Main Body

Spy H., Who Sent Professors of Economics to Prison

In which the author completes the story of Yanaihara Tadao’s expulsion from Tōdai. He then reviews the mass arrests of the first Popular Front Incident (December 1937), which included many members of the non-Communist left, and the arrests of three professors of the Faculty of Economics in the Faculty Group Incident (February 1, 1938). The Tōdai spy Hashizume Akio takes center stage, along with the arrest of Ōuchi Hyōe. Throughout this period, Japan’s war in China has a major impact on events at Tōdai.


In the Lecture Hall, Scattered Applause

One of those present at Yanaihara’s final lecture of was Ōgiya Shōzō, for many years editor in chief of Weekly Asahi and architect of that magazine’s golden age. At the time, Ōgiya was a novice reporter for the Tokyo Asahi; he had graduated two years earlier from Tōdai’s Faculty of Letters with a specialty in Japanese history. Long afterward, in an essay about Yanaihara’s resignation, he wrote as follows[1]:

I rushed to the lecture hall. Students came streaming in. There were also some people in suits. … Among them were likely Special Police from the Motofuji Station, eagle-eyed men in threadbare suits. …

10:30. Professor Yanaihara Tadao arrived. His slender frame was bent, and he seemed sad. “I think you know. Yesterday, not wanting to cause further trouble for the university, I submitted my resignation….” Then he turned to his lecture, serenely. It was about the role of bank capital in colonies…. The lecture went on for an hour.

He said, “I’ll stop here. In conclusion….” And then, raising his head, he spoke to this effect: “The mission of the university lies in criticizing the policies of the actors of the day from a higher, comprehensive viewpoint. Sometimes that involves criticizing even war itself. Sometimes such criticism is useful to the actors, sometimes not. That’s unavoidable in the world of the university…unavoidable.” In the term ‘actor’—specifying neither government nor military—I sensed a sign of the times.[2] The hall had become very quiet… Scattered applause was heard in the hall.

“But at this parting, students, I want to say only one thing to you. No matter how your body may be stained, may you keep your souls unstained. I respect such people. And I despise those who—no matter how splendid their bodies—have souls that are stained…”

Thunderous applause. A storm of applause—as if a dam had burst. Amid it, seeming a bit cheered up, Yanaihara left the building.

The Mass Arrest of Four Hundred Rōnōha Members

Within a scant two weeks of Professor Yanaihara’s final lecture, mass arrests of Rōnōha people nationwide were carried out (the first Popular Front Incident), and at one fell swoop four hundred people in eighteen prefectures were arrested on suspicion of infringing the Peace Preservation Law. Among those arrested were famous left-wing men of letters[3] and sitting representatives in the Diet: Kuroda Hisao (Social Mass Party) and Katō Kanjū (Japan Proletarian Party). Virtually all those arrested were leading members of the Japan Proletarian Party or of labor unions affiliated with the JPP or of the national council of labor unions. Among those arrested: virtually all the powerbrokers of the non-Communist left.[4]

What was the Rōnōha? In a word, Rōnōha was a collective term for the non-Communist left that sought no ties with the Comintern—that’s the most understandable and accurate description. It wasn’t a factional group with any organization of its own; this label was applied by journalists.

Under the influence of the Comintern, those in the socialist movement met in 1922 and formed—illegally—the Japan Communist Party. But it splintered quickly over the issue of whether to make the abolition of the emperor system a slogan, and it dissolved under the shock of the official terror against the socialist movement that arose after the Great Kantō earthquake of 1923. In 1926 the party was reestablished, but there was a confrontation over the direction to take thereafter between two factions—Yamakawa-ism, which advocated proceeding as a mass political movement based on the labor movement (for this faction, socialist revolution became a distant goal), and Fukumoto-ism, which argued a two-step revolution, first a bourgeois revolution that overturns the monarchy, with progressive revolutionary party members taking the lead, then a rapid transformation to socialist revolution. The movement split. In the end, via a ruling of the Comintern, Yamakawa-ism was rejected as opportunism, and under the leadership of the Comintern, the Japan Communist Party moved forward as a Leninist party of professional revolutionaries aiming at a two-stage revolution.

Put simply, the Rōnōha was Yamakawa-ism, which parted ways with the Comintern at this time; among the strands—labor movement, farm movement—of the mass movement, it was consistently stronger than the radical movement led by the Communist Party. The Communist Party had greater leadership than the Rōnōha only among students and intellectuals who favored a radical idealistic movement.

Government officials drew up the Peace Preservation Law specifically to control the Communist Party and create a structure that could suppress political parties that hoisted such slogans as “a change in the kokutai” (i.e., abolition of the emperor system) and “non-recognition of private property” in particular. In 1928 they added the death penalty. But the Rōnōha aimed at a legal mass movement with a legal political organization and didn’t call for abolishing the emperor system or not recognizing private property, so it couldn’t get tripped up by the Peace Preservation Law.

The Popular Front—the Comintern’s Major Policy Change

So why did officials apply the Peace Preservation Law to the Rōnōha at this time and make large-scale arrests nation-wide? In the background lay a major change by the Comintern. The Comintern’s previous policy had called for breaking up the social democrats: the social democratic parties were the revolutionary party’s greatest enemy, so crushing them was the shortest path to revolution. In July-August 1935, the Seventh Congress of the Comintern turned instead to the anti-fascist Popular Front: in order to fight fascism, make common cause with all political forces that oppose fascism; form a Popular Front.

In Japan at this time, the Communist Party had already been destroyed; the end of the Communist Party was the December 1933 incident when Party members tortured two suspected Central Committee spies and murdered one of them.[5] The last member of the party’s central committee was arrested in March 1935, so when the seventh congress of the Comintern adopted the tactic of the Popular Front, there existed in Japan no party organization to follow that guidance.

But with this change in Comintern tactics, the fierce fighting in Europe between Communist Party and social democrats disappeared, and the great political fault line became fascism vs. Popular Front. In 1928 the Fascists came to power in Italy; in 1933, the Nazis took power in Germany. In France and Spain the Popular Front won electoral victories, and even in China, thanks to the Comintern’s change in policy, national unity arose for the sake of the resist-Japan hate-Japan policy; up till then, there had been fierce opposition and civil war between Guomindang and Communist Party.

In the absence of the Japan Communist Party, the Comintern’s policy change was communicated to Japan by various routes and had a major influence on the remaining non-communist left. Nosaka Sanzō’s “Letter to Japanese Communists” was delivered through the American seaman’s union, but more general newspapers and magazines had a much greater role in communicating this change; the mass media reported on the policy change itself steadily throughout 1935. A bit later, in October 1936, Kaizō put together a thirty-page special issue, lining up articles by such luminaries as Arahata Kanson and Minobe Ryōkichi.

The general election of 1936 was held a scant few days before the February 26 Incident. In part as a result of the Comintern’s change in policy, the Social Mass Party made great gains, growing from five seats in the Diet to eight. In this election Katō Kanjū ran on the ticket of the most left-wing Proletarian Party with an anti-fascist slogan and won the most votes nationwide. In 1935, Katō had gone to the United States at the invitation of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and at that time met Nosaka Sanzō, then in the United States; he heard from him firsthand about the Comintern’s change of policy. Katō’s election battle was the Popular Front epitomized in Japan.

The election returns likely frightened officials. In November that year the Japan-Germany pact was signed. This mutual defense treaty is formally the “German-Japanese pact against international communism” (i.e., the Comintern), and the heart of the pact is that the two parties cooperate in sharing intelligence and taking the defense measures necessary to confront the Comintern. A secret annex provided that if either country were attacked by the Soviet Union, both countries would respond. The Soviet Union and the Comintern were seen as one and the same.

The Japan Communist Party was the Japan branch of the Comintern, so the Communist Party was under the control of the Comintern and received its support: manpower, material, ideology. Under the Peace Preservation Law’s rubric of “associations that aim to change the kokutai and reject private property,” the Japan Communist Party was included, of course, but also the Comintern itself. And in the “crime of pursuit of ends” of the Peace Preservation Law, actions on behalf of the Comintern were also covered.

This meant that after the Seventh Congress, once the Popular Front became formally a Comintern tactic, it became possible to use the Popular Front to charge the Rōnōha under the Peace Preservation Law. A December 22, 1937 news release made the connection: “Since its founding, the officers of the Japan Proletarian Party have worn a mask of legality, based on the directive of tactical camouflage issued by the Comintern, headquarters of world communism, and have been engaged in a strange communist movement. Aware of this, officials have exerted every effort at surveillance and just recently seized evidence that, based on the guiding principles of the Rōnōha that serve communism, the Japan Proletarian Party is engaged in secret maneuvering to change the kokutai. Now, after careful deliberation with officials of the Ministry of Justice and in view of the current crisis, the officials have finally lowered the boom on the entire party” (Italics: Tachibana). It reported that the Japan Proletarian Party had been declared illegal under the Peace Preservation Law. Unlike the Japan Communist Party, the Rōnōha didn’t have a superstructure, so the Japan Proletarian Party was singled out as the core organization.

In addition, a page-two report, “Intent to Mobilize the Masses Aiming at Communist Revolution,” explained this policy change at the Comintern’s Seventh Congress. This wasn’t Asahi commentary; it was the explanation put out by the Home Ministry’s press office: “[The Comintern] made a major change in its previous policy and took a policy similar to that of the Rōnōha, so the activities of the Rōnōha since then have gained strength and rapidly intensified.” Noting that the anti-fascist Popular Front struggle that the Japan Proletarian Party boasted of matches Comintern policy precisely, it said: “Recently, based on the ideology of the Rōnōha, the Japan Proletarian Party gives evidence of intending to change the kokutai, and it has become clear that the establishment of the anti-fascist Popular Front, the central movement goal, is exactly the same as the Comintern’s new policy—to mobilize the masses for communist revolution.” The Rōnōha movement had always been a legal organization and legal movement, so sophistry was necessary to ensnare it in the Peace Preservation Law: Japan Proletarian Party equals Rōnōha equals communist revolutionaries equals anti-fascist Popular Front equals Comintern Popular Front equals goal of communist revolution equals goal of changing the kokutai equals infringement of the Peace Preservation Law. But at every stage, this sophistry makes very large logical leaps and factual mistakes.

In fact, in both word and deed the Rōnōha had always drawn a line between it and the Communist Party and taken pains to preserve its legality, so such sophistry wasn’t so easy to sell. As we shall see later, this sophistry was stretched to the limit when applied of all Rōnōha members to the Faculty Group. There were eleven members of the Faculty Group—Ōuchi, Arisawa, Wakimura, Uno Kōzō, Takahashi Masao, Abe Isamu, Minobe Ryōkichi, and the others, and it was for this reason that all except Abe and Arisawa were found innocent in the first trial: “it is not recognized that they were aware that the Rōnōha was a society with the aim of realizing a proletarian revolution.” Then in appellate court, the Rōnōha itself was not “recognized as a society with the aim of changing the kokutai,” and all were found innocent. The rest of the group—Yamakawa Hitoshi, Katō Kanjū, Suzuki Mosaburō, and the others—fought till the end; but while the fight was still going on, the war ended, and the Peace Preservation Law lapsed. So all had the charges against them dismissed.

To return to the earlier article, the italicized part—“in light of the current crisis”—of course referred to the fact that beginning with the Sino-Japanese Incident (July 7, the Marco Polo Bridge incident), Japan went onto war footing. By December 15, when these Rōnōha mass arrests were carried out (the news accounts came one week later), the war was already in full flood. In fact, the mass arrests were carried out two days after the fall of Nanjing.

The Man Who Tailed Ōuchi, Arisawa, and the Others

The account in the last chapter—that all Tōdai held a ceremony to commemorate the fall of Nanjing, with faculty and students processing from the ceremony to the palace and to Yasukuni Shrine, bowing at the palace and praying at the shrine: all that took place on the day after the Popular Front Incident. In the first Popular Front Incident only former—not current—members of the Tōdai Faculty of Economics were arrested: Ōmori Yoshitarō, former assistant professor, and Sakisaka Itsurō, former instructor (he became a professor at Kyushu University and resigned in the March 15 Incident).

The second Popular Front Incident occurred on February 1, 1937, a scant two months after the first Popular Front Incident; on that day current professors—mainly from Tōdai—were arrested. Ōuchi was considered the “authority in Marxian economics” and was the central figure of the Faculty Group. In My Resume, he says of the events:

Ōuchi: Meanwhile, in December Rōnōha members were arrested. And I was Rōnōha, and a motion was introduced at Faculty Meeting calling for Rōnōha professors to resign. Amid this panicky state of affairs, in the evening edition for January 29, 1937, an article appeared saying that the Faculty Group, I and the rest, would likely be arrested. I thought that was strange. On the one hand, I thought that they’d never arrest us, but given the disorganization of the authorities of the day, they just might.

Takahashi: Tell us about the arrest.

Ōuchi: At that time, it had already been in the air for two or three days, so even though I thought it wasn’t necessary, I prepared against all contingencies and did make preliminary plans with Arisawa and Minobe. We agreed on what to say and how to say it.

But afterwards that caused real trouble. A spy found out about it. To this day I still don’t know the details…but they knew it all: where I ate, what I said and when.

In the arrests nationwide in the Faculty Group Incident that day, thirty-eight people got picked up, but the focus was the Faculty Group of the Tōdai Faculty of Economics: Professor Ōuchi and Assistant Professors Arisawa and Wakimura. In addition, Minobe Ryōkichi and Abe Isamu, professors at Hōsei University, were arrested, too, but they were Ōuchi disciples of the Tōdai Faculty of Economics and until recently had been Tōdai teaching assistants, in the same group as Ōuchi and the others; so “Faculty Group” equaled “Ōuchi Group.” Arisawa’s specialty was statistics, and he was a major expert on controlled economies; in the next day’s papers he was identified as “a Marxist authority on war economy.” Arisawa had long been known as a central figure of Marxist economics at Tōdai, and he had been implicated earlier, too, in the Takigawa Incident; at that time he was Tōdai’s most prominent red professor. Later, looking back on that time, then-president Onozuka Kiheiji made the famous comment, “I’m glad nothing happened to Arisawa.” In the speech of Miyazawa Yutaka in the Lower House of the Diet criticizing red professors, the speech that triggered the Takigawa Incident, there is this passage: “A middle-aged assistant professor who handles statistics in the Tōdai Faculty of Economics uses a book by Marx as text and criticizes the theory of marginal utility unmercifully; he praises Marxist economics and is the worst red professor.” It was clear to those involved that this was a reference to Arisawa. In the symposium of retirees in Fifty Years of the Tōdai Faculty of Economics, Arisawa remembers that time this way: “Even the students sensed that I was in trouble, and some even said, ‘Professor Arisawa, this is the last class, isn’t it.” The owner of the second-hand bookstore Shimazaki said, ‘Professor, it’s over.’ (The store was in front of the Red Gate; its proprietor had taken a course with Arisawa.) In response, I said boastfully, ‘Don’t talk nonsense. They can’t touch me.’ But one day Dean Mori summoned me and said, ‘You’ve been made an issue of in the House of Peers, and there’s been an inquiry from the Ministry of Education. What text are you using?’ The text was Diehl and Mombert Wert und Preis [Value and Price], a book of readings, and it actually did include an essay by Marx, but there were also pieces by Böhm-Bawerk, Marshall, Ricardo, and others.[6] I knew because I’d read it. I explained, ‘It’s a book Faculty Meeting accepts as a textbook. And we read it from page one; right now, actually, we’re reading Marx.’ Then Mori said, ‘I just don’t know what to say. I do understand.’ And that was the end of it. Several days later I bumped into him in the corridor and he told me, ‘Arisawa, that matter is settled.’”

Arisawa had escaped arrest in the Popular Front Incident, but at the time he’d had a strange premonition. In “My First Night in Custody,”[7] Arisawa writes of his arrest as follows: “Yesterday I met in the study with Professor Ōuchi and Wakimura. A report had come in from a news organization that the Popular Front Incident appeared likely to spread, that the day was near when several Tōdai professors would be arrested. That’s what we discussed. We wondered—if people were going to get arrested, who would it be? The three of us agreed that Ōuchi and I were most in danger. Ōuchi said to me, ‘If I get arrested, I’m going to dig my heels in and fight. I won’t resign.’ I said yes, of course—me too, and left. That night I went to a meeting. Also at that meeting was N., who had made his name as commentator on economics and somehow or other was up on the doings of the Metropolitan Police. N. warned me: Arisawa, your Economics colleague H. is stirring up trouble. You’re in grave danger; be careful. At the time H. was also serving as a part-time employee of the Police, completely outside his specialty. I thought, there’s no more room for doubt. There’s been a shadow following me, and I’m its target. The only thing I don’t know is when the attack will come.”

H. was Assistant Professor Hashizume Akio, and his field was banking and currency. He had become an assistant professor in 1925 and would become professor in 1939, so promotion to professor took fourteen whole years (it normally took five or six); it’s possible he became a Home Ministry Police employee out of disaffection on that account (I can’t get promoted because of the Ōuchi’s group’s opposition, so I’ll get them!). During the turmoil in the Faculty of Economics, Hashizume acted as shadow advisor to the renovationist faction—Hijikata and the others; when the Hijikata faction, too, disappeared in the Hiraga Purge (1939), his path opened up, and he was promoted to professor. During the war, he ran the Faculty of Economics as dean, and with the war’s end, he took responsibility and resigned. The fact that Hashizume had become an employee of the Metropolitan Police was well-known; everyone involved knew it. In order for a university professor to become an employee of another government agency, Faculty Meeting had to approve; so the Faculty Meeting of the Faculty of Economics had duly approved. I’ll speak later about that.

Let’s continue now with Arisawa’s sinister story of his arrest:

On New Year’s Day, a holiday, I was flying a kite with the children in the vacant lot in front of our house, and a man in a suit came along and asked where Mr. Arisawa’s house was. I replied I was Arisawa, and he said, “Oh?” and left. I thought, he’s a queer one, but he was another of the shadows lurking near me. Just two or three days earlier, at close to midnight, a man had routed my wife’s family out of bed and inquired where I lived and whether I was home. This guy said he was a newsman, but when my wife’s mother said she’d guide him to my home nearby, he said no and left. The next day she came and told me he was an ominous fellow. He too may have been one of the dark shadows. I found it intolerable to wait, sitting on my hands, for the dark shadows to reveal themselves at a time of their choosing—Today? Tomorrow?

When I heard the horn of the tōfu peddler, I thought, I’ve escaped for another day.[8] That’s because arrests for thought crimes always took place at dawn. The night before I’d been late getting home, so I thought, I’ll go back to sleep. Just then the doorbell rang, piercingly. That must be them, I thought, and in the entryway I heard the footsteps of the maid who went to answer the door. My wife, who had got up, shook me awake, and said, “They’ve come for you.” Footsteps clomped at the back door and stormed into the garden of the detached building.

I told my wife, “Don’t wake the children,” and went into the living room. I remember thinking how dim the lights seemed. In front of the table in the middle of the room sat an unpleasant-looking fellow. Four or five guys stood beside him, expressions hard, legs spread wide.

Who Was the Spy?

To return to Hashizume: the proposal to allow Hashizume to become an employee of the Home Ministry was submitted to Faculty Meeting one week before the Yanaihara Incident occurred. Perhaps it’s better to say that the Yanaihara Incident occurred one week after Hashizume became a Home Ministry employee. This passage from the symposium of emeritus professors shows us that everything that took place then was a linked series. The speaker is Wakimura Yoshitarō, and he’s talking about right after he returned from study in Europe (October 29, 1937)[9]:

Wakimura: A fellow appeared who’d been in my seminar. He was a classmate of Sakomizu Hisatsune and other officials and was close to some mid-level bureaucrats; he came to my home and warned me: They’re drawing up a list now of liberals to be purged under wartime thought control—mainly the Home Ministry’s Metropolitan Police Bureau; it’s very, very big, so take extreme care. That was at the end of January 1937. These two events meant that something bad would happen; while I was thinking that, at the university the renovationist movement surfaced and brought a sort of fascism to the university.

Ōtsuka: You mean, the journal Renovation appeared?

Wakimura: No, I think that happened a bit later. In 1937 the visit to the Meiji Shrine was the issue, and we were told to join the renovationist movement. I refused….

I had some prior knowledge, so when the issue of Yanaihara arose—no, one week before it arose—when E.’s becoming an employee of the Metropolitan Police was presented to the Faculty Meeting, I thought, Now we’re in for it. Someone—who was it?—asked the question, how did E.’s specialty “relate to the Metropolitan Police?” The explanation was, “Price controls have now become a major problem for Japan’s peace and order, so it’s necessary for the Metropolitan Police to hire an economist.” Then one week later—the dean brought his purple furoshiki to Faculty Meeting. Even now I can’t forget that furoshiki.

The E. here is Hashizume. And what was wrapped up in the purple furoshiki the dean brought to Faculty Meeting? I told that story in Chapter 3: in order to kick Yanaihara out, Hijikata brought to Faculty Meeting a purple furoshiki that held the September Chūō kōron with Yanaihara’s problematic essay, “The Ideals of the State.”

Whether the story of the spy that emerged in Ōuchi’s My Resume refers to Hashizume or to another spy, I don’t know; but both are possible (probably both were true). By which I mean that as an indication that official spies were involved, Fifty Years has this passage. Arisawa is talking:

Suzuki Kōichirō: You learned later that spies had attended your lectures. Would you tell us about that?

Arisawa: Then—when was it?—students warned me that spies were attending my lecture. I asked, “Really—spies?” They said one day a man they hadn’t seen before was at the lecture, so when it ended, the students followed him all the way, and near Yūrakuchō he entered the office of the Metropolitan Nichinichi newspaper. They told me, “So, Professor, you’ve got to be careful.”

Even before then, I’d been very careful in lectures with my statements and choice of words—a long tradition of Professor Ōuchi. So I was confident that I wouldn’t get tripped up by my own words.

Andō: The Peace Preservation officials had got hold of lecture notes from professors they were checking on at various universities—Tōdai, Kyushu University, and the rest—and duplicated them and distributed them to senior councilors and high officials. After the war these notes turned up among materials politicians donated to the National Diet’s Constitutional Documents Room. I think they included notes from you Tōdai professors. To judge from them, it appears the police sometimes sent spies, sometimes bought notes from students.

Hashizume became an employee of the Metropolitan Police not merely to supervise price controls but also to be a thought control spy. Again, we know that from The Road I’ve Traveled, the oral reminiscences of Tanaka Kōtarō, who as dean of the Faculty of Law at the time was involved in issues of the Faculty of Economics. Tanaka wrote:[10]

The professors with right-wing connections said that once they got Yanaihara, O. and K. would be next. O. was Ōuchi; K. was Kawai. And from that time on the issues of O. and K. moved forward….

Again—it was the end of January 1938—the following appeared as an article in the Asahi: “A storm of mass arrests will soon hit the remnants of the Popular Front. It involves some dozen or so university professors. In this time of the China war, the prosecutor’s office is making an issue of the communist movement.” We could pretty much guess who the problem professors were. In the Faculty of Law, after two or three interested parties had checked the basis for the article, we knew that the suspects were Ōuchi, Tsuchiya, and Arisawa. As a counter-policy, we decided to have the president ask Minister of Education Kido to use all his influence. But the president was sick, so Takagi Yasaka and I—I was dean—got briefed by the president and went to meet Minister Kido. This was on February 1. And it was on that morning that Ōuchi phoned my home: “The police are here.”

At nine that morning I went with Takagi to Kido’s residence, explained that Ōuchi was a great person and scholar, and asked whether the news item was true or false; should such a thing occur, we urged him to exert every effort. In response, Kido said he couldn’t ask the Home Ministry to free Ōuchi on the ground that there was no factual basis, and if the Ministry of Education were to undertake to punish him, it would set a bad precedent of Ministry pressure on the university; so he couldn’t do that, either. With these euphemisms, he rejected our request. All we got was a vague response that he’d try. It’s from that meeting that I remember Kido saying, “The problem is there’s a pipeline from within the university to the Metropolitan Police.”

This last sentence, everyone agrees, refers to Hashizume.

Ōuchi’s Arrest

To return to Ōgiya’s “The Publication-Indictment Issue at Tōdai,” from which I quoted at the beginning of this chapter, Ōgiya too writes of the fact that behind the Incident lay the band of renovationist professors and Hashizume: “The actions of the band of renovationist professors, not simply within the university but also in conjunction with forces outside the university, lit a signal fire of ‘university renovation.’ If the research and the comments in Faculty Meeting of individual professors were communicated to right-wing and official forces outside the university, it was clear where the agitation would lead. And the person who functioned as intermediary between these right-wing forces inside and outside the university was said to be the renovationist faction’s H.”

The Asahi article I mentioned that appeared earlier in Tanaka’s memoirs was by a colleague of Ōgiya. Ōgiya heard about the impending arrests of the Faculty Group from a reporter covering the Home Ministry: “It was a few days after the Yanaihara Incident. Out of the blue came a report from an older reporter who covered the Home Ministry. That afternoon, I rushed to see Ōuchi at the Tōdai Faculty of Economics. When I told him in brief the content of that memo, he said, “Yes, I see…” and hand to forehead, looked grave. His dimly-lit office with its mountains of Western books looked so dignified, even eighteenth-century; I can still see vividly his broad forehead as it turned ashen.” Ōgiya doesn’t note precisely when that took place, but it’s undoubtedly the day before the arrest.

Ōuchi immediately told President Nagayo about the report. The entry in the president’s diary for January 31 reads: “Ōuchi had news that he was in danger and would be arrested the day after tomorrow, but he wanted, he said, to reassure me he would never cause problems for the university. When I asked where he had heard the report, he said it was from an Asahi reporter. I said that was really too bad and that if by any chance it really happened, he should take earnest care for his health, and we parted.”

Ōgiya, who had passed the word to Ōuchi, was sleeping on night duty when he was told to go to the scene to report Ōuchi’s arrest:

I was on the night shift, and was roused from sound sleep around 3:30 a.m. It was the head of the Metropolitan Police desk. Six or seven police-beat reporters stood around, imposingly. The desk officer quickly and crisply passed out the assignments: “This morning they’re rounding up the Faculty Group. Seems Ōuchi is the most ‘eminent.’ You know him, so cover his house.”

I shook like a leaf, embarrassingly. “Excuse me, but…I…really…why not make me the contact person in the office?”

“What’s the matter?” In the eyes of the older reporters, out for blood, I probably appeared unreliable in my incoherence. As it turned out, the desk officer and I would wait in the office as contact people, and I heaved a sigh of relief.

Dawn broke. Arisawa was arrested. At Sugamo Commercial Higher School, so-and-so was arrested… At Sendai, Uno Kōzō…but no word came in about Ōuchi.

“The police went into the house. Don’t know why, but they left empty-handed.” I felt relief. And soon: “He asked whether they had brought an arrest warrant. The police left, apparently to get one. He’s a university professor, after all.”

And along with that report, an article flowed in over the phone: “Professor Ōuchi smiled and said to his wife and high-school-age son Tsutomu…: ‘What? It’s not a big deal. I’ll be right back,’ and changed into an Ōshima kimono….” Taking it all down, I went weak.

Here I’ll jump ahead in time and write about what happened six years later, after the appeals court returned a verdict of innocent. As I said earlier, the Faculty Group were all found innocent. And the Rōnōha itself was found not to be an organization to which the Peace Preservation Law applied (i.e., an organization aiming to change the kokutai), so that was the same as saying the whole incident was built on air.

Normally, if such a verdict of total innocence was handed down, it was a matter of course that professors who’d been indicted and forced to resign from Tōdai would return to the university. But that wasn’t the case with the Ōuchi group. I’ll have more to say about that later, but here I’d like to think about who was behind the incident. Ōmori Akira was the oldest son of Ōmori Yoshitarō, who died tragically of cancer in July 1940, while the case was still in the courts; Akira was a reporter, then an author, and wrote about these events. He surmises: [11]

Who set this up? The main actors, those with the greatest responsibility, were Abe Genki, the “Japanese Himmler,” head of the Home Ministry Police, and Tomita Kenji, chief of the Police’s Civil Order Bureau. Then Tomita’s subordinate Inohata Keijirō of the Civil Order Bureau added ardor to the Rōnōha arrests, as was attested to after the war by the former Special Police section of the Police. Also in the background was pressure from the Army.

Their acts were driven, of course, by thirst for the fame associated with promotion, and about ten days after the Rōnōha arrests, Abe was promoted to Police Superintendent and Tomita, to chief of the Police Affairs Bureau. Abe had long been welcome at Kido Kōichi’s home since they both came from Yamagata Prefecture, and afterwards Tomita became governor of Nagano and won favor with Konoe Fumimaro, who spent time in Karuizawa; he became a torch-bearer for Konoe’s new-structure movement and moved up in the world.

This Tomita Kenji was not the lightweight that ‘torchbearer’ implies. He was chief cabinet secretary for the second and third Konoe cabinets, and afterwards, too, he was a key figure in the Home Ministry; his name appears at every turn in the Hosokawa diary, the Prince Takamatsu diary, and elsewhere. He was also the prime disciple of Hiraizumi Kiyoshi, the Tōdai Law Professor who was one of the leading intellectual figures in the wartime national-essence movement.[12] Knowing this background, you know that the Rōnōha arrests (the Popular Front Incident) were an enforcement tactic carried out with the backing of vast state will and in full awareness of the legal unjustness (in the words of the former disciple loyal to Wakimura Yoshitarō, it was a purge of liberalism in the interests of thought control under the wartime order): “According to the recollections of the Special Police, planning for the arrests began about the time the Japan-China Incident began, and in History of the Home Ministry (published postwar), the arrests of the Popular Front movement began in June 1937. Minobe Ryōkichi points to the preparatory stage—‘About the spring of 1937 Assistant Professor Hashizume Akio of the Faculty of Economics became an employee of the Home Ministry and was a sort of advisor to Civil Order Bureau Chief Tomita.’[13] Except that according to Wakimura, who had a good memory, the issue of Hashizume’s becoming an employee of the Home Ministry came before the Faculty Meeting at the end of November, about a week before the expulsion of Yanaihara.

“Hashizume’s employment by the Police probably began formally, as Wakimura says, toward the end of November, but there wasn’t time after that to begin an investigation. Tomita’s use of Hashizume as spy to investigate the Marxist professors of the Faculty of Economics and so on did begin, as Minobe says, in spring 1937. By the fall, it was pretty much set. Excepting that the spying likely began much earlier.” (Italics in original.) If even Hashizume had direct contact with a man like Tomita, we know he was no run-of-the-mill rat.[14]

Ōuchi Doesn’t Regain His Professorial Status

To return to the tale of the three professors—Ōuchi and the others—who were found not guilty on appeal, about then (1940) the Tōdai presidency had passed from Nagayo to Hiraga to Uchida Yoshikazu, who had come up through the Faculty of Engineering, and Uchida quickly sought a meeting with Ōuchi, back from being found innocent. Uchida said, “It’s great you’ve been found not guilty. It’s also gratifying for the university…. I’ve been wanting to welcome you back to school if possible; but conditions inside the university and outside make that impossible. I’d really like you to submit your resignation. It’s very difficult to speak concretely about those conditions inside and outside; it’s all very vague. But the opinion—albeit informal—of the Faculty of Economics that I’ve heard from Dean Hashizume is that your return would cause trouble. Moreover, you can probably imagine the opinion of the Ministry of Education. In view as well of other conditions, I do hope you’ll acquiesce in my request.”[15]

Ōuchi responded:

First, why did I move heaven and earth fighting for seven long years on this tough issue? To clear myself of false charges. And when I say myself, it’s myself as university professor, not myself as private individual. … In short, I fought so hard because I thought that settling this issue was important for the university.

Now, having achieved victory, I’ve come back to the gates of the university. I want now to have my say about this matter as someone inside the university. That is, I want to attend Faculty Meeting and clarify responsibility for this issue. No matter what I do over and beyond that, submitting my resignation right away is no way to clarify the issue for the university.

Second, you said that in making this decision you’d asked the opinion of two professors in the Faculty of Economics. Those two are simply not the right people…. Hashizume clearly is opposed to me, and he’s one of the chief culprits in this matter. Together with Tanabe, Hijikata, and Honiden, he denounced me in Faculty Meeting, and at a time when no one outside the university was calling me Rōnōha or anything, he wanted to purge me from the university for being Rōnōha, saying that was the Home Ministry’s opinion, and presented evidence in support of it. That’s Hashizume.

And he presented to the Home Ministry documents that my ideas were alarming. On this point, when I was interrogated at the stationhouse, it was clear from the words of people the interrogating me; they said, “There’s been sufficient investigation of your ideas, and we’ve heard as well from someone at the university.” This someone at the university—who was it? It was Hashizume, who was then an advisor to the Metropolitan Police. It’s natural that such a person not rejoice if I return to my post. So if you decide this issue after asking only such people for their opinions, it’s absolutely unfair to me; I can’t accept it.

What and how much did Hashizume squeal to the officials? The words of the officials who interrogated him had made that clear to Ōuchi. It’s not unreasonable that he wanted to teach Hashizume a lesson, but President Uchida resolutely refused to permit that. The war was in its final stages—Saipan and Tinian had already fallen, Japan’s defeat was certain, and the Tōjō Cabinet had resigned en masse; and the level of intellectual freedom in society as a whole, compared to when Ōuchi and the others had entered prison, had dropped dramatically. President Uchida knew immediately he couldn’t accede to Ōuchi’s demand. In Fifty Years an Economist, Ōuchi writes as follows:

The next day we agreed on a joint statement, handed it to President Uchida, and left the university for good. In fact, we had resigned ourselves long since to the idea that this is what the university would do. Had we returned to the university, we couldn’t have existed in a Faculty of Economics in which fascism ruled. So we weren’t particularly angry at the president’s attitude.

But we had lived here and made scholarship our life’s work for twenty, even thirty years. Moreover, we’d had to fight, no matter what the cost, for the sake of the freedom of the university—that’s what we’d thought and devoted all our strength to for these seven years. Then the moment we came back, having won the battle, our true parent disowned us. That was truly the grief of a lifetime.

We grieved not for our personal defeat but for the defeat of liberty at storied Tōdai, in particular Tōdai’s Faculty of Economics where we’d led the way in the twenty years since its founding, for the defeat of the liberalism we’d fought for. In this sense we took our expulsion from the university sadly but with cool heads. And with cold hearts we took our final leave of the Faculty of Economics.

After that we never again passed through the Red Gate. Nor did we have any contact with the people of the Faculty of Economics that had decided to bar our reentry. In the war’s final stages, we were completely unemployed and worthless lumpen bourgeoisie.

The day of Japan’s defeat arrived less than a year later. Under occupation by the U. S. Army, the wartime order was completely overturned. And those at all levels of society who were tied to the wartime order—one after another, they were purged.

The Tōdai Faculty of Economics After the War

The Tōdai Faculty of Economics too was completely upended. The professors who had been forced out for ideological reasons during the whole agitation were all reinstated: from Ōuchi on down, Yanaihara, Yamada, Arisawa, Wakimura, Tsuchiya, Kimura—seven in all. And as if trading places, seven professors tied into the wartime order departed, beginning with Hashizume. (The main “renovationist” group of Hijikata, Honiden, and Tanabe, and the others had already been forced out in 1939 in the Hiraga Purge; about them I’ll have more to say later.)

Maide Chōgorō, who succeeded Hashizume as dean, was originally a quasi-member of the Ōuchi group, and after the reconstruction of the Tōdai Faculty of Economics, the Ōuchi group became its core. That’s why for a long time after the war the Tōdai Faculty of Economics was heavily Marxist.

  1. “Tōdai hikkashi” (The Publication-Indictment Issue at Tōdai), Bungei shunjū, October 1955.
  2. RHM: Other translations of Yanaihara’s jikkōsha include executor, performer, implementer, even policy-maker.
  3. RHM: Tachibana mentions, among others, Yamakawa Hitoshi, Ōmori Yoshitarō, Sakisaka Itsurō, Arahata Kanson, Suzuki Mosaburō.
  4. RHM: Tachibana mentions Inemura Junzō, Yamahata Hideo, Shimagami Zengorō, and Akamatsu Isamu, who after the war all became Socialist Party Diet representatives.
  5. RHM: In December 1933 Party members tortured two members and killed one accused of betrayal.
  6. RHM: Ausgewählte Lesestücke zum Studium der politischen Ökonomie, eds. Karl Diehl and Paul Mombert (Karlsruhe, 1913 and later editions).
  7. “Kambō no daiichiyo,” Keizai seisaku nōto.
  8. RHM. Tōfu peddlers made the rounds in the early morning, to provide food for breakfast.
  9. Gojūnen.
  10. Ikite kita michi (Tokyo: Ōzorasha, 1997 [Sekai no Nihonsha,1950]).
  11. Ōmori Akira, Rōnōha no Shōwashi (Tokyo: Miki shobō, 1989).
  12. RHM: Hiraizumi was Tanibana’s focus in the five chapters immediately preceding the chapters I have translated.
  13. At the time, Tomita was still chief of the Peace Preservation Bureau.
  14. RHM: The phrase “no run-of-the-mill rat” [tada no nezumi] normally means “no run-of-the-mill person,” but here the double entendre is surely intentional.
  15. Ōuchi Hyōe, Watakushi no rirekisho (Tokyo: Ōdosha shoten, 1951).


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Tokyo University and the War by Tachibana Takashi & Richard H. Minear is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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