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Old 09-13-2008, 08:26 PM   #8
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 10

Hello Allen,

Konoe is something of an enigma and I wonder how much he talked to Morihei Ueshiba. The terms that Kisshomaru Ueshiba used for their relationship were, 「親交を得ている」: 'to acquire someone's friendship'. The newly-published translation of Kisshomaru's biography gives this as, "... Prince Fumimaro Konoe, with whom he [Ueshiba] had a close relationship." Did this extend to discussing war strategy and Konoe's own relations with the Emperor?

To see what I mean, let us look more closely at the quote from Wikipedia (Yes, I covered the same ground--and a lot more). This is not quite so straighforward as might appear.

[Konoe resigns on 16 October 1941 justifying his demission to his secretary Kenji Tomita. "Of course his Majesty is a pacifist and he wished to avoid war. When I told him that to initiate war was a mistake, he agreed. But the next day, he would tell me: 'You were worried about it yesterday but you do not have to worry so much.' Thus, gradually he began to lead to war. And the next time I met him, he leaned even more to war. I felt the Emperor was telling me: 'My prime minister does not understand military matters. I know much more.' In short, the Emperor had absorbed the view of the army and the navy high commands."]

The Wikipedia footnote gives the original source of the quotation: the citation on p.126 of a book by Akira Fujiwara, called, 『昭和天皇の五十年戦争』Showa Tenno no Gojunen Senso. For the sake of completeness, here is the original Japanese text:

“ 陛下は勿論、平和主義で、飽く迄戦争を避けたい御気持であったことは間違いないが、自分が総理大臣として陛下に、今日、開戦の不利なることを申し上げると、それに賛成され ていたのに、明日御前に出ると、「昨日あんあにおまえ言っていたが、それ心配することもないよ」と仰せられて、少し戦争の方へ寄って行かれる。又次回にはもっと戦争論の方 に寄っておられる。つまり、陸海の統帥部の人達の意見がはいって、軍のことは総理大臣には解らない。自分の方が詳しいという御心持のように思われた。従って統帥について何ら権限のない総理大臣として、唯一の頼みの綱の陛下がこれではとても頑張りようがない(富田健治『敗戦日本の内側』)。”

The same citation appears in Herbert Bix’s book on Hirohito. But Bix blames the Emperor rather more than Konoe:

“Konoe’s chief cabinet secretary, Kenji Tomita, later recorded Konoe’s reminiscences of the circumstances surrounding his resignation, in which he implied that Hirohito was clearly at fault.”

Bix then gives a translation of the entire text, including the parts omitted in the Wikipedia quote (in bold in the Japanese text):

‘…Consequently, as a prime minister who lacked authority over the high command, I had no way of making further effort because the emperor, who was the last resort, was this way.’

Bix adds: “The emperor would one day, down the long bloody road of World War II, praise Tojo for serving him loyally, while saying of Konoe, who had tried to prevent war with the United States, that ‘he lacked firm beliefs and courage’. To add to the irony, it was Konoe, not the emperor, who was arrested after the war as a probable war criminal.” Bix, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, 2000, pp. 419-420.)

To add a little more to the irony, Hideki Tojo knew of Morihei Ueshiba and aikido, even though it is not clear that they ever met. I believe that it was Tojo who ordered his officers to practice aikido.

Konoe has had something of a bad press in Japan, due in part to writers like Yatsuhiro Nakagawa. An effort to restore the balance was recently made by Kazuo Yagami, Konoe Fumimaro and the Failure of Peace in Japan 1937-1941, 2006, McFarland.

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 09-13-2008 at 08:28 PM.

P A Goldsbury
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