Shigenori Tōgō

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Shigenori Tōgō
Shigenori Togo.jpg
Born(1882-12-10)December 10, 1882
DiedJuly 23, 1950(1950-07-23) (aged 67)
OccupationDiplomat, Politician, Cabinet Minister

Shigenori Tōgō (東郷 茂徳, Tōgō Shigenori) (Korean: 박무덕, Hanja: 朴茂德, Pak Mudǒk, 10 December 1882 – 23 July 1950) was Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Empire of Japan at both the start and the end of the Axis–Allied conflict during World War II. He also served as Minister of Colonial Affairs in 1941, and assumed the same position, renamed the Minister for Greater East Asia, in 1945.

Early life[edit]

Tōgō was born in Hioki District, Kagoshima, in what is now part of the city of Hioki, Kagoshima. His family was a descendant of Koreans who settled in Kyushu after the Toyotomi Hideyoshi's campaign against Korea (1592–98). Born Pak Mudǒk (朴茂德), his father took up "Tōgō" as the last name in 1886. He was a graduate of the Literature Department of Tokyo Imperial University in 1904, and subsequently studied the German language at Meiji University. He entered the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in 1912, after applying for a post five times.

Diplomatic career[edit]

Tōgō’s first overseas posting was to the Japanese consulate at Mukden, Manchuria, in 1913. In 1916, he was assigned to the Japanese embassy in Bern, Switzerland. In 1919, Tōgō was sent on a diplomatic mission to Weimar Germany, as diplomatic relations between the two countries were reestablished following the Japanese ratification of the Treaty of Versailles. He returned to Japan in 1921 and was assigned to the Bureau of North American affairs. In 1922, despite the strenuous objections of Tōgō's family, he married a German woman, the widow of noted architect George de Lalande who has designed numerous buildings in Japan and its empire, including the Japanese General Government Building in Seoul. The wedding was held in the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. In 1926, Tōgō was appointed as secretary to the Japanese embassy in United States, and moved to Washington DC. He returned to Japan in 1929, and after a brief stay in Manchuria, was sent back to Germany. He was the head of the Japanese delegation to the largely unsuccessful World Disarmament Conference held in Geneva in 1932. Tōgō returned to Japan in 1933 to assume the post of director of the Bureau of North American affairs, but was in a severe automobile accident which left him hospitalized for over a month.

In 1937, Tōgō was appointed as Japanese ambassador to Germany, serving in Berlin for a year. After Tōgō was replaced as ambassador to Germany by Hiroshi Ōshima, he was reassigned to Moscow as the ambassador to the Soviet Union 1938–1940. During this time, he negotiated a peace settlement following the Battles of Khalkhin Gol between Japan and the Soviet Union, and successfully concluded the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact in April 1941. He was then recalled to Japan by then Foreign Minister Yōsuke Matsuoka for reassignment.

Wartime service[edit]

Tōgō was adamantly against war with the United States and the other western powers, which he felt was generally unwinnable, and together with Mamoru Shigemitsu, made unsuccessful last-ditch efforts to arrange for direct face-to-face negotiations between Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe and US President Franklin Roosevelt in an attempt to stave off the conflict. In October 1941, Tōgō became Foreign Minister in the Tōjō administration. Once war was decided, it was Tōgō’s signature on the declaration of war, as he disliked pressing the responsibility of the failure of diplomacy on others. With the start of World War II, Tōgō worked quickly to conclude an alliance between Japan and Thailand in late 1941.

As part of a more reconciliatory policy towards the western powers, he announced on 21 January 1942 that the Japanese government shall uphold the Geneva Convention even though it did not sign it.[1] On 1 September 1942, he resigned his post as Foreign Minister due to his opposition to establish a special ministry for occupied territories within the Japanese government (the new ministry, the Ministry of Greater East Asia was eventually established in November of that same year). Although appointed to the Upper House of the Diet of Japan, throughout most of the war, he lived in retirement.

Upon the formation of the government of Admiral Kantarō Suzuki in April 1945, Tōgō was asked to return to his former position as Minister of Foreign Affairs. In that position, he was one of the chief proponents for acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration which, he felt, contained the best conditions for peace Japan could hope to be offered. Up until the last, Tōgō hoped for favorable terms from the Soviet Union. At Tōgō's suggestion, no official response was made to the Declaration at first, though a censored version was released to the Japanese public, while Tōgō waited to hear from Moscow. However, Allied leaders interpreted this silence as a rejection of the Declaration, and so bombing was allowed to continue. Tōgō was one of the Cabinet Ministers who advocated Japanese surrender in the summer of 1945. Several days after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese government agreed to unconditional surrender.

Following the end of World War II, Tōgō retired to his summer home in Karuizawa, Nagano. However, he was soon arrested by the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers on war crime charges, along with all former members of the Imperial Japanese government, and was held at Sugamo Prison. During the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, Haruhiko Nishi agreed to act as his defense attorney. On 4 November 1948, Tōgō was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. Togo, who suffered from atherosclerosis, died of cholecystitis while in prison.

A volume of his memoirs was published posthumously under the title The Cause of Japan, which was edited by his former defense counsel Ben Bruce Blakeney.


Shigenori Tōgō with his wife Edith and her eldest daughter from her first marriage, Ursula de Lalande, and only daughter from the second marriage with Shigenori Tōgō, Ise Tōgō, in Geneva, 1932

The Japanese diplomat and scholar on international relations, Kazuhiko Tōgō, is his grandson.

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • "Foreign Office Files for Japan and the Far East". Adam Matthew Publications. Accessed 2 March 2005.
  • Spector, Ronald (1985). Eagle Against the Sun. New York: Vintage Books.
  • Togo Shigenori, The Cause of Japan (Translation of Jidai No Ichimen) (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956). Translated by Ben Bruce Blakeney and Fumihiko Togo. Togo's memoirs.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Teijirō Toyoda
Minister for Colonial Affairs
Succeeded by
Hiroya Ino
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan
Succeeded by
Hideki Tōjō
Preceded by
Kantarō Suzuki
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan
Succeeded by
Mamoru Shigemitsu
Minister for Greater East Asia
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Mushanokōji Kintomo
Japanese Ambassador to Nazi Germany
Succeeded by
Hiroshi Ōshima
Preceded by
Mamoru Shigemitsu
Japanese Ambassador to the Soviet Union
Succeeded by
Yoshitsugu Tatekawa