A Note on Names, Translations, and Sources

All the Japanese sources cited in this book were published in Tokyo.

I have translated all Japanese sources unless otherwise indicated in the notes.

I have preserved the traditional spelling of Konoye for Konoe in contemporaneous quotations. In all other cases, Japanese names and words are Romanized in the simplified Hepburn system, without macrons to indicate long vowels.

Throughout this book, I have respected the convention of placing the family name first for Japanese men and women (e.g., Tojo Hideki rather than Hideki Tojo). That convention is reversed only when I cite English-language sources and in the acknowledgments.

Chinese names are expressed according to the standard pinyin Romanization system, but with some exceptions. For well known historical Chinese names, including Sun Yat-sen (Sun Zhongshan), Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi), and Manchukuo (Manzhouguo), I have preserved the convention of English-language literature of the time.

Major Characters

HIGASHIKUNI NARUHIKO  Imperial prince; army general known for his liberal views; uncle by marriage of Emperor Hirohito

HIROHITO  Showa emperor; ruled Japan from 1926 to 1989

KAYA OKINORI  Finance minister from October 1941

KIDO KOICHI  Marquis; lord keeper of the privy seal since June 1940; Hirohito’s closest adviser

KONOE FUMIMARO  Prince; prime minister from June 1937 to January 1939 and from July 1940 to October 1941 who led Japan during most of its period of intensifying international crisis

KURUSU SABURO  Ambassador to Berlin at the time of the Konoe government’s signing of the Tripartite Pact

MATSUOKA YOSUKE  Konoe’s foreign minister from July 1940 to July 1941; spearheaded Japan’s pro-Axis diplomacy, which culminated in the signing of the Tripartite Pact in September 1940

NAGANO OSAMI  Admiral; chief of the Navy General Staff from April 1941

NOMURA KICHISABURO  Admiral; appointed ambassador to the United States in January 1941

OIKAWA KOSHIRO  Admiral; Konoe’s navy minister from September 1940

SAIONJI KINKAZU  Foreign policy aide to Prime Minister Konoe; grandson of Prince Saionji Kinmochi

SAIONJI KINMOCHI  Prince; the last surviving founding father of modern Japan and one of its most powerful statesmen; once regarded Konoe as his protégé

SHIMADA SHIGETARO  Admiral; navy minister who succeeded Oikawa in October 1941

SUGIYAMA HAJIME  General; chief of the Army General Staff from 1940; army minister in Konoe’s first cabinet (1937–39), which exacerbated Japan’s war with China

SUZUKI TEIICHI  General director of the Cabinet Planning Board; retired army officer trusted by both Konoe and Tojo who often acted as a liaison between the two

TAKAMATSU NOBUHITO  Imperial prince; member of the Navy General Staff in 1941; younger brother of Emperor Hirohito

TOGO SHIGENORI  Ambassador to Berlin and Moscow in the late 1930s; became foreign minister in October 1941

TOJO HIDEKI  General; army minister in the Konoe cabinet from January 1939 to October 1941; became prime minister after Konoe resigned

TOYODA TEIJIRO  Admiral; Konoe’s foreign minister from July 1941; vice minister of the navy at the time of the signing of the Tripartite Pact

Selected Events in Japanese History Prior to April 1941

Here and throughout the book, the dates are indicated in local times.

1853 July  Commodore Matthew Perry presses Japan to end its isolationist policy.

1854 March 31  The Tokugawa shogunate signs the unfavorable Treaty of Peace and Amity with the United States, ending its isolationist policy and leading to the opening of Japanese ports to the rest of the world.

1868 January 3  The shogunate falls and the Meiji Restoration is proclaimed.

1882 January 4  The Imperial Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors, a code of military conduct that will form a vital part of Japanese nationalism, is issued.

1889 February 11  The Meiji Constitution is promulgated.

1890 July 1  Japan holds its first general elections.

November 25  The first session of the Diet, Japan’s bicameral parliament, is summoned, and held four days later.

1894 August 1  Japan declares war on Qing China, beginning the Sino-Japanese War.

1895 April 17  Japan defeats China, concluding the war with the signing of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, placing Taiwan and the Liaodong Peninsula, strategically located to access northeastern China (Manchuria), under Japanese control.

April 23  Russia, Germany, and France pressure Japan to return the Liaodong Peninsula to China (the so-called Triple Intervention), which it does on May 5.

1898 March 27  Russia secures a leasehold on the Liaodong Peninsula.

1902 January 30  The Anglo-Japanese Alliance, a treaty between equals, is formed.

1904 February 8  Japan attacks czarist Russia at Port Arthur, declaring war two days later.

1905 May 27–28  The Japanese navy scores a major victory in the Battle of Tsushima.

September 5  The Russo-Japanese War ends with the signing of the Treaty of Portsmouth, through the mediation of U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt.

November 17  Korea becomes a Japanese protectorate.

1906 August 1  Japan forms the Kwantung Army to protect its Manchurian possessions, newly acquired from Russia.

1910 August 29  Japan annexes Korea.

1912 July 30  Mutsuhito, the Meiji emperor, dies, succeeded by his son, Yoshihito.

1914 July 28  World War I breaks out.

August 23  Japan goes to war with Germany, enabling it to take over German possessions in China and the Pacific by November.

1915 January 18  Japan issues the Twenty-One Demands to Yuan Shikai’s China, but fails to win diplomatic concessions while antagonizing the Chinese.

1918 November 11  World War I ends, followed by the convocation of the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.

1922 February 6  Japan ratifies the Nine-Power Treaty and the Washington Naval Treaty, commencing the era of Japan’s liberal internationalist foreign policy.

1923 September 1  The Great Kanto Earthquake and the ensuing fire destroy much of Tokyo.

1926 December 25  Yoshihito dies and Crown Prince Hirohito becomes the emperor.

1929 October 29  Black Tuesday marks the beginning of the Great Depression.

1930 January 21  The London Naval Conference begins.

November 4  Prime Minister Hamaguchi Osachi is gravely wounded by an ultranationalist for supporting Japan’s ratification of the London Naval Treaty.

1931 September 18  The Kwantung Army launches the Manchurian Incident, a Japanese invasion of northeastern China, after blowing up a railway line near Mukden and blaming the act on the Chinese.

September 24  Prime Minister Wakatsuki Reijiro’s cabinet condones the military insubordination by accepting the Kwantung Army’s takeover of the Manchurian province of Jilin.

1932 March 1  The establishment of Manchukuo, a Japanese puppet state with nominal Chinese leaders, is proclaimed by the Kwantung Army.

October 2  The Lytton Commission issues its report condemning the Japanese invasion of Manchuria.

1933 January 28  The Kwantung Army occupies Rehe, a buffer province between Manchukuo and China (in today’s northern Hebei Province), with a view to establishing a stronghold in North China.

February 24  Matsuoka Yosuke, Japan’s ambassador plenipotentiary, announces his country’s intention to withdraw from the League of Nations over its adoption of the Lytton Report.

May 31  Japan successfully pressures the Guomindang (a.k.a. Kuomintang, often referred to as the Chinese Nationalist Party) leader Chiang Kai-shek to agree to the Tanggu Truce, creating a demilitarized zone in eastern Hebei, near Manchukuo’s borders.

1935 June  Japanese pressures on Chiang Kai-shek increase, prompting him to withdraw his troops from Hebei, and Chahar, Inner Mongolia, enabling Japan to secure its sphere of influence around Manchukuo.

1936 February 26  A coup attempt in Tokyo instigated by young army officers almost succeeds, but Hirohito’s decisive intervention quells it.

December 12  Chiang Kai-shek is kidnapped by the anti-Japanese warlord Zhang Xueliang, who forces Chiang to reassess his policy, eventually making him agree to join a united front against Japan, in cooperation with Chinese Communists.

1937 June 4  Konoe Fumimaro becomes prime minister.

July 7  The China War begins with a Sino-Japanese clash at the Marco Polo Bridge near Beijing.

December 13  Japanese forces conquer the Guomindang capital, Nanjing, followed by weeks of mass killing and rape.

1938 January 16  Prime Minister Konoe declares that Japan will not “deal with” Chiang Kai-shek.

March 24  The National Mobilization Law is passed in the Diet, followed by a series of emergency centralization measures to carry out Japan’s effective war mobilization.

July 1  The United States begins its “moral embargo” on aircraft and aircraft parts against Japan.

November 3  Konoe announces that Japan’s aim in the war against China is to help create a “New East Asian Order.”

1939 January 5  Konoe’s cabinet resigns.

February 10  The Japanese occupation of Hainan Island begins.

July 26  The United States announces its intention to abrogate the 1911 Treaty of Commerce and Navigation with Japan.

1940 March 30  Wang Jingwei forms a pro-Japanese government in Japanese-occupied Nanjing.

May 7  Pearl Harbor is made the main base for the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

June 4  The United States embargoes exports of industrial equipment to Japan.

June 14  German forces begin to invade Paris, leading to the fall of France.

July 22  Konoe becomes prime minister for the second time; Matsuoka Yosuke becomes foreign minister.

From late July to early August  U.S. exports of metals, aviation gasoline, and lubricating oil to Japan come under strict federal control.

August 1  Matsuoka uses the term “Greater East Asia Coprosperity Sphere” to sum up the government’s ambition to build a self-sufficient regional bloc under Japan’s leadership.

September 23–29  Japan occupies the northern half of French Indochina.

September 25  The United States increases its financial assistance to Chiang Kai-shek.

September 26  The United States embargoes the sale of steel and scrap iron to Japan, to go into effect on October 16.

September 27  Japan signs the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy.

October 12  The Imperial Rule Assistance Association is formed under Konoe’s presidency, putting an end to Japan’s party politics and beginning the New Order Movement.

October 31  Dance halls are closed and jazz performances become illegal in Japan.

November 10  The twenty-six-hundred-year reign of the Japanese imperial house is celebrated nationwide.

1941 January 8  Army Minister Tojo Hideki issues “Instructions for the Battlefield,” commanding soldiers to die a soldier’s death rather than become captives; this code, glorifying heroic death, will form the basis of Japan’s wartime credo.

February 11  The Japanese ambassador to the United States, Nomura Kichisaburo, arrives in Washington, D.C.

March 12  Matsuoka leaves for his grand tour of Europe to meet Japan’s Axis partners, Hitler and Mussolini.

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