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New book suggests ulterior motive to timing of 1948 executions

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Just after midnight on Dec 23, 1948, former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo and six other wartime leaders and military commanders convicted of Class A war crimes by the Tokyo Tribunal were executed by hanging in Tokyo's Sugamo Prison.

Writing in the year's final issue of Shukan Gendai (Dec 26-Jan 2), award-winning author and Tokyo vice governor Naoki Inose states his conviction that the timing of the executions was not coincidental.

Dec 23, 1948 also happened to be the 15nth birthday of Crown Prince Akihito. A formal ceremony to observe the event was to be held at the palace. But so shaken was Emperor Hirohito upon being informed of the executions, he reportedly spent the rest of the day in seclusion.

Inose is convinced that Supreme Commander Allied Powers General Douglas MacArthur must certainly have been aware the date coincided with the crown prince's birthday, with the implication that the staging of the executions on Dec 23 was intended to serve as a "delayed action device." In MacArthur's mind, when Crown Prince Akihito eventually ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne and Dec 23 became a public holiday, Japanese would receive a not-so-subtle annual reminder that the Allies chose not to press the issue of responsibility for the war on the emperor and other members of the imperial family.

As it turned out, MacArthur's stratagem was foiled by Hirohito's longevity. By the time the emperor's birthday became a new public holiday on Dec 23, 1989, few Japanese still recalled the convergence of the executions and the emperor's birthday.

Inose's book, titled, "Jimmy no Tanjobi, Amerika ga Tenno Akihito ni Kizanda 'Shi no Ango'" (Jimmy's birthday; the 'code of death' that America inscribed into Emperor Akihito) was released last month by Bungeishunju. "Jimmy" was the name given to the present emperor by Elizabeth Gray Vining, his English tutor and author of "Windows for the Crown Prince."

Inose's inspiration for the book was a letter he received from a young woman, who refers to the final entry in the diary of her grandmother, a former aristocrat. Dated Dec 7, 1948, it simply read, "I'm worried about Jimmy's birthday."

If there's one person who has certainly not forgotten the significance of Dec 23, Inose asserts, it is Emperor Akihito himself. That is why from years ago, he went out of his way to visit battlegrounds in places like Okinawa and Saipan to pray for the spirits of the war victims.

"This," writes Inose, "is the cross that MacArthur inscribed on his own birthday, of which he is fully aware."

Once when lecturing at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Inose asked about 50 students if they had reviewed Japanese history while in high school. Only four replied in the affirmative. This collective disregard for its own history, he complains, is turning Japan into "one big Disneyland." While American soldiers armed with machine guns guard the gates, Japanese have become detached from reality and withdrawn into their own virtual worlds.

To avoid national decline, Japanese must come to terms with their own history, Inose asserts, adding, "We all subsist atop the geologic strata of history. And if we look closely beneath us, it becomes evident that it is not only emperors who shoulder the burden of history, but we ourselves."

© Japan Today

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27 Comments
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Makes sense, really. But it seems odd to base a whole book on it. I wonder if it will be translated.

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I find the comment about 'reviewing Japanese history' while in High School most interesting, and very telling. Four out of fifty?? I was under the impression that Japanese students learned about Japanese history, but that the part covering the Second World War was 'tailored' shall we say to leave out implicaton of blame or guilt. That is atrocious in itself, but that students are not taught the fascinating history of their own country and culture - well prior to the 20th century - seems unimaginable to me. Why would they not teach history in schools?

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Hirohito should be grateful he wasn't executed with them. In fact the only reason he wasn't was because the US cared more about reconstruction than exacting justice.

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tigermoth suggests that japanese high school history is tailored to leave out the concepts of blame and guilt...I agree with this but would also add that the education system aims to give the impression that Japan was the 'victim' of the WW2.... this feeling/impression comes through time and time again whenever the war is mentioned here...

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From, "collective disregard for its own history" to “one big Disneyland”.

Collective disregard? I think there is a more profound reason why Mickey really doesn't want to know.

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Inose is a smart guy, I loved watching just tear apart the idiots at JH who fleece Jpn bigtime etc, he is very different than your average man on the street. That said Jpn has been a disneyland for quite some time now & I have always said Jpn hasnt even come close to coming to terms with its history from the 1930s-45, many here then bring up all the supposed apologies etc but the fact remains by Inose & I are correct although I sincerely wish I wasnt because this baggage has & continues to hold back Jpn bigtime on the world stage.

I wish Inose good luck in changing things, Jpn really needs it but I doubt it will happen soon or if ever unfortunately

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Exactly why the DPJ needs to impliment the draft, teach some history and patriotism (not fanaticism) and decrease the US military presence.. It is like a little child, a little girl in fact that lives in a fantasy land because daddy is providing and protecting.. aw

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Hirohito should be grateful he wasn't executed with them. In fact the only reason he wasn't was because the US cared more about reconstruction than exacting justice.

"Reconstruction" encompasses advancement of US's own biological weapons programme. Hirohito and Shiro Ishii had it good while people who were convicted for Class-A war crimes because they were ambassadors to Germany and Italy hanged.

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Inose is a smart guy, I loved watching just tear apart the idiots at JH who fleece Jpn bigtime etc, he is very different than your average man on the street. That said Jpn has been a disneyland for quite some time now & I have always said Jpn hasnt even come close to coming to terms with its history from the 1930s-45, many here then bring up all the supposed apologies etc but the fact remains by Inose & I are correct although I sincerely wish I wasnt because this baggage has & continues to hold back Jpn bigtime on the world stage.

I believe wrong, the Allied Powers have not come to terms with their past crimes but they are doing fine.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Perhaps so, but there is an important difference: the Allied Powers won. They are the victors. They hold the higher ground, Anakin.

I think it wouldn't be far-fetched to see a special significance on the date chosen for the executions; indeed, it is obvious that the date was carefully picked with ulterior motives. As I see it, it could signal a reminded that the Emperor was allowed to remain untouched as an individual whilst the men at his command (yet possibly rebellious to take such commands) were punished with death for their crimes; a trade perhaps that MacArthur didn't want to be forgotten and hence placed the reminder like a Damocles sword over Hirohito's first born.

The ultra-right wingers cannot pick on the date because it would be disrespectful to the Emperor; the date prevents them from having their own holiday and "martyrs" of their efforts to seize control of Asian countries. Nor Hirohito nor his son have ever worshiped at Yasukuni Shrine since the Class A criminals were enshrined there, leaving in the open the fact that they repudiate the Class A criminals. The birthday of the emperor eclipses bad reminders. From a Machiavellian point of view, the choice of date is flawless.

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Typo: reminder, not reminded.

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To Bdiego:

"Hirohito should be grateful he wasn't executed with them. In fact the only reason he wasn't was because the US cared more about reconstruction than exacting justice."

You may wish to read Ruth Benedict's "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword", w/ emphasis on the foreword and conclusion. Gen. MacArthur and SCAP were working w/ a country and culture unseen/unknown to them even during the Occupation. They knew the importance of the Emperor to the people, but only in very superficial terms. The Emperor was left alone because of more than any one reason. At that time, it was very sensitive, and SCAP could not be wrong on this issue. Serious students of Japan sometimes take Ruth Benedict's book for granted after awhile, but the book is not only a breakthrough, but also acknowledges the ignorance the US was trying to overcome. It was, and still is, a remarkable work of academics. There were numerous individuals who knew much more than what I am talking about, but they are gone and most of it would still be classified.

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They do study Japanese history - just stuff from 1000 years to 200 years ago. If they know anything about recent history is it pretty much a lie. The youth of today haven't a clue why most Asian countries hate them. Hence the hole "We are a nation of peace" BS they spout when they aren't playing the victim card about the war.

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MacArthur was an idiot to execute people around Christmas, war crimes or not, he should have chosen other dates

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MacArthur was an idiot to execute people around Christmas, war crimes or not, he should have chosen other dates

easter better? valentines day? when exactly is a date when someone can execute and not be an idiot?

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easter better? valentines day? when exactly is a date when someone can execute and not be an idiot?

exactly, killing for revenge is barbaric, lock the criminals in prison for hard useful labour

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This collective disregard for its own history, he complains, is turning Japan into “one big Disneyland.”

So true....perhaps LA-LA land would be better.

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It should be noted that the success of the stark lack of casualties during the Occupation and the success of postwar developments concludes that the men and women who shaped policy in Japan in GHQ were correct (not perfect), though many faced considerable heat afterward.

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Very interesting.

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Yeah Im gonna get that book. I see it so different though. Like Eckhart-where it slips into the spiritual, and it has no matter if it is the garbage man or the emperor-though being the emperor is rather impressionable. Very interesting.

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I lived in England for a time and attended a British school where students were taught that WWII was fundamentally over when the Americans joined in. It's not clear this is what's happening in Japan, but having a skewed and irrational view of reality does not bode well for the future...

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Folks, it´s important to remember USA imposed peaceful Constitution for Japan including no Army, and USA itself charged on Japan´s defense. That fact made a mentality among Japanese that USA would protect Japan always, then

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the new generations don´t worry about defense of Japan.

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oscaralho: I agree.

That´s very dangerous for Japan defense.

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^^^^^ meant for this quote

MacArthur was an idiot to execute people around Christmas, war crimes or not, he should have chosen other dates<

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Strategically speaking the US entering WWII was a critical turning point, though certainly the war was far from over. It resulted in a drastic diversion of factory production towards military goods (which up until then had been gradual and well below half capacity). That alone changed the balance of production for the Allies. It was not the US that won the war, but the fact that the combined production strength of the Allies had grown substantially past the point of no return for the balance of power. That said, the war could have ended in armistice rather than surrender and it could also have dragged on much longer.

If you're going to correct incorrect thinking, first correct your own.

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It's also nice to hear you shouldn't execute someone the entire month of December, considering neither Japan nor the US has ever had qualms about that. If you're going to argue against the death penalty for war criminals, stop pussyfooting around the month of December.

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