Chapter 1: The Emperor and the University of Tokyo(Takashi Tachibana, Publisher, Bungeishunju)
This book runs to 1,500 pages in the upper and lower volumes, and I have summarized, edited, and described the parts of the book that I consider important. The book provides an overview of the formation of Japan since the Meiji Era (around 1868), reading modern history from the perspective of the changes in the University of Tokyo, the center of education in Japan. It also provides an understanding of the peculiar currents of the times during the transition from the Edo period to the Meiji period. The Imperial Household and the Emperor System are also analyzed from an unbiased standpoint. The content of this period is definitely necessary when considering the existence of the Emperor in the modern age. I have quoted from Takashi Tachibana’s book because I do not live to think about such things on a daily basis.
- Takashi Tachibana, Author
- Outline from the Meiji Restoration to the end of the war (World War II)
- Now is the time for Japanese people to relearn modern history
- Catching up with Europe and the United States
- Yukichi Fukuzawa’s Private University
- The beginning of a retrogression of the times
- The Regeneration of Japanese Historiography
- A Return to Conventional Historiography Again
- Sakuzo Yoshino, a shining standard-bearer of Taisho democracy
- Shinkichi Uesugi is a rare emperor-centrist
- The Claims of Emperor-Organ Theory
- The Origin of the Meiji Constitution: The Theory of the Divine Granting of Kingship and the Modern Name “Emperor“
- Christian Tadao Yanaihara’s article “Nostalgic and Progressive of the Japanese Spirit”
- Newspaper reporter Sorge’s view
- Opinion of the Emperor
- Post World War II
- Speech by Shigeru Nanbara delivered at the “Kigensetu Ceremony” on February 11, 1946
- Considering the Symbolic Emperor from the Age of 2022
Takashi Tachibana, Author
His parents were nondenominational Christians. His father was baptized while a student at Waseda University, while his mother was baptized in the chapel of Kassui Girls’ School after her marriage. There was a teacher at Kassui Girls’ School named Takesuke Minatogawa, who became a nondenominationalist under the influence of Kanzo Uchimura, a known nondenominationalist Christian. Strongly influenced by him, his parents later became nondenominational. Since there is no baptism in nondenominationalism, he was baptized before he became a nondenominational. For the record, Takashi Tachibana is neither non-denominational nor a Christian, although he is strongly influenced by Christianity.
Outline from the Meiji Restoration to the end of the war (World War II)
From the Meiji Restoration to the end of the war (World War II), there were various incidents. In order to give a brief overview, I have summarized the year, the name of the incident, and the events that took place in Japan. The events are listed in chronological order. Some of them are important, but I will discuss them separately.
The first University of Tokyo, or the University of Tokyo before the Imperial University, was established in 1877. The new Meiji government established the Tokyo Imperial University in order to help Japan get on its feet as a modern nation as quickly as possible. This university was dedicated to the intake of Western civilization and the training of human resources. And the period from the late modern era (late Meiji era) to the early modern era (until 1945) can be called the “Age of Empire” when Japan called itself the “Empire of Japan”. During this period, the University of Tokyo called itself “Imperial University” (from 1897, “Tokyo Imperial University”) and played a central role in training personnel for high-level bureaucrats such as government administrators and diplomats in imperial Japan.
The Constitution of the Empire of Japan was promulgated on February 11, 1889. The central ideology of the Meiji Restoration was the reverence for the Emperor. The basic idea was to return the basic structure of the nation from the samurai government centered on the shogunate to the Emperor’s parental government as in ancient times. This was realized in an instant as a palace revolution (coup) in 1868 with the “Great Decree of Restoration of the Monarchy.”
# The idea of “reverence for the Emperor” means to respect the emperor and repel foreign enemies.
The Sino-Japanese War was fought between Japan and the Qing Dynasty from July 25, 1894 to April 17, 1895. This was followed by the Russo-Japanese War. That war took place from February 1904 to September 1905 between the Empire of Japan and the Russian Empire, which had a policy of southward expansion.
In 1918, a university ordinance was created (and came into effect in 1919), and universities other than the Imperial University were officially recognized for the first time. Although one might think that there had been private universities such as Waseda University and Keio University before that, these private universities were not officially recognized as universities under the law, but as technical colleges that were allowed to use the name of “university.”
The “Great Kanto Earthquake” occurred on September 1, 1923, causing extensive damage in the southern Kanto region and adjacent areas. With an estimated 105,000 dead or missing, it was the largest earthquake disaster in Japan since 1868.
During the Taisho Democracy (1912-26), politics had reached the level of party politics, an aspect of modern constitutional monarchy, but the May 15 Incident marked the end of the party cabinet. Young armed naval officers stormed into the Prime Minister’s official residence and killed the Prime Minister, Tuyoshi Inukai. The military was transformed into an organization that was uncontrollable by the Emperor, as a series of military outbursts followed, including the February 26 Incident and the China Incident. 2/26 Incident was an attempted coup in Japan that took place between Wednesday, February 26 and Saturday, February 29, 1936. Influenced by the Imperialist faction, young army officers led 1,483 non-commissioned officer and soldiers in an uprising. They attacked government officials and occupied Nagatacho, Kasumigaseki, and other areas. Eventually, the situation was settled when the young officers returned the enlisted men to their original units and surrendered. However, some soldiers committed suicide.
The armed clash between the armies of Japan and China that began with the Marco Polo Bridge Incident on July 7, 1937 was effectively the start of war, but Japan did not declare war and called it the Shina Incident. On December 8, 1941, Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor in the U.S., plunging Japan into the Pacific War. The war ended on August 15, 1945. This marked the end of the Emperor System, the system of modern Japan.
In Japan just prior to the outbreak of World War II, the contradictions of the emperor system erupted repeatedly in the form of problems with the national system. Then, radical-minded emperor-centrists, under the guise of the “Kokutai Meicho Movement” (National Identity Movement), almost achieved a bloodless coup. The groups that promoted this emperor-centered approach were linked to the military, and after the China incident, a national mobilization system was created. It was so-called Japanese-style fascism led by the military. Japan finally spiraled out of control and entered the war against Britain and the U.S. In 1945, the Emperor decided to end the war. In other words, the Emperor regained control of the situation through the exercise of his command over the military.
#Kokutai Meicho Movement is a movement to clarify that the state of the nation is Emperor-centered. Specifically, it was accomplished by eliminating the “emperor-organ theory,” in which the military and the right wing promote parliamentary politics.
Now is the time for Japanese people to relearn modern history
The author of this book, Takashi Tachibana, says the following Now is the time for the Japanese people to relearn modern history. Due to the astonishing flaws in the Japanese educational system, the majority of modern Japanese have grown up without knowledge of modern history. I(Takashi Tachibana) thought I knew more about history than most people, but I realized how little I knew about modern history. In a nutshell, modern Japan is a nation built on the death of the Empire of Japan. The connection between the Empire of Japan and modern Japan seems to have been severed long ago, but in fact it is still connected by countless threads. The corpse of the Empire of Japan seems to have long ago decayed and decomposed back into the earth, but in fact, a significant portion of it has been reabsorbed into the body of modern Japan as nutrients, and is once again a constituent component. Or, they have not decomposed and remain intact. Or there are even parts that have been resurrected and are still alive. History is not so easily broken. How and why did the Empire of Japan die? How did the Empire, one of the greatest in the world, disappear? What was the critical time period that determined its extinction? Without understanding these questions, the future of Japan will not be clear.
The greatest actor in Japan’s modern history has been, above all, the emperor. This does not mean that individual emperors of each period have played such a major role. It is that the concept of the Emperor, or the Emperor as an institution, has played a central role. As the reigning monarch of the “Empire of Japan,” the emperor was similar in character to the absolutist monarchs who reigned in Europe a generation earlier. He was also a shaman king who reigned over Japan in mythical times. He was also unique in that he was a military king who established political power through a military revolution known as the “Taika-no-kaishin” in ancient Japan.
Trying to define the existence of the emperor is very difficult because of the many different ways in which the emperor is projected by those who wish to worship him. For this reason, the emperor has functioned as a uniquely Japanese political system with a multifaceted character. This holy symbol was revered as the highest value of the Japanese nation and became the principle that governed the lives of the Japanese people. In this era, denying the idea of “Emperor-Organ Theory” became affirming the concept of “kokutai,” and Japan rapidly changed to such a social system. It was a time when this concept of “kokutai” magically ruled Japan.
# The term “kokutai” refers to the system of legitimacy of the Emperor’s rule under the Meiji Constitution. It was used as a concept to express the superior national character ruled by the emperor of an unbroken imperial line.
# Shaman King is the King of Prayer.
Catching up with Europe and the United States
Hirobumi Ito created the Meiji Constitution. In later years, looking back on the education they received when they were young, he said.
“Today, you are studying at universities. When we were young, there were no schools or teachers to teach us such things, and we could only read a few books such as Japanese history books, Chinese history books, and military books. Even this was not easy to master.” (Hirobumi Ito speaks directly, Published in 1936)
“The studies we studied when we were young were Confucian literature and history books, and if we learned a little arithmetic on top of this, it was assumed to be sufficient. The only history books we could read were the history of Japan and the history of the Han Dynasty, and it was not possible to study the history of other peoples at that time.” (Hirobumi Ito speaks directly, Published in 1936)
The lack of any information about the world and the prevailing ideology of exclusion of foreigners in Japan made such research impossible. As of ten to fourteen or five years before the Meiji Restoration, the debate was not constant as to whether Japan should open its country to diplomacy or not. At times, some argued for the cessation of diplomacy with Christian countries, while at other times they argued for the abolition of the national seclusion order and the opening of diplomatic relations with foreign countries. Even when there was an opinion to start diplomacy with other countries, it was divided into several factions, and the argument for exclusion of foreigners was overwhelmingly dominant.
At this time, importing European civilization was a dream come true. However, if we had not been able to import European civilization at that time, many of the studies that exist today would not have existed in Japan. At that time, if you wanted to learn Western studies, you could not find any translated books. There were some artillery or castle-building books, but they were few in number and very old. Even if Japanese people read them, they could not fully understand and explain them in an easy-to-understand manner. There were few people in Japan who were willing to study European studies. But a few visionary intellectuals thought that we must raise up a few brilliant people and let them run the nation. (Hirobumi Ito speaks directly, Published in 1936)
Western studies in Japan often refer to the flow of medicine, starting with the translation of “Taher Anatomia” by Genpaku Sugita and his colleagues in 1774 and the publication of “Kaitai Shinsho” (anatomy medical book). In addition to medicine, another important flow of Western studies was actually astronomy. These two streams of Western studies created the origin of the University of Tokyo.
# “Kaitai Shinsho” is an anatomy book written in Japanese and published in 1774.
Astronomy was called astronomical calendar science in Japan. The most important task was to create a correct calendar. The Japanese calendar was imported from Tang of China in the Heian period (794-1185) and remained in use for more than 800 years until the beginning of the Edo period (1603-1868) without revision. However, any calendar can go awry after 800 years of continuous use. In fact, at the beginning of the Edo period, the date of the winter solstice was off by two days. In order to correct this deviation, a calendar scholar named Shunkai Shibukawa created Japan’s own calendar (Joukyou calendar) for the first time. He used Chinese calendar books as references, but the most accurate Chinese calendar of the time was based on Western astronomy introduced to China by the Jesuit priests. It was a theoretical book that included not only the theory of celestial motion, but also how to determine the time difference between distant points east and west.
At first, Japanese scholars simply imported Western astronomical knowledge via China. Eventually, they began to find discrepancies with reality, such as the inability to correctly predict eclipses, and so they began to make their own continuous astronomical observations. After some time, he learned that the latest astronomical knowledge in China came from Europe, and he sought this knowledge directly from Europe via the Dutch official in Nagasaki. Since ancient times, the proclamation of a correct calendar has been one of the hallmarks of power for political authorities. It was troubling to those in power that the calendar could be out of sync with the natural flow of time, or that unpredictable eclipses could occur. Therefore, even though Japan was in seclusion, such moves to introduce knowledge of European astronomy were officially sanctioned by the shogunate. The 8th shogun, Yoshimune, was particularly enthusiastic about the introduction of new knowledge. He loosened restrictions on prohibited books and allowed the importation of scientific and technical books, even if they were written by Christian priests residing in China.
In this vein, the “Astronomia of Sterrekunde” was eventually imported. Yoshitoki Takahashi wrote the following about his surprise when he first picked up the book: “This book was like an anthology of the best astronomical books of the late 18th century. This book was like an anthology of the best books on astronomy at the end of the 18th century, so it contained all the latest astronomical knowledge of the time. There were five volumes in all.” Takahashi stopped all other work and immersed himself in the translation, forgetting to eat or sleep. From this point on, Japanese astronomy became completely Westernized and did not lag far behind the European knowledge of the same period. Instruments of considerable precision were made, and observations were made constantly. The reason why Tadataka Ino’s detailed maps of Japan were so accurate is that he was accompanied by an astronomy expert who had precision instruments and was constantly making astronomical observations.
The new Meiji government made it a top priority to catch up with the Western nations in every sense of the word, and attempted to transplant higher education to Japan while maintaining the current level of education in foreign countries by sending out more and more foreign students and hiring foreign teachers to educate them directly in foreign languages. In the early Meiji period, dozens of foreign students were sent out to various countries each year, and the cost of sending them out amounted to 2% of the total national budget and one-eighth of the education budget, making the expense of sending out foreign students a very heavy burden for the newly born nation.
However, in the Meiji 10s and 20s, foreign students returned to Japan one after another and became teachers. Education by hired foreign teachers was gradually replaced by education by professors who had returned from study abroad or had graduated from Japanese universities. The same situation progressed not only in the field of education, but also in all aspects of the state administrative apparatus, the construction of government-owned model factories in the country, the development of transportation and communications, and the financial system. Work was being transferred from the hands of hired foreigners to the hands of the Japanese.
Yukichi Fukuzawa’s Private University
In this period, that is, the early Meiji period, the university and the state were partially integrated. In other words, there were people throughout the university who felt secure and proud to be in a position where they could maintain a sense of oneness with the nation. Yukichi Fukuzawa was the first to oppose this mindset. In his “Encouragement of Learning,” Volume IV, “Discussing the Duties of Scholars,” which he wrote in 1874, Fukuzawa made the following statement. I criticize the intellectuals who are well versed in Western studies taught in institutions belonging to the state, because the government is still a tyrannical government and the people are still apathetic, powerless fools. This will not allow me to keep my country’s independence, even for a day.”
The people of Japan do not have a spirit of independence. Their spirit has been distorted by more than 1,000 years of tyranny, and a spirit of servility and distrust has seeped into their very bones. As a result, they are unable to say out loud what is on their minds. They have developed an irrepressible behavioral pattern of deceit, dishonesty, and lack of shame. They have no sense of independence, so they try to depend on the government for everything. But even then, they try to deceive the government for personal gain. They are not even somewhat ashamed of deceiving the government. The problem lies above all in changing such a mindset of the people. Only a Western scholar can point out where the problem lies and guide the people by providing clear guidelines on what to do and how to change things. However, the scholars who had studied Western studies were all on the side of the government. There were no scholars who were willing to advocate for the citizens from a neutral standpoint. As a result, Japan has only a government and no citizens.
Fukuzawa criticized Western scholars who took the side of the government, using expressions such as the one quoted here. They had forgotten the spirit of independence and self-respect, and considered the attitude of easily aligning themselves with authority to be one of the factors that caused the Japanese people as a whole to lose their spirit.
The beginning of a retrogression of the times
Nagazane Motoda, a native of Kumamoto and a Confucian scholar who served as tutor to the feudal lords, became tutor to the Emperor in 1871 (Meiji 4) at the recommendation of Sanetomi Sanjo and Toshimichi Okubo. At that time, the Emperor’s tutors were already Western scholars such as Kato Hiroyuki and Amane Nishi, and the Emperor’s education was centered on Western studies. Motoda insisted that this was not the way to go, and that the imperial education of an Oriental monarch should be centered on “Confucian scriptures,” which he himself taught enthusiastically. Emperor Meiji liked his teachings, and Motoda became the emperor’s closest advisor.
Emperor Meiji was only 15 years old when he ascended to the throne. Almost a boy, he did not make his own decisions in early politics. In fact, it was left in the hands of the leaders of the Meiji Restoration, Okubo, Kido, and Saigo. However, a major turning point came in 1877 and 1878. These were the successive deaths of the three great figures of the Meiji Restoration (Kido, Saigō, and Okubo) and the Takebashi Incident, in which the Imperial Guard rebelled. Motoda and other close associates of the Emperor took this opportunity to demand that the Emperor take politics into his own hands. The Meiji Emperor, who had acquired kingcraft and was at an appropriate age to do so, decided to do so with the help of his entourage. The Emperor’s first task was to reform education. He stopped focusing on Western learning, revived Confucianism, and tried to firmly instill the idea of humanity, justice, loyalty, and filial piety in the hearts of all the people. In 1879, he ordered Motoda to draft the “Kyohgakuseishi” and make it the basic policy of education. The Emperor’s government put the brakes on the Western-centered approach that had been in place since the Meiji Restoration. Motoda took the lead in this effort.
# “Kyohgakuseishi” was an educational policy dedicated to the will of the Emperor. It was centered on the cultivation of a spirit of benevolence, loyalty, and filial piety, on which moral education was based, and discouraged the acquisition of Western knowledge, arts, and skills.
The most important time to instill a spirit of humanity, justice, loyalty, and filial piety is at an early age. Emperor Meiji ordered Motoda to create the “Essentials of Childhood Education” (1882). The book selected 20 virtues, such as filial piety, loyalty, perseverance, and bravery, and included appropriate phrases selected from the “Four Books and Five Classics” and other texts. In addition, episodes related to these virtues were selected from the Chinese and Japanese classics and illustrated. Scholars who were asked to assist in the editing of the “Essentials of Childhood Education” advised the inclusion of Western episodes, since morality is universal. Motoda, however, said that morality was the basis of education and that it should be centered on Japan and China, and he did not incorporate anything from Europe or the United States.
The “Essentials of Childhood Education” was an Imperial book of morals, a Confucian textbook for children. From this point on, the Meiji period, with its blossoming of civilization, was to become the Meiji period of nationalism. Their goal was to create a path from the “Essentials of Childhood Education” to the “Imperial Rescript on Education.” Motoda made that clear in the “Supplementary Agenda on Education.” Motoda made that clear in the “Supplementary Agenda on Education.”
There is no need to wait for the appearance of a person who is so gifted and intelligent that he can create a new national religion and who is clear about the reasonableness of things. The Emperor himself is the one whose vocation is to be the sovereign and teacher of the people. In short, the Emperor should create a national religion in the form of an imperial edict. There is no need to create new content for the state religion. All that is required is to carry on the teachings of the emperor’s ancestors. The Emperor’s ancestors since “Ninigi no Mikoto” should be retained, and Confucianism should be added to them. In short, the purpose is to make the emperor the head of rituals as well as the head of politics and teaching, an entity of ritual-political-teaching-academic unity. This major shift in educational policy occurred around 1879.
Motoda and the Meiji Emperor had the following ideas about the administration of education. With regard to elementary and secondary education, they were satisfied with the educational interference without involving the Ministry of Education, which distributed Motoda’s “Essentials of Childhood Education” directly from the Ministry of the Imperial Household. However, although he was dissatisfied with higher education, he could not interfere directly. Emperor Meiji had little interest in science departments, and his greatest concern was whether or not universities had subject of moral training. Even if you graduate from a science department and achieve accomplishments, you will only be recognized in a specific science field. It does not mean that they will join the government and become ministers or other figures in charge of the nation. Today, Japan is still supported by the leaders of the Meiji Restoration. However, they will not remain in leadership positions for long. Their successors are needed. What is needed above all else for those who will become leaders of a nation is the study of subject of moral training and a sense of humanity, justice, loyalty, and filial piety. Emperor Meiji believed that the subject of moral training was lacking in higher education.
The Regeneration of Japanese Historiography
Kunitake Kume was a samurai of the Saga domain and was a classmate of Shigenobu Okuma at Kodokan (the domain’s school). Kume became a close adviser of Naomasa Nabeshima, the feudal lord of the Saga domain, and through his recommendation, he joined the Iwakura Mission (a delegation sent to the United States of America and 12 European countries in the U.S. and Europe). He was 33 years old at the time. Because of his ability, Kume was appointed to the staff of the government’s historical compilation office. The government’s historical compilation office was the highest organization for national historical compilation projects after the Meiji Restoration. The historical compilation was led by Yasutsugu Shigeno, a samurai from the Satsuma Clan. He was strongly influenced by Chinese historical exegesis and the positivism of Western history, and was skilled in the criticism and examination of historical sources. He was the first full-fledged historian to emerge from Japan, and his work was highly regarded, including his later election as the first president of the Historical Society of Japan.
In 1888, the government’s Historiographical Institute, which had compiled the old historical records, was transferred directly to the Imperial University of Tokyo’s College of Letters. This was the beginning of the University of Tokyo’s Historiographical Institute. Yasutsugu Shigeno, Kunitake Kume, and others who had been at the core of the government’s historical compilation office were appointed as professors at the university.
The greatest shortcoming of conventional Japanese historiography is that history and narrative are inextricably intertwined. In order to establish a true historical study, we must first and foremost “get rid of this bad habit of making no distinction between history and narrative.” The most important principle to be observed in historical studies is to pursue only the facts, and to tell the truth as soon as it is discovered. Shigeno and Kume thought the same way. The mistake that the masses and historians for the masses tend to bring into history is the ideology of honoring the good and punishing the bad. There is an assumption that good has triumphed and evil has perished in the end, or that history must be written in a way that encourages good and discourages evil. These two assumptions form the ideology of good and evil in history, and along with the ideology of good and evil in the morality of daily life and social morality, they have become deeply embedded in the Japanese mind. The Japanese view of history is fundamentally colored by this ideology.
Confucius was a Chinese thinker and philosopher during the ancient Shunju period (770 B.C. to 403 B.C.) and the founder of the Confucian family. The reason why Confucius wrote the book “Shunju” in the first place was because he lamented the moral decay of the world and the prevalence of evil and violence in the world. Confucius said, “I wrote ‘Shunju’ to punish with words those who disturbed public order in the world. This is not an ordinary history book, but a book to honor the good and punish the evil. Therefore, “Shunju” is not a history book that describes historical facts as they are. Kunitake Kume emphasized that unless we quickly depart from this ideology of respecting good and punishing evil, and start by looking at facts as facts, we will not be able to establish a true study of history. This can be said to be a declaration of farewell to Confucianism, which has long harmed Japanese historiography. The Historical Society attempted to start the study of history with such a declaration of farewell. However, the new Japanese historiography, which was just beginning to emerge, soon succumbed to the old Confucianist and imperialist historiography in its entirety.
A Return to Conventional Historiography Again
This issue arose over an article entitled “Shinto is a Ritualistic Old Custom” written by Kunitake Kume in the “Journal of the Historical Society” following his criticism of “Taiheiki.” This issue is as follows. The content of this paper traced the origins of Shinto, arguing that Shinto is not a religion, but simply an ancient custom of purification to drive away misfortune and bring good fortune at festivals. Since it is a custom and not a religion, there is no problem if it is practiced alongside Buddhism or other religions. In fact, in Japan, reverence for the gods and worship of Buddha have been practiced side by side since ancient times.
All religions began by conceiving the concept of God and worshipping Him in daily life. While worshipping the same God in heaven, other religions became organized and institutionalized by creating systems of doctrine and order religious community. However, what makes Shinto different from other religions is that it has no savior, no salvation, and no doctrinal system. It remained in the form of an ancient custom of nature worship. Therefore, Shinto can be viewed as a custom, not a religion. Shinto was a primitive religion in a very primitive stage of development, a custom with a religious atmosphere before it became an independent religion.
Then came the highly developed Buddhism. It is thought that Shinto had neither the content nor the will to compete with Buddhism as a religion. The basic purpose of this paper is to argue that Shinto stopped at the pre-religious stage and ceased to develop further as a religion, and that it has maintained a long life in harmony and coexistence with other religions since then. This is an analysis that makes sense when you look at it that way. The Shinto side was outraged by this analysis and went all out to attack Kume and Shigeno, who was said to be behind it. The point of the attack was that the paper was a disrespectful and disloyal dissertation that insulted the imperial family and the ancestors of the imperial family.
The issue quickly became a political issue when he published an article entitled “Shinto is a Ritualistic Old Custom.” The Ministry of Education retained Kume’s status as a civil servant, but took away all his duties. Kume therefore resigned from the civil service and went to work for Waseda University (Tokyo Senmon Gakko). Shigeno was dismissed from the civil service. The Historical Society lost its president and ace scholar, and at the same time, the Department of Japanese History at the University of Tokyo lost two professors. This was the first major incident to occur at a Japanese university that shook academic freedom and university autonomy. However, there was no movement, either from within or without the university, to help these two professors.
In hindsight, the Kume Kunitake Incident (1892) was a major historical turning point. From that point on, the state began to dominate academia. Japanese historiography was twisted and myth suppressed history. The people began to have a mythical view of the nation drilled into their heads from childhood. The deification of the Emperor was carried out by the hegemony of Emperor Meiji himself. The “Essentials of Educational Procedures and Regulations” of 1881 abolished the world history classes (Western and Chinese history) that had been taught in elementary schools until then. It was decided that as long as a person was loyal to the Emperor, it did not matter if he or she lacked internationalism.
This was the time when the basic rail was laid for the development of the completely inward-looking human being that would characterize Japan in the years to come.
Sakuzo Yoshino, a shining standard-bearer of Taisho democracy
Sakuzo Yoshino graduated at the top of his class from the Department of Political Science at the University of Tokyo Law School in 1904, and became an associate professor at the Law School in 1909. Yoshino then studied in Europe and the United States for three years, beginning in 1905. Immediately upon his return to Japan, he was visited by Choin Takita, the chief editor of “Chuo Koron” (Central Public Opinion). At Takita’s suggestion, Yoshino wrote “The Japan-U.S. Problem from an Academic Perspective,” which was highly acclaimed. From then on, Yoshino wrote an article for “Chuo-Koron” almost every issue.
Particularly prominent is a lengthy 100-page article in the January 1916 issue, titled “Explaining the Original Significance of Constitutional Government and Discussing the Method of Carrying it Out Honourably. At that time, advocating democracy in Japan was considered a dangerous ideology that went against the “kokutai” of the emperor system. However, the paper used clever rhetoric to argue that the emperor system and democracy are not contradictory, and that democracy is the only way to realize the spirit of the Meiji Constitution in essence. This paper harmonized the Emperor System and democracy, and became the basic theory of Taisho democracy.
The rhetoric that reconciled the Emperor System and democracy was that democracy is not one concept, but a composite concept with two aspects. The first is that democracy as a theory of power, where state power resides, is a theory of popular sovereignty. However, this is a dangerous idea that is totally incompatible with the Japanese constitutional position that the sovereignty of the state is vested in the emperor. The second is democracy as a semantic theory of politics. This semantic democracy is in harmony with the Emperor System. Historically, the purpose of politics under the sovereignty of the emperor has been for the benefit of the people, and it has been conducted in accordance with the will of the people. And for democracy as semantics, I argued that it is better to include a parliamentary-centered element in real politics.
And in order to distinguish between these two aspects of democracy, Yoshino decided that the appropriate translation of democracy as the semantics of the latter is “people’s democracy.” This is because the conventional translation “democracy” can easily lead to the misunderstanding that it is a theory of popular sovereignty as a theory of locus of power. Yoshino’s “people’s democracy” lit a bright light in a social climate that was in a state of stagnation. Taisho democracy blossomed.
# “People’s democracy” is not a theory of power but a semantics of democracy.
Shinkichi Uesugi is a rare emperor-centrist
Shinkichi Uesugi was born in Fukui Prefecture in 1878 and graduated from the Department of Political Science, Tokyo Imperial University Law School in 1903. He was soon appointed as an assistant professor. Uesugi was a rare example of an emperor-centrist, an absolutist of the Emperor’s power. He believed that whenever and for whatever reason the Emperor issued an imperial edict, it belonged to his absolute freedom and that his subjects should not interfere with it or question its expression. People today may feel uncomfortable with “Uesugi’s theory of kokutai.” Even if prewar Japan was a country with an emperor system, the emperor was not a despot but a constitutional monarch. Japan had a constitution and a parliament. Wasn’t the Emperor’s rule also carried out in accordance with the Constitution and with the support of the Diet? If so, then the power of the emperor was not all-powerful, but was subject to the limits of law and parliament. One might think that even under the Meiji Constitution, the power of the emperor would have been understood in this way, but this was not always the case.
While the holders of liberal leanings, such as “Minobe’s the emperor-organ theory” and “Yoshino Sakuzo’s democracy,” both of which will be introduced later, thought so, the traditional state-sanctioned doctrine did not. According to “Uesugi’s theory” of constitutional law, the Japanese Constitution (Meiji Constitution) excludes parliamentary government, so the very claim that parliamentary government is acceptable is false. The reason why parliamentary government is excluded is that Japan’s constitution is emperor-centered and recognizes the emperor as the sole sovereign.
In the United Kingdom (and by that I mean postwar Japan), the political party with a parliamentary majority was free to organize a cabinet and rule the country by holding the power of appointment and dismissal of ministers as well as the executive power. If this were to happen in Japan, the Emperor System would become a nominal entity with practically no meaning or power.
Uesugi distinguishes between the national system and the political system. “Kokutai” refers to the national system, while “Seitai” refers to the political system. The term Kokutai is difficult to understand because it is rarely used today. In summary, Kokutai refers to the fundamental nature of a nation in terms of where the roots of national power lie. Seitai refers to the nature of political power, i.e., the form of government. The term Kokutai originally ranged from meaning “the origin of a nation” or “the state of a nation” to the meaning of a state system or political system.
At some point, it came to mean the emperor system, not as a political power structure, but as a mechanism that gives legitimacy to secular political power. Regardless of how political power changes from time to time, the emperor as a traditional religious authority continues to exist above it.
For a while, the Meiji government was based on the Emperor’s parental rule, and there was no discrepancy between the national and political systems. 1885 saw the establishment of the cabinet system, followed by the promulgation of the Constitution in 1889 and the opening of the Imperial Diet the following year, which gradually led to a gap between the “national system” and the “political system.” During the Taisho Democracy period (1910s to 1920s), there was much discussion about the operation of the political system and political thought. There was also much discussion about the nature of politics and how it should be changed in the future.
Emperor-centrists like Shinkichi Uesugi believed that The emperor has all authority over politics, called the “Great Authority to Govern,” and the emperor may do as he wills. There is no need to necessarily question the will of the people. Even if there is a Diet, it is a body whose sole purpose is to sponsor the emperor (it is not a legislative body), so there is no need to give it importance. A political party that relies on Congress is nothing more than the root of all political ills. Therefore, it is better to eradicate them as soon as possible. This was Uesugi’s argument.
# The term “Great Authority to Govern” refers to the authority that was considered to belong to the Emperor under the Constitution of the Empire of Japan.
The Claims of Emperor-Organ Theory
The “emperor-organ theory” theory is a constitutional hermeneutic established under the “Constitution of the Empire of Japan.” The authority to govern rests with the state as a juridical person. The Emperor, as the supreme organ, exercises the right to rule with the assistance of other organs such as the Cabinet.
Professor Kitokuro Ichiki of Tokyo Imperial University defined the Emperor as occupying the highest position among the various organs of the state. Based on the juridical personality theory of the state, he held that the right to govern is vested in the state as a juridical person. This “constitutional hermeneutics” was called the “emperor-organ theory.” This theory denied the divine transcendence of the emperor. This theory respected the authority of the Emperor as the supreme organ of the state. After the Sino-Japanese War, the bureaucratic forces, which were seeking to compromise with the political forces, heavily relied on the “emperor-organ theory.”
After the Russo-Japanese War, the “emperor-organ theory” was developed by Ichiki’s disciple, Tatsukichi Minobe, a professor at Tokyo Imperial University, in the direction of increasing the role of the Diet. Minobe introduced Jelinek’s theory, which revitalized the juridical theory of the state as a theory of resistance against the strengthening of the German monarchy after the Bismarckian era, into the “Emperor’s Agency Theory. He held that the parliament, the representative body of the people, could also bind the will of the emperor through the cabinet. Minobe’s theory provided the theoretical basis for party politics.
The emperor-organ theory is a constitutional hermeneutic of the Empire of Japan Constitution that explains the question of where the subject matter of the state resides. The first view holds that the right to govern the state belongs to the Emperor as an individual, who has the power to exercise it as he pleases and in any way he chooses. The second view is that the authority to govern rests with the state itself, and that the Emperor, as the supreme authority of the state, exercises this authority. In other words, is Japan a Louis XIV “I am the State” type of despotism, or is it a constitutional monarchy in which even the head of state must exercise the right to rule according to law? The theory of the emperor-organ theory supports the second view.
Minobe’s son, Ryokichi Minobe, former governor of Tokyo, writes in his book “Anguished Democracy” as follows. My father insists that the emperor is an organ of the state. The state is an organization and has the right to govern, but the state itself cannot directly exercise the right to govern. The same is true of the state, and the right to govern can only be exercised through its representative body. And the Emperor is one of those organs, and the article ‘The Emperor shall rule’ is interpreted as saying that the Emperor, as one of the organs of the state, exercises his right to rule on behalf of the state.” (abbreviate hereafter.)
It is difficult to write about the “emperor-organ theory” without being misunderstood. The term “emperor-organ theory” itself is easily misunderstood. Even if one hears the term “emperor-organ theory,” it is difficult to grasp its meaning, even if it is explained as a theory that regards the Εmperor as an organ of the state. What is an organ? What does it mean to regard the emperor as an organ? The questions pile on top of each other, and before you know it, you find yourself in a labyrinth of incomprehension. This is the general course of ordinary people when they try to understand the “emperor-organ theory.”
It is not the first time this has happened, and in 1935, the issue of the emperor-organ theory became such a major social event that it shook Japan. Even in the midst of the controversy, few people correctly understood the theory of the “emperor-organ theory” as a legal theory, and the majority of people participated in the debate without understanding its meaning. The reaction of the masses, filled with misunderstanding to the extent that “it is outrageous to call the Emperor an institution,” moved society. At that time, the world was filled with voices that said, “The emperor-organ theory is outrageous,” and Minobe’s “emperor-organ theory” was ostracized by society. The opposition to the institutional theory at that time was not primarily against the theoretical content. I think it was an emotional backlash generated by the bizarre word “emperor-organ theory” It was a backlash based on emotional reaction rather than rationality. However, social psychology teaches us that the world is often driven more by emotion than by rational judgment.
I (Takashi Tachibana, author) am used to it now, but when I first heard the term “emperor-organ theory,” I thought something strange. I did not understand why the emperor and institution were connected. I don’t remember who said it, but the word “institution” in the institution theory was originally created as a translation of the word “organ.” So he said that if he had translated it with the names of specific organs of the human body, he would have been understood correctly. Then there would have been fewer people to criticize.
If we use the word “organ,” what image do we want people to have of it to minimize misunderstandings? It would be the head. The original idea of the “emperor-organ theory” was to imagine the nation as a human body and the head as the emperor. The same thing was said by Emperor Meiji himself in his military imperial treatise “Gunjin Chikyoku” (Imperial Rescript to Military).
The Imperial Rescript to Military is an imperial edict issued by Emperor Meiji to the Army and Navy on January 4, 1882 (Meiji 15). The “Imperial Rescript to Military” is written in old Japanese, so it is translated into modern Japanese and then into English.
Imperial Rescript to Military
“The Emperor wants the soldiers to work as his hands and feet, and the soldiers take the Emperor as their head. The relationship must be deep.” (excerpt)
The Showa Emperor accepted the theory of the Emperor’s agency as a matter of course. In the memoirs of Keisuke Okada, it is described as follows. “The Emperor is the supreme organ of the nation. The ‘emperor-organ theory’ correctly describes the existence of the Emperor.” Emperor Showa also made this statement to his entourage.
If the expression “Imperial Rescript to Military” had been explained as an image of the “emperor-organ theory,” there would have been no public outcry. History would have been different if it had been called the “Emperor-Head Theory” instead of the “emperor-organ theory.” The “emperor-organ theory” is essentially a “theory of the life of the nation.”
The background to the military’s persistent attacks on Minobe was that both the Navy and the Army held a considerable grudge against Minobe, an anti-militarist ideologue. It comes down to the issue of the deification of the emperor. What the military could not tolerate in the “emperor-organ theory” was that it weakened the sanctity of the Emperor. For the military, the essence of Japan’s “Kokutai” was the inviolability of the emperor. The military was united with the inviolability of the emperor by the right of command.
However, the Minister of War and the Minister of the Navy were questioned in Congress about their views on the “emperor-organ theory,” and they repeatedly expressed their opposition to it. Although the military had always made it a principle to “stay out of politics,” it became centrally involved only in this “emperor-organ theory.” Finally, the military, not the Diet members, became the most central force in the elimination of the “emperor-organ theory.” In line with the military’s assertion, actual politics began to move in the direction of eliminating the “emperor-organ theory.” At first, the military only modestly expressed its belief in the “Living God” and its difficulty in accepting the “emperor-organ theory.” Eventually, they became bolder in word and in deed, and began to pressure the government to eliminate the “Emperor Agency Theory.” At the same time, the issue of the “emperor-organ theory” was in the process of being transformed into the “Kokutai Meicho movement.”
The “Kokutai Meicho movement” was also, at first, to oppose the “emperor-organ theory” and to defend and coerce the national constitution against government officials and various ministers. Eventually, it turned into the “Kokutai Meicho movement” in all sectors of society. Along with this movement, the belief in the “Living God” as the basis for the rejection of the “emperor-organ theory” was spread throughout Japanese society. The destination of this movement was a unique Japanese-style fascist society with the “Living God” and militarism as the foundation of society. The most important role played historically by the issue of the “emperor-organ theory” is that it was the greatest motivating factor in bringing about such social change.
# The Kokutai Meishin Movement was a movement that occurred with the rise of the military in the political arena. The theory of the Emperor as an organ of state was rejected as a doctrine that was contrary to the national polity.
At a plenary session of the House of Peers on February 18, 1935, Takeo Kikuchi, a former lieutenant general in the army, delivered a speech in which he denounced Minobe as a “traitor,” “rebel,” and “academic bandit. This was because he believed that the “emperor-organ theory” was problematic. Inside the Faculty of Law of Tokyo Imperial University, there were scholars such as Shinkichi Uesugi and Yatsuka Hozumi. They held the view that the emperor was a “Living God” who naturally possessed absolute power, a god-like the “Absolute Monarch Sovereignty Theory.” Some right-wing political groups, the military, and other forces shared their views. The “emperor-organ theory” incident refers to the fact that these various forces joined together to hunt down Minobe.
The right of command was a great authority of the emperor along with the right of governance, which was the supreme authority to command and supervise the armed forces in Japan under the Constitution of the Empire of Japan.
The following developments took place regarding the “emperor-organ theory” after World War II. While the momentum for a revised constitution was growing after the war, Minobe was adamantly opposed to constitutional revision. The draft constitutions of the government, the Liberal Party, and the Socialist Party were all based on the “emperor-organ theory.” However, with the establishment of the Constitution of Japan based on the principle of the sovereignty of the people without the Emperor as the supreme organ, the “emperor-organ theory” theory ended its mission as a theory of constitutional interpretation.
The Origin of the Meiji Constitution: The Theory of the Divine Granting of Kingship and the Modern Name “Emperor“
The draft of the Meiji government’s constitution was prepared by Hirobumi Ito and others, including Takeshi Inoue, Miyoji Ito, and Kentaro Kaneko, beginning in 1886 (Meiji 19), with advice from German advisor Roesler and others. The Meiji Constitution was a curious constitution that Hirobumi Ito worked hard to create in order to successfully combine the sacredness of the Emperor System with a modern constitutional monarchy.
Article 1 (The Empire of Japan shall be ruled by an Emperor for all generations), Article 2 (Provisions for Succession of the Imperial Throne by Imperial Male Descendants), and Article 3 (The Emperor is Sacred and Inalienable). These three articles guaranteed the sacred character of the lineage-derived emperor system (the lineage of all generations). From Article 4 onward, the structure was to lay out the restrictive parts of the monarchy of a modern constitutional monarchy. (governing power shall be exercised in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, legislative power shall be exercised with the sponsorship of the Diet, certain rights shall be guaranteed to the people, etc.)
The first part of the Meiji Constitution contains a “Koumon,” which is a kind of ritual prayer uttered by a Shinto priest. It also contained an “imperial edict” issued to promulgate the Constitution. In addition, it was accompanied by a “Jouyu” for the promulgation of the Constitution. These three together are called “Sankoku.” (three components) These served the same function as the preamble to the modern Constitution. The preamble described the significance of and reasons for the Emperor to create a constitution and give it to his subjects, going back to mythology. It was also a mythical explanation of the legitimacy of the Emperor’s existence.
By adopting this structure, the Meiji Constitution retained the theory of the divine right of kings that European states had abandoned in their transition to modernity. In addition, the sacred Emperor of “unbroken imperial line” was given the unique character of a religious, sacred state that would rule this country forever by divine decree.
Thus, the Emperor’s authority in Japan’s system of constitutional monarchy was not sufficiently limited by parliament, and his power remained quite strong. The most important of the Emperor’s powers were his command authority to lead the military (Article 11) and his organizing authority (Article 12) to determine the organization of the military and the amount of troops to be stationed. The relationship between these powers and the powers of the Diet (the power to deliberate on bills and the budget) and the Cabinet remained ambiguous.
The Japanese word “Tenno” translates to “Emperor” in English. This is how the Emperor was incorporated into the Constitution. This is the reason why it is called Emperor. The Emperor is the imperial title of the Son of Heaven. I believe that the name “Emperor” has been incorporated into the Japanese national system because of its historical significance in the context of the theory of the divine right of kings.
Open the “History of Japan, Upper Volume, for Elementary School” from 1940 (Showa 15). On the first page you will find “God-Given Commands.”
(Translated from old Japanese into modern Japanese, translate it further into English)
Japan has always been a land where rice grows in abundance and splendor by the providence of God. This country is a land where “Ninigi no mikoto,” a descendant of “Amaterasu,” is slated to become emperor. His throne will flourish forever with heaven and earth.
These words are found in the “Chronicles of Japan” and are called “commands given by God that will last forever with heaven and earth.” It is said that “Amaterasu” gave this command when she sent her grandchildren down to earth.
This is the basis for the Emperor’s right to rule over all generations. The reason is that Amaterasu had so commanded. In the written record, the only basis for the Emperor’s right to rule is this statement in the “Chronicles of Japan.” Hirobumi Ito, the author of the Constitution, clearly stated that these are the grounds for Article 1 of the Constitution of the Empire of Japan, “The Empire of Japan shall be ruled by one Emperor for all generations.” The Emperor System is built on this myth. That is why it is included at the beginning of elementary school history textbooks.
Christian Tadao Yanaihara’s article “Nostalgic and Progressive of the Japanese Spirit”
Tadao Yanaihara entered the former Daiichi High School in 1910. While still a student, he was admitted to a Bible study group organized by Kanzo Uchimura, “Non-church Movement Activist,” and deepened his Christian faith. After entering the University of Tokyo, he was influenced in his thought formation by Sakuzo Yoshino’s People’s democracy, and Inazo Nitobe, who was taking colonial policy studies from a humanitarian standpoint.
Yanaihara made a decision to live his life as a believer (evangelist) who did not belong to any group. Yanaihara’s life had three aspects. In addition to being a scholar (professor at the University of Tokyo) and an educator, Yanaihara was well known in Christian circles as an evangelist of “Non-church Movement” in the vein of Kanzo Uchimura.
Uchimura did not belong to any church, but advocated “Non-church Movement,” holding private Bible study meetings every day of the week and publishing his own personal magazine. He devoted his life to evangelism. Many of his disciples also followed in his footsteps and continued their own Bible studies, and many of them lived a life of evangelism through their own personal magazines and personal meetings. The “Non-church Movement” that have been engaged in such activities continue to have a unique influence in the Christian world in Japan even today.
Yanaihara’s life was spent in order to “say what I have to say publicly.” However, it was not easy to say what needed to be said in Japan, where freedom of speech was rapidly disappearing after the Manchurian Incident. Moreover, what Yanaihara had in mind was not a euphemistic criticism of state policy, as he had done in his lecture on the “Manchurian Question” at the Faculty of Economics. It was a frank assertion that Japan’s national policy after the Manchurian Incident was fundamentally mistaken. It was not merely a criticism of policy errors, but an indictment of the fact that Japan had become an ungodly nation before God. In those days, when Japanese-style fascism was sweeping Japan, it took a great deal of courage to go that far.
In an article titled “Nostalgic and Progressive of the Japanese Spirit,” contributed to the magazine “Ideal” (January 1933 issue), Yanaihara was much harsher on Japanese nationalism. In it, he tackled head-on the issues of kokutai, emperor divinity, and national supremacy, subjects that none of the non-emperor-centrist intellectuals of the time were willing to address for fear of getting burned. The issue is the fundamental relationship between Christianity and the national supremacy. It is an esoteric thesis, so I cannot discuss it in detail here, but its essence lies, after all, in the question of the divinity of the emperor. As a Christian, Yanaihara could not just put the divinity of the emperor on the same level as the divinity of the Christian God. The Christian God Almighty exists in the sense that He is the Creator of all things in the universe. Yanaihara tried to argue that even if the emperor has divinity, it is a different divinity from the Christian God Almighty.
When the Εmperor-centrists assume that the “Εmperor is guided by the existence of the universe and therefore must obey ‘the most wonderful thing’,” there are three assumptions that are separate from the Εmperor. These are “a being greater than the emperor,” “something that guarantees the existence of the emperor,” and “the reason of the universe, which the emperor must also obey. Next, some Εmperor-centrists claim that the existence of the Εmperor itself is “the most wonderful thing” itself. Is this an idealization of the Emperor, or is it a reality?
Let us examine this further. If we ask the question, “Are there other rules of conduct that the emperor himself must observe, or is the emperor the very rule of conduct?” we are led to the following conclusion. That is, the basis of the emperor’s divinity exists in his position, and the basis of his humanity exists in his personality. In other words, the actual emperor has divinity in the institutional status of the state, but not in his personal qualities of supreme holiness, supreme love, and omniscience and omnipotence. In the case of the emperor, as in the case of all human beings in terms of life and personality, he is “a being of relative personhood” to God, the Creator.
In summary, when the emperor is before “God the Creator,” he has divinity as an institutional status of the state, but his personality, which is the basis of his humanity, is like that of all other human beings. This leads to the conclusion that this is consistent with Christian doctrine.
The sole purpose of statism is to pursue the interests that the state desires. Such statism confuses the ideal state with the reality of the state, resulting in the pursuit of profit. Statism is an extremely shallow view of morality and the nation, and is akin to a self-righteous view of life.
True patriotism must recognize the course to be taken as the axiom of the universe more than that of the nation, criticize one’s own actual nation, and if there is anything that needs to be changed, point it out and correct it to the correct state, bringing it closer to the ideal of the nation that should be taken, and allowing the light of reason to shine from within it.
It held that true patriotism was to consider the state of the nation first, rather than putting the nation’s interests first. This article should be regarded as a blow against the Emperor-centrists who dominated the era with their absolutist view of the national polity and their argument that nationalism was the best choice.
Newspaper reporter Sorge’s view
Richard Sorge, a spy of the Soviet Union, was engaged in intelligence activities in Japan from 1933 to 1941 with the Sorge Intelligence Service, investigating the possibility of German and Japanese participation in the war against the Soviet Union. He was arrested by the Japanese police as the mastermind of the Sorge Incident, and was sentenced to death and executed at a criminal trial for violating the Security Law and the National Defense Security Law.
Sorge came to Japan as a newspaper reporter in 1933, and was arrested in 1941. As a newspaperman, Sorge reported both the emperor-organ theory (1935) and the February 26 Incident (1936) as events of the same era. Sorge was an excellent spy, but he also excelled as a newspaperman and social critic.
Sorge’s report, “Japan’s Military,” covered the issue of the military’s intervention into politics as of 1935 (Showa 10). First, he discussed the issue of the army pamphlet (1934) and the issue of the emperor-organ theory (1935), and analyzed how the military was likely to play a major political role in Japan in the future, despite the fact that it was forbidden for military personnel to be involved in politics in Japan (as stated in the Imperial Rescript to Military). The analysis was based on the fact that the military is likely to play a major political role in the future. As a background for such analysis, he pointed out that Japan has no political leadership, and all other political sectors are weak. He said, “Despite this critical situation, there is no political leadership in Japan. For years, the government has been a mixture of the military, the bureaucracy, the business world, and the political parties. The previous political parties were powerful, but due to corruption and internal factional struggles, they have degenerated to the point of total political crisis. The current party is despised by the majority of the population.”
As Sorge wrote in this report, it was after the 5.15 Incident and the Manchurian Incident that the military’s political power suddenly increased. The military succeeded in causing the Manchurian Incident and creating an artificial state called Manchukuo.
After that, the military controlled and managed Manchukuo militarily, politically, and economically as they wished. The “Kwantung Army” became the de facto dictatorial ruler of Manchukuo. The military acquired the know-how and profit-making methods of military-centered state management in Manchukuo. The military used its experience to achieve military control of the Japanese state.
Behind this was the realization that modern warfare had shifted from battlefield combat to an era of total warfare, in which the total power of the nation (especially its economic productivity) was mobilized to fight each other. There was an idea that Japan must urgently establish a total war system (national mobilization system and advanced national defense state).
They insisted on the need for mental control to unify the spirit of the entire nation in this direction. The entire nation must reject individualism and liberalism, and have “unshakable belief in the mission of the Empire.” In other words, they are to be loyal to their country and repay the favors they have received from their country, to deny themselves, and to have a spirit of unity.
It is easy to understand if we consider that the issue of the emperor-organ theory emerged as part of this overall trend. Sorge saw through this in his 1935 paper and pointed out that at the heart of the issue was a “national mobilization system” based on “Japanism.” At the core of this system was the pushing forward of the idea of the Imperial Way, and the issue of Minobe’s theory of the emperor-organ theory was a problem that emerged in the process, as follows.
The idea of “Japanism” is merely a framework that encompasses the core. The core is the philosophy of the Imperial Way. Especially in recent years, the struggle for the purity of Japan’s imperial ideals has been a vigorous one, but so far the attacks have been directed mainly at Western public law and state philosophical influences. Minobe’s emperor-organ theory, which had been generally accepted for decades, was criticized in modern times, and his book was banned. Minobe is respected by the Emperor (Emperor Showa) himself for his accomplishments and admits that he was the one who interpreted the Meiji Emperor’s Constitution with Western concepts, which had strong Western influences. This is true and well known now, but it was not generally known at the time.
Opinion of the Emperor
There is something that puzzles me about the issue of the emperor-organ theory. It is that those who preach that the Emperor’s will must be respected above all else and that obedience to the Emperor’s will must be given top priority at all times, have ignored the Emperor’s opinion on the emperor-organ theory. The Emperor did not hide inside his opinion on the “emperor-organ theory” to himself, but spoke about it repeatedly to various people whenever he had the opportunity. It is written as follows in the Honjo Nikki (Honjo Diary) of Shigeru Honjo, a general in the army who was the Emperor’s chief military attaché. The following is also written in “Prince Saionji and Political Affairs” by Kumao Harada, who was secretary to the Emperor’s close aide Kinmochi Saionji, and in “Memoirs of Keisuke Okada” by Keisuke Okada, who was the Prime Minister of Japan.
In “Memoirs of Keisuke Okada,” the following is written. I tell you this because it is an old story now, but the Emperor had the following thoughts on the issue of the emperor-organ theory. ‘The Emperor is the supreme organ of the state. The emperor-organ theory is a correct expression of this.’ the Emperor said. I was concerned that Japan was moving in a direction that was not in line with the Emperor’s wishes. But I did not want to bring up these words to suppress those who were dismissive of the emperor-organ theory. I kept it to myself, thinking that I must refrain from saying or doing anything that might have a negative impact on the imperial family, based on my own ad hoc thoughts without thinking of the consequences.”
In “Prince Saionji and the Political Affairs,” there is a part where Emperor Showa clearly states his appreciation of Minobe, albeit through the mouth of Kantaro Suzuki, chief samurai advisor to the Showa Emperor.
I know it is not my place to say this, but the Εmperor is very well aware of these issues. It is absolutely confidential, but according to the chief chamberlain, the Εmperor made this statement. The Emperor said, “I think it is meaningful to discuss whether the sovereignty of the nation rests with the sovereign or with the state, but it is absurd to simply discuss whether the emperor-organ theory is good or bad. For myself, I would prefer the sovereignty of the state to the sovereignty of the monarch. But in a country like Japan, where the monarch and the state are identical, either is fine. Sovereignty of a monarch can easily fall into tyranny if it is careless.
(Omitted) Though there are those who speak ill of Minobe, I believe that Minobe is not disloyal. Today, there are very few people like Minobe in Japan. It is very regrettable to bury that scholar,” he said. He also said to the military chamberlain (Shigeru Honjo), “It is totally contradictory for the Army to speak ill of the emperor-organ theory. In the ‘Imperial Rescript to Military,’ there is a phrase that the emperor is the head of the military. Also, Article 4 of the Constitution states that the Emperor is the head of state.” The Emperor is indeed an institution. In his talks, His Majesty often said, “Minobe’s emperor-organ theory may have gone a little too far, but I don’t think it is wrong.”
Words spoken directly by the emperor were never to be leaked to the outside world. It was not until after the war that all of these stories were put into print and made available to the outside world. The emperor’s feelings were clear, and since those feelings had been expressed in various forms since that time, they must have been conveyed to some extent to those in the center of power.
His Majesty also made the following remarks.
(English translation of old Japanese into modern Japanese) When the discussion is pursued, it seems that the final content of both the imperial sovereignty theory and the emperor-organ theory are identical. It is said that matters of international relations, such as labor treaties and claims, can be conveniently handled under the theory of the emperor-organ theory. In the military, the emperor is believed to be a living god. He responded that it would be difficult for military education and administration to treat the emperor as a human being under the emperor-organ theory.
This is the point of the last two lines. The Emperor makes this statement. “The imperial sovereignty theory and the emperor-organ theory are similar when the theories are examined to their ultimate conclusion. However, matters of international relations (such as claims issues) are more conveniently handled using the emperor-organ theory.” This statement is noteworthy. It shows that the Εmperor had a good grasp of the points of the issue of the emperor-organ theory.
Minobe raises this question. Under the interpretation of the Emperor’s sovereignty theory, if the Emperor dies, does the legal acts performed under his sovereignty during his lifetime cease to be effective, or are they succeeded by the state?
In fact, the emperor knew from his own experience that such issues arise in real politics. When the Russian Revolution (1917, Taisho 6) brought an end to the Russian Empire, the critical issue was whether the Treaty of Portsmouth, concluded after the Russo-Japanese War, was valid or invalid. The governments of Japan and the Soviet Union held negotiations on the restoration of diplomatic relations in Beijing for over two years starting in 1923. Finally, in 1925, they concluded the Basic Treaty between Japan and the Soviet Union. Japan was able to get the Soviet Union to recognize the full existence of the Portsmouth Treaty. The logic that Japan used to get Russia to recognize it was the theory of national sovereignty.
The Treaty of Portsmouth was not a treaty that Nicholas II personally concluded on his own, but a treaty that he concluded on behalf of the nation of Russia. Therefore, the new Soviet government that succeeded that state had to inherit all of its treaties as well. At this time, it was Emperor Showa who directly handled this issue as a party on the Japanese side. (Emperor Taisho was ill.)
There was also the 1928 Huanggutun incident (Showa 3), which took place in Mukden, Manchuria. The incident attracted international attention, and the League of Nations dispatched a team to investigate. Giichi Tanaka, the prime minister of Japan at the time, reported to the emperor a summary of the incident and promised that the perpetrators would be severely punished. However, Tanaka was unable to keep his promise to the Emperor because some politicians who had concluded secret agreements with the military strongly opposed the release of the truth and the punishment of the perpetrators. The Emperor was very angry and said to Tanaka in a strong tone, “That is not the same as what you said before. As a result, the Emperor’s anger caused him to dissolve the Cabinet. This left a deep trauma in the Emperor’s mind.
After this incident, the Emperor decided to accept cases in which those assisting him in state affairs followed the formal procedures as they were and not to make arbitrary decisions. This led to the Emperor’s decision to devote himself to the emperor-organ theory. He believed that this was the correct way to be a constitutional monarch. This is the most logical basis for the argument that “the Showa Emperor is not responsible for the war.” Even with the decision to start the war in 1941, the Japanese national system did not allow the Emperor to reject a proposal that had been submitted to him according to the proper procedures.
Also, here is a statement by the emperor as recorded in the “Honjo Diary.” “I am physically the same as an ordinary human being, so if you try to deify the emperor in an effort to eliminate the emperor-organ theory, I will not be able to act as a human being, which is annoying.” The emperor had already made a “human declaration” in this way in his inner circle.
Post World War II
August 15, 1945, is the day that World War II ended (the end of the war). The reason why I (Takashi Tachibana, Author) consider this day important is because I believe that the nation of Japan fundamentally changed after this day. Although Japan has taken the position that it accepted the Potsdam Declaration on the condition of preserving its national polity this is a mere formality. (This is the Japanese understanding, the American understanding is different.)
Koichi Kido, one of Emperor Showa’s close associates, was involved in politics before and after the World War II, including recommending Hideki Tojo as Prime Minister. In October 1951, Koichi Kido conveyed a message to the Imperial Court officials asking them to inform the Emperor of his intention to abdicate. Kido recommended the abdication to the Emperor several times thereafter through people. The Emperor took his advice and decided to abdicate. However, it is said that MacArthur and Prime Minister Yoshida blocked it, fearing the negative political effects it would have on them.
Government leaders were skeptical about the continuation of the Emperor System. The U.S. side had indicated that the new Japanese head of state would have to act within the authority granted to him under the Constitution. This deepened my sense that the U.S. was speaking with the Emperor in mind. The U.S. position of Emperor of Japan was recognized in a roundabout way by stipulating that the sovereignty of the Emperor was subordinate to the orders of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers. The Emperor’s will, which had been absolute, became subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces (MacArthur) after the acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration. This was a fundamental change in Japan’s “Kokutai.” From that day onward, both the Emperor and the Japanese government had to fully comply with MacArthur’s repeated orders. The Japanese national structure after the end of the occupation was to be determined by the freely expressed will of the Japanese people as a whole. This is clearly stated in the Potsdam Declaration. From a country in which only the Emperor was sovereign, Japan became a country of “sovereignty of the people” in which the will of the people as a whole is sovereign. This is a fundamental change in Japan’s “Kokutai.”
Speech by Shigeru Nanbara delivered at the “Kigensetu Ceremony” on February 11, 1946
“Kigensetsu” was a national holiday designated on the day of the accession to the throne of Emperor Jinmu, the first Emperor of Japan, but was abolished on July 20, 1948 with the promulgation and enforcement of the “Law Concerning National Holidays”.
Shigeru Nanbara was the first postwar president of the University of Tokyo, and in the so-called Human Declaration, an imperial edict issued on January 1, 1946, the Emperor denied his own divinity. During the war, the emperor himself rejected the common belief that he was a god in human form, saying that it was an imaginary conception. Nothing could have been more shocking to those who had always believed that the emperor was a god in human form. Nanbara called the Emperor’s “Human Declaration” the “Reformation in Japan.”
At that time, President Nanbara of the University of Tokyo gave a speech at Yasuda Auditorium once a month. The first speech that had a particularly large social impact was given by Shigeru Nanbara at the Kigenbetsu Ceremony on February 11, 1946.
The original text is quoted for clarity. The militarists and nationalists who dominate Japanese politics have abused and perverted the tradition of Japanese national mythology and used it to extol the superiority of their own people. They incited their people to exaggerate their destiny to dominate East Asia and even the world. The World War II slogan “Hakko Ichiu,” meaning the world under one roof, implied the establishment of a world empire, the Empire of Japan, with the Emperor at its top. It was nothing more than dogmatism and megalomania stemming from a chosenness philosophy that the Japanese people were God’s chosen people. Such a mythical perception of the world led to the outbreak of war, and eventually to Japan’s catastrophe.
The Emperor’s “Human Declaration” an imperial edict was such a “liberation of the Emperor himself from Japanese theology and Shinto doctrine, a declaration of the independence of his humanity. It was at the same time a liberation of the Japanese people and Japanese culture. Specifically speaking, what was this liberation from? In terms of the past, it is “liberation from Japanese theology,” but it is also “liberation toward a new ‘global universality'” for the future. This is because, having broken free from the “ethno-religious” shackles that have held Japanese culture in place until now, we now have the basis for a universal culture that can be understood by the world at large.
The end of the war can be interpreted as the liberation of not only the Japanese people but also the Emperor from Japan, allowing him to become an entity for the benefit of the world. As a result, the war can be interpreted as also being for the liberation of the Emperor. The people were given the basis to form themselves as citizens of the world as well as citizens of the nation, and this was supported by the human declaration made in the imperial edict. And while it is clear that legally and politically the Emperor is not responsible, he still has a moral and spiritual responsibility to his people. He is also responsible to the ancestors of successive generations of Emperors.
Considering the Symbolic Emperor from the Age of 2022
I have been reading a book titled “The Emperor and the University of Tokyo” by Takashi Tachibana (Bungeishunju), which has more than 1500 pages in total in the upper and lower volumes. I (Shimizu) have edited and summarized in about 23 pages what I (Shimizu) consider important to introduce the contents. I have written out a road map that traces Japan’s choices after the Meiji Restoration (1868-1889). I had seen and heard bits and pieces of it in school textbooks and war movies. However, this was the first time I systematically studied the historical flow of events after the Meiji period. When I was young (around 1970), Japanese modern history was not covered in detail in school. I don’t think it is still covered in detail today.
Here are my (Shimizu’s) impressions. Let us look back to the Meiji Era, more than 150 years after the Meiji Restoration. Let us consider the flow of the times in the world at that time. The proponents of the theory of state sovereignty thought that the imperial sovereignty theory of the emperor would be forgotten forever if the “emperor-organ theory” promoted by the proponents of the imperial sovereignty theory of the emperor took the lead. In other words, they thought it was now or never to be able to ask the world about our thoughts. Even if it was only for a short period of time, they must have thought that this was the only opportunity. Therefore, I believe that the proponents of the imperial sovereignty theory of the emperor pushed forward with every possible means to eliminate the theory of the emperor-organ theory at all costs.
In other words, we are now prepared to take our turn. The parties promoting the imperial sovereignty theory of the emperor were also intellectuals, so they could understand the idea of the theory of state sovereignty. However, they could not stop themselves from eliminating the theory of state sovereignty and had no choice but to let it happen. The proponents of the Emperor’s sovereignty theory and the proponents of the theory of state sovereignty must have spent a lot of time discussing the issue. The reason why the theory of the sovereignty of the Emperor took the lead can be traced back to the “Great Decree of Restoration of the Monarchy” of 1868.
Since the existence of the Emperor was incorporated into the system of state by the Meiji Constitution, this situation must be substantiated. Given this, I guess I was drawn to the theory of the Emperor’s sovereignty, which expressed the sentiments of the traditional Japanese people. I thought this was the perfect way to show the world what the Japanese people were like at that time. I believe that the theory of the sovereignty of the emperor struck a chord with the Japanese people. I believe that the theory of the sovereignty of the emperor is a concept that expresses the traditional Japanese desire to be close to and adore the emperor.
|(English translations of modern meanings of old Japanese)|
When I go to the sea to fight, I may be a corpse in the water
If I go to the mountains to fight, I may be a grass corpse
If I can die by the Emperor’s side
I will never regret it.
Many of you are probably familiar with the song “If I Go to the Sea” I think this song expresses well the sentiments that Japanese people have had since ancient times. I would like to say a few words about the ancient song “If I Go to the Sea.” This is a poem by Otomo no Yakamochi in the 18th volume of the Manyoshu (Anthology of Myriad Leaves). It means that if you can die by the emperor’s side, it does not matter if you become a waterlogged corpse at sea or a grass corpse in the mountains afterward. This is a song about the attitude of a warrior. Yakamochi probably saw many corpses at the sites of battles on the sea and in the mountains as a result of his experience as a warrior.
This song became a symbol of the concept of Kokutai as the issue of the emperor-organ theory was transformed into the “kokutai meisho movement.” For the Japanese of that era, it was considered the highest morality to sacrifice their lives for the Emperor, and this song seems to have been a symbol of that. “The Central League for National Spiritual Mobilization” (1937-1940) was formed and various collective movements were actively conducted in various regions. The specific activities included shrine visits, recitation of Imperial Rescript on Education, memorial services for the war dead, visits to military families, welcoming and sending off soldiers and spirits of heroes, National Foundation festivals, radio exercises, national defense contributions, and labor service. As part of the campaign, the National Spirit Emphasis Week was established and various events were held. The theme song was composed by Kiyoshi Nobutoki based on Otomo no Yakamochi’s song. During the war, “If I Go to the Sea” was the most popular national song, and was sung at every opportunity.
Considering the Meiji Restoration from the present day of 2023, this is not the only way to describe the Japanese sentiment toward the emperor. In other words, I do not think that just wanting to be close to the Emperor unconditionally, as in the mperial sovereignty theory of the emperor, is a sufficient expression of the Japanese mindset. After World War II, the Meiji Constitution was replaced by the “Constitution of Japan,” which also replaced the Emperor in the Constitution. According to the interpretation of the emperor-organ theory in the “Meiji Constitution,” the Emperor was the supreme organ of the nation. However, in the “Constitution of Japan,” the Emperor “has no authority over the affairs of state (Article 4). The Japanese Constitution does not make the Emperor the supreme organ of the state. With the establishment of the Constitution of Japan based on the principle of the sovereignty of the people, the emperor-organ theory ended its mission as a theory of constitutional interpretation. The existence of the Emperor was incorporated into the new “Constitution of Japan” as “the symbol of the nation of Japan. Although the treatment of the existence of the “Emperor” was changed in the Constitution, the existence of the Emperor took over.
In the course of world history, Japan experienced a unique historical experience in the world. At a time when European countries were abolishing the theory of the divine right of kings, Japan adopted it anew and made its debut to the world with the Meiji Constitution. How should we explain to other countries what kind of country Japan is? Even though the Constitution is new, as long as we have inherited the existence of a being with the name of Emperor, we cannot say that the elements of the theory of the divine right of kings have completely disappeared. How can we make people understand the nation of Japan and say, “I see, that’s how it is.” This problem has not yet been completed. If the emperor had abdicated after World War II and the existence of the emperor had ceased, there would be no need to think about it anew, but the emperor continues to exist in Japan. Such topics are few and far between and have remained dormant to the present day.
After World War II, has the Emperor become irrelevant to Japan’s new Constitution? No. He is firmly incorporated into Article 1 of the Japanese Constitution as a symbolic emperor.
|symbolic emperor system|
Article 1 of the Constitution of Japan stipulates that the Emperor is the “symbol” of the unity of Japan and the Japanese people. His position is based on the consensus of the sovereign Japanese people, and is succeeded by hereditary succession in accordance with the Imperial Household Law as voted by the Diet (Article 2). The duties of the Emperor are limited to performing acts of state (Article 7) and require the advice and approval of the Cabinet (Article 3). He has no authority in matters of state (Article 4).
The symbolic emperor is not directly involved in political matters. The Emperor is supposed to perform only acts related to national affairs as stipulated by the Constitution of Japan, which means that he does not have the power to be directly involved in national politics. Also, in constitutional law, the word “symbol” does not have a legal meaning, but only a political or sociological meaning. A symbol is a hypothetical image of something in an arbitrary symbol. As long as people believe that the Emperor is the symbol of the unity of Japan and the Japanese people, the Emperor is a symbol. That status is expressed in the description “based on the consensus of the people.” From Wikipedia
Why did Japan run amok before the war? The world situation at that time was like a battle to acquire colonies. Considering the need to protect one’s own country and expand one’s territory by acquiring colonies, it might have been conceivable to adopt a policy like that of the time, but there were alternatives not to do so.
I believe that there was a way to use Christianity to express the Japanese people’s desire to be close to the world and not have a hostile attitude toward it. Another way to put it would be to express the ability to empathize with the world.
It was introduced in Takashi Tachibana’s “The Emperor and the University of Tokyo” with the following description
Not only was the university system itself a product of imports, but almost all of the knowledge and technology taught at Japanese universities (including law, economics, philosophy, literature, history, and other liberal arts studies) were also imported studies. It was, in a sense, a general agent for the import of “Western learning” from among the “Japanese spirit and Western learning,” which was the slogan of the civilization and enlightenment of the early Meiji period. The “Japanese spirit” did not fit well into the curriculum of universities specializing in “Western learning,” and with the exception of Japanese history and literature, there were virtually no courses in this area.
The reason why Japan as a country could not take the path of empathy with the rest of the world is that before the Meiji era, Japan did not have the thinking to express this. According to this description, the Western spirit was rejected. In other words, they did not ban Christianity, but they did not accept it at all. I (Shimizu) think that Jesus Christ is the one who taught us what science is all about.
Man is responsible for Jesus Christ. This is because man has crucified Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The responsibility for this must be borne by future generations. As a result of crucifying Jesus Christ, Almighty God resurrected Him as a proof of God’s love for mankind. Human beings must now follow the invitation of the resurrected Jesus Christ and create their future on their own. It is not only the Jews who bear this responsibility. It is all mankind. It is necessary to correctly understand the source of science. At that time, the average Japanese person was only concerned about his or her immediate surroundings. Under such circumstances, it was the people of the Western countries who gave us all the learning in one fell swoop. Naturally, I think they paid us back, or rather, they paid us money (price), but more valuable than that was the knowledge of science that took hundreds of years to acquire and the technology to apply it.
To tell the truth, the knowledge of science and the technology that applied it included a responsibility to Jesus Christ. The Japanese people of that time did not realize this. I believe that not only in Shintoism and Buddhism in Japan, where the emperor exists as a god, but also in Christianity, we should be able to find elements that Japanese people have latent in them and can relate to. We must find them and express them as Japanese.
It would be good if we could express through Christianity the latent thoughts of the Japanese people that cannot be expressed through traditional Eastern thought, such as Shintoism, Buddhism, or Confucianism. I hope that His Majesty the Emperor, as the symbol of the nation, will take up such thoughts.