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Naruhiko Higashikuni

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Prince Naruhiko Higashikuni (1887 – 1990) was an extremely influential Japanese aristocrat, usually known as Prince Higashikuni, active in many of the secret political plots leading to World War Two in the Pacific. He was considered the uncle of, and an advisor to Emperor Hirohito, He was a field marshal in the Imperial Japanese Army, who commanded an army in the Second Sino-Japanese War and had headed aeronautical defelopment.

"Between 1930 and 1936, as part of the terror that had silenced Japanese moderates, he had been involved in not less than eight fake coups d'etat. four assassination, two religious hoaxes, and countless threats and of murder and blackmail.", [1]

In 1945, he took on various senior posts and was briefly Prime Minister of Japan for the "surrender cabinet".


His military assignments were:[2]

  • Attached to 1st Division 1928-1929
  • Commanding Officer 3rd Imperial Guards Regiment 1929-1930
  • General staff (1930-1932)
  • Commanding 5th Brigade (1932-1933)
  • General Staff (1933-1934)
  • Commanding 2nd Division (1934-1935)
  • General Officer Commanding 5th Division (1937-1938)
  • Head of Army Aeronautical Department, Ministry of War, 1938
  • General Officer Commanding 2nd Army, China, 1941-1945
  • Commander in Chief General Defence Command 1945
  • Member of the Supreme War Council 1945
  • Minister of War 1945
  • Prime Minister 1945

Under Emperor Taisho

He accompanied the young Prince Hirohito on his 1921 trip to Europe. Also in 1921, while it has never been absolutely confirmed he was physically present, he definitely sponsored the meeting of Three Crows, a group of influential military attaches that named eleven more officers, the "Eleven Reliables", for further clandestine work.

Showa Period

In 1927, he encouraged Hirohito to prepare the exploitation of Manchuria.

On a strategic level, he was associated, in the low-key way of the Palace, with the Control Faction and Strike-South Faction. He may have had involvement in the Prayer Meeting Plot of 11 July 1933, in which the rebels were arrested before they could attack, with swords, the residence of Sadao Araki. In its aftermath, Araki agreed to restore some Strike-North Faction members to their posts, purge all Marxists from the palace and some academic posts. Two of Higashikuni's Three Crows allies, Tetsuzan Nagata and Toshiro Obata, were moved from the Army staff to field commands. Hideki Tojo formed a Committee for Investigations to monitor Army discipline and morale. [3] This was a blow to Higashikuni's allies.

World War II

He participated in the Supreme War Council meeeting of 4 November 1941, which unanimously recommended war.

Decision for war

During the Supreme War Council meeting, he said, disagreeing with Hideki Tojo who did not feel the objectives were well stated,
It goes without saying that we must andicipate a long war. Also, however, we must start thinking right now about concluding the war at an appropriate time. Indeed we must consider the possibility of using our commanding position under His Imperial Majesty to settle not only the differences between the United States and Japa, but also those which disturb the world at large.[4]
Tojo responded,
The possibility of a long war is 80 percent. A short war is conceivable,however, under the following circumstances: destruction of most of the U.S. fleet — especially if the United States tries to retake the Philippines after whe have occupied it; loss in America of the will to fight — a result that might follow a German declaration of war on the United States and German landings in England; control of England's lifeline — control, that is, of the shipping lanes which keep her from starving; finally, occupation and closing of the sources in the Far East of many of the military raw materials of the United States.

The Council endorsed the war decision unanimously, which Hirohito heard, nodded, and withdrew.

War progress

He was realistic about the conflict, telling Hirohito, after the American victory at Guadalcanal, that the Imperial Japanese Army was going to learn a lesson as harsh as they had learned in the Nomohan Incident.[5]


He commanded the army air force at the time of the Rape of Nanking. The significance was not so much that the air force had an operational role, but that he was one of the members of the Imperial Family, including the actual commander, Prince Asaka, and the Army Chief of Staff, Prince Kanin, who were aware of atrocities. [6]


Higashikuni was named Prime Minister of Japan shortly after the surrender, and the resignation of the Suzuki cabinet. Hirohito, who considered him a trustworthy novice in general political affairs. [7] He was unable to solve problems of the black market, and indeed may have reestablished an alliance among politicians, the civil service, and the underworld. His greatest priority, however, was the preservation of kokutai, and, to focus on that problem, he appointed the retired Kanji Ishiwara.[8]

It was reported that he was one of the Palace leaders who wanted Hirohito to abdicate. [9]


  1. David Bergamini (1971), Japan's Imperial Conspiracy, Morrow, p. 117
  2. Higashikuni, Naruhiko, Prince
  3. Bergamini, pp. 556-561
  4. Bergamini, pp. 810-811
  5. Merion and Susie Harris (1991), Soldiers of the Sun: the Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army, Random House, p. 451
  6. Herbert P. Bix (2001), Hirohito and the making of modern Japan, Harper Perennial, ISBN 978-0060931308, p. 336
  7. Bix, p. 537
  8. Bix, p. 540
  9. John W. Dower (2000), Embracing defeat: Japan in the wake of World War II, W.W. Norton, p. 321