Tokyo Damage Report

Japan book review 7: JAPAN’S HOLY WAR by Walter Skya

JAPAN’S HOLY WAR by Walter Skya


Buy it here

Skya explains that, in WW2, the Italian enemy was Il Duce, the German enemy was Hitler, but the Japanese enemy was simply called “the Japs.” And this wasn’t all just racism: Japan didn’t have any obvious evil leader or evil system that the Americans could insult. Their whole fascist, warlike discourse was carried on at such a high level of abstraction that you would have needed a PhD. in religion to even begin to guess who was responsible for making the Japanese go crazy. Skya’s central point is that Shinto ultra nationalism is the equivalent of Nazism or Fascism.


His book examines how the Shinto religion went from being a sort of mellow religion in the late 1800’s to a super-patriotic, theocratic religion after the Meiji Restoration, and then morphed into a totally apocalyptic cult in the ‘20s.


Originally Shinto was an animist forest religion (The tree had a god, the river had a god, that rock over there had a god, the crayfish in the river had a god) made by stone-age village people. It was something that the average peasant or hunter-gatherer knew about and used in their daily life. So how did this very down-to-earth common-people’s religion get turned into this super-esoteric, mystical, secret-rites-in-back-rooms, tons and tons of procedures and pomp-and-circumstance religion whose purpose was to separate the people from the Emperor? I would have liked to have read a chapter on that.


My – totally guessing – answer to that question is, Shinto was done in by its own syncretism (syncretism is a fancy word meaning, you already have a ton of gods, so it is no problem to add more gods and more layers of belief): since the emperor gets his power from Shinto religion, and we need to get the public to respect his authority, we’ll just keep adding more layers of pomp and mysticism, deliberately, to impress and bamboozle the masses.


But still, I can’t explain how a forest-and-animals religion came to require an emperor in the first place. Were the original emperors like the toughest warlords? And if so, how did they go from being tough to being ceremonial pawns of the shoguns for 1,000 years???


Anyway, Skya explains he got the idea for writing this book when he read about the “May 15 incident” when Shinto radicals assassinated the prime minister, and attempted to overthrow the democratic government.


“I wondered whether political assassination had become an acceptable form of behavior in the minds of the Japanese people (by the 30s). The fact that the lawyer for the terrorists presented over one hundred thousand letters appealing for clemency, and that thirty thousand holders of the golden kite, the highest military decoration, signed a petition, says something about the mood of the Japanese masses at the time. Where was the outrage over the killing of a prime minister? These kinds of things could neither be explained or condoned by the “regular” kind of Shinto of the early Meiji period (late 1800s).”


Foreigners have never really studied wartime Shinto before because they assumed it was meaningless propaganda. And Japanese never studied it because wartime stuff is still taboo. But according to Skya, wartime Shinto was not just propaganda, it was a major force that motivated the decision to invade Asia and go to war with America, so it must be studied.


Skya also says his book is relevant to today’s problems re: Islamic terrorism. The militant Shinto solution is different,  but their complaint is the same as jihadists: westerners, materialism, modernism and decadent rich must be smashed! A cosmic, global clash of civilizations is inevitable.And so on!


Good points of the book: explains why the Meiji Restoration oligarchs bothered to have the window-dressing of a constitutional democracy, and how the super-anti-communist right-wing emperor guys could ALSO assassinate major capitalists and want a state-planned economy . . . while stabbing any legislator that was not in favor of an immediate land war with Russia!



Bad points: Although this book is about super exciting extreme violence, it’s also super tedious at the same time: a full ten pages are devoted to explaining the differences between CONSERVATIVE Shinto ultra nationalism, REACTIONARY Shinto ultra nationalism, and    RADICAL Shinto ultra nationalism .That should give you some idea. (short answer: the first two don’t approve of assassination).



Also the book is too much about ideas, not enough about how those ideas affected the average people. Skya’s interpretation of history is like:


 STEP ONE: certain very esoteric, philosophical  books are written

STEP TWO: ??!???

STEP THREE: Japanese people are ready to conquer the world and commit suicide


This leaves me with four  questions:

ONE – Do these obscure intellectuals’  ideas really drive the behavior, or just justify it after the fact? Did important people just decide to go to war and dismantle democracy, and then get some pencil-neck geeks to make some justification for it?


TWO – Skya says a dozen times that Shinto ultra nationalism was a very public movement dedicated to propagandizing the public, but how did that process actually work? And, were people really convinced by the rhetoric, or merely scared shitless to respond to it?


THREE – Other books on that time say that at that time, there was unemployment, high taxes, high rents, and families so poor that they sold their own daughters into prostitution (!?!). Skya includes none of this. Considering that these extreme economic- and daily-life circumstances would make people more receptive to extreme ideas (either for or against the emperor), he should have spent more time putting the Shinto propaganda campaign in the context of the people’s daily lives.


FOUR –  He makes no mention of the distinction between regular Shinto and state Shinto (see above). And he doesn’t explain why none of the guys who influence national policy to be more Shinto, to be more theocratic and less democratic . . .why are none of these guys actual Shinto priests? In fact, all the guys Skya profiles are lawyers. Weird. Other books, such as Bix’s and Seagrave’s biographies of Hirohito, stress that the emperors are constantly surrounded by a retinue of Shinto priests, viziers, courtiers, and household managers that basically run their entire life all bird-in-a-gilded-cage style. I was surprised that none of those guys made a run for the money.



A recurring theme of the book: guys saying “If we do such-and-such, democracy will result” or “If you believe such-and-such, then by implication you believe the Emperor is mortal”. . . AS A WAY OF DISSING SUCH-AND-SUCH.


“(my opponents think) that our national state the Emperor and the people are not different in kind: the emperor is a man , the people too are men”


“If one says that we have a right to participate in the enactment of the constitution, this is to assert that sovereignty resides in us.”


It’s like OOOH , SHINTO BURRRN!!!! Seriously, there are parts where I have to re-read the quotation half-a-dozen times to comprehend that it’s actually an ANTI statement.


Another, related, theme: ultranationalist guys taking the most negative stereotypes of Japanese (obedient, illogical, putting the group before the individual, xenophobic, and deliberately stripping foreign concepts of their values to make them more Japanese) , and saying, “Yeah, we are like that! We’re all totally just like that, and that’s what makes us so rad!”


It’s like a bunch of Jews who decided “Hey, why don’t we write our own protocols of the elders of Zion?”




Skya’s Characteristics of militant Shinto:


Organicism :  You're not an individual, you're a cell in the body of the state. All Japanese are part of one family. What is good for your emperor or elites must therefore be good for you as well. Unlike other totalitarian states, we are not imposing rules top-down by force. In our state, everyone has the same vested interests. Everyone who is not a dirty commie traitor, anyway.


Irrationalism :  Ok, the economy is fucked and everyone is corrupt. And we have no plans for reform, what to do with interest rates, taxes, or land reform. Our only plan is killing motherfuckers. But if we restore the emperor to absolute power he’ll fix it with maaaaaaagic!


Unlimited expansionism, and A tendency to pursue total destruction or global rule :

God created Japan specifically to take over the world! Or die trying! Anything less is turning our back on the Imperial will, and is thus blasphemy.


Total absorption of the individual into the collectivity: Self-interest and individualism are decadent, Western notions. A famous slogan of that time was:  True Shinto enlightenment means dying to yourself, and being reborn in the emperor!


Or, as another example, let’s look at the 6-point program of the fascist group Keirin Gakumei (Society for the Study of Statesmanship):


1 – realization of the ideal of the whole nation beating as one heart through ideology

2 – enhancement of national glory through the mobilization of the entire nation

3 – the resolute enforcement of national militarization based on the premise that each and every individual in the nation is a soldier

4 – the creation of a national economy through the control of capital and labor

5 – the establishment of a nation of one people through the administration of a public welfare system and the preservation of the national characteristics of the nation,

6 – the adoption of a nationwide system of elections.



All this talk of “society-is-more-important-than-the-individual”, “democracy sucks”, “bow to authority” and “everyone should be the same” make me wonder, exactly how is Shinto theocracy different from communism??? I mean, aside from the religion thing.


Well, communists emphasize that everyone had different vested interests, and were obsessed with rooting out the impure: for instance they weren’t just purging the rich and the spies, they were purging fucking “middle peasants” and “upper middle peasants” . . . basically anyone who had more than one cow was marked as a class traitor!


In contrast, radical Shinto was designed specifically to make people believe they all HAD the exact same vested interests, rich and poor alike. The commie paranoia was absent. People with radically opposing vested interests were portrayed as on the same side, provided they had a) pure blood , and b) correct attitude. This way society would be finally free of the class and political animosity that had divided it. No longer would the rich landlord exploit, no longer would the poor commies try to revolt. Everyone would be one happy family under the Emperor.


Why is right-wing fascism is anti-rich?


Skya quotes Breuilly, a scholar of fascist movements:


 "Fascism is a radical, anti-bourgeois, anti-liberal, anti-Marxist movement.”

 Huh??? That sounds crazy! Anti bourgeois, AND anti Marxist? Well who DO they like? The Easter Bunny??? It sounds crazy, but I keep hearing that same definition over and over in different books. How can commie-hating right-wingers also hate the rich and capitalism?


Traditional right-wing authoritarian governments are like, the king or dictator and his oligarch buddies decide everything in smoke-filled back rooms. But fascism (Italy, Germany, Spain, Italy, wherever) was a new style : a PUBLIC movement, where populist leaders appealed directly to the masses:

 Breuilly again:

“Fascism comes into its own at times of intense popular involvement in politics and the breakdown of established political parties. In place of traditional conservatism, parliamentary politics, or working-class victory, fascists offer the vision of a strong and united nation whose heroic leaders pursue a glorious and expansive foreign policy. The rejection of class, party, and elite politics leads to the idea of the nation as a classless, party-less, permanently mobilized organism bound together by blood or language or “folk values”, which are made known to and expressed through extraordinary leaders, who are “just doing the will of the people.”


OK. So that’s why. They weren’t against the rich or capitalism per se, they just hated anyone who put their own interests or agenda ahead of those of the country – which included commies AND corporations.







The guys who overthrew the shogun (and the old system of feudal rule) did it in the name of the emperor (and therefore of Shinto, because the emperor was a Shinto god). But why did they choose Emperor as their symbol?


Breuilly to the rescue once again:


Very diverse elites ranging from reactionary samurai in the domains to enthusiastic westernizers in the imperial court co-operated, at least for a time, in a common opposition to the Shogunate. The “rule-by-emperor” system provided a ready-made alternative to feudal rule. Continuity, the confinement of politics to elites, the diversity of elites involved, and existing institutional alternatives – all were reflected in the artificial, syncretic ideology of emperor loyalty and the restoration of Shinto religion which were used to justify the Meiji restoration.



OK, so they needed an Emperor. So why then did they make a democracy also? Even if it was just for show, didn’t they realize that it totally contradicted the whole “restoring the emperor to ultimate power” narrative they worked so hard to establish?


The answer (is this book rad or what?): Most of the key members of the collective leadership long before the coup were aware that almost all of the powerful western states had constitutions and were convinced that this was a key element contributing to their state power. The oligarchs for the most part had resigned themselves to granting limited popular participation in the affairs of government in the hope of obtaining broad public support from the educated subjects for government policies and the long-range goals of the state. In other words, the oligarchs sought to use liberal institutions for conservative ends. And equally important factor: the oligarchs were aware that constitutional government was a minimal requirement to gain acceptance by the western powers and rectify the unequal treaties imposed by them.




. . . is important because the ambiguity of constitution allowed radical Shinto ultra nationalism to flourish.


In the West, a constitution would have to spell out clearly who was to be in charge: the democratically-elected legislature or the emperor (not to mention the prime minister and the military!). And that would mean the four factions would have to fight a total civil war, to get their preferred constitution approved.


But in Japan, to preserve the peace, the oligarchs who wrote the constitution resorted to two classic Japanese tactics: ambiguity and montage. The constitution didn’t say anything about checks, balances, or who was responsible for what! I mean it did, but you could interpret what it said any which way.


The ambiguity means that each conflict between factions would have to be solved in some backroom deal, on a case-by-case basis. From the point of view of the oligarchs, this was fine, because THEY were the ones who had the power to pick all the cases!


And the “montage” part was: keep the existing emperor system and lay an entire, fully-formed constitutional democracy right on top of it.


This is traditional behavior: for example, Japanese kept their whole Japanese language and added 10,000 Chinese Kanji to it, and then added Engrish on top of that. Another example: religion! Everyone simultaneously believes in Christianity (for weddings) Buddhism (for funerals) and Shinto ( for seasonal festivals). So why not systems of government too? It didn't seem contradictory at the time, I guess.


However, after the oligarchs got old and retired or died, the natural conflicts between the military, emperor, ministers, and legislature spiraled out of control. And that caused the government to grind to a standstill. The government needed a definite non-ambiguous leader who could say CUT THE SPEECHES, YOU DO THIS! YOU OVER THERE, FIX THAT!


A lot of citizens wanted to make it a real democracy, and a lot of other people wanted the emperor to run everything directly. Both solutions would solve the ambiguity problem, and get government working again . . . but either way, half the population would be totally pissed. The frustration caused both sides to embrace more-and-more radical solutions, dividing the nation even further.


Nakae Choumin, chief Liberal Party ideologue, characterized the Meiji Constitution as a “strange creature with one body and many heads.”


You got this “institutionalized irresponsibility” where – even when very strict rules and extreme militarization is being handed down to the masses, at the top it’s like no one has their hands on the wheel. It’s authoritarian but strangely passive. All the different parts can act with total autonomy as long as they don’t contradict each other in public.


Anyway, let’s look at the structure of the Meiji government, with emphasis on why no one was ultimately responsible for bad decisions, and why no one had the power to shoot down truly terrible ideas:





Privy Council (枢密院 Sūmitsu-in) – made of secret oligarchs.

Not responsible because: they really run things – they answer to no one.

Can’t ever contradict Emperor because : he’s their legitimacy.


Emperor (天皇陛下 Tennnouheika) –

not responsible because: descended from God, and therefore never wrong.

Can never contradict Privy Council because: they installed him in power.


Ministers –

Not responsible because: merely implementing Emperor’s orders.

Can’t ever contradict Emperor because : outranked.


However, once they have been given a law or program to enforce, they can run wild with it and take it in crazy directions. Or, as Skya puts it, “Given the tacit understanding that the emperor could not constantly be directly involved in the nitty-gritty politics in ruling the state, the ministers’ formal accountability to the emperor and not to the parliament meant in fact that they were accountable to no one but themselves.”


Cabinet (内閣 Naikaku)

same as ministers???? Or what?? Someone please help me out here. . .




Not responsible because: it is not allowed to propose laws or budgets on its own. 

Can never contradict Emperor because: outranked.


Intentionally given the exact minimum of power for Japan to qualify as a “constitutional Monarchy.” Namely, parliament only has the responsibility to APPROVE laws and APPROVE the budget  that the executive branch comes up with. It can’t propose laws on its own. However, parliament can waste everyone’s time debating, and bring the government to a total standstill, thus forcing the executive branch to make some concessions.



Although nominally “elected”, only 1% of the population could vote. And even then only for the lower house (upper house: nobility only!). So that could explain why no one really cared when politicians got assassinated all over the place in `20s and `30s.



PRIME MINISTER – (elected official ??? is he even legislative or executive??) in charge of the Cabinet. Has no authority to fire Cabinet members who go off the rails, knock off his hat, etc. Basically he is just there in case someone needs to be assassinated.





Not responsible because independent of legislative AND ministers, basically a country into itself. Can in fact overthrow the legislature any time, and they know it.


Can never contradict Emperor because he is the “supreme commander of armed forces”. 


But they can act on their own and then tell the Emperor afterwards, “Just FYI, we totally invaded Manchuria. So um was that OK? We figured you’d be cool with it.”


Complicating matters further, the elected politicians weren’t saints, either (despite representing Western-style democracy). They were corrupt, and they tended to reject anything proposed by the other parties just out of spite, even if the proposed bill would be good for the country. Sound familiar?


 So, who to blame? Mr. Itou Hirobumi, one of the most powerful oligarchs, and the main force behind writing the Meiji Constitution, made sure article one of the constitution was:

"The empire of Japan shall be reigned over and governed by a line of emperors unbroken for ages eternal."

And Article three was: "The emperor is sacred and inviolable."

However, it's clear he didn't believe that. He just found the emperor a useful tool to "unite the people." Let's check his speech to the other oligarchs, given while they were still in the process of writing the constitution:

""In Europe, religion is the foundation of the state. The feeling of the people is deeply penetrated by and rooted in religion. In our country, however, the religions represent no important force. In our country what alone can be the foundation is the Imperial House."





The most influential anti-democracy, pro-theocracy, Shinto writer of the late Meiji and early Taisho period.

Here is Hozumi in a nutshell:


(traditional Shinto doctrines) +

(family concept of the state) +

(organic theory of society) =

(monarchal absolutism)


Put in real-world, non-abstract terms:


(fundamentalist Shinto says emperor is god, therefore perfect, and all Japanese are his biological children)


(therefore all Japanese are special, and should obey him as they would their own father)


(therefore the individual should, like a catholic or Buddhist monk, erase their own identity in humility before god, and exist to serve society)


(the Emperor should control the Cabinet and we don’t need to vote or have a parliament)


There! Simple enough?


Amazing Hozumi quotes:


Democracy was “an invention of humans” and therefore “unnatural” and against God. God created nature, and god created the first Emperor, therefore theocracy was natural and pro-God.


On constitutional democracy:

“If the constitution is determined by the sovereign , then we as subjects cannot use the constitution to restrict the sovereign.”


“If one says that we have a right to participate in the enactment of the constitution, this is to assert that sovereignty resides in us.” ( mind-blowing: he said that to DIS democracy, not to advocate it!)


This is what I like about Skya’s book: not only does he explain the mind-numbing, angels-on-a-head-of-a-pin religious philosophizin’ in a way that ties it to real-world politics, he also describes it SO WELL I find myself thinking, “Hey, that’s pretty logical! ALL HAIL THE EMPEROR! ALL HAIL THE EMPEROR!”


Even more retarded: all this anti-democracy, “No one but the emperor should shape how the country is run” stuff is written by a guy without a speck of noble blood, who is not the emperor, trying to influence how the country should be run. 




Kind of like how ‘70s USA anti-feminist women like Anita Bryant would get paid large sums to travel the country without a husband, running their own PR firms, in order to tell their audiences how feminism is bad and women should not be free.


Skya even answers my down-to-earth question: WHY did anyone care what the fuck Hozumi thought?


Well, he went to a prestigious university, and then got a job as a Professor of Constitutional Law at an even MORE prestigious university. Also the Ministry of Education got him a gig revising the national textbooks to be more pro-emperor, which gave him a captive audience of all the kids in the country!





Any book you read about Taisho or Showa era Japan is going to blather on about “the kokutai” debate, and chances are the book will leave you more confused than you were before you read it. This is because most Japanese history books define “kokutai” as “national polity”, WHICH , ALTHOUGH THOSE ARE BOTH ENGLISH WORDS, IS NOT A PHRASE WHICH HAS ANY MEANING, NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES THEY REPEAT IT.


I’ll save you the trouble of reading about any of these very tedious debates: Basically what it all comes down to is: the cabinet! The cabinet advises the emperor, who proposes laws.


Is Japan’s kokutai going to be a democracy (in which case, the legislature controls the cabinet) or a totalitarian religious state (the Emperor appoints the cabinet himself, and they order the legislature to rubber-stamp his decisions).


Skya’s book is the first book I ever read to actually define the word KOKUTAI in a meaningful way: kokutai means “the place where real power is located in any given country.” Not just Imperial Japan has a kokutai. Communist countries, democracies, and monarchies all have kokutai! 


The shape of the kokutai is different depending on who the fuck really pulls the strings. In a monarchy: the KING is at the top of the kokutai. In a communist country, the Party Central Committee is at the top of the kokutai. In a democracy, the common people, represented by the elected President, are on top. And in Japan’s unique kokutai, the Emperor is rocking it.


OK. So, what defines Japan’s unique kokutai, Mr. Hozumi?


One: Emperor at the top!



Japanese citizenship is limited to natives – people who are descended from the emperor and therefore from God. (to give you some idea of how fucking off-the-hook Japan was in the ‘20s, this racist, fascist notion was enough to get Hozumi labeled as a PANTY WAIST, LATTE-SIPPING LIBERAL because it seemed to say ‘don’t conquer all of Asia, since they don’t have that Japanese DNA’). WTF ‘20s Japan!!!!


three : the UNBROKEN CHAIN of emperors.

Hozumi said the creation myth (the Emperor was born by the goddess Amaterasu… And he gave birth to all the Japanese people) was a historical fact. Not only did this make all of Japan one big family chosen by God (thus the whole ‘blood’ thing), but also it made Japan the ONLY country on earth whose kings were ALL sons of the previous kings. Unlike Russian Tsars and dumb-ass French or English Kings, or those wacky Chinese kings.

Most nations started out run by Kings descended from God, with divine right of rule. Hozumi acknowledged this. But he said, “According to the rules, if your king gets overthrown by some other guy who declares himself king, you’re out. Unbroken chain foul!

Or if your king doesn’t have a boy child, and so they get some royal person from another country to be your new king, you’re out.” (I imagine Hozumi wearing a umpire uniform and making dramatic gestures with a whistle to emphasize this point).  

“Not only is your country out of the rule-by-a-living-god-destined-to-one-day-rule-the-planet business, but you are doomed- DOOOOMED to democracy and liberal humanism. LIBERALLLL HUMANNNISMMMM, OOOOOOHHHH!!!!!!!”



Since all Japanese are children of the emperor: they shared his special, unique-in-the-world blood-tie to God. Not only that, but (unlike other racial-purity fascist regimes like Nazi Germany) the Japanese people had a personal debt to the emperor. They OWED HIM bigtime.

This is different than Rule #1 because it means that people are in a hierarchy. Mom is superior to the daughter. Older daughter is superior to younger daughter. Dad is superior to everyone else. This is as god and nature intended. But don’t worry – mom wants the best for her daughter. Dad wants his family to grow up big and strong. Everyone has the same vested interests. And you owe dad. He brought you into this world. 

Quoting dude: “The family is a small state. The state is a large family.” This “family-state” philosophy would get increasingly pernicious in the ‘30s and ‘40s: people would be asked to kill and die for the emperor in a way they would normally do only for their own close relatives.




Two other things, however, are  curiously ABSENT from Hozumi’s discourse:


ONE: He seems totally unconcerned with specifically WHAT the emperor would do with his unlimited god-given authority. Even more: he was unconcerned with what the emperors HAD done throughout their 2,600 year reign. IF they had divine superpowers and unlimited political clout, what the fuck had they ever done during the last 2600 years? “Who cares, it’s the principle of the thing.” Seems to be his answer. Who the fuck even thinks like that? Seriously????


TWO: For all his talk of “blood ties” and “the volkisch, ethnic traditions that make Japan unique and superior”, he seems to be utterly unconcerned with actual ordinary Japanese folk culture or people, except as replaceable interchangeable parts used for glorifying an emperor who never does anything aside from exist. He never talks about folk customs, superstitions, festivals, nicknames, fairy-tales, or anything. Suspicious, if you ask me!


No academics have ever pointed this out. Once again, I scooped them! In your face.


Also wild: the emperor himself (his flesh and blood) was not important. The flesh-and-blood body was just the current earthly incarnation of the Amaterasu goddess. The THRONE was the important, unbroken, thing.


Quoth Hozumi: “The throne is Amaterasu of this world. Thus to worship the throne is to worship Amaterasu. The throne is the source of state law and state religion.” Not so important to everyday politics, but important if YOU LIKE HAVING YOUR MIND BLOWN. Also it explains why the fact that emperor Taisho being clinically retarded did nothing to diminish the growing fundamentalist Shinto frenzy.


1910 – Hozumi publishes his main book, KEMPOU TEIYOU (Handbook on the Constitution of Japan)


In this new book, he talks about the seitai.


If kokutai is the place where power is situated (i.e. emperor), SEITAI is the apparatus by which the ruler’s will is carried out. Ten states with the same exact kokutai (democracy, imperial rule, communism, secular fascism, etc.) can still have ten different SEITAI; different ways of implementing their policies. (for example, elected legislatures, bureaucracies, religious councils, regional fiefdoms, etc.)


Why is this important? Because – to radical Shinto guys – the Emperor gets his power from the “emperor-on-top”-shaped Kokutai of Japan. So if he stops being the supreme leader EVEN FOR A SECOND, it’s game over: he loses his god-powers, AND Japan is doomed to democracy FOREVERRRRRR. Therefore, Hozumi has to explain why the current Meiji system (power shared by Emperor, army, legislature, and ministries, power of Emperor limited by constitution) is NOT a change in the kokutai.



And his answer  (wait for it) : the kokutai didn’t change, just the seitai. And that’s why seitai is important.


Which brings me to another weird thing about Shinto ultra nationalism: despite their obsession with the total all-powerful god-king, they also think he’s really weak. Like how Superman can beat up the Hulk, but a 3-year-old girl with a fistful of kryptonite can stomp a mudhole in his ass.


As far as I can tell, it all comes down to this: merely being the earthly incarnation of a sho-nuff Goddess by itself doesn’t mean SHIT. For him to really be powerful, the kokutai has to retain the same form that it’s always had (the ‘unbroken chain’ rule). And, as we’ve seen above, Japan’s kokutai consists of 4 things: 1) a theocracy, 2) a pure-blood nation, 3) the unbroken chain, and 4) a nation where everyone is the same family with the same traditions


Besides the whole “If he stops being supreme leader for even a few seconds. . . ” thing (rule #3 foul), here are some other kryptonites his Highness has to beware of:

If too many foreigners are let in, the kokutai changes: Japan is no longer an ethnic nation (rule #2 foul =Kryptonite)!

Or if too many Japanese lose their traditions, that’s a rule #4 foul = also kryptonite! 


That’s why right-wingers tend to get so rabid about culture-war issues that – to regular folks – seem really symbolic and superficial: too much foreign culture will alter the kokutai. And if the kokutai changes, the Emperor loses his god-powers. You’d think that – being a divine being, he’d just perform a few miracles until the average Joe believes in him again. But no.


Which leads me to this:


If people stop believing in him, he loses power. I guess that’s true of all religions and fairy-tales, but Shinto openly acknowledges this, which is amazing. ANOTHER SUPER BASIC FACT THAT ALL THE ACADEMIC HISTORIANS NEVER REALIZED UNTIL I TOLD THEM IN ALL CAPS.


Hozumi’s “organic theory of society” is particularly gnarly. The individual is reduced to an interchangeable, no-identity-having, replaceable part who should be sacrificed for the good of Society. In Shinto thought this is called “goudou seizon” (literally, fusion or amalgamated existence” (merging of the individual into society)).


And this explains the lenient treatment that communists and anti-emperor guys were given in fascist Japan. In other fascist countries, such people would be instantly executed or sent to slave-labor camps. In Japan, it was inconcievable that they could not be "rehabilitated", inconcievable that they could not be re-absorbed into society. They were just kept in jail until they "realized" the errors of their ways. This process of "conversion" was called tenkou.





Hozumi’s arch-rival!

The most famous, influential proponent of democracy at that time. Unfortunately Minobe’s rational, common-sense approach makes this chapter the most boring one in the whole book.


Like Hozumi, Minobe also went to elite Tokyo Imperial University and also traveled to Germany to study more about modern government. Like Hozumi, Minobe went on to teach government and law at a university, and also work for the government (Hozumi in the Education ministry, Minobe in the Home ministry). 




Minobe is usually presented as the good guy because he wanted to limit the Emperor’s power and give more power to the legislature. But in his own way, he’s nuts. Mostly because he listened to Germans.


Hozumi thought the emperor WAS the state, period.


In contrast, Minobe followed the German philosopher Hegel, and Hegel had this crazy idea that “the state” was a “real, organic, independent personality, and sovereignty rested not in the monarch or in the people but in the state itself. As an individual organism the state consisted of different organs with separate functions.”


And – Minobe decided – in Japan's case, the Emperor was one of those organs.


It doesn’t matter that Hegel was barking mad. What matters is that Minobe’s theory of a powerless, figure-head emperor was saddled with the totally awkward name of “EMPEROR AS ORGAN THEORY”.


And not just in the English translation, either!


As a Professor of Constitutional Law, Minobe had to use every ounce of his legal training, German logical philosophy skills, and  professorial gravitas to justify his ORGAN interpretation of the constitution.

His solution? Ignore the parts that were “written wrong.” 


Or, as Skya more charitably puts it, “For him, the constitution did not accurately reflect the essential law of the Japanese state and the historical conditions of the times. It contained laws that needed to be corrected. Minobe asserted that “the constitution had flaws because the men who established the constitutional system were ignorant or careless of the principles of constitutionalism.” In other words, although the founders of the constitution sought to establish constitutional government, they did not fully comprehend the idea of constitutional government.”


Other weird things about Minobe:


Despite being the most pro-democracy guy, he refused to say that the people were the source of all political power – preferring instead to use an elaborate legal gymnastics to justify the emperor as sole sovereign of Japan, who just happened to be a figurehead.


Also, the “emperor as organ” theory came from Germany. And the Germans actually invented that theory to PREVENT democracy from breaking out in Der Vaterland: limiting the power of their king, so as to prevent a violent revolution which would, if successful, have made Germania fully democratic.


However, his basic point was pretty sweet:


The Emperor is infallible, so he should not be held accountable for any dumb political decisions. And the only way to prevent this is to make politicians – specifically ministers and cabinet members – responsible, so as to spare the emperor. This meant two things:

 This had two implications:

One : the parliament (who is accountable to the voters) should control the ministers, and fire them if they give the emperor bad advice. This because the ministers aren’t infallible, so they had to be put in check somehow.


Two: Instead of the ministers just rubber-stamping the emperor’s decisions, they draw up the plans and the emperor rubber-stamps it.


Anyway, shystey tactics aside, Minobe’s “emperor-as-organ” theory gradually overpowered Hozumi’s “emperor-as-the-dick-I’m-riding” theory to become the dominant theory of the elites. Politicians, pundits, and professors all pretty much agreed Minobe was right. And, Skye hints that in the ‘20s the legislature even got the power to control the cabinet.








What the fuck happened?


Basically, he got Fox Newsed!


See, his theory was the consensus among the ELITES. And his (Shinto) enemies finally had the bright idea of taking his theory to the MASSES, via the newspapers.


Minobe’s theories, which had been dominant for years, were suddenly re-cast as “The Minobe affair” – a scandal!


And, proving that Fox didn’t invent a damn thing, the media didn’t go after Minobe’s idea, but a really shitty, straw-man VERSION of it. See, at that point in time, the masses were really beaten down by high taxes, rapacious landlords, widespread unemployment, a huge gap between rich and poor, and some scary-ass commies threatening to unleash a bloody revolution at any moment. 


The average workin’ Tanaka was pissed as hell, and looking for someone to blame. And here came the newspapers with:


“The Emperor has been made powerless! He has been stripped of his power by MINOBE, an elite, latte-sipping, brie-eating professor who thinks he knows what’s better for Japan than you! The emperor has been surrounded by a bunch of corrupt ‘advisors’ who treat him as a puppet, and that’s why the country is fucked up. Because of this MINOBE, pencil-neck, intellectual, emperor-castrating, Son of a bitch!”


Diet member Kikuchi Takeo denounced Minobe in the legislature in 1935 in one of the most preposterous speeches ever given by a politician: “(Minobe’s books) emphasize the influence of actual circumstances and vigorously expound logic and the law of reason”


Kikuchi said this to DISRESPECT Minobe.




Way to go , 1935 Japan. Imagine a parliament demanding “ALL POWER TO THE EMPEROR! WE DEMAND LESS POWER! TAKE AWAY OUR RIGHTS! TAKE AWAY OUR RIGHTS!”


What could account for such a spectacle?


ONE: regulatory capture a la USA : the House of Peers was all nobility, and even the Lower House was elected by the richest 1% of the population (no one else could vote) – so they tended naturally to side with the monarchy.

TWO:  politicians not wanting to be held responsible for the shitty state of the country : if they are nothing but a rubber-stamp committee, so much the better!

THREE: Raw fear of right-wing assassins (the Minobe Affair was just 3 years after the prime minister got stabbed to death).

Suddenly Minobe became Van Jones, Jerimiah Wright, Acorn, and every other bogey-man.


The more astute right-wing politicians made use of this anti-Minobe media blitz to take pot-shots at democracy and the constitution in general: restore the emperor to absolute rule, or else Minobe wins! That’s the only solution!


After narrowly dodging several ninja attacks, Minobe was forced into early retirement and fled.







This chapter of  JAPAN'S HOLY WAR  is tricky because it’s pretty clear that Skya thinks Ikki is a little bitch. Which he totally is, but if you’re a professor, you should be able to clearly explain the ideas of people even if you don’t agree with them.


Bloggers, on the other hand. . .


Skya manages to dis Ikki in the introduction, before the book even starts: “Western historians think Ikki is all that, but only because he’s the only pundit to have his stuff translated into English.” Oh schnapz!


Then, in the Ikki chapter, Skya doesn’t give even a brief bio, birth/death date, or any reasons why people paid attention to him (which he does for the other thinkers).


Third, although Skya spends a whole chapter summarizing Ikki’s socialist views, he doesn’t mention class, capitalism, money, or anything else socialists yap on about. Here’s Skya attempting to explain Ikki’s politics without mentioning, er, politics:


“Ikki thought Japan was a socialist country, because it had more than one person, so there was a society of people in it.”  


I mean, huh?


I was like, “Is Ikki just that batshit insane, or is Skya deliberately making him sound dumb?” (answer: both. But according to the main book on Ikki, homeboy DID talk about politics and capitalism ALL THE TIME in his works, so shame on you, Skya).


Skya only talks about Ikki’s 1906 book, Kokutairon (On the Kokutai and Pure Socialism). So I’m basically writing a review of Skya reviewing Ikki reviewing the Meiji Constitution and Hozumi’s book. What a circle jerk.


Also, kokutairon wasn’t even Ikki’s main book. The main book had totally different politics, so WTF.


Here’s Ikki’s main thing: he’s not a traditionalist like Hozumi or a Democracy guy like Minobe. He’s a dirty commie!


“He expressed profound disappointment in the fact that the Japanese people had been unable to reap the full benefits of political and social equality opened for them by the Meiji Revolution because of their ignorance regarding the true essence of the modern Japanese state.”


In other words, Japan in 1906 was already a Socialist paradise, but only Ikki knew it yet. WTF. 


It takes balls to thank the semi-feudal, semi-capitalist oligarchs, “Thanks for making Japan into a commie country,” but it takes even bigger balls to then tell them, “But fuck you for not doing it right! This is the worst socialist paradise ever!”


Occam’s razor foul.


“Interestingly, Kita maintained that the responsibility for this state of affairs was not the fault of the emperor himself. Rather, he accused the collective Meiji leadership of treachery in sabotaging the cause of the revolution. To obscure the real nature of the state, Kita argued, the oligarchs, in their construction of the modern Japanese state, had transformed the emperor into an object of blind devotion and worship, a “clay figure” as he put it.”


Kita took aim at Minobe AND Hozumi: Kita said both democracy and theocracy were bullshit, because democracy was based on INDIVIDUAL rights, and the emperor was a single INDIVIDUAL. And – according to his wacky theory of history – the Stage of Individuals was over, and the Stage of Societies had begun, therefore only Socialism was valid.


“The state, in other words, was a gigantic organism that existed and evolved according to its own biological purposes.”


Although again, I’m quoting Skya’s version of Ikki, and I already showed you Skya likes making Ikki look batshit. Near as I can make out, Ikki believed that government bureaucrats should control everything, since “the State” (i.e. government) was to him the same thing as “society.”


Which again cracks me up.


Here’s Ikki, a guy with radical opinions, a crackpot if you will – he’s nothing BUT a unique individual. And here he is saying, “The age of the individual is over, now it’s time for us to become interchangeable parts in the collective.”


Here’s a guy trying to single-handedly remake government (at the age of 23, no less!), and saying “Democracy? Fuck that! Individuals shouldn’t have that kind of power to change government, only the collective.”




At least the government banned his book! Take that, you puny individual!


One can only assume he was overjoyed.


OK, enough picking on the poor bastard. Here’s a paragraph where Skya allows Ikki to make sense:


“The Meiji revolution of 1868 was a momentous event in Japanese history. In Kita’s evolutionary theory of the Japanese state, it. . . represented a fundamental change in the kokutai as well as the seitai. It gave birth to the (democratic, non-feudal) nation-state. Thus, the kokutai had changed from a patriarchal kokutai to a nation-state kokutai, and the old, aristocratic seitai became a new democratic seitai. Kita was convinced that the Meiji revolution was successful in overthrowing the Tokugawa feudal system due to the collaboration of the emperor and the people.


By “the people,” Kita meant those who had participated in the countless peasant uprisings at the end of the Tokugawa period, as well as members of the lower-ranking military aristocracy. The fact that the emperor was involved on the side of the revolutionaries to overthrow the military class may have made it appear as if the new state were a monarchial state, but this was not the case. Kita maintained that the emperor and the people had acted together as constituent elements of the state on the basis of absolute equality to overthrow the old regime and establish a social democracy.”


To which I say, if “the peasants” were involved in “countless” uprisings in the name of socialism , why wouldn’t they remember that Japan was supposed to be a social democracy? Why did they need Ikki to tell them? Did they forget? Were they on some Sideshow-Bob-becomes-mayor-of-Springfield shit: “Oh, all that. . . stuff I did”?


Like many shit-disturbers, Kita is at his best, his most sensible and dangerous, when he is ripping apart the beliefs of others:


He took Hozumi’s Shinto beliefs, identified the core principles, and one-by-one poked holes in them. SMACKDOWN!!!


Unbroken lineage:

Cave-men lived in small egalitarian tribes, they didn’t have emperors. Your “unbroken lineage” was broken FROM THE BEGINNING.



Until the Fujiwara period, the title “emperor” essentially referred to whoever was the strongest authority, whoever possessed the land and the people of Japan. And in the Kamakura period, the emperors struggled with the shoguns for power, not ruling absolutely.


Filial piety and ancestor worship:

 In Japan’s feudal times, ancestor worship and unbroken lineage – the 2 pillars of Hozumi’s theory – actually worked AGAINST the power of the emperor. Here’s how: the warring clans , each vying for domination of all Japan, were more loyal to their own chieftains because of the respective chieftains’ lineage and because they shared ancestors with their chieftains. Nobody gave a fuck about the emperor at that point.


The constitution:

 Article 27, bitch: “Japanese subjects shall, within the limits of peace and order, and not antagonistic to their duties as subjects, enjoy freedom of religious belief.” So Shinto is not superior to any other religion, so the Emperor, as leader of Shinto, is just a regular guy under the law.


The importance of Pure Japanese blood:

It means Japan can’t conquer other countries, since their populations could never be part of Japan. Also, Japan had never been a 100% ethnically homogenous state. In ancient times, several emperors had brought Asians into Japan and naturalized them, thus not only blowing up Hozumi’s myth, but also using his own “because the emperor said so!” logic against him. Good show, sir. Well played!


Ikki’s conclusion:  his interpretation of the constitution was, the emperor and the parliament together constitute the highest organs of the state. But, he believed that the State itself was the ultimate power, ruling over both. I have no idea what that means. But I can tell you THIS: despite being a radical, Ikki not only believed in the constitution, he wanted the emperor in the top tier of a socialist government.








In the early Taisho period, the common people start demanding a political voice. In Japan, this was a totally new thing. Maybe Ikki was right about the Meiji Restoration changing things more than the Restorers realized!




ONE: there is now mass media in Japan, allowing opinions to be broadcast and bringing news of many foreign ideologies

TWO: they are nominally living in a democracy, but since only 1% of the people get to vote, the politicians don’t even bother to pander to them. Thus, they’re a bit irked.

THREE: they have better education than in feudal times (necessary so they can learn these fancy new industrial machines) and,

FOUR: they are pissed about the outrageously high taxes which were levied on them to pay for the rapid industrialization


This mass democracy movement did two things: it took the “kokutai debate” out of the colleges and bureaucratic meetings, and put it on the front page of the newspapers. And this media-ization made both Hozumi and Minobe’s theories kind of irrelevant:


Hozumi’s “The commoners are just tools or objects of the emperor to do with as he pleases, democracy is against god!” was not going to play in the mass media.


And Minobe’s “We need a strong legislature, but only if they work alongside a divine emperor” was not a big hit with the new secular, pro-democracy crowd : the masses had outraced the once-radical intellectual scholars.


So how did the new generation of constitutional scholars deal with this new mass-movement?


Well, first of all, it required a new, more radical Shingo thinkers who were good at getting word out to the masses (particularly the armed forces!). These new-school guys all had different attitudes but they excelled at one thing: taking public anger at feeling powerless, and channeling that anger against the one thing in the country that could empower them: the democratically elected government!


Somehow they were able to convince folks, “You want power? You want to vote?  You want to change the country? Well, I’ll give you the ULTIMATE power: to become one with the emperor! It’s easy: just abandon your ego and desires!”

 In other words, this new philosophy of self-dis-empowerment and total war was phrased as a very positive, uplifting message: You're important! You matter! The fate of the world rests on your shoulders! Without the help of each and every Japanese, the emperor can’t carry out the will of the gods! In other words, every average Joe can feel part of a giant historical, cosmic mission that they play an essential role in. This helped persuade a lot of people.


Explaining how they were able to do these mental gymnastics will take a long time, but it begins with a single word:


MINPONSHUGI! (people-ism) The idea that the government was supposed to work for the benefit of the common person (or at least make noises to that effect!)


This buzzword was so popular, it was used by BOTH SIDES of the democracy debate.


Here’s how the pandering went down:


Uesugi (the most radical of the pro-Shinto guys) saw his task as to prove that Shinto ultra nationalism was capable of adapting itself to modern society and convince the politically awakened masses that Shinto ultra nationalism, just like liberal democracy and socialism, had a program relevant for them. This meant repudiating his teacher, Hozumi. Like a true politician, Uesugi kept Hozumi’s anti-democracy, fuck-the-people goals, but concocted a whole new media-friendly rationale for it:


“Only through Shinto, emperor-based democracy can we have true power for the people, because the emperor (unlike elite politicians and oligarchs) is bound to help his family.” 


To Mr. Yoshino (the most important new-generation pro-democracy guy) minponshugi meant that

“Although sovereignty resides in the emperor,  that doesn’t mean that he is the only person who engages in politics. He has to consult others. It is therefore not wrong to consult the opinions of the public instead of a small select group of people. If sovereignty should stay strictly only with the emperor and no one else, the oligarchy also has to be looked as being unconstitutional.” 

He went on to say that even though the common people aren’t super smart and don’t know a lot about politics, they can still tell if a politician they elected kept his promises or not, and on that basis alone they are qualified to have the right to vote.


In Kita Ikki’s case: nothing!


Kita Ikki doesn’t give a flying fuck about pandering to anyone, he’s keeping it real. Oh but he switched from far left wing to far right wing fascism without a word of explanation to anyone. Huh? He wrote a new book, called An Outline Plan for the Reorganization of Japan, which spooges out, in great wonkish detail, how a new, improved Japan would be run, after the revolution. 


He was still anti-Shinto, although he believed the emperor should be retained as a figurehead : the emperor belongs to the state, which is the people.

Which reminds me, here’s another difference between “old-generation” thinkers and “new generation” thinkers:


Although the old-generation guys (Minobe, Hozumi, and Kita) were on opposite sides of the kokutai debate, they still had one thing in common: they were policy wonks.


Each in their own way was trying to answer the same question: how can we get this fucking country running again with a single, non-ambiguous authority?


The new-school Shinto guys, however, had no interest in how their proposed new government would solve down-to-earth problems like inflation or taxation: “Once we restore the Emperor, he will use his god powers to solve everything . . . . despite not having ever done that in the last 3,000 years of strife and warfare.”

Also, the new-school Shinto guys had an explanation of the Emperor’s god powers!


The Emperor is not just a living god – he’s THE ONLY HUMAN WHO IS DEVOID OF SELF-INTEREST OR SELFISHNESS, TOTALLY UNBIASED. That’s why everything the country of Japan does is inherently moral!

  Not exactly raising the dead or water-to-wine, but maybe a little more interesting.


Unlike the bad politicians, capitalists, communists, and westernized individualists, the Emperor loves each of his children equally. And that’s why, if we all become more like the Emperor, we don’t need government or rules. If you need food, I’ll give you mine. If you need a job, I’ll give you one. If you need someone to get stabbed several times in the head, I’ll handle that shit. And you’d do the same for me. That’s why I have the moral authority to start a violent revolution and take over the country: because I’m the only guy who isn’t perusing an agenda! (insert do-do-deedleedle-doop-de-do circus music here)


This  idea was an extreme version of what the old-school Shinto guys had been saying all along: we’re not trying to take over or impose an authoritarian government.   Fascism means one powerful person imposing HIS vested interests on weaker people. But, according to the radical Shinto-ists, everyone in Japan has the same exact vested interests. That is part of our kokutai, that is what separates us from other, dumber countries. And that’s what makes OUR fascism fair and not authoritarian at all. 


All these guys thought that. Where the new generation (Uesugi and Kakehi) differed from the old generation (Hozumi and those before him) is this:


Old generation: The Emperor is mysterious remote figure, so far above you that you can’t even look right at him. He gets his authority from being the patriarch, the father of Japan. And your dad is your family’s patriarch, so obey your dad.


New generation: you know what? Fuck your family. Fuck patriarchy! (ironic but true, they consciously decided that!) Nothing must stand between you and the emperor. The emperor is not a remote guy up in heaven, the emperor is INSIDE YOU. You can never get away from him. You are part of his Japan-sized soul, and your mission in life is to submerge yourself into the emperor till there is no distinction between him and you. When you finally cease to exist altogether, then you will be enlightened.


Of course! What’s a jihadist, religious revolution without a theory of martyrdom?


Sacrifice for the good of the country was a holy act, proving your dedication to the emperor. Your only reason to live is to “improve” your spiritual life, and improving meant moving closer to the emperor – eliminating your individual consciousness. And dying in battle is sort of a short-cut to enlightenment : nothing eliminates consciousness like the grim reaper!


Side note: in Christian belief, you are supposed to get rid of your ego too, but in order to accept Jesus in your heart. He comes to you. In Shinto, when you get rid of your ego, your soul sort of drifts into the emperor. He’s like a cosmic egg with all the souls of Japanese people sort of swimming to him at all angles like sperm. Let that visual sort of sink in.

Finally, since the New Generation thought that everyone has a personal, unmediated link to the emperor, everyone had a moral responsibility to work to improve Japan, and take initiative. It’s the “take initiative” part that led to all the assassinations. Did I mention there is going to be LOTS of assassinations?


This was a big break from the traditional, patriarchal, “all you people just wait for instructions from above” brand of Shinto; a new idea of Shinto which was relevant in the age of democracy: “Everyone in Japan has a moral responsibility to act proactively to improve the country. Put another way, the only way to improve yourself (achieve enlightenment, etc) is to improve the nation.”


Also, this “take initiative” concept, plus the fact that the emperor at the time was a no-fooling retard who was kept locked away and thus couldn’t be a charismatic Il Duce / Hitler figure . . .these 2 added together account for the fact that there were 100 different overlapping here-today-gone-tomorrow rightwing groups, instead of one unified force (like the Duce’s blackshirts or Adolph’s brownshirts).




Anyway, how did new-school Shinto guys think of foreign countries?

In western, democratic countries, on the other hand, everyone was an “individual,” pursuing their own self interest. If one wins, the other loses. Remember, this was just after the unbelievable horror WWI, so this kind of argument made a lot of sense at that time. Even though it conflated European royalty’s imperialist ambitions with democracy and free speech. But still.


Uesugi said, other countries (including Asia) were ultimately ruled by “mechanistic” governments – devoid of spirituality, without any real love and altruism to unite the people, and that’s why those other countries never had stability, never had an unbroken line of emperors stretching back to the beginning of time, like one country we could mention. Individualism and zero-sum, mechanistic thought was why the rest of the world was doomed to eternal war and dis-harmony.


Thus it was up to Japan to save the world. (not just the usual "we have the right to, since we're the best," but the rather more looney, "We have a moral imperative to take over the world! Anything less is a betrayal of our gods!")


And this was TOTALLY ABSENT from shinto thought as late as 1910.  Hozumi was anti-imperialism. Think about that – between '10 and '35 or so, the main point of the main religion of the country TOTALLY CHANGES.









Of course, like you can guess by now, Uesugi graduated with a law degree from Tokyo Imperial University, and taught there from 1912 on. He also had the requisite government gig, instructing the navy cadets on the meaning of patriotism. Which is exactly what you want the most radical cleric the country has ever seen doing.


Like other Imperial University law teachers, he wrote books saying that direct imperial rule was going to eliminate social conflict and help the regular people, by making things equal.


Unlike other Imperial University law teachers, he also had a side job: founding right-wing militia after militia! (spoiler alert: He was the brains, they were the muscle). Unlike Uesugi's books, the militias were ALL ABOUT increasing social conflict. And instead of making people equal under the emperor, the mobs were anti-democratic, clandestine organizations that tried to change history radically without the consent of anyone outside their dozen followers. Including the Emperor.


Busy guy, Uesugi.


This guy is supposed to be the most radical of them all, so I expected some real foaming at the mouth ranting. Instead, I got METAPHYSICS. So dry and well-reasoned.


Here is “Shorter Uesugi:”


STEP ONE – “One’s individual being, as a constituent element of “being as a totality,” had movement. This moment of being related in a cause-and-effect relationship to the movement of other beings in a spatial environment , which is called man’s sokan. And, the interrelationship with other beings in a spatial totality in time, which is called man’s renzoku.


STEP TWO – 100 more pages of same

STEP THREE – stabbing.




You gotta admit, that’s a pretty persuasive argument you got there.


“Good lord, man! Stab someone? I’d go to jail! My wife would leave me. What the – seriously, you want me to end a human life because of a spatial totality of time, which you call my renzoku?”


“No, my son, no. A spatial totality IN time. I said, IN time.”


“Oh for reals? My bad – hey where’s that sword? Somebody tell me where that motherfucker lives.” *walking off, waving sword and muttering* “IN time, not OF time, you idiot . . . !”


Fortunately, Skya was nice enough to summarize Uesugi’s main points, for those of us whose sokan exists in an interrelationship with not giving a fuck.


Uesugi’s philosophy seems to be an extreme version of the usual Japanese “the individual gets his or identity from the context of the group which he or she is in.”


But where Uesugi differs from other fascist “group/government is all ! individual is nothing!” thinkers is that, in HIS conception of the group is everyone is equal (except for you-know-who!). 


So, all kidding aside, how was this egghead able to motivate and organize dozens of hard-knock assassins and terrorists? Because, he had a “street version” of his doctrine. (remember how Minobe refused to simplify his theories for mass consumption, so in the end he got Fox Newsed? His opponents made up the “street version” of his doctrine, and they simplified and distorted it to make him look like a jerkwad in the media? Well, it seems the Uesugi was way ahead of Minobe in terms of controlling your message).  The street version was, THE PEOPLE SHOULD BECOME ONE WITH THE EMPEROR. Easy, small words, a positive message, but vague enough that it could be interpreted to justify almost anything. Perfect!


Hozumi thought that regular people are just the Emperor’s children so they should just wait for orders. Hozumi really liked hierarchies because the family is a hierarchy.


Kita Ikki was on some commie, “the individual is just a little cell in the body of the government”


Kakehi Katsuhiko (who we’ll get to later) agreed with Uesugi that everyone – high and low – had a responsibility to act on their own to improve Japan. However, Kakehi ultimately thought that social hierarchies (your boss / your commanding officer / etc.) were good, because the upper people achieved their high status by being closer to the very top (closer to you-know-who!)


Uesugi was more like, every person or institution which stands between individuals and the Emperor must be destroyed. They’re profiteers, middle-men, parasites! Not only that, but they're bending our kokutai out of shape, giving it an obese spare-tire of beuracratic flab. We have a moral duty to eliminate them, and then we will rebuild Japan from scratch as a utopia. I believe the catch-phrase of the time was : “Eliminate the wicked advisers, corrupt politicians, capitalists, and weak-kneed bureaucrats!” Keep in mind, the widespread unemployment, starvation, poverty, and total inability of government to cure same.

Is the problem that the pro-Shinto Powers that Be won’t let government do its job? No, clearly the problem is TOO MUCH democracy!

And since the Emperor is infallible, loves us all and wants us to prosper, if the country is in bad shape, SOMEONE MUST BE GIVING HIM BAD ADVICE.


Well now you ask, if everyone is equal, then why should they destroy their individual identities and submit to the emperor? Isn’t that a bit of a contradiction? That’s where Shinto and the kokutai (*sigh* again with the kokutai!) comes in. Because what sets Japan apart from all other countries is they all share one spirit, one blood, one family.


If you took away the laws and government in, say, Russia or Germany, people would soon fall into a state of savagery, a Hobbsean war of all against all. But in Japan, everyone would help their brothers and sisters, anarchist-style, just out of the goodness of their hearts – BUT ONLY IF THEY FIRST RECOGNIZED THAT THEY WERE NOT INDIVIDUALS but part of the single nationwide soul that was Japan. By putting the group first, total peace and harmony can be achieved. After the bloodshed and massacres, of course.


And once Japan has been made into a heaven on earth, we have a Shinto duty to share this earthly paradise with Asia. And after that, everyone! Yaaaay! You know what? let’s not even wait for earthly paradise to come to Japan. Let’s just start a bunch of wars now and then work on that peace-and-love shit later.




The big guy! The single most influential radical Shinto guy. What’s his secret? All of Uesugi’s “let’s take over the world!” holy-war enthusiasm, with none of Uesugi’s “destroy the corporations and government!” 


Kakehi believed in using worldly, flawed, secular institutions to further his radical fundamentalist program, and this proved wildly popular with – wait for it – the powerful people. He was a close confidant of the empress, lectured to crown prince Hirohito in 1926 (while he was regent).

 Interestingly, he became a radical FIRST, and THEN got his big government connections. Which makes me think maybe the government was just using him to rationalize decisions they’d already made, contrary to Skya’s thesis.

Also, Kakehi backed the winning fundamentalist army faction (the control faction), and Uesugi backed the losing faction (cherry blossom society), which got shut the fuck down after their failed coup attempt. Did I mention there’s going to be lots of coup attempts?


But anyway! How did Kakehi get so influential in the first place? Tokyo Imperial University, maybe? Law degree? Studied in Germany, perhaps? Government job lecturing the elites?


Everything but the “studied in Germany” bit. Instead, Kakehi had something even better on his resume: actual knowledge of Shinto! While Hozumi focused on the kokutai, and Uesugi obsessed with “being as totality” and “renzoku” and “stabbing”, Kakehi actually read thousand-year-old texts about Shinto rituals and fundamentals.


Kakehi wasn’t just concerned about Japan becoming too democratic, he was concerned that modern kids these days were out of touch with their roots.

Most of his writing was the same-old “Japan is swell” stuff. . . but Kakehi’s twist was a phrase he invented:

Isshin doutai, which means “being of one heart and the same body.” It meant not just blood and family ties, but: rich and poor together, high and lower class together, with the same vested interests. (this is how he could tolerate the government and corporations, unlike Uesugi). Moreover, isshin doutai meant a unity throughout time. This is a difficult concept for me. I think it ties in to the whole “unbroken chain of ancestors” thing, but applies it to everyone, not just the Emperor. It’s almost like all your ancestors exist with you in the here-and-now.

Imagine the guilt!

Furthermore, the Emperor is a “universal person” because he sort of holds the souls of all Japanese. Since he was the first Japanese soul, and everyone else, living and dead, is his direct descendant, it’s like Japan only has one, eternal, giant-sized soul, and you share your soul with your ancestors. Deeyamn.


Also, unlike other “Shinto ultranationalists,” Kakehi actually referred to Shinto mythology.


Heaven is called kannagara-no-michi, earth is Utsushi-you, and hell is Yomo-tsu-kuni (or yomi-no-kuni).


And Kakehi’s take on this is that, if everyone worked together and “became one with the emperor”, we could achieve kannagara-no-michi right here on earth.


Furthermore, and here it gets kind of migraine-inducing, Kakehi interprets the individual kanji of Kannagara-no-michi and “discovers” another meaning to it: “to praise and realize the inherent state of being of one heart and one body, while preserving from ancient times the proper relationship between superiors and inferiors.”


In other words, the kokutai. How convenient!

However, don’t think of Kakehi as some egghead who just talks theory. In fact, he was better at pandering to the soldiers and farmers than anyone else, another secret of his huge influence.


“All the Taros and Jiros (like saying, all the joes and jacks) were created by the grace of the emperor”. He continued: “Lower ranking people must respect their superior officers if they feel obliged to the emperor. Your superiors , you should regard as a substitute for the emperor. Furthermore this applies not only to soldiers but civilians.”


So he supported hierarchies, but Kakehi’s hierarchies were not like Hozumi’s traditional “because I’m the daddy and I say so” hierarchies.


Kakehi’s hierarchies were motivated by “Isshin doutai,” meaning one heart, one body: the leaders would not coerce the masses, they’d all work together of their own free will, because same soul and all that. This was supposed to make it more palatable to the now-politicized masses.


He also talked about how farmers had the traditional mutually-supporting one-heart, one-body lifestyle. This might seem like the bare minimum of pandering in Tea Party America, but Skya doesn’t report any of these other elite scholars even bothering to do basic pandering besides the occasional cry of “Minponshugi.”


Kakehi’s justification for conquering the world:


The gods themselves created Japan to save the world by conquering it, so as to bring everyone the eternal peace and harmony of  "one body, one soul."


So how does Kakehi solve the ole’ “What do you do with foreigners after you conquer them – they’re part of your empire but they can’t ever be part of your kokutai” contradiction?


You’re going to love this!

We Japanese are unique because we rule without force and coercion. We all have the same vested interests. But since foreigners lack the Shinto spiritual one-body, one-soul nature, and they don’t understand that we Japanese are acting selflessly . . . therefore, we will have to rule them with force and coercion. They can’t ever be citizens, just guests or objects. But by using enough force, we can keep them peaceful forever.


Amaterasu is not only the ancestor of Japan but of everyone on earth. But even though these fallen, foreign humans can never ever be part of our family again, even though I personally forbid them from even going into Shinto temples. . . we Japanese still have a duty to re-absorb them and restore the world as it once was.


Keep in mind, unlike Ikki or Uesugi, this guy was considered mainstream.







The aftermath of WWI showed the western countries going democratic and or communist, and all abandoning their own monarchs. Domestically the masses demanded the right to vote. And the elected officials were demanding a right to be more than a rubber-stamp. Where will it end? Since the public was pretty cool with all these changes across the board, the only solution left was assassinations.

Beginning around 1930, all hell breaks loose. The average lifespan of a sitting prime minister was like two weeks and change. Typical reasons given were: he believes the emperor-as-organ theory, he voted against going to war with china/Russia, he signed a naval treaty with the evil British empire, or the ole’ Uesugi favorite: just by existing he is keeping the emperor from being one with the people.


Plus the president of Mitsui Bank and the president of Yasuda corporation got killed. Show me another “fascist” country where THAT happens. (and don’t you wish that Skya would have said why specifically those two were targeted?)


Fuck that! I’m going internet on this one.


According to an online Time Magazine article from ’33, the president of Mitsui was Takuma Dan, and he was killed because he sold the yen short when Japan went off the gold standard. According to this other report, the yen “depreciated 30%” as a result, meaning that average people lost a third of their measly wealth, but Mitsui made millions. The article then goes on to say that the following year, the yen depreciated ANOTHER 30%, this time “mainly due to Japan's aggression in China and resulting diplomatic isolation.” So the very military that the assassins backed was equally to blame.

 As far as the Yasuda assassination, here’s all I could find:


In this tense atmosphere, Zenjiro Yasuda was not a respected man. He had been accused of profiteering after the Russo-Japanese War. In 1921, the same year Prime Minister Hara Kei was assassinated by a nationalist fanatic, Zenjiro Yasuda was killed by a disgruntled visionary incensed by the financier's refusal to fund a workers' hotel.


Also, according to Wikipedia, the “workers’ hotel” was a right-wing extortion scam, to which he refused to “donate” money. And, he was Yoko Ono’s grandfather?!?


It’s kind of irritating because, after saying 100 times, “These radical Shinto thinkers created a climate of terrorism,” Skya doesn’t explain anything about the terrorists or what their demands were, why they targeted certain presidents of large corporations (like commies!) and so on. So frustrating! Nor does Skya explain the average lives of people and the stresses they were under (from corrupt government and exploitative corporations and a bad economy), which led those average people to support the terrorists. He neglects to mention that there was a HUGE bout of unemployment and nationwide depression in 1930, the same exact year the assassination craze starts.


He’s just like, “Gosh, those must have been some persuasive arguments!”


Skya keeps saying that the root of the “radical change” in Shinto, from Hozumi’s day to Kakehi and Uesugi’s day was getting the masses involved. Getting them to support terrorism, as well as getting them to sublimate their “we just got the right to vote, we’re political!” attitude and change it into, “Yeah, we’re political . . .to help Japan and our leaders take over the world!” Getting them to see the emperor as their REAL parents, and die to protect him as they would die to protect their REAL parents. Well ok.




How did the radical Shintoists accomplish this propaganda campaign? Skya says that some of these guys lectured to elites or army guys and etc. . . . and that small terror cells killed politicians. But both of those are the OPPOSITE of public. As far as influencing regular people, wtf? Were they holding big Nazi-like rallies? Or what? Did they send postcards? It’s like Skya doesn’t even care about his own central thesis.

The terrorists – despite claiming they wanted to return to a traditional, emperor-centered Japan where everything was like it used to be – were frustrated that Japanese people (both in government and in general) refused to accept radical change. In this, they were just like westerners! Except instead of trying to sell cheaper products in a more efficient manner, they were trying to overthrow the government.


The coup plotters went from being right-wingers, to religious nuts, and finally to religious nuts who were in the army and had hundreds of guns.


They wanted to have what was called a “Showa restoration” (like the Meiji restoration of 1868, that toppled the corrupt feudal system and restored the Emperor to power). . . the Showa restoration would topple the corrupt democratic system and restore emperor Showa to absolute power. Coups kept getting snitched on before they were carried out, though. But the plotters would get ridiculously light sentences, like 5 days community service or getting licked by a poodle.


By ’35, right-wing coup plotters were killing each other over whose coup would ultimately be carried out!


The whole terrorism thing culminated in the February 26, 1936 incident, when a whole division of army dudes took over government buildings in Tokyo and killed a lot of the emperor’s advisors.


This coup was only stopped when the emperor himself said, “Actually guys, I kind of like being a figurehead . . . .psyche!”

The Feb 26 coup was carried out by the imperial way faction, and they lost, leaving the so-called Control Faction in charge of the military. But the control faction believed the exact same holy-war Shinto fundamentalism as the imperial way faction . . .they just had a bit more patience, and they were more down with working together with big business:

“the control faction opted for cooperation with capitalists and with the parliament, so long as it was amenable to army wishes. The control faction also took practical measures to alleviate some of the worst economic problems, which was a source of much social discontent, to ensure that the terrorist-driven insurgency would lose its base of support and not resurface again.”  


In contrast to the Control Faction, here’s a quote from the manifesto of the Imperial Way Faction. It’s noteworthy because it’s the only thing in the whole book that even hints at the social/economic hardships faced by regular Japanese:


“in recent years many persons have made their chief purpose in life the amassment of wealth regardless of the general welfare and prosperity of the people, with the result that the majesty of the empire has been impaired. The people of Japan have suffered in consequence. Many troublesome issues now confronting our country are due to this situation . the elder statesmen, financial magnates, government officials, and the political parties are responsible.”


In a final dis to Kita Ikki, whose main claim to fame was that “He was the brains behind the coup”, Skya insists that the Imperial Way coup guys didn’t even like Ikki. Skya says that Ikki’s wonkish , “How shall we structure society after the revolution” policy detail was what appealed to the 1936 coup plotters, not Ikki’s anti-Shinto attitude. In fact, Skya says, the plotters had a lot more respect for Uesugi than Ikki and they were fervent Shinto-ists.


I should also point out that Ikki, not Uesugi, was executed for the plot.


So, ok. But how did these terrorists know what the emperor wanted? They never talked to dude. On one hand, it’s obvious: no one in Japanese history has ever given two shits what the emperor wanted. If they did, they would have let him have friends. They would have let him have a childhood. They would let him have five minutes of alone-time not structured by elaborate rituals. They would buy him a little noodle shop for him to run and chill when the day was done. Since the beginning of time, the un-official policy has been: do whatever the fuck helps you, and then claim you’re doing it in the emperor’s name.


So, yeah. We all know this. But. It’s amusing to see the mental gymnastics that these religious nuts have to perform in order to justify that their behavior is NOT just what I said above. So let’s check it out.


“I haven’t talked to him, but it’s clear that as a god, he must be against democracy and in favor of theocracy, so politicians got to go!”


And why stop there? Let’s go all the way down the crazy drain:


“Since I have broken free of the bonds of ego, vested interests, and western individualism, I have achieved unity with the emperor, and the emperor is without selfish goals. So that means that I am also without selfish goals, and also that my (sincere, selfless) goals must be His. And his goals are that I take over the government. QED.”


That’s more like it!


So what kind of society did these coup-plotter guys want, “after the revolution?”


“a political community consisting of the emperor on top of a highly centralized and industrialized state.”


To me that sounds like they were combining Kakehi’s highly hierarchical beliefs with Uesugi’s call to violence. As one would expect from army guys who were planning a coup!


What distinguished radical Shinto terrorism from “regular “ terrorism?


One – they only target specific guys. They don’t blow up civilians. This was, as you can expect, part of what made them such a hit!


Two – after committing their acts, they’d either commit seppuku or turn themselves in to the authorities. This was important, since in their religion, breaking laws or doing bad was only allowed if one is acting selflessly and for the greater good. (Actually, according to INSIDE THE KAISHA, this is a belief held by most Japanese to some extent). And remember, the emperor is the most un-selfish, benevolent, impartial and fair man ever. And so by killing myself, I show that I did my deeds with no thought for my own benefit, which must therefore mean I had “become one with the emperor” and thus I was carrying out His wishes.

Most of the officer corps had become indoctrinated with radical Shinto ideology (remember, Kakehi and Uesugi were paid to lecture to them!) , but they were not members of the control faction. So even after control faction took over, the unaffiliated officers kept planning coups, kept trying to overthrow the government! The solution: permanent war! War abroad to keep the peace at home!


Keep those crazy Uesugi-lovin’ motherfuckers busy killing Chinese.





In 1937, the government’s radical Shinto ideas were finally put into a propaganda book called KOKUTAI NO HONGI (Fundamentals of the National Polity). It was designed to win over the hearts and minds of the population, and therefore everyone was required to read it or go to jail. Ha!  


The book was what Skya called a “bloodless coup” :Where assassinations and terror had failed (very anti-harmony!) this book was able to make a national consensus (very pro-harmony!) and thus end the constitution debate once and for all.


And it solved the debate quite ingeniously: it said the constitution was meaningless, because no piece of paper was going to limit you-know-who! 


So basically all the 5,000 words I typed about the constitution debates are now moot. Forget you read all that.


And guess what? KOKUTAI NO HONGI had no mention of Shinto rituals, chants, or everyday customs. What a weird theocracy Japan was!


Kokutai no Hongi started by denouncing the emperor-as-organ theory.


The book went on to say, OK, yeah, we DID get a lot of ideas from Asia. And we’re fine with that. Because we had thousands of years to “absorb and digest” those ideas, stripping them of all meaning which conflicted with our kokutai: individualism, universal values, and so on. But we’ve been influenced by western culture only for 80 years and haven’t had time to digest it yet, so it threatens our kokutai. So stop being western, you’re fucking up the whole country. And naturally, that “stop!” includes the western concept of considering your own best interests. Terrible, terrible stuff.


The book DID quote two Shinto creation myths briefly, the Kokiji and the Nihonshoki, but only to emphasize the emperor’s divine origins.


But the vast majority of the book seems to be bizarre, run-on sentences like this:


Our contributions to the world lie only in giving full play more than ever to our Way which is of the Japanese people. The people must more than ever create and develop a new Japan by virtue of their immutable National Polity which is the basis of the State and by virtue of the Way of the Empire which stands firm throughout the ages at Home and abroad, and thereby more than ever guard and maintain the prosperity of the Imperial Throne which is coeval with heaven and earth.


Which boggles my mind : this sounds like it was written by a schizophrenic scientologist. And this was supposed to simplify Shinto for the common man! How did average Japanese react to it? Did they roll their eyes? Of the gung-ho people that said “Fuck yeah this book!” how many of them even understood it?


Now, you may say, maybe it’s just translating it into English that makes it sound crazy. That’s a good point, imaginary reader who is still paying attention! But check this out : there was a whole bunch of “commentaries” written to “explain” this book. Any intellectual worth his diploma rushed his own commentary into print. So you tell me, smart guy: how effective was KOKUTAI NO HONGI as propaganda???


Consider this segment:


In our country there is no filial piety apart from loyalty, and filial piety has loyalty as its basis. When filial piety is elevated to loyalty, then for the first time it becomes filial piety. In China, too, importance is laid on filial duty, and they say that it is the source of a hundred deeds. In India too, gratitude towards parents is taught. But their filial piety is not of the kind related to or based on the nation. Filial piety is a characteristic of Oriental morals: and it is in its convergence with loyalty that we find a characteristic of our national morals, and this is a factor without parallel in the world.


The Japanese way of speaking is thought of as being very indirect, very ambiguous, and very polite. But here is some new shit: this book’s sentences are very strong, very unambiguous, declarative, like a textbook: we’re the best! This is the way it is! You have to know X,Y, and Z!


And yet! It’s very didactic and declarative, ABOUT ABSTRACT CONCEPTS, intentionally not spelling out the real-world implications of these concepts.


The word ‘loyalty’ implies ‘loyalty to the emperor’ . . .and by constantly comparing ‘loyalty’ to ‘filial piety’, they are saying you should be more loyal to the emperor than your own parents. It’s the worst of both worlds: an overbearing, brow-beating oratorical style that is STILL hiding the true meaning through abstraction and deliberate ambiguity.

Fuck you guys.


The other money quote:


In foreign countries, the life cords of the nation have been cut off through revolutions and downfalls, so that the spirit of the founding of the nation is disrupted and dies off, giving birth to another national history.

 Therefore, when seeking to find the spirit of their nation, they have looked to general rules based on “abstract reason.”


Oh noes.


Going further down the crazy-hole,Skya summarizes part of the book as follows:

The purpose of the Japanese nation was to promote harmony around the world. But at what price was this harmony to be achieved? Ultimately, (Japanese radical Shinto guys) reasoned that individualism was the main source of disharmony in the world of the 20th century. Accordingly, it had to be eradicated from within and from without.


So, even if foreigners can never be part of our Shinto “family,” we still have to conquer them so as to stamp out their “abstract reason”, logic, and individualism . .. that’s the only way to permanently stop these “undigested” foreign ideas from oozing over our own borders and disturbing our own harmony.


As far as rationales for world-domination goes, this has to be one of the most wacky. Not just war-for-peace (an old American favorite!) but conquering YOUR country, in order to restore OUR country to a state of isolation. We don’t want your money, your historical treasures, your slave labor. . . we just want you to stop harboring ideas of abstract reason and individualism.


Skya then talks about the commentaries.


One was written by Mr. Yamada Yoshio, who was quite a character! He wasn’t a Tokyo Imperial University guy, he worked as president of Kougakkan University, a theological seminary where they trained Shinto priests. In his own commentary,  Yamada acknowledged that around a fourth of the Japanese population had foreign blood, but that was ok, because they had been assimilated both physically and spiritually : the same argument used about foreign concepts from Asia.


Yamada’s big breakthrough was taking the crazy, we-all-have-one-soul deal and making it more crazy: there’s a Shinto god called Ame no mi naka nushi no kami. 


And this god is . . . hmmm, I’m not sure, exactly.


The god is like the personification of “the imperial throne.” And the “naka” part of the god’s name is the same character for “inside.” 


But in a spiritual metaphysical, high-on-LSD sense, “naka” meant an eternal now, which we are all “inside”, forever.


In other words, in Shinto, the past and future are always with us. That’s why the whole “unbroken chain of emperors” and “forever pure bloodline” and “unchanging kokutai” are such a big deal: they seem to prove the concept of “eternal now” exists and is unique to Japan. And that means that the Imperial Throne exists not just all over the world, but all over time, and is constantly expanding like the universe, man!!!! Far out!


Yamada’s China-bashing had serious consequences. He started out with a reasonable claim: China did NOT have an unbroken chain of emperors. Right.


Then: at different times in history, any given Chinese state or city has been owned by many different kings or warlords. OK, sure.


And: unlike Japanese, Chinese don’t really identify with whoever is running their city at the current time. Well, maybe, if the rulers are dicks. But your point, Yamada? 


Well, therefore China isn’t really a country. They don’t have a national identity. China is just some random cities that are owned by him, her, whoever.


So therefore: why would the Chinese mind if they got owned by US? I mean, fuck it. Why NOT us?


This helps explain why Japan sent an army of 350,000 people to conquer a country of a billion people. They seriously thought Chinese would be like, “Whelp, whatever. Here we go again. Here’s the keys.”


That decision alone might have cost Japan the war. Maybe they could have used some “logic” and “critical thinking.”


Furthermore: since it’s our destiny to run the world, anyone who says Japan can be defeated (for instance, an Army guy trying to concoct a sound battle strategy based on, say, minimizing the possibility of defeat or casualties) is a blasphemer! Japan has the blessings of the gods, it has never been defeated in war in its 2,600 year history!


Also, at the time, there was a popular propaganda slogan: hakkou ichiu. It meant “the whole world under one roof.” And whose roof might that be, I wonder?


Yamada explains the roots of the “whole world under one roof” expression:


What should be the work of the divine nation of Japan? As every person nowadays knows, it was clearly indicated in the imperial proclamation of emperor Jimmu (first ever emperor), eight strings make a house (hakkou o motte ie to nasu). What is a house? We can understand this when we look at our individual life. Even if ewe go out engage in various activities, encounter difficulties, and feel uneasy, once we go home, we can enjoy our own  living there. Thus a house is a base where people feel at ease and carry on their lives. The “eight strings” means, “in all directions” I believe that “eight strings make a house” signifies Emperor Jimmu’s desire to let everyone and everything have peace of mind and enjoy living. . . it is conceivable that the thought of “the whole world makes a house” is the purpose of the Greater East Asian War at the present time. However we can clearly see that this desire of Emperor Jimmu did not start only with him, this is the desire of Amaterasu Oomikami.


See? We just want to feel at home!



 “We must engage in fixing, solidifying, and stabilizing other countries in the world who are wandering aimlessly. This is the original mission of the divine country of Japan. This greater east Asian war was started to force England and America to relinquish their position of world leadership and ultimately establish a new order to secure a just and lasting peace.”









Hozumi was a conservative guy, who sought to push back the clock and recreate a Shinto theocracy.


Both Uesugi and Kakehi were radicals who wanted to change society from the ground up. But they differed in some ways. They agreed that The ultimate purpose of the individual was to die for the emperor, the act through which one’s own being would merge into the mystical body of the emperor, thus closing the unbearable gap.


But for Uesugi, this meant seeking death by eliminating individuals who refused to follow what they considered the true will of the emperor, or by destroying corrupt institutions that stood in the way between the emperor and the masses: (if these institutions are preventing me from merging with him through peaceful meditation, I’ll merge with him through violent suicide, and get revenge on those institutions at the same time! What could be more appealing!). Accordingly, Uesugi-influenced terrorist activity was directed primarily against Japanese.


For Kakehi, however, the best way to die for the emperor, was by carrying out the emperor’s task of destroying the western controlled secular world order. This was very suited to his primary political backers, the control faction of the military (which included General Tojo). And, in contrast to Uesugi, Kakehi-inspired violence was more directed toward outsiders by waging war and dying on the battle field!


Speaking of battle-fields, how was that war going?


We’ve seen how radical Shinto thinkers use impeccable reasoning to prove a) we have to conquer the world, and b) foreigners can never be a part of our country because it would fuck up our kokutai. Now, you may wonder, how did they reconcile those two points?


Answer? They couldn’t! Not even with the arsenal of illogic and their wacky “anything-goes” attitude towards reasoning. Instead, both the philosophers and the military adopted the attitude of, “conquer first, spread world harmony later.”


And this had profound real-world consequences : if you’re liberating a country that WANTS to be liberated and given peace and harmony, you don’t need a lot of soldiers. You just overthrow the leadership, station a few troops, and move 90% of your forces on to the next country. But if you’re liberating a country, while telling them, “We’re conquering you for god, but uh, our god hates you, AND we are determined to perform cultural genocide on you by totally erasing your dumb culture and replacing it with ours, even though you’ll never be truly Japanese, so what is the point, just do it, asshole!” Then you’ll probably need to keep your whole army there for decades, you can’t move on to conquer other countries, PLUS you have to send in millions of civilians TOO, to show each individual conquer-ee how to act Japanese. And that’s why we’re still in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wait, I meant to say, that’s why Shinto fucked up the Japanese war, at the same time as it encouraged it.



The Japanese colonial overlords resorted to a bunch of wacky strategies: bringing back Hozumi’s “patriarchal society” theory of Shinto (for the other lands, not the motherland!) even though it contradicted what they believed, building shrines everywhere but not letting gaijin in them, letting them in but not letting them pray, and eventually concocting an amazing plan to ship all Koreans to New Guinea.


Here is a famous story which Skya relates, which sort of sums up the whole 20s-30s period:


It was the time of the war of 1894-95. one day on our ship, a sailor was weeping as he read a letter written in a woman’s handwriting. A passing lieutenant saw him and, thinking his behavior unmanly, said, “Hey, what have we here? Has life become so valuable? Are you afraid to die? Are you lonely for your wife and children? Don’t you think it’s an honor to become a solider and go to war – What kind of attitude is that?”

“Sir, don’t think that of me,” replied the sailor, handing the officer the note.

(The officer reads the letter)

“Dear Son,

You said you did not fight in the battle of Feng-tao, and you did not accomplish much in the August 10th attack at Weihaiwei either. I am very disappointed in you. Why did you go into battle? Wasn’t it to sacrifice your life to repay the emperor? The people in the village are good to me and offer help all the time, saying kindly: ‘It must be hard for you having your only son off fighting for the country. Please don’t hesitate to tell us if there is anything we can do.’ Whenever I see their faces, I am reminded of your cowardice and I feel as if my heart will break. So every day I go to the shrine and pray that you will distinguish yourself in battle. Of course I am human, too, and cannot at all bring myself to hate my own child. Please try to understand my feelings as I write this letter.”

The officer said, “I’m sorry. I can only admire your mother’s spirit.”

The sailor, who had been listening with lowered head, saluted, and smiling, left.


This was required reading for elementary school kids.


The end.





1868 – Shogun Overthrown. Feudalism and Buddhism replaced with the Meiji Restoration, headed by the emperor and Shinto.

1870-84 : the Great Promulgation Campaign (Taikyō senpu undō 大教宣布運動)  I guess this was a nationwide PR campaign to raise awareness of Shinto, which legitimized the emperor, which in turn legitimized the new system of government.

Also : terrible sufferings imposed on the peasantry by the ruthless taxes required to pay for a munitions-based program of industrialization.


1881 – Genyousha started. The grand-daddy of all right-wing terror groups.


1873 – The oligarchs (leaders of the clans that overthrew the Shogun) get in a fight over what kind of government to make. Everyone agrees they need a constitutional democracy (meaning, limited power for the emperor), but they disagree over WHAT KIND.


One side, led by Itou Hirobumi, wanted Prussian style: no separation of powers, a Cabinet that would openly serve the Emperor (rather than make their own proposals) and an elected Parliament that had no power


The other side, led by Itagaki Taisuke, wanted a English/French style: A powerful Parliament – accountable to the people – who advised the Emperor. And an ornamental cabinet just for fun.


1889 – Prussian-lovers win. Emperor announces a Prussian-style Constitution written in secret with no popular approval.


However, this does not even come close to solving the democracy-or-theocracy debate, since no one in history ever has been able to make a “partially democratic divine-god-king” government work. For some reason.



1895 – Japan conquers Taiwan.


The military, working with Genyousha assassinate Korean Empress Myongsong in the Korean royal palace.



1897 : Hozumi Yatsuka  publishes a book called  KOKUMIN KYOUIKU AIKOSHIN (National Education: Patriotism), which advocates a ‘return’ to absolute monarchy, couching it in terms of the ‘family-state’.


1901 – Kokuryuukai (black dragon society) is formed – another right wing terror group.



1905 – Japan Kicks Russia’s ass, sinking most of their whole navy and shit.


Unprecedented rioting in Hibiya, as the people protest Japan’s signing a pussy-ass not-conquering-shit treaty with the defeated and abject Russia.


1906 – Kita Ikki published his KOKUTAIRON OYOBI JUNSEI SHAKAISHUGI (On the Kokutai and pure Socialism), saying fuck you to Hozumi. His shtick: emperor-backed socialism!



1910s+20s: the masses get more politicized –they demand to have a say in government. Open to western ideology (democracy, communism, feminism, anarchism) but also ANYTHING extreme. Including radical Shinto.



1910 – Hozumi publishes his main book, KEMPOU TEIYOU (Handbook on the Constitution of Japan).


Japan conquers Korea.


1911 – Minobe, the foremost pro-democracy scholar, publishes a book called Kempo Kowa (lectures on the constitution). Straight dissing  the right-wing Minobe’s #1 disciple, Uesugi!


1912 – Meiji emperor dies, Taisho emperor takes over. Also Minobe dies, and Uesugi Shinkishi takes over as the main Shinto pundit.


Mass popular protests in favor of democracy.


1913- mass protests against Prime Minister Katsura (for what???) topple him and his whole cabinet.



Uesugi responds to Minobe’s book dis by forming a S1W-style paramilitary reading group called Tokagakkai (palwnia flower society) to take out Minobe’s theories and push for the disbanding of the parliament.


Kakehi Katsuhiko published Kokka no Kenkyuu (a study of the state), taking Shinto in a more radical direction.




Protests against corruption in the navy (?!?!?)



1918 – the rice riots topple the Terauchi government (Terauchi being the prime minister). Leadership is scared of general revolution!


World War One over (pretty much the end of monarchies in Europe), plus : Russia goes commie. All this is very worrisome for right-wing, monarchist Shinto folks.



1919 : Kita Ikki goes from commie to fascist and publishes An Outline Plan for the Reorganization of Japan.



1920 – a right-wing organization called  Kokoku Doshikai (Association of those Devoted to the Advancement of the State) is established to fight democracy and socialism. Unlike older right-wing groups (black dragon, great ocean), Kokoku Doshikai is very public and openly appeals to the masses.


1921 – Uesugi publishes Kokka Shinron (A New Thesis on the State), one of the most influential, pro-emperor, pro-assassination screeds.


Right-wing kid assassinates Yasuda Zenjiro, president of the Yasuda corporation.

Prime minister Hara Takashi also assassinated.


1922- Minoda Muneki, too radical for Kokoku Doshikai, starts his own magazine, GENRI INON (true Japan) to bully any other kids on campus who disagreed with his radical Shinto deal.


1923 – Uesugi and some clown named Takabatake found Keirin Gakumei (Society for the Study of Statesmanship): to fight western individualism western materialism and get western thought and ideals out of the government (as opposed to simply assassinate all government members).



1925 – universal male suffrage.


Uesugi formed yet another militia group: the Seven Lives Society (shichishou sha). More of a hard-rock crew, street-fighting against leftist youth crews, and agitating to expand Japan’s empire from Asia to the whole world (once we finish this kung fu fight). Some of the Seven Lives guys went on to form Ketsumeidan (League of Blood) who would kill a lot of people.


1926 – Akao Bin (even most of the other right wing militias said he was way the fuck out there!) forms the Kenkokukkai (National Foundation Association), which dominated far-right street shit in the 20s. the Kenkokukkai was about bombing shit. Akao himself bombed the Russian embassy.


Kakehi Katsuhiko publishes Kannagara no Michi (the way of the gods as such)


1928 – a secret clique of army guys assassinates Zhang, the puppet governor of Manchuria, because Zhang is more loyal to the Japanese Prime Minister than the Japanese Army.


1929 – Yamamoto Senji, a left-wing politician, assassinated by the Seven Lives Righteousness Association


1930 – Prime minister Hamaguchi killed by Aikokusha (The Patriotic Society).


The Sakura Kai (Cherry Blossom Society) founded: right-wing group dedicated to overthrow of civilian government and expansion of imperialism and, of course, Shinto. What makes Sakura Kai special is, it was all army guys!


1931 – A different group of Army terrorists start the Manchurian Incident, as a pretext for a full military takeover of Manchuria.


The October Incident: an attempted coup, which included senior military officers, and intended the assassination of almost the entire cabinet. But someone squealed and so they never pulled it off. However, the perpetrators got put on trial and let off with a warning (?!?!?!?)


1932 – Inoue Junosuke, finance minister, shot by a member of the Ketsumeidan (Blood Pledge Corps). A month later, another Blood Pledge member kills Dan Takuma, leader of Mitsui Bank.


Then, the May 15 incident – Prime Minister Inukai killed, “effectively ending party rule” (meaning, the cabinet was handed back to the emperor, instead of being chosen by elected officials, and plus from this point elected officials didn’t say peep without getting an OK from an emperor-lover).


1933 – another coup foiled before it started. This was called the Shinpeitai Incident (Divine Soldiers incident, after the group which planned it), and led by a personal student of Uesugi, one Amano Tatsuo, in conjunction with army dudes. Again (just like the October Incident), the whole thing was hushed up, and ringleaders were given a $25 dollar fine and required to attend 8 hours of traffic school.


1935 – . The first major assassination between radical right conspiracy groups! Colonel Aizawa murders Major Nagata , who was the director of the Bureau of Military Affairs: Aizawa was Imperial Way Faction, and Nagata was the just-as-fundamentalist-Shinto, but not as radical Control Faction


Kakehi Katsuhiko publishes his epic Koukoku Kenpou (the Constitution of the Imperial State)


1936 – a coup-d’etat kills a lot of cabinet members and Kita Ikki takes the blame. 1,400 soldiers – a whole division, took over some government buildings and ninja-attacked the 3 admirals, the grand chamberlain, lord keeper of the imperial seal, a general, and a finance minister were brutally killed. The imperial palace was taken over, but then the emperor himself said, “Thanks anyways guys but guess what? I like being a figurehead!” and the army guys were like “WTF man” And the Emperor was like, “Yeah, so death penalty for you guys! Psyche!”


One of the victims was General Watanabe. . . apparently Watanabe hinted, in a speech, that he believed Minobe’s pro-democracy emperor-as-organ theory.



1937 – Kokutai no Hongi (Fundamentals of the National Polity)  is published and everyone in the country has to read it. This is an official government document which explains the new, non-democratic Shinto government’s goals and the people’s responsibilities.


1938 – Kono Seizo publishes “Our Kokutai and Shinto”, the most important commentary on Kokutai no Hongi.


1939 – Yamada Yoshio publishes “the spirit of the founding of the nation”, another commentary on Kokutai no Hongi, but much more far-out than Kono’s book.


1941 – pearl harbor.






9 comments Tags:

9 Comments so far

  1. François July 16th, 2011 5:22 am

    I just come back on the interwebs after a month without, and what do I find? The raddest intro to pre-WWII J-fascism by Schultz. Great.
    Shit was even crazier than I thought. Too bad most Japanese people are not interested (or not made to be interested) in their own history.
    And shit was pretty much at Nazi level, horrorwise. Just as you/Skya clearly point out, there was no guy on tope to put all the blame/hate on. Pervasive blood-thirsty symbol-loving Shinto ultra-nationalist fatherfuckers.

  2. […] is a companion to my review of Skya's book JAPAN'S HOLY WAR. Here I'm collecting all the most offensive Shinto propaganda phrases that he used. But I'm […]

  3. MW August 23rd, 2013 12:02 am

    I am a long-time Tokyo gaijin (17 years — ever notice how people give their time counts like cons in a jailhouse comparing reps? But I digress.) and I have been studying this sort of thing informally for a long time as a hobby. Your review of Skya’s book had me in stiches. Not only informative, punchy, and to the point, but funny as hell.

    You clearly have a magnificently twisted mind. And in that spirit, I officially invite you and one friend of your choice are to dinner at a semi-decent sitdown place in Tokyo. I ain’t talking the Ritz Carlton here but better than Matsuya. Just because I like shooting the shit with people who have twisted, interesting outlooks on things. (You can bring a friend or date so the whole “meeting some random stranger off the internet” thing seems a little less creepy.) I’m payin. Let me know by email if you are interested. And if not, good show anyway, son.

  4. Max August 23rd, 2013 12:18 pm

    “But still, I can’t explain how a forest-and-animals religion came to require an emperor in the first place. Were the original emperors like the toughest warlords?”

    It’s my understanding (from my undergrad minor on East Asian religion and philosophy) that the Kojiki, that first book on Japanese creation myth and early history of emperors, was produced at the request of a sitting emperor as a religious narrative consolidating his temporal power. The clan deities of his rivals were retconned into a pantheon with Amaterasu (his own clan deity and supposed source of his divine right), and the clan deity of his most obstinate rivals turned into the shit-disturbing, bad example Susano-O, the god who constantly bothers Amaterasu until he eventually finds his place in the social order as ruler of the underworld.

    So: hearth gods develop into clan gods, which are later organized into an official pantheon with the clan deity of the ruling warlord at the top. A new narrative is formed that allows the subject clans to retain the parts of their own narrative that tells them they are special children of an awesome god, but now only in the context of this new political order. The myths and rituals of state shinto reflect the political realities of the time that the Kojiki was written.

    So “state shinto” was always about being a narrative that justified and reinforced state power. “Folk shinto” doesn’t need an emperor anymore than Santa Claus needs a pope, but perhaps the credulity involved in accepting one doesn’t do a person any favors when it comes time for the other to give a speech about why you should go murder this other group of people.

    ~Imaginary Reader Who Is Still Paying Attention~

  5. 古山田咲郎 August 23rd, 2013 2:03 pm

    Just discovered your interesting summary on how religion was a major (ideological) driving force of Japanese facism. Though I have not read it in full length yet, I’d like to throw in Nichiren buddhism.
    It is pretty obvious that Shinto was used as a tool to indoctrinate the masses, but I was surprised this was also true for certain schools of buddhism. There was a very interesting documentary about the life and beliefs of Ishiwara Kanji, one of the political leaders in WW2 Japan. It is pretty much summed up on wkipedia:

    Obviously Nichiren (even nowadays?) preaches that Japan has to unleash an armageddon onto the rest of the world to archieve the universal buddhist paradise. With the dawn of WW2, many radical believers obviously sensed their time had come…

  6. MW August 24th, 2013 1:01 am

    It’s good to see that this has generated some new interest.

    There are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, the entire concept of “Shinto” is very artificial in a sense and has changed and re-changed radically over time. When Buddhism entered the country there was some resistance and fear that the “old gods” would be offended by the “new faith,” but after a brief tussle things settled down and people didn’t even consider the two to be separate. Look up the concept of “shinbutsu shugo” or “Buddhist-Shinto Syncretism;” Shrines and Temples were not generally considered separate institutions in most cases (with a few exceptions like Ise) for most of the Middle Ages. People blended ideas from both in all kinds of ways.

    Then when Japan became more aware of the outside world you have a tussle over what exactly is “Japanese” and what is “Foreign” and it was around this time in the context of “Nativist Studies” that scholars began to think of Shinto as something that even existed separately in its own right. Eventually the strategy of forcing each religious institution to clearly define itself as either a “Shinto Shrine” or a “Buddhist Temple” was a way to break the power of the big temple/shrine complexes, which were vast land-and-moneyholders in many cases. As with so much else, struggle boils down to worldly benefit.

    This blog also raises the question of how radical Shinto ideas underpinned WWII. I don’t think the answer is so linear and cause-and-effect. That is to say, WWII for Japan was the result of a number of converging influences, and radical Shinto ideology (fascinating as it is) was not the only one, or even the main one. If you look at the war purely from an ideological perspective, you will miss out a lot of the other reasons why things happened. First of all, as a newly industrializing but resource-poor nation, Japan’s need for natural resources, oil, coal, metals, and so on drove it deeper into China and Southeast Asia. There was the always perceived threat of outsiders colonializing Japan, and looking at the way the European powers carved up China, Opium-ized it, and carted off much of its loot, this was not an unfounded fear. So you have defense pressures and resource pressures.

    Then you have the fact that power was not very centrally controlled in Japan…something our blog host does an excellent job of showing IMHO. The Army and the Navy were basically forces of their own that went off and did their thing without any centralized control or oversight whatsoever. Everything was justified after the fact. The cabinet and other civilian leadership was weak and almost nonexistent in a sense, careening between this faction and that.

    Given all this, the radical Shinto ideology did two things: 1) Got the masses riled up to go do some killing on the mainland, and 2) provided a justification for resource grabs and actions perpetrated by large armed forces which themselves were chaotically organized and under constant struggle for domination by factions and sub-factions. The whole thing was much more chaotic, I believe, than it seems in hindsight.

  7. admin August 24th, 2013 4:14 am

    @ Everyone who commented: thanks! it’s good that you smart folks can take me seriously even though I’m writing in a . . .well, the style I’m writing in. And, did some special history website link to me? What’s with the sudden interest?

    @MW: you mentioned your (or your group’s?) site. . .please tell us the URL!
    As to your comment that there were a lot of other reasons for Japanese imperialism. . . yes! But I was writing a review of Skya’s book, and he just deals with the Shinto part of the reasons for the imprialism. He says there are a lot of good books already that deal with the other reasons you so articulately mentioned, but a lot of Western scholars sort of felt that State Shinto had NO role at all, that it was just empty propaganda, and not worth study, and that’s why he wrote his book. Sorry if I didn’t make that clear in the original post.

  8. David December 4th, 2013 9:51 am

    I am just writing my Ph.D. Thesis on “Shinto as a Political Religion” and among a lot of writings this whole about “political religion” concept, and texts written by Kakehi himself in some horrible archaic japanese, it also relies on heavily on Skyas book. And sometimes, you get so so engrossed in all the intricate philosphical and legal constructions wrapped around the whole shinto ideology that you forget that at the core of it it this batshit crazy idea that all Japanese are descended from Amaterasu by way of the emperor. In this state of mind, I stumbled upon this site, and that “…but if we restore the emperor to absolute power, he’ll fix it with maaaaaaagic ” not only made me laugh so hard people in the library started looking at me, but also made me reappraise my whole perspective on the problem. A brilliant review and summary – thanks. Now i somehow have to find a way to quote it in my thesis…

  9. admin December 5th, 2013 1:40 am

    @David: thanks so much! Glad I could help make your study fun for a minute. Actually one of the radical Shinto guys- I think Uesugi? — is buried in a cemetary right near my apartment! Good luck with your Thesis!

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