Monthly Archives: September 2005

The PsyOps Quaker Who Helped Reinvent Hirohito

Within this early occupation period [from September 1945], MacArthur’s “military secretary” and former head of psychological warfare operations, Brig. Gen. Bonner F. Fellers, reestablished personal ties with two Japanese Quakers. One, Isshiki (Watanabe) Yuri, he had known from his days at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana; the other, Kawai Michi, a former secretary-general of the YWCA and founder in 1929 of Keisen Girls School in Tokyo, he had met on his first visit to Japan in 1920. During their initial reunion meetings, Fellers spoke frankly of his urgent concern to prove that no grounds existed for holding the emperor responsible for the Pearl Harbor attack. With Kawai acting as his consultant and collaborator, Fellers was soon put into contact with her acquaintance, Sekiya Teizaburô, the high palace official who, since late Taishô, had played a leading role as a liaison between the court and government ministries. Sekiya too wanted to prove that the emperor was a “lover of peace.”

An entirely new, binational stage in the movement to protect Hirohito now began. Out of the interplay of efforts by GHQ, the emperor, Japanese government leaders, and Japanese Christians with prewar ties to influential Americans, came the shielding of Hirohito from war responsibility, his “humanization,” and the reform of the imperial house. Henceforth, in the process of utilizing Hirohito’s authority for their own respective purposes, MacArthur and the Japanese leadership would have to misrepresent a vital side of Hirohito’s life and identity, just as they [had] been misrepresented before the war….

Between April and July 1945, MacArthur and Fellers had worked out their own approach to occupying and reforming Japan. In their view the principles of psychological warfare that Fellers had implemented in the Battle of the Philippines and elsewhere were solidly correct. They had played a key role in lowering Japanese morale, hastening surrender, and preparing the Japanese for occupation. Japanese military leaders alone bore responsibility for the war, and the emperor, the “moderates” around the throne, and the people had been totally deceived by them. All Japanese trusted the emperor. U.S. psychological warfare should build on their trust and turn it against them. These ideas, the “common sense” of American psychological warfare experts in the Pacific, not to mention Chinese and Japanese Communist leaders in North China, had become MacArthur’s fixed principles and were woven into his initial occupation plan.

Code-named Operation Blacklist, the plan turned on separating Hirohito from the militarists, retaining him as a constitutional monarch but only as a figurehead, and using him to bring about a great spiritual transformation of the Japanese people. Because retaining the emperor was crucial to ensuring control over the population, the occupation forces aimed to immunize him from war responsibility, never debase him or demean his authority, and at the same time make maximum use of existing Japanese government organizations. MacArthur, in short, formulated no new policy toward the emperor; he merely continued the one in effect during the last year of the Pacific war, then drew out its implications as circumstances changed.

SOURCE: Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, by Herbert P. Bix (HarperCollins, 2000), pp. 542-545

Leave a comment

Filed under China

Japan’s Missed Opportunities to Surrender, 1945

In his chapter entitled “Delayed Surrender” Bix identifies three major blown opportunities when Hirohito and his Supreme War Leadership Council “could have looked reality in the face and acted decisively to sue for peace”:

(1) February 1945, when Japan’s tentative negotiators determined that “the Soviet Union would not hesitate to intervene militarily in the Far East once the situation turned favorable in Europe” (despite its earlier Neutrality Treaty with Japan)

(2) Early June 1945, “when the showdown Battle of Okinawa had been lost, when government analyses indicated that the war effort could soon continue no longer, and when General Umezu unveiled for the emperor the bleak results of his personal survey of the situation in China”

(3) Late July 1945:

Their third missed opportunity was July 27-28, when the Potsdam Declaration arrived and the Suzuki cabinet, after careful deliberation, twice publicly rejected it. At the time no member of the “peace faction” came forward with a proposal for accepting the Potsdam terms. Pinning their hopes on Konoe’s not-yet-arranged mission to Moscow, the emperor and Kido [lord keeper of the privy seal, his closest advisor] waited and waited for a response from Moscow–a response that Ambassador Satô and others repeatedly stated would never come. Only after Hiroshima had been bombed did the emperor say, “We must bow to the inevitable;” now “is a good chance to end the war.” More than ten thousand Japanese people died from conventional air raids during this eleven-day interval.

The Japanese “peace” overtures to the Soviets, which had followed Germany’s capitulation, were vague, feeble, and counterproductive. They certainly never constituted a serious attempt to negotiate an end to the war. The thinking behind those maneuvers never progressed beyond decisions reached by the inner cabinet in mid-May 1945. As Konoe rightly suspected it would, the emperor’s attempt to end the war via Moscow turned out to be a complete waste of time, and amounted to an imperial decision to postpone facing reality.

SOURCE: Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, by Herbert P. Bix (HarperCollins, 2000), pp. 521-522

Did the U.S. also miss an opportunity by continuing to insist on unconditional surrender? Here’s what Bix has to say (p. 518).

If the conservative [former ambassador to Japan] Joseph C. Grew and the “Japan crowd” had gotten their way and the principle of unconditional surrender had been modified in advance, it is highly unlikely that Japan’s postsurrender leaders, now the “moderates” around the throne, would ever have discarded the Meiji constitution and democratized their political institutions. Grew and those who took his position had very little understanding of the Japanese body politic, no faith in the capacity for democracy of ordinary Japanese people, and certainly no desire whatsoever to see the social foundations of the monarchy dismantled.

Leave a comment

Filed under China

Japan Signs the Tripartite Pact, 1940

On September 27, 1940, Japanese representatives in Berlin signed the Tripartite Pact with the dictatorships of Germany and Italy. The affiliation of fascist Rumania and Hungary followed. By the terms of the pact, Japan recognized the leadership of Germany and Italy in “the new order in Europe” while they recognized Japan’s dominance in “Greater East Asia.” The three powers pledged “to assist one another with all political, economic, and military means” if “attacked by a power at present not involved in the European War or in the Sino-Japanese conflict.” This last article was intended to check Britain and keep the United States out of the war….

[O]n October 4, Prime Minister Konoe issued a belligerent statement at a press conference in Kyoto declaring that, “If the United States does not understand the positions of Japan, Germany, and Italy, and regards our pact as a provocative action directed against it, and if it constantly adopts a confrontational attitude, then the three countries will fight resolutely.” Few Japanese leaders at the time understood the tremendous ideological significance of the Tripartite Pact for the United States, or how the Roosevelt administration would now use it to deepen anti-Japanese feeling….

The following month the entire nation celebrated the 2,600th anniversary of the founding of the state by the mythical Emperor Jimmu. Preparations for this kigensetsu had been underway since 1935. One day before the start of the official commemorative events, on November 9, a government regulation established an “Office of Shinto Deities” within the Home Ministry to further the “spiritual mobilization” of the nation in preparation for total war. Started by the first Konoe cabinet at the beginning of the China war, the campaign sought the participation of youth about to be sent to war, exhorting them to “respect the Shinto deities,” “serve the state,” and rush forward to victory in the war against China….

Britain’s reponse to the Axis military alliance was to reopen the Burma Road, which earlier it had agreed to close, and to look for ways “to cause inconvenience to the Japanese without ceasing to be polite.” President Roosevelt’s response was to make another small loan to Chiang Kai-shek, and give assurances of further American support to keep China in the war. In November, Roosevelt assented to Adm. Harold Stark’s “Dog” plan for the recasting of America’s defense strategy on the premise that Germany was the main enemy. Henceforth the United States would follow a defeat-Germany-first strategy, focusing on the European front and aid to Britain. If war should come in the Pacific, the United States would initially wage a defensive campaign but not turn its full weight against Japan until after Germany’s downfall. In China, Chiang Kai-shek resolved to continue fighting Japan alone, without benefit of full-scale Anglo-American aid, but confident that war in the Pacific was only a matter of time.

SOURCE: Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, by Herbert P. Bix (HarperCollins, 2000), pp. 380, 383-385

Leave a comment

Filed under China

Attitudes Toward Separatism in China and Canada

The sample issue of Singapore University Press’s new China: An International Journal, now in Project Muse, has an interesting article by Wayne Bert about different attitudes toward separatism in China and Canada. Here’s the conclusion (minus footnotes).

The level of modernisation, commitment to democracy and particular historical and cultural experiences can explain the divergent Chinese and Canadian attitudes on separatist territories. Whereas Canada has acclimatised to living next to its superpower neighbour, absorbed the values of a virtual state and discarded the traditional expectations of the importance of territory, China is a rising power with an acute sense of grievance from the way it has been treated historically, or at least the way it perceives it has been treated. This strong inferiority complex has stimulated an intense desire to do something about what many Chinese believe is their misfortune, to occupy an international position that conforms to traditional power politics and emphasises the value of territory. Canada’s attitude is reinforced by its commitment to democracy and interdependence, and to the granting of the wishes of the people of Quebec, whatever they may be. The Chinese, on the contrary, lacking both a commitment to democracy and self-determination or the status of a developed state, view Taiwan not as an area containing a population that should have some say in how they are governed, but as a geopolitical object to be manipulated to maximise the glories of a greater China. The gulf between the norms and conventions regarding democracy and self-determination held respectively by the West and China show few signs of disappearing. The figurative combat over Taiwan will continue, since each side in the dispute “has reached its bottom line” and is not interested in serious negotiation. If the conflict can be kept rhetorical rather than military, it will be a major accomplishment. Meanwhile, the Canadians will eventually reconcile their differences, either in the short- or long-run, either raucously, or quietly, but almost certainly, peacefully.

The slavish Chinese commitment to the very Western concept of sovereignty fits well with a realist’s definition of the international system, albeit a system more closely aligned with the 19th century than with the 20th. The Chinese view of the world, however, is one that very slowly, but surely, is being replaced by a view more akin to the world of interdependence and industrialised democracies. While Canada may represent an extreme view on the question of secession, even in the West, it is one that is gaining ground as the culture and objectives of the virtual state become increasingly dominant. Other Western countries still have their minorities and groups demanding independence, but increasingly it is being realised in the developed world, that some kind of concessions must be made for either autonomy or secession in democracies. It is the developed world that is transforming the international system, which in turn puts pressure on other states and institutions to adopt more modern attitudes and structures. Even Indonesia, a relatively poor and fledgling democracy, has taken big strides in that direction since 1998 even in the face of nationalist counter-pressures. It has wisely granted independence to East Timor and offered greater autonomy to regions. In its pre-democratic period, it had long resisted compromise on East Timor.

So far there is little evidence, however, that the Chinese intend to follow suit. Their stance on Taiwan continues to be intractable, in the face of plenty of evidence that the majority of the Taiwanese have little interest in de facto, or even de jure, joining the Mainland. The main hope for resolution of the Taiwan problem is the fashioning of some kind of face-saving deal that will allow China to claim Taiwan while guaranteeing the people there that this will have no effect on their lives. The prospects of effecting such a feat will grow increasingly remote unless major changes take place in the PRC. Lacking such developments, the Strait of Taiwan will be volatile for years to come.

Leave a comment

Filed under China, Indonesia

A Visit to International Ota City

Ota City (太田) in Gunma Prefecture is just two train stops southwest from Ashikaga City on the private Tobu line. Ota English School‘s website brags that

Ota itself is quite an international town. The neighboring town [Ôizumi] has one of the largest Brazilian populations in Japan. Ota itself has one of the largest Asian communities outside of Tokyo. This means that, as well as all the usual non-Japanese restaurants (Italian, French, Chinese) there are many Indian, Pakistani and Brazilian restaurants a short walk or drive from the school.

Purdue University‘s The Exponent Online is rather more modest when it compares Ota City to Lafayette, Indiana.

The populations are almost the same, both cities were changed from agricultural centers to industrial centers, both cities are on a river, and for the most part, both are flat cities.

What moved a Purdue student reporter to compare Lafayette and Ota? Well, West Lafayette, Indiana, is home to Purdue’s main campus as well as to Subaru-Indiana Automotive, Inc. Fuji Heavy Industries and Subaru are among the largest employers in Ota, a commercial cluster development center dating back to the days of textiles and then military aircraft.

So, is Ota really as international a city as these websites suggest? The Far Outliers got a skewed impression when we set out to find a Brazilian restaurant to eat dinner at last Saturday evening. We headed south from Ota train station zigzagging between the two widest streets we could find, asking policemen, passers-by, shopkeepers, and even employees at the main post office (open on Saturdays) if they knew of any Brazilian restaurants in the city. No luck. Even those who took the trouble to look through the restaurant listings in the telephone book couldn’t find any Brazilian restaurant. A few people recommended we go instead to neighboring Ôizumi–Japan’s “Little Brazil.” (Been there. Done that. More later.)

We did find a few tiny Filipino restaurants (none yet open) scattered along one of the longest strips of seedy strip joints, hostess bars, and member clubs that I’ve seen in a while. (I’ve never been to Las Vegas.) It went on for at least a full kilometer. It was still early when we walked its length, encountering no more than a few bouncers loitering outside a few doorways. When we retraced a portion of the strip on our way back to the station later that night, there were a lot more drunken males and leggy females on the sidewalks. Judging from the streetside advertising, some portion of Ota City’s international Asian population would seem to be women from China and the Philippines. (A Japanese customer I was chatting with at a yakitori shop in Ashikaga last week demonstrated his few words of “French” by saying Magandang gabi! That’s Tagalog for ‘Good evening!’)

After the trail went cold in that direction, we headed back for the station on a main drag with more vehicle traffic. It was a much more family-oriented strip mall, with a huge shopping center, and plenty of parking, car dealers, tire shops, and the most amazing site entirely dedicated to weddings that I’ve yet seen, the Royal Chester Ota (for “The Brilliant European Wedding”). (Again, I’ve never been to Las Vegas.) We saw plenty of chain restaurants, but nothing representative of Ota City’s large foreign community.

We couldn’t find a clue until a couple hours later when, after circling a few blocks north of the station, we asked at Rana, an “International, Halal” food store run by some Iranians. The only other customer was a Nepali who not only owned an Indian restaurant named Darjeeling, but offered to drive us there, and even to drive us back to the station if his place wasn’t too busy by the time we finished eating. We readily accepted, and had a wonderful meal of chicken tandoori, mutton masala, nan bread, and salad vegetables, washed down with a couple of beers unusual for Japan: Everest and Grolsch. The proprietor came to Japan ten years ago, and his restaurant has been successful enough for his elder brother to open a branch in Tokyo.

Except for a few words of English, he and I communicated entirely in Japanese, quite informally and comfortably. Neither of us had done enough formal study to command formal registers very well anyway. After dinner, we insisted on walking back to the train station, and he came out to the street to confirm his earlier directions and we parted in typical Japanese fashion, with bows and thank yous. On the way back, we passed the Civic Center, with a range of social support facilities for both citizens and foreigners, including an office that handled passports and visas.

The 1 May 2005 issue of Pakistan’s Dawn has more about unskilled foreign workers in Ota.

Kimio Matsudaira, an official at Hello Work, a public labour office in Ota city, Gumma prefecture, 60 kilometres north of Tokyo, said there is now a special programme to help and support foreigners working in the area. Ota has a population of about 200,000 people. The irony is that more than sixty per cent of its people are over 60 years of age, in a city where the economy is dependent on manufacturing. Without doubt, Ota really needs foreign workers badly. To support the city’s automobile and electronic industries, Ota is now host to more than 30,000 Japanese Latin Americans, descendants of Japanese who emigrated to South America in the early 20th century seeking a better future. In the late eighties Japan launched a policy of accepting third and fourth generation Japanese Latin Americans to support a labour shortage in its factories stemming from the bubble economy at that time. More recently, Asians, mostly from South-east Asia, have also arrived to work in factories, comprising a total of 45,000 registered workers in Ota city. Matsudaira said foreign workers are vital to the survival of Ota’s economy.

Leave a comment

Filed under Brazil, China, industry, Japan, migration

Kiryu’s Changing Industries: From Silk to Pachinko

Kiryu (桐生), in Gunma Prefecture’s southeast fanhandle, was an early center of silk manufacture, a later pioneer in textile manufacturing, and now home to Gunma University’s Faculty of Engineering, which offers this glimpse at its industrial transitions.

Kiryu is often referred to as “the Eastern Kyoto”. Like Kyoto, Kiryu has over 1,000 years of history behind it and owes its wealth and tradition to the silk textile industry. Even now, Kiryu is a major centre for the manufacture of kimonos (traditional Japanese wear). The precise origins of the silk industry in Kiryu have been lost in the mists of time, but according to local legend a young man from Kiryu won the heart of a princess at the Imperial Court in Kyoto with his exquisite poetry. They eventually married and returned to Kiryu, where she taught the local inhabitants the art of weaving. There are records of silk production in Kiryu dating from the 10th century. Over the years, the silk industry grew and flourished in Kiryu. Kiryu silk was sent to the Imperial Court and was used by the Tokugawa Shogun for his army’s battle banners in 1600. Kiryu became the site for a major silk market which drew merchants from all over Japan.

However, in recent years the kimono was been largely replaced by Western-style suits and dresses. The golden age of the silk industry has now passed.

With the decline of the silk industry the people of Kiryu adapted themselves to new industries, mainly the production of automotive parts, electronics and related industries. However, Kiryu has become a major producer of another typically Japanese product–pachinko machines! (Pachinko is a type of pinball which is extremely popular in Japan.)

An article by Tomoko HASHINO entitled “Power-looms and the factory system: the relation between production systems and technology choice in the silk textile industry in Kiryu in the 1910s” has more about the early transition from hand looms to power looms. The abstract from Socio-Economic History, vol. 63, no. 4, follows.

Recent studies have clarified some special features regarding the introduction of power-looms, especially in pre-war Japan. One of the more important findings was the close relationship between particular production systems and technologies, for example the factory system and power-looms and the putting-out system and hand-looms.

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the above relationship in the silk textile industry on the basis of the hypothesis that the factors leading to the introduction of power-looms are independent from those leading to the introduction of the factory system. Kiryu is one of the oldest silk textile industry districts in Japan. In the early Meiji period (1870s-80s) it showed a positive response to the introduction of new foreign technology, such as the batten and the Jacquard machine, and helped to spread them to other areas. But Kiryu was slower than other areas in introducing power- looms. The putting-out system was widely adopted in Kiryu and had a long history. It has been assumed that this acted as an obstacle to the introduction of power-looms.

In the 1910s, there were four types of factory in Kiryu: factories with power-looms only, factories with hand-looms only, those with both, and those with none, which were often called orimoto (clothiers). Neither the production systems nor the technology dramatically changed in Kiryu in the 1910s; however, some factories began to introduce power-looms.

There were some reasons that promoted the adoption of the factory system. OJT (on-the-job-training), which played a role in maintaining the quality of goods, was an important reason in Kiryu in the 1910s. As past studies point out, institutional, technological and market factors were other reasons that promoted the introduction of power-looms there. While both electrification and the establishment of domestic and local power-loom suppliers were very important, it appears that the change in raw material from raw silk to rayon in the 1920s was the decisive factor in accelerating mechanization. The fact that hand-loom factories have often been categorized as “manufacture” has been a controversial issue among historians. But we must recognize the significance of their role in controlling workers and turning them into a skilled labor force.

Leave a comment

Filed under industry, Japan

Watching Sumo in Real Time

During my later elementary school years in Kyoto, I used to come home from school and watch sumo matches on our new black-and-white television (Sharp-brand, if I recall correctly). At that time, my favorite wrestlers were Taiho and Asashio, the latter a bit hairy, muscular, and not very fat. (Wakachichibu was the fattest one at the time.) I knew Taiho hailed from Hokkaido, but didn’t know that he was born on Sakhalin of mixed Japanese and Russian parentage.

This week has been the first time since childhood that I’ve had the chance to watch a sumo tournament unfold in real time. The first day of the current Aki Basho ended with a dramatic upset, as newly promoted komusubi Futeno caused a blizzard of zabutons to fly toward the ring by defeating the domineering yokozuna Asashoryu.

The Japan Times described the state of play after Day 5:

Grand champion Asashoryu overwhelmed Kakizoe on Thursday, while Bulgarian Kotooshu claimed the sole lead at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament.

Mongolian Asashoryu was all business in the day’s final bout at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan when he deployed several powerful arm thrusts to send the No. 2 maegashira over the straw ridge.

Asashoryu, who is gunning for his sixth straight Emperor’s Cup, won his fourth straight bout and improved to 4-1 while Kakizoe dropped to 1-4.

Sekiwake debutante Kotooshu continued his impressive form when he swatted down top maegashira Miyabiyama to remain undefeated and in the lead at 5-0.

Miyabiyama, who was no match for the lanky Bulgarian, dropped to an unflattering 1-4.

There are also two Russian rikishi in this basho, but the Bulgarian is the one to watch (not to mention easier on the eyes). And his demeanor at this point is far classier than that of Asashoryu, who tends to glare defiantly and even pump his fist in triumph after each win.

UPDATE, Day 8: “Kotooshu large and in charge

Bulgarian sekiwake Kotooshu continued to leave a trail of destruction in his wake at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament as he bumped out Kyokushuzan on Sunday to remain the sole leader with a perfect 8-0 record.

Kotooshu appeared nervous at the face off but faced little resistance from Kyokushuzan (4-4) and with a firm grip on his belt, he quickly worked the Mongolian maegashira to the edge of the ring before ushering him over the straw bales at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Kotooshu stayed one win clear of grand champion Asashoryu with a week of the 15-day tournament left to go but he sensibly played down his chances of becoming the first European to win the Emperor’s Cup.

“I’ve got a winning record now but it’s far from over yet. There is still another week to go,” said Kotooshu.

TV sports reporters are saying that Kotooshu’s perfect string of wins is the best performance by a newly promoted sekiwake since Taiho, Chiyonofuji, and other sumo greats.

Tatsuo Yoshida at Asahi.com explains what’s wrong with Asashoryu these days, and what’s right with Kotooshu. Hint: Asa’s work ethic let’s him down.

UPDATE, Day 13: After much hype of the big face-off between the twice-thrown yokozuna Asashoryu and the upstart Kotooshu on his 12-bout winning streak, hype that included many profiles of Kotooshu, his family in Chiba, the country of Bulgaria, and even Meiji Dairy’s Bulgaria-brand yoghurt, Asashoryu managed to bust Kotooshu’s winning streak, keeping his own hopes alive for winning his 6th Emperor’s Cup in a row.

UPDATE, Day 14: Another young upstart, Kisenosato, managed to “preserve his three losses” (3敗を守る) and hand Kotooshu a second loss, making the latter even with Asashoryu (both 12-2) going into the final day of the Aki (‘Fall’) Basho. I hope Kotooshu regains his confidence, preserves his two losses, and then manages to beat Asashoryu for the expected playoff on the final day. Even better would be for overconfident Asashoryu to add another loss to his total, so that Kotooshu wins the tournament outright with a record of 13-2.

UPDATE, Day 15: What a disappointment! The big face off, the ketteisen ‘deciding match’, between Asashoryu and Kotooshu was much too short and sour (to me). It was a great tournament, though, with a lot of upsets. All the more so watching a good bit of it in real time. Just now, waiting in the wings to come out and receive the Emperor’s Cup, the swaggering, puffed-up, belligerent Asa actually broke down and wept for a brief moment. Fascinating. So now he joins the great Taiho in winning 6 Emperor’s Cups in a row.

Leave a comment

Filed under sumo

Japan Abandoned, 1939

On July 26, 1939, the United States, having repeatedly protested Japanese actions in China, notified the Hiranuma government that it intended not to renew the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Commerce and Navigation, scheduled to lapse in January 1940. Up to that point the Roosevelt administration had pursued a policy of gentle appeasement of Japan, but its basic Asian policy had always been to maintain the imperialist status quo embodied in the Washington treaty system. Thus it had consistently refused to recognize any changes Japan had brought about by force in China. Roosevelt had also propped up China’s national currency by making regular silver purchases–a policy that would eventually lead him to join the British in providing foreign exchange so that Chiang Kai-shek could stabilize his currency, counter the proliferation of Japanese military currencies in occupied areas, and go on fighting. Now, however, anticipating that war would soon break out in Europe, the United States put Japan on notice that serious economic sanctions could follow further acts of aggression. Thereafter, if Japan’s leaders were to continue the war in China, they would have to take more seriously the reactions of the United States, on which they depended for vital imports needed to wage war.

“It would be a great blow to scrap metal and oil,” Hirohito complained to his chief aide-de-camp, Hata Shunroku, on August 5, shortly after the American move:

Even if we can purchase [oil and scrap] for the next six months, we will immediately have difficulties thereafter. Unless we reduce the size of our army and navy by one-third, we won’t make it…. They [his military and naval leaders] should have prepared for something like this a long time ago. It’s unacceptable for them to be making a commotion about it now.”

But of course Hirohito did not enjoin his chiefs of staff to end the China war, or to reduce the size of anything; he simply got angry at them for not having anticipated the American reaction.

A few weeks later, on August 23, 1939, while the Japan-Soviet truce to end the fighting on the Mongolia-Manchukuo border was being negotiated in Moscow, Germany signed a nonaggression pact with its ideological enemy, the Soviet Union–which contravened the 1936 Japan-German Anti-Comintern Pact. After a fruitless three-year quest for “collective security” with the West against Germany territorial expansion in Europe, Stalin had declared Soviet neutrality and, in a secret protocol attached to the pact, made a deal with Hitler to take over the Baltic states and eventually partition Poland. Stunned by this diplomatic reversal, and unsure how to interpret the enormous strengthening of both German and Soviet power that Hitler’s alliance with Stalin portended, the Hiranuma cabinet resigned on the morning of August 28.

SOURCE: Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, by Herbert P. Bix (HarperCollins, 2000), pp. 353-354

The latter half of this book seems much better than the first, probably for two reasons: (1) The documentation is far richer, so Bix doesn’t have to overinterpret thinly sourced material. (2) Parts of it have been published before, so it is likely to have undergone more revision in response to referee comments. The chapter entitled “Prologue to Pearl Harbor” is excellent, but I think I’ll refrain from excerpting it.

Leave a comment

Filed under China

Russian Repatriates from Hawai‘i, 1917

A reader, John Wilmer, sent a link to a website full of long lost far outliers that immediately sucked me in. Here are a few excerpts from the introduction and translated applications for repatriation from Hawai‘i to Russia in 1917.

At the beginning of the 20th century Hawaii sugar plantation owners began to recruit laborers of European background. Former Secretary of the Territory of Hawaii and Director of the Bureau of Immigration, Alatau L.C. Atkinson, and a somewhat questionable Russian entrepreneur A. V. Perelestrous, traveled to Harbin, Manchuria to recruit Russian workers, primarily from the area around Vladivostok. Perhaps as many as 2,000 Russians and Ukrainians came to Hawaii.

The idea for repatriating Russians living aboard began right after the February Revolution in Petrograd. Vil’gel’m Vasil’evich Trautshold, a career diplomat who had served as a Vice Consul in Hakodate (1906-12), as a Consul in Dairen and General Consul in Harbin (1914-17), was sent to Hawaii from September 1917 to March of 1918. The costs of repatriation to Russia were borne by the new government….

Podrez Sergei Konstantinovich. Born Oct. 6, 1878. He was a peasant from the village of Dubki IUzhno-Ussuriisk uezda Primor’ye oblast. In Harbin he was a tailor’s shop and worked as an agent for the Singer Co. In 1910 he came with his family to Hawaii. Before repatriation from Honolulu he was a construction worker on the local prison. He left Hawaii alone in 1918 after he divorced his wife Elena Ermolaevna, 33 yrs. old (she was a mid-wife). They had four daughters ages two to sixteen, and had refused to leave with him. The court in Honolulu told the husband to pay $6 wk in alimony.

Kolesnichenko Demid (Dmitrii) Borisovich. Born Aug. 16, 1883 in the village of Kotliarka Kiev guberniia. In Nikol’sk-Ussuriisk he was the owner of a workshop were he considered that he “received more money for his work.” (than Hawaii) He was a reserve junior non-commissioned officer in 1905. He came to Hawaii through Harbin on the ship Korea in 1910. His wife Pelageiia Nikiforovna, b. 1889 and three children from the ages of 4 to 8. Two of these were born in Honolulu. He mostly worked on sugar plantations on Oahu, but his last work was as repairman for horse-carriages ($4.75 day). He wanted to return to his parents in Nikol’sk-Ussuriisk. Trautshold noted: “drinks.”

Riazantsev Fedor Petrovich. Born in 1865. He was a peasant in the village of Orlovka Tifilissk guberniia. Dukhobor Minister (Svobodnik). In 1899 he finished three years of exile to Tifiliisk for publicly destroying weapons (a religious principle). After that he emigrated with his parents to Canada and lived in British Columbia. In Feb. 1917 he came to Honolulu with his family. His wife (“spiritual sister”–Dukhobors don’t get married) Pelageia, b. 1872, and their two sons aged 12 and 23 yrs. old returned to San Francisco because it was difficult to find work in Hawaii. In Honolulu Fedor was a temporary worker for building the water-works ($2 day). He said to Trautshold: “I know about freedom [i.e., the revolution] in Russia, and the Dukhobors want to ask the government to give us land to settle where we can live without animals.” Dec. 16, 1917 he returned to Russia.

Leave a comment

Filed under Hawai'i, Korea

Legacies of Japan’s Biochemical Warfare

By May [1939], when the major transport center of Hsuchou fell, the Japanese army was using chemical weapons whenever they could be effective in turning the tide in closely fought battles. “Imperial Headquarters Army Order Number 301,” sealed by Hirohito on May 15, 1939, authorized the carrying out of field studies of chemical warfare along the Manchukuo-Soviet border. What the content of those studies was remains unclear. In July 1940 Hirohito approved Prince Kan’in’s request to authorize the use of poison gas by the commander of the Southern China Area Army. A year later, however, in July 1941, when the army moved into the southern part of French Indochina, Army Chief of Staff Sugiyama issued a directive explicitly prohibiting the use of gas. Presumably Hirohito and the high command were concerned that gas not be used against Western nations that could retaliate in kind. Their well grounded fear of American possession (and forward stockpiling) of chemical weapons continued to deter them from using such weapons down to the end of World War II.

Hirohito also sanctioned during 1940 the first experimental use of bacteriological weapons in China. It is true that no extant documents directly link him to bacteriological warfare. But as a methodical man of scientific bent, and a person who questioned what he did not clearly understand and refused to put his seal on orders without first examining them, he was probably aware of the meaning of the orders he approved. Detailed “directives” of the Imperial Headquarters that the army chief of staff issued to the Kwantung Army command in charge of biological warfare, Unit 731, were as a rule shown to the emperor; and the Army Orders of the Imperial Headquarters–Army, on which such directives were based, were always read by him. Biological weapons continued to be used by Japan in China until 1942, but the full consequences of this Japanese reliance on both chemical and biological warfare would come only after World War II: first, in the Truman administration’s investment in a large biological and chemical warfare program, based partly on transferred Japanese BC discoveries and technology; second, in the massive American use of chemical weapons in Vietnam.

Though no documents directly tie him to it, another feature of the brutal Chinese war for which Hirohito should be charged with individual responsibility was the strategic bombing of Chungking and other cities, carried out independently of any ground offensives, and using many types of antipersonnel explosives. Starting in May 1938 and continuing until the beginning of the Pacific War, the Japanese naval air force initiated indiscriminate bombing against China’s wartime capital of Chungking and other large cities. The bombing campaign was uncoordinated with the army’s strategic bombing of Chinese cities. First studied by military historian Maeda Tetsuo, the navy’s air attacks on Chungking anticipated the German and Italian bombing of cities and strategic bombing of Japan’s own cities that the United States initiated during the last stage of the Pacific War. At the outset the navy deployed seventy-two bombers (each with a seven-man crew) and dropped incendiary as well as conventional bombs. In their first two days of raids, they reportedly killed more than five thousand Chinese noncombatants and caused enormous damage. Two months later, in retaliation for this indiscriminate bombing, the United States embargoed the export of airplane parts, in effect imposing its first economic sanctions against Japan.

SOURCE: Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, by Herbert P. Bix (HarperCollins, 2000), pp. 362, 364

The aerial bombing of Guernica took place on 26 April 1937, almost exactly a year before the first Japanese bombing of Chungking.

Leave a comment

Filed under China, Vietnam