Kōki Hirota

Last updated
Kōki Hirota
廣田 弘毅
Kohki Hirota suit.jpg
21st Prime Minister of Japan
In office
9 March 1936 2 February 1937
Monarch Shōwa
Preceded by Keisuke Okada
Succeeded by Senjūrō Hayashi
Personal details
Born(1878-02-14)14 February 1878
Chūō-ku, Fukuoka, Japan
Died23 December 1948(1948-12-23) (aged 70)
Sugamo Prison, Japan
Cause of death Execution by hanging
Political party Independent
Spouse(s)Shizuko Hirota
Alma mater Tokyo Imperial University
Signature HirotaK kao.png

Kōki Hirota(廣田 弘毅,Hirota Kōki, 14 February 1878 23 December 1948) was a Japanese diplomat and politician who served as the 32nd Prime Minister of Japan from 9 March 1936 to 2 February 1937. Originally his name was Jōtarō(丈太郎). He was executed for war crimes committed during World War II in the Tokyo Trials.

Diplomat person appointed by a state to conduct diplomacy with another state or international organization

A diplomat is a person appointed by a state to conduct diplomacy with one or more other states or international organizations. The main functions of diplomats are: representation and protection of the interests and nationals of the sending state; initiation and facilitation of strategic agreements; treaties and conventions; promotion of information; trade and commerce; technology; and friendly relations. Seasoned diplomats of international repute are used in international organizations as well as multinational companies for their experience in management and negotiating skills. Diplomats are members of foreign services and diplomatic corps of various nations of the world.

A politician is a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking office in government. Politicians propose, support and create laws or policies that govern the land and, by extension, its people. Broadly speaking, a "politician" can be anyone who seeks to achieve political power in any bureaucratic institution.

Prime Minister of Japan Head of government of Japan

The Prime Minister of Japan is the head of government of Japan and the commander-in-chief of the Japanese Armed Forces. The Prime Minister is appointed by the Emperor of Japan after being designated by the National Diet and must enjoy the confidence of the House of Representatives to remain in office. He is the Chairman of the Cabinet and other Ministers of State serve at the pleasure of the Prime Minister. The literal translation of the Japanese name for the office is Minister for the Comprehensive Administration of the Cabinet.


Early life

Name plate of Suikyo Shrine written by Hirota at the age of 11 Name plate of Suikyo Shrine.jpg
Name plate of Suikyo Shrine written by Hirota at the age of 11

Hirota was born in Kaji-machi dori(鍛冶町通り) in what is now part of Chūō-ku, Fukuoka city, Fukuoka Prefecture. His father was a stonemason whose family name was Tokubei (徳平), and who was adopted into the Hirota family. Tokubei married Take (タケ), a daughter of the president of a Japanese noodle company. On 14 February 1878, the couple had a son, whom Tokubei named Jōtarō(丈太郎). They later had three more children. Tokubei's name is engraved on the epigraph which recognized masons who contributed to the construction of a statue of Emperor Kameyama in Higashi kōen (東公園) in Fukuoka city.

Chūō-ku, Fukuoka Ward in Kyushu, Japan

Chūō-ku (中央区) is one of the seven wards of Fukuoka city in Japan. The ward is located in the center of the city.

Fukuoka Prefecture Prefecture of Japan

Fukuoka Prefecture is a prefecture of Japan on Kyūshū Island. The capital is the city of Fukuoka. As of 2018, it is the ninth most populated prefecture in Japan.

Noodle Staple food made from unleavened dough, commonly long and thin

Noodles are made from unleavened dough which is rolled flat and cut, or extruded, into one of a variety of shapes. Noodle shapes include long, thin strips, helices, tubes, strings, shells, or other shapes. Noodles can be refrigerated for short-term storage or dried and stored for future use.

Hirota's writing was recognized as good from a young age; the name plate of the torii gate of Suikyo Shrine was written by Hirota when he was 11. [1] [2] After attending Shuyukan, he continued his education at Tokyo Imperial University and graduated with a law degree. One of his classmates was postwar Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida.

<i>Torii</i> traditional Japanese gate

A torii is a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found at the entrance of or within a Shinto shrine, where it symbolically marks the transition from the mundane to the sacred.

Fukuoka Prefectural Shuyukan High School

Fukuoka Prefectural Shuyukan Senior High School is a co-educational public senior high school in Fukuoka, Fukuoka, Japan.

Shigeru Yoshida Prime minister of Japan

Shigeru Yoshida, KCVO was a Japanese diplomat and politician who served as Prime Minister of Japan from 1946 to 1947 and from 1948 to 1954. Yoshida was one the longest serving PMs in Japanese history, and is the third-longest serving Prime Minister of Post-occupation Japan.

Diplomatic career

After graduation, Hirota entered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to become a career diplomat, and served in a number of overseas posts. In 1923, he became director of the Europe and America Department within the Foreign Ministry. After serving as minister to the Netherlands, he was ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1928 to 1932.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Japan) Runs the diplomatic relations of Japan with other countries

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a cabinet-level ministry of the Japanese government responsible for the country's foreign relations.

Netherlands Constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Europe

The Netherlands is a country located mainly in Northwestern Europe. The European portion of the Netherlands consists of twelve separate provinces that border Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, with maritime borders in the North Sea with Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. Together with three island territories in the Caribbean Sea—Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba—it forms a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The official language is Dutch, but a secondary official language in the province of Friesland is West Frisian.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

In 1933, Hirota became Foreign Minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Saitō Makoto, just after Japan withdrew from the League of Nations. He retained the position in the subsequent cabinet of Admiral Keisuke Okada.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan is the Cabinet member responsible for Japanese foreign policy and the chief executive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Saitō Makoto Japanese admiral

Viscount Saitō Makoto, GCB was a Japanese naval officer and politician.

League of Nations 20th-century intergovernmental organisation, predecessor to the United Nations

The League of Nations, abbreviated as LN or LoN, was an intergovernmental organisation founded on 10 January 1920 as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first worldwide intergovernmental organisation whose principal mission was to maintain world peace. Its primary goals, as stated in its Covenant, included preventing wars through collective security and disarmament and settling international disputes through negotiation and arbitration. Other issues in this and related treaties included labour conditions, just treatment of native inhabitants, human and drug trafficking, the arms trade, global health, prisoners of war, and protection of minorities in Europe. At its greatest extent from 28 September 1934 to 23 February 1935, it had 58 members.

As Foreign Minister, Hirota negotiated the purchase of the Chinese Eastern Railway in Manchuria from Russian interests. He also promulgated the Hirota Sangensoku (the Three Principles by Hirota) on 28 October 1935 as the definitive statement of Japan's position towards China. The three principles were the establishment of a JapanChinaManchukuo bloc, the organization of a Sino-Japanese common front against the spread of communism, and the suppression of anti-Japanese activities within China. [3] Hirota argued that warlordism and Chinese Communism represented a ‘festering sore deep down in the bosom of Eastern Asia’ that threatened ‘all Asian races with sure and inescapable death’: further military engagement in China was, according to Hirota, ‘heroic surgery’ rather than invasion. [4]

Chinese Eastern Railway railway line

The Chinese Eastern Railway or CER(Chinese: trad. 東清鐵路, simp. 东清铁路, Dōngqīng Tiělù; Russian: Китайско-Восточная железная дорога or КВЖД, Kitaysko-Vostochnaya Zheleznaya Doroga or KVZhD), also known as the Chinese Far East Railway, Trans-Manchurian Railway and North Manchuria Railway, is the historical name for a railway across Manchuria.

Manchuria geographic region in Northeast Asia

Manchuria is a name first used in the 17th century by Japanese people to refer to a large geographic region in Northeast Asia. Depending on the context, Manchuria can either refer to a region that falls entirely within the People's Republic of China or a larger region divided between China and Russia. "Manchuria" is widely used outside China to denote the geographical and historical region. This region is the traditional homeland of several ancient groups, including the Buyeo, Xianbei, Shiwei, Khitan, and Jurchen peoples, who built several states within the area historically. Several modern ethnic groups such as Mongols, Koreans, and Han Chinese also regard as Manchurian Indigenous peoples.

Russia transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia

Russia, or the Russian Federation, is a transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and North Asia. At 17,125,200 square kilometres (6,612,100 sq mi), Russia is by a considerable margin the largest country in the world by area, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area, and the ninth most populous, with about 146.79 million people as of 2019, including Crimea. About 77% of the population live in the western, European part of the country. Russia's capital, Moscow, is one of the largest cities in the world and the second largest city in Europe; other major cities include Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and Nizhny Novgorod. Extending across the entirety of Northern Asia and much of Eastern Europe, Russia spans eleven time zones and incorporates a wide range of environments and landforms. From northwest to southeast, Russia shares land borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea. It shares maritime borders with Japan by the Sea of Okhotsk and the U.S. state of Alaska across the Bering Strait. However, Russia recognises two more countries that border it, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both of which are internationally recognized as parts of Georgia.

Prime minister

List of Ideological Criminal Probation Offices installed by Ideological Criminal Probation Act established under Koki Hirota regime of Imperial Japan in 1936. List of Ideological Criminal Probation offices in Imperial Japan (Si Xiang Fan Bao Hu Guan Cha Suo Yi Lan , Da Ri Ben Di Guo ).jpg
List of Ideological Criminal Probation Offices installed by Ideological Criminal Probation Act established under Kōki Hirota regime of Imperial Japan in 1936.

In 1936, with the radical factions within the Japanese military discredited following the 26 February Incident, Hirota was selected to replace Okada as Prime Minister of Japan. Hirota placated the military by reinstating the system by which only active-duty army or navy officers could serve in the Cabinet posts of war minister or navy minister. The military had abused this system in the past to bring down civilian governments.[ citation needed ]

In terms of foreign policy, the Anti-Comintern Pact with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy was signed during his premiership. This treaty was the predecessor to the Tripartite Pact of 1940.

Hirota's term lasted for slightly less than a year. He resigned after a disagreement with Hisaichi Terauchi, who was serving as the war minister, over a speech by Kunimatsu Hamada. Kazushige Ugaki was appointed as his successor, but was unable to form the government due to army opposition. In February 1937, Senjūrō Hayashi was appointed to replace Hirota as prime minister.

Second diplomatic career

Hirota soon returned to government service as foreign minister under Hayashi's successor, Prince Konoe Fumimaro. During his second term as foreign minister, Hirota strongly opposed the military's aggression against China, which completely undermined his efforts to create a Japan-China-Manchukuo alliance against the Soviet Union. He also spoke out repeatedly against the escalation of the Second Sino-Japanese War. The military soon tired of his criticism and forced his retirement in 1938.

In 1945, however, Hirota returned to government service to lead Japanese peace negotiations with the Soviet Union. At the time, Japan and the USSR were still under a non-aggression pact, even though the other Allied Powers had all declared war on Japan. Hirota attempted to persuade Joseph Stalin's government to stay out of the war, but he ultimately failed; the Soviet Union declared war on Japan in between the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Koki Hirota listening to his death sentence being read by Sir William Webb, 1948 Hirota Koki.jpg
Koki Hirota listening to his death sentence being read by Sir William Webb, 1948

Final days

Following Japan's surrender, Hirota was arrested as a Class A war criminal and brought before the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. He offered no defense and was found guilty of the following charges:

He was sentenced to death by hanging, and was executed at Sugamo Prison. The severity of his sentence remains controversial, as Hirota was the only civilian executed as a result of the IMTFE proceedings. It is often stated that the main factor in his death sentence was the fact that he was party to information about what is now known as the Nanjing Massacre, which info he allegedly telegraphed to the Japanese embassy in Washington, D.C. [ citation needed ]

As foreign minister, Hirota received regular reports from the War Ministry about the military's atrocities, but lacked any authority over the offending military units themselves. Nonetheless, the tribunal condemned Hirota's failure to insist that the Japanese Cabinet act to put an end to the atrocities. [5] Other possible factors in Hirota's sentence included his signing of the Tripartite Alliance, and the antipathy of China's Kuomintang government towards the Hirota Sangensoku, which they viewed as providing justification for Japan's aggression against China in the Second Sino-Japanese War (which began during Hirota's second term as Foreign Minister).[ citation needed ]



  1. 城山三郎1974『落日燃ゆ(新潮社)--Saboro Shiroyama 1974 Rakujitsu moyu
  2. 『水鏡天満宮』福岡市中央区HP (Fukuoka city Chuo ward HP (Japanese)) Archived 2013-08-02 at the Wayback Machine
  3. Stephen Lyon Endicott, Diplomacy and enterprise: British China policy, 1933–1937, p. 118
  4. Japan: A Modern History, James L. McClain (2002), p.450
  5. The Complete Transcripts of the Proceedings of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, reprinted in R. John Pritchard and Sonia Magbanua Zaide (eds.), The Tokyo War Crimes Trial, vol. 20, 49,816 (R. John Pritchard and Sonia Magbanua Zaide, eds. Garland Publishing: New York and London 1981)


Political offices
Preceded by
Kosai Uchida
Minister of Foreign Affairs
September 1933 – April 1936
Succeeded by
Hachirō Arita
Preceded by
Keisuke Okada
Prime Minister of Japan
March 1936 – February 1937
Succeeded by
Senjūrō Hayashi
Preceded by
Naotake Satō
Minister of Foreign Affairs
June 1937 – May 1938
Succeeded by
Kazushige Ugaki

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