I am writing this essay on an airplane to São Paulo in early December, and there is not much of 2014 left. Now is the time at which we look back on the past year, and I am thinking about the history of Japan, Asia, and the Western European powers starting from the Meiji Restoration.
Commodore Matthew C. Perry led his “Black Ships” to Uraga in June 1853. At that time Japanese people were astounded by the modern scientific weapons of steamboats equipped with artillery, and the shogunate ended up concluding an unequal treaty with the U.S. Many regions around the world had already been colonized by the Western European powers at that time, and those waves were moving from Europe to the Far East, the most distant location.
Russia was approaching from the north, England and France were scrambling to partition China, and the U.S. was coming from across the Pacific Ocean. These tremendous powers were pressuring Japan to open up the country. Japanese intellectuals came to strongly believe that Japan would become a colony of the Western European countries if a people’s revolution to bring down the feudal system was not conducted as soon as possible and the country was not modernized. They had heard about how the colored countries in Africa, Central and South America, Asia, and other regions had been colonized; the disastrous effects of the Opium War from 1840 to 1842 in China; and other happenings from the Dutch at Dejima in Nagasaki. They felt a sense of danger that if Japan – the last independent nation of colored people – was colonized, the world of colored people might be subjected to colonial rule for several hundred years.
Considering this, most full-on wars in Japanese history until the Edo period were civil wars. Japan only fought with an invading foreign enemy during the Mongol invasions in 1274 and 1281. At that time, the Japanese warriors gathered underneath the Kamakura Shogunate, fought with the allied Mongol Empire and Goryeo (Korea), and obstructed the invasions. Afterwards, the Tokugawa Shogunate implemented an isolation policy to sever communication with foreign countries that might attempt a military or spiritual invasion of Japan, including through religion.
But the Black Ships came after many long years of isolation, which caused a shock in Japan. If the warriors hadn’t existed, the Western European countries might have used the Black Ships to land in Japan, destroy the feudal system, and make Japan into a colony. A unique culture was flourishing in Japan at that time – there was an educational system in which the warrior class went to clan schools and the townspeople went to temple schools, so many people could read, write, and do math. This differed from other countries that were colonized, and I believe it was one facet of why Japan was able to maintain its independence.
The Tokugawa Shogunate successfully ruled Japan for nearly 300 years, and Japan also has the Imperial Family with a history spanning more than 2,600 years. The movement to revere the emperor and expel the barbarians began mainly among lordless, low-ranking samurai who left the Satsuma or Nagasu Domains. Before long Japan was made a constitutional monarchy through the restoration of the emperor’s rule. They successfully carried out the bloodless liberation of Edo Castle, followed by the Meiji Restoration.
After the birth of the Meiji government, conflict regarding the Korean Peninsula between Japan and Qing-dynasty China became more furious. To place pressure on Japan, the Qing dynasty schemed to strengthen its dominion of the Korean Peninsula, its vassal state. This was because Japan hoped to maintain its independence by using the Korean Peninsula as a buffer zone between it and Qing China. This eventually led to the First Sino-Japanese War in 1894, which Japan won. The Treaty of Shimonoseki was concluded via the peace conference in 1895. The Qing dynasty recognized that Korea was an independent nation and ceded territories to Japan including the Liaodong Peninsula, Taiwan, and Penghu. It also paid a large amount of reparations. However, afterwards the three countries of Russia, France, and Germany recommended that Japan return the Liaodong Peninsula to China, and Japan had no choice but to obey because it did not possess military strength to defy these great powers. After that, the major powers accelerated their division and rule of China. Russia occupied the entire peninsula after leasing Dalian and Port Arthur on the Liaodong Peninsula, and it built a great naval stronghold at Port Arthur. Russia’s aim was clearly the Korean Peninsula. If it were to occupy the Korean Peninsula, Japan’s independence would be in a precarious state.
Japan endured great humiliation during the Triple Intervention. It worked to strengthen its military power and modernize the nation so that it could resist pressure from Russia, and in 1904 Japan challenged Russia – which had dozens of times more troops – to a fight. This was the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War. Russia’s advance onto the Korean Peninsula meant that it was in full-on opposition with England, which had conquered the seven seas. England was afraid of this, and its interests were consistent with Japan’s. That’s why the Anglo-Japanese Alliance was established in 1902 before the Russo-Japanese War. The U.S. was also vigilant against Russia, so it supported Japan. Americans including E. H. Harriman, a Jewish railroad executive., purchased large amounts of foreign bonds issued by the Japanese government for purposes such as building warships. Harriman’s goal was to gain railroad construction rights in Manchuria, which he thought he would definitely receive after Japan’s victory.
The fight with Russia was extremely difficult. The war broke out at the Battle of Port Arthur and Battle of Chemulpo Bay, and the Russian Pacific Fleet scurried back to its stronghold at Port Arthur where it waited for the Baltic Fleet from the Baltic Sea. It would be very dangerous for Japan if these two naval fleets were to join together, so it first had to annihilate the Pacific Fleet. To that end, Japan had to occupy high ground in consideration of where its naval bombardment shells would land. The Third Army, led by Maresuke Nogi, repeatedly sent out suicide corps to take back 203 high points that met these conditions. Many people were killed in action, including Nogi’s second son Yasusuke. They destroyed warships in Port Arthur via bombing, which led to the fall of Port Arthur. Afterwards, Nogi’s oldest son Katsusuke was killed in action in the Battle of Nanshan. However, when the Third Army arrived the Japanese Army won a narrow victory in the Battle of Mukden. The conclusion of this battle was entrusted to a naval battle between the Baltic Fleet and the Combined Fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy.
Commander-in-Chief Heihachiro Togo of the Combined Fleet predicted that the Baltic Fleet would head towards the Tsushima Strait, so he set an ambush of many warships there. He simultaneously bombarded the Knyaz Suvorov and Oslyabya, Russia’s main battleships, and barraged them with gunfire in a do-or-die effort. They went up in flames and the Baltic Fleet was sunk. In contrast, the Combined Fleet lost just three torpedo boats, and it was an overwhelming victory that stands out in naval history.
Japan had devoted all of its power to this conflict and had used up its remaining strength. At that timing the U.S. interceded and the Treaty of Portsmouth was concluded. However, partially due to expectations fanned by the media, Japan was unable to receive sufficient territory and reparations like after the First Sino-Japanese War, which caused revolts to break out all over Japan. Harriman (the railroad executive who bought the foreign bonds) exchanged a promise with Prime Minister Taro Katsura that the South Manchuria Railway – which was acquired from Russia by Japan – would be jointly managed by Japan and the U.S. At the Portsmouth conference, Minister for Foreign Affairs Jutaro Komura – attending as Japan’s ambassador plenipotentiary – broke this promise via strong opposition in fear of criticism from the media. One can say this was the impetus that transformed the U.S., a pro-Japanese country, into an anti-Japanese one. The final chapter of the Western European powers’ plan for global colonization was the domination of Japan. Due to this trend, the U.S. created War Plan Orange – a plan for war with Japan – and estimated the timing for carrying it out.
After Japan won the First-Sino Japanese and Russo-Japanese Wars, it concluded the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty in 1910, which was also requested by Korea. World War I started in 1914, and the European countries were suffering many casualties in its first total war. In accordance with the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, the Imperial Japanese Navy was dispatched to the Mediterranean Sea and continually fought life or death struggles with German U-boats. The members of the Imperial Japanese Navy that died are still interred at the British naval base on Malta, which I once visited to pay my respects. Europe was being exhausted by the fighting while the U.S. was increasing its economic strength all at once via the provision of military goods. The communist revolution occurred in the impoverished Russia in 1917, and Comintern was formed in 1919. This accelerated movements across the world towards communization.
The Treaty of Versailles was concluded to deal with World War I. It imposed excessively severe reparations on Germany, which displeased the German people. This was in the background of the creation of the Nazi Party led by Adolf Hitler. Nazi Germany built up its military power in the blink of an eye, and World War II began on September 1, 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. Nazi Germany vigorously swept over most of Europe all at once and also began air strikes in England.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill strongly demanded that the U.S. participate in the war to prevent Germany from landing in England. However, American President Franklin D. Roosevelt had won his third election based on his promise not to take part in the war in Europe, so he could not comply with this request. His chance to break this dilemma came in 1940 with the Tripartite Pact. This alliance said that war with Japan would also mean war with Germany and Italy. Roosevelt, having found a pretext to participate in the war, eagerly prolonged the negotiations with Japan while making preparations for war by increasing production of warships and aircraft. Meanwhile, the American assets of Japanese people were frozen and a full embargo was placed on scrap metal and oil. The U.S. pressured Japan through the American-British-Chinese-Dutch (ABCD) encirclement, which incited its anger. It then presented Japan with the Hull Note, which could be described as a declaration of war and included conditions that Japan could not possibly accept like its total withdrawal from China. The original draft of the Hull Note was written by Harry White, a senior official in the U.S. Treasury department. White was later accused of espionage and committed suicide. Afterwards, the Verona Files – deciphered records of coded communications between Comintern and its spies in the U.S. – verified that White was actually a spy of Comintern.
Marshal Admiral Osamu Nagano said, “The country will be ruined if we must or do fight. But if we don’t, and if the nation is destroyed, we will become a true ruined country with no soul.” As described by this quote, Japan was truly forced into starting the war.
The Japanese navy and diplomatic codes had been deciphered by the U.S., and Roosevelt knew the full details of Japan’s plan to attack Pearl Harbor ahead of time. In July 1941 – five months before the Attack on Pearl Harbor – Roosevelt signed to approve JB 355, a plan to bomb locations in Japan including Osaka and Tokyo. This plan was to be carried out with 500 aircraft furnished to the Chinese Army. A central role was played in the Chinese Air Force by the American Volunteer Group (nicknamed the “Flying Tigers”), a group of U.S. Army Air Corps who withdrew from the American military register and pretended to be members of the Chinese Air Force. The U.S. had by chance preferentially given aircraft to Europe so this plan was not realized. The effective start of the war was on July 23, 1941. Roosevelt’s signing of the plan for the Flying Tigers to bomb the Japanese mainland (JB 355) was a way for the U.S. to carry out aerial bombing of the Japanese Army in China before Pearl Harbor with no declaration of war.
The American government had deciphered Japan’s army and diplomatic codes, so it knew about the Attack on Pearl Harbor. Instead of informing the garrison at Pearl Harbor about this, it called an unusually large number of officers and men – exceeding the fixed number of personnel – to the USS Arizona, even though it was Sunday and they had a day off. Aircraft carriers and new warships were also withdrawn from Pearl Harbor. The USS Arizona was sunk in the attack by the Japanese Army, and half of the victims of Pearl Harbor died on this battleship. If this ship had been sunk in a torpedo attack, it would have been damaged on the seaward side. However, there were large holes in the landward side of the USS Arizona. People believe these holes were caused by a secondary explosion of the powder magazines. However, this battleship must have been designed so that secondary explosions would not occur so easily when it was bombed by aircraft. Many people were killed in action when the U.S. sunk its own ship, the USS Maine, during the Spanish-American War. The U.S. said this was the work of Spain and used the slogan “Remember the Maine!” to inspire a fighting spirit among the citizens. Considering this previous offense, perhaps the U.S. purposefully sacrificed its own soldiers to rally people with the call “Remember Pearl Harbor!”
For Japan, the war with the U.S. was one facet of the Greater East Asian War, which was aimed at racial equality and freeing Asia from colonial rule by the major Western powers, including the war with China that had already begun. For the U.S., rather than fighting with Japan, the war was waged to protect England (its ally) and obstruct Hitler’s domination of Europe. For this reason – based on the concept that an enemy of an enemy is a friend – the U.S. provided as much support as possible such as sending weapons and supplies to the communist Soviet Union, and also establishing weapon production bases. As a result, Germany was defeated via a two-pronged strategy on the Western and Eastern Fronts. At the same time, the Soviet Union became a military monster.
In the last stage of World War II, the threat that the Soviet Union would use this power to communize the world had grown. The U.S. used secret Congressional funds to quietly develop the nuclear bombs to drop on Japan. Japan used various channels to convey its desire to end the war, including the Soviet Union (with which it had concluded the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact), Chiang Kai-shek of the Kuomintang, and the Vatican. However, the U.S. ignored this, and bought time by giving a vague answer to Japan, which said the only condition was the continuance of the Emperor System after the war. Once the atomic bombs were successfully tested, the U.S. released the Potsdam Declaration. It dropped atomic bombs of two different types – uranium and plutonium – on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where it had purposefully not carried out regular bombing or air raids, and confirmed their effects. To demonstrate that the atomic bomb was not the only inhumane weapon, the U.S. even built Japanese-style houses in the desert of Arizona and carried out burning experiments to research the best ways to drop incendiary bombs. It then slaughtered 100,000 civilians in a single night during the Great Tokyo Air Raid of March 10, 1945. This may have been because it predicted that around 100,000 people would be killed by the atomic bombs.
To rationalize its atomic bomb attacks, the U.S. purposefully carried out a landing operation by the Marine Corps at Iwo Jima, where it lacked both control of the seas and air. The casualties numbered 28,686 people, and it was the only battle in which more American soldiers were killed or wounded than Japanese ones. This was to emphasize that dropping the atomic bombs was necessary to prevent a predicted one million American casualties if fighting were to occur on the Japanese mainland. However, the U.S.’s true intention was to intimidate the Soviet Union and make preparations for World War III, which would be caused by conflict over the communization of the world. The atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki in close range of Urakami Cathedral, Japan’s largest Catholic church, during a service attended by many believers. The U.S. was a Protestant country that had been founded by destroying the Native Americans, so perhaps its felt no reluctance to use the Catholic Urakami Cathedral as a mark. This resembles today’s conflict between the Shia and Sunni sects of Islam.
Because the U.S. massacred non-resisting civilians with the atomic bombs, it had to show that it was a good country that had brought democracy to Japan. Therefore, Japan must be portrayed as a bad country. To that end, at the Tokyo Trials it raised the issue of the fabricated Nanking Massacre, in which the Chinese National Army claimed that 300,000 people were killed. It also executed General Iwane Matsui as a Class-B war criminal and gave support to Korea, which insisted that 200,000 Korean women had been forcibly transported and made to serve as sex slaves.
To show Japan in a bad light, the U.S. also carried out the brainwashing of Japanese people via censorship during the postwar period. On September 18, 1945 – one month after the end of the war – The Asahi Shimbun newspaper published a statement by Ichiro Hatoyama in which he said the atomic bombs had been a violation of international law. In response, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (GHQ) imposed a two-day publishing ban and released the 30-item Press Code on the following day. According to a register of names that was disclosed by Waseda University Emeritus Professor Taketoshi Yamamoto, the unprecedented number of 4,000 Japanese censors (a cumulative total of 14,000 people) were paid extraordinarily high salaries to check newspapers, radio broadcasts, published materials, and even 200 million personal letters in conformance with the Press Code. In this way, they thoroughly regulated ideologies. The U.S. also burned books that it found inconvenient. Unlike the censorship in Japan during the war, the censored materials could not just be blacked out. Instead, they had to be re-printed, which cost money. This gave force to the trend in which publishing companies and newspapers placed voluntary restraints on their work. This regulation of freedom and speech was kept confidential. When the Cold War ended, the Soviet Union collapsed, confidential information flowed out of the country, the U.S. released information, and the truth gradually became clear. Despite this, the Japanese media has still not reported on the list of censors, abides by the Press Code via voluntary restraints, and only reports in a way that is in line with the Tokyo Trials historical view. There is no true freedom of speech in Japan. House of Representatives Member Mio Sugita of The Party for Future Generations asked a question about the Press Code at the National Diet as a way to get to the bottom of this. The censors benefited from Japan’s war defeat, and their successors are members of the so-called “stealth complex” of people who graduated from the University of Tokyo’s Faculty of Law (the poster child for education focused on test results). The bureaucrats, who are members of this stealth complex, submit bills based on the U.S.-Japan Regulatory Reform and Competition Policy Initiative. The media extols these bills, they are approved by representatives, and then passed on the National Diet. Via this harmonious process, Japan has swallowed the demands of the U.S., and it has been compelled to create systems that do not suit Japan such as the citizen lay judge system and private inspections of architectural structures. However, this trend is changing due to the popularity of the Internet.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently dissolved the Lower House at lightening speed, which was a carefully created strategy. Two female cabinet ministers have resigned due to scandals started by the media. Perhaps Abe thought to make the first move before he was subjected to further attacks, but one can also think that he was taking the September 2015 Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presidential election into account. Abe’s internal foundation in the party is not necessarily that strong. Even if the LDP decreased slightly in this election and a ruling coalition party won, there would be no rival candidates in the next presidential election and Abe might be elected without voting. He could then dissolve the Lower House at the timing of the Upper House election two years in the future, and carry out a double election. I definitely hope that Abe – who is attempting to make Japan into a decent country via a skillfully strategy of diversion – will hold political power for a long time. The problem is the New Komeito Party (NKP), which is an opposition party even though it has an alliance with the ruling party. By all rights, it is bizarre to form an alliance while having a majority.
People say the prime minister gains strength each time the House of Representatives is dissolved and an election is held. Around the time when this essay is published, I suspect the LDP’s victory will have been determined. Due to this election, the LDP should sever the alliance with the NKP, create a solo government, gain public support, gather more than two thirds of National Diet members who are in favor of constitutional change, and blaze a path towards constitutional reform. I hope this will be the beginning of a new Japan, just like the Meiji Restoration.10:00 a.m., December 12, 2014 (Friday)