December 6, 1886|
Sakata, Yamagata, Empire of Japan
|Died||December 24, 1957
Cause of death
|Education||Tokyo Imperial University, 1911, Ph.D. 1926|
|Occupation||Educator, Political philosopher, Islamic scholar, historian|
|Criminal status||International Military Tribunal for the Far East dropped charges|
|Parent(s)||Shūkei Ōkawa, physician (d. 1914)|
Shūmei Ōkawa (大川 周明 Ōkawa Shūmei?, December 6, 1886 – December 24, 1957) was a Japanese nationalist, Pan-Asian writer, indicted war criminal, and Islamic scholar. In the prewar period, he was known for his publications on Indian philosophy, philosophy of religion, Japanese history, and colonialism. He is frequently called a "right-wing" writer, although he described himself as anti-capitalist and rejected the label "right-wing."
Ōkawa was born in Sakata, Yamagata, Japan in 1886. He graduated from Tokyo Imperial University in 1911, where he had studied Vedic literature and classical Indian philosophy. After graduation, Ōkawa worked for the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff doing translation work. He had a sound knowledge of German, French, English, Sanskrit and Pali.
He briefly flirted with socialism in his college years, but in the summer of 1913 he read a copy of Sir Henry Cotton's New India, or India in transition (1886, revised 1905) which dealt with the contemporary political situation. After reading this book, Ōkawa abandoned "complete cosmopolitanism" (sekaijin) for Pan-Asianism. Later that year articles by Anagarika Dharmapala and Maulavi Barkatullah appeared in the magazine Michi, published by Dōkai, a religious organization in which Ōkawa was later to play a prominent part. While he studied, he briefly housed the Indian independence leader Rash Behari Bose.
After years of study of foreign philosophies, he became increasingly convinced that the solution to Japan's pressing social and political problems lay in an alliance with Asian independence movements, a revival of pre-modern Japanese philosophy, and a renewed emphasis on the kokutai principles.
In 1918, Ōkawa went to work for the South Manchurian Railway Company, under its East Asian Research Bureau. Together with Ikki Kita he founded the nationalist discussion group and political club Yūzonsha. In the 1920s, he became an instructor of history and colonial policy at Takushoku University, where he was also active in the creation of anti-capitalist and nationalist student groups. Meanwhile, he introduced Rudolf Steiner's theory of social threefolding to Japan.
In 1926, Ōkawa published his most influential work: "Japan and the Way of the Japanese" (Nihon oyobi Nihonjin no michi), which was so popular that it was reprinted 46 times by the end of World War II. Ōkawa also became involved in a number of attempted coups d'état by the Japanese military in the early 1930s, including the March Incident, for which he was sentenced to five years in prison in 1935. Released after only two years, he briefly re-joined the South Manchurian Railway Company before accepting a post as a professor at Hosei University in 1939. He continued to publish numerous books and articles, helping popularize the idea that a "clash of civilizations" between the East and West was inevitable, and that Japan was destined to assume the mantle of liberator and protector of Asia against the United States and other Western nations.
Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal
After World War II, the Allies prosecuted Ōkawa as a class-A war criminal, the only civilian among the twenty-seven military officers. They described him to the press as the "Japanese Goebbels" and claimed that he had long agitated for a war between Japan and the West. In pre-trial hearings, Okawa countered that he had merely translated and commented on Vladimir Solovyov's geopolitical philosophy in 1924, and that in fact Pan-Asianism did not advocate for war.
During the trial, Ōkawa behaved erratically – dressing in pajamas, sitting barefoot, and hitting the bald head of the former prime minister Hideki Tōjō while shouting "Inder! Kommen Sie!" (Come, Indian!) in German, and so on. Some heard him shout "This is act one of the comedy!" U.S. Army psychiatrist Daniel Jaffe examined him and reported he was unfit to stand trial. Therefore, the presiding judge Sir William Webb (The President of the Tokyo Tribunal) concluded that he was mentally ill and dropped the case against him. (Of the remaining defendants, seven were hanged and the rest imprisoned.) From the beginning of the tribunal, Ōkawa was saying that the court was a farce and not even worthy of being called a legal court. Therefore, some people still believe that he was feigning madness.
Translation of Quran
Ōkawa was transferred from the jail to a US Army hospital in Japan, which concluded that he had mental instability. Later, he was transferred to the Tokyo Metropolitan Matsuzawa Hospital, a famous mental hospital, where he completed the first Japanese translation of the entire Quran. He was released from hospital in 1948. He spent the final years of his life writing a memoir, Anraku no Mon, reflecting on how he found peace in the mental hospital.
In October 1957, Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru requested an audience with him during a brief visit to Japan. The invitation was hand-delivered to Ōkawa's house by an Indian Embassy official, who found that Ōkawa was already on his deathbed and was unable to leave the house. He died two months later.
- Some issues in re-emerging Asia (復興亜細亜の諸問題), 1922
- A study of the Japanese spirit (日本精神研究), 1924
- A study of chartered colonisation companies (特許植民会社制度研究), 1927
- National History (国史読本), 1931
- 2600 years of the Japanese history (日本二千六百年史), 1939
- History of Anglo-American Aggression in East Asia (米英東亜侵略史), 1941
- Best-seller in Japan during WW2
- Introduction to Islam (回教概論), 1942
- Quran (Japanese translation), 1950
- "Okawa Shumei". Merriam Webster's Biographical Dictionary (FEE, VIA FAIRFAX COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY). Springfield, MA: Gale. 1995. GALE|K1681157864. Retrieved 2014-01-20. Biography in Context.
- Yoshimi, Takeuchi, Profile of Asian Minded Man x: Okawa Shumei (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-27, retrieved 2014-01-20
- Wakabayashi, Modern Japanese Thought, pp.226
- Samuels, Securing Japan: Tokyo's Grand Strategy and the Future of East Asia, pp. 18
- Calvocoressi, The Penguin History of the Second World War pp.657
- Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan, pp.572
- Wakabayashi, Modern Japanese Thought, pp.226-227
- Japan’s Pan-Asianism and the Legitimacy of Imperial World Order, 1931–1945
- Maga, Judgment at Tokyo: The Japanese War Crimes Trials
- Halzack, Sarah (January 17, 2014). "A Curious Madness: An American Combat Psychiatrist, a Japanese War Crimes Suspect, and an Unsolved Mystery from World War II". The Washington Post. p. B7. Retrieved 2014-01-30. (review of book by Eric Jaffe)
- This was not from Arabic, as Ōkawa could not read that language. He made his translation from about 10 language editions, including English, Chinese, German, and French. The most popular translation appeared in the late 1950s; it is by T. Izutsu, who was helped by Ōkawa. Ōkawa's version is difficult to find nowadays.
- Sekioka Hideyuki. Ōkawa Shūmei no Dai-Ajia-Shugi. Tokyo: Kodansha, 2007. p. 203.
- Calvocoressi, Peter; Wint, Guy; Pritchard, R John (1999). The Penguin History of the Second World War. London: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-028502-4.
- Jaffe, Eric (2014). A curious madness : an American combat psychiatrist, a Japanese war crimes suspect, and an unsolved mystery from World War II (First Scribner hardcover ed.). New York: Scribner. ISBN 9781451612059. LCCN 2013040208. Retrieved 2014-01-20.
- Jansen, Marius B. (2000). The Making of Modern Japan. Belknap Press. ISBN 0-674-00991-6.
- Maga, Timothy P. (2001). Judgment at Tokyo: The Japanese War Crimes Trials. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-2177-9.
- Samuels, Richard J (2007). Securing Japan: Tokyo's Grand Strategy and the Future of East Asia. Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-4612-0.
- Wakabayashi, Bob (2007). Modern Japanese Thought. Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-4612-0.
- Esenbel, Selçuk (October 2004). "Japan's Global Claim to Asia and the World of Islam: Transnational Nationalism and World Power, 1900–1945". The American Historical Review (American Historical Association) 109 (4). Archived from the original on 2009-03-09. Retrieved 2014-01-20. Prof Dr. Selçuk Esenbel, Dozentin an der Bosporus-Universität
- Szpilman, Christopher W. A. "The Dream of One Asia: Okawa Shumei and Japanese Asianism". In Fuess, Harald. The Japanese Empire in East Asia. pp. 49–64.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Shumei Okawa.|
- Ōkawa hitting Tojo illustration