Japanese dissidence during the Shōwa period

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Japanese dissidence during the Shōwa period was dissidence by Japanese citizens of the Empire of Japan (1868–1947) during the Shōwa period, the reign of the Shōwa Emperor, Hirohito (1926–1989). The Shōwa period witnessed the rise of militarism in Japan, and the Empire of Japan's full-scale invasion of China in the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), which escalated into a full-scale invasion of the Asian continent during the Pacific theatre of World War II (1941–1945).

According to Andrew Roth, the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) was the only group which had been able to maintain underground resistance within Japan. However, Roth, and Saburo Ienaga highlights that there were dissidents who were not members of the JCP. According to Ienaga, organized resistance was absent in wartime Japan. Only passive resistance, and insignificant protests occurred. Some Japanese went abroad,[1][2] while others were imprisoned until the end of World War II.[3]

Japanese dissidents faced a regime that was unique from other Axis countries. Elise K. Tipton compares prewar Japan to the eighteenth and nineteenth-century police states of Germany, Austria, and France, rather than to Nazi Germany, Mussolini's Italy, and Stalinist Russia.[4] According to Ben-Ami Shillony, Japan was not an ideological disciple of the Axis. Shillony describes the Japanese regime as oppressive, but not a dictatorship.[5] The Peace Preservation Law of 1925 criminalized opposition to the Kokutai (national body/structure). The Tokubetsu Kōtō Keisatsu (Special Higher Police), often shortened to Tokkō, monitored dissent amongst the Japanese populous.[6] Suspects were given the option to make Tenkō (ideological recantation) statements.[7]

Pre-war period[edit]

Beginning in the 1920s, the Japanese government led a campaign against the communist movement in Japan. The Japanese Communist Party, founded in 1922, was outlawed. On March 15, 1928, mass arrests took place in the March 15 Incident. On April 16, 1929, another wave of arrests took place in the April 16 Incident. By the 1930s, the communist movement in Japan was severely weakened.[8][9]

Labor activism was active amongst both the rural, and urban workers of Japan. By 1938, the government could no longer tolerate dissent amongst the working class. In 1940, labor unions in Japan were dissolved, and replaced by the ultranationalistic Industrial Association for Serving the Nation (Sangyō Hōkokukai, or Sampō).[10]

The anarchist movement in Japan collapsed in 1935 following the nationwide roundup of members of anarchist groups.[11]

In 1933, faculty, and students of Kyoto Imperial University protested the government's suspension of Professor Yukitoki Takigawa from the university. The government was able to suppress the protests. This incident became known as the Takigawa incident.[12]

World War II period[edit]

Dissidence in Japan[edit]

Teacher Tsunesaburō Makiguchi, and Jōsei Toda were founders of the Sōka Gakkai, a religious movement founded in 1930. In 1943, Makiguchi, and Toda, along with others, were imprisoned for advising their followers not to buy amulets from the Grand Shrine of Ise. Makiguchi died in prison.[13] Toda was released in July 1945. He rebuilt the Sokka Gakkai after the war.[14]

Dissidence in China[edit]

Japanese communist Sanzo Nosaka

Throughout the Second Sino-Japanese War, Japanese dissidents, and defectors from the Imperial Japanese Army stationed in China, joined the Chinese, and served as propagandists. The purpose of the Japanese propagandists, serving with either the Kuomintang, or the Chinese communists, were to demoralize Japanese soldiers. The Japanese military were hostile to Japanese propagandists from both sides of the Second United Front, and used extreme measures to combat them.[15]

According to Koji Ariyoshi, Wataru Kaji, Kaji's wife, and fellow dissident Yuki Ikeda, and Kazuo Aoyama were the first to re-educate and use Japanese captives on the front lines in Asia. Re-educated Japanese POWs, who had been held by the Kuomintang, were sent to the front lines to broadcast propaganda to Japanese soldiers.[16][17]

The Chinese communists began to re-educate Japanese POWs in 1938. In 1940, the Political Department of the Eighth Route Army established the Peasants' and Workers' School, which re-educated Japanese POWs. By 1943, the "students", as what the Japanese POWs who attended the school were called, held virtually all the posts in the school, including teaching. Re-educated Japanese POWs distributed written propaganda, and were sent to the front lines to broadcast propaganda to Japanese soldiers. The School was handed over to Sanzo Nosaka (also known as Susumu Okano), a founder of the Japanese Communist Party, following his arrival in communist-controlled China on 1943. Jun Sawada, a member of the Communist Party in Japan, escaped to North China from Japan on 1943 .[18]

Political prisoners[edit]

Release of Japanese communists following the end of World War II

Before the end of World War II, "thought criminals" in Japan were imprisoned by the Japanese government. Fuchu Prison, located outside Tokyo, had housed incarcerated communists, including Tokuda Kyuichi, and Shiga Yoshio. In October 1945, during the Occupation of Japan, French journalist Robert Guillain, and two American journalists reported on Fuchu Prison. That same month, Fuchu prison was investigated by John K. Emmerson, and Canadian diplomat E. Herbert Norman.[19] Sugamo Prison, located in northwest Tokyo, was used by the Japanese government to house political prisoners.[20]

On 4 October 1945, the GHQ (General Headquarters, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers) issued the Removal of Restrictions on Political, Civil, and Religious Liberties directive, which stipulated the release of political prisoners.[21] The National Diet Library estimated that 3,000 political prisoners were released by the Shidehara cabinet after the war.[22] Henry Oinas-Kukkonen estimates that amongst the 3,000 political prisoners released consisted mainly of communists and socialists.[23]

List of notable dissidents[edit]



In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ienaga ,Saburo (2010). Pacific War, 1931-1945. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. pp. 203–228. 
  2. ^ Roth, Andrew (1945). Dilemma in Japan. Little, Brown. pp. 162–192. 
  3. ^ Takemae, Eiji (2003). Allied Occupation of Japan. A&C Black. pp. 235–240. 
  4. ^ Elise K. Tipton (1990). The Japanese Police State: Tokko in Interwar. University of Hawaii Press. p. 142. 
  5. ^ Ben Ami Shillony (1981). Politics and culture in wartime Japan. Oxford University Press. p. 177. 
  6. ^ Elise K. Tipton (1990). The Japanese Police State: Tokko in Interwar. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 19–62. 
  7. ^ James L. Huffman (2013). Modern Japan: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Nationalism. Routledge. pp. 85–87. 
  8. ^ Mazower, Mark (1997). The Policing of Politics in the Twentieth Century: Historical Perspectives. Berghahn Books. pp. 219–223. ISBN 9781571818737. 
  9. ^ "Japanese Communist Party (JCP)". britannica. 
  10. ^ "Political Protest in Interwar Japan Part I 戦間期日本の政治的抗議活動 「上」 :: JapanFocus". Retrieved 23 December 2014. 
  11. ^ George M. Beckmann, and Genji Okubo (1969). The Japanese Communist Party 1922-1945. Stanford University Press. p. 71. 
  12. ^ Itoh, Mayumi (2003). The Hatoyama Dynasty: Japanese Political Leadership Through the Generations. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 62. ISBN 9781403981523. 
  13. ^ Bibliography of Japanese New Religious Movements By Peter B Clarke Page 235
  14. ^ Global Institutions of Religion: Ancient Movers, Modern Shakers By Katherine Marshall Page 107
  15. ^ Roth, Andrew (1945). Dilemma in Japan. Little, Brown. pp. 162–192. 
  16. ^ Roth, Andrew (1945). Dilemma in Japan. Little, Brown. pp. 162–168. 
  17. ^ Ariyoshi, Koji (2000). From Kona to Yenan: The Political Memoirs of Koji Ariyoshi. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 105–108. 
  18. ^ Roth, Andrew (1945). Dilemma in Japan. Little, Brown. pp. 168–192. 
  19. ^ Takemae, Eiji (2003). Allied Occupation of Japan. A&C Black. pp. 235–240. 
  20. ^ "Occupied By the U.S., And by Art; Mementos From Postwar Prison Depict Turning Point for Japan". The New York Times. 
  21. ^ "5-3 The Occupation and the Beginning of Reform – Modern Japan in archives". National Diet Library. Retrieved 19 December 2014. 
  22. ^ "Glossary – Birth of the Constitution of Japan". National Diet Library. Retrieved 19 December 2014. 
  23. ^ Oinas-Kukkonen, Henry (March 30, 2003). Tolerance, Suspicion, and Hostility: Changing U.S. Attitudes toward the Japanese Communist Movement, 1944-1947. Praeger. p. 40. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Saburo Ienaga (2010). Pacific War, 1931-1945. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. 
  • Roth, Andrew (1945). Dilemma in Japan. Little, Brown. pp. 162–192.