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 became Political prisoners in Imperial Japan.[3]

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, acted as Imperial Japan's Thought Police.[4] Suspects were given the option to make Tenkō (ideological recantation) statements.[5]

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.[6] According to Ben-Ami Shillony "A closer observation of the wartime years has shown that Japan was not an ideological disciple of the Axis. Although militarily allied to totalitarian powers, her society, was in many respects, freer than those of the Soviet Union or Kuomintang China, both of which ostensibly fought on the side of democracy. The Japanese regime was restrictive, narrow-minded, and stifling, but it was not a dictatorship.[7]

In Japan ideological opponents of the state were not killed and most of them were released after the surrender. According to Shillony "The political arrests silenced opposition, spread fear, and put thousands of people in gaol for their views. But compared with the mass arrests, deportations, and killing of millions in countries like Germany or the Soviet Union, oppression in Japan was relatively mild. There were no concentration camps, and those who recanted were either released or received short prison terms. Nevertheless, life behind bars was grim, and torture was often used in interrogation. In the last year of the war, hundreds of prisoners died of malnutrition, maltreatment, or in air raids.[8]

Pre-war period[edit]

The Japanese Communist Party was founded on July 15, 1922. The JCP was suppressed by the Japanese government. Mass round ups took place in March 15 1928, and were followed by mass round ups on April 16 1929.[9] Following the Manchurian Incident in 1931, the JCP and its affiliated organizations conducted 262 anti-war actions, mostly leaflet distributions. In October 1932, the government carried out mass arrests of some 12,622 suspected Communists, the largest crackdown since the round up on March 15, 1928. Anti-war actions dropped off to 1,694 in 1933 and 597 in 1934.[10] Party activities practically ceased on an organized basis following the arrest of Hakamada Satomi of the Central Committee in early 1935.[11]

In 1933, faculty and students of Kyoto Imperial University protested against 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]

The anarchist movement in Japan collapsed in 1935 following the nationwide roundup of members of anarchist groups.[13]

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).[14]

World War II period[edit]

Soka Gakkai[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.[15] Toda was released in July 1945. He rebuilt the Sokka Gakkai after the war.[16]

Dissidence in China[edit]

Throughout the Second Sino-Japanese War, Japanese dissidents, and Japanese POWs in China joined the Chinese resistance to Japan.[17]

List of notable dissidents[edit]

Japanese communist Sanzo Nosaka



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. pp. 19–62. 
  5. ^ James L. Huffman (2013). Modern Japan: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Nationalism. Routledge. pp. 85–87. 
  6. ^ Elise K. Tipton (1990). The Japanese Police State: Tokko in Interwar. University of Hawaii Press. p. 142. 
  7. ^ Ben Ami Shillony (1981). Politics and culture in wartime Japan. Oxford University Press. 
  8. ^ Ben Ami Shillony (1981). Politics and culture in wartime Japan. Oxford University Press. 
  9. ^ Robert A. Scalapino (1967). The Japanese Communist movement, 1920-1966. University of California Press. 
  10. ^ Louise Young (1999). Japan's Total Empire: Manchuria and the Culture of Wartime Imperialism. University of California Press. pp. 166–167. 
  11. ^ Robert A. Scalapino (1967). The Japanese Communist movement, 1920-1966. University of California Press. 
  12. ^ Itoh, Mayumi (2003). The Hatoyama Dynasty: Japanese Political Leadership Through the Generations. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 62. ISBN 9781403981523. 
  13. ^ George M. Beckmann, and Genji Okubo (1969). The Japanese Communist Party 1922-1945. Stanford University Press. p. 71. 
  14. ^ "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. 
  15. ^ Bibliography of Japanese New Religious Movements By Peter B Clarke Page 235
  16. ^ Global Institutions of Religion: Ancient Movers, Modern Shakers By Katherine Marshall Page 107
  17. ^ Roth, Andrew (1945). Dilemma in Japan. Little, Brown. pp. 162–192. 

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.