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The was created by Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe on October 12, 1940 to promote the goals of his Shintaisei ("New Order") movement. It evolved into a "statist" political party which aimed at removing the sectionalism in the politics and economics in the Empire of Japanmarker to create a totalitarian single-party state, which would maximize efficiency of Japan’s total war effort during World War II. When the organization was launched officially, Konoe was hailed as a "political savior" of a nation in chaos; however, internal divisions soon appeared.

Origins

Imperial Rule Assistance Association cadres, 1940


Based on recommendations by the Shōwa Kenkyūkai, Konoe originally conceived of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association as a reformist political party to overcome the deep-rooted differences and political cliques between bureaucrats, politicians and the military. During the summer of 1937, Konoe appointed 37 members chosen from a broad political spectrum to a preparatory committee which met in Karuizawa, Nagano. The committee included Konoe's political colleagues Fumio Gotō, Count Yoriyasu Arima and ex-syndicalist and right wing spokesman Fusanosuke Kuhara. The socialist and populist left wing was represented by Kingoro Hashimoto and the traditionalist military wings by Senjuro Hayashi, Heisuke Yanagawa and Nobuyuki Abe.

Konoe proposed originally that the Imperial Rule Assistance Association be organized along syndicalist lines, with new members assigned to branches based on occupation, which would then develop channels for mass participation of the common population to “assist with the Imperial Rule”.

However, from the start, there was no consensus in a common cause, as the leadership council represented all ends of the political spectrum, and in the end, the party was organized along geographic lines, following the existing political sub-divisions. Therefore, all local government leaders at each level of village, town, city and prefectural government automatically received the equivalent position within their local Imperial Rule Assistance Association branch.

Ideals

Celebrations on founding of the IRAA
Prior to creation of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association, Konoe had already passed the National Mobilization Law, which effectively nationalized strategic industries, the news media, and labor unions, in preparation for total war with Chinamarker.

Labor unions were replaced by the Nation Service Draft Ordinance, which empowered the government to draft civilian workers into critical war industries. Society was mobilized and indoctrinated through the National Spiritual Mobilization Movement, which organized patriotic events and mass rallies, and promoted slogans such as "Yamato-damashii" and "Hakko Ichiu" to support Japanese militarism.

In addition to drumming up support for the ongoing wars in China and in the Pacific, the Imperial Rule Assistance Association helped maintain public order and provided certain public services via the tonarigumi neighborhood association program. It also played a role in increasing productivity, monitoring rationing, and organizing civil defense.

The Imperial Rule Assistance Association was also militarized, with its members donning khaki-colored uniforms. In the last period of the conflict, the membership received military training and was projected to integrate with civil militia in case of the anticipatd American invasion.

Development

As soon as October 1940, the Imperial Rule Assistance Association systemized and formalized the Tonarigumi, a nationwide system of neighborhood associations. The November 6 1940 issue of Shashin Shūhō (Photographic Weekly Report) explained the purpose of this infrastructure:

The Taisei Yokusankai movement has already turned on the switch for rebuilding a new Japan and completing a new Great East Asian order which, writ large, is the construction of a new world order. The Taisei Yokusankai is, broadly speaking, the New Order movement which will, in a word, place One Hundred Million into one body under this new organisation that will conduct all of our energies and abilities for the sake of the nation. Aren't we all mentally prepared to be members of this new organization and, as one adult to another, without holding our superiors in awe or being preoccupied with the past, cast aside all private concerns in order to perform public service ? Under the Taisei Yokusankai are regional town, village, and tonarigumi, let's convene council meetings and advance the activities of this organization.»
Imperial Rule Assistance Association election speech, 1942
In February 1942, all women’s associations were merged into the Great Japan Women's Association which joined the Imperial Rule Assistance Association in May. Every adult woman in Japan, excepting the under twenty and unmarried, was forced to join the Association.

Likewise, in June, all youth organizations were merged into the , based on the model of the German Sturmabteilungmarker (stormtroopers).

In March 1942, Prime Minister Hideki Tōjō attempted to eliminate the influence of elected politicians by establishing an officially-sponsored election nomination commission, which restricted non-government sanctioned candidates from the ballot. After the 1942 Japanese General Election, all members of Diet were required to join the Yokusan Seijikai (Imperial Rule Assistance Political Association), which effectively made Japan a single-party state. However, as the old political leadership within the Diet retained their seats and influence, Japan never evolved completely into totalitarianism. The Imperial Rule Assistance Association was formally dissolved on June 13, 1945.

During the occupation of Japan, the American authorities purged thousands of government leaders from public life for having been members of the Association.

References



Notes

  1. Wolferen, The Enigma of Japanese Power;People and Politics in a Stateless Nation, page 351
  2. Sims, Japanese Political History Since the Meiji Renovation 1868-2000, page 220
  3. Duus, The Cambridge History of Japan, page 146
  4. Aldus, The Police in Occupation Japan: Control, Corruption and Resistance to Reform, page 36
  5. David C. Earhart, Certain Victory, M.E. Sharpe, 2008, p.142, citing Shashin Shūhō
  6. Modern Japan in archives, the Yokusan System, http://www.ndl.go.jp/modern/e/cha4/description15.html
  7. Stockwin, Governing Japan: Divided Politics in a Major Economy, page 22



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