Hotsumi Ozaki

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Hotsumi Ozaki
Hotsumi Ozaki.JPG
Native name 尾崎 秀実
Born (1901-04-29)29 April 1901
Shirakawa, Gifu Prefecture
Died 7 November 1944(1944-11-07) (aged 43)
Tokyo, Japan
Cause of death Execution by hanging
Alma mater Tokyo Imperial University
Occupation Journalist, Spy
Spouse(s) Eiko
Children Yoko

Hotsumi Ozaki (尾崎 秀実 Ozaki Hotsumi?, April 29, 1901 – November 7, 1944) was an Imperial Japanese journalist working for the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, communist, Soviet intelligence agent, and an advisor to Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe. The only Japanese person to be hanged for treason (under the guise of the Peace Preservation Law) by the Imperial Japanese government during World War II, Ozaki is well known as an informant of the Soviet agent Richard Sorge. He wrote letters to his wife and daughter while imprisoned, published as Love is like a Shower of Stars.


Ozaki was born in what is now the town of Shirakawa, Gifu Prefecture, and a descendant of a samurai family.[1] His family relocated to Taiwan when he was a youth, and he grew up in Taipei. He returned to Japan in 1922, and enrolled in the Legal department of Tokyo Imperial University. Appalled by the actions of the government in the aftermath of the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake he turned to Marxism.[1] He left school without graduating in 1925, after becoming involved in the activities of the Japan Communist Party. In 1926, he joined the Asahi Shimbun newspaper,[1] where he wrote articles on Soviet leaders Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin. He was transferred to the Osaka Mainichi Shimbun the following year.

From November 1928, Ozaki was dispatched to Shanghai in China, where he soon made contact with members of the Chinese Communist Party, the left-wing journalist Agnes Smedley, and members of the Comintern leadership based in Shanghai. Smedley introduced him to Richard Sorge in 1930.[1] After his return to Japan, he moved back to Tokyo in 1934 where he linked up with Sorge.

By writing books and articles Ozaki established himself as an expert in Sino-Japanese relations. Thus he was recruited by Ryūnosuke Gotō in 1937 to join the Shōwa Kenkyūkai, a think tank established by Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe. From 1938, he was invited by Konoe to become a member of his inner circle, or “Breakfast Club”, of select members with whom he would confer on current events each week over breakfast. Ozaki, therefore, was in a position to participate in the making of decisions he was supposed to uncover.[1]

Ozaki learned that Japan wanted to avoid a war with the Soviet Union, and let Sorge know of it. This information proved to be of uttermost importance for the whole history of the Second World War: after Sorge relayed it to Soviet command, Moscow transferred 18 divisions, 1,700 tanks, and over 1,500 aircraft from Siberia and the Far East to the Western Front against the Nazi Germany during the most dangerous months of the Battle for Moscow, one of the turning points of the whole war.[citation needed]

On July 2, 1941, Ozaki as a member of the "Breakfast Club" supported a critical decision for Japanese expansion towards the Dutch East Indies and Singapore and against Hitler's request to invade Siberia.[1] He was outspoken in his opposition and concerns with regards to the decision reached at the Gozen Kaigi conference of September 6, 1941 that war with the United States was unavoidable.

On October 15, 1941, Ozaki was arrested in conjunction with the Sorge Incident. During his trial, it was revealed that Ozaki had been working with Sorge since his return to Japan, and that through his close contacts with Konoe and other senior Japanese politicians, was able to gather information and to copy secret documents.[citation needed]

He was executed on 7 November 1944.[citation needed]

Post-war legacy[edit]

After the war, Hotsumi Ozaki became viewed as a martyr.[2] Annual visits to the tombs of Hotsumi Ozaki, and Richard Sorge have been made since 1975.[3] However, there is no monument to Hotsumi Ozaki.[4]

In the arts[edit]

  • No Regrets for Our Youth is a Japanese film loosely based on Ozaki, written and directed by Akira Kurosawa.
  • In the 2003 film Spy Sorge, directed by Masahiro Shinoda and based on the life of Richard Sorge, Ozaki is played by Masahiro Motoki.
  • Kinoshita Junji, A Japanese Called Otto オットーと呼ばれる日本人. This play, centered on Ozaki, was first performed in 1962 and has been produced in Japan a number of times since, most recently in 2008. An English translation by Lawrence Rogers was published in Patriots and Traitors: Sorge and Ozaki: A Japanese Cultural Casebook, Merwin Asia, 2009.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Phillip Knightley. The Second Oldest Profession. W. W. Norton & Co, 1986. pp. 186–93. ISBN 0-393-02386-9. 
  2. ^ John W. Dower (1999). Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 194–195. 
  3. ^ "Annual visit to spies’ tombs to be the last". The Japan Times. 
  4. ^ "Did a forgotten Japanese journalist turn the tide of World War II?". Asia Times. August 5, 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Johnson, Chalmers. An Instance of Treason Ozaki Hotsumi and the Sorge Spy Ring. Stanford CA: Stanford University Press,
  • Whymant, Robert. Stalin's Spy: Richard Sorge and the Tokyo Espionage Ring. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996