Main Body

The Collapse of the Kawai Faction; the War Economy Study Group

In which the author describes personnel issues within the Faculty of Economics, notably Dean Kawai Eijirō’s failed attempt to promote three disciples (after the war, one of the three became Tōdai president). This event led to a realignment of factions within the Faculty, Kawai’s resignation as dean, and the election of Hijikata Seibi as his successor. The net result within the Faculty of Economics was cooperation with the increasing militarization of the Japanese economy and society. The chapter concludes with a look back at the February 26, 1936 revolt and the strikingly different reactions of Kawai and Hijikata.[1]

At the root of the factional fighting in the Faculty of Economics lay personal relations, struggles for promotion, and ideological confrontation, and these factors intertwined in complicated ways. There were also changes in the makeup of the factions. So that makes a consistent exposition quite difficult. Examining the documents and records, you often find completely different stories depending on who’s doing the telling…

As of 1931, there were thirteen slots for in the Faculty of Economics. There were thirteen professors, and twelve of them were in their forties. Normally, there were a few open slots, and the age spread was wider. If no one resigned or died, there could be no promotion from within unless the number of slots increased. If professors didn’t leave or die, assistant professors basically couldn’t hope to be promoted. If assistant professors didn’t move up, instructors too would be frozen in place. In fact, in the seven years from 1932 to 1939, when the Hiraga Purge was carried out, there were no changes at either professor or assistant-professor level. So there came to be permanent assistant professors, permanent instructors. According to the Centennial History, this stagnation in personnel was the primary root of the factional fighting.

Among the Unemployed, a Future Tōdai President

Thanks to this freeze in personnel, a man who became an instructor was unable to become even a permanent instructor (there was such a category). Such was the case of Ōkōchi Kazuo, eighteenth president of Tōdai: “My term as instructor ended, but even then I couldn’t get hired as assistant professor.… Among the professors in the Faculty of Economics, the factional fighting on personnel issues was fierce, so for example, even if my mentor, Kawai, recommended me for promotion to assistant professor, if other professors who opposed Kawai’s recommendations in personnel matters got together and opposed his recommendation, at that moment I’d have no job or have to seek a job at another university: it was one or the other. Of course, even I didn’t know whether Kawai had recommended me or not, nor had I asked; to speak in terms of results, I didn’t become an assistant professor. So each month I received a research grant from a university fund and beginning in the spring of 1932 became a part-timer in the Faculty of Economics. … For several years thereafter, I was a part-timer, a very unclear, unsettled position, and my monthly stipend of 100 yen didn’t change.”[2] What Ōkōchi states here in general terms—“Even if Kawai (then dean of the Faculty of Economics), recommended me for assistant professor, if other professors who opposed Kawai’s recommendations in personnel matters got together and opposed his recommendation…”—actually happened.

But what Ōkōchi writes here, that he didn’t know whether Kawai recommended him, hadn’t asked, and so on, is not the truth. The recommendation was submitted formally to the Faculty Meeting of the Faculty of Economics (February 17, 1937; the recommendation had been entered at the Faculty Meeting one week earlier, on February 10). This personnel recommendation was unusual, and the process in which after fierce debate it was voted down was also unusual, so there wasn’t anyone in the Faculty of Economics who didn’t know about it. Ōkōchi knew, too.

In essence, before the Faculty Meeting Kawai summoned the three—Ōkōchi and Kimura Kenkō and Yasui Takuma, the other two disciples he was recommending for promotion at that meeting—and spoke of his plans; Ōkōchi and Yasui were moved to tears by what he said. In Kawai’s diary:

February 8-18. It was at Faculty Meeting on February 3 that the personnel issue reached the final stage.

February 8: Invited Ōkōchi and Yasui (Kimura was ill) to my house, spoke of the situation, and gave my opinion. All three of us wept aloud. Both are sterling people. It’s a delight to have such disciples.

February 10: Proposed promotions to assistant professor. Faculty Meeting seemed surprised. But I had taken the initiative, acted as dean should.

February 17: A day to remember. All three recommendations voted down. That evening with the four of them—Yanagikawa, Ōkōchi, Kimura, Yasui—went to Tokyo restaurant, bathed, then dined. Fight is over. I’m exhausted. The result notwithstanding, I think I fought well. That’s only thing I’m happy about.[3]

Why was the Faculty Meeting surprised by the proposal to promote these three? Because all were Kawai’s direct disciples, and there were only three openings. This proposal meant allocating all three assistant professorships to his own disciples. In the world at large, if there is factional conflict, it’s normal in allocating positions to maintain the balance among factions. But in this case, it meant keeping all the available slots in the hands of Kawai and his disciples, so everyone was shocked at Kawai’s arbitrariness.

Kawai’s Thwarted Ambitions

At the actual Faculty Meeting, Kawai’s ambitious scheme failed. Why? Because in the week after Kawai recommended assistant professor status for the three and before his recommendation was voted on, an anti-Kawai alliance came into existence. Kawai had become dean at the March 1936 Faculty Meeting; at that time he had received nine of twelve votes (all of the “majority faction”), and he became dean with the support of an overwhelming majority. Thereafter Kawai came to wield such power in the Faculty of Economics that it was said, “If you’re not a member of the Kawai faction, you can’t get promoted to professor.” Kawai himself likely thought that even this recommendation—to promote three disciples to assistant professor at one go—was sure to pass. Had his plan worked, all three would have become professors (normally that process took three years), so Kawai alone would have had overwhelming power in the Faculty of Economics. (At the time, Kawai had a majority only in alliance with the Hijikata faction.) But at the very last moment, the vote went the other way. Why? Because in a sort of common-law marriage, the Hijikata and Ōuchi factions formed a common front against Kawai.

Araga Chōgorō’s “Tales of the ‘Hiraga Purge’”[4] gives the following inside account: “One snowy day, a sedan stopped, its brakes grating on the ears in the cold morning air. A swarthy gentleman opened the car door, stepped out, and entered a gate that bore the nameplate ‘Ōuchi Hyōe.’ A large German shepherd growled threateningly, startling the gentleman; but when he realized there was a metal fence separating them, he seemed relieved, rang the bell, and asked to see Ōuchi. The calling card he handed in read ‘Hijikata Seibi.’

“It was early spring 1937. At this meeting an anti-Kawai bloc in the Faculty of Economics was formed. But why in the world did two men who seemed ideological opposites find it necessary to join in a ‘Red Gate[5] Popular Front,’ as students termed this alliance?”

The immediate occasion was Kawai’s recommendation of promotions to assistant professor for Ōkōchi and the two others. Araga writes: “Ōkōchi’s promotion to assistant professor came up when Hijikata and Honiden had finally become unhappy with Kawai’s arbitrariness in the administration of the Faculty of Economics. At the time there were three vacancies in that rank, and Kawai tried to force through the appointment of the three—Ōkōchi, Yasui, and Kimura—all disciples. With this as turning point, the Hijikata-Honiden faction left the Kawai faction to work in concert with the Ōuchi faction. … Seven votes to six. The allied forces of Hijikata and Ōuchi advanced on all fronts. Virtually all the faculty’s officers were members of the allied forces: dean (Hijikata), University Council representatives (Ōuchi, Ueno), chair and vice-chair of the Friends of Economics.”

These details were known widely among the students. In a symposium of March 1939, “Student Views of the Hiraga Purge,”[6] one student of the Faculty of Economics spoke as follows:

Ōgi (Economics): Until two or three years ago the Faculty of Economics had three giants and a three-way split. Professors bind their own seminar students to them in master:disciple relations; from their seminar students they pick their own disciples, build their own power. The three-giant, three-way split held for a long time, but finally it became a very great problem. Cooperation between the Ōuchi and Hijikata factions at the time of Kawai’s firing: there’s no way you can say that was a scholarly matter, rather simply a matter of relations among factions….

Higashi (Law): The Faculty of Economics is vulnerable to ideological control, so I’d see it as academic schools manifesting themselves as factions.

Ōgi (Economics): But the state of affairs in which Hijikata and Ōuchi joined hands was based on the special conditions of the time and can’t hold from here on. Professor Kawai himself recommended only his own instructors for assistant professor status, and for that reason he was opposed by Hijikata and Ōuchi.

The situation was known in this detail by students in the Faculty of Economics, so it wasn’t the case that Ōkōchi didn’t know.

But it’s still strange that Hijikata and Ōuchi, generally regarded as sworn enemies, should suddenly have linked up. In point of fact, there was an old and long-standing tie between these two. Ideologically they were far apart, but personally they had once been close. Here is Ōuchi: “Hijikata and I had had a special connection. A good friend of mine from middle school had gone to Sixth Higher School and become close to Hijikata. When he and I began cooking for ourselves at Yoyogi, Hijikata came and joined us. For two years we ate at the same table. Thanks to that, we had no secrets from each other, but I was two years older and played the part. Then, when Hijikata came back from France, he taught me the new public finance. But he disappointed me, and on various issues he and I went our separate ways, and in later years, as you know, Hijikata denounced me sharply. I don’t remember incurring Hijikata’s enmity, so it’s entirely on account of the ideas I embraced, on account of Hijikata’s patriotism.”[7]

What did the two agree to at that meeting? In fact, we don’t know everything. The honeymoon between Ōuchi and Hijikata was very brief, and the two became enemies once more. So neither one liked to remember the time when, strangely, they joined forces. Still, in the emeritus symposium, Ōuchi spoke as follows: “A. [Hijikata] came to my home and said, ‘I want to block B. [Kawai]. I’d like your help.’ When I agreed to become one of the University Council representatives, I was really acting in good faith.” In short, when Hijikata came seeking Ōuchi’s cooperation in blocking Kawai, Ōuchi agreed in good faith.

Hijikata’s take on this issue is the following. Hijikata didn’t say anything at all about the blocking of the Kawai faction as the top goal of a Hijikata-Ōuchi detente and explained it as follows. Personnel issues in the Faculty of Economics had been frozen, but there was a single professorship open. President Nagayo had demanded many times that the Faculty of Economics fill that position as soon as possible. The first candidate was the most senior assistant professor, Sasaki Michio (minority faction; business accounting); but the majority faction was opposed, so his promotion had long been stalled. In particular, Kawai was absolutely opposed. His reason: business accounting wasn’t true scholarship, so the professorship shouldn’t go to it. Hijikata writes: “On other personnel issues, Kawai held strong opinions, and on the matter of instructors becoming assistant professors, unless the individual had Kawai’s confidence, he wouldn’t yield an inch. The Faculty’s personnel matters would stagnate, indeed were already stagnated, and when Honiden and I were considering whether there wasn’t some way to break the logjam, to create a bit more give on personnel matters, Kawai’s one-year term as dean came to an end.

“Prior to this, the minority had opposed the majority’s proposals in each case, and within the majority Kawai didn’t yield an inch on his opinions. So there was no way to move forward on personnel matters. As a result of conferring with Honiden on ways to break the impasse, we decided we couldn’t do anything about ideology but that on personnel matters we’d let bygones be bygones and cooperate with Ōuchi so that personnel matters might go smoothly. Such being the case, since I had once eaten at the same table as Ōuchi, I took on the job of negotiating with Ōuchi on this issue and—I think it was in March 1937—went to Ōuchi’s home.”

Secret Pact

What did the two talk about? According to Hijikata: “At this meeting I said, ‘From now on I want promotions to go smoothly, majority and minority cooperating—assistant professors becoming professors, instructors becoming assistant professors. Let’s follow generally the order in which they were hired. But there will be times when we’re not necessarily able to follow that principle, so let’s consult each time on these issues. For the next term—that is, beginning in April 1937—let’s make Honiden dean. I won’t become one of the two representatives to the University Council, let alone dean. I ask you, Ōuchi, to be one of the representatives to the University Council.’ That was the broad agreement. I had the impression Ōuchi agreed with these general points.”

According to the terms of this agreement, the two factions would cooperate in making Honiden the next dean. But notice: that isn’t what actually happened. After graduating (Tōdai Faculty of Law—specialty: politics), Honiden had spent five years in the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce. There he developed a warm friendship with Kawai, and one year after Kawai moved from the ministry to Tōdai, Honiden moved to Tōdai with Kawai’s backing and became assistant professor; between 1922 and 1939 he was responsible for European economic history. In personal terms, he was at first much closer to Kawai, but beginning about 1935 he moved closer to Hijikata than to Kawai. In the end, Honiden became a central figure in the renovationist faction, so ideologically, too, there were aspects that made for incompatibility with Kawai.

In Kawai’s diary Honiden appears repeatedly as the initial H., and until 1935, it’s clear, the two consulted and agreed on internal university issues. But at the end of 1934, there’s a note, “Goodbye to 1934,” in which this appears: “The first half of the academic year, up through Karuizawa [Kawai’s vacation residence], was a half year of gloom. At the university, the estrangement with H. was central. A. [Araki Kōtarō] moved closer to Hijikata and became isolated within the Faculty. Last year’s Takigawa Incident and the developments involving the military probably provided turning points.[8] I clashed head-on with H. on the issue, first, of the status of Kimura and Yasui, the membership of the Friends of Economics committee, the publication of Friends, the admission to the library stacks of those who weren’t instructors. They told me I was oversensitive and not political enough.”

From this point on, relations between Kawai and Honiden cooled rapidly. The fracture didn’t happen right away, but as of 1937 Honiden joined the Red Gate political alliance of the Hijikata and Ōuchi factions; he received the support of both, and it was agreed that Honiden would become the next dean. At the Faculty Meeting at the end of February, Kawai’s own recommendations were all voted down by the Red Gate Popular Front, so Kawai resigned as dean and immediately called a Faculty Meeting to determine his successor. Thereupon events took an unexpected turn. According to Hijikata, it was this:

In due course, at the end of March 1937 Kawai convened a Faculty Meeting to elect the next dean. Before the Faculty Meeting, which was to begin at 1 p.m., I was waiting in my study. It was about ten minutes before the Faculty Meeting was to begin at 1:00. Ōuchi knocked on the door of my room and entered. I wondered what was up. ‘We (Ueno, Yanaihara, Maide, and the others) have discussed this matter, with the result that none agree with recommending Honiden as dean. Please give up all thought of making him dean.” I responded, “That changes things. Who on earth will become dean?” He said, “You.” I was speechless. Faculty Meeting was only minutes away. I had no time to consult with anyone. All I could do was enter the meeting with an air of nonchalance. Had it been a Faculty Meeting I convened and had I submitted the recommendation to be decided on, I might have withdrawn the election item and postponed it; but it was a Faculty Meeting convened by Kawai to vote on his recommendation, so I was powerless. In the vote, I was elected dean, and Ōuchi and Maide were chosen as representatives to the University Council. When the meeting ended and I retired to my study, Honiden came rushing in and demanded, “What on earth came over you?” Honiden’s surprise and anger were natural. But given what I’ve mentioned, I could only explain my conduct by saying that I’d been completely powerless. Though unhappy, Honiden too promised me he’d cooperate and left.[9]

This is the back story of how after Kawai resigned as dean, a strange coalition regime came into existence with Hijikata as dean and Ōuchi and Maide as the two representatives to the University Council. On personnel issues, there was a secret deal that the Hijikata and Ōuchi factions would work together, and all the groundwork had been done; then, at the very last moment before the Faculty Meeting and on the single issue of who would become dean, Ōuchi suddenly changed his mind and scored a tactical triumph. This back story was never revealed by the Ōuchi side, and after the war the turmoil in the Faculty of Economics came to be talked of solely from the viewpoint of the Ōuchi faction, so even today it’s not widely known. This tale makes clear that Ōuchi was a master schemer. Only minutes before the Faculty Meeting convened, he made a proposal that Hijikata, even though surprised, couldn’t reject, and suddenly it was a done deal.

But why should Ōuchi have chosen Hijikata as dean? He likely thought that he could manipulate Hijikata more easily than Honiden, to whom he had little personal connection. And wasn’t it perhaps also because Honiden had stronger fascist tendencies than Hijikata? To continue with Hijikata’s account: “A ‘coalition cabinet’ was set up, and Ōuchi and Maide became the representatives to the University Council—that’s as I’ve recounted. Ōuchi also served as convenor of the Friends of Economics, and to its assemblies he invited people regarded as left-wingers and often seemed to work to lift left-wing spirits. In contrast, Honiden and Tanabe berated me on this issue: ‘Hijikata—what are you doing? Show some nerve!’” Ōuchi used the fact he had made Hijikata dean adroitly.

The Yanaihara Incident arose under this regime. In that incident, Hijikata took the lead in destroying Yanaihara. He’d probably made up his mind to sever ties with the Ōuchi faction. Precisely because Hijikata felt strongly that to that point he’d had been wholly had—had been used—by Ōuchi, he probably thought he needed to show strength. Conversely, the Ōuchi side felt strongly that it had been betrayed by Hijikata. Given the basic ideological tendencies of Hijikata and Ōuchi, it wasn’t a surprise that Hijikata stood on the side denouncing Yanaihara. What was strange was rather the fact that the two had joined hands even temporarily. Continuing the passage quoted earlier, Araga writes: “The Yanaihara Incident arose in July 1937, due to the intensification of controls on speech. No sooner had it arisen than the ‘Red Gate Popular Front’ came utterly unraveled; Hijikata and Honiden rallied the Kawai faction’s Tanabe, Nakanishi, and Araki to the banner of Japanist economics and set about purging yesterday’s friends—Yanaihara and Ōuchi—for their unpatriotic ideas. The Hijikata faction had used the Ōuchi faction to oust the Kawai faction. The Hijikata faction was a minority, but its strength came from using the crisis as its shield. On the Yanaihara issue, it mounted a concerted attack from within and without…. In the end, having succeeded in its attack on Yanaihara, the Hijikata faction turned to purge Ōuchi and Kawai.”

On this occasion, a complete reset of the human relations of the factions in the Faculty of Economics took place. Now the main axis of confrontation wasn’t personnel issues or Marxism, but nationalism/anti-nationalism. And as I wrote earlier, the Faculty Group Incident, an event unprecedented in Tōdai history, followed right on the heels of the Yanaihara Incident: at one fell swoop Ōuchi and Arisawa and Wakimura were arrested. At this time the issue arose of whether to fire the three from the university. In legal terms, even if a university professor was caught up in an incident, his status did not become an issue before he was indicted (after he was indicted, his status was forfeit).

With the exposure of the Faculty Group Incident, the Red Gate Popular Front dissolved completely, of its own accord, and Hijikata took the lead in arguing that Ōuchi should be fired before he was indicted. But Kawai, on the contrary, stood up to defend Ōuchi: it was not proper in terms of the principle of university autonomy to fire him before he was indicted. Here a second reshuffling of factions took place—Ōuchi faction plus Kawai faction vs. Hijikata faction, and Hijikata resigned as dean. The “Tale of the ‘Hiraga Purge’” continues: “In the February 1, 1938 arrests of the second Popular Front Incident, Ōuchi and Arisawa and Wakimura were detained by the police…. The Hijikata faction argued that such anti-patriotic professors should be fired immediately. In response, in alliance with the Kawai faction, the old Ōuchi faction expressed its opposition based on pure reason: to decide on punishment before the decision to indict was made was to jettison the university’s academic freedom; punishment of professors must be by vote of Faculty Meeting. People called this faction the ‘pure reason faction’ and the opposing Hijikata faction the ‘renovationist faction.’ The pure reason faction held the majority. So Hijikata resigned as dean, and Maide replaced him.” In short, in the last days of the Kawai regime, the Hijikata and Ōuchi factions joined forces (the Red Gate Popular Front) and chased out the Kawai faction and gave birth to a Hijikata regime, and now the Kawai faction plus the (old) Ōuchi faction joined to bring down the Hijikata regime.

In the process, there were ideological realignments in both the Hijikata and Kawai factions, and a new faction was born—the renovationist faction. Here “renovationatist faction” denoted the new Hijikata faction, and it’s important to note that it differed ideologically from the old Hijikata faction (which, in terms of ideology, had been simply anti-Marxist). As the passage from the “Tale of the ‘Hiraga Purge’” indicates, it was made up of different people. In addition to Hijikata and Honiden, three from the Kawai faction—Tanabe, Nakanishi, Araki—joined, and, under the flag of “Japanist economics,” it became the renovationist faction. Its axis of agreement was “Japanism,” “nationalism”—or, one might say, a strong affinity for Japan’s new order after the outbreak of the Japan-China War, for the war economy, and for the military leading it.

The original Kawai faction was made up of six: Kawai himself plus Honiden, Tanabe, Nakanishi, Araki, and Yamada Fumio. So the fact that Honiden, Tanabe, Nakanishi, and Araki formed the renovationist faction meant that save for Kawai and Yamada, the entire Kawai group had moved, lock, stock, and barrel, to the renovationist faction (or had created the renovationist faction with themselves at its center).

The Birth of the War Economy Study Group

What sparked these developments was what I described earlier—the January 3, 1937 (Meiji Day) procession to the Meiji Shrine to pray for victory in the Japan-China War, led by Hijikata and Honiden. The fact that a considerable number of students did not take part in the procession was due to conscious opposition by the left-wing leadership of the Friends of Economics. Seizing on that fact, Hijikata convened a Faculty Meeting and proposed punishing the students who had been so imprudent: I’ve touched on that, too. And in the Yanaihara Incident, what lit the fuse was that in Faculty Meeting one day, Hijikata suddenly produced the issue of Chūō kōron with Yanaihara’s essay, “The Ideals of the State,” called it anti-war, and criticized it as unbecoming a professor in a time of crisis. The demand that all the committee members of the Friends of Economics be replaced and the criticism of Yanaihara’s essay took place at the same Faculty Meeting.

In fact, there was a third proposal at that Faculty Meeting. It was a motion by Hijikata that he resign as dean: up till then, as dean and representative to the University Council, Hijikata and Ōuchi had cooperated in administering the Faculty, but because their opinions differed too greatly, they were no longer able to cooperate. This issue was not decided on the spot but tabled for the next meeting, and in the interim Ōuchi and the others were arrested in the Faculty Group Incident.

At the Faculty Meeting at which these three issues were raised, there was discussion of still another important issue. From the time the China Incident began, the university had been a bystander, watching the progress of the war; the proposal was that the university as university stop being an onlooker, address actively the problems the war brought, and make suggestions to the government (about how to deal with the crisis).

The day after the Faculty Meeting, the Asahi ran an article under the banner headline:





The article discussed in detail this new current in the Faculty of Economics. At the center of this development were Hijikata and Honiden, and the two spoke by turns to the reporter: “Candidly, there are among us two views of this Incident. One is that as scholars we should maintain to the end a cool, observer’s view. The other is that we should use everything from our areas of expertise to contribute actively in some way or other to Japan’s current situation, even if we don’t take a leadership role in dealing with the Incident. On this point, as a result of extended debate in the most recent Faculty Meeting, we decided that the university belongs to the state, so research as research should proceed for the most part in the latter direction. In fact, some of us as individuals have concrete ideas about how to address the Incident.”

One month later the Asahi ran these headlines—




The article reported the following actions: the agreement of a band of professors at the Tōdai Faculty of Economics to conduct research in accord with state policy has attracted attention both within and without the academy, and a Study Group on Economic Issues (tentative title) proposed by Honiden is increasingly expected to start next spring. The members are the five professors Honiden, Hijikata, Tanabe Tadeo, Araki Kōtarō, Nakanishi Torao. Supporters include, in addition to Hashizume Akio of the same faculty, many in the Faculties of Law and Letters—in a word, the “renovationist faction.” All the factional tangles within the Faculty of Economics were reflections of the shock the university received from the great change in conditions—that war had begun. With the opening of hostilities, every faculty member had to rethink his view of the state, and the renovationist faction (also called the “crisis faction”) was steering the university in the direction of commitment to the state that had gone to war.

The “Study Group on Economic Issues” that this article predicted would start the following spring actually started in May 1938, and the name had changed to “War Economy Study Group.” The Asahi reported its opening ceremony this way: “The professors of the crisis faction in the Tōdai Faculty of Economics who are regarded as the groundbreakers of the university’s new direction during the crisis gained the support of Tōdai grads who are now professors at private universities, and on the 2nd at 6 p.m. in Kanda Academy Hall conducted the opening ceremonies of the War Economy Study Group, taking the first step in the direction of the state policy line they have long admired. Present were Professors Hijikata, Honiden, Tanabe, Nakanishi, Araki, Assistant Professors Hashizume, Yūmoto, Yanagikawa…eighteen in all… At today’s meeting Hijikata was named chair and the Tanabe’s Tōdai library office was designated its office. After the group has used Tōdai Economics grads to conduct the promised base studies, it will appeal to other universities.”

In October 1938 the journal Renovation started, and the first installment of Tanabe Tadao’s “Essentials of Renovating the Japanese Economy”—a manifesto-like document of the renovationist faction—was published. That essay began with the sentence, “The stage the Japanese economy now faces is development into a controlled economy for the sake of preparation for war,” and argued, “From now on economic life is the cooperative life of all Japanese serving the sacred goals of the state.” Tanabe discussed how to create a structure of national mobilization for total war.

In “The Renovationist Stance” in the same inaugural issue, Honiden began, “The renovationist stance is the stance of the state” and made explicit his absolute support of war: “War is an opportunity to experience with our entire selves the state that is invisible to the naked eye. For that precise reason, on the occasion of this war, the movement for statist renovation too gains yet more strength.” As leaders of the “renovationist faction,” Hijikata, Honiden, Tanabe, and Araki and Nakanishi—five professors in all—played important roles in steering the field of economics in Japan, then embarking on a war footing, toward a pro-war economics. Note that four of these professors, not including Hijikata, constituted the old Kawai faction. For these people, the central issues now were state and war, and the traditional factional opposition eased willy-nilly.

The China Incident Changes Everything

How did these events look when seen through the eyes of the old Kawai faction? In an essay of March, 1939,[10] “The Truth about the Tōdai Faculty of Economics Issue,” Yamada Fumio of the old Kawai faction described the situation as follows:

The majority:minority opposition lasted through the terms as dean of Mori (two years), Hijikata (three years [his first term as dean]), and Kawai (one year). When it got to the last, Kawai deanship, the majority faction that had held for many years finally collapsed. The immediate cause of collapse was the issue of promoting Assistant Professor Sasaki to professor.

For whatever reason, President Nagayo requested of Kawai that Sasaki be promoted…. Kawai valued faculty autonomy, so it was natural that he should refuse to agree. Four professors—Tanabe, Nakanishi, Araki, Yamada—thought Kawai was right; all the others felt the Faculty of Economics should accede to the president’s proposal. At this point the majority faction dissolved; Kawai and the four became the new minority faction, and the other eight (the previous minority faction plus four from the majority faction) formed a new majority faction. Kawai resigned immediately because a majority of the Faculty Meeting did not agree with him and explained the logic of his resigning. Hijikata became the new dean, and Ōuchi and Honiden became the two representatives to the University Council.

In terms of ideology, of the character of the respective professors, and of past estrangements, this new majority reconciled irreconcilables, so it was extremely unnatural, strange. It was expected to splinter sooner or later, but it fell apart even sooner than expected. The changes in society that accompanied the sudden outbreak of the China Incident made Hijikata feel uneasy about an alliance with the Marxists under Ōuchi. The procession to the shrine that increased the emotional distance between Hijikata and Ōuchi and then the Yanaihara issue intensified the opposition between the two. Hijikata and Honiden and others thought that the ideas of Ōuchi and Yanaihara were dangerous and wanted to kick the two men out of the university. Three in the new minority faction—Tanabe, Nakanishi, and Araki—were in sympathy with Hijikata and Honiden. Thus, these five formed the so-called renovationist faction, and after Yanaihara’s departure from the scene, they turned their fire on Ōuchi. After the arrest of Ōuchi in February of last year, the attack became ever fiercer, with them arguing that he should be fired immediately.

What changed matters decisively was the “sudden outbreak of the China Incident” and “the changes in society” that accompanied it. The moment war began, social conditions changed greatly, all of a sudden, and people too changed radically. The Kawai faction, originally a group of anti-Marxists and considered a collection of liberal idealists, disappeared into thin air, and its members became supporters of the wartime order.

What Made Kawai Decide to Become Dean?

            It’s well-known that amid these radical changes in people and in society, only Kawai, mentor of these feckless disciples, towered over all to the last. Irie Tokurō was a newspaper reporter; though not a Kawai disciple, he looked up to Kawai. Irie writes as follows:

It was in 1936…that the February 26 Incident occurred. At the time I was a student in the Tōdai Faculty of Letters. I had virtually completed my senior thesis, and on a rare snowy morning I was lying in bed when a friend and fellow-lodger burst into the room to report that young officers were in revolt. Shocked, I remember going out in the snow to see.

An even stronger impression on me was the essay, “Critique of February 26,” that Kawai Eijirō published after the incident in the Imperial University News. It was a bitter denunciation of the violence…. The February 26 Incident shocked the public, but from the journalists of the day came virtually no sharp criticism. People were afraid to speak out. In that climate, Kawai’s sharp criticism caused a sensation. Students fought to buy the Imperial University News sold at the Main Gate, and they fixated on this essay.

Students had various reactions: the unavoidable impression that here was the conscience of the university and of scholars; respect for Professor Kawai’s bravery and fear that criticizing the military so sharply would have consequences. Revenge came quickly. For seven years Kawai had served on the Higher Civil Service Examining Committee, but in May of that year he was kicked off it. In March of the following year he left the deanship of the Faculty of Economics. His term wasn’t up; it was an abnormal shake-up [TT: it wasn’t a shake-up, but a resignation]. And the next year—1938—in the House of Peers Baron Iida Iwakuzu held up three of Kawai’s books—Critique of Fascism, The Crisis and Liberalism, and Second Student Life—and subjected them to all-out criticism.

The Ministry of Education asked Kawai to let the three books go out of print, but he refused. The Police Office of the Home Ministry banned them, but Kawai did not yield an inch: “I can’t think my theories are mistaken.” Even when the Ministry of Education recommended resignation, he again turned it down: “It’s regrettable that the Ministry ignores Faculty Meeting.” At their wits’ ends, the officials of the Ministry of Education finally put the issue before the Higher Civil Service Committee, rammed through his firing, and drove him from the university.

Toward the end of his prolonged court battle thereafter, Kawai fell ill. In that era of the dark valley, he did not live to see the dawn of the new day.

As journalist Irie Tokurō writes, the one of Kawai’s many accomplishments that left the strongest impression on the world then and now is that after the February 26 Incident, when no one would utter words critical of the military, he dared to criticize the military and continued to support liberty. (In fact, even before the February 26 Incident, from the time of the May 15, 1932 Incident, Kawai alone dared to keep criticizing the military. And at the time of the issue of Minobe’s emperor-organ theory, he was virtually alone in defending Minobe.)

Kawai became dean of the Faculty of Economics in 1936, and his deanship cannot necessarily be called a success. But why did Kawai want to become dean? In fact, February 26 played a large role. In Kawai’s diary, there is a memo, “Memories of 1936,” in which he wrote: “From that time on, what I’ve been going back and forth on (in my mind) is whether or not to be dean next year. I didn’t feel like it, but the group of five urged it, and at last when I saw the February 26 Incident, I thought that if I didn’t grasp power, I wouldn’t be able to defend university freedom; so I decided to accept the job.” The “group of five” here is the Kawai faction: Honiden, Tanabe, Nakanishi, Yamada, Araki.

Kawai first resolved to become dean on February 22, a scant four days before the February 26 Incident. Here is that day’s diary entry: “February 22. Today for first time sat down with Hijikata and H. [Honiden] and had an honest discussion of what was on our minds. In today’s conversation I began to think maybe I should become dean. Afterward I went to see Minobe, and met with the group of five…and decided to accept the deanship.” Minobe had been hospitalized after being attacked and nearly killed by right-wing thugs. Kawai’s strong consciousness of the danger posed by the emperor-organ issue and this violent attack led him to accept the deanship (to defend freedom of speech, freedom of the university).

This consciousness of danger grew still stronger at the time of the Incident, and in his diary for February 26, Kawai resolved to proceed even though he foresaw that his own life would be in danger:

February 26

A day to remember. Morning: on way to university, learned of today’s events; at Faculty Club heard rumors. At meeting of entrance exam committee, various people had stories. I kept silent, thinking of future of university.

Tanabe later came to my room, said I’d better leave for weekend, better to avoid being harmed in some unpleasantness; Ōkōchi also worried and came, and Araki and Yamada. I was grateful for their concern.

Snow falling heavily. Deciding after all to go home, I go by taxi. In the cab have feeling that perhaps time has come and think constantly about what I should do—resign?

Once I got home, the children came home from school with various stories, indignant. Consulting with [wife] Kuniko, I decided after all to come to Kōzu [in Kanagawa, along the coast near Odawara], and decided, one, to think things through at leisure, two, to study. To phone Araki, I left the house in the evening. Going back and forth in my head: when time comes, do I live or die? Surrender or resist? Next, the state of the university after things calmed down, and the related issue of my status. And what about the deanship? I’ll accept it with no worries for myself.

On evening radio, report of assassinations. It will likely end, like May 15 Incident, in catastrophe. In any case, I’ll watch situation for few days and judge.

No matter what the situation, must be smart. Hope I can conduct myself throughout with no concern for personal safety. The rest is fate.

Hijikata’s February 26 Incident

            Hijikata’s recollection of the February 26 Incident makes for a fascinating comparison:

It was about 10 a.m. on February 26, 1936. I hired a car and driver and, through the snow that had been falling since before dawn, we drove along the palace moat in the direction of Tōdai. Soldiers with fixed bayonets came running, ordered the car to stop, peered inside, and then said, “Proceed.” When I asked what was happening, the driver said, “Don’t you know? Last night was something! Lots of soldiers on the march in the middle of the night.” He told me part of the story. Come to think of it, the site where the car was ordered to stop was in front of the official mansion of Suzuki Kantarō, Grand Chamberlain, who was attacked at dawn on that day.[11] At the Faculty Meeting, I learned for the first time the outlines of the incident…. In chitchat before the meeting, Honiden said, “This is how coups d’etat succeed, isn’t it.” I said, “We don’t know yet that it’s succeeded,” and Ōuchi agreed with this…. When I got home, the radio was broadcasting the movements of the “Rebel Units.” That evening soldiers loyal to the government, with fixed bayonets, came and filled the area inside the gate of my house, on alert all night—unbelievable. Anyway, wild rumors were flying; the Faculty secretary said, “Some Law professors are saying you’re an advisor to the rebel army.” Even well-intentioned professors were thinking and saying such nonsense! I thought some of the rumors were malicious.

In terms of their thinking, Hijikata and the other members of the renovationist faction had much in common with the military’s renovationist faction (the young officers behind the February 26 Incident). Hence Honiden’s remark that “This is how coups d’etat succeed”—he virtually believed it had succeeded—and the rumor that Hijikata was the mastermind of the rebel army.

I own a copy of the tome—it’s over 1,000 pages long—Overview of the Economic Resources of Greater East Asia,[12] for which Hijikata was chief editor. In the preface he wrote: “Along with the glorious triumphs of the Imperial Army, the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere marches proudly and steadily toward construction. Japan’s Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere of today has no parallels in bloc-building, encompassing as it does so many diverse elements. Nay, our country is replacing England as leader of this great co-prosperity sphere that includes so many and such varied peoples and cultures. We Japanese who will lead Greater East Asia must first of all appreciate this Greater East Asia.” A direct line runs from Hijikata’s experience of the February 26 Incident to this preface.

  1. RHM: I have not translated Tachibana’s Chapter 55, which focuses on the roots of the factional strife within the Faculty of Economics.
  2. Ōkōchi, Kurai tanima no jiden (Tokyo: Chūō kōronsha, 1979).
  3. Kawai, Kawai Eijirō zenshū  (24 vols., Tokyo: Shakaishisōsha, 1967-70), vol. 23.
  4. “'Hiraga Shukugaku’ monogatari,” Kaizō, March 1939.
  5. RHM: The Red Gate was a main entrance to the Tōdai campus, so “Red Gate” was often used as metonym for the university.
  6. “Hiraga keigaku o gakusei wa dō miru ka,” Chūō kōron, March 1939.
  7. Ōuchi, Keizaigaku gojūnen (Tokyo: Tokyo daigaku shuppankai, 1960).
  8. Kawai’s anti-military speeches and writings became unacceptable to Hijikata, Honiden, and the pro-military faction. Even Araki, who had been the closest to Kawai, moved closer to their side.
  9. Hijikata Seibi, Jiken wa tōku narinikeri (Tokyo: Keizai ōraisha, 1965).
  10. Yamada, “Tōdai keizaigakubu mondai no shinso,” Kaizō, March 1939.
  11. RHM: Suzuki was a prime target of the rebels, who shot him, leaving him gravely wounded but not dead.
  12. Daitōa keizai shigen taikan (Tokyo: Nisso tsūshinsha, 1942)


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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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