Japan and the U.S.
Notes from Japan, China and the Powers

For The U.S. War Against Asia
by William P. Meyers

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Japan’s Government before World War II

All [page numbers] reference China, Japan, and the Powers by Meribeth E. Cameron, Thomas H. D. Mahoney, and George E. McReynolds. The Ronald Press Company, New York. Copyright 1952

In contrast to U.S. propaganda, Japan did have a democratic form of government, although the military became increasingly powerful over time. In 1932 a series of assassinations cumulating in the death of the head of the government, Inukai Tsuyoshi of the Seiyukai party on May 15. A nonparty cabinet was formed, so that in the future cabinet posts would be mainly former bureaucrats and military officers, rather than elected politicians. The army and navy were themselves factionalized, with actions often taken (in China) without orders from the high command. 1932 to 1940 “twice witnessed a repudiation of complete military rule by the people in general elections.” [513-514]

The Minseito party made significant gains in the House of Representative in the January 1936 election. The Tokyo Mutiny on February 26, 1936 resulted in the deaths of a number of cabinet members, including Admiral Saito and General Watanabe. The rebels did not surrender at first despite an imperial order, showing the army was not in control of its own officers. [516]

One-party rule was established only in 1940, when the old parties dissolved and a single party was found. Parliament continued in form only. Prince Konoe was the head of government and the only official party, The Imperial Rule Assistance Association (Taisei Yokusankai). The authors believe that after July, 1937, when hostilities against China resumed, the Army and Navy factions united and by picking politicians and bureaucrats, had effective control of the national government. [518-520]

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