Japanese dissidence during the early Shōwa period

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Kotoku Shusui, an early Japanese anarchist KotokuShusui.jpg
Kotoku Shusui, an early Japanese anarchist

Japanese dissidence during the early Shōwa period in World War II covers individual Japanese opponents to the militarist Empire of Japan before and during WWII.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Japanese militarism militaristic ideology espoused by Imperial Japan (1873-1945)

Japanese militarism refers to the ideology in the Empire of Japan that militarism should dominate the political and social life of the nation, and that the strength of the military is equal to the strength of a nation.

Empire of Japan Empire in the Asia-Pacific region between 1868–1947

The Empire of Japan was the historical nation-state and great power that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 to the enactment of the 1947 constitution of modern Japan.


Resistance before World War II

High Treason Incident

Shūsui Kōtoku, a Japanese anarchist, was critical of imperialism. He would write "Imperialism: The Specter of the Twentieth Century" in 1901. [1] In 1911, 12 people, including Shusui Kotoku, were executed for their involvement in the High Treason Incident, a failed plot to assassinate Emperor Meiji. [2] Also executed for involvement with the plot was Kanno Suga, an anarcho-feminist, and former common-law wife of Shusui.

The High Treason Incident, also known as the Kōtoku Incident, was a socialist-anarchist plot to assassinate the Japanese Emperor Meiji in 1910, leading to a mass arrest of leftists, and the execution of 12 alleged conspirators in 1911.

Emperor Meiji Emperor of Japan from 1867 until 1912

Emperor Meiji, or Meiji the Great, was the 122nd Emperor of Japan according to the traditional order of succession, reigning from 3 February 1867 until his death on 30 July 1912. He presided over the Meiji period, a time of rapid change that witnessed the Empire of Japan rapidly transform from an isolationist feudal state to an industrialized world power.

Fumiko Kaneko and Park Yeol

Fumiko Kaneko was a Japanese anarchist who lived in Japanese occupied Korea. She, along with a Korean anarchist, Park Yeol, were accused of attempting to procure bombs from a Korean independence group in Shanghai. [3] Both of them were charged with plotting to assassinate members of the Japanese imperial family. [4]

Fumiko Kaneko Japanese activist

Fumiko Kaneko or rarely Pak Fumiko, was a Japanese anarchist and nihilist. She was convicted of plotting to assassinate members of the Japanese Imperial family.

Korea under Japanese rule Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910–1945

Japanese Korea refers to the period when Korea was under Japanese rule, between 1910 and 1945.

Shanghai Municipality in Peoples Republic of China

Shanghai is one of the four municipalities under the direct administration of the central government of the People's Republic of China, the most populous city in China, and the most populous city proper in the world, with a population of 26.3 million as of 2019. It is a global financial center and transport hub, with the world's busiest container port. Located in the Yangtze River Delta, it sits on the south edge of the estuary of the Yangtze in the middle portion of the Eastern China coast. The municipality borders the provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang to the south, east and west, and is bound to the east by the East China Sea.

A photograph of the Heimin-sha (Commoners' Society), who published the Heimin Shimbun Commoners Society.JPG
A photograph of the Heimin-sha (Commoners' Society), who published the Heimin Shimbun

The Commoners' Newspaper

The Heimin Shimbun (Commoners' Newspaper) was a socialist newspaper which served as the leading anti-war vehicle during the Russo-Japanese War. It was a weekly mouthpiece of the socialist Heimin-sha (Society of Commoners). The chief writers were Kotoku Shusui and Sakai Toshihiko. When the Heimin decried the high taxes caused by the war, Sakai was sentenced to two months in jail. When the paper published The Communist Manifesto , Kotoku was given five months in prison, and the paper was shut down. [5]

<i>Heimin Shimbun</i>

Heimin Shimbun was a libertarian-socialist newspaper established in Japan at the beginning of the 20th century.

Russo-Japanese War 20th-century war between the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan

The Russo-Japanese War was fought during 1904–1905 between the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan over rival imperial ambitions in Manchuria and Korea. The major theatres of operations were the Liaodong Peninsula and Mukden in Southern Manchuria and the seas around Korea, Japan and the Yellow Sea.

<i>The Communist Manifesto</i> 1848 publication written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

The Communist Manifesto is an 1848 political pamphlet by the German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Commissioned by the Communist League and originally published in London just as the Revolutions of 1848 began to erupt, the Manifesto was later recognised as one of the world's most influential political documents. It presents an analytical approach to the class struggle and the conflicts of capitalism and the capitalist mode of production, rather than a prediction of communism's potential future forms.

The Buddhist Anarcho-Socialist

Uchiyama Gudō was a Sōtō Zen Buddhist priest and anarcho-socialist. He was one of a few Buddhist leaders who spoke out against Japanese Imperialism. Gudō was an outspoken advocate for redistributive land reform, overturning the Meiji emperor system, encouraging conscripts to desert en masse, and advancing democratic rights for all. He criticized Zen leaders who claimed that low social position was justified by karma and who sold abbotships to the highest bidder. [6]

Uchiyama Gudō was a Sōtō Zen Buddhist priest and anarcho-socialist activist executed in the High Treason Incident. He was one of few Buddhist leaders who spoke out against the Meiji government in its imperialist projects. Gudō was an outspoken advocate for redistributive land reform, overturning the Meiji emperor system, encouraging conscripts to desert en masse and advancing democratic rights for all. He criticized Zen leaders who claimed that low social position was justified by karma and who sold abbotships to the highest bidder.

After government persecution pushed the socialist and anti-war movements in Japan underground, Gudō visited Kōtoku Shūsui in Tokyo in 1908. He purchased equipment that would be used to set up a secret press in his temple. Gudō used the printing equipment to turn out popular socialist tracts and pamphlets as well as to publish some of his own work. [7] Uchiyama was executed, along with Kotoku, for their involvement with the attempted assassination of Emperor Meiji. [8] Uchiyama's priesthood was revoked when he was convicted, but it was restored in 1993 by the Soto Zen sect. [9]

Attempted assassination of Hirohito

Daisuke Nanba, a Japanese student and communist, attempted to assassinate the Prince Regent Hirohito in 1924. Daisuke was outraged by the slaughter of Koreans and anarchists in the aftermath of the Great Kantō Earthquake in late 1923. [10] The dead included his partner, anarchist Sakae Ōsugi, feminist Noe Itō, and Ōsugi's six-year-old nephew, who were murdered by Masahiko Amakasu, the future head of the Manchukuo Film Association, a film production company based in the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo. This event was known as the Amakasu incident. [11] Nanba was found guilty by the Supreme Court of Japan and hanged in November 1924. [12]

Osaka Incident

Hideko Fukuda was considered the "Joan of Arc" of the Freedom and People's Rights Movement in Japan during the 1880s. [13] She was also an editor of Sekai fujin (Women of the World), a socialist women's paper that Shūsui Kōtoku contributed articles to. In 1885, Fukuda was arrested for her involvement in the Osaka incident, a failed plan to supply explosives to Korean independence movements. This plan was designed to destabilize Korea and force a confrontation between China and Japan, leading to a revocation of the treaties between the two. Before the plan was able to be implemented, the police arrested the conspirators and confiscated the weapons before they could leave Japan for Korea. [14] Other participants in the plan included Oi Kentaro, another major figure of the Freedom and People's Rights Movement. [15]

Japanese political refugees in early 1900s America

The American West Coast, which had a large Japanese population, was a haven for Japanese political dissidents in the early 1900s. Many were refugees from the "Freedom and People's Rights Movement." San Francisco, and Oakland in particular, were teeming with such people. In 1907, an open letter addressed to "Mutsuhito, Emperor of Japan from Anarchists-Terrorists" was posted at the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco. As Mutsuhito was the personal name of Emperor Meiji, and it was considered rude to call the emperor by his personal name, this was quite an insult. The letter began with, "We demand the implementation of the principle of assassination." The letter also claimed that the emperor was not a god. The letter concluded with, "Hey you, miserable Mutsuhito. Bombs are all around you, about to explode. Farewell to you." This incident changed the Japanese government's attitude of leftist movements. [16]

Japanese resistance during the rise of militarism

Ikuo Oyama, member of the banned Labour-Farmer Party Ikuo Oyama.jpg
Ikuo Oyama, member of the banned Labour-Farmer Party

Ikuo Oyama

Ikuo Oyama was a member of the left-leaning Labour-Farmer Party, which advocated universal suffrage, minimum wages, and women's rights. Yamamoto Senji, a colleague of his, was assassinated on February 29, on the same day as he had presented testimony in the Diet regarding torture of prisoners. The Labour-Farmer Party was banned in 1928 due to accusations of having links to communism. Oyama fled Japan in 1933 to the United States as a result. He got a job at Northwestern University at its library and political science department. During his exile, he worked closely with the U.S. Government against the Empire of Japan. Oyama happily shook hands with Zhou En-lai, who fought the Japanese in the Second Sino-Japanese War. Oyama was given a Stalin Award prize on December 20, 1951. However, his colleagues begged him not to accept the award for fear that he would become a Soviet puppet. Some of his oldest friends abandoned him when he accepted it.

Modern girls

Modern girls (モダンガール,modan gāru) were Japanese women who adhered to Westernized fashions and lifestyles in the 1920s. They were the equivalent of America's flappers. [16]

This period was characterized by the emergence of young working class women with access to consumer goods and the money to buy those consumer goods. Modern girls were depicted as living in cities, being financially and emotionally independent, choosing their own suitors, and being apathetic towards politics. [17] Thus, the modern girl was a symbol of Westernization. However, after a military coup in 1931, extreme Japanese nationalism and the Great Depression prompted a return to the 19th-century ideal of good wife, wise mother.

The Salon de thé François

Cover page of first issue of the anti-fascist Doyobi newspaper, July 7, 1936 Doyohbi Kyoto 1936.gif
Cover page of first issue of the anti-fascist Doyōbi newspaper, July 7, 1936

The Salon de thé François was a western-style café established in Kyoto on 1934 by Shoichi Tateno, who participated in labour movements, and anti-war movements. [18] The cafe was a secret source of funds for the then-banned Japanese Communist Party. [19] The anti-fascist newspaper Doyōbi was edited and distributed from the café. [20]

The Takigawa Incident

In March 1933, the Japanese parliament attempted to control various education groups and circles. The Interior Ministry banned two textbooks on criminal laws written by Takigawa Yukitoki of Kyoto Imperial University. The following month, Konishi Shigenao, president of Kyoto University, was requested to dismiss Professor Takigawa. Konishi rejected the request, but due to pressure from the military and nationalist groups, Takigawa was fired from the university. This led to all 39 faculty members of Kyoto Imperial University's law faculty resigning. Furthermore, students boycotted classes and communist sympathizers organized protests. The Ministry of Education was able to suppress the movement by firing Konishi. In addition to this attempt by the Japanese government to control educational institutions, During the term of the education minister, Ichirō Hatoyama, a number of elementary school teachers were also dismissed for having what were considered dangerous thoughts". [21]

Japanese resistance during World War II

Japanese working with the Chinese resistance

Kaji Wataru Wataru Kaji 521211 Scan10010.JPG
Kaji Wataru

Kaji Wataru was a Japanese proletarian writer who lived in Shanghai. His wife, Yuki Ikeda, suffered through torture at the hands of the Imperial Japanese. She fled Japan when she was very young, working as a ballroom dancer in Shanghai to earn a living. They were friends with Chinese cultural leader Kuo Mo-jo. Kaji and Yuki would escape Shanghai when the Japanese invaded the city. Kaji, along with his wife, were involved with the re-education of captured Japanese soldiers for the Kuomintang in Chongqing during the Second Sino-Japanese War. [22]

His relationship with Chiang Kai-shek was troubled due to his anticommunism. [23] Kaji would work with the Office of Strategic Services in the later stages of the war. [24]

Sanzō Nosaka, a founder of the Japanese Communist Party, worked with the Chinese Communists in Yan'an during the Second Sino-Japanese war. He was in charge of the re-education of captured Japanese troops. Japanese Intelligence in China were desperate to eliminate him, but they always failed in their attempts. Sanzo went by the name "Susumu Okano" during the war. [25] Today, Sanzō Nosaka is considered a disgraced figure to the Japanese Communist Party when it was discovered that he falsely accused Kenzō Yamamoto, a Japanese communist, of spying for Japan. [26] Joseph Stalin executed Yamamoto in 1939. [27]

Sato Takeo was a Japanese doctor who was a member of Norman Bethune's medical team in the Second-Sino Japanese War. Norman's team was responsible for giving medical care to soldiers of the Chinese Eighth Route Army. [28]

Japanese working with the United States

Taro Yashima (real name Jun Atsushi Iwamatsu), an artist, joined a group of progressive artists, sympathetic to the struggles of ordinary workers and opposed to the rise of Japanese militarism in the early 1930s. The antimilitarist movement in Japan was highly active at the time, with posters protesting the Japanese aggression in China being widespread. [29] Following the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, however, the Japanese government began heavy handed suppression of domestic dissent including the use of arrests and torture by the Tokkō (special higher police). [29] Iwamatsu who was thrown into a Japanese prison without trial along with his pregnant wife, Tomoe, for protesting militarism in Japan. Conditions in the prison were deplorable and the two were subjected to inhumane treatment including beatings. The authorities demanded false confessions, and those who gave them were set free. [29]

Jun and Tomoe came to America to study art in 1939, leaving behind their son, Makoto Iwamatsu, who would grow up to be a prolific actor in America, with relatives. When WWII broke out, Jun joined the Office of Strategic Services as a painter. He would adopt the pseudonym Taro Yashima, to protect his son who was still in Japan. Jun would continue to use his pseudonym when he wrote children's books, such as Crow Boy, after the war. [30]

Eitaro Ishigaki was an issei painter who immigrated to America from Taiji, Wakayama, in Japan. In the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War, and the Pacific War, he painted anti-war, and anti-fascism artwork. [31]

His painting Man on the Horse (1932) depicted a plain-clothed Chinese guerrilla confronting the Japanese army, heavily equipped with airplanes and warships. It became the cover of New Masses, an American communist journal. Flight (1937) was a painting that depicted two Chinese women escaping Japanese bombing, running with three children past one man lying dead on the ground. [32] During the war, he worked for the United States Office of War Information along with his wife, Ayako. [33]

Yasuo Kuniyoshi was an issei anti-fascist painter based in New York. In 1942, he raised funds for the United China Relief to provide humanitarian aid to China when it was still at war with Japan. [34] Time magazine ran an article featuring Yasuo Kuniyoshi, George Grosz, a German anti-Nazi painter, and Jon Corbino, an Italian painter, standing behind large unflattering caricatures of Hirohito, Hitler, and Mussolini. [35] Yasuo Kuniyoshi showed opposition to Tsuguharu Foujita's art show at the Kennedy Galleries. During WWII, Tsuguharu Foujita painted propaganda artwork for the Empire of Japan. Yasuo called Foujita a fascist, imperialist, and expansionist. [36] Yasuo Kuniyoshi would work for the Office of War Information during WWII, creating artwork that depicted atrocities committed by the Empire of Japan, even though he was himself labeled an "enemy alien" in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. [37]

Japanese working with the British

Oka Shigeki was an issei journalist for the Yorozu Choho, and a friend of Toshihiko Sakai. Oka would welcome Kotoku when he arrived in Oakland. [38] He was a member of the Seakai Rodo Domeikai (World Labour League). [39] In 1943, the British Army hired Shigeki Oka to print propaganda materials in Calcutta, such as the Gunjin Shimbun (Soldier News). [40]

The SOAS, University of London in London was used by the British Army to train soldiers in Japanese. The teachers were usually Japanese citizens who had stayed in Britain during the war, as well as Canadian Nisei. When Bletchley Park, Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS), was concerned about the slow pace of the (SOAS), started their own Japanese-language courses at Bedford in February 1942. The courses were directed by Royal Army cryptographer, Col. John Tilstman, and retired Royal Navy officer, Capt. Oswald Tuck. [41]

The Sorge spy ring

Hotsumi Ozaki Hotsumi Ozaki.JPG
Hotsumi Ozaki

Richard Sorge was a Soviet military intelligence officer who conducted surveillance in both Germany and Japan, working under the identity of a Japanese correspondent for the German newspaper Frankfurter Zeitung. He arrived in Yokohama in 1933 and recruited two journalists: Asahi Shimbun journalist Hotsumi Ozaki, who wanted successful communist revolutions in both China and Japan; [42] and Yotoku Miyagi in 1932 who translated Japanese newspaper articles and reports into English and created a diverse network of informants.

In 1941, he relayed to the Soviet Union that Prime minister Konoe Fumimaro had decided against an immediate attack on the Soviets, choosing instead to keep forces in French Indochina (Vietnam). This information allowed the Soviet Union to reallocate tanks and troops to the western front without fear of Japanese attacks. Later that year, both Sorge and Ozaki were discovered to be guilty of treason (espionage) and were executed three years later in 1944. [43]

Pacifist resistance

Kagawa Toyohiko, Christian pacifist KAGAWA Toyohiko young.JPG
Kagawa Toyohiko, Christian pacifist

Pacifism was one of the many ideologies targeted by the Tokko. Pacifists such as George Ohsawa, the founder of the Macrobiotic diet, was thrown in jail for his anti-war activities in January 1945. While in prison, he suffered through harsh treatment. When he was finally released, one month after the bombing of Hiroshima, he was gaunt, crippled, and 80% blind. [44] Toyohiko Kagawa, a Christian pacifist, was arrested in 1940 for apologizing to the Republic of China for Japan's occupation of China. [45]

A Diary of Darkness

Kiyosawa Kiyoshi was an American-educated commentator on politics and foreign affairs who lived in a time when Japanese militarists rose to power. He wrote a diary as notes for a history of the war, but it soon became a refuge for him to criticize the Japanese government. Opinions he had to repress publicly. It chronicles growing bureaucratic control over everything from the press to people's clothing. Kiyosawa showed scorn on Tojo and Koiso. He laments the rise of hysterical propaganda and relates his own and his friends' struggles to avoid arrest. He also recorded the increasing poverty, crime, and disorder. He traces the gradual disintegration of Japan's war effort and the looming certainty of defeat. His diary was published under the name A Diary of Darkness: The Wartime Diary of Kiyosawa Kiyoshi, in 1948. It is today regarded as a classic. [46]

Nisei involvement in Japanese resistance

Karl Yoneda was a nisei born in Glendale, California. Before World War II, he went to Japan to protest the Japanese invasion of China with Japanese militants. Toward the end of 1938 he was involved with protests of war cargo heading to Japan along with Chinese and Japanese militants. [47] He would join the United States Military Intelligence Service in the war. [48]

Koji Ariyoshi was a nisei sergeant in the U.S. Army during WWII, and an opponent of Japanese militarism. He was a member of the United States Dixie Mission, where he met Sanzo Nosaka and Mao Zedong. [49] During the war, he also met with Kaji Wataru in Chongqing, hearing about him when he was in Burma. [50] Koji Ariyoshi would form the Hawaii-China People's Friendship Association in 1972. [51]

Sōka Kyōiku Gakkai resistance

The renowned educator Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, based on the teachings of the 13th century religious revolutionary Nichiren Daishonin, attributed the various troubles Japan was experiencing to the acceptance of Nembutsu and other false religious doctrines which slander human life. His religious beliefs compelled him to take a stand against the government, earning him a reputation as a political dissident. [52] :14–15 His faith in Nichiren Buddhism motivated him toward "active engagement to promote social good, even if it led to defiance of state authority". [53] Consequently, Makiguchi (as its leader) and the lay organization following the Daishonin's teachings (the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai) soon attracted the attention of the Special Higher Police (similar to the Nazi Gestapo).

In 1943, Makiguchi and the lay organization were instrumental in persuading their priesthood - Nichiren Shōshū - to refuse a government-sponsored mandate to merge with Nichiren Shū based on the 'Religious Organizations Law' which had been established in 1939. [54] As the war progressed, the Japanese government ordered that a talisman (object of devotion) from the Shinto religion should be placed in every home and temple. Bowing to the militaristic regime, the Nichiren Shōshū priesthood agreed to accept the placing of a talisman inside its head temple. Defending the purity of the Daishonin's teachings, Makiguchi and the Soka Gakkai leadership openly refused. [54] During his prison interrogation by the thought police, Makiguchi shared that his group had destroyed at least 500 of the talismans, a seditious act in those days. [55]

In 1942, a monthly magazine published by Makiguchi called Kachi Sōzō (価値創造, "Creating Value") was shut down by the militaristic government, after only nine issues. Makiguchi, his disciple Josei Toda, and 19 other leaders of the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai (Value Creating Education Society) were arrested on July 6, 1943 on charges of breaking the Peace Preservation Law and lèse-majesté: for "denying the Emperor's divinity" and "slandering" the Ise Grand Shrine.

With its leadership decimated, the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai was forced to disband. [56] [57] During interrogation, Makiguchi insisted that "The emperor is an ordinary man ... the emperor makes mistakes like anyone else". [58] :40–41 The treatment in prison was harsh, and within a year, all but Makiguchi, Josei Toda, and one more director had recanted and been released. [56] On November 18, 1944, Makiguchi died of malnutrition in prison, at the age of 73. Toda was released after the war and rebuilt the lay organization together with his disciple Daisaku Ikeda. The movement for peace, culture and education spread worldwide and is known today as the Soka Gakkai International (SGI).

The details of Makiguchi's indictment and subsequent interrogation were covered in July, August, and October (1943) in classified monthly bulletins of the Special Higher Police. [59] However, some historians have differing interpretations about Makiguchi's resistance to the government. Ramseyer postulated in 1965 that Makiguchi attracted the attention of the government's Special Police due to the aggressive propagation efforts of some of his followers. [56] [60] Other scholars, examining both Makiguchi's indictment and his interrogation records, point to his consistent opposition to the existing government. [61] [62] [63]

See also

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