No. 1 Shimbun Excerpt Tokyo Junkie

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan


05 | FCCJ | APRIL 2021





The only individuals who could join a
kisha club were reporters from the daily newspapers and TV/radio organizations. Magazine reporters and freelancers were not allowed.

The Japanese tendency to organize, a possible hangover from centuries of feudalism, manifested itself in many areas of life, from micromanaged corporations to a by-the-numbers healthcare system that leaves little time to get to know your doctor. My field, journalism, was no exception. The regulating mechanism was a Japanese invention called the kisha (report- er’s) club, which oversaw news-source access and content control and did it with great zeal. It differed substantially from the system in the United States.

In the US, if you wanted to interview some- one, you got the individual’s phone number and called him or her directly to ask if they would talk to you. If you had any kind of respectable media credentials, you could get into most press conferences if there was room for you. It was an open and free system. In Japan, howev- er, the open and free exchange of information was impeded by the aforementioned kisha club system. And it was a serious impediment.

Every organization of any size, from the prime minister’s office to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to the Yomiuri Giants, had a kisha club. Journalists who wanted to report on the activities of those organizations had to be accredited by the relevant club; access to representatives of the organization in ques- tion and their press conferences, as well as advance access to press dispatches and cop- ies of other official statements, was limited to club members. The only individuals who could join a kisha club were reporters from the daily newspapers and TV/radio organizations. Magazine reporters and freelancers were not allowed. Each kisha club had a captain elect- ed by the reporters who controlled access to

kisha club Q&A sessions—and made sure the questions asked did not ruffle any feathers. It was a scandalously biased system. In return for being granted access, reporters were expected to write what they were told.

As Andrew Horvat, a former AP journalist familiar with both Western and Japanese press reporting customs, once explained to me: “In the West, we are taught to pursue the scoop, to get information other reporters don’t have. That’s how you build a reputation. In Japan, you are taught not to make waves. Publishing a scoop will make everyone else in the kisha club uncomfortable and ruin group harmony, so they avoid doing it.” That analysis remains largely true today.

Reporters in Japan could get around these restrictions by selling their stories to the week- ly and monthly magazines using pen names or by simply giving their research to fellow report-

06 | FCCJ | APRIL 2021


ers operating outside the kisha club system, so there was always a way for important informa- tion to get out. But to do that was also to invite expulsion from the kisha club or other forms of retribution if the truth were discovered.

I learned my own painful lesson in this regard in 1985 when I was asked by the prestigious monthly magazine Bungei Shunju to write an article explaining the American view of the Japanese kisha club system. I accepted the assignment, researched, and wrote the article. I included several examples of how the report- ers’ clubs had prevented members of the For- eign Correspondents Club of Japan from doing their jobs.

One such example involved the South Kore- an political dissident Kim Dae-jung, who had been living in exile in the United States. Kim was an important political figure—charismatic, fearless, and determined to overturn the brutal authoritarian regime of Park Chung-hee in the Republic of Korea (ROK).

Kim had finished second in the South Korean presidential election of 1971, narrowly losing to Park, and he believed a subsequent automobile accident he was involved in to be an attempt on his life. He fled to Japan to start an exile move- ment for democracy, accusing the Park regime, which had turned into a military dictatorship, of corruption and ballot-box fixing.

On August 8, 1973, while attending a confer- ence at the Grand Palace Hotel in Tokyo, Kim was kidnapped by agents of South Korea’s intelligence agency, the KCIA, working with local ethnic-Korean gangsters. He was drugged and taken to Osaka, where he was put aboard a boat, which then headed into the Sea of Japan in the direction of the Korean Peninsula. The agents bound and gagged him, attached weights to his feet, and made ready to cast him overboard. But then suddenly, a Japan Mari- time Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) helicopter appeared overhead and fired at Kim’s captors, warning them by loudspeaker to cease and desist. Informants had alerted the Japanese government, which then dispatched the JMSDF to pursue Kim’s vessel. The boat Kim was on was subsequently escorted by the US military to Seoul, where US Ambassador Philip Habib was waiting to intervene on his behalf.

Kim remained alive. He was put under house arrest and banned from ROK politics. He elect- ed to stay but continued to speak out to foreign

Robert Whiting

reporters and was subsequently imprisoned for two years for criticizing the Seoul government. He was then arrested again in 1980 on charges of sedition and conspiracy and sentenced to death. Amnesty International, Pope John Paul II, and the US government interceded, and Kim was granted exile in America. He taught at Har- vard University until 1985 when he suddenly announced he was returning to his homeland and would hold a press conference at Narita Airport during a stopover on his way to Seoul. It was a big story, one of the biggest of the year. New York Times Tokyo correspondent Clyde Haberman dashed out to Narita Airport to participate in the press conference, but he was not allowed to enter the pressroom because he was not a member of the Narita Airport kisha club. Haberman furiously protested. There was some pushing and shoving, but in the end he was still not allowed inside.

I wrote about Haberman’s experience in the Bungei article and quoted him as saying that closed-door policies of the type that prevent- ed him from attending the Kim presser would damage Japan’s reputation around the world, especially in light of the nation’s growing imbalance of payments and accusatory cries of unfair trade. The magazine containing my story came out on a Friday morning. At 10 a.m., I got a call from a Mr. Odano in the Foreign Ministry,


07 | FCCJ | APRIL 2021


“Who are you,
Mr. Whiting?” he asked. “Why are you writing stories like this critical of Japan?”
“I am a freelance journalist living in Tokyo,” I said, “and I am writing this story because it is a story that needs to be written. Japan has to stop being so insular and open itself up or it is going to incur the wrath of the world.”

demanding that I report to him immediately to explain the article. It was apparently the job of his office to examine all potential controversial stories in the media. More curious than con- cerned, I decided to go. Besides, it was only a short cab ride from my Akasaka apartment to the drab Gaimusho offices in Kasumigaseki, near the Imperial Palace moat and the Metro- politan Police Department.

Upon arriving I was escorted to a conference room for an “interview” with Mr. Odano, who, in person, looked the part of a bland government bureaucrat in a blue suit and dark tie.

We exchanged name cards, as ritual required, mine saying “Author, Journalist” and his “Foreign Ministry,” and then he began to grill me in English.

“Who are you, Mr. Whiting?” he asked. “Why are you writing stories like this critical of Japan?” “I am a freelance journalist living in Tokyo,” I said, “and I am writing this story because it is a story that needs to be written. Japan has to stop being so insular and open itself up or it is

going to incur the wrath of the world.”
I was being overly dramatic, but what the hell; it was my first foray into the inner sanc- tum of Japanese bureaucracy and I figured a little bombast would suit the occasion. I also believed there to be more than a few grains of

truth there.
“Yes, I understand that point,” Odano replied.

“But who are you and why are you writing sto- ries like this?”

“Did I make any errors in my story? Is there something wrong with my analysis?”

“No, no. But I want to know who you are and why did you write this story?”

It went on like this for two or three hours. Other Foreign Ministry officials were brought in and they asked me essentially the same questions, forcing me to recount the details of my time in Japan to them.

I told them about the books I had written and the columns and magazine stories I had done, but every time they would come back to the same question.

“Yes, but who are you really and why are you writing stories like this?”

Franz Kafka could not have scripted it better. Finally, they let me go and I went home. As soon as I walked in the door the phone rang. It was my wife calling from Geneva. She sounded alarmed.

“Bob, what on earth have you done?”
“What do you mean what have I done?” I said.

“I just got a call a call from an official in the Japanese consulate here in Geneva. He asked me, ‘Who is Robert Whiting and why is he writ- ing stories criticizing Japan?’”

Amazing, I thought. Very impressive. I inten- tionally hadn’t told Mr. Odano or any of his cohorts that I was married to a Japanese wom- an and that she had recently been hired by the UNCHR and dispatched to Switzerland. How they found out, I still don’t know. The War Office?

I didn’t hear from the Foreign Ministry again about this issue, but Bungei Shunju editors told me the government had complained to them. And it was their guess that the Foreign Minis- try thought I was working for the CIA or some other intelligence agency and was trying to undermine the stability of the nation of Japan somehow. Perhaps it had something to do with bilateral trade friction, which was heating up at the time.

Wow. I thought. All this for an article on kisha clubs?

That wasn’t quite the end of the story, how- ever. That summer I headed off to Geneva, and when I came back through Narita in Septem- ber, I was pulled out of line at immigration and taken into an office, where an immigration offi- cial sat me down and began the questioning. It was the only time that had ever happened to me entering or leaving Tokyo.

“Who are you and why are you coming in and out of Japan so often?”

Eventually they let me go and stamped my passport, but it was an unnerving experience. As veteran journalist Sam Jameson, then the LA Times Tokyo correspondent, explained to me one day at the Foreign Correspondents Press Club of Japan, high above Tokyo on the twentieth floor of the Yurakucho Denki Build- ing: “You have to show your love for Japan. If you do, they will leave you alone. Criticize too much and you’re asking for trouble.”

Unfortunately, asking for trouble seemed to be a big part of my journalistic MO.

It came again after my 1986 interview with Warren Cromartie, who had joined the Yomi- uri Giants in 1984. In it, he stated that execu- tives in the Giants front office were “racist,” noting that they showed far less respect to the then Giants manager Sadaharu Oh, half Japanese and half Chinese, than they did to the previous manager, Shigeo Nagashima, a pureblooded Japanese.

08 | FCCJ | APRIL 2021


Sadaharu Oh, left, and Shigeo Nagashima at a Yomiuri Giants spring training camp in 1967

Tamaki, one of the smartest people I had met in my time in Japan, broke the mold. A big, bearded ex-rugby player with a deep infectious laugh and an iconoclastic bent, he had dropped out of Tokyo University, Japan’s most fero- ciously competitive gateway to elite careers in business and government, to begin a career as a freelance journalist—at a time when freelancing was more-or-less unheard of in Japan. I partic- ularly admired his penchant for asking direct, uncomfortable questions and setting things out the way he saw them. He once drew the ire of the High School Baseball Federation for writing that the ubiquitously shaven heads of the high school baseball players (a mass demonstration of pureheartedness) participating in the annual summer tournament at Koshien looked like those of inmates in a Japanese prison.

He criticized the Yomiuri Giants severe train- ing methods in a magazine article and so upset the front office that the following year in spring training camp he was forced to wear a yellow hat while covering training on the Giants prac- tice field—a symbol to Giants players that he was to be viewed as an adversary and to not respond to his questions.

From that time on, PR guru Wakabayashi made it Giants policy that any publication wanting to interview a Giants player had to sub- mit a list of questions in advance for approval. In addition, the publication had to submit the finished article for approval as well. There was also a required fee of several hundred dollars to be divided between the team and the player.

This policy stayed in place for years. In 1991, for example, an NBC News crew wanted to interview former Major Leaguer Phil Bradley about his experiences playing with the Giants. As request- ed, they submitted a list of five questions:

1. How do you like Japan?
2. How do you like playing Japanese baseball? 3. How do you like playing for the Yomiuri

4. How do you like playing for your manager? 5. How does your family like living in Japan?

The Giants front office ruled out questions 2, 3, and 4.

Wakabayashi, a former journalist who had pursued a scoop or two himself during his long career, insisted that his employer, the Yomiuri Shimbun, the world’s largest newspaper, was indeed dedicated to the pursuit of truth and justice—just not all the time

“I’m a black son-of-a-bitch,” Cromartie said, “and I can spot a racist a mile away. They were just rude to Oh in general. But they kissed Nagashima’s ass. Oh, in my opinion, is worth ten of Nagashima.”

The interview was published in the Decem- ber 1986 issue of the Japanese monthly Penthouse, nestled amidst nude photos of women with their vital areas airbrushed out, as required by Japan’s obscenity laws. Two months later in a meeting of PR representa- tives from Central League teams, the Yomiuri Giants rep, a former reporter named Wakaba- yashi, announced that I was to be banned from entering the Giants’ new park, the Tokyo Dome, as a reporter, beginning in 1987, for two years. I could buy a ticket, if there were any left that is, and go in; but I was not allowed on the field or in the press box.

“I’m here to guide the media,” he was quot- ed as saying, “and we can’t have gaijin ball- players expressing their honne (true feelings) to gaijin reporters.”

The team took no action against Cromartie, however. He had finished the season with a .363 batting average, 37 homeruns and 98 RBIs, leading Yomiuri to the Central League Championship. In fact, they gave him a new three-year contract with a huge raise.

Blacklisted along with me was my friend Masayuki Tamaki, one of Japan’s leading sports journalists, who had also written articles critical of the Giants.

09 | FCCJ | APRIL 2021






The move from Kamakura to Tokyo’s Toyosu neigh- borhood was a stroke of genius, entirely conceived, planned, and executed by my wife in 2009 upon her retirement from the UNHCR, before the area came into prominence as the planned site of the 2020 Olympic Vil- lage. With many athletic venues like

the existing Ariake Sports Center in the immediate vicinity, not to men- tion its selection as the location of the massive new Tsukiji Fish Market, the real estate value skyrocketed.

Also, it was good once again to be living in the center of the city, where Tokyo’s legendary energy and dis- cipline showed no signs of abating, although men now wore makeup and skinny suits. It was striking that despite the presence of fast-food outlets everywhere—McDonald’s, Shakey’s, Wendy’s, et al.—the city’s denizens somehow managed to avoid the obe- sity epidemic that had hit the United States, a country that was more and more being defined by overweight people, potholed highways, and vend- ing machines that didn’t work.

From our high-rise residence we
had a spectacular view of the spank-
ing-new Sky Tree (2012) in neighbor-
ing Sumida. It is the tallest broadcast-
ing and observation tower in the world
(and second tallest structure after the Burj Khalifia). A three-stop subway ride took you from Toyosu on the Yurakucho Line to the Ginza, with its high-end stores and moneyed Chinese tourists. I bought my first iMac and MacBook Pro at the flagship Apple store there. iPhones, tailored for Japan by Softbank, were all the rage, shoving Panasonic and other domestic flip-phone man- ufacturers out of the market. Half the pedestrians on the street were now checking email and texting on iPhones as they walked.

Easy access to the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan was another of the pluses of living in Toyosu. I had become a member decades earlier, and the club had played an import- ant role in both my work and social life. I even served on the Board. I particularly liked the Main Bar, located on the twen-

tieth floor of the Yurakucho Denki Building, which offered a panoramic view of the Tokyo skyline and ring- side seats to many a drunken argu- ment between journalists. Now it was just four stops and a one-minute walk away, which meant I could join in the fun every night.

Established in 1945 by and for journalists who landed in Japan at the end of World War 2 with Douglas MacArthur, the Club provided essen- tial services to facilitate the task of transmitting the news of Japan to the world when no such facilities existed in war-torn Tokyo.

At the time, except for a few mag- nificent Western-style buildings and the Imperial Hotel, which survived the incendiary bombing in the last days of the war, there was barely an identifi- able street remaining. With the help of the Occupation authorities, the journalists had quickly secured some living and workspace in a ramshackle

former restaurant, moving in five to a room, not counting their new live-in Japanese girlfriends, using sheets for partitions. This annoyed BBC correspondent John Morris, who prudishly insisted that the sex act was meant to be

performed in private.
“Drunken brawls were frequent,” wrote Morris in a memoir

entitled The Phoenix Cup, “and there were times when firearms were discharged in the club. It was a cross between a waterfront sailors’ bar and a brothel.”

10 | FCCJ | APRIL 2021


Whiting, right, hosts a 2017 press conference at the FCCJ by Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred.

ald Trump, Roger Moore, George Soros, Rachel McAdams, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. The Crown Prince and Princess Michiko danced together at the Club’s fortieth-anniversary par- ty. A famous prize-winning Italian journalist made history late one night by entertaining a young lady on the nineteenth-floor Club pool table, completing his task despite an unex- pected interruption by a Club employee. The flustered employee bowed, apologized for the intrusion, and quickly exited. The journalist bowed back from his semi-prone position and resumed what he was doing.

The FCCJ played a central role in coverage of major news events throughout the 20th cen- tury and into the 21st, including the Olympus and Nissan scandals, both of which illustrated the perils of being a foreign executive in a Jap- anese company. Olympus appointed England’s Michael Woodford as CEO in 2011, but he lost his job shortly after he disclosed a major accounting fraud. Woodford was fired, and the scandal led to the resignation of the company’s entire board and the arrest of several senior executives, but he was later awarded £10 mil- lion in an out-of-court settlement with Olympus over his dismissal. Woodford had abandoned an earlier proxy fight to take control of the company after it became apparent Olympus’s institutional investors were uncomfortable with the Englishman’s combative style. Leba- nese Carlos Ghosn became hugely famous in Japan, first for leading the restructuring and revival of struggling Nissan Motors in 1999, then later for his arrest in the winter of 2018 for allegedly understating his compensation, a circumstance brought about by his enemies within the corporation. Ghosn spent months acquainting himself with Japan’s criminal jus- tice system, undergoing interrogation several hours every day without his lawyer present and sleeping in an unheated cell with the light on all night. Eventually granted bail, which cost him more than ten million dollars, but denied permission to see his wife, Ghosn fled to Beirut, smuggled out in a box from Kansai Airport.

In the midst of a national press corps that ranked last among G7 nations in the annual Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Free- dom Index, the FCCJ remained resolutely inde- pendent,givingavoicetopoliticalprotestorsand refugees frequently turned away from Japan’s National Press Center, including the Dalai Lama.

The FCCJ played a central role in coverage of major news events throughout the 20th century

and into the 21st, including the Olympus and Nissan scandals, both of which illustrated the perils of being a foreign executive in a Japanese company.

The FCCJ quickly became the hub of the international community that reemerged from the ashes of war. Unlike the US service–men and members of the Occupation Headquarters, who had privileges to procure American supplies at the military exchanges, most journalists in Tokyo had to make do shopping at local stores, which rarely carried what they wanted. Any kind of half-decent whisky, cheese, or ice cream was very hard to come by. Club members, who hailed from all over the globe, wrote home to family and friends for recipes. Japanese cooks working at the FCCJ were given survival courses for making pizza and hamburgers, which they had never seen, much less tasted.

Before long the regulars congregating each day in the bar were a Who’s Who of the region’s most celebrated writers—including Pulitzer Prize winners who had covered the front lines of World War 2, Korea, and Vietnam—as well as politicians, entertainers, royalty, and Asia’s busiest spies.

James Michener would be holding court in the dining room, talking about his latest novels to be turned into hit movies in the years since his breakaway blockbusters South Pacific, Sayonara, and Teahouse of the August Moon, all of which of which deeply influenced the world’s view of the Asia-Pacific region. Ian Fleming could also be seen at the FCCJ night after night in 1962 with former colleagues from the Sunday Times, doing research for You Only Live Twice. Every businessman and spymaster of note needed to be there, such was the con- vergence of news and deal-making at the club. Walls were covered with photos of famous indi- viduals who had made appearances: Muham- mad Ali, Gina Lollobrigida, Ronald Reagan, Willie Nelson, the Emperor and the Empress of Japan, a young and surprisingly articulate Don-

11 | FCCJ | APRIL 2021







this article adopts a piecemeal approach, what I have learned so far has made me want to delve deeper into the life of the man who, during the first years of World War II, was lumped together in Allied propaganda with Hitler and Mussolini.

The son of an army general with roots in the former Nambu domain of Iwate Prefecture, Tojo was born on December 30, 1884, in what is now Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward. He spent most of his life in the capital, and died there, executed by hanging in Sugamo Prison on December 23, 1948, making him one of the last of the leaders of Axis powers and their client states to be put to death after the war.

An official portrait of Tojo disseminated on December 2, 1942 during the first anniversary of the Great East Asia War.

Last December, I learned from a col- league that I was living fairly close to the former residence of the late Army General and former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo. After determining its location on my computer, I drove over for a look-see on the morning of New Year’s Day.

Perhaps as a pretext to get me out of the house during the pandemic, I then embarked on an effort to deepen my admittedly shallow knowl- edge of the man who served as Japan’s prime minister from October 1941 to July 1944. While


12 | FCCJ | APRIL 2021


Kwantung Army HQ; right: Bancho Elementary School

As a boy, there was little doubt Hideki would follow his family tradition of serving in the military. He first attended the Bancho Elementary School, located close to Ichiga- ya Station, and later a nearby branch of the Peers’ School (Gakushuin).

In March 1905, Tojo received his commis- sion as a second lieutenant in the infantry of the Imperial Japanese Army. In 1912, on his third attempt, he gained entry into the Army War College, a stepping stone to the senior ranks. This achievement was said to have greatly pleased his father, who died the fol- lowing year.

In 1918–19, Tojo was sent to Siberia as part of the Japanese expeditionary force that inter- vened in the Russian Civil War. After World War I armistice, he served as military attache at the Japanese embassy in Berlin between 1919 and 1922.

From 1 March, 1937 to 30 May, 1938, Tojo served as chief of staff of Japan’s Kwantung Army. Its headquarters in Ryojun (Lushun or Port Arthur, now a district of Dalian city), has been preserved as a museum.

In August 1937, he commanded the Cha- har Expeditionary Force in a victory against Nationalist Chinese troops in Operation Cha- har. He was recalled to Japan in May 1938 to serve as vice-minister of war. In July 1940, he became army minister in Fumimaro Konoe’s second cabinet and left an indelible stamp on the wartime conduct of Japan’s soldiers.

Eri Hotta wrote in Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy.

On January 8, 1941, Tojo introduced “Instructions for the Battlefield,” elaborat- ing on ideal soldierly conduct. The code … included the notorious passage, “Do not suffer the shame of being captured alive.” This order glorifying death would be taken as a command to commit suicide in the face of impending capture and would come to have a devastating impact. It was printed in booklet form, and was distribut- ed to every soldier despite the country’s serious paper shortage. And ordinary citizens could purchase the phonograph recording of Tojo’s recitation of it.

Following the resignation of Konoue, Tojo was appointed prime minister on 17 October, 1941, in the vague hope that he could somehow con- trol the hawks in the military. But by this time the forces had been put in motion to wage war against the Western powers, and Tojo found himself in an untenable position.

In the room next door [in the prime minister’s residence], Tojo’s wife Katsu slept with two daughters, who were still schoolgirls. She could easily hear the sounds of documents shuffled and Tojo pacing the floor, which suggested something consequential was about to happen. On the night of December 6th and the early hours of December 7, Katsu and her daughters heard sobs. At first sup- pressed, the sobs became louder and turned into unrestrained weeping. Katsu rose from her futon, opened the door in the hallway and peeped into the room. There she saw her husband crying while kneeling in the “seiza” position on his futon. Tojo, a soldier

13 | FCCJ | APRIL 2021


Tojo’s former residence; bottom images: Heiwajima motorboat race course

One thing Tojo shared with his two European counterparts was having been targeted for assassination. Historian Masayasu Hosaka, writing in Nikkan Gendai (March 23 and 24, 2021), documented five plots hatched against Tojo’s life in his waning months as prime minister. The best known was a scheme by Tomoshige Tsunoda, an army major and veter- an of the fighting in China. Infuriated by Tojo’s fabricated proclamations of “great victories,” Tsunoda, together with a police judo instructor named Ushijima, hatched a plot to kill Tojo by suicide- bombing his car. Their scheme had the tacit approval of Gen. Kanji Ishihara, a vocal opponent of Tojo. Tsunoda was arrested in Sep- tember 1944 – after Tojo had already resigned – dismissed from the army and sentenced to two years in prison.

Tojo’s former residence at Yoga 1-chome, 10-4, Setagaya Ward (described as “modest”), is identified by this marker. The property now belongs to the Rissho Kosekai religion. When American intelligence officers came to arrest him on September 11, 1945, he attempted suicide using a pistol taken from a captured American airman.

After discharge from the U.S. military hospi- tal in Yokohama, Tojo was confined at the for- mer Omori POW camp, situated on reclaimed land in Tokyo’s Ota Ward. The spectator grandstand of the Heiwajima motorboat race course roughly occupies the footprint of the original camp.

The most unpopular man in the Omori camp is Hideki Tojo, the man who led them all in the war as premier and war minister. Now, because they consider that he failed … and shamefully bungled his suicide in September, all but the most despicable of his fellow prisoners ignore Tojo. They seem to feel that he is technically dead. They do not admit him to their walks in the prison compound. They do not play “Go” with him. When he seats himself at meals, they scru- pulously avoid his table. And when he walks out of his barracks, they casually get out of his path.

— “Lord Tojo is treated with silent contempt by camp’s other prisoners” (LIFE magazine, 12 November, 1945)

who always brimmed with self-assurance and who never demonstrated weakness, cried, making no attempt to brush away his tears. Katsu and her daughters sensed [his] demeanor was on the verge of col- lapse, and seeing him in that state caused them to weep as well.

— From Tojo Hideki to Tenno no Jidai, Masayasu Hosaka, (Chikuma Bunko, 2005)

In response to a question concerning the dif- ference between himself, Hitler and Mussolini during the 81st session of the Diet on 5 Febru- ary, 1943, Tojo said:

“Tojo the person is merely an ordinary citizen…I am not in the least different from any one of you. Only I have been given the responsibility of … prime minister. That is where we differ. Such a person shines only when shone upon by the light of His Majesty, and without that light I would be as nothing. I am able to be honored because I enjoy the trust of His Majesty and is [sic] appointed to this position. Therein I am of an entirely different character from the gentlemen of Europe who are known as ‘dictators.’”

— From Party Politics to Military Dictatorship, Shinobu Seizaburo, (1967)

14 | FCCJ | APRIL 2021


The witness dock from which Tojo testified can be seen
in the photo’s center.

On December 8, exactly four years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Tojo was transferred to Sugamo prison. Hosaka wrote that his MP guards at Sugamo, pleased to have such an illustrious personage under their watch, “regu- larly pilfered Tojo’s soap, toothbrush and towel as souvenirs”.

The International Military Tribunal for the Far East, held from May 1946 to November 1948, took place in the grand hall of what was former- ly the Imperial Japanese Army Academy. Now

called the Ichigaya Memorial Hall, it is situated within the Japan Defense Ministry complex. The remaining wing of what was a much larger building has been restored to its original state and is open to the public for daily tours.

On November 12, 1948, the tribunal handed down death sentences to Tojo and six other class-A war criminals. Details of their final days were recorded by Sugamo prison chaplain Shin- sho Hanayama. At 5 pm on December 22, the seven were served a last meal of rice, miso soup,

15 | FCCJ | APRIL 2021


This monument, in a small
park adjacent to the Sunshine
60 building in Ikebukuro, was erected on the site of the Sugamo Prison gallows. The inscription reads “Eikyu heiwa wo negatte” (for the sake of eternal peace); bottom: Kuboyama crematory
in Yokohama, site of Tojo’s cremation.

Citing a declassified transcript of a meet- ing of the G2 Military Intelligence Sec- tion, General Staff, held on November 26, 1951, “… it was the consensus of this group that any such action (to a request for the remains) would be extremely inadvisable … the answer should take the line that the remains of the persons involved were irre- trievably destroyed … At the time [disposal of the remains] was treated as a closely guarded secret and even now, the facts are uncertain.”

— The Secret Journey of General Tojo’s Ashes, Eiichiro Tokumoto, Number 1 Shimbun (August 2015)

Torii gate at the Yasukuni Shrine

Moves toward Tojo’s rehabilitation came well before the controversy over his enshrine- ment at Yasukuni. In 1950, the Japanese gov- ernment designated Tojo’s status not as an executed criminal, but as “having died while in performance of public duties,” thereby entitling his widow to a survivor’s pension and military pension.

On October 17, 1978, Yasukuni shrine’s head priest, Nagayoshi Matsudaira, secretly enshrined 14 class-A war criminals, including Tojo. The enshrinement came to light the follow- ing April and remains a sticking point in Japan’s relations with Asian countries to this day.

● Mark Schreiber writes the Big in Japan and Bilingual columns for The Japan Times.

grilled fish and meat. They went to the gallows just after midnight on December 23.

Former Tokyo governor Naoki Inose is con- vinced that the date the seven Class-A war crimi- nals went to the gallows was purposely selected by Gen. MacArthur.

MacArthur must certainly have been aware the date coincided with the crown prince’s 15th birthday, and the staging of the exe- cutions on December 23 was intended to serve as a “delayed action device”. In MacArthur’s mind, when Crown Prince Akihito eventually ascended the Chrysan- themum Throne and December 23 became a public holiday, Japanese would receive a not-so-subtle annual reminder that the emperor and other members of the impe- rial family were able to evade prosecution for war crimes. But MacArthur’s stratagem was foiled by Hirohito’s longevity. Four decades were to pass and by the time the emperor’s birthday became a new public holiday on December 23, 1989, few Japa- nese recalled the date’s significance.”

— Naoki Inose in Shukan Gendai magazine (December 26, 2008 – January 2, 2009)

Tojo’s cremated remains were not sent to his family, and accounts vary as to what actually happened to them.¥


  1. A wonderful read, and wow what a career!

    Eagerly looking forward to your book, and out Clubhouse conversation next Sunday at 9:00.

    Many thanks again! Timothy Langley 080-3157-8108


    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to rwhiting1942 Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s