words of one, “foreign nations were still selfish and militaristic and that they were all great liars.”[89]

And then there was the racial equality clause.

The Racial Equality Clause

The Japanese government instructed its delegates “to go along with the general trend of the Conference”[90] in most matters, following the lead of Great Britain and the United States. Aside from their territorial demands, noted above, they came with serious misgivings about the proposed League of Nations. The instructions to the delegation noted:

The League of Nations is one of the most important problems and our government support its ultimate objective. In view of the present situation, however, where racial prejudice among nations has not been eliminated at all, it is feared that the methods employed to achieve the objective of the League might bring grave disadvantages to our Empire.[91]

To put it simply, the Japanese feared that the formation of a League of Nations that would lock Anglo-American world dominance in place, with Japan relegated to second-tier status because of the race of its people. They had every reason for this fear, based upon legalized racial discrimination against Japanese in the United States, and a formal racial exclusion policies in Australia, Canada, and South Africa. The government therefore instructed Makino to meet the challenge straight on, and if a racial equality clause could not be included in the League Covenant, then to try to defer any formal League agreement until the indefinite future.

On February 2, 1919, representatives Makino and Chinda met with Wilson’s right-hand man, Colonel Edward House. They raised the idea of a racial equality clause and were pleasantly surprised at his warm support for the idea. House felt that Wilson would support such a step, and began reworking a draft that they had brought along.

The Japanese proposed the following language:

The equality of nations being a basic principle of the League of Nations, the High Contracting Parties agree that concerning the treatment and rights to be accorded to aliens in their territories, they will not discriminate, either in law or in fact, against any person or persons on account of his or their race or nationality.[92]

Colonel House thought that this went a bit far, so the delegates brought out a second draft. This one concluded with “…they will accord them, as far as it lies in their legitimate powers, equal treatment and rights….”

House thought this was just fine. He felt certain that Wilson would not only agree, but would be willing to include the statement in his presentation on the League to the drafting commission. He subsequently reviewed it with Wilson and was able to report to the Japanese that the President would be happy to propose it, with a change from “as far as it lies in their legitimate powers” to “as far as speedily and possible.” House had also run this by the British, who had no initial objection. He offered to carry the ball on this clause, and the Japanese representatives readily agreed.[93]

However, the British quickly backed away from their initial acceptance, and the primary reason was the adamant objection of Prime Minister Billy Hughes of Australia. Since the Commonwealth nations met as a bloc, this placed Great Britain in an awkward position. Colonel House conveyed this to the Japanese and they decided to undertake direct negotiations with the members of the British delegation, and to go ahead and propose a racial equality clause on their own. This they did on February 13.

Japanese representative Makino proposed that a racial equality clause be added to Article 21 of the draft, a Wilson-inspired article on freedom of religion. The new draft read as follows:

Equality of nations being a basic principle of the League of Nations, the High Contracting Parties agree to accord, as soon as possible, to all alien nationals of States members of the League, equal and just treatment in every respect, making no distinction, either in law or in fact, on account of their race or nationality.

Makino’s remarks are well worth noting here, if only because they seem so logical, mild, and fair to the modern ear. If we find ourselves resonating with his remarks, perhaps we can then stand in the shoes of the Japanese people in 1919, and imagine their reaction to the eventual rejection of this clause.

It is not necessary to dwell on the fact that racial and religious animosities have constituted a fruitful source of trouble and warfare among different peoples throughout history, often leading to deplorable excesses. … [T]he question of race prejudice is a very delicate and complicated matter, involving play of deep human passion and therefore requiring careful management. … This clause enunciates the principle of equality, and leaves the working out of it in the hands of the responsible leaders of the States members of the League…. This clause, in a way, may be regarded as an invitation to the governments and peoples concerned to examine the question more closely and seriously, and to devise some acceptable means to meet a deadlock which at present confronts different peoples.

… The future States members of the League, comprising all kinds of races, constitute a great family of nations. It is in a sense a world organization of insurance against aggression and war. If one member’s independence and political integrity is menaced by a third Power, a nation or nations suitably placed must be prepared to take up arms against the aggressor…. This means that a citizen of one nation must be ready to share the military expenditure for the common cause and, if need be, defend other peoples by his own person. Seeing these new duties arise before him as the result of his country’s entering the League, each national would like to feel and in fact demand that he should be placed on an equal footing with people he undertakes to defend even with his life. [94]

During March the Japanese made the rounds with British and American diplomats to push for their proposal. They found that their ostensible allies were quickly backpedaling. Prime Minister Hughes of Australia said that, while he sympathized with their ideals, “public opinion” at home would be too strong against the measure. After all, one couldn’t apply a moral value like “equality” to the Japanese only. The Chinese and Indians might want the same equality, and they were also being excluded from immigrating into his country. Colonel House said that the Japanese proposal was causing a public flap, and might begin to arouse Americans in the western states. Might the Japanese be willing to drop the word “equality” from the beginning of the resolution? The Prime Ministers of Canada, New Foundland, New Zealand, and Great Britain, along with General Smuts of South Africa tried to get Hughes to agree to an even further watered-down version. Could the word “equal” be eliminated in the phrase “equal and just treatment”? Hughes said that the underlying idea was the problem, not the wording, and walked out of the meeting.

On April 11, the drafting commission met in plenary session. Woodrow Wilson chaired the meeting. The draft articles of the Covenant were approved, leaving only the preamble to review. Makino proposed, as a last-ditch effort, that this phrase be added to the preamble: “by the endorsement of the principle of equality of nations and just treatment of their nationals.”

Britain’s Lord Robert Cecil opposed the measure. Why include a phrase that, if it had any meaning, would be opposed? And what about the “feminine question”? Should that be included? Equality in principle was of course subscribed to, but the treatment of aliens was a national matter, and so on. France and Italy spoke in favor of the clause. In the end, of the 16 delegates in the drafting session, 11 voted in favor and 5 were against (the US, Britain, Poland, Brazil, Romania). Wilson declared that, unanimity having failed, the resolution was not adopted.

Japan now faced the decision whether to present the proposal to the general gathering. However, some of the smaller countries that had voted in favor now told Japan that they would have to vote against in order not to offend the US and Britain. The Japanese decided not to push the very watered-down phrase, but to reassert the strong position that had been taken at the beginning of the conference.

Equality of nations being a basic principle of the League of Nations, the High Contracting Parties agree to accord, as soon as possible, to all alien nationals of States members of the League, equal and just treatment in every respect, making no distinction, either in law or in fact, on account of their race or nationality.

Makino spoke again about the principle of mutual defense, and that racial discrimination was incompatible with such an undertaking. He said that Japan would not give up on this issue, and would continue to raise it in the future. He stated that the Japanese government and its people felt “poignant regret” at the failure to adopt this principle, and he concluded by saying:

If just and equal treatment is denied to certain nationals, it would have the significance of a certain reflection on their quality and status. Their faith in the justice and righteousness which are to be the guiding spirit of the future international intercourse between the Members of the League may be shaken, and such frame of mind, I am afraid, would be most detrimental to that harmony and cooperation, upon which foundation alone can the League now contemplated surely be built. [95]

I have dwelt upon this incident because the very details of the negotiations are rife with prejudice, disdain, and racial humiliation. Japan and the Japanese had already experienced several such shocks to their pride, and would experience more in the coming years. The formality of an international conference, and the public nature of the rejection of the principle of equality, sent a message to the Japanese: You are not good enough to join our club. Japan will never be regarded as a “first-class” nation by the Western Powers.

Japanese Liberalism

The period of the 1920s in Japan is seen as a time of political and intellectual ferment, a “liberal” time in which new ideas were welcomed and a more cosmopolitan perspective was held by the educated elite. Yet the Japanese political structure remained largely unchanged from the Meiji revolution. The Emperor remained the figurehead for an elite represented by the genro, the House of Peers, the Privy Council, and the Imperial Household Ministry. The lower house of the Diet continued to be remarkably weak—its laws could be vetoed or overturned, its Prime Minister was selected by the genro, new laws could be promulgated by the Emperor without its approval, and it was subject to dismissal at any time. Two other elite groups—the Army and the Navy—held remarkable power within this system. Military leaders could appeal directly to the throne; they also largely controlled who became Army and Navy Minister. Despite the enactment of Universal Manhood Suffrage in 1925, and the swelling of the electorate to 12.5 million, Japan was still very much a top-down government, a government where “The Emperor was the sacrosanct authority under whose name those institutions, responsible to him, not to the people, could operate freely, by interpreting at their will the supposed Imperial orders.” [96]

The smooth functioning of the Meiji system depended in part on the determination and political acumen of the emperor himself. His death laid bare the incipient weakness of the governing system, since whoever controlled the emperor ostensibly controlled Japan. The Meiji emperor died in 1912, and was followed by the Taisho emperor. However, the new emperor was sickly and probably mentally ill, so Yamagata and Saionji had Crown Prince Hirohito appointed regent in 1921. Hirohito inherited the throne in his own right on the death of his father in 1926.

One reason that the period appears so liberal is that a very strong liberal clique surrounded the Emperor. The head of this group was Saionji Kinmochi. It included Admiral Kato Tomosaburo, Prime Minister Hara Takashi (1918-1921), diplomat Shidehara Kijuro, Versailles plenipotentiary Makino Nobuaki, and fellow genro Matsukata Masayoshi. With Yamagata’s illness in 1919, and death in 1922, Saionji and Matsukata were the only two remaining genro. The latter’s death in 1924 left Saionji as the sole “senior adviser” to the throne.

Saionji might be described as a true Wilsonian. He was very much in favor of the vision that President laid out in his Fourteen Points. He believed in the idea of Progress, and felt that Japan should take its place on the world stage, cooperating with the League and the Anglo-American alliance. He was against a pan-Asianist foreign policy (i.e., uniting with China against the West) and in favor of economic liberalism, disarmament, and the furtherance of democracy.

When Saionji arrived in Marseilles for the Paris Peace Conference, he gave an interview to a local journal. Speaking of the “era of vertiginous progress in which we live,” he told the interviewer:

…[I]l est du devoir des homes des toutes classes et de toutes races d’apporter leurs concours a la destruction de tous les elements—tel le militarism Prussien—qui sont susceptibles d’arreter ou seulement de suspender le progress de la civilization…. [97]

[Roughly: It is the duty of the people of all classes and all races to focus their energy on the destruction of all the elements, like Prussian-style militarism, which could halt or suspend the progress of civilization.]

Despite the rejection of the racial equality clause, and despite several subsequent insults to Japanese pride, Saionji held to the view that Japan must ally itself with the British and the Americans to both secure Japan’s world position and to improve the world as a whole. He called this policy, “Japan in the World.” As late as 1932, when the Army-controlled puppet state of Manchukuo was created in Manchuria and recognized by the Japanese government, he wrote:

In the past, when Ito and myself and others thought about Japan’s future path, we never thought in terms of anything so narrow as “Japan; leader of the East” or an “Asian Monroe Doctrine.” What we aimed at was “Japan in the World.” The problems of the Far East can better be resolved through cooperation with England and America than through the mouthing of “Asianism”…. [98]

The Saionji group held complete control of the government from 1922 to 1928, and continued to influence policies and dominate the Imperial Court until the mid-30s. Under their guidance—and despite a rising anti-Americanism within the military and the general public—Japan pursued a pro-Anglo-American foreign policy. Japan supported the League of Nations, signed on to the Washington treaties, demobilized four Army Divisions, withdrew from Siberia and Shantung, struggled to come up with an accommodation with the unstable Chinese government, and signed up for further naval limitations in the London Naval Treaty of 1930.

Konoe Fumimaro (1891-1945)

While the Saionji group held sway, there was another trend in the 20s that is revealed in the early career of Prince Konoe Fumimaro. Kanoe had been born into a highly prestigious Japanese family, so lofty that Saionji addressed the young student as “your excellency” when he first met him. The Prince received a broad education, acquiring both German and English. He was particularly drawn to Socialist writings, and at age 23 translated and published Oscar Wilde’s The Soul of Man Under Socialism.

Kanoe’s father had been politically active, having organized the Anti-Russia Society in 1903. The father had been considered a potential candidate for Prime Minister, but unfortunately died in 1904. That left Kanoe with the title of Prince, plenty of social standing but not much money, and plenty of room for a mentor/father-figure. That mentor was Saionji. Even so, Konoe never fully embraced his mentor’s pro-Western attitudes.[99]

Prince Konoe convinced Saionji to include him in the Japanese delegation to the Paris peace negotiations. Kanoe made a considerable public splash in 1918 when he published—in advance of Versailles—an essay titled “Reject the Anglo-American-Centered Peace.” He wrote approvingly of the ideals of democracy and humanitarianism, and his expectation that these values would come to permeate Japanese society. However, he castigated Japanese leaders who seemed enthralled by the British and the Americans and who spoke in favor of Wilson’s Fourteen Points and the League of Nations. The Japanese should realize that these countries used idealism as “a mask for their own self-interest.”

The peace that the Anglo-American leaders are urging on us amounts to no more than maintaining a status quo that suits their interests. The true nature of the present conflict [WWI] is a struggle between the established powers and powers not yet established…. At an early stage, Britain and France colonized the ‘less civilized’ regions of the world, and monopolized their exploitation. As a result, Germany and all the late-coming nations also, were left with no land to acquire and no space to expand.[100]

Konoe asserted that the proposed League of Nations was designed to cement the hegemony of the victorious nations. This could mean that the late-comers, like Japan, would be frozen out of economic and political opportunities. The upcoming peace conference should break the hold of economic imperialism, or else the League and its enforced arms reductions would relegate Japan to permanent inferiority.

Should their policy prevail, Japan, which is small, resource-poor, and unable to consume all its own industrial products, would have no resort but to destroy the status quo for the sake of self-preservation, just like Germany. We must require all the powers to open the doors of their colonies to others, so that all nations will have equal access to the markets and natural resources of the colonial areas. It is also imperative that Japan insist upon the eradication of racial discrimination. [101]

Apparently, Saionji had not seen the article, or had not taken it seriously. However, when the press picked up on it, he reprimanded Konoe. Saionji felt very strongly that Japan’s foreign policy depended upon good relations with Britain, France, and the US. He did not want that relationship threatened by a young hothead.

Once the conference was concluded, Konoe left the delegation and visited France and Germany, then England and the United States. He wrote an essay on the conference, concluding that the powerful had won out. He noted the refusal to adopt the racial equality clause, proposed by a weak country, but the conference’s adoption of a US-demanded clause that enshrined the Monroe Doctrine. Even so, he gave credit to Wilson for trying to forge something new and progressive, and observed that time would tell whether the ideals of the League would make a difference. [102]

It is interesting that Kanoe as traveler was very taken with Western society. He liked the informality of manners, the food, even the fact that one didn’t have to wear a kimono for a formal dinner and could leave shoes on all day. He thought the manners of the British aristocracy were very democratic in comparison to the Japanese nobility, where “…everything is bound by tradition, imperfection, and artificiality. I think they [the nobility] need reform from top to bottom.” [103]

Despite his outspokenness, Prince Konoe was destined to achieve the very heights of political life in Japan. His title gave him a seat in the upper chamber of the Diet, and in 1921, at age 30, he was elected President of the House of Peers. He gained favorable public attention by supporting a universal manhood suffrage bill in 1925, despite the reservations of his fellow nobles. Even though Saionji considered him brash and “ill-informed,” Konoe was considered his protégée by all parties, including Saionji himself.

Prince Konoe went on to serve three times as Japan’s Prime Minister--the last term at the very eve of World War II. We shall return to his career in due course.

The Washington Conference System

e Most Americans think of the period from November 19, 1919 (the defeat by the US Senate of the League of Nations Treaty) until December 7, 1941 (Pearl Harbor) as a time of “isolation” for the United States. This may be true for European affairs, but the United States was quite active in the Pacific.

Convinced that Britain was a solid ally, and fearful that a new naval arms race could begin with Japan, the US proposed a conference to limit arms in the Pacific. Nine countries with interests in the region gathered in Washington in November 1921: The US, France, Britain, Japan, Italy, China, the Netherlands, Portugal and Belgium. They agreed on a series of treaties which created a framework that came to be called the Washington Conference System. A four-power treaty (US, Japan, Britain, France) pledged mutual consultation in case of outside aggression. A five-power treaty set naval limits on battleships and heavy cruisers, and a permanent ratio of forces: the US and British on equal footing, Japan at 60% of that level, Italy and France at 35%. A nine-power treaty pledged to respect the territorial integrity of China. Furthermore, the US pressed Japan and China to agree on a return of Shantung. [104]

On the surface, it might appear that a new world order was now in place. The US had not joined the League, but counted upon Britain and France to maintain the League system. The Washington Conference system stabilized the situation in the Far East, and set global limits on naval armaments. Japan signed the Washington treaties, joined the League to which a Japanese diplomat was elected Under-Secretary, and withdrew from Shantung and Siberia. Even Germany seemed swept along in the progress, joining the League in 1926.

As in all agreements, many underlying issues had not been addressed. Nevertheless, the system held together for ten years. The leadership of the US and the strength of its economy, the weakness of Germany, and the relative acquiescence of Japan all played their part in this success. But the world-wide Depression tore it apart.

The US stopped making loans to European countries in late 1929; this in turn led to a drop in purchasing power. Germany’s ability to pay reparations depended on US loans, and Britain and France wanted and needed that infusion of money. As money became tight, restrictions were placed on the free transfer of gold reserves. The upward spiral of boom became the downward spiral of bust. As described by historian E.H. Carr, “the winter of 1930-31 shattered the last defences of optimism; and serious people began to talk of the impending collapse of civilisation.” [105]

In 1930, the United States Congress passed the Hawley-Smoot Tariff bill. This raised tariffs even higher against all imports. Over 1,000 academic economists appealed to President Hoover to veto the bill. As one historian relates:

With prophetic vision, critics pointed out that the measure would reap a harvest of ill will, end a promising worldwide trend toward reasonable tariffs, stimulate retaliation, impede governmental debt collections, and worsen the depression. [106]

Hoover did not veto the bill, allowing it to become law. Great Britain soon followed suit, gathering its far-flung empire into a trading bloc, and erected tariffs against outsiders.

Japan had already experienced a series of economic crises when the Depression hit. The United States was Japan’s best trade customer, accounting for 43% of all exports in 1929. US demand began to dry up, with silk prices dropping 50% in 1930 alone. Since two out of five Japanese families relied on silk for income, the effect was devastating. Unemployment shot up and the government took few steps to help the masses of people. Of this, Walter LaFeber observes, “[Government] did little. More accurately, its resources were put at the disposal of the largest industrial-banking families, the zaibatsu, while small business people, workers, and farmers faced, alone, an increasingly vicious marketplace.” [107]

Historian Mark R. Peattie, whose biography of Ishiwara Kanji informs this study, notes the impact of the Depression on rural areas—the very areas from which the bulk of common soldiers and junior officers were drawn. Crop failures added to the misery. When famine struck in the Tohoku, the result was terrible:

Subjected to grinding poverty in the best of times, the life of the average rural family in Tohoku now became desperate. Whole families were driven to stripping bark from trees for food; children were forced to beg food in public places; and farmers were reduced to selling their daughters to Tokyo brothels.[108]

Peattie describes a "sense of outrage" among young officers. Those in power seemed to be doing nothing to help the common people—which in many cases meant their own families and their neighbors. As in Germany, Britain, and the US, unemployment and impoverishment fostered radical social movements. The Japanese authorities took strong measures against the communists and the left, but were more tolerant of the right. Many of the rightist groups were embedded in the military, or had ties to the military. Ultimately, the right took over the country.

Ishiwara Kanji (1889-1949)

Ishiwara Kanji was an extremely bright, idealistic and iconoclastic officer in the Japanese Army. His father was a policeman, and the family was part of the Shonai samurai clan. Mark Peattie, who has written about Ishiwara’s career, feels that the Shonai link may be important in understanding Ishiwara’s radical perspective. This clan had backed the Shogun during the Meiji upheaval, and its members were subsequently shut out of government positions. A dissident spirit was said to have arisen among them, “restless, headstrong and uncompromising; generally against the ruling establishment, yet obsessively concerned with imperial loyalism in order to live down the stigma” of having backed the losing side. [109]

At age thirteen he was enrolled in a military prep school. He was subsequently accepted at the Japanese Military Academy and graduated in 1909. He served in Korea after its annexation by Japan in 1910, and in 1915 he passed the very difficult exams for admittance to the Army Staff College. He graduated second in his class in 1918, a true example of the meritocratic reform instituted by men like Yamagata.

Modern Americans might do well to think of the Army Staff College as both the West Point and the Yale of Japan. It was the elite training center for the Army and its graduates were expected to move to the highest ranks in the military. But the “Yale” portion of this simile is that the students came to think of themselves not just as military leaders, but as the leaders of Japanese society as a whole.

The Japanese victories of 1894 and 1905 engendered great public respect for the Army, and within the Army it engendered a high self-regard as the keepers of the Japanese spirit. Japanese military theorists came to believe that officers and soldiers must be imbued with an attitude of reverence for the Emperor and the nation, and must be willing to sacrifice themselves for this high purpose. So far, this may not sound too radical. After all, patriotism is supposed to be the ideal motivator for all soldiers.

But the Japanese took this to an extreme level--to literally a suicidal level. Japanese soldiers were never to surrender. While dying in the battle was glorious, surrender, capture, withdrawal, or defeat were shameful. Army leaders believed that modern warfare demanded a supreme spirit of dedication on the part of the soldiers, since artillery could break massive troop movements into small units who still needed to carry the battle forward independently.

Military officers were supposed to embody and convey this spirit to the enlisted men. Therefore, officer training had to address both technical skills and spiritual formation. They were taught that they were uniquely qualified to embody and transmit the Yamato damashii, the Japanese spirit. The ideal officer must have the samurai spirit of bushido, and must believe that it was his duty to uphold and preserve the kokutai. Peattie takes a stab at defining kokutai, a slippery term that has enormous importance in understanding this period in Japanese history:

[Kokutai means] that collection of basic national characteristics which were seen as making Japan unique, if not superior, to all other nations. Chief among these were the sanctity and inviolability of the Imperial House, the moral virtues that bound the nation to the emperor, and the view of the nation as one family. [110]

It may seem that the concept of kokutai can be paralleled with a concept like “Americanism,” and therefore could be just as vague and bland as that term is in American parlance. However, it is possible for a broad term to become reified—made into something specific—and used as a political platform or a political weapon. Think of the use of the term “un-American” in the hands of Senator Joseph McCarthy.

In 1925 the Japanese legislature passed the Peace Preservation Law. This law was aimed at Communists and others on the left. It stipulated that that anyone who formed an organization “with the objective of altering the kokutai or the form of government or denying the system of private property” could be imprisoned for as much as ten years. Three years later it was amended to provide the death penalty for violators.[111]

Ishiwara spent several years in various staff assignments and then was selected to study in Germany. He stayed three years in that country (1922-1925), focusing on military history and strategy. He hired several former officers from the German General Staff to tutor him, and by the time he returned to Japan, he had formed a quite remarkable military doctrine of apocalyptic proportions.

We may remember that Yamagata feared the possibility that the Western nations would form an alliance against Japan. He advocated a strategy of alliance with one or more major European powers to avoid being caught in a “race war.” Ishiwara turned this on its head. He decided that race war was inevitable, and that Japan must prepare for the ultimate conflict.

In 1919 Ishiwara had become converted to Nichiren Buddhism. Nichiren taught that a period of massive conflict would precede a golden era in which the truth of Buddhism would prevail. Japan would be the center and main promulgator of this faith, which would encompass the entire world. Thus Japan had a sacred mission in history.

Ishiwara thought that the period of world conflict was fast approaching. The chief antagonists in this conflict would be Japan and the United States. In this epic struggle, Japan would rely upon its vision of the kokutai, draw upon the strength and resources of China, and lead the yellow races to defeat the white race. His three years of study in Germany did nothing to change his view; rather, he absorbed military history and theory into his religious view of the world. In a telling incident, just before he left Japan he had a conversation with American Army captain who encouraged him to visit the United States. He retorted, “Captain, the only occasion on which I plan to visit the United States is when I arrive there as chief of the Japanese forces of occupation.” [112]

It is difficult to understand such a hostile remark without recalling that the U.S. Congress had just passed an immigration law that excluded the Japanese. While the main impetus for the law was to restrict immigration from southern Europe, the addition of a clause that excluded the Japanese entirely was taken as a grave insult. A day of national indignation was declared in Japan on July 1, 1924, when the law was to take effect. Rallies were held across the country, and American movies were boycotted. One protestor committed suicide outside the American embassy. Inazo Nitobe, a Quaker who had become the undersecretary general of the League of Nations, declared that he would not set foot in the United States until the law was repealed.[113] Viscount Kentaro Kaneko, a Harvard classmate of Theodore Roosevelt and President of the Japan-America Society, resigned his office, stating that "When I learned the Immigration Bill was passed in so drastic a manner and with such an overwhelming majority, I felt as if the hope of my life were destroyed…."[114]

Historian Izumi Hirobe views this incident as a turning point in Japan-U.S. relations:

Japan reacted vehemently to the bill because, in their eyes, the ban was a betrayal of trust. … Japan, which had chosen to cooperate with the Western Powers at the Washington Conference, was not given the immigration quota allowed all European countries. In Japan, the total ban of Japanese immigrants to the United States in 1924 was interpreted as a rejection of Japan, made exclusively on the grounds of race, by the existing world order, controlled by the Western nations. The Japanese interpreted this to mean that no matter how hard Japan tried to cooperate with the United States, they would never be treated as America's equal.[115]

Ishiwara and Manchuria

Ishiwara, like many Japanese officers, initially regarded the Chinese revolution with enthusiasm. His biographer recounts that when he heard of the upheaval in a remote Korean outpost, he took his small band of men to a nearby mountaintop and led them in three rounds of banzai for the Revolution. But he became disillusioned by the subsequent disarray in Chinese affairs, and developed the belief that Japan must lead the Chinese people toward a better way. By 1930 he was writing that “To save China, which has known no peace, is the mission of Japan….” [116]

Ishiwara's apocalyptic understanding of history found a ready audience among fellow officers. He was assigned to the Army Staff College, where he preached his vision of ultimate racial conflict, and then appointed to a critical leadership position with the Kwantung Army in Manchuria. Ishiwara’s lectures were eagerly sought in formal and informal settings, and he came to be highly regarded by both his peers and his superiors.

The Kwantung Army in Manchuria did not need Ishiwara to set it on a divergent path from the Japanese government. This had already occurred. Yamagata’s concern that the military be strictly controlled had led the government to insist that soldiers not participate in political activity. But this policy did not adequately address “political” activity within the military. During the 1920s and 1930s the military seethed with secret societies and not-so-secret study groups among young officers. At the upper levels, senior staff aligned themselves into cliques with conflicting approaches to military strategy, foreign policy, and the nature of government itself. Any Japanese Prime Minister soon found that he not only had to deal with public political parties and movements, he also had to navigate the various factions within the military. By the time Konoe Fumimaro became Prime Minister (1937) the military was in virtual command of the country.

Ishiwara was to play a crucial role in cementing the Kwantung Army’s role in China policy, but even before he arrived in Manchuria the military train had begun to roll down its independent track. The leaders of this army were clear that Japan should seize full control of Manchuria and secure the Japanese "zone of influence" in Mongolia. In June, 1928 they decided to do something about this. A small group led by senior staff officer Colonel Komoto Daisaku assassinated the Manchurian warlord Chang Tso-lin by planting a bomb under his train. Removal of this figure did not, however, have the desired effect. Chang’s son took over, pledged his loyalty to the Kuomintang government in Peking, and Chaing Kai-Shek in turn designated the son as commander of the Northeastern Frontier.[117]

As the Army saw it, the “cowardly” Japanese government did not have the nerve to follow up on Komoto’s bold action. Instead it decided to cover up this rebellious act, forcing Komoto to retire. The Kwantung Army leadership seethed with resentment.

Ishiwara arrived at Kwantung headquarters just five months later. He found his fellow officers to be demoralized and angry. Within three years he had turned this attitude around, planning a secret initiative that would put the Army in control of Manchuria once and for all.

On September 18, 1931, the plot moved forward. Under Ishiwara’s direction a bomb was secretly planted on the tracks of the (Japanese controlled) Southern Manchuria Railway. Based on the pretence that Chinese soldiers had attacked the rail line, Japanese troops quickly seized the Chinese military barracks in the nearby city of Liutiaokou. Ishiwara had not informed the new Kwantung commander, General Honjo Shigeru, of his modest device for moving things forward, but he quickly enlisted his support in responding to this supposed Chinese “outrage” against Japan.

Kwantung Army units moved to seize control of other Manchurian cities. Under Ishiwara, a true believer in the power of the airplane, seventy-five bombs were dropped on the city of Chinchou. Aerial bombing was still a frightening novelty, and the staff at Tokyo Army Headquarters was greatly disturbed at the news. Word quickly spread to European capitals and to America, where it alarmed public opinion. Ishiwara and his fellow officers had come to the conclusion that if the politicians and Tokyo Army leaders didn’t have the spine to follow up on their initiative, then the Kwantung Army might just have to declare its independence, claim that they were following the true imperial way, and set in motion a new “restoration,” just as an earlier generation had done in 1868. [118]

Ishiwara thought it most likely that he would be executed or at least dishonorably discharged for his role in the military takeover of Manchuria. There certainly were political and military leaders in Tokyo who thought he deserved such a fate. However, the initial success of the maneuvers, and a change in the Japanese cabinet brought just the opposite—he was promoted to command of a home regiment and given a medal. “More importantly,” his biographer observes, “he returned to Japan as the object of intense admiration by the younger officers,… where the brilliance and daring of his exploitation of the principle of field initiative became almost legendary.”[119]

Ishiwara and his co-conspirators should have been arrested and court-martialed for violating the principle of Imperial government control of the military. The fact that they received medals, and a parade of honor to the palace, was not because the emperor and his government secretly supported this plot—but because Japanese politicians were deeply afraid of the military. Japan was a society in crisis, due in large part to the government’s inability to respond to the Depression, and while the government had suppressed left-wing movements responding to the crisis—it had done nothing to suppress the right wing. Fanatical right-wing cells in the Army and Navy were joined by nationalist civilians in a violent campaign to destroy the liberal, capitalist governing structure. The vision of a “Showa Restoration” was widely held in right wing circles. That is, an army-led revolution against the existing power structure, with the “restoration” of correct government under the symbolic leadership of the emperor.

Not the true leadership of the emperor—since Hirohito gave every evidence of opposing militarism, extreme nationalism, and military adventurism. In what might be called a violent game of “capture the flag,” various factions competed for seizure of the Imperial standard and control of the society.

Shortly after the “Manchurian Incident,” it was discovered that a young officer in the Tokyo general staff had conceived a plot with members of the “Cherry Blossom Society” to murder the entire government by dropping bombs on a meeting of the cabinet. This was to be followed demonstrations demanding the formation of a military government. The officer was given twenty days of confinement and the incident was covered up. In early 1932 a “Blood Brotherhood Band” organized by a Nichiren priest murdered a prominent corporate CEO and a former minister of finance, and with the help of some Navy officers, assassinated Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi.[120]

Ishiwara is a very interesting figure through which to carry our story into the 1930s. In Western eyes he seems not only radical, not only fanatical, but practically delusional in his view of the world. Yet many of his views became the backbone of Japanese propaganda and public self-justification.

Ishiwara believed that Japan could create an ideal state in Manchuria, one where the Chinese, Japanese, Manchurian, and Korean people could dwell in racial harmony. This state would serve as a model for Japan itself, and would help bring change in the home country. This state would also demonstrate to the Chinese that Japan had their best interests at heart, and was the proper candidate for leading all of Asia into a glorious future.

This glorious future included the military defeat of the Western powers and the supremacy of Japan on the world stage. Considered to be the most brilliant graduate from the Army Staff College, and now widely popular with young officers, he was appointed to the General Staff in 1935 as Chief of Operations. This meant that he had the primary responsibility for articulating the Army’s vision for Japan’s future.

Ishiwara had already figured it out. Japan would join with Manchuria and China to form an East Asian League. This League would be a single economic entity, capable of meeting all of its own economic and military needs. Japan would prepare for and then fight a war with the Soviet Union. After the USSR was defeated, Japan would move to the south, capturing Southeast Asia, and then particularly Australia, “to solve our population problems….”[121] Then Japan would be ready to tackle the United States.

The Navy had a different idea. Their leaders thought that the Army should simply hold Russia at bay while the Navy struck toward the south. This, of course, meant that the Navy should be greatly strengthened, and the Army should be happy with the resources it had. Ishiwara thought the Army should get the bulk of new resources. These two opposing views were never reconciled.

As Chief of Operations, Ishiwara’s task was to not only set out a strategy, but to figure out how to get there. The reality of Japan’s situation in 1935 was that she was not ready to strike in any direction. The Soviets, alarmed by Japan’s military occupation of Manchuria and its proclamation of the independent country of Manchukuo under the puppet Henry Pu Yi, decided to affect a military build-up in the East Asia. By 1935 they had 14 army divisions in the area (compared to five for Japan), 950 fighter planes (compared to 220 for Japan), and they had stationed long-range bombers that could reach Japan with their payloads (Japan had no such capacity).[122]

Clearly, Japan was in no position to take on Russia (with the world’s largest army), as well as England and the United States (with the world’s two largest navies). Therefore, Ishiwara advocated tackling one adversary at a time. First, Japan would build up its economy and its military. That would require a command economy dedicated to total mobilization. To achieve such national unity, political parties would have to be abolished, venal politicians and greedy businessmen would have to be removed from power, and the nation would move ahead as a “national defense state” under one-party rule. If this sounds like German and Italian fascism, that was intentional. After all, those two countries appeared to be pulling themselves out of the Depression while simultaneously building military capacity. Meanwhile, the liberal capitalist countries seemed to be floundering.

Ishiwara’s Japan would be a selfless giant, aiding its own poor, bringing the boon of good government to Manchuria and China and thus uplifting their people, and leading the world to a new era of harmony. Naturally, he thought, Japanese would take the lead in the new Asia. Japanese would run the largest industries, and the military, and manage foreign policy. The Chinese could handle local government in Chinese provinces and small businesses. The Koreans and other minorities could be paddy farmers. He believed that such a system of enlightened paternalism would lead to the Japanese becoming “rulers of Asia and [thus] be prepared to wage the final and decisive war against the various white races.”[123]

However, should the Chinese be so narrow-minded as to object to this scheme, “then Japan can withdraw [its assistance] from Manchuria and Mongolia and be satisfied to exploit the Chinese people by sheer force in the manner of Western colonialism and to pursue purely materialistic advantage there.”[124]

The Chinese people proved to be very narrow-minded. Both Nationalist and Communist Chinese refused to cooperate with Japan’s ambitious plans for East Asia. By 1937, Japan had become bogged down in a major land war with the Chinese, and Ishiwara’s careful plans had been knocked awry.

Saionji Loses Control

It will be remembered that Saionji had become the sole genro in 1924. A firm believer in the idea of a constitutional monarchy, he felt that the institution of the genro should die with him, and that the future appointment of Prime Minister should be a pro forma decision based upon election results. In foreign policy, he believed that Japan should cooperate with the Anglo-American alliance and the League of Nations. He favored further demobilization of army units, and additional restrictions on naval forces. Sainoji thought that Japan should try to support and befriend the republican government in China, and favored recognition of Chang Kai-chek’s regime well before England and the US were comfortable with this figure. However, like most Japanese, he favored the idea of a special relationship with Manchuria, hoped for an economic benefit from this situation, and did not seek Japanese military withdrawal.

When the party of Tanaka Giichi won election in 1927, Saionji automatically recommended him for appointment, even though he worried about Tanaka’s nationalist foreign policy ideas. Tanaka put his ideas into play by beefing up the troop level in Manchuria, and declaring that Japan would protect its special relationship by force if necessary. At the same time Tanaka engaged in secret negotiations with the Manchurian warlord, Chang Tso-lin, and was able to come to an understanding that would have continued Japan’s economic and military hegemony in the region. When Colonel Komoto and his band of impatient fellow officers assassinated Chang, they unwittingly undermined Tanaka’s diplomatic gains.

Saionji immediately suspected Army involvement in the bombing that demolished Chang’s train car. He told Tanaka that “discipline must be enforced through strict punishment.” He also instructed Tanaka to inform the Emperor of the plot. Tanaka promised the Emperor that he would act promptly to punish the perpetrators, but when a full report on the matter was delivered to him, because of popular sentiment and Army pressure he took no action and had the report suppressed. Saionji and the Emperor brought down the Tanaka government, and appointed a new Prime Minister, Hamaguchi Yuko.

Hamaguchi pursued foreign policies more to Saionji’s liking, but did not feel strong enough to purge the Kwantung Army of its insubordinate officers. This failure to discipline the Army marks the beginning of the rapid demise of civilian control in the affairs of Japan.

Under Hamaguchi’s leadership, and with strong backing by Saionji and the Emperor, the Japanese government successfully concluded a new round of naval limitation agreements with the US and the UK. The Navy, the Army, the press, and the major parties were strongly opposed to the terms of the treaty, which left Japan a distant third in the world (though first in the Pacific). Nevertheless, Saionji brought every power to bear on government ratification of the treaty. He won that battle, but shortly thereafter Prime Minister Hamaguchi was assassinated by a right-wing zealot. Soon after that, Ishiwara Kanji and his fellow officers engineered the military takeover of Manchuria.

Ishiwara and his co-conspirators were lionized by the public and awarded medals. Even so, when Kwantung Army commander, General Honjo, appeared before the Emperor at the end of his parade, the Emperor pointedly noted that there were rumors that the train track incident was the result of a plot by Army personnel. Was this true, he asked the embarrassed General? He was assured that it was not.[125] The Emperor knew better, but there was little that he or Saionji could do about it.

The radical assault on the government continued. In 1935, General Nagata Tetsuzan, who had taken steps to foil a variety of plots, was hacked to death by Colonel Aizawa Saburo. Aizawa’s public trial became a circus of right-wing fulmination. This was followed by a major rebellion on February 26, 1936. Hundreds of plotters were involved; assassination squads spread out in the early morning and murdered Lord Privy Seal Saito, Finance Minister Takahashi, and Army Inspector General Watanabe. Grand Chamberlain Suzuki was left for dead. Count Makino was attacked, but managed to escape. Prime Minister Admiral Okada was saved by the fact that the assassins mistook his brother for himself. Meanwhile, officers of the Imperial Guard attempted to storm the Palace and seize control of the Emperor. They were foiled by palace guard commanders.[126]

The plotters intended to force the Emperor to appoint a military government that would carry out a Showa Restoration. My readers will be surprised to learn that Ishiwara Kanji, instigator of the 1931 Manchurian Incident, leapt into action to defend the Emperor. Upon hearing of the rebellion, he headed for military headquarters:

Meeting War Minister Kawashima Yoshiyuki early on the morning of the 26th Ishiwara demanded proclamation of martial law to cope with the rebellion. To Vice Chief of Staff Sugiyama he urged that units be immediately pulled in from garrisons around Tokyo in order to concentrate a massive force to overwhelm the mutineers. Within twenty-four hours both of these measures had indeed been set in motion, and Ishiwara had been named Operations Officer of the Martial Law Headquarters, set up to coordinate plans to deal with the crisis.[127]

As the result of Ishiwara’s efforts, and the grim determination of the Emperor to resist the rebels, and the fact that the public did not rise up in their defense, the plotters surrendered. The Emperor was adamant that the perpetrators be punished, and in secret trials seventeen of the ringleaders were convicted and executed. Fifty received lesser sentences.

The February Incident was the culmination of a systematic attack on the liberal "Saionji group." Saionji and the men he placed around the Emperor—and the Emperor himself—were seen as out of step with a public opinion that increasingly supported the military. Saionji, now age 87, had repeatedly tried to withdraw from politics and cabinet formation. Members of his group, as well as the Emperor, urged him to stay involved.

When the February rebellion began, he was outside of Tokyo but in direct contact with the palace by telephone. It was decided that he should stay out of the capital, so that the rebels could not use him to force the appointment of a military cabinet. The Emperor did not sit by passively, demanding that his officials put down the revolt. He upbraided his Army Minister, declaring "All my most trusted retainers are dead and their actions are aimed directly at me…. We ourselves will lead the Imperial Guards and suppress them."[128]

He was dissuaded from such an action, but his adamant stance, plus support from Ishiwara and other military leaders, finally won the day. The rebel troops returned to their barracks; their officers comforted by the hope for a public trail that would demonstrate their sincerity and vindicate their actions. The Emperor made sure such a trail never took place. The leaders were jailed and tried in secret.

The rebellion had been quashed, but the lesson was clear: the Japanese polity was hostage to the military. Saionji now believed that it would be impossible to purge the Army, and impossible to appoint as Prime Minister any figure who did not have the Army's backing. With this in mind, he brought forward the name of someone who both he and the Emperor had earlier rejected as being too close to the Army, and too right-wing in sympathies—Konoe Fumimaro.

Konoe, however, refused to serve. He felt that Saionji wanted to use him to control the Army, halt any attempts at reform, and continue a foreign policy with which he strongly disagreed. Saionji then turned to Hirota Koki, the Foreign Minister. Hirota was close to the military, close to Konoe, and was acceptable to the Army and Navy chiefs. It is interesting to cite U.S. Ambassador Joseph Grew on the appointment of Hirota. He cabled Washington to say that, given the circumstances, Hirota was a good choice. "To have chosen an out and out liberal would have been fatal because any Prime Minister at this juncture must absolutely possess the confidence of the Army and the Navy…."[129]

Within a month, the new cabinet presented the Emperor with a drastically revised Imperial Defense Policy. To Saionji and the Emperor's dismay, Great Britain was identified as one of the greatest enemies of Japan. Vast new expenditures for both Army and Navy were proposed, and to ensure that the entire nation was mobilized for this effort, a five-year plan with enhanced government controls was adopted. This plan had been drawn up by none other than Ishiwara Kanji. Finally, the cabinet reinstated the rule that both Army and Navy ministers had to be drawn from the active ranks.

Thus, despite having a civilian at the front of the government, the Japanese military had taken control of the country. Saionji's biographer describes this denouement in terms that will be by now familiar:

Saionji, the enduring bastion of the theories of civilization and enlightenment, had changed little from the days when he… acted as Japan's Chief Plenipotentiary at Versailles. Saionji still believed that civilization was a natural development consisting of the gradual education and liberalization of society…. [H]e still believed that the conflicts in Japanese society could be resolved within the framework of parliamentary democracy and pro-Anglo/American co-operation….

Saionji had stood still and history had moved around him. If Saionji had personified bunmei kaika (civilization through enlightenment), then the new bureaucrats and the military were the heirs to the philosophy of fukoku kyohei (rich country, strong military).[130]

Japan Lurches Forward

In June 1937, Prince Konoe Fumimaro became Prime Minister of Japan. This move was welcomed by the Army, the beleaguered Emperor, and the general populace. Saionji had recommended Konoe despite his hesitations, because he felt that the Prince might be able to keep the Army in check and protect the position of the Emperor. One month after he came into office, Japanese troops clashed with Chinese troops near Peking. The Kwantung Army and its homeland allies saw this as an opportunity to seize northern China. Konoe yielded to pressure and dispatched three divisions of troops. He admonished the military to be sure not to escalate the conflict. The Army had no such intention, and within three weeks it launched a general assault.

Prime Minister Konoe began to realize that he was riding the tiger's back. Much as he wished to contain the conflict, even considering personal diplomacy with Chiang, he and his cabinet feared that Japanese troops would not respect any peace agreement. He was also unsure that Chiang could control his own forces. In August, Chinese soldiers murdered two Japanese marines in Shanghai. Konoe agreed with the Army Minister to send two divisions to defend Japanese honor. His cabinet then issued a declaration, accusing both nationalist and communist Chinese of "increasingly provocative and insulting" behavior toward Japan. The declaration ended:

In this matter, the Chinese have contemptuously inflicted every sort of awful outrage upon Imperial Japan…. Imperial Japan has at long last exhausted its patience and is now compelled to take resolute action to punish the atrocious Chinese army and to bring the Nanking government to its senses.[131]

These incidents became the basis for a full-scale war against China. Fellow Cabinet members describe Konoe as remarkably passive during their discussions of how to respond to the Chinese. Konoe's biographer suggests that his subject was shocked by how little control he had over the military, and at how factional the military itself was. One member confided to his diary, quoting Konoe, "Right now the civilian government is too weak to do anything. Worse, the military is so divided that we do not know who to deal with…."[132]

Army commanders acted on their own initiative. Even the supreme Army command thought it had the right to take actions and inform the Prime Minister afterward. In December, 1937, the Shanghai Army decided to drive toward Nanking, the Nationalist's headquarters. This was accomplished within a few weeks. Such aggressive moves were received exuberantly by an elated public and press. The Japanese army seemed invincible.

Konoe's biographer reports that the seizure of Chiang's capital left "the entire nation… lightheaded over the victory." This was the apex of Japanese military success in China, and the government's peace proposals to Chiang were suitably ambitious:

  • China would recognize the Japanese puppet regime of Manchukuo.
  • Chiang would cease cooperating with the communist forces, and join Japan in combating communism.
  • China would agree to continued Japanese occupation in certain critical areas.
  • China would allow local government in North China that would facilitate "co-prosperity" between Japan, Manchukuo, and China.
  • China would pay reparations.

And on and on, basically asking Chiang to accept Japan's large footprint in Asia, and to head a puppet regime in whatever area Japan allowed him sway. Chiang refused.[133]

Frustrated, Konoe's government announced that it would no longer deal with Chiang, but would await the development of a new regime. Meanwhile, the Army and its right-wing allies pushed a national "mobilization" bill through the Diet. This allowed the central government to control all manpower and material, and to ignore the Diet in times of war. Konoe was in despair, and asked the Emperor to allow him to resign.

Army victories continued: Hsuchow, Hankow, Canton, Wuchang, Hanyang--but still the Chinese kept on fighting. Konoe was not the only one to be frustrated, the Army wanted a settlement so that it could transfer more troops to the north in order to be prepared for combat with the Soviet Union. Attempts were made to establish a puppet Chinese government, under Nationalist defector Wang Ching-wei, but this also proved unsuccessful. Konoe, tired of being a "robot" for the military, resigned in January 1939.

Japan was now bogged down in China. Ishiwara Kanji and other right-wing theorists had imagined that Japan would be greatly strengthened by the agricultural and mineral riches of Manchuria; and that their country would be the leader of a pan-Asian force that would conquer the world. Instead, Japan was bleeding men and money into China. Its seizure of Manchuria had been condemned by the League of Nations, and it had consequently withdrawn from the League in 1933. In 1934, Japan abrogated the Naval Treaty. By 1936, Japan had lost its relationship with Britain and America. The Soviet Union was actively hostile. That left Hitler's Germany as a possible counterweight to its potential enemies.

Adolph Hitler's Asian policy had first been based upon cooperation with the Chinese Nationalists. German experts advised the Chinese, German airplanes and arms were sent to bolster the government. However, tensions with the Soviet Union were increasing, crystallized by Stalin's 1935 Comintern call for a progressive alliance against German Fascism and Japanese militarism. In November 1936 Japan and Germany signed an "Anti-Comintern" agreement in which they secretly agreed to stay neutral if either nation got into a war with the Soviet Union.

As Hitler's plans for European conquest began to form, he decided that he should strengthen his ties with the true military power in Asia--Japan--rather than a nascent power like China. He thought that a strong Japan would help keep Britain and Russia tied down, while Germany set about reordering central Europe. Therefore, in 1938 he announced that Germany would recognize the Japanese puppet regime of Manchukuo, and he started negotiations toward a strengthened alliance. The Japanese were somewhat reluctant to embrace a full alliance, and negotiations continued into 1939.

Stalin had his own plans for Japan. Due to Soviet economic and military weakness, the Stalin had had to watch Japan consolidate its power in Manchuria without offering a military response. The Soviets had even agreed to sell their share of the Chinese-Eastern railway. According to George Kennan:

Throughout the 1930s, the Japanese menace remained probably the dominant foreign-political reality on the Moscow horizon. The reactions of Stalin and his associates to events in Europe during this period will not be intelligible unless this sense of extreme danger on the eastern frontier of their power is borne in mind. [134]

Kennan says that Stalin's foreign policy was to encourage Chinese, British, and American resistance to Japanese aggression, while also seeking alliances to protect himself against Hitler. But his most important aim was to make sure that he, Stalin, stayed in power. His paranoia about rivals was so severe that he practically destroyed the Army's officer corps through massive purges during the late 30s, at the very time that he faced enemies on both his eastern and western fronts.

Despite his purges, Stalin's army won a significant battle against the Japanese in 1939, a battle that may have changed the course of the war. Since 1931, the Japanese and the Soviets had engaged in more than 180 armed clashes in the northwest Manchuria-Mongolia region. These clashes culminated in a full-scale battle of Khalkin Gol (also known as Nomonhan), in which hundreds of tanks, airplanes, and nearly 100,000 soldiers were involved. This conflict started with small engagements in May, 1939, and culminated with Japanese withdrawal in mid-September. In the end, the Soviet Army under Marshal Zhukov forced the Japanese across the border, inflicting 17,000 casualties. Several Japanese battlefield officers committed suicide, and higher-ups were transferred or retired.[135] This was a stunning loss for the Japanese Army. It dampened Army enthusiasm for "attacking north," (full-scale war with Russia) and strengthened the Navy-led "attack south" faction (war with Great Britain, France, Holland, and possibly the US). Khalkin Gol is thus regarded by some as a significant "turning point" in the Asia-Pacific War. (It is well worth noting that the knowledge of this defeat was kept from the Japanese public. Government censorship was aimed at maintaining the "invincible" image of the Army.)

The dangerous Asian situation was an important factor in Stalin's decision to agree to Germany's proposal for a non-aggression pact. The Japanese were as shocked as any other country by The Hitler-Stalin Pact, signed on August 24, 1939. The Japanese Army voiced strong feelings of betrayal by the Germans, and this military-diplomatic fiasco caused the government of Prime Minister Hiranuma to resign.

The End Game

Within eight days of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, Germany invaded Poland, and the Soviets moved in from the north. The Japanese watched while Hitler and Stalin shared the spoils of their new partnership. Some of those in leadership positions thought that Japan should try to join this new coalition of convenience. Others worried that the Soviets might attack Japan. The Army's mood became so somber that in March 1940 a high-level conference was convened. The top generals had a rare moment of agreement, deciding that if no Chinese settlement was reached by the end of that year, Japan would unilaterally withdraw her troops from most of China proper.[136]

Their mood quickly lifted. Hitler's stunning blitzkrieg had made him master of Europe by June, and Great Britain seemed certain to fall. The European threat in Asia had now evaporated. French Indochina, the Dutch East Indies, Burma, Hong Kong, Singapore—these were all virtually defenseless. If Japan could make a deal with Germany and the Soviet Union, its ability to expand south was all but guaranteed.

It is fascinating to observe the diplomatic and military jockeying that occurred between August, 1939, and December, 1941. Four nations eyed each other warily: the US, the USSR, Germany, and Japan. Great Britain had already cast her desperate lot with the United States. China was largely occupied, with the unoccupied areas divided between nationalist and communist forces, truly more of a playing-field than a player. Three of the four principals were led by strong leaders: Stalin, Hitler, Roosevelt. Japan, on the other hand was riven by military faction. Japan saw eleven changes in government between 1931-1941. Both the Emperor and the Prime Minister were figureheads, and policies were decided by a fragile military consensus to which politicians served as "front men." One Japanese scholar has termed this "a system of irresponsibility." [137]

It will be recalled that Prince Konoe had resigned in 1939, discouraged by the China quagmire, and by his own inability to govern. The Army engineered his recall in July, 1940. Against the advice of his political allies, and the misgivings of the Emperor, he appointed Matsuoka Yusoke as his foreign minister. Matsuoka was on good terms with the Army—indeed, he had been recommended by the Army. He was also popular with the Japanese public, having established himself as the man who angrily led Japan out of the League in 1933. Matsuoka was described as inventive, eloquent, headstrong, and quick to anger. Konoe knew he was not acquiring a tame cabinet member, but he hoped that Matsuoka would be able to navigate the deeply complex international waters to Japan's advantage.

Konoe and Matsuoka based their foreign policy on a document that had been drawn up by the Army. Army theorists saw Japan standing on the verge of a new world. To secure its place, it must create a New Order in Greater East Asia, based on the proper alignment of Japan-Manchukuo-China. Dubbing this the "Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere," Matsuoka publicly announced that this should also include Indochina (nominally French) and the East Indies (nominally Dutch). Within the government, it was agreed that Japan would try to secure its position in China, defuse the conflict with the Soviet Union, move troops into Indochina, and prepare for a military response from Britain and possibly the United States.

With the fall of the French government, and the creation of the Vichy regime, French Indochina was left completely vulnerable. In September, 1940, Japan pushed the local authorities to allow it to station troops in their territory. Meanwhile, Hitler had decided that a more firm alliance with Japan would secure a potential ally against the Soviets. He also hoped that this would increase US anxiety over its Pacific flank, and disrupt the growing Anglo-American alliance, which was predominantly focused on Europe. This fit nicely with Matsuoka's plans, and on September 27, 1940, the Tripartite Pact was signed. Japan, Germany, and Italy were now allied. Each pledged to recognize the other's sphere of influence. Each pledged to come to each other's aid if a new party (presumably the US) entered the fray. Each agreed that the pact did not change current relations with the Soviet Union. In fact, Germany assured Japan that it would help broker a neutrality agreement with the Russians—something that Matsuoka dearly sought.[138]

The Germans followed through on their promise. In October, Ribbentrop proposed to Stalin the idea of a conference to reach a complete understanding about spheres of influence. The German Foreign Minister suggested that Foreign Minister Molotov come to Berlin to begin negotiations. Molotov duly arrived in November.

Kennan says that the Russians overplayed their hand. Believing that Hitler needed Russian neutrality in order to defeat Britain, Stalin prepared a strong set of initial demands:

  • German troops should be removed from Finland (Germans had obtained right of transit on their way to occupied Norway)
  • Bulgaria should be regarded as within the Soviet sphere
  • Germany should allow Soviet naval bases near the Bosporus and the Dardanelles
  • Germany should accept the idea of Soviet expansion to the south, all the way to the Persian Gulf

These conditions were presented by Molotov, and later reinforced by communiqué from Moscow. Hitler decided not to respond, and instead instructed his military to begin planning for an attack on the Soviet Union. [139]

The Japanese were informed that the German-Soviet talks had failed—but they were not told that their ally Hitler had decided to invade the Soviet Union. Matsuoka was deeply disappointed and decided to embark on a round of personal diplomacy to try to redeem the situation. Traveling by train, he began his diplomacy in Berlin, journeyed on to Italy to meet with Mussolini, and continued to Moscow to meet with Soviet leaders. The Germans did not encourage him with regard to Russia, dropping hints that things were not going well. Instead, they tried to get Japan to attack Britain's base at Singapore. This action would make it all the easier for Hitler to conquer the British Isles. Hitler felt that if this victory came quickly, then the Americans would not come into the war.

Matsuoka did not find this proposition very attractive. On his journey back through Russia, he stopped in Moscow and negotiated a Neutrality agreement with Molotov and Stalin. Japan agreed to relinquish mineral extraction rights in the Northern half of Sakhalin, but otherwise made no concessions. For Japan, the pact made it less likely that the US and Russia would team up against them. Stalin, feeling that he had reduced the prospect of a combined Axis attack, was so pleased that he personally came to the station to see Matsuoka off. In one of the great ironies of the war, this neutrality agreement was honored by both sides—for different reasons—until 1945.

Matsuoka knew that the Germans would not be pleased with this development; but then Japan had reason to think that Hitler would sell them out in a second if it served his purposes. After all, the Hitler-Stalin Pact had come as a complete surprise. And in June, 1941, Hitler delivered another surprise to the Japanese and the world, through his massive invasion of Russia.

But let us return to April, 1941. A triumphant Matsuoka returns to Japan, convinced that he has played the role of world statesman. But Prime Minister Konoe has a surprise for Matsuoka. Through Japan's ambassador to the United States, Nomura Kichisaburo, Konoe has in hand what he believes to be a promising peace proposal from the United States. The proposal includes American recognition of Manchukuo, the merging of Chiang's government with the Japan-backed government of Wang, withdrawal of Japanese troops from China and mutual respect for its independence, and even an agreement that Japanese immigration to the US shall proceed "on the basis of equality with other nationals and free from discrimination." A meeting for negotiation between Roosevelt and Konoe is proposed for Honolulu, to commence as early as May.[140]

There is only one problem with document. Each side believes that it represents the starting position of the other side, but in fact it has been drawn up by two American Maryknoll priests and two mid-level Japanese officials. Ambassador Nomura knows this, but he manages to give each government the idea that the other has already agreed to the draft as the basis for negotiation. Konoe is elated by this development, and begins to line up support for the idea of a summit conference in Hawaii. But Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Roosevelt have no intention of bargaining from this draft. Throughout the next six months, Konoe continues to hope that somehow he will convince Roosevelt to meet with him and settle differences—without having to give up Japanese hegemony in East Asia. He never succeeds.

Opposition to Konoe's diplomatic initiative begins at home. Matsuoka is furious that Konoe has offered concessions behind his back. He bitterly opposes this line, believing that Japan must be firm with the Americans. Konoe is unable to wear him down, and is afraid of the Army's reaction if he overrides the Foreign Minister. In the end, Matsuoka guts the draft, replacing it with a reiteration of Japan's "co-prosperity" policy. This document is conveyed to the Americans on May 12, and found to be unacceptable.

June 22, 1941. Germany invades Russia and once again Japan is caught by complete surprise. Hurried conferences take place at the highest levels. Does this represent an opportunity for Japan? Both army and navy representatives agree that the time is right for a military occupation of all of French Indochina. This will position them well for dominance of southern China, and of the entire region, including the oil-producing Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). Matsuoka argues that, on the contrary, this is the perfect time to attack the Soviet Union. So much for "neutrality" agreements!

In the end, the formal leadership group, called the Imperial Headquarters-Cabinet Liaison Conference, agrees on the "southern" strategy. Nevertheless, it also agrees that German progress should be closely monitored. If Hitler is successful, then Japan can strike when the Russians are at their weakest. The Japanese will pluck the fruit "when the persimmon is ripe." Matsuoka is not reconciled to this decision, nor to Konoe's attempt to negotiate with the United States. He transmits a provocative statement to Hull, and informs the Soviet Ambassador that the Axis agreement takes precedence over the Japan-Soviet neutrality pact. Konoe resigns, only to form a new government without Matsuoka as Foreign Minister. The new Foreign Minister assures the Soviet Ambassador that Japan will honor the neutrality agreement, even though Germany is urging its Japanese ally to attack the Russians from the east. [141]

July 28, 1941. Japanese forces occupy all of French Indochina. The Americans are forewarned of this move through their monitoring of Japan's cable traffic. Roosevelt freezes Japanese assets in the United States. Great Britain and the Dutch East Indies government do likewise. Roosevelt places an embargo on oil exports to Japan. This was not expected by Konoe and the leadership group. The military had been certain that the US would not take drastic measures in response to the southern move. They were wrong.

The Japanese military machine is running on American oil. Over 80% of Japan's need is being met through US imports. On July 31, the navy informed the Emperor that Japan's oil stockpiles would be completely depleted in two years. Konoe had been counting on the Navy to restrain the Army from its aggressive designs. Now Navy Chief of Staff Nagano argues that if war with the US is inevitable, it should start right away.

Konoe made one more desperate attempt to avert war. He proposed a personal summit with Roosevelt--in the United States if necessary--to come to some understanding. Konoe secured backing from the Navy and the Emperor for this move. The Army reluctantly agreed, provided that Konoe adhere to the consensus foreign policy, and be prepared to go to war if his initiative failed. Konoe secretly confided to a friend that he intended to grant further concessions to the US, including withdrawal from China, using direct authority from the Emperor. His friend cautioned that he would be assassinated upon his return. Konoe agreed that this was likely, but felt that it was worth the personal risk. [142]

Roosevelt and Hull played along, even though they felt that negotiations were probably a waste of time. They also doubted that Konoe could make an agreement that was both acceptable to the US and to the militarists at home. Time was what they wanted most. Time to build more airplanes and ships; time to manufacture munitions and train new soldiers; time to rush more supplies to Great Britain and the Soviet Union. Roosevelt told Ambassador Nomura that he would like to see more details of Konoe's proposal, and he suggested that Juneau, Alaska, might be a good spot for a meeting.

On September 6, the Imperial Conference adopted the policy that would result in the attack on Pearl Harbor. The policy established a set of minimum demands that must be met through negotiations. If Konoe's negotiations did not bear fruit by mid-October, Japan would commence hostilities against the United States, the Netherlands, and the UK.

The minimum demands included a halt to the economic and oil embargoes, withdrawal of political and economic support for the Chinese Nationalist government, agreement to keep Western military forces in the Pacific at their current level, and non-interference in Japan's attempts to bring" peace" to China. In other words, to accept Japanese hegemony over China, Manchuria, and French Indo-China, and Japanese military primacy in an even broader swath of the East.

As with all Japanese policy, these tenants had been painstakingly worked through both the Army and Navy labyrinth of decision-makers and factional groups. The Imperial Conference meeting of September 6 would simply be the place where all parties, including Konoe, would nod their heads. The Emperor would "preside," perhaps ask a few questions, and largely remain silent as the "system of irresponsibility" led the Japanese people over a cliff.

Prior to the meeting, Konoe had briefed the Emperor on the policy. Alarmed, the Emperor asked what happened to the negotiations with Roosevelt. Konoe replied that, of course, negotiations were primary, and the military option was only a fall-back position if negotiations failed. The Emperor then summoned the chiefs of the Army and Navy, who also assured him that Konoe's interpretation was correct.

The next day the policy was formally proposed at the Imperial Conference. Hara Yoshimichi, the Privy Council President, observed that the plan seemed to put military action ahead of diplomacy. Standing in for the Emperor, he asked if that was the case. The Navy Minister made a reply along the lines that Konoe had stated in his private conference. Then there was silence. No other figure, including Konoe, attempted to answer the question.

The Emperor then stunned the gathering by speaking out. He stated that Hara's question was an important one, and that it was "regrettable" that none of the senior leaders had addressed it. He then read a verse that had been composed by the Emperor Meiji:

Throughout the world

Everywhere we are all brothers

Why then do the winds and waves rage so turbulently?

He stated that he had often reflected on this verse, which represented the Emperor Meiji's desire for peace, a desire that he shared. Stung by this unexpected rebuke, Navy Chief of Staff Nagano rose to defend the policy, continuing to pretend that this consensus document was not a decision to go to war.

Prime Minister Konoe made one last desperate attempt to avoid war. That very evening, he arranged a secret dinner conference with US Ambassador Joseph Grew. He told Grew that he was prepared to travel to meet Roosevelt on a moment's notice. The ship had already been prepared. He was convinced that the United States and Japan could reach a true agreement, and when that happened, he would radio back to the palace, and the Emperor would issue a rescript ordering a complete halt to all aggressive activities.

Ambassador Grew was impressed with Konoe's sincerity. He cabled back, urging his superiors to advise Roosevelt to accept the summit proposal. The State Department continued to think that an open-ended summit was a waste of time. If Japan were serious, it would begin meaningful and detailed negotiations that would be affirmed at a summit. Konoe's last push for a diplomatic solution was taken in vain.

Throughout September the Army and Navy continued to prepare for war. Konoe had hoped that the October deadline would not be observed. The Army and Navy leaders disabused him of this notion. Japan had to act soon, because of the oil embargo. Otherwise it would be conceding defeat through delay. This came to a head at a cabinet meeting on October 14. Army Minister Tojo Hideki stated that negotiations had failed, the deadline had passed. Konoe and his allies had become convinced that if the Army would only agree, in principal, to an ultimate withdrawal from China, a negotiated settlement could be reached with the US. This was brought up at the meeting and General Tojo responded heatedly:

To yield to the American demand and withdraw their troops, he exploded, would wipe out all the fruits of the China War, endanger Manchukuo, and jeopardize the governing of Korea. To accept troop withdrawal in name only would not benefit Japan either, he said. Withdrawal would mean retreat. It would depress morale. A demoralized Army would be as worthless as no Army. Our troops in China are the "heart of the matter," he persisted. Having made one concession after another, why should Japan now yield the "heart?" "If we concede this, what is diplomacy? It is surrender … a stain on the history of our empire!" [143]

At the close of this meeting, Konoe realized that he had lost the struggle with the military. He knew that many in the Navy were convinced that war with the United States would end in disaster. Yet he was not able to win Navy backing against the adamant Army stance. Navy Admiral Nagano summed up his service's abivalent attitude during this period by observing "The government has decided that if there is no war, the fate of the nation is sealed. Even if there is a war, the country may be ruined. Nevertheless, a nation that does not fight in this plight has lost its spirit and is doomed." [144]

Konoe resigned on October 16, 1941. Two days later General Tojo was appointed Prime Minister. Six weeks later, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

It seems remarkable that the Japanese could summon the collective will to undertake such a bold move. Yet it is possible to see Japan's final moves as almost foreordained, driven more by inertia than design, more from desperation than intention. The Japanese leaders gambled that perhaps the destruction of the Pacific Fleet would cripple America's military capacity. That perhaps Hitler would conquer Russia, and that the US and UK would then sue for peace. But that is not what happened.

In their hearts and their minds, both the Army and Navy leaders "knew" that this strategy would not work. Learning the lesson of World War I, the military had accepted that modern warfare was "total war," and that in total war the entire resources of each combatant would be thrown against the other, until one side was utterly defeated. They "knew" this, and yet they went into a war that pitted Japanese resources against those of the United States, Canada, and ultimately, the Soviet Union. "Doom" was indeed the most likely outcome.

Any account of the 1937-1941 "endgame" that solidified allies and opponents in World War II will of necessity reduce a very complex process to a set of vignettes about surprises and decisions, moves and counter-moves, at the elite level. After all, that is where "decisions" are made! Even so, it can also appear that many decisions are pre-ordained—whether by decisions already made, or the overwhelming weight of large social forces. Thus historian Marius Jansen observes that:

Japan had worked its way into a corner, and Japanese leaders were determined that war and possible defeat were preferable to accepting the role of a second-class power. It made no difference that they had worked themselves into this problem; retreat would be weakness, and that was unthinkable. [145]


Let me return to my original question: Why Did the United States and Japan have a war in the middle of the twentieth century?

This paper has suggested many factors that contributed to the eventual conflict:

· A deep racism among Americans and their English-speaking allies which created an insurmountable barrier against the acceptance of the Japanese people as equals on both a personal level and on a political level;

· The imperial aggressiveness of the Western nations, including Russia, Great Britain, France, and eventually the United States;

· The Japanese decision to build an Army and Navy that were suitable for offensive operations, and then used to further Japan's "line of sovereignty," and its "line of advantage";

· Japan's change of attitude toward China, from one of veneration and fear, to one of contempt and aggrandizement;

· Conversely, America's development of a "protective" attitude toward China, and an unwillingness to see Japan dominate the Chinese mainland;

· The Meiji creation of a top-down state that depended for stability on a non-elected elite which surrounded the Emperor. This system was not able to adjust as old leaders died, and it was not finally able to control its own military;

· Japan's belief that it was overpopulated, and needed room for expansion, as well as guaranteed access to resources for its people. This was not touched upon in this paper, but this belief is evidenced throughout a period when Japan's population was exploding (the population doubled in the period 1872-1930). [146]

There are other factors that can be seen as "surprises" on the world stage. The choices that Japan and other leading countries made at these junctures had dramatic and sometimes unexpected consequences. These surprises include the Chinese Revolution of 1911; the utter destructiveness in Europe of WWI; the revolution in Russia; the onset of the Great Depression; and the rise and remarkable military successes of Adolph Hitler.

One of the biggest surprises of this era is that Japan and the Soviet Union did not have a major war with each other. The "strange neutrality" of 1940-1945 was kept for different reasons by each side, despite the urging of their allies that each attack the other.

History seems to be full of such surprises, often proceeding in directions that the most wisened observers could not have predicted. Even so, it is hard for me not to agree with Akira Iriye's observation at the conclusion of his excellent study, The Origins of the Second World War in Asia and the Pacific. He observes that Japanese leaders reacted to the US oil embargo as a threat to the nation's existence. To lift the embargo, Japan would have to relinquish its hold on China, and perhaps even Manchuria. This would be tantamount to accepting defeat without firing a shot. Of the November 5, 1941 conference in which the final decision to attack the United States was made, Iriye pens this description:

… [A]ll agreed that the continuation of the existing situation was intolerable. It would, as Tojo declared, relegate Japan to the status of a third-rate nation, since the nation would become more and more subject to American power and will. It would be better to resist this power as much as possible and see how things developed. It was believed that Japan would suffer in a United States-dominated world order [my emphasis], whereas if it challenged that order, the way might be opened for an alternative arrangement of international affairs. [147]

There is every reason to believe that Japan and the United States could have avoided a war with each other, despite the initial opening to this drama. Even in the 1930s, men like Saionji Kinmochi believed that Japan's future rested with an alliance with the United States and Great Britain. Japan is not blameless in the creation of an atmosphere of hostility between the two countries. And yet it is difficult not to feel that a less aggressive and more astute foreign policy on the American side—from the very beginning—might have made a spectacular difference.


My readers will want to know what happened to each of the main characters who I have used to tell this story.

Saionji Kinmochi died in November, 1940. For the last three years of his life, he had absented himself from decision-making. But until his death he continued to express in private his dismay at the military's hold on the country, and its subsequent turn from a pro-Anglo-American foreign policy. He despaired at seeing his protégé, Konoe, made into "a puppet of the right wing." [148] His only hope was that the institution of the Emperor would be retained, so that some vestige of authority would be present when Japan came to its senses.

Prince Konoe Fumimaro took his own life in 1945, after learning that he would be tried as a war criminal.

Ishiwara Kanji died in 1949. His maverick idealism, and his penchant for being blunt had earned him a following among young officers, but a deep enmity from the Army leadership. In 1937 he had been transferred back to Manchuria as Vice Chief of Staff of the Kwantung Army. He discovered that his Army colleagues had no intention of creation a new pan-Asian paradise, and were quite content to play the role of colonial occupiers, and reap the rewards. Ishiwara denounced the Army leadership, and proposed that all officers take a paycut. He confronted General Tojo over his allocation of funds to an officers' wives club. After becoming an embarrassment to his seniors, he was shunted off to the command of a local fortress area on the seacoast near Kyoto.

Back in Japan, he began to analyze Soviet tactics at Nomonhan, proposing counterstrategies that were adopted by the Army. He continued to write, and give public addresses. He tried to form an East Asia League which would advocate a true partnership with China and Manchuria, so that Asians could prepare for the Final War. General Tojo, now risen to the highest ranks, felt that Ishiwara should be retired from the Army, but feared the reactions of young officers and right-wing activists. Finally, after Ishiwara publicly denounced Tojo as an enemy of Japan, who should "be arrested and executed," he was put on the retired list and his East Asia League was closed down. Ishiwara went back to his home province, where he continued to write and study agriculture until the end of the war.

Ishiwara was not tried as a war criminal. His biographer suggests that his opposition to Tojo, his public statements that Japan should quit China, his view of the attack on the United States as a disastrous blunder, and his post-war advocacy of peaceful rebuilding—all of this led the American authorities to leave him alone. Even so, he was called upon during the trials as a defense witness for others. He displayed his old fire in front of the American prosecutor, observing that Truman should be indicted for the mass bombing of Japanese civilians, and replaying for his audience the last 100 years of Japan-US relations. A portion of his statement can serve as a second "closing" to this paper:

Haven't you ever heard of Perry? Don't you know anything about your country's history? … Tokugawa Japan believed in isolation; it didn't want to have anything to do with other countries, and had its doors locked tightly. Then along came Perry from your country in his black ships to open those doors; he aimed his big guns at Japan and warned that "If you don't deal with us, look out for these; open your doors and negotiate with other countries too." And then when Japan did open its doors and tried dealing with other countries, it learned that all those countries were a fearfully aggressive lot. And so for its own defense it took your own country as its teacher and set about learning how to be aggressive. You might say we became your disciples. Why don't you subpoena Perry from the other world and try him as a war criminal? [149]

[1] Blind Oracles: Intellectuals and War from Kennan to Kissinger, by Bruce Kuklick, Princeton University Press, 2006, page 13.

[2]China Hails a Good Nazi and Makes Japan Take Notice, by Howard W. French, New York Times, March 15, 2006. The “good Nazi” is John Rabe, a man who helped rescue Chinese civilians during Japan’s conquest of the city of Nanjing.

[3] My account of Perry’s expedition is taken from The Making of Modern Japan, by Marius B. Jansen, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2002. Pages 257-279

[4] “The New Proposals,” by Aizawa Seishisai, cited in Sources of Japanese Tradition, compiled by Ryusaku Tsunoda, Wm. Theodore de Bary, Donald Keane, Columbia University Press, New York, 1958.  Page 601

[5] Ibid, pages 595-596

[6] The Clash: A History of U.S.Japan Relations, by Walter LaFeber, WW Nortan & Company, New York, 1997. Page 7.

[7] The making of Modern Japan, op cit, page 68

[8] Ibid, page 270

[9] Ibid, page 93

[10] Cited in Ibid, page 281

[11] The making of Modern Japan, op cit, page 282

[12] “On De-Asianization,” by Fukuzawa Yukichi, March 16, 1885, in Meiji Japan Through Contemporary Sources, Volume Three, 1869-1894, compiled and published by the Centre For East Asian Cultural Studies, Tokyo, 1972.  Page 129.

[13] Cited in The making of Modern Japan, op cit, page 283

[14] Ibid, page 338

[15] The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa, revised translation by Eiichi Kiyooka, Schocken Books, New York, 1972  (first published in 1899).  Foreword, page x.

[16] Ibid, page 122

[17] Ibid, pages 246-247

[18] “on De-Asianization” op cit, pages 131-133

[19] Yamagata Arimoto in the Rise of Modern Japan, 1838-1922, by Roger F. Hackett, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1971. Page 3

[20] Poem cited in Yamagata Aritomo, ibid, page 19

[21] Ibid, page 30

[22] Ibid, page 43

[23] Ibid, pages 65-66

[24] Ibid, page 65

[25] Ibid, page 67

[26] Ibid, page 85

[27] Ibid, page 87

[28] The Making of Modern Japan, op cit, page 327

[29] Yamagata Aritomo, op cit, page 95

[30] The Making of Modern Japan, op cit, page 394

[31] Yamagata Aritomo, op cit, page 117

[32] I found the best description of the institution of the genro to be in The Emperor’s Adviser: Saionji Kinmochi and Pre-War Japanese Politics, by Lesley Connors, Croom Helm, London, 1987, Chapter Two.

[33] Yamagata Aritomo, op cit, pages 132-133

[34] The Origins of the Russo-Japanese War, by Ian Nish, Longman, London, 1985, page 15

[35] Ibid, page 8

[36] Yamagata Aritomo, op cit, page 161

[37] The making of Modern Japan, op cit, page 407

[38] Origins of the Russo-Japanese War, op cit, page 28

[39] Yamagata Aritomo, op cit, page 169

[40] The making of Modern Japan, op cit, page 442

[41] The Great Chinese Revolution, 1800-1895, by John King Fairbank, Harper & Row, New York, 1986, page 119

[42] Origins of the Russo-Japanese War, op cit, page 31

[43] Yamagata Aritomo, op cit, page 216

[44] The Making of Modern Japan, op cit, pages 448-449

[45] The Clash: A History of U.S.Japan Relations, by Walter LaFeber, WW Nortan & Company, New York, 1997. Page 82

[46] Ibid, page 50

[47] A Diplomatic History of the American People, Ninth Edition, by Thomas A. Bailey, Prentice-Hall, New Jersey, 1974, pages 422-427

[48] Ibid, pages 428-435

[49] United States Public Law 103-150, passed November 23, 1993. I say the apology is ironic because if the U.S. ever apologized—much less atoned--for all of its various crimes against native people and minorities, Congress would be rather busy.

[50] Cited in Diplomatic History of the American People, op cit, page 454.

[51] Ibid, page 474

[52] Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of the Modern Navy, by Gordon Carpenter O'Gara, Princeton University Press, 1943. This portrait is laid out in Chapter 1.

[53] The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power, by Max Boot, Basic Books, 2002. His chapter on the Philippine War runs from 99-128. The casualty figures are given on page 125

[54] Japan By The Japanese: A Survey by its Highest Authorities, edited by Alfred Stead, Dodd, Mead, and Company, New York, 1904.  Pages vii-viii

[55] The First Great Triumph, op cit, page 470

[56] This account is taken from The Politics of Prejudice, by Roger Daniels, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA, 1962

[57] Ibid, page 27

[58] Ibid, page 28

[59] Cited in ibid, pages 38-39

[60] Cited in ibid, page 55

[61] The Zimmerman Telegram, by Barbara W. Tuchman, Ballantine Books, New York, 1979

[62] Ibid, page 5

[63] The Politics of Prejudice, op cit, page 69 Henry George was later to change his views on this subject.

[64] Ibid, page 70

[65] Ibid, page 71

[66] Ibid, page 61

[67] Ibid, page 76

[68] Ibid, page 111

[69] The Emperor’s Advisor: Saionji Kinmochi and Pre-War Japanese Politics, by Lesley Connors, Croom Helm, London, and Nissan Institute for Japanese Studies, University of Oxford, 1987. Pages 5-8

[70] cited in Ibid, page 9

[71] Cited in Ibid, pages 14-16

[72] Ibid, page 22

[73] Yamagata Aritomo, op cit, page 235

[74] Ibid, page 236

[75] The Emperor’s Advisor, op cit, page 26

[76] Yamagata Aritomo, op cit, page 263

[77] The Clash: A History of U.S.Japan Relations, by Walter LaFeber, WW Norton & Company, New York, 1997, page 99

[78] Cited in Yamagata Aritomo, op cit, page 273-274

[79] This summary is drawn from The Great Chinese Revolution, op cit, pages 155-174

[80] The story of the twenty-one demands, and Yamagata’s role in this initiative, is taken largely from Yamagata Arimoto, op cit, pages 248-290, and from The Making of Modern Japan, op cit, pages 511-516

[81] The Making of Modern China, op cit, page 516

[82] The Emperor’s Advisor, op cit, pages 54-56

[83] Cited in Yamagata Aritomo, op cit, page 284

[84] The Great Chinese Revolution, 1800-1985, op cit, pages 15-20.

[85] The United States and China, by John King Fairbank, Harvard University Press, revised edition, 1967, page 80.

[86] Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World, by Margaret Macmillan, Random House, New York, 2002, page 312

[87] Ibid, page 306

[88] The Emperor’s Advisor, op cit, page 66

[89] Cited in Paris 1919, op cit, page 340

[90] The Diplomacy of Japan, 1894-1922, Volume III, First World War, Paris Peace Conference, Washington Conference, compiled by Dr. Morinosuke Kajima, Kajima Institute of International Peace, Tokyo, 1980, page 349

[91] Ibid, page 349

[92] Ibid, page 396

[93] Ibid, pages 396-397

[94] Ibid, pages 398-399

[95] Ibid, page 418

[96] “Taisho Democracy as the Pre-Stage for Japanese Militarism,” by Kato Shuichi, in Japan in Crisis: Essays on Taisho Democracy, Edited by Bernard S. Silberman and H.D. Harootunian, Princeton University Press, 1974, page 225

[97] The Emperor’s Adviser, op cit, page 69.

[98] Ibid, page 132

[99] This background on Prince Konoe is taken from Konoe Fumimaro: A Political Biography, by Yoshitake Oka, Translated by Shumpei Okamoto and Patricia Murray, University of Tokyo Press, Tokyo, Japan, 1983

[100] Ibid, pages 11-12

[101] Ibid, page 13

[102] Ibid, page 15

[103] Ibid, page 17

[104] International Relations Between the Two World Wars, 1919-1939, by E.H. Carr, Harper Torchbooks, New York, 1966, Pages 19-21

[105] Ibid, page 139

[106] A Diplomatic History of the American People, Ninth Edition, by Thomas A. Bailey, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1974, page 665

[107] The Clash: A History of U.S.Japan Relations, by Walter LaFeber, WW Nortan & Company, New York, 1997, page 156

[108] Ishiwara Kanji and Japan's confrontation with the West, by

Mark R. Peattie. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J. 1975, page 223

[109] Ibid, page 24

[110] Ibid, page 5

[111] Making of Modern Japan, op cit, page 507

[112] Cited in Ishiwara Kanji, op cit, page 80

[113] Japanese Pride, American Prejudice: Modifying the Exclusion Clause of the 1924 Immigration Act, by Izumi Hirobe, Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA, 2001, pages 1, 29

[114] Ibid, page 29-30

[115] Ibid, page 9-10

[116] Ishiwara Kanji, op cit, page 69

[117] The Making of Modern Japan, op cit, page 526

[118] Ishiwara Kanji, op cit, page 128

[119] Ibid, page 139

[120] The Making of Modern Japan, op cit, page 582-584

[121] Ishiwara Kanji, op cit, page 177

[122] Ibid, page 198

[123] Ibid, page 166

[124] Ibid, page 167

[125] The Making of Modern Japan, op cit, page 583

[126] Ibid, page 597-599

[127] Ishiwara Kanji, op cit, page 234

[128] Cited in The Emperor’s Adviser, op cit, page 168

[129] Ibid, page 175

[130] Ibid, page 179

[131] Konoe Fumimaro, op cit, page 58

[132] Ibid, page 60

[133] Ibid, pages 67-68

[134] Soviet Foreign Policy, 1917-1941, by George F. Kennan, D. Van Nostrand Company, Princeton, NJ, 1960, pages 76-77

[135] The Making of Modern Japan, op cit, pages 627-628. See also Nomonhan, by John Colvin, Quartet Books, London, 1999

[136] Ibid, page 90

[137] Masao Maruyama, cited in Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan, by Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, the Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2005, page 4

[138] This account is taken from Konoe Fumimaro, op cit, pages 98-118

[139] Soviet Foreign Policy, op cit, pages 110-111

[140] Konoe Fumimaro, op cit, pages 119-123

[141] Racing the Enemy, op cit, pages 16-17

[142] Konoe Fumimaro, op cit, pages 139-140

[143] Cited in Ibid, page 156

[144] Making of Modern Japan, op cit, page 639

[145] Ibid, page 639

[146] The Rise and Fall of the Caucasian Race, A Political History of Racial Identity, by Bruce Baum, New York University Press, New York, 2006, page 166

[147] Origins of the Second World War in Asia, op cit, page 177

[148] The Emperor's Advisor, op cit, page 201

[149] Ishiwara Kanji, op cit, pages 352-353


LVT Fan said...

minor correction: Henry George was not a socialist! Anything but! (see for more on this, if you're curious.

While I'm not familiar with George's early writings about Chinese imigration, what you described was not at all consistent with the person he grew to be by the time his first book, Progress and Poverty (1879), was written.

Wikipedia says this:
"Some of his earliest articles to gain him fame were on his opinion that Chinese immigration should be restricted. He later retracted those early writings."

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Sweety Singh said...

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This happens only due to escort and powerful country.